TAX-FREE: The Fundamentalist Mormon Sect That Blends Polygamy, Child Rape and Organized Crime
…Amy Berg’s new Showtime documentary “Prophet’s Prey” makes clear, the FLDS empire of rape and misogyny and child labor and relentless ideological and psychological domination appears to go on much as before. Despite his isolation and his precarious mental condition, Jeffs continues to command the devotion and obedience of his 10,000 or so followers from behind bars, like an old-time Mob boss with a direct line to God.
I have to issue a warning to anyone who might see “Prophet’s Prey,” which begins its theatrical release this week in New York and will premiere on Showtime next month. It’s a fascinating work of investigative journalism and cultural spelunking - and it features perhaps the most disturbing minute of audio recording you will ever hear. Berg and Brower decided to include the opening segment of a tape Jeffs had made documenting the consummation of his “marriage” to the youngest of his “spiritual brides,” who was then 12 years old. In other words, it’s a recording of a middle-aged man raping a little girl, while an uncertain number of Jeffs’ other wives stand by, ready to assist. Once heard, it cannot be unheard, but Berg insists it was important.
While Warren Jeffs’ long career as a serial abuser and rapist created lurid headlines, and ultimately landed him in prison, the real story of the FLDS Church is at least as much about money and power as about sex crimes. Brower and Berg only scrape the surface of those issues in a 90-minute documentary, but it’s not fanciful at all to compare the interlocking tangle of FLDS-owned shell corporations, “shelf corporations” and quasi-legitimate businesses - carefully established in different jurisdictions, and all designed to funnel cash upward to Jeffs and his closest associates - to the operations of old-school organized crime. FLDS leaders (the functional head is presumably Lyle Jeffs, Warren’s brother, himself now a fugitive from justice) shuffle hundreds of millions through dozens of bank accounts in several states, pay fictional salaries to employees who actually work 20-hour days for almost nothing, and compel the children of church members to work as virtual slaves.
What was it Abigail Adams said? ” …All men would be tyrants if they could.”