Forced Into Polygamy in Public

Photo: Forced Into Polygamy in Public: What Would You Do If You Thought You Saw a Child Bride?

Colorado City, Ariz., home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, seems like a town stuck in the 19th century. Women wear old-fashioned clothing and sport elaborately braided hairstyles, and the practice of polygamy -- having more than one spouse at one time -- is not uncommon.

The FLDS, which has been renounced by the Mormon Church for it's practice of polygamy, has been accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and much older men who already have multiple wives. Young women have spoken out about allegedly being forced into marriage when they were as young as 14, and wishing they'd had help escaping their fates.

Forced Bride
'Child Bride's' Plea: What Would You Do?

So how would people react if they thought they were seeing a young girl being forced into a polygamous marriage against her will?

"What Would You Do?" headed west to see how people would respond when faced with the chance to save a young girl from a forced polygamous marriage. A few hours' drive from Colorado City, we set up hidden cameras at a family restaurant in Las Vegas called Hash House a Go-Go, just minutes from the strip, and hired actors to portray a polygamist family.


There was Frank, a man in his 60s, his wife, Sherry, the "head wife" of the family, and "sister wives" Laura and Kathy. There was another young woman as well, "Susan."

The actress playing Susan was actually 20 years old. But in our scenario, she was pretending to be a 15-year-old girl about to become Frank's very reluctant fourth wife.

As the family paraded into the restaurant, the heads of unsuspecting diners turned immediately. Not only did the family's fundamentalist attire attract attention, but Susan was crying as the family sat down to order food.

Restaurant patrons could hear her say, "I'm not ready to be married. I'm only 15."

VIDEO: Child Bride Scenario: Behind the Scenes

The head wife, "Mother Sherry," told Susan that she should feel blessed. The other sister wives agreed, and reassured Susan that Frank was a good husband. But their words only upset Susan more. Then Frank took a commanding stance, telling Susan to stop crying and saying that she needed to be obedient. Susan only became more distraught.

Some People Did Nothing to Help

So what did people do? Many stared at the family, slack-jawed, while the young bride-to-be wept and pleaded with Frank and the other wives to let her wait a few years. One couple seated at the table behind Susan asked to be moved to the opposite end of the restaurant. And although clearly disturbed by what they were seeing, many others avoided any attempt to help the young bride-to-be.

Later, "What Would You Do?" anchor John QuiƱones asked them why they didn't step up.

"It's illegal," he pointed out to one woman. "Couldn't you call 911?"

"To them, it's not illegal," she responded. "We may not agree with it, but I don't know that we're in any position to change it."

Polygamy is illegal in all 50 states. And, in Nevada, the legal age for marriage with parental consent is 16.

Witnessing this kind of reaction distressed Elissa Wall, an escaped member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, who was with us while we were filming the scenario and guiding how we directed the actors.

At the age of 14, Wall was forced into marriage against her will by the leader of the FLDS community, Warren Jeffs. After she escaped the sect, it was her testimony that helped put Jeffs behind bars on two counts of rape in 2007.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...