I spent last week on location in Colorado City filming more footage for the movie “The Rise and Fall of Zion”, a world-class documentary about Warren Jeffs and his impact on the FLDS. My co-producer, Amber Dawn Lee, has years of involvement with the film industry. Her own experience of growing up in several Fundamentalist Mormon based cults brings passion and personal expertise to the project. We are both determined to bring this story into the light and share with the world the truth.
This was our second time filming in Hilldale and Colorado City. Our first visit was fairly uneventful and very educational as we met many locals that are referred to as apostates and witnessed the FLDS and Warren Jeffs stronghold beginning to crumble. We got to know the community and began to really feel what the people in and out of the religion feel about their station in life.
Since our last filming expedition in October the FLDS has been making news again with Warren Jeffs threats to the American president, more ranting revelations about the end of the world, and even more strict dictates to his people as he attempts to maintain control from his prison cell. His latest edict to his people came in November when he told them that each family must come up with $5,000, be determined worthy of maintaining FLDS membership and be re-baptized by December 31st or feel the wrath of God. He also dictated that all forms of enjoyment had to be removed from every home and from the community. Toys, bikes, computers, cell phones and any form of entertainment were taken away from women and children. Sex was disallowed for men and is only to be performed as a duty to God in procreation and witnessed by those assigned by Warren. Taking away everything that is a distraction from the religion is Warren’s way of attaining absolute hold of the minds of the people.
As we arrived in the community we discovered that the abuses of the people extend far beyond the slavery that polygamy has become known for in the FLDS. As Warrens lust for more and more women extended to younger and younger girls his control over the men and women increased. The parents of those girls willingly gave their daughters over to the slaughter, as a manner of speaking, believing that in giving their daughters to the prophet and his most loyal men they ensured their daughters exaltation and they insured their own place within the religion. The giving away of daughters has now extended to the giving away of women and children. We discovered that children as young as 1 year old are disappearing and no one seems overly concerned as to their whereabouts. Fathers have been exiled from the religion and are no longer able to communicate with their wives and children. Out of boredom and anxiety many of the boys are contributing to the atrocities by torturing and murdering animals. We heard these stories numerous times from numerous people. Businesses were closed and there were stories of reckless vandalism. While the outside world looks on with the belief that polygamy should be normalized inside Colorado City all hell has broken loose.
Every day in Colorado City we were followed, harassed and bullied by the God Squad as it is un-affectionately known and by local law enforcement. Being pulled over and questioned by the Hilldale and Colorado City police was a daily occurrence. There was no legal reason for stopping and questioning us but it is part of their job as members of the FLDS. In Colorado City there is no separation of church and state.
On our final day of filming we were physically attacked by the God Squad. While Amber was on foot filming outside of the FLDS Meeting House she was approached by two vehicles from opposite directions who attempted to run her down. Five other cars blocked off the street and parking areas to keep Amber from getting out of harm’s way. As she filmed the oncoming cars I called 911 on my cell phone and connected with a State Emergency Operator, knowing full well that a call to Colorado City police would do no good. Eventually a Colorado City officer came and took a full report but in his report he failed to write down the license plate numbers of the vehicles or descriptions of the men who threatened Amber’s life. Although Amber was not knocked to the ground she did sustain injuries to her lower back when she tripped and stumbled as one of the cars bumped her.
Colorado City is a lawless town in every sense of the word. We had heard the stories of the God Squad and its brutality, and we had heard about the crooked cops, but we never expected to be victims of their activities personally. And we never expected to uncover the unfathomable level of atrocities being committed in what outwardly appears to be a quiet and peaceful community. All of these horrific practices justified in the name of God and religion.