Daring Rescue From Arizona Religious Sect

It was not an unfamiliar experience for Flora Jessop, racing north from Phoenix in response to a desperate phone call.

Two teenagers said they feared being forced into a marriage with men who were decades older; who they might not even know, and who have other wives and dozens of children.

Jessop, 35, has devoted her life to liberating girls from a Mormon sect that practices an extreme form of polygamy — a sect that she escaped from herself nearly two decades ago.

She said of her mission: "It's like taking someone straight from hell — and bringing them to heaven."

The sect is called the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints — the FLDS, a tiny breakaway group of Mormons.

Based in Colorado City, Ariz., an isolated community of about 10,000 straddling the Arizona-Utah border, the FLDS oversees a strangely backwards-looking society.

Women and girls wear outmoded styles covering everything below the neck and above the ankles and wrists. They're prohibited from cutting their hair or having contact with anyone who's not an FLDS member.

Almost all of the familiar trappings of modern American life are declared taboo as well: No movie theaters, TV, video, computers or even popular music.

The FLDS owns or controls just about everything in Colorado City: the houses, businesses, local government — even the jobs. And Jessop claims they also exert absolute control over personal life — some women are required to have a child every year.

Rescue Mission

As Jessop approached Colorado City in darkness, her fear of being detected grew. She is infamous in Colorado City for helping girls escape on past missions.

"Law enforcement is not trustworthy up there," she told ABCNEWS' John Quiñones, who accompanied her on this mission. The local police force is manned by faithful FLDS followers.

Everything in and around Colorado City is controlled by the sect leader, 48-year-old Warren Jeffs — who Jessop says "is probably one of the most evil and dangerous men I've ever known — in my life."

But after a five-hour drive, Jessop found the two girls at a safe house. They had run from their homes.

When Jessop met Fawn Holm and Fawn-Louise Broadbent for the first time in the safe house, both were eager to hit the road immediately.

"I don't want to become some 50-year-old man's wife," Broadbent said.

"I don't want to be a polygamist," said Holm.

With nothing but the clothes on their backs, the two girls joined Jessop on the tense ride to freedom.

They arrived in Phoenix unscathed and undetected, where the teenagers were placed in state-supervised care.

But first, they soaked up some of the little pleasures of American life, sometimes for the first time: they got their ears pierced; they ordered out for pizza; they watched MTV.

A Hometown Tour

Afterwards, Quiñones and Jessop made another trip to Colorado City — so that Jessop could confront her past, and the hell that she says was her childhood.

On this trip, she wore a disguise because she says the last time she dared visit in daylight she was detained and beaten by FLDS enforcers.

She showed Quiñones a field where she says every year for five years people gathered to be lifted into heaven. Previous leaders told them it would happen, she says.

Many of the homes in town are under construction, and each family has so many children that a dozen kids in a family is not uncommon.

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