Friday, March 27, 2009

The one year anniversary of the YFZ raid

Looking back at yesterday's post on my blog, today marks the one year anniversary of the raid on the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas. You know what is really weird? I have twice spent the better part of a year in San Angelo, Texas!

"In sermons and school lessons," writes Brooke Adams in today's SL Trib, "the FLDS have kept alive eight decades of efforts to wipe out their polygamous lifestyle -- most notably, the 1953 raid on Short Creek, their traditional home base at the Utah-Arizona border. Authorities kept 263 women and children in state custody for two years. The raid led the sect to close ranks -- a decision that contributed to what happened in Texas 55 years later." She then goes on to quote Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, whose statement is as notable for what he does not say as for what he does: "One good thing is it sent a message to [sect leader] Warren Jeffs, or anyone of his ilk, that they can't go somewhere else to perform underage marriages, even though they went to extraordinary lengths to have it be private on the ranch." Note that he is not so concerned about polygamy per se, which is forbidden by the Utah State Constitution, but only with underage shenanigans. Now, if one has to prioritize, sparing young girls the tribulation of being forced to be a plural wife at an age younger than the law permits anyone to enter into a marriage is a higher priority. Do not for one minute think that he has no sympathy for polygamists. After all, it is Shurtleff who said,

FLDS Temple at the YFZ Ranch
"Polygamy is illegal in Utah and forbidden by the Arizona constitution. However, law enforcement agencies in both states have decided to focus on crimes within polygamous communities that involve child abuse, domestic violence and fraud. The Utah Attorney General's Office and the Arizona Attorney General's Office also worked together [with polygamy advocates] to produce 'The Primer -- Helping Victims of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse in Polygamous Communities.' This manual provides basic information about various communities that will assist human services professionals, law enforcement officers and others in helping victims from these communities. The Primer will be updated regularly to reflect modifications in the law and changes in each organization's beliefs and practices . . ."
I am not entirely unsympathetic with such an approach to law enforcement, but the idea that these communities can in any wise be trusted to police themselves and cooperate honestly with authorities, given their histories, strikes me as being more than a tad too optimistic.

Mike Leavitt, who served in the Bush Administration as EPA Administrator and then as Secretary of Health and Human Services, while serving as governor of Utah, once called for the repeal of state laws against polygamy and for an end to laws against polygamy being enforced, not only in Utah, but other states, too, because he thought the practice fell under the protection of the first amendment, despite the fact that the constitution of his state, which he took an oath defend, has to say on the matter. The Utah constitution makes polygamy a third-degree felony, although enforcement of laws banning it have not been high on the law enforcement or legal agenda since the 1953 raid. Of course, he corrected himself a few days later by saying that it is difficult to impossible to enforce laws against it because of the manner in which it is practiced. This last statement is no doubt true, but do not be fooled into thinking that he, Shurtleff, and others state leaders have problems in principle with the practice of polygamy. Why? Doctrine & Covenants Section 132, which states:
"And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified. But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified. "
The LDS believe that these are words of the Lord spoken directly to the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Hence, for the LDS faithful, these words remain divine revelation, an unambiguous expression of God's will.

No comments: