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Lisa Ling Investigates Polygamy - Show Recap


Original Air Date:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The FLDS Investigation - The Beginning:

The Eldorado, Texas FLDS compound investigation all started with a call to a shelter made by a supposed 16 year old girl who was complaining of abuse from her 50 year old husband and father of her 8 month old child. When authorities went in to investigate the call, the process ended up taking 3 days, and in the end more than 450 children were taken into state custody. In the aftermath of the search, it has been revealed that 31 out of 53 girls ages 13-17 were either pregnant or had already given birth to a child. The search also revealed that dozens of the children had experienced broken bones and possible abuse.

The FLDS Investigation - Lisa Ling Goes Inside:

Lisa Ling and Oprah's team were able to negotiate being allowed inside the typically closed Texas compound. When Lisa sat down with 3 FLDS mothers, 2 lawyers were also in the room. The 3 women who sat down with Lisa had 16 children between them. One mother commented that the actions were appalling - to break up a community over a phone call. Lisa explained the concern regards the marriage of young girls, and another mother replied that the young girls are well taken care of, not abused, have the right to refuse marriage - that they have rights.

The FLDS Investigation - Inside an FLDS Home:

Lisa and the cameras were allowed inside a woman's home, though she was not permitted to say how many children she had, how many lived in the home, her age, or how many sister wives she had. Lisa noted that the house was very bare with just the very basic needs, having a gray/blue color for floors, chairs, etc. The children's rooms slept as many as 7 children in each - one having a bunk bed stacked 3 high. There were no photos in the home, except for those of the prophet, Warren Jeffs.

The FLDS Investigation - Elissa Wall:

During the investigation of Warren Jeffs, the testimony of Jane Doe was what helped put him behind bars. Elissa Wall, the girl who was forced to marry her cousin at 14, was on the Oprah Show and willing to speak her story. Elissa has since helped bridge the gap in Texas between investigators and FLDS women. The investigators, Elissa explained, were kind and respectful and tried hard to work with the community. Elissa explained her role as a translator for FLDS jargon. While there, Elissa did see pregnant girls and explained that their greatest goal in life is to be married and have children.

The FLDS Investigation - Elissa Wall's Story:

Elissa tells her story in her book Stolen Innocence. Elissa was 14 when she was forced to marry her first cousin who was 19 - Elissa recalled not even knowing that sex existed. Elissa was told by her appointed father that she would be one of three girls that would be married, even though there were older girls in the house. Elissa begged not to be married, wanting to wait and wed someone else. The FLDS community believes in arranged marriages, but don't teach anatomy or sex education. Elissa was told that her husband would teach her what she needed to know.

Elissa was told that her marriage was a revelation from God and she would have to go through with it. The concern of birth defects didn't exist because God and the prophet condoned the marriage. Elissa had grown up thinking that babies come from heaven, so consummating her marriage was very traumatic for her. Elissa also described group weddings and honeymoons as more of a get to know you event that a romantic one.

The FLDS Investigation - Elissa Now:

Elissa shared that the Warren Jeffs verdict was a bittersweet one - feeling that justice was served, but that many people at the compounds would not understand. Elissa escaped her compound at 17 with her boyfriend Lamont, who was also raised in a polygamist community. She met Lamont while she was sleeping in her car just outside the compound when he helped her fix her tire. The couple is now married and have 2 children.

Elissa's sister Teressa was also on the show - she escaped 2 years ago with her 3 children and also testified. The two had difficulty adjusting from their strict FLDS teachings and upbringing.

The FLDS Investigation - Warren Jeffs' Salt Lake City Compound:

Lamont gave Lisa and the cameras a tour of the Salt Lake City compound that is now abandoned since Warren Jeffs has been jailed. The community housed a private school that many - including Lamont, Teressa and Elissa attended - where Warren Jeffs was principal. Lamont showed Lisa a birthing center where many FLDS babies, including Elissa were born, meeting rooms, hidden passages and rooms (used to hide women and children from authorities) as well as a baptismal room where children were welcomed into the church.

The FLDS Investigation - Roger Hale:

Roger Hale is a man well known and considered evil in the FLDS community - he works to rescue individuals who wish to leave the church and lifestyle and helps get them on their feet. Roger knows his reputation, but feels it's a good thing because members know there is someone to help.

Roger helped Jorjina and 7 of her 12 children escape from the Colorado City compound just 4 months ago. Jorjina and her children are now living in an apartment and adjusting to their new life. Jorjina was motivated to leave by her 14 year old daughter Hillary who begged her to get out before she was forced to marry.

Roger explained that while he doesn't refer to FLDS as a cult because of the member's sincere religious beliefs, the community fits the profile of a cult.

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