Utah legislators get some light reading - 'God's Brothel'
SALT LAKE CITY - Polygamy can bring snickers, but it's no laughing matter, says a state senator who on Tuesday dropped copies of the book "God's Brothel" on Utah legislators' desks.

Sen. Ed Allen, D-Stansbury Park, said he wants to dispel the notion that polygamy in Utah is only "anecdotal - or even humorous." Thousands in Utah, members of breakaway Mormon factions, quietly practice polygamy, although it has been illegal for more than a century.

Allen suggested that "God's Brothel," and its personal accounts of women who escaped from polygamous marriages or families, would make good reading for legislators on Tuesday's long bus ride to hear Gov. Jon Huntsman deliver his State of the State address at the territorial statehouse in Fillmore, Utah.

"I'm passing this out with no grand agenda. I simply want legislators to have more background on the problem," said Allen, who helped enact a child bigamy law in 2003 that made forced marriages of minors a second-degree felony punishable by one to 15 years in prison.

Before, the offense carried only 30 days in jail, and was rarely enforced, said Allen. He said the marrying of teenage girls was a common practice among some of Utah's isolated polygamist communities, until the state served notice it was cracking down.

"Several sermons have been given in these communities admonishing men not to take child brides," said Allen, the Democratic whip in the Utah Senate.

No one has been prosecuted under the new child bigamy law, but Allen said he was satisfied by a handful of prosecutions for adult polygamy, and authorities including Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff are trying to help young women escape the subculture.

Allen said he believed Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was preparing to lead his flock from Utah because of the crackdown. Jeffs and his agents have been buying ranches in west Texas and Colorado.

Jeffs presides over the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., a jumble of unfinished houses on dirt streets, where men have multiple wives and dozens of children, who supply cheap labor for business.

Allen said copies of "God's Brothel" for all 104 Utah legislators were donated by the publisher, Pince-Nez Press of San Francisco.

The book is an indictment of polygamy written by Andrea Moore-Emmett, president of the Utah chapter of the National Organization for Women.

Moore-Emmett compiled stories from 18 women of rape, incest, orgies and violence - but Allen said she left out more lurid details, including the custom bed that one Utah polygamist reportedly built to make room for his multiple wives.
Originally published January 18, 2005