When leaving is the only option
A few weeks ago, I attended a screening of a documentary called "Sons of Perdition"; a film about three boys, named Joe, Bruce and Sam, who courageously fled the polygamous lifestyle of Hildale and Colorado City.

It was not an easy movie to watch. In many ways, I found it quite unsettling.

For one thing, as a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was once again confronted with the history of my Mormon faith and of my own family pedigree. Yes, I am a product of polygamy and I loathe the reminder.

Even though my particular group, the main body of the LDS Church, stopped practicing this defining tenet of Mormonism well over a century ago, it still lingers, never having been fully excised out of the LDS doctrine.

So, I cringed as I watched this modern incarnation of Mormon polygamy, albeit practiced by a break-away sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who have refused to give up "the principle."

The film realistically portrayed the difficulty of leaving modern polygamous culture. It was as if these boys suddenly jumped from a cliff with pure abandon, flailing a bit at times seemingly entirely unprepared for the world that they encountered, armed with few resources other than an abundance of youthful hubris.

How these boys dared to escape their cultural confinement is beyond me. I sat there and pondered. From what source did their courage arise? Had I been born in their predicament, would I have similarly found the strength to flee?

I still wonder at this thought.

I reflected on the fact that they gave up everything, and I mean everything, in order to leave. They left the safety and security of their homes, the support of their families and even the comfort of knowing where they might lay their heads at night.

As one might expect, this type of upheaval in young lives might bring about some stumbles along the way out, which there were. Luckily, there were and still are some folks out there who were willing to assist in the transition of these refugees. Yes, these good Samaritans can help with emotional and physical support, but they cannot substitute one critical element: the loss of family.

As a father, I was especially torn by the lament of young Sam, who voiced his wish that his father would continue to love him, as he continued to love his father. This part was tough viewing, especially when he reached out to his father by telephone.

His father refused to even acknowledge him. Self-exiled from the culture by his own choice, then forced-exile from his father's love. It's a sad fact that polygamy and emotional suffering seem so often to go hand-in-hand.

This movie wasn't all about pain. I was filled with a deep admiration at the pure determination of these kids. They resolved to leave and they did. Not only that but one boy in particular, Joe, kept going back, over and over again, in order to also liberate his mom and the rest of his siblings.

This kid has incredible pluck. You see, leaving is no easy task. For one thing, it seemed that there might be some element of physical danger involved. Perhaps even more compelling are the deep mental shackles of this culture upon its members. His mom left, then went back. One sister left, then went back. Another left and was forced back.

It is not a simple thing to leave but you couldn't stop this kid. He never hesitated and never quit on the thought of rescuing his family. He's nothing less than a hero in my book.

Eventually, with his assistance, his mom and sisters were able to find a path out that didn't lead back and they are now safely away.

After the movie, I was able to briefly meet Joe and Bruce, now young men, who seemed to be doing remarkably well. They reported that Sam is also doing fine.

It was good to see that they made it out OK but I also had to wonder how many more there are, who are contemplating escape but can't find a way out.

The Hope Organization, which can be reached at 627-9582, is one local organization dedicated to assisting these refugees. I hope you'll join with me in making a contribution.

Brent Holloway may be reached at troubleinstgeorge@gmail.com.
Originally published October 14, 2011