Laissez-faire Polygamy Condoned In Utah
Laissez-faire Polygamy Condoned In Utah
By John R. Llewellyn
September 11, 2005
Don’t think that the Internet news, Scoop or Counter Punch is not being read or getting passed around. On March 24, 2005, an article entitled, "Utah Prosecutors Are Soft On Polygamy," authored by Yours Truly, was published in Scoop, and within two weeks made it to the hands of the Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff without any help from me or Tapestry Against Polygamy. Mr. Shurleff called me in person and asked to see the bigamy file that I turned over to San Pete County Attorney Ross Blackham. The fact that the Scoop made it to the desk of the Attorney General gave the victim, Tapestry Against Polygamy, and myself some hope that justice might yet prevail, but the Attorney General’s handing of the case has been a preeminent disappointment.
The article focused on what appears to be a general policy among Utah prosecutors not to prosecute the crime of bigamy involving consenting adults who practice Mormon polygamy, regardless of aggravated or coercive circumstances. The case in point involves a beautiful twenty year-old woman, Rachael Strong, who was raised in a polygamist cult, the True & Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days, commonly referred to as the TLC. Since the tender age of twelve Rachael had been isolated from mainstream society and programed to believe that the prophet and leader of the cult, James D. Harmston, was in constant communication with God and had the power to control the salvation of she and her three year-old daughter, as well as all of mankind. It is a basic Mormon belief that the prophet controls the exaltation of all mankind, both living and dead. How does it happen? Only the prophet can authorize specific rituals that are essential to an individual’s celestial exaltation. The practice of baptizing for the dead magically gives the departed souls a chance to accept Mormonism and exaltation.
James D. Harmston is a well read, articulate, pugnacious, short and stocky, unscrupulous man in his middle sixties - a sexual predator with Napoleonic aggressiveness. He used his position of power and authority to coerce Rachael into an unlawful bigamous marriage for sexual purposes. At the time he already had eighteen wives. Like the Biblical David, a 1000 wives were not enough. He had to have one more, a pretty "Bathsheba," the wife of another man. But unlike David, he did not have to murder Rachael’s husband. His power was greater than David’s, he took who he wanted using God and the threat of eternal damnation as his weapon.
Rachael’s mother was Harmston’s third plural wife. This made Harmston Rachael’s father figure, spiritual leader and husband. But the marital farce was just a religious ploy to turn Rachael into his exclusive prostitute.
Harmston maintains a house where his four youngest wives are kept. He visits the house once a week to have sex with one of the wives in a basement room reserved for that purpose. He demanded that all four women take birth control pills. This house is in essence, Harmston’s own personal brothel.
It only took a couple of weeks for Rachael to see that she and the others were Harmston’s exclusive "Temple prostitutes." The sight, touch and filthy language he used soon became excruciating. She could bear it not longer. Rachael and her mother apostatized, even at the risk of eternal damnation. He threatened to keep Rachael and her daughter in hell for a 1000 years, but hell could not be worse than what she was enduring. He pleaded with Pauline, Rachael’s mother, to convince Rachael to give him sex. The man has no shame. His lofty calling required that wives give him sex, and it was the duty of the "fallow" wives to pressure the younger wives to give him sex. In his small group of about 200 true believers he was the prophet, seer and revelator - a man so omniscient and omnipotent that some believed his authority was equivalent, if not greater, than Jesus Christ.
The birth control pills Rachael was commanded to take did more than prevent pregnancy. It opened her eyes to the truth, not only exposing Harmston as a sexual predator, but undressed the sacred practice of Mormon polygamy. Underneath all the hyperbole, the whitewash of rhetoric, the use of words like "celestial marriage," "true and everlasting covenant," is a filthy, slavering monster.
Brigham Young and his polygamist-minded apostles contended before the world that the purpose of Mormon polygamy was to "raise up a righteous seed to the Lord." Sexual gratification, they insisted, had nothing to do with "celestial marriage." According to Brigham, plural marriage was handed down from heaven as the most sacred of all the doctrines, never to be driven from the earth. If a man would be obedient to the priesthood and take plural wives he could become a god of his own worlds, a world for each wife.
In the1930s, Joseph Musser, a Mormon fundamentalist prophet, published a pamphlet entitled, "The Law of Chastity." Although Musser was at that advanced age when an erection was just a pleasant memory, he could see that sexual gratification among the polygamist men was getting out of hand. So in his pamphlet he established the doctrine that sexual intercourse should be restricted to procreation only, no exceptions. The old polygamist men agreed, the young men pretended to agree, just like they pretended to believe plural marriage was a commandment from God. The young men acted the pious part, cloaking themselves in long sleeved garments, drawing around them an aura of humility and modesty. They didn’t smoke, didn’t swear and didn’t drink strong beverages. In their meetings they wearied each other with long, tedious sermons and prayers, then after meeting they slapped each other on the back and claimed to be "spiritually fed." These conspicuous self restraints, an ostentatious portrayal of righteousness, required effort and sacrifice, but was well worth it considering the erotic rewards of the bedroom.
In the Mormon culture - the orthodox, fundamentalist, Mormon lawyer, Mormon scholar, and politician - still cling tenaciously to the contention that their brand of polygamy is a paradigm of high virtue and a commandment of God. When sexual gratification is proffered, they are adamant - its not about sex - as if they had no Y-chromosome, no biological urges and was not titillated by the prospect of sexual intercourse with two or more women. But the prophet, James D. Harmston, who pretends to be the most holy of them all, has exposed the chimera - demonstrating how loathsome and oppressive Mormon polygamy can be. Thanks to the scurrilous Harmston we see Mormon polygamy for what it is - a cleaver religious scheme to crawl in bed with many women.
But now back to Mr. Shurtleff. He said he would have his secretary set up a meeting so I could personally turn the file over to him and two of his investigators. The secretary notified everyone but me, so when I didn’t show up, we did a three-way telephone conversation. That evening one of his investigators picked up the file at my home. Mr. Shurtleff said the file would go through a screening but he would make the final decision. This was in April 2005.
In the mean time Rachael appeared on Fox 13, A Current Affair, and was interviewed on local TV during a press conference given by Tapestry Against Polygamy. This was in June. Rachael briefly told her sordid story and said the Attorney General had her file but had not responded. In retaliation, Paul Murphy, the AG public relations guy denied they had Rachael’s file and said if she would turn it over they would give it the proper consideration. The next day I made a phone call and found out the file had been collecting dust on a supervisor’s desk.
On July 5, 2005, I wrote a letter to Mr. Shurtleff reminding him of his commitment to Rachael’s case. Two weeks later I received a phone call from Mr. Shurtleff’s secretary who said they hadn’t forgotten about me and that the Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney had the file and I should hear from him within the week. In my letter I asked the Attorney General that if the crime of Rape, Bigamy and Unlawful Marriage were denied to please explain why - because, as a retired deputy sheriff who specialized in sex crime investigation, the copious evidence was overwhelmingly strong.
September 1, 2005, I heard through the grapevine that Rachael’s case had been screened and it was recommended that all three complaints be denied. The next day I received word from an unofficial but reliable source confirming the rumor. The rape complaint was denied because they did not feel the burden of force and resistance had been met. I was told that if Rachael had been sixteen, it would have been a "slam dunk." The complaint of bigamy and unlawful marriage had been denied due to the AG policy of not prosecuting consenting adults. Neither Rachael, Tapestry Against Polygamy or myself were surprised. It all fit in with the movement to decriminalize Mormon polygamy. If James D. Harmston was to be prosecuted on any or all three of the charges, the facts relevant to the religious coercion, which is indigenous to Mormon polygamy, would tend to severely undermine the movement to decriminalize. The AG has been supporting a pro-polygamist group of ladies calling themselves, Principle Voices, their aim being the decriminalization of Mormon polygamy.
As of this date, September 11, 2005, neither myself or Rachael has received any formal notification as to the disposition of her complaint. It is obvious that the AG does not want to prosecute Harmston for political reasons. I know that there are attorneys on his staff articulate and cleaver enough to concoct a plausible reason to deny the complaints but I guess, they just don’t want to be bothered. It is also obvious that there is a real serious communication problem between departments in AG office.
The Utah State Constitution states that "polygamy shall forever be prohibited." The Attorney General’s policy is a direct contradiction to the State Constitution. Also, refusing to prosecute a crime mandated by the Utah State Legislature, in this case, Mormon bigamy-polygamy, is an example of a prosecutor usurping the legislature and in essence, legislating by policy. The Attorney General is doing what the Supreme Court is accused of doing, using its power to establish new legislation.
The proper way to decriminalize Mormon polygamy is to amend the Constitution and the bigamy statute. Of course, this method, although proper, would stimulate unwanted controversy. Either way, the AG and all the other prosecutors like Ross Blackham are showing favoritism to the LDS religion. They are protecting a unique brand of Mormon polygamy, not just generic polygamy. It is a type of polygamy that uses God to frighten women into a marriage for sexual purposes.
The AG will prosecute a sixteen year-old girl if she is coerced into a bigamous relationship, but he won’t prosecute if a twenty year-old girl is coerced into a bigamous relationship. I would like to know what magical condition occurs after age sixteen that mitigates the coercion and the crime?
I personally could care less what sexually active consenting adults (hetro or homo) do to each other in the privacy of a bedroom. But I do care if they impose their aberrant sexual habits on others. And I am offended when men use religion to frighten women (of any age) into submitting to a bigamous relationship. Furthermore, I don’t need a degree in law or English to know the difference between "submission" and "consent." Rachael did not consent, she submitted out of fear, no different than had Harmston pointed a gun at her head.
As long as I’m venting, there is one other aspect of laissez-faire polygamy in Utah that I find disturbing. In 1852 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints officially introduced Mormon polygamy to the world. There are plenty of books authored by reliable nineteenth-century apostates to show that the same loathsome things that occur today in the polygamist subculture, also occurred then. For ten years Utah newspapers have been full of distressing acts committed by Mormon fundamentalists. Through it all the LDS Church has remained conspicuously silent - and when asked - refuses to take a stand or give aid to women and children fleeing coercive polygamy. It’s like the Church turned lose a malignant virus and now refuses to accept responsibility. The Church will take a stand against nuclear waste coming to Utah, abortion and same-sex marriages, but will not take a stand against coercive polygamy. Why?
So what does all this mean? The Y-chromosome is omnificent - having unlimited creative power. It has been tossed around by clerics, politicians, lawyers and legislatures - demonized, condemned and glorified. Brigham Young was partially right, the Y-chromosome (polygamy) is here to stay. That string of genetic beads has bumped heads with the most brainy of our species ever sense Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, and in the end, somehow, always has its own way.