That group is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (usually called the FLDS Church) a multi-million-dollar business enterprise that owns large chunks of remote real estate in Utah Arizona Colorado South Dakota Texas Oklahoma and northern Mexico.
FLDS-owned companies made the O-rings that failed in the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 (although the failure was likely a result of flawed NASA specifications) – have managed and run major construction projects all over the Western states and have installed the lighting in numerous Las Vegas casinos.
For many years the FLDS Church has been dominated and operated by a man named Warren Steed Jeffs – who ‘married’ more than 60 women and girls – some as young as 12 years old and has repeatedly been accused of molesting children of both sexes – including his sisters – his daughters and his nieces and nephews.
Jeffs made the FBI’s Most Wanted list in the mid-2000s – spent several years as a fugitive and was ultimately convicted on two counts of sexual assault against children by a Texas jury in 2011. During Jeffs’ two trials (an earlier conviction in Utah was thrown out) Mormon fundamentalism became an object of cultural fascination – inspiring the HBO series ‘Big Love’.
That has faded and Jeffs is almost certain to spend the rest of his life in prison. But as filmmaker 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.