Monday, November 25, 2013

My Experience as an Evangelical with the FLDS


    TLC’s new reality series   "Breaking Faith" is getting a lot attention this week.     It’s  about  5 young women and the 4 young men who attempt to rescue them from  the secluded polygamous  FLDS twin communities of  Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.    In light of the current interest in this  group I'd like to share some thoughts about my personal experience with some FLDS  families. 
  My purpose here is  neither  to critique or to defend  FLDS  beliefs and practices.   Rather  I write this  simply with  a heart of compassion for the FLDS friends  God gave us.    I have  continued to pray  for them ever  since He brought our paths together.
  It was September of 2006 when Robert and I headed to southern Utah to begin a large mural project for a wealthy big game hunter who owned  a beautiful ranch overlooking Zion National Park.   My husband works as an artist painting background landscape murals for natural history exhibits and  contracts with a large  taxidermy company that builds  habitats for these displays.   Usually the job sites  are  under construction and he has a chance to get to know the other workers.  
  This  client provided a lovely guest house on the  property and I got to hang out every day while Robert worked.     The construction crew  lived in  the FLDS  community of Colorado City,  Arizona,  about an hours drive from there.    We were  aware of the group  because their prophet Warren Jeffs had been placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list that May for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in Utah  relating to arrangements of illegal marriages between FLDS men and underage girls.     The week before we arrived  Jeffs  had been arrested in Las Vegas. 
 
 Robert worked alongside these folks for 7 weeks and developed friendships with several of the guys,  but especially with Tom and Jeff (not their real names).    They  were guarded at first  but  were friendly  and always eager to talk about spiritual  things and the media hoopla surrounding the arrest of their leader.    They also wanted us to know that not everything in the media was true,  and not every FLDS family was guilty of the abuses that were being espoused.  
  We had many great  conversations concerning the Scriptures and Christ and they  in turn shared their beliefs although  I sensed there  was a lot they weren’t telling us.     The FLDS are very different from the LDS even though  they have the same origins.     Unlike the LDS who  aggressively proselytize and are used to debating,  the FLDS are exclusive and don't attempt to make new converts—we had asked if outsiders can join and they said it would be nearly impossible.    Their sect is relatively small,  estimated between 7000-10,000 people.      They don’t normally carry on religious conversations or have much if anything to do with outsiders, or "gentiles" as we're called,   so we recognized  God’s providence  in placing  us in this unique situation.
  As  the guys  got to know each other,  they invited us to come to Colorado City to meet their wives and take us on a tour.  This is unheard of!     They normally avoid  outsiders and the media had recently swarmed their  town making their lives completely miserable 

   The men met us at the quick-stop and introduced us to their beautiful wives Carol and Mary (not their real names either) and their little ones who were shy and nervous to meet us—at the time each  had just one wife.      Then Tom and Jeff drove us around town and took us  on a tour of their dairy.    You would of thought we had just arrived from Mars!    Because we were being escorted by locals  the people were friendly to us but we were clearly a suspicious novelty.
  As the project progressed  a number of women and children came to work on the jobsite  doing landscaping and other projects.   My relationship with Carol and Mary took on a new dimension as we got to know each other better.    They loved hearing  all about my crazy life just  as much as I loved hearing about theirs.   Mary had  56 siblings but didn’t want to tell me how many wives her father had.     I wasn't shy about my curiosity  and when I asked Carol how she would really  feel if Tom were to take  another wife she insisted  she would love her too.    I insisted she couldn’t possibly be telling the truth.   We both laughed.  
 One day as Carol was ironing curtains after  I had shared how I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior,  she started to cry and  expressed her appreciation for the kindness we had shown to them.    She explained that it was common for strangers to approach FLDS families when they shopped  in St. George and say the most horrible things to their children.     This apparently,  was the reason why the FLDS children wouldn’t talk to us for quite awhile after they met us on the job.

© Theology for Girls -  This photo may not be used or reproduced.
   But Robert solved that problem!   Knowing the way to a child's heart is through a paintbrush he set several of  the girls  up  with supplies  and gave them a wall to have fun with.    These  families  expressed such kindness to us through their acceptance of us and  their willingness to talk to us about their unusual lives.     When we said our good-byes we exchanged gifts and Carol gave me a beautiful hand-written cookbook of family recipes which is one of my treasures.     I haven’t talked to the ladies since because  FLDS women don’t normally communicate with  outsiders.   But Robert kept in touch with Tom and Jeff  for a  time. 
  I do not downplay the seriousness of the things we hear in the media,   or condone polygamy which is illegal.    However, if Americans  who claim to be religious find this secret society  appalling perhaps we should also keep in mind  that our society  has legalized the murder of unborn babies and sanctioned same-sex marriages.     And before we pat ourselves  on the back for our personal piety we should  realize that with God there is  “none righteous, no not one”  Romans 3:10  and  all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”  Romans 3:23. 
  As far as God is concerned even our best efforts to be good are futile and for this reason  we  need to see ourselves and  ALL people the way that God sees us.   We are all people who   desperately  need  a Savior.  The true Savior.  The true Jesus.   Believing in Jesus won't  save us if it's not the right Jesus!    Whether it's  the FLDS, LDS, the Roman Catholic Church or Protestant groups,  if the true Gospel is not preached it will lead people to  Hell because a half truth is still a whole lie.   
  What then is the true Gospel and who is the true Jesus?  Take a listen - this pastor  explains it beautifully ~
 
 "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed"
John 8:36


 Note:  Comments will be  moderated 

 
Print this post

4 comments:

  1. Wow, what an extraordinary experience!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bless you, Diane! What a testimony of grace and love. This makes me think of 1Peter 3:15,16 -

    "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

    It sounds like you were models of gentleness and respect.
    Love you!

    ReplyDelete
  3. 'Hell because a half truth is still a whole lie.'

    Well-stated. And valuable ministry opportunity. Blessings this week.

    Dr. Russ Murray

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a difference sharing the true love of Jesus makes in the lives of people!

    ReplyDelete

Kind words are always welcomed.