Poligazette is priveledged to give you an EXCLUSIVE interview with an ex-member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).
Les Zitting is a survivor. For decades he has lived with the memories and worked through the difficulties of someone brought up in the heart of a sect. He is the 6th son of a woman who was herself the 9th wife of one of the leaders of the FLDS in the 50s, Charles Zitting. His father died when Les was only four years old. His mother remarried, and Les has a total of 16 siblings and half-siblings, including an eldest brother who is still prominent within the FLDS and a sister married into the also prominent Jessop family and sisters and nieces married to Warren Jeffs.
He has graciously allowed himself to be interviewed about what life is like within the FLDS and his views on the situation currently underway in Texas.
Q. News reports say that abuse was commonplace within the sect, and that girls were forced to marry upon reaching puberty. Based on your personal experience and knowledge of the group, would you say this is an accurate portrayal or is it more sensationalist? Were girls being married before the age of 16 commonplace or the exception?
A. I would have to answer TRUE and some even much earlier than age 12.
Q. Is there any awareness inside the group that sexual relations between a very young teen and a man decades her senior is inappropriate? Do you know if girls feel its wrong in any way or do they simply accept it as gods will?
A. How can a boy or girl even question who does what, when the only thing you have ever understood is we are the Elite people of God and our Leaders are in His Perfect Will. You do not even question!!
Q. As a boy growing up in the group, how different was your rearing to the girls? Are boys given special treatment in any way, do girls have to be obedient to boys or only to their husbands? If you reached adulthood within the group, did you as a man have any choice in who you could be with or was this entirely up to sect leaders? Is there anything akin to dating or physical relationships at all? Did you marry?
A. Girls were pretty much kept to the home and the duties of the Home, cleaning, cooking, taking care of babies, etc., etc. I was 20 when I left this Church. Several girls had their eyes on me and I knew it, but I was torn because I didnt want to marry if I wasnt going to stay I wasnt sure but I had to know first. I left in 1970 an unmarried man.
A person choosing who they marry does happen but it is not the norm. Dating is out-of-line and does not happen normally. A person is assigned and in most cases married within days and sometimes even within hours. If a physical relationship happens it is against authority and not normal.
Q. What opinion do you have of the actions of the Texas CPS? Do you think that many children will cooperate to identify abusers or is the control over them to throrough?
A. Thank you TEXAS but well see In time the could recover yes, but it will take months and in some cases, years. I am still dealing with my own personal emotions and this is 38 years later.
Q. The women who accompanied the children, presumably its to care for them, but is it also to ensure that they dont speak or to make sure they dont end up trusting outsiders?
I got heavily involved with issues of these Churches back in 2000. In 2001 I help rescue Caroline who was about to be married to Warren and she wanted out. We succeeded with this This was my first experience with Jay Beswick (editors note: Jay was who put me into contact with Les, thank you as well) Thank You Jay, you are a jewel !! We tried at that time, to get Utah and Arizona Officials involved but were unsuccessful. At this time Flora Jessop joined up with us. She had a sister that wanted out we were not successful in helping her. This destroyed my confidence in Utah and Arizona and I pulled away from the issues. I knew this snake was much, much bigger than what we could do. I thank Texas for stepping in but I still question whether even Texas will or can do enough. These issues go very very deep into human rights, civil rights and Religious Liberties. I do not see that even Texas will hang in there and STOP the abuses. Only time will tell.
As for the women; See the Polygamist women as they speak these are their children but few tears if any. They have been taught since birth to show no emotion. How much deep, deep emotion do you see on them as they speak to the camera !!! NONE. Emotion is a bad thing the Men dont like it, so they have taught them to hold it back and they are good at it.
Q. Assuming children were maintained away from the cult from now on, what do they really need in order to adjust to the outside world?
A. The age of the child is the key factor here. Just hang in there with these kids it will take time. I dont know what ages we are talking. Any Children 4 and under will be OK for the most part, but above 4 there will be issues.
Q. How did you end up leaving the group? Do you still have any contact with your family within the FLDS?
A. When a person leaves the Church, they immediately are shunned by all. I lost my Family and all friends. I became EVIL as the rest of the planets population. I was now on Satans side. This was very tough for me. My actual exit happened when the Town Sheriff at that time (Sam Barlow) picked up myself and my younger Brother Paul and drove us from Colorado City to my Mothers home in Salt Lake City, Utah To dispose us as we were just a bit too spunky to stay in Colorado City. Paul and I were very popular with kids our age and, looking back, I would have to say we were a threat to authority in Colorado City. We both had defied Authority on a couple of occasions and they needed to get rid of us that is how we got disposed of we were driven out of town, literally. Sam didnt know it but he did us an EMENSE favor! Paul and I rebelled and left the Church We both agree today that it was a good thing. I feel it was Gods Mercy on my brother and me, but then I do believe God is real and always will . too many proofs in my life.
Q. Any extra thoughts?
A. I have tried NOT to watch the news casts as these Polygamist women spoke. I knew there were LIES being spoken!!! As I watched, I asked myself, How can you people, who claim integrity, honesty, and truth look into those cameras and tell the entire world that you dont know of any under-aged marriages between girls under 16 to men 2 ,3 and even 4 times their age. People need to and probably will go to prison for this. Texas has girls in their custody right now either pregnant or with babies and the girls are not 16 years old yet . And the older women are saying to us all that they dont know of this happening they are liars !!! This has happened for DECADES !!!!