Breaking Polygamy: Secrets of the Sect

Part 1: ABC News' Amy Robach goes inside the FLDS, which has been called "the American Taliban."
7:23 | 11/23/12

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Transcript for Breaking Polygamy: Secrets of the Sect
the holidays, members of one community are dealing with the pain of being forced to part from their loved ones. Not by war or natural disaster, but by the bizarre orders of one all-powerful leader. Their so-called prophet. The restrictions he places on followers are so severe the sect has even been called the american taliban but abc's amy robach got inside to uncover the seeks of the sect. Reporter: Travel deep into the desert, to the border between utah and arizona and you will find a hidden world within modern america. No internet. No television. No contact with the outside world. For over a century, this has been home to the fundamentalist latter day saints or "flds" church. Bad. I was like our life was pretty bad. Just like you was in a painting. I mean, that was cool beans. That brings back a lot of memories. Reporter:18-year-old willie steed grew up in colorado city, population 8,000. The people who live here are members of a radical splinter group of the mainstream mormon church. For decades they have locked themselves away from the outside world. On the surface, life seems almost normal. Where you going? Reporter: A father coaching his children on the finer points of an all-american sport. But sitting on the sidelines are two sister wives in this not so modern family. We're very different in personality, in character. Reporter: To hear them talk it about it, their polygamous lifestyle sounds almost wholesome. Barbara loves to socialize. I kind of put off barbecues and bonfires and would rather mop the floor and have children. One likes to sew and one doesn't. There's a good phrase. Many hands make light work. Reporter: But behind this facade of normalcy is something you can't see. Every aspect of this family's life. Who they marry, what they wear, even what they eat is controlled by the man they call their prophet, warren jeffs. Obey the prophet when he speaks and you'll be blessed. Disobey him, it is death. Warren jeffs is no longer living in this community, but he still controls his people. But details about abuse women suffered inside the church compound. Reporter: Jeffs had over 80 wives. But he was sentenced to life in prison for the sexual assault of underage girls. Explosive audiotapes of jeffs and his young wives talking during their sexual encounters were played during his trial. We spent a little time together, sitting in your chair, the ladies around, each touching you. Reporter: During the six years since he was first arrested, "20/20" has been reporting on the secrets oisth sect. We were granted rare access inside the community and found, to our surprise, that his followers still have not left him. In homes, offices, on computers and even cell phones, his presence is everywhere. We miss our prophet. We're just -- we know he is innocent and that we all yearn for his return. Reporter: The people believe jeffs is god on earth. But when caught on tape while talking to his brother in jail, he seemed increasingly unstable. The lord is still dictating. This is not a test. This is a revelation from the lord god of heaven. Reporter: Abc news began its investigation last year, after jeffs began issuing increasingly bizarre edicts to his followers. It started with an order to destroy all the children's' toys. At home you couldn't have any toys. You couldn't ride bikes either 'cause he gave away all our bikes. I didn't even get a chance to ride mine before he give it away. Reporter: Every week there were new, strange directives from prison. Now it is down that you cannot eat corn. No sex between husband and wife. No touching between husband and wife. No kissing. And every woman that is out, you are not privileged to change your name to the word "jeffs," so that you're now reserving your body and your resources to warren. Reporter: He selected 15 men to father all the children in the community. If a woman wants to have a baby or whatever, she has to go to 1 of those 15 men. But then she has to have two other men with one of the 15 men in the room to witness. Anybody who thinks that warren jeffs' incarceration ended his rule in this community has no idea what they're talking about. He is in many ways more powerful because now he's martyred. Reporter: But the most destructive and arbitrary dictate of all was his decision to banish hundreds of men, women, even children from the community. Even warren jeffs' brother wallace has turned against him. Why are women cast out? Probably the biggest one is they're accused of killing unborn children through miscarriages. Reporter: Since warren took over, 500 to 600 men have been thrown out. And warren jeffs is behind bars. Is he still finding a way to throw men out through communications with people within flds. Reporter: Willie steed's family was torn apart after warren jeffs banished his parents. His mother suzette remembers the day when her husband was banished. He just turned to us and he says, I've been given my revelation and I never thought this day would come. But I am no longer your father or your priestly head. So I'm asked to leave and go far off to repent. You haven't heard from him at all? No. He told us do not contact me. It will be very detrimental if you contact me. You cannot contact me. Do not call my number. I will not have this phone anymore. Reporter: Her husband had just been cast out by the church and no warning for the excommunication. He just grabbed my hand and said, I love you so very much. Reporter: Not long after her husband was forced to go, church leaders told sue seethe that she too was cast out, but she refused to leave without her children. Why do you think your mom was then asked to leave? Because mom was one to ask questions. She wanted to know where she her future was. And there was no future in that and she knew it. Reporter: Last january fearing that the rest of the family would stop them, she and her six daughters secretly slipped out of the house. For the past year, we've been following the steed family on their journey into modern america.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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