I’ve been amused by the reaction to The Da Vinci Code, especially the recently released movie. To me, all religion is mythology — it says much about us and much to us but it’s all fiction. There is no god, in my belief. Even if there were a god or gods, there are so many nonsensical stories that believers accept with the blindest of faith.
Now, along come two cautionary tales to remind us that our need to believe in something greater than ourselves can be used by others to enslave us. The stories involve the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) and Divine Madness.
These excerpts are longish, but you should really read the even-longer articles. One appeared in Sunday’s Journal. The other is a related but slightly different and much more detailed article than the one which appeared there. mjh
The Seattle Times: Nation & World: Justice system catching up to polygamous sect By David Kelly and Gary Cohn, Los Angeles Times
COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — For half a century, while members of this remote, polygamous enclave engaged in widespread sexual abuse and child exploitation, government authorities on all levels did little to intervene or protect generations of victims.
In the sparsely populated canyon lands straddling the border between Arizona and Utah, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) — an offshoot of Mormonism — live by their own rules.
The religious sect of about 10,000 portrays itself as an industrious commune of the faithful, one that chooses to live apart from a hostile world. But their quaint lifestyle and self-imposed isolation have concealed troubling secrets that are only beginning to emerge. …
Among sect members, girls as young as 13 are forced into marriage, sexual abuse is rampant, rape is covered up, and child molesters are shielded by religious authorities and law enforcement. Boys are thrown out of town, abandoned like unwanted pets by the side of the road and forcibly ostracized from their families to reduce competition among the men for multiple wives.
Children routinely leave school at 11 or 12 to work hazardous construction jobs. Boys can be seen piloting dump trucks, backhoes, forklifts and other heavy equipment.
Girls work at home, trying to keep order in enormous families with multiple mothers and dozens of children.
Wives are threatened with mental institutions if they fail to “keep sweet” for their husbands.
Warren Jeffs, a wiry, third-generation church member, is the sect leader — a post that carries the title “prophet” and gives him virtually absolute control over the most intimate conduct in the community.
As prophet, Jeffs orders marriages, splits up families, evicts residents and exiles whomever he wants, with no regard for legal processes. He tells couples when they can and can’t have sex.
But Jeffs is now a fugitive, listed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list and accused by state and federal authorities of rape, sexual conduct with a minor, conspiracy and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Former members say he continues to exert influence nonetheless.
[the Journal printed KTLA The WB | Where Los Angeles Lives | Where Few Dare to Disobey By David Kelly and Gary Cohn, Times Staff Writers, which is less horrific.]
ABQjournal: A Spiritual Community in Reserve Is Also An Ultramarathon Powerhouse By Leslie Linthicum, Journal Staff Writer
Over the years, hundreds of people have chosen to follow Divine Madness’s leader, a short, bearded 58-year-old known as “Yo,” who now lives year round at the compound near Reserve.
Set in a deep canyon inside the Gila National Forest, the Divine Madness compound is stunning and remote, hidden by a circle of 8,000-foot mountain peaks. What goes on in the canyon is a mystery to most of the 400 or so people who live in Reserve. …
Is Divine Madness a spiritual community? A commune? A cult? Or nobody’s business? …
[Marc] Tizer, a Philadelphia native, moved to Boulder and started a commune influenced by Eastern thought in the late 1970s. He advocated communal living, meditation and exercise. It wasn’t until 1991 that Tizer, in a late-night speech, told the group he had been thinking about the power of running in a group as a tool to reach transformation. …
Divine Madness, named by Tizer to describe a state of bliss achieved through earthly activity, according to Bertoia grew into an ultrarunning training club increasingly micromanaged by Tizer. …
“We are a spiritual community dedicated to spiritual and personal growth and development, holistic healing, health, right lifestyle, and cooperative living,” she said in a statement. “Our great running success, which drew media attention, is owing as much to our balanced and harmonious lifestyle as the particular running and training methods we use.” …
A consultant in Florida who runs a support and referral system for former cult members said she was aware of Divine Madness and had counseled several former members.
“From stories I’ve heard from ex-members, it certainly is a cult,” said Carol Giambalvo, who also sits on the board of directors of the International Cultic Studies Association.