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Oprah at the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas - Show Recap


Original Air Date:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Oprah Visits the Yearning for Zion Ranch:

Oprah arrived at the FLDS Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas where 1 year ago 439 children were taken from their parents in a state raid. In the middle of nowhere, Oprah met church spokesperson Willie Jessop and prepared to enter the compound. Oprah met Willie 1 month ago when Lisa Ling when back inside the ranch and he appeared on the show via Skype. The FLDS sect believes in plural marriages and is separate from the traditional Mormon religion elsewhere in America.

The YFZ compound was created as Warren Jeffs view of utopia, and only the most devout members of the church were invited to live there. Before the raid, 600-800 members were residents, a number that dropped to 300-400 after the raid. While Warren Jeffs is still under trial in multiple states, the church members feel he has been falsely accused, and keep his image in ever room of their homes to continue to follow the prophet.

Oprah was able to see the grounds of the temple, but not inside since it is now considered desecrated. Willie stated that the beds found in the temple were meant for groundskeepers or worship.

Oprah Visits a Second Grade Classroom:

Oprah was introduced to Tammy, a second grade teacher and her classroom. Upon entering the room, Oprah saw a display for the 1 child that remains in state custody. While religion is the primary study for the kids, they also learn math, science, english and spelling as well. The kids do remember the raid and stated that they lived in shelters while they were gone. Oprah commented how she didn't see any toys and asked what the kids played. They stated that they don't want to play, they want to work, because play to them means goofing around and not being productive - everything they do has a focus and purpose.

1 Man, 3 Wives, 9 Children :

Oprah visited the home of Richard, and his wives Joy, Alice, and Rosie and their 9 children. The women rise at 4:30 in the morning to get ready and have the kids up by 5am. The family gather at 6am to have a class and greet their father one-by-one.

The wives shared that while their is a special bond with a biological child, they love all the children as their own. Each mother has their own bedroom in the home, and the family does not discuss the idea of sex because it's not about passion, but about a Christ-like love.

FLDS Shopping, Work, Clothing and Technology:

Cameras toured the ranch for an close up look into the ranch storehouse where members are able to "shop" without using money. The food that is in the store was mostly made by scratch and grown on the grounds of the compound. The store is filled with fresh produce and homemade canned items. All of the milk, cheese, eggs and meat are produced right on site making everything very fresh and nutritious.

The popular dresses the women wear and most of the clothing is handmade on site and displayed in a store for members to get new clothes.

Church members are also surprisingly tech savvy and use computers, digital cameras, cell phones and ipods. The use for the electronics are for spiritual purposes or for the work of the community.

While many men work off of the compound grounds in construction, women are responsible for getting older children to school and keeping the younger children with them while they tend to the orchard, grounds and home. The sister wives spend the majority of their time together working the land and taking care of the home and children.

Caroline and Betty Jessop:

Caroline Jessop first spoke to Oprah in 2003 after she left the FLDS with her 8 children because of fear that her 14 year-old daughter would be forced to marry. After 4 years living outside of the church, Caroline's daughter, Betty, decided to return to the compound at 18 and is still living there.

Oprah had a chance to talk to Oprah about the choice she made and about her mother who left to protect her. Betty shared with Oprah that she returned to her home, life and religion and not because she is brainwashed as her mother believes.

Betty doesn't believe that her mother left to protect her, but for her own interests of not wanting to be a part of the church. Being with family and having a purpose each day are what Betty says makes her happy - she doesn't feel trapped in her life and loves being with her family and working the ranch.

Oprah Sits Down for Dinner:

Oprah joined Richard, his wives, and his children along with other church members for dinner to share more about life on the ranch. After showcasing the freshly made bread and buffet-style dinner that was prepared, Oprah spoke with the women about jealousies. One woman shared that much of what they do on the ranch revolves around self-improvement and overcoming the weakness of jealousy and working to eliminate human passions and become more Christlike. The women use the relationship with their sister wives to discover their weaknesses and work to love them and let their negative emotions go.

Also during the dinner, Oprah spoke with the mothers about the day of the raid and was explained how the even separated them from their children and caused fear and pain in both the children and the mothers that they will never forget.

Oprah spoke to Richard about abuse and underage marriage where he explained that the teachings of the church are to be clean and pure so he limited his conversation in front of the children. It was mentioned that young marriages have occurred, but that they don't view that as abuse - the allegations behind the raid are looked at subjectively from the sides of the FLDS and the state of Texas. Church members don't believe that any crimes have been committed because the girls had the permission of their parents are were able to choose if they were ready to marry or not.

Oprah ended the dinner segment by asking the women about their hair. The women shared that they see each style as different and have their own sense of style with their dress and hair. While the women are allowed to wear their hair back, they prefer to wear it up and can spend anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes a day styling it.

Oprah and the FLDS Teen Girls:

Oprah ended the show by sharing the footage from her conversation with the teen girls on the YFZ ranch. The girls shared how they lived in the outside world for 2 months after the raid, though that wasn't the first exposure they have had to how the rest of the country lives. Church members leave the ranch for dental and vision services and get some exposure on those trips. This is how the teens had some access to television and movies.

The teens shared that they understood that during the raid the state was questioning about marriage, but didn't understand their concern with age or abuse because they didn't know the laws of the country were different from their own beliefs. Children are not physically abused, and parents use persuasion by love as their act of discipline.

The teens shared their views on marriage as the start of the relationship and taking a step together. Having respect for a husband is necessary for the teens to marry, but they feel the love with come when they develop their marriage.

The girls also spoke on the difference in each dress, swimming in their dresses, having cell phones, and going to college.

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