Beyond their marital practices there are some very genuine concerns with the FLDS.
The Lost Boys. Natural birth rates do produce more girls than boys (for every 53 girls born there are about 47 boys). By marrying age the ratio is skewed even more due to wars and higher risk taking by males. So, if everyone is to be married then we’d naturally have about 12% of marriages polygynous – there simply are not enough males to go around. Add to this a belief by some that a higher number of males prefer to remain single than females and you have a requirement for even more polygynous marriages. None of these natural causes though provide a high enough female to male ratio for every man to have multiple wives, let alone the 3 wives that the FLDS teaches are required to reach the highest levels of heaven. Enter the problem of the lost boys. An estimated one-third or more of teen and adult men are expelled from the FLDS to create the desired ratio. A number of excuses are provided for this, usually that they have committed some sin. This practice, especially when the one kicked out is very young or is married and forced to leave his wife and family, is absolutely abhorrent.
Allowing polygyny from natural ratio’s is one thing. This is another. And it’s truly an atrocity. It’s also interesting to note that during the late 19th century when the entire Mormon church was practicing polygyny in
Real Abuse. I am not going to jump to a conclusion that sex between a husband and wife, regardless of their ages and of their marriage being legal or celestial, is abuse or rape. Even if we determine that she was coerced in to the marriage at 14 – if she and her children now want to remain with her husband I would likely support that as a better outcome for all than having the children ripped from their family and placed in foster care.
What I’m talking about here is men or women molesting or raping girls and boys who they are not married to in any fashion – legal or celestial. Sadly, I’m sure that it happens within the FLDS just as it does in every part of society. Whether it’s worse or not I don’t think any of us knows.
Even many of the staunchest critics, including most who left the FLDS, say that childhood within the community, through mid-teens anyway, is pretty good. Parents are overall very loving and caring. There are a number who say that discipline could be rather strict or that the mothers sometimes treated their own children better than the children of sister-wives or than husbands and wives argued and disagreed. Then again, how many of us didn’t complain about the discipline we received from our parents or witness arguments? If we’re judging the tree by it’s fruit though we’d have a difficult time criticizing the FLDS too much. According to everyone who’s come in contact with them over the past several weeks the FLDS kids are well adjusted and on the whole extremely disciplined and polite. Perhaps we could take some parenting lessons from them.
There are more serious complaints though. Warren Jeffs nephew says that he was sexually molested by his uncle and school principle
Freedom of Choice. Do people in the FLDS have freedom of choice? If someone wants to leave the FLDS can they freely do so? How free is anyone, male or female, to decide that they do not want to marry a person who has been chosen for them? Do they have some place to go if they do leave?
What rights do parents have to raise their children as they see fit? Do parents have the right to educate their children at home or is public school compulsory? Do parents have the right to teach their kids about Creationism or Darwinism or Evolution? To teach them that they should wait until marriage to have sex? To teach them that homosexuality is normal or wrong? At what point does the state step in and say that taking a 14-year-old to church against his will is abuse because the church teaches that homosexuality is wrong or that [something liberal]? What rights do parents have to discipline their children?
At what point do we say that the state will do a better job of raising our children than parents? There are certainly instances where it is necessary for the government to step in and remove children from truly abusive situations. At what point though do we cross a threshold where we’ve lowered the bar so low that we’re doing more harm to the children and society than the harm done by the parents?
Remember that people choosing their own spouse instead of their parents choosing for them is an extremely new concept in human history – and by many measures it’s not working out so well. A Jewish friend of mine with a tradition of arranged marriage once told me that while most people fall in love, get married, fall out of love, get divorced – we marry and then fall in love.
How do you insure the safety and freedom of people within a community such as the FLDS while at the same time respecting their right to practice their religion as they see fit? More on this later…