23 Sep 2007

Jeffs verdict irrelevant to followers, polygamist community

The Spectrum - Utah

Editorial - September 22, 2007


With all due respect to the judicial system, the Warren Jeffs decision is one of those rare times when a jury's verdict is irrelevant.

The outcome really only impacts Jeffs and his freedom. It is doubtful it will have much impact on his followers, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. A guilty verdict places him in the category of religious martyr while a not guilty verdict serves as a reaffirmation of faith for FLDS members and win, lose or draw, the practice of plural marriage will continue.


What has emerged from this trial, however, is a rare look inside of a very private, secretive segment of our society. And, when you pull back the layers, what is exposed is a culture of innocence and naivete.

It was startling to hear testimony that a 14-year-old girl had no knowledge of even the most rudimentary details of human reproduction; that a 19-year-old man thought he could gently introduce his young wife into sexual relations by exposing himself to her in a public park. How childlike and innocent they appear when introduced into the same news cycle as Britney Spears and O.J. Simpson. How different their world must be from that of the young people you encounter on the streets these days.

I wonder: Were they sheltered or neglected?

On the other hand, there is some charm in this rejection of worldliness. There are, after all, plenty of things in this world that we would be better off without. It would also be of great benefit to us all to not be so judgmental, so cynical, so tired, so world weary.

Of course, the innocent are easy marks, which means they can easily be had emotionally, physically and spiritually. They can be manipulated by religious charlatans and scam artists when forced to encounter the world. Still, there is comfort in knowing that not all of the people on this planet are hardened and suspicious.

There is a prurient curiosity attached to this case, of course, but the FLDS lifestyle runs much deeper than embracing polygamy. And, it's all so difficult to grasp.

I mean, we have here an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which itself, in many circles, is an unknown entity. So, if the mainstream followers of the Book of Mormon are a wild card to most of America, imagine how they must feel about members of the FLDS faith. How can we possibly come to understand others, from Muslims to Buddhists, when we can't understand those within our own country who follow a different spiritual path?

This trial was supposed to be a decision on whether Jeffs was guilty of rape as an accomplice for allegedly arranging a marriage between this 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old first cousin. Warren Jeffs was the accused, polygamy and the FLDS Church were not supposed to be on trial,

But, did that happen?

We'll never really know.

http://www.thespectrum.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070922/OPINION02/709220309

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