Arizona Polygamists: A Controversial and Criminal Practice
- Polygamy on Television: TLC's Sister Wives is going into its 19th Season on television. The polygamist family lives in Arizona.
- Polygamy is not legal in Arizona; how members and leaders circumvent the legal system.
- Most polygamist sects straddle the border between Utah and Arizona. And the legal system.
Sister Wives in Arizona
The show documents the life of a polygamist family. TLC's website describes the show this way:
"With four wives and 18 children, the Brown household has more than their fair share of family drama. Kody Brown and his wives share an intimate glimpse into both the challenges and the joys at the heart of this unconventional family structure."
The Religion Allows this Type of Lifestyle
The family are members of the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), an offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), which is part of the Mormon religion.
In 2018, the sprawling Brown family purchased 12 acres of land in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Kody planned to build a single mega home for the family where the father, wives, and children would all live together. The wives had other ideas, though, and they ultimately chose to build individual dwellings instead.
So the question becomes: is polygamy legal in Arizona?
Is Polygamy Legal in Arizona?
In a word, no. Polygamy is illegal in Arizona. The Arizona Constitution specifically prohibits "polygamous or plural marriages or polygamous cohabitation."
This is how the Brown family gets away with it in Arizona: Kody is only legally married to one wife. The other women are "married" to Kody through a spiritual union. His first wife, Meri was his legal wife until 2014. She divorced Kody so he could legally marry Robyn. And so on.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Arizona
The Browns have found a loophole that knits their unusual family together. However, there's another sect of Mormonism that straddles the border - and the legal system - between Arizona and Utah.
Wikipedia.org tells us, "The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) is a religious sect of the fundamentalist Mormon denominations whose members practice polygamy."
Definitions of the FLDS Church run the gamut, depending on who you ask.
Variously described as a cult, a sect, or a new religious movement, there are estimates that 6,000 to 10,000 members live in and around Hildale, Utah; Rocky Ridge, Utah; and Colorado City, Arizona; and a few other locations in the West.
One of the most notorious polygamous communities in Arizona is Colorado City, located on the border with Utah.
An estimated 10,000 FLDS members live in that community. The inhabitants follow the teachings of self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence for abusing underage girls. Some of whom he took as spiritual wives.
Other Polygamous Groups in Arizona
- In 2022, federal authorities arrested Samuel Bateman, the leader of an FLDS splinter sect, who had more than 20 wives, including children.
- The Kingston Clan, also known as the Davis County Cooperative Society, is a secretive group estimated to have about 3,500 members, some living in Arizona. The group is headed by Paul Kingston, who is believed to have more than 20 wives and hundreds of children.
- Centennial Park Group is a breakaway group from the FLDS. Started in 1986, it has an estimated 1,500 members living in and around Centennial Park, Arizona.
- The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (TLC) is a small group founded in 1994 with about 300 members. Most live in Manti, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. The group is led by James Harmston, who claims to be a reincarnation of Mormon church founder Joseph Smith.
Polygamy Versus Arizona Law
Polygamy is a crime in Arizona. State and federal authorities have been cracking down on polygamous groups, especially those involving minors.
Polygamists still evade the law, use legal loopholes, and hide behind their religious beliefs to continue the practice in Arizona.
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