News and Notes from a Writer’s Life

Fundamentalist Mormon Compound Raided in Texas, Raises Tough Questions

with 22 comments

Yearning for Zion Ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints or FLDS

Editor’s note: An update to this story can be found here.

In Eldorado Texas, in the scrub of the West Texas prairie, Child Protective Services and law enforcement officials are going door-to-door at a massive, self-sufficient Fundamentalist Mormon compound. So far they have detained more than 400 children and put them in protective custody. Many more women and children are being held in interim housing off the compound, and men on the compound have been separated until the search warrants have been conducted.

At issue is the Yearning for Zion compound in Texas, a large property purchased by the Fundamentalist Mormon church known as the FLDS. On the compound, church members had created factories, a church building, farming, ranching, and everything needed for self-sufficiency. Recently the FLDS’s leader, Warren Jeffs, was convicted of several sex-related crimes, including being an accomplice to the rape of an underage girl. Jeffs apparently arranged a marriage between a fourteen-year old girl and her cousin, something that’s illegal in the state of Texas.

Authorities were tipped off by an unidentified sixteen-year old girl who was forced into marriage with an older man and had a child. Authorities claim they still have not identified this woman or her child, and are not sure if she is among the women and children who are currently being housed in controlled housing.

The claim of authorities is that the raid on the compound isn’t about the religious beliefs of the members but more about the systematic abuse of children. The more than 400 children in custody currently are there because authorities claimed these children were in immediate danger of abuse from family and others.

It’s hard to believe that a single report from a single girl is enough to raid an entire community and place hundreds of children in custody. The whole reaction smells of religious condemnation from the state rather than simple concern over child wellbeing. In the United States, we are supposed to have the freedom to practice our religion as we see fit, providing our religion abides by the laws of the United States, and even then there are some exceptions. The notable example of the Native American Church and its use of peyote is one example. In this case, the issue of polygamy is at issue since polygamy is technically illegal, assuming that a single man wants to be legally married to more than one woman. In these compounds, however, the man isn’t legally marrying more than one woman, though subsequent wives will be “married” in the church though not married in the eyes of the state.

The systematic abuse of children should never be tolerated, of course, but officials in Texas should proceed with extreme caution. If children are indeed being abused as reported, the perpetrators should be convicted to the fullest extent of the law. A raid on a fundamentalist compound should not be about eradicating a religious preference, but protecting children in legitimate danger. Texas is in no position to begin an ideology war with FLDS members. Their aim should only be about crimes committed.

TV fans can see the world of the FLDS fictionalized in the HBO series Big Love which chronicles one man and his struggles against persecution as a believer in FLDS doctrine, including polygamy.

Written by joliesimons

April 8, 2008 at 11:33 am

Posted in In the News, Religion

22 Responses

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  1. I’m very happy that Texas takes this serious. Unlike other states, we ( Texas) are just waiting for a reason to investigate something suspecious. I hope this help breaks up this cult and get’s the children the desperate help they so deserve.


    April 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm

  2. mullah cimoc say this to showing ameriki just the satanic.
    like the village it vietnam: we must to destroying it just to be save it.
    hypocrite beast claim to be the free but just the serve devil.

    benjamin frankling be so ashame if to see this destroy family, only love lesbian and to killing abortion so many him ameriki baby just to poking the head for suck dry it brain meat. this ameriki him love. but then claim to protecting it children.

    Also, each day more him ameriki woman becoming slut, take LBT (low back tattoo) and him son the gay homosexual. This punish for wicked and cruel.

    And why Baptist church to work of policeman for kidnap to steal this children. This so ashame. This not the Christian.

    mullah cimoc

    April 8, 2008 at 8:16 pm

  3. I am more than inclined to agree with the state on this issue. Religious causes or not, if those allegations are true is a clear cut case of abuse.


    April 8, 2008 at 10:16 pm

  4. Hello:

    No, it does not raise tough questions. Polygamy is ILLEGAL. That gave them the right to raid the complex and shut the place down. All they needed was evidence that polygamy was going on, and FLDS practices polygamy. Period. People who practice polygamy are not facing persecution, they are CRIMINALS. When did the notion come about that you can break a law that you do not agree with? As far as peyote goes, the Supreme Court gave Native Americans A BIT of leeway because, let’s face it, we committed genocide against them, stole their land, and never asked them if they wanted to be in this country in the first place. So they get extra benefits that are not considered harmful to anyone else and do not disrupt mainstream society. That is why we allow them tribal courts and casinos. But that does not apply to FLDS. Even if it could be proven that polygamy harms no one and does not disrupt mainstream society, they don’t get the extra legal considerations because WE NEVER STOLE THE FLDS LAND OR VIRTUALLY ERADICATED THEM AS A PEOPLE.


    April 9, 2008 at 2:18 am

  5. I am LDS, or Mormon, i.e., a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am glad that my church ended the practice of polygamy more than 100 years ago. Consistent with that position, I do not condone the cultural or religious imposition of polygamy when it involves individuals under the age of 18, though I am willing to grant wide latitude to individuals over the age of 18 to enter into voluntary relationships akin to marriage.

    While acknowledging that it may be possible that some individuals at this site may have broken Texas law, I must say that, on its face, a raid which involves the forced relocation of more than 400 children and the disruption of their family support systems seems brutally traumatic.

    I trust that the authorities will be able, when this matter has run its course, to provide more compelling evidence of serious wrongdoing than we got when the government burned to death dozens of Branch Davidians.

    Absent such proof of massive wrongdoing, it will be hard to argue that this was anything other than government-executed “eradication” of an unpopular religion.

    How sad that, when it comes to the government and its dealings with impassioned practitioners of non-mainstream creeds, that it is the government which has squandered its “presumption of innocence” in such matters.

    I, for one, haven’t forgotten Waco OR Ruby Ridge.

    Mike Ridgway

    April 9, 2008 at 3:07 am

  6. My aunt and uncle live on a ranch so close to that compound that I remember seeing the huge temple the last time I was there, so I took immediate interest in the story as soon as I caught a glimpse of it.

    I agree with you that, Jolie, that this situation might have some ethnocentric tendencies behind it. However, I also concur that we should not ignore child abuse. On the other hand, who gets to define abuse? If marrying a 16-year-old is abuse, why isn’t marrying an 18-year-old also abuse? The obvious answer is that the law designates 18 as the legal age for marriage without parental consent. I suppose, then, that we should ask to what extent a culture like FLDS should be forced to comply with the laws of a larger, surrounding culture.

    The initial news reports about this tragedy focused too much on child abuse, for there was no evidence supporting that charge. The only “evidence” was the 16-year-old informant who reported an underage marriage. Considering the cultural context, would the members of that culture perceive that marriage as abusive?

    Finally, let me add that I appreciated Mullah’s line about the Baptist buses. When I saw that scene, I thought, “I’m glad those buses aren’t from the congregation I minister with!” I understand the desire to help rescue allegedly abused children, but the opportunity to get involved in interfaith conflict of such a public nature would cause me to pause and pray for a long time.

    Thanks for the post, and keep writing.

    Steven Tramel Gaines

    April 9, 2008 at 5:21 am

  7. I don’t believe in the government interfering. I don’t agree with this cult or many of its beliefs, but they are allowed to have certain beliefs and live a certain way.

    Provided it does not break any laws. If underage girls are being forced into marriage and sex, it is against the law.

    Does that mean you can raid a whole compound? I have questions about the validity of this raid. Of course, there must be more information out there that hasn’t been released, but, I can’t imagine the police raiding a whole town and displacing people because one man MIGHT have done something wrong.

    I don’t agree with these men marrying children, and we need to take steps to ensure they are protected, but as much as we dislike their culture, it doesn’t mean they don’t have rights.

    I’d like to read more about this though. There may be information I don’t know that changes the fairness and legitimacy of them raiding the whole compound.


    April 9, 2008 at 7:41 am

  8. If you’ve ever read the book ‘Escape’ by Carolyn Jessop, then you’ll understand why the raid took place. See more on her at,


    April 9, 2008 at 8:20 am

  9. Occasionally decisions, extreme though they may seem, are correct to address an extreme situation.

    An entire compound of old men and multiple woman and female children under there control isn’t religious freedom. It’s systematic oppression in the least. If the authorities hadn’t removed all the children, there’d heavy criticism against them for not “rescuing the children”. They do so and they get criticized anyway. As long as an actual, thorough investigation takes place I think they’ve done the right thing.

    I agree there are government abuses. What these old men are probably doing is much, much worse then the perception of what the government might appear to be doing.


    April 9, 2008 at 10:44 am

  10. This group of people intrigue like no other, I have watched the Big Love series too, i had to hire it from the DVD store. The book Escape sheds a lot of light on the cult. But yes who are we to object to their beliefs.


    April 9, 2008 at 10:49 am

  11. I was just tasked by my boss to write a quick 500 word bit on what’s wrong with America and since I’m in London I think i’ll forego the pub crawl for tonite and sit down and knock it out. I wanted to put soemthing in the piece about the FLDS matter in El Dorado and I read your great post and then began to read the comments. Hoo boy! Mister Ridgway if you go back and read out loud what you wrote and then maybe check CNN or even Fox for the latest updates you’ll know why your sort of religious fanatic knee jerk reaction is why most of the rest of the world shakes its collective head at America these days and from a representative aspect of how America views the Mormon religion that’s why Mitt Romney didn’t get his message across to white American Protestants.

    You haven’t heard a peep from mailine Christians about taking children that have been abused away from “spritual husbands.” All that sort of religion is is pimping with a book used to justify raping children.

    You have a great little blog here Joile and you are a fine writer.

    Qu’ul cuda praedex nihil!

    Diane Tomlinson

    April 9, 2008 at 12:47 pm

  12. Mike Ridgway:

    So … how do you feel about the war on drugs? City, state, and federal agents busting into alleged crackhouses with guns firing, agents smashing up private property looking for drugs, usually with a license to kill if they can claim evidence of “self – defense” which can easily be manufactured? That would be a much better instance to question the government’s use of force than their breaking up a polygamy compound.

    Look, the only reason why you were willing to allow this criminality to continue is because you support the behavior. You do not think that it should be a crime. “though I am willing to grant wide latitude to individuals over the age of 18 to enter into voluntary relationships akin to marriage.”? I am not willing to grant latitude to ANY criminal, because once we start granting latitude, then it becomes a question of which crimes get latitude and which don’t and which criminals get latitude and which don’t. Let me tell you: the crimes committed by minorities and the poor – as well as minorities and poor criminals – will be the ones that DO NOT get latitude. You say absent evidence of wrongdoing … well how were they going to GET evidence of wrongdoing when these people WERE LIVING IN A COMPOUND? By your standards, if you live in a compound, you can do whatever you want, mass cannibalism and everything, and get away scot free, because there would never be hard evidence because it wasn’t done out in the open! Well, pity the authorities because people that live in compounds don’t record their crimes on videotape and email them to the local police chief and district attorney!

    Now Waco was another story … THAT was a government setup from the get – go. The police could have arrested David Koresh without incident during the MANY REGULARLY SCHEDULED TIMES that the fellow left his compound to go jogging, grocery shopping, etc. But instead, they tipped the fellow off and gave him and his cult time to set up their siege before the ATF came ALONG WITH THEIR TV CAMERAS. And though I have no particular affection for white supremacists (those who believe that blacks are the cursed seed of Ham and similar), the Ruby Ridge incident was a similar government setup operation.

    Do I trust the government? No. Do I agree with many of our laws? But do I insist upon their right to enforce the laws that do exist? YES. Not doing so would violate what Paul clearly stated in Romans 13, and what Jesus Christ meant when He said to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.
    The Three Step Salvation Plan


    April 9, 2008 at 12:58 pm

  13. I’m going to have to agree with Job. I see no “tough issues” here–I see a group of people using religion as an excuse to commit statutory rape and incest. How is Native American use of peyote in any way analogous to sexual abuse? Such a claim is ridiculous at best.

    Nothing about this reaction smells of “religious condemnation from the state” and I find your comparison of the crimes committed by the Yearning for Zion Church to Native American rituals using naturally occurring plants to be both off-base and offensive.

    Kamandi Curt

    April 9, 2008 at 2:14 pm

  14. [...] April 9, 2008 by Todd Wood I just caught this short post. [...]

  15. Great article, Jolie. And what a firestorm of comments.

    But I’m thinking this so-called mullah cimoc is pure bogus.


    April 9, 2008 at 9:40 pm

  16. So, what happens to the kids now?
    The record of government care of children suggests that now the real horrors will begin. Prostitution, drugs, suicide, and abuse from foster parents is very likely now.


    April 10, 2008 at 8:07 pm

  17. Wedeclare, I highly doubt that foster care provided to these children will be worse than the physical abuse, incest and statutory rape that they endured within the compound. In fact, I’m sure their living conditions are about to improve dramatically.

    Kamandi Curt

    April 11, 2008 at 10:54 am

  18. I find it painfully ironic that the current mainstream Mormons are glad the church banned polygamy, but they fail to acknowledge that Joseph Smith had many wives, some which were 13 or younger. If God “spoke” to Joseph Smith and told him to take multiple wives, then these FLDS fanatics that abuse young children live closer to the so-called prophet that the mainstream Mormon.

    To be a Mormon is to be brainwashed. Did God “change his mind” in 1978 to allow blacks to hold the priesthood? Did God make a mistake? Do you deny that the first version of the book of Mormon changed its doctrine? Isn’t that the true test of whether or not it’s a word from God? Mainstream Mormons want to be known as Christians, when in fact Mormonism differs from Christianity far more than Judaism differs from Christianity.

    These FLDS pedophiles allowed to practice in Utah while the taxpayers pay the baby machines to churn out more young women for the “elders” to feed of from makes me sick. Joseph Smith is Warren Jeffs incarnate… with Jeffs claiming to be Christ. It’s just a larger dose of KoolAid. Mormonism is worshiping a false prophet.

    G. Mathews

    April 12, 2008 at 9:08 pm

  19. I am not even a Chrisitian. And I have the right, under religious freedom, not to be. No one can force me to follow some state sponsored or sanctioned religion.

    Freedom of religion allows us to have NO specific religion (as in my case) OR the RIGHT to PRACTICE YOUR OWN RELIGION FREE FROM GOVERNMENT INTERFERENCE.

    LEAVE THESE PEOPLE ALONE! Let them practice their religion! We don’t march into Saudi Arabia and try to extract children from the arms of their mothers – because POLYGAMY is allowed and respected there. Its part of the Muslim faith as practiced there is quite common. If Christian or any other group chose to be Polygamists here its THEIR BUSINESS – not OURS!

    You CANNOT have religious freedom yourself if you deny it to others.

    I don’t CARE if you happen to believe in the Mormon faith or not. THEY DO! An that is all that matters.

    The homes on that compound are LOVING! Foster homes are horrible. NOBODY should beleive that these children will be better of in state sponsored institutions.

    LEAVE THESE CHILDREN ALONE! And STOP walking all over this cultures religious FREEDOMS!

    Jeff Tschantz

    April 15, 2008 at 1:38 pm

  20. How is the Mormon compound financed? Is it a farm where they grow all the food they need? Do the men work outside the compound making high incomes?

    Jean McCollum

    May 1, 2008 at 7:27 pm

  21. [...] can read my previous posts on this subject here and here. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Tough Questions (Nearly) Answered: [...]

  22. [...] remember these women in long dresses down in Texas fretting about their children being taken away? Fundamentalist Mormon Compound Raided in Texas, Raises Tough Questions These people had a different ideology than the rest of America and had bought large tracks of land [...]

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