National Geographic : 2010 Feb
• more than 80), at least one was an underage girl, according to a Texas indictment. Although the issue of underage marriage within the church has garnered the greatest negative media attention, Dan Fischer has cham- pioned another cause, the so-called Lost Boys, who have le or been forced from the commu- nity and wound up fending for themselves on the streets of Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, and St. George, Utah. Fischer's foundation has worked with 300 such young men, a few as young as 13, over the past seven years. Fischer concedes that most of these boys were simply "discouraged out," but he cites cases where they were o cially expelled, a practice he says increased under Je s. Fischer attributes the exodus partly to a cold- blooded calculation by church leaders to limit male competition for the pool of marriageable young women. "If you have men marrying 20, 30, up to 80 or more women," he says, "then it comes down to biology and simple math that there will be a lot of other men who aren't going to get wives. e church says it's kicking these boys out for being disruptive in uences, but if you'll notice, they rarely kick out girls." Equally contentious has been the FLDS res- toration of an early Mormon policy of transfer- ring the wives and children of a church member to another man. Traditionally, this was done upon the death of a patriarch so that his wid- ows might be cared for, or to rescue a woman from an abusive relationship. But critics argue that under Je s this "reassignment" became one more weapon to hold over the heads of those who dared step out of line. Determining who is unworthy has been the exclusive province of the prophet. When in January 2004 Je s publicly ordered the expul- sion of 21 men and the reassignment of their families, the community acquiesced. Je s's di- ary, also seized during the Texas raid, reveals a man who micromanaged the community's every decision, from chore assignments and housing arrangements to who married whom and which men were ousted---all directed by revelations Je s received as he slept. He claimed that God guided his every action, no matter how small. One diary entry reads: " e Lord directed that I go to the sun tanning salon and get sun tanned more evenly on their suntanning beds." In 2005 a Utah court transferred control of the trust that oversees much of the land in Hildale and Colorado City from the FLDS lead- ership to a state-appointed duciary; the church is currently waging a campaign to recover con- trol of the trust. As for Jeffs, after spending over a year on the lam avoiding legal issues in Utah---and earning a spot on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list---he was caught and is cur- rently serving a ten-year-to-life sentence as an accomplice to rape. He awaits trial on multiple indictments in Arizona and Texas. e 11 other church members awaiting trial in Texas include Merril Jessop, who was indicted for performing the marriage of Je s to an underage girl. Yet Je s's smiling portrait continues to adorn the living room of almost every FLDS home. In his absence, his lieutenants have launched a erce defense of his leadership. While conced- ing that underage marriages did occur in the past, Donald Richter, contributor to one of the o cial FLDS websites, says the practice has now been stopped. As for the Lost Boys, he argues that both the numbers involved and the reasons for the expulsions have been greatly exagger- ated by the church's enemies. " is is only done in the most extreme cases," Richter says, "and never for the trivial causes they're claiming. And anyway, all religious groups have the right to expel people who won't accept their rules." Certainly Melinda Fischer Je s hasn't been swayed by the ongoing controversy. "Warren is just the kindest, most loving man," she says. " e image that has been built up about him by the media and his enemies is just unrecogniz- able to who he really is." Like other church mem- bers, Melinda has ready answers for most of the accusations leveled against Je s and is especially spirited in defending the policy of reassignment. According to her, it is almost always initiated at the request of a wife who has been abandoned or abused. is is debatable. In his diary Je s recounts reassigning the wives of three men, including his brother David, because God had "If you have men marrying 20, 30, up to 80 or more women," Fischer says, it's "simple math that there will be a lot of men who aren't going to get wives."