Friday, September 7, 2007

The Lost Boys of Polygamy

By Shanell Meek

Have you ever heard of the lost boys? No, I’m not talking about the lost boys of Peter Pan. The young men I am referring to are right here in the United States of America, and they face problems that make Captain Hook look like Tinker Bell! They are the Lost Boys of Polygamy.

From 2002 to 2006 more than 400 young men between the ages of 13 and 23 have been banned from the Polygamist colonies of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS the fundamentalist Mormons), when the “prophet” Warren Jeffs ordered them to be excommunicated.

Often these orders stem from such minor transgressions as watching an unapproved movie, wearing short sleeved shirts, listening to music, or even reading books and magazines that are not “approved” by the “prophet”, or a more serious offence of just talking to the girls.

Some of the boys have simply been told to leave their families and the world they have always known. Some fled the overly controlling environment on their own. While others were removed from their home in the middle of the night to be left in the desert with nothing but the clothes on their back and the lasting belief that they are going to hell because they have done something so terrible that they were excommunicated from their community.

Officials of the FLDS religion are quick to defend their actions by saying that they only excommunicate those who violate their “moral code”.

However it is widely believed that the excommunications of these young men stems from the polygamy side of this religion. In my personal opinion this is almost painfully obvious when you look at the cold hard facts.

Over the years men in these communities have been known to have at least two wives, with many men having as many as ten, twenty or even more. In order for the community to continue to exist in their polygamous ways, it is imperative that the ratio of women to men must be much greater. With this obvious fact in mind, it leads one to believe that the misplacement of these young men is no accident, and not simply a disciplinary maneuver. Like a stallion who will chase all the young colts from a herd to eliminate competition. The young boys must be gotten rid of before they become involved with the young girls.

When the boys are cast out, many of them end up on the streets of Las Vegas or St. George, where they turn to drugs, prostitution, suicide or other self destructive actions. They have been told all their lives that if they do not follow the path of “perfection” they will go to hell, so they are left with nothing to care about. Their beliefs are in shreds.

While some take the path of self destruction, others are lucky enough to find organizations developed to assist them, such as the Diversity Foundation which is founded by former polygamist Dr. Dan Fischer. The Foundation helps the young men with obtaining a quality education: high school, GED and an undergraduate college degree. Assistance is also available for medical and dental expenses, psychological counseling and general living expenses. They provide social networks through mentoring programs, life-skills training, and advisory counseling. They also assist the young women who flee from the confines of the cult like religion.

Often, these young girls, usually between the ages of twelve and eighteen are forced into arranged marriages with older men. If they object they are told that they have no right as a woman or as a child to reject the man, and are disciplined, sometimes very harshly. If they try to run away they are found and promptly returned to their cult like existence, where they are often isolated for weeks or months for “re-education in the ways of the community”. Very few young women have been able to successfully free themselves of these communities.

Many of these young girls are mothers several times over by the time they are 18. If By chance their “husband” is excommunicated, the young woman and her children will be “given” to another man. Can you imagine? One day being married to one man… the next day being married to another. If there are female children of “marrying age” aka prepubescent or older they often become the new brides of the husband too. Making them not only the mother and child, but now also sister wives.

There are many success stories of these young men and women who have left the “community”, many of them have excelled scholastically, they receive high marks of achievement in high school and college. They have pursued careers in engineering, medical, business, psychology, law and accounting. Some are married with children.

Despite the success these young people have achieved, they still have a heavy load to bear; some were sexually or physically abused on top of the mental abuse they have suffered at the hands of “the community”. There have been lawsuits filed by some of the lost boys against Warren Jeffs. Here’s hoping these young men get some compensation and relief for the pain they have gone through, and the pain they will live with for the rest of their lives.

A little about the FLDS:

Warren Jeffs, 51 is the most recent “prophet” of the FLDS which practices polygamy and arranged marriage. The FLDS has more than 10,000 members located within the sister cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah and the surrounding areas.

Warren Jeffs was arrested on August 28, 2006 and is being held in Hurricane, Utah, where he is awaiting trial on two felony counts of rape as an accomplice related to a 2001 arranged marriage between a 14 year old girl who objected to the arranged marriage with her 19 year old cousin. On July 12, 2007 Jeffs was indicted on eight new sex offense counts involving two young women. He's also under federal indictment for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution

I do not know who is currently in Warren Jeffs position while he is on trial.

The original Church of Christ was established by Joseph Smith in 1830. Smith claimed to be the one mighty and strong and that God communicated his commandments through him. On July 12, 1843 he claimed that God revealed to him, the new and everlasting covenant of plural marriage, commonly known as “polygamy”. However this covenant was not immediately revealed to everyone in Joseph Smiths community, due to the negative reactions he feared it would receive, although he did secretly practice polygamy himself.

Joseph Smith was murdered on June 27, 1844, while in jail in Carthage Illinois. He was being charged with destroying the press. He had destroyed a newspaper press after a man dared to stand up against the beliefs of Joseph Smith’s religion.

Between 1843 and 1852, a few of the church members secretly practiced polygamy under the direction of the church president. In 1852, Brigham Young, who had succeeded Joseph Smith, announced the principle of plural marriage to the world. As Joseph Smith had expected, the revealing of this “new” covenant was not immediately met with open arms. However, between 1852 and 1890, plural marriage was openly taught and practiced among the Latter-day Saints.

The FLDS should not be confused with the mainline church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). The LDS disapproves of the polygamy practice and banned it in 1904. They excommunicate members who practice or preach polygamy.

For more on Polygamy and those involved please visit

For More on Warren Jeffs trial:

For Information on the FLDS please visit:

Suggested Reading List:

Shanell Meek is a working college student studying to be a veterinarian. She lives in Iowa and raises American Quarter Horses and American Paint horses. She loves to read and broaden her horizons. Her Australian Red Heeler dogs Kitty and Jazzy are her favorite people, next to her nieces and nephews. Shanell has done some photography work for Hot Psychology and has won several photography awards.

Grandparenting 2007

By Pamela S. Meek

Becoming a grandparent is the greatest thing that can happen to a person. I know this from personal experience. We just had our eighth grandchild in June. The thought of a new baby in the family is enough to send us into a dizzying array of emotions ranging from unbelievable joy, anticipation, and satisfaction to fear, worry, sadness, and uncertainty, depending on the situation.

The arrival of a grandchild means that life will go on. It signals the beginning of a new generation in a family. Traditions will be handed down. It is an extension of ones self, a part of something we created. Their little smiles light up when they see us and their little arms reach out and hug us so tight. We generally have the time for them we didn’t have for our own kids, and there is just that very special bond that you build together.

My husband Denny and I were recently conversing with a friend who is a first time grandmother. She was telling us how wonderful being a grandmother is. She said, "You can spoil them rotten and send them home."

Denny looked at her and asked,” What world do you live in?” I couldn't help myself, I just had to laugh and tell her how fortunate she is.

The fact is; many grandparents in today’s culture just are not able to "spoil them rotten and send them home." We have constant care of one or more of our grandchildren and we have to be able to say no and be able to set boundaries and discipline them when they are naughty.
According to the US Census Bureau 2005, there were over two million grandparents raising their own grandchildren full time without one of the child’s parents on the premises. Another two million have grandchildren living with them, but have at least one parent living there as well.

With soaring daycare costs, accidents involving daycare providers, abuse and deaths in daycare centers and the income level of many people forcing both parents to have to work, grandparents are coming to the rescue. There are now over five million grandparents doing day care for their grandchildren. This is the category in which I fall.

This means that over nine million grandparents in the U.S.A. have daily care of one or more of their grandchildren. And all of these statistics do not even take into account the grandparents who have legally adopted their grandchildren and have now become parents again.
With seventy-two million children under the age of fifteen residing in the USA, that makes for a very large percentage of grandparenting going on. It also makes for some big time challenges.
Housing is a big issue when grandparents are now renting a smaller home or apartment. Some places do not even allow children.

Safety is another major concern. While our own kids were growing up, we could let go of all the hidden dangers that present themselves with babies and toddlers and start living in an adult world again. Now with the babies coming in again, we have to put away the glass coffee table with the sharp edges. Put away all of the breakables, place covers on the outlets, make sure our medications are up high enough a child can not accidentally find them and get into them. And we must totally childproof our homes.

Time is another factor. I know for me, it means doing more work in the evenings and late at night. I also get up earlier even if the little ones go back to sleep when they get here. Trying to find time to write and edit is a real challenge.

For some grandparents there are also, schools, money, health insurance, taxes, and maybe even legal matters to deal with. I am sure there are lots of other items I have failed to mention here.
Then we come to the parents. In my case the parents are all there and support everything I do with the kids. My kids know my rules, they were raised by them. My kid’s spouses and I have had some talks and they understand where I stand on all the issues and what will happen in any case scenario I could think of to discuss with them. I am a strong believer in discipline, and when the kids are here, they know that this is Papa and Grandma’s house and they must obey and listen when asked to do something.

I respect my kids and their parenting methods, and I do try to abide by their rules too, but after all, I am still their mom. I am also glad I have put so much effort into making a good relationship with my daughter-in-laws, all three are like my own. They are the greatest, even when we disagree.

Sometimes the parents are separated or in my daughter’s case, widowed early. She moved home with her boys the day her husband passed away.

She needed time to grieve and to get her life back together. I accepted the care of her two sons for over eight months. The boys were being homeschooled so I did that too so she could be free to get her life in order and in the same; I was able to keep the boys’ lives as orderly and stable as possible. I was glad to be there to help her when she needed the help. Some days it was so hard though because she was there and our parenting is totally different. She allows the boys to play a lot of video games, I don’t believe kids need to play video games for more than an hour at the most during the day. I am not a big fan of TV either. These are just some of the things we tend to run into when parents and grandparents are raising the kids together. It takes a very vital communication connection to raise kids together and not just take over and control your kids and grandkids.

What about when the parents don’t live with you and the kids do? This is the hardest situation od all. You have to be a full time parent and that sometimes makes it harder for the kids, but if it is done right, it can be a time to make the grandparent/child bond so much closer.
The biggest problem is setting up visitation for the parent(s). And that depends a lot on the parent’s situation. A lot of times grandparents are raising the kids because the parents are not able because of drug addiction, or a criminal act that has put the parent in jail. Some children have been taken away from parents and awarded to grandparents by the state because of unhealthy living conditions or abuse.

These situations each have their own set of problems that must be dealt with. The good news is, you are not alone, and there is help out there!
If you are a parenting grandparent, a day care provider, or even just helping out with the grandkids for a day or two, It is a wonderful way to connect and make life better for the grandchildren we all love so dearly.

For more information on Grandparenting, check out the links…
Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
AARPs Grandparenting website.
National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
The Foundation For Grandparenting

Getting the Mail

By Ruth Coe Chambers

Could the post office be destined for the endangered species list? An inveterate writer of letters, I can wax nostalgic over a post office or even a mailbox without sacrificing my everyday love affair with e-mail. Yet I’m ever aware that this daily transfusion of information and communication that gets the adrenalin flowing falls short on the Geiger counter of memories, those lazy days when getting the mail was a joyous experience.

Today my print mail, AKA hard copy, consists mainly of circulars, bills and ads, not letters from distant family and friends. My first stop after the mailbox is the garbage can where I deposit a dead tree’s progeny of junk mail.

I’ve watched the slow decline of an American tradition--letters written on blue-lined tablet paper, scented stationery from a sweetheart, or elegant boxed paper. When I was growing up, we had an interactive experience with the mail. It was my responsibility to walk to the post office each day to retrieve the correspondence someone had made an effort to compose via pen and ink or typewriter. I still remember the combination to that mailbox, the joy of a little pink card that signaled a package was waiting behind the counter, though often it wasn’t necessary to open the box because a friendly neighbor would wave the card from behind his station at the post office to let me know I had a package. This was during World War II and oh the thrill of a package from a distant relative sending a bit of candy or maybe a pair of wooden roller skates to replace my worn ball bearings.

As an adult, my mail was delivered to the mailbox in front of my house. It was still one of the brightest parts of my day. I wasn’t overwhelmed with ads and circulars. There were letters written by hand from people I loved. Many of those letters with their low cost stamps are in my filing cabinet today.

Times have changed. All too often wandering vandals wreck havoc on the neighborhood mailbox. My box has been moved from the end of my driveway to a location down the street, protected in a metal bank of identical receptacles. I no longer know the name of the mailman.
I still have the joy of mailing packages though. I can’t send homemade cookies to my children via the internet. For that I take a trip to the local beach post office in my community, for what would a small town be without its post office? Ours is a hub that draws people from neighboring homes and businesses to mail letters and packages or maybe to exchange a word or two with a postal worker. It’s within walking distance of the beach, and a sea breeze ushers you inside the door.

There is a community within that building built from the camaraderie and friendship that has grown over the years between postal workers and customers from Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beaches. There’s a feeling of kinship with neighbors. The building rings with laughter. Many are on a first-name basis. We’ve walked into another era. There are employees who know when a customer is mailing a latest manuscript to a publisher, the bride who wants special stamps for wedding invitations or the mother who is sending homemade cookies to a soldier in Iraq. They know these things and care.

Wrap your merchandise in a box that isn’t strong enough, or is the wrong size or weight, and they won’t allow you to mail it. But that postal employee who wouldn’t accept your package a minute ago will, in the next minute, try to locate a suitable box for you. They are generous with their suggestions. Eager to be of help. And they don’t get raises for kindness.

A long table separates customers being waited on from those still in line. But it isn’t a barrier. It’s a convenience, a place to put heavy packages until “Next in line” means you. The table also serves as a receptacle for gifts. In the fall, around Thanksgiving and later, a basket of tangerines might be placed on the table or passed over the counter. And when winter flowers are in bloom you’re likely to find the table brimming with trays of red, pink and white camellias. Bouquets of gratitude. Even homemade bread has been known to exchange hands. It’s a community we never take for granted.

These relationships are as treasured as nature’s artistic rendering in the beauty of a seashell. Hold it to your ear and listen to the sigh of regret. Postal workers and customers know the beach life of this community is little more than two years. If a wrecking ball demolishes the building, the scars will be paved with asphalt. Its fate hasn’t been decided, except that it will no longer be our beloved community post office.

But blessings ride the crest of the waves and even e-mail or a wrecking ball can’t send memories to the endangered species list, not as long as we remember, cherish, and write.

Book Review – Water for Elephants

By Beth M. Wood

It isn’t often that a story wraps you up so completely you forget you’re reading a story at all. The characters in Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” are disheveled, hopeless, beguiling, haunting, and hopeful all at once. And one larger than life heroin brings them all together in a gritty, captivating world full of living, breathing characters that ring true to life.

Jacob Jankowski sits in a nursing home, lamenting his aging body and mind. He is treated like a child, and because of this begins to act like one. He resents the way he’s coddled and the way his family comes to see him “like clockwork, every Sunday.” From the rice pudding to the canned gravy, his life has become one of painful regularity. He describes old age as a terrible thief who “muddies your head and silently spreads cancer throughout your spouse.” His one saving grace is his nurse, Rosemary, who he describes with the sentiment, “I’m no longer sure how to react when someone treats me like a real person.”

When the circus pulls into town, all the nursing home’s residents have something to talk about and look forward to. And Jacob’s memories are dusted off and brought to life. We are thrust into the world of a circus where we know a murder takes place and a girl is involved. And as the story unfolds we cheer for Jacob, breathe when he breathes, hurt when he hurts.

Gruen has the spectacular talent of relaying the strongest of emotions in perfect, simple language. She tells of Jacob receiving devastating news with “I’m aware of a heavy, wet noise, and realize it’s me. I’m gasping for breath.” (And the reader can’t help but think “yes! That’s it exactly!”)

The story begins with Jacob remembering the most pivotal point in his life, set in the 1930’s Great Depression era and within the world of a circus. And then we are propelled forward into Jacob’s current life – a ninety-something old man in a nursing home filled with memories that both haunt him and keep him alive. The story switches from Jacob’s memories to Jacob in the nursing home and as his memories become clouded, so do these transitions.

Sara Gruen’s “Water for Elephants” is filled with simple language and powerful themes.
We can smell the grittiness of the characters, touch the roughness of them, feel the love, hate, horror, sadness and hope in their hearts. It is a story pregnant with illusion from the title itself to circus life, marriage, money and family loyalty. August describes it well when he tells Jacob, “The whole thing’s an illusion…and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what people want from us. It’s what they expect.”

Jacob’s life is set out before him as he prepares to sit his college exams. It is an illusion that screeches to a halt and sets in motion the events of his true life as it was meant to be lived. And as they pull into each town and set up, from the Big Top to the Fat Lady and the Tattooed man, each community buys into the illusions of the circus.

Gruen’s characters come to life and each has a true purpose in the story. Uncle Al and August bring hardship and pain, Walter and Camel represent the truest of friendships and Marlena and Rosie evoke a love that transcends time and place. And all of them, including Charlie, who we don’t meet until the story’s end, represent family – the best and worst of them all. Gruen makes no attempt to force her characters into any given situation or bring them to buttoned-up solutions. As in life, things happen as only they must. Gruen does not tell us all of this, but shows us in the way that only a seasoned and very talented writer can. To let us know that Kinko and Jacob’s relationship has changed, she gives us only, “Jacob? You can call me Walter if you want.” But it is powerful in its simplicity.

This story has it all – murder, sex, jealousy, hatred, joy, deceit and love. One of my college writing instructors once described the best story as one that puts the protagonist in a tree, throws rocks at him and then gets him down. Gruen does just that, and she does it seemingly with no effort at all. She reminds me why I read and why I write. Sara Gruen has given me hope. Hope in the inherent goodness of human beings and animals alike and hope in the possibilities.

Not since Atticus Finch has there been a character created with so much depth, so much heroism, strength and grief. And the ending is one of the best I’ve ever read. I could tell you, but then you’d miss the distinct pleasure of reading the book.

Sara Gruen is the author of three bestselling novels, Riding Lessons, Flying Changes and Water for Elephants. She has just sold her fourth and fifth novels to publisher Spiegel and Grau. Sara lives north of Chicago with one husband, three children, four cats, two goats, two dogs and a horse. She also recently adopted 10 infant Bonobo monkeys from a sanctuary in the Congo. A transplanted Canadian, Sara is now an American citizen currently living with her brood in an environmentalist community in Northern Illinois.

Beth M. Wood’s writing career began in 2002, when a counselor at Webster University informed her that she could, in fact, major in Writing. With her family’s support, she earned her BA in Professional Writing three years later and began writing press releases, newsletter articles and training manuals. She lives in St. Louis with her three beautiful children and one three-legged boxer. She is a marketing professional by trade, a devout reader and semi-fanatic editor who will occasionally sneak a red sharpie into restaurants to correct glaring grammatical errors on the menu.