Krakauer, Polygamy, and the Lost Boys

August 4, 2004 | 16 comments
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Both Dave’s and the Mormon Wasp have noted the recent press accounts about Krakauer (yes, that Krakauer) working to assist the teenage boys who are routinely expelled from the polygamous FLDS community in order to keep the proper male-to-female ratio. The plight of the “Lost Boys” who are expelled from the FLDS is troubling, and it’s nice to see that Krakauer is doing what he can (along with others) to help them make the transition into the real world.

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16 Responses to Krakauer, Polygamy, and the Lost Boys

  1. Julie in Austin on August 4, 2004 at 7:40 pm

    Pardon my ignorance here, but was this (excess males) an issue in 19C Utah? Or were there always surplus female converts?

  2. Kaimi on August 4, 2004 at 7:47 pm

    I’m not sure, though I think it must have come up. I’ve read that in Zina Huntington’s case, her existing husband was sent overseas on a mission, and that Brigham Young subsequently moved in with her. (Her husband later remarried, but never really got over Zina). A short online account of Zina, focusing mainly on her marriage to Joseph Smith, is at http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/05-ZinaHuntingtonJacobs.htm .

  3. Jim F. on August 4, 2004 at 8:44 pm

    Julie, since, as a percentage of the population, polygamy wasn’t widely practiced in the 19th century, the problem didn’t come up. Had a significant number of the men become polygamous, it surely would have become one. As the FLDS are discovering, widespread polygamy isn’t sustainable on its own. Given that birth rates hover at about 50/50 male and females, it requires either an influx of females or getting rid of some males.

  4. clark on August 4, 2004 at 9:04 pm

    “Pardon my ignorance here, but was this (excess males) an issue in 19C Utah?”

    The difference was that there was a lot of prosylatizing by 19th century Mormons whereas I believe that most of the southern Utah polygamist sects are fairly insular and have little by way of influx.

    I’d disagree with Jim about the rate of polygamy practice. In many parts of the church the rate was fairly high, although far fewer ever had more than 1 wife. But I think that in some counties more than a third of all households were polygamist. I seem to recall that it was as high as 2/3 in some places. But that’s off the top of my memory. The book The New Mormon History has a great article on polygamy statistics. I’ll check it later tonight.

    The claims of very low statistics that you hear in church all the time are fairly misleading and tend to be Nauvoo statistics and not Utah statistics. Polygamy, for a certain period of Utah history, was pushed pretty heavily – about on part to say the Word of Wisdom is today.

  5. Jim F. on August 4, 2004 at 10:34 pm

    Clark, I don’t know the figures, so you could certainly be right. But even if rates were as high as 2/3 in some places, I would be surprised–just intuitively, not informed–if the overall average was more than 25%. Even at a 25% rate, however, the Church might eventually have run into a similar problem.

  6. ronin on August 4, 2004 at 10:57 pm

    Since polygamy is illegal, couldnt the FBI or local cops just go in and rescue the women in the FLDS community who are in this situation? And arrest and jail the FLDS men who practise polygamy, cuz according to Krakauer, those FLDS men also seem to be committing statutory rape?

  7. john fowles on August 4, 2004 at 11:56 pm

    Jim wrote: As the FLDS are discovering, widespread polygamy isn’t sustainable on its own. That is one reason why it made sense that even though polygamy was necessary, only those called to enter into polygamous marriages did so. Am I right in thinking that someone didn’t just decide one day they wanted to marry more wives? Rather, it came as a calling from the prophet?

  8. Sheldon on August 5, 2004 at 2:40 am

    While the general gender population today is 50/50, the female/male ratio of active church members is much different. I’m just guessing, but I’m thinking about 3/1. This is more dramatic in the mission field than in strong Utah wards. That is why polygamy in a true gospel population would not necessitate throwing males out of the church. Young males arleady do a fine job of throwing themselves out of the church.

  9. Chad too on August 5, 2004 at 12:36 pm

    ronin sez: “Since polygamy is illegal, couldnt the FBI or local cops just go in and rescue the women in the FLDS community who are in this situation? And arrest and jail the FLDS men who practise polygamy, cuz according to Krakauer, those FLDS men also seem to be committing statutory rape?”

    Remember that these guys are not just showing up at the Washington County courthouse with wives 3, 4, and 5 in tow and asking for a marriage license for each. Though there often is one wife who is legally married to the husband, the others are married in secret rites in the community. They consider themselves married in the eyes of God, but they are not bigamously married in the legal sense. As such, any charges of polygamy would likely fail since there is no governmental proof of a legal second, third, fourth, etc., marriage. As far as the government is concerned, this is a guy who just has a lot of girlfriends with benefits and a very understanding legal wife.

    As to statutory rape, I have no idea as to why this isn’t happening.

  10. ronin on August 5, 2004 at 1:03 pm

    well, reading the links to Deseret news and other stories was chilling. Seems the leaders of the FLDS are no better than the child-molesting leader of the Branch davidians. I think it is high time that teh seular , civil and law-enforcement authorities, biot at the State and Federal level, as well as the their canadian counterparts in BC start looking very closely at the activities of the FLDS leadership, and take them down ASAP!!!! To me it seems that the Jeffs are a bunch of crooks, masquerading as the “real and true followers” of our Prophet , Joseph Smith!!!

  11. clarkgoble on August 5, 2004 at 2:53 pm

    Sorry, I didn’t have time to look up those statistics last night. I do know, however, that in the 19th century church there were more active male members than female members. So the marriage issue was problematic. The famous “anyone over 25 and not married” comment that we all joked about in our singles wards actually probably reflected the disenfranchisement of these men in Utah, many who probably got a little rowdy having no family to tie them down. (Of course those of us who didn’t marry until late ourselves can relate somewhat)

  12. JWL on August 5, 2004 at 3:05 pm

    clarkgoble — As I recall (again I don’t have the stats at hand either) you may be referring to census figures showing that there were more men than women in general in the Utah Territory. This was typical of the frontier (as it is of Alaska today). However, those figures counted everyone, including large numbers of non-LDS miners, soldiers, ranchers, and adventurers who were common throughout the West and thus skewed all Western census figures heavily male. I know that some scholars have generalized from these figures to argue that there were more LDS men than women, but I believe that that is a flawed use of the evidence. I don’t know if anyone has done good research on the number of active LDS men and women in 19th C Utah, but I believe there is anecdotal evidence to the effect that the same imbalance of active women over active men that exists in mission areas of the Church today may have prevailed then as well.

  13. Chad too on August 5, 2004 at 6:25 pm

    Back to the lost boys: It breaks my heart to see their condition. How would it be to have your entire life paradigm (ok, gratuitous business jargon. please insert your own equivalent) turned upside down. Not only have these boys lost their families and homes, they also have to deal with the fact that they have been taught since birth that heaven is denied them without multiple wives and now they are excommunicated from the group that practices such. Not to mention them having to turn to drugs and prostitution to survive.

    I sure hope the LDS Church reaches out to these boys with professional help and that the Church members in Utah will open their homes as well. These boys need adoption into stable homes, and they need it yesterday.

  14. clarkgoble on August 5, 2004 at 6:35 pm

    Is that right JWL? I tired googling for info, but Google isn’t too useful for those sorts of searches, unfortunately. I thought the info came from church records not a state wide census.

    I’ll try to remember to look up what I have. (It’s been a while since I was interested in LDS history – but I still have a fair number of books) I’d be interested into what paper you are thinking of.

  15. Ethesis (Stephen M) on August 7, 2004 at 12:38 pm

    The thought that they are intentionally driving the kids off and casting them away, makes me think they would have been better off not being born. To harm children that way, one ought to just tie a millstone up and have done with it.

    I’m still appalled.

  16. Manny on July 20, 2005 at 12:23 pm

    We have to remember guys that A LOT of these women do NOT want to leave the polygamyst community. I know it’s hard for us to believe it, but the majority of these women are quite happy to live the way they do and when asked why they do not report their husbands and run away they get very defensive. There are indeed good, friendly and happy polygamysts families. I am sad that they are all potrayed as pedophile, child molesting parents. Remember that there are more than a dozen different brake offs of the mainstream Mormon Church. Only in Utah we have several separate sects: FLDS, United Brethren, The Body of Christ, etcc.. Some are located in Southern Utah, but some are right here in Salt Lake City, Sandy, Draper, Bluffdale. The FLDS has always been the most strict of all. But my neighbors – who are polygamists – are normal people: the wives all work outside of the house. One of the wives is actually a Senator in the State. They do no wear long dresses and bonnets like the ones in Colorado City.