May 21, 2013
The Christian Conspiracy to Take Over the Military
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Kasia Anderson: This is Truthdig Radio. I’m Kasia Anderson, associate editor. And I’m pleased to be talking with author and private detective Sam Brower about his new book, “Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.” How’re you doing, Sam?
Sam Brower: Good. Good to be here.
Kasia Anderson: Good to have you. I myself am actually from Salt Lake City, Utah; I was born there and spent about 10 years there, so I know a little bit about the topic of your book; I was born in Utah myself. Why don’t you set up the case of the FLDS [Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints] and the Warren Jeffs case for us?
Sam Brower: OK. The FLDS are a group of fundamentalist Mormons; they distinguish themselves from the mainstream LDS [Latter-day Saints] church by practicing polygamy, and they’ve been, of course, they separated themselves decades ago. And over the years they have devolved, I guess—or evolved, however you want to put it—into a criminal organization run by their so-called prophet, who is now awaiting charges in Texas involving child abuse and underage marriage. And he’s still actually running his organization from behind the jail walls; he has access to a phone, and he’s still running his whole criminal organization from there.
Sam Brower: You know, our best guesses are over 10,000. I have a database that contains over 13,000 names, and it’s growing all the time. They have multiple wives and very large families, and so it’s constantly growing and getting larger and larger.
Kasia Anderson: So, describe—the book says that you’re talking about the shocking inside world of FLDS members. What in particular did you find the most shocking? Was it the underage marriage and child abuse, obviously, or were there other aspects?
Sam Brower: You know, I guess the most shocking part was the age of the children who were getting abused. One of my first clients was Brent Jeffs and Brandon Jeffs, the nephews of Warren Jeffs, and they were being raped and sodomized by their Uncle Warren between the ages of 5 and 7. And that was my introduction into this group, into this cult. And then as I started going on … it’s very hard to get information. I mean, they’re such an insular group, such a quiet, secretive cult, that it’s very hard to get information. People just don’t really leave and spill their guts, you know; it’s sort of like kind of breaking into the mob. And so it’s very hard to get information, and then when the law enforcement raid—there was a law enforcement raid that took place in Texas that uncovered a lot of evidence, including Warren Jeffs’ personal priesthood record. And that was the—oh, gosh, I’d say smoking gun, except it was even more than that; it was just, you know, a private investigator’s dream come true. He laid it all out: I mean, children as young as 11, 12 years old being married out to old men. It was, you know, an incredible story of fraud and child abuse and blackmail and kidnapping, and all these horrible things that go along with an organized crime group.
Kasia Anderson: Yeah, I understand that it would by nature be difficult to get people to talk when they’ve fled such, or are trying to leave such horrific conditions. It [Brower’s book] says that you earned the trust of a lot of FLDS members. How did you go about doing that?
Sam Brower: The biggest thing on my side was, I just didn’t give up. During, over the years, law enforcement has tried to get in, but they ... time isn’t on their side, and they try and then they just hit a roadblock and they stop. But I just didn’t stop, and bit by bit I got to know people who had left the group, and then you get to know some of their friends and some of their relatives, and then you hear and learn more. You know, just little bits at a time over the years, just little tiny bits at a time, you start getting to know more people and you start learning more. And you find people that are still inside the group and things like that, that are willing to talk, but very cautiously. And so it was just a real slow process, but it was a process that worked in my favor.
Kasia Anderson: Right. And as a private investigator, had you done any cases like this before, or was this all new to you?
Sam Brower: Well, I’d done child abuse cases before, and they are always disturbing. I’ve worked on lots of cases like that, and they are very disturbing; they are unsettling. But nothing like this—something that was just overwhelming; I mean, literally, that you lose sleep over it.
Kasia Anderson: Right. And, you know, just for our listeners and also for my own edification, can you describe a little bit—you mentioned that the FLDS has spun off from mainstream Mormonism some time ago. Can you kind of lay out, in brief, the relationship between these kind of fringe groups and the Mormon Church in Utah and other, you know, Mormon-heavy locations?
Sam Brower: Yeah. Around the turn of the 19th century, the LDS church disavowed the practice of polygamy. They were trying to become a state, and they were trying to integrate into the mainstream country, and so they decided that in order to do that they would need to abolish that practice of polygamy. And it took some time, but over the years they were able to abolish that practice. But there was a handful of disaffected members, I guess, that didn’t want to participate in that. They thought the mainstream church was off-base, and they decided that they were going to go ahead and branch off on their own and start forming their own church. And so that was the beginning of it; that was the seed. And then over the years, they’ve each started battling with each other, you know, these different sects. One would break off from another one; you know, a church leader would die, and there would be a period of sort of like a medieval power struggle, where one would be trying to gain control over the other one’s congregation …
Kasia Anderson: [Laughs] Fiefdoms.
Sam Brower: … and there was this history of violence, and just a struggle to keep members and help the ranks grow. So that’s what these offshoot fringe group, kind of how they sprung up out here in the West.
Kasia Anderson: Right. And at this point the book cites there’s about 50,000 to 100,000 families around the United States, yeah, who practice polygamy?
Sam Brower: That’s probably a good guess. And I don’t know that they’re … they’re not all Mormon kind of offshoots; there’s lots of different cults, I guess, and sects, and things like that. I mean, you see every once in a while out here, just some guy wanders off into the desert and has a vision and comes back and says God told him to marry his secretary or something, you know?
Kasia Anderson: [Laughs] Yes, all these interesting prophetic moments. I should correct myself; that wasn’t from your book, that was from a secondary source about polygamy.
Sam Brower: Yeah.
Kasia Anderson: But, to bring us up to date, there’s obviously a couple shows in popular culture that deal with polygamy. I know that you don’t have to be the “Sister Wives” expert or something to be able to speak to it, but do you feel like there’s any risk involved with having these types of practices kind of mainstreamed, or brought into popular culture? Or is the simple fact of their existence not a problem for you?
Sam Brower: Well, I feel there is. I mean, I was asked to screen a preview of “Big Love” and I wouldn’t go do it, because I’d seen what it was like and it’s not realistic. And also, the shows like “Sister Wives” and things like that, I think it sends out a bad message that these groups are somehow legitimate. In actuality, maybe with Kody Brown and his group in this moment in time, they’re pretty benign. You know, maybe they do fit in better than some of these other groups. I really don’t know; I haven’t really focused on them. But then again, I know that the leader of his group was Owen Allred, and when he died in 2005, there was a lot of tension, a lot of worry here about whether … you know, which way their group’s going to go. You know, are they going to get a new leader that’s going to be radical and lead them down these paths of child abuse and all the other ancillary crimes that go along with it? Or is he going to be somebody that’s going to kind of lead the people into the mainstream? And when you have these ingredients of religious fanaticism and blind obedience, all it takes is one more ingredient—which is a radical leader—and the whole thing can explode and take thousands of people down a very dangerous, slippery slope.
Kasia Anderson: Speaking of Mormons in the public eye, we have two candidates for president—Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney—who are Mormons. Do you think that there’s any chance of their success in the race for the White House? Or is America still a little bit too wary of Mormonism, in your opinion?
Sam Brower: Well, as far as the mainstream LDS church goes, I don’t like to think that the rest of the world is not ready for a Mormon president. I mean, there is a Mormon congressman, and senators and Cabinet members, and all kinds of different people in the government all over the place.
Kasia Anderson: Harry Reid in Nevada, yeah.
Sam Brower: So when people think of Mormonism, I guess they think automatically of polygamy. But the mainstream church is no more part of, for instance, the FLDS church than Lutherans are of the Catholic; they’re two totally different religions. So there’s no fear on my part for them becoming president; I think they would both probably be fine presidents.
Kasia Anderson: OK. Well, on that note, we’re going to wrap up here; thanks for your time. This is private detective and author Sam Brower; we’ve been talking about his new book, “Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.” Thanks for your time, Sam.
Sam Brower: Thanks so much.
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