The church currently practices the law of placing, whereby a young woman of marriageable age is assigned a husband by revelation from God to the leader of the church, who is regarded as a prophet. The prophet elects to take and give wives to and from men according to their worthiness. Wives may be taken from one man and reassigned to men that are more worthy.
Originally established in the border towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah there are also isolated FLDS groups in Bountiful, British Columbia, Canada, Mesquite, NV, Pringle, SD, and the new headquarters at El Dorado, TX. The colony of about 1,000 FLDS members living in Bountiful, British Columbia are almost all descendents of six men.
Reported criminal activity in the cult indicates a pattern of child marriage, sexual abuse and trafficking, in which girls from the ages of 13 to 16 have been married to older men and girls are being trafficked to Canada for marriage to polygamous men in British Columbia. Adult women have also described battering, intimidation and sexual abuse within polygamous families. Young women inside these communities are vulnerable to coercion by family members and religious leaders to enter polygamous marriages. Trained to obey religious teachings and denied any other education, they may see no real alternative.
The Colorado City/Hildale area has the world's highest incidence of fumarase deficiency, an extremely rare genetic condition which causes severe mental retardation. Geneticists attribute this to the prevalence of cousin marriage between descendants of two of the town's founders, Joseph Smith Jessup and John Yeates Barlow; one local historian reports that 75–80 percent of the double-communities' roughly 10,000 inhabitants are descended from one or both of these men.
The courage of a 16 year old girl, already a mother and pregnant again broke open the case against the FLDS when she called a hotline in town for help from beatings, rape and a forced marriage. Although the Texas sheriff had an insider at the cult reporting on their illegal activity it was not until the call from the girl that law enforcement could take action and what they discovered was bizzare as over 400 children were recovered from the one compound.
One 16 year old found in the compound had 4 children. Stories of the bizzare and immoral behaviour of the sect leaders abound including the fact over 400 young teenage males were banished from the cult in the past few years because of a shortage of girls for assigned marriages as each husband must have at least 3 wives. Perhaps this shortage is what caused 13 year olds to be married.
Now what is going to happen in the other compounds where this activity has been taking place for years? Can law enforcement officials in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, South Dakota, and Canada show the same agressiveness as Texas authorities in bringing this deplorable practice to an end? We shall see.