From Correspondent Carol McKinley:
“The Prophet’s Defector”
It only took a couple of blocks driving down the dirt roads of Short Creek before the God Squad pulled in behind our World Report crew. They reported our every move to each other from their cellphones as they slowly trolled behind us, stopping when we stopped. The God Squad is the professional security detail for Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS. The God Squad got its nickname from oustiders who have left the faith. These people, called “apostates” by those still inside, say they are watched and harassed every day. The God Squad drives a fleet of brand new mega-trucks and SUV’s with tinted windows. Even when we tried to shake them by driving to another town to conduct interviews, they followed, keeping tabs on us from tinted windows. They were likely trying to intimidate one of their latest defectors as he spoke with World Report exclusively in a small park in Hurricane, Utah. Arnold Richter, a father of four with just one wife, told us about how he grew up in the FLDS, but was asked to leave the polygamous sect because he asked too many questions. Instead, Richter did something not many FLDS’ers have the courage to do: he refused the prophet. Today, instead of living alone in a far-away town as a broken and friendless cast-off, Richter is taking a stand, making the hard but necessary choice to stay in Short Creek with his family. Here, in a house he built himself, life the last few months has been strange. The Richters are now considered “apostates” in the only community they’ve ever known. The priesthood sent his own father to tell him he was not worthy, and to leave his family by sundown. He was told by his father-in-law that he was the “wickedest man since the days of Joseph Smith.” Short Creek is a town which straddles the Utah/Arizona border, inhabited by 6000 or so members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS. Their leader, Warren Jeffs, will face charges of sexual assault on a child and bigamy July 25th in a Texas trial which is expected to last two weeks. But Jeffs’ followers may not hear about it. They’ve been banned from using the internet, and they don’t watch television news. World Report brings you the topsy-turvy lifestyle of the FLDS as their prophet faces life in prison, as told by a man recently on the inside in an interview you’ll only hear on HDNet.
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