I was watching a special polygamy Oprah a few weeks ago, and as always my full attention was captivated by Oprah as she interviewed a young mother who escaped life in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community. Living so close to Colorado City, Arizona I believe the economics of the issue are very pertinent to Utah citizens. The woman being interviewed had many children. Her eldest daughter was turning 14 years old when she decided to leave the fundamentalist community in the middle of the night. She refused to let her daughter be married at such a young age, so she took her many children and started a new life.
In this article another underage girl became pregnant at the age of 15. Police raided a Fundamentalist compound but found no young girl. The Fundamentalists have only begun constructing these compounds to keep away outsiders. The woman interviewed on Oprah supported the legalization of plural marriage in attempts of reducing the religion’s secrecy. Authorities could more easily investigate underage marriage and save more girls like herself because polygamists would be less inclined to secrecy if polygamy was legal.
Would legalizing plural marriage decrease underage marriage in the Fundamentalist community? My answer is no. First of all secrecy is how the community survives. The church members are not allowed to view television, read the paper, and some days leave the “compound.” The religion is all people know and the fear of the unknown keeps people in it. Secondly, reducing the punishment for plural marriage would not reduce the demand for the religion to be secretive because the religion survives on this secrecy. The third reason is police more aggressively prosecute underage marriage rather than plural marriage. This still makes secrecy a priority.