Where can I see a polygamist?

The twin towns of Colorado City & Hilldale

You’ll find polygamist communities in Texas, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Canada, and Mexico (where Mitt Romney's ancestors practiced polygamy). The most accessible spots are the twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hilldale, Utah. Visiting them is a sobering experience. I visited Moscow just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. These places have the same feel: shabbiness, disorder, oppression.
High fences surround houses as big as hotels.

At the cooperative market, women wear long dresses with high-buttoned collars. Lace caps sit atop pompadoured hairdos. You don’t see many men. I spotted exactly one leaving the market, climbing into a car filled with girls. Take a look at our companion blog—Polygamy Country—to see photos.

Closer to Zion, you can spot women from “plural marriages” buying groceries at the supermarket in Hurricane. If there is a husband around, you probably won’t identify him. Men live less restrictive lives and may be employed outside the community. Except for wearing long-sleeved shirts on boiling hot days, they look mainstream.

As you drive on the Interstate near St. George, crane your neck at the huge houses up on the bluffs—upscale versions of the shabbier ones in Colorado City and Hilldale.

And what about those large families having well-organized suppers in the Zion campgrounds—are they of the polygamous persuasion? Maybe. It’s not like you can just ask.

Am I treating polygamists with due respect? Perhaps you’d argue that they are a religious minority, free to pursue their beliefs without interference. Think again....

First, polygamy is illegal, and when people live outside the law they cannot rely on the law to resolve their disputes. Hence, disputes lead to abusive or violent behavior.

Second, polygamy affects children. Rates of incest, molestation, and underage marriages are high. Education and activities outside the home are limited. Excess boys are ejected from the community and left to fend for themselves.

Third, many polygamists use welfare to support their lifestyle. If I’m paying for their lifestyle, this is my business.

Maybe you’re thinking that polygamous arrangements between consenting adults should not be censored. I say that many if not most of the women in plural marriages cannot be considered consenting adults. They have grown up in the system and see no alternative to an early arranged marriage to a righteous geezer, especially when the all the people around them say their salvation depends on it. Once they bear children they are bound to the system. And they have nowhere else to go.

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