The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) is a radical sect that branched off from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They initially splintered off when the Mormon church renounced polygamy. The FLDS believes this practice is an integral part of its religion. Women who want to leave the Church have been held against their will, leading some to call the sect a cult.
The FLDS has been a controversial topic for quite some time now, led down a dark path by their former leader, Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving life in prison after being convicted of two counts of child sexual assault. Jeffs also promoted and arranged marriages within families, which can lead to genetic diseases. He considers himself a prophet and is still trying to lead the church from prison.
The FLDS is so secretive that it can be difficult to learn about. But several former followers who escaped have opened up about FLDS practices and what it's like living in a religious community that does everything in its power to keep outsiders at bay and followers from leaving.
Members of the FLDS live in insular communities with little influence from the outside world. Children are homeschooled and girls rarely receive more than a grade-school education, at which point they reportedly must fill out an application for motherhood which asks whether they have acquired "unshakable sweetness" and "heavenly smiles."
Children also allegedly learn that God led Neil Armstrong away from the moon and that Warren Jeffs is the US president.
Most members of the FLDS live in a remote community they refer to as "the Creek," which lies in the border towns of Colorado City, AZ, and Hilldale, UT. The church essentially runs the towns, to the point where Warren Jeffs managed to close down their only public school for 13 years. He believed it was an "evil influence." For members of the church, homeschooling and lessons directly from FLDS leaders are the only acceptable options for education.
Former FLDS member Joe Broadbent told ABC News that members have to drop whatever they are doing every hour on the hour and pray for Warren Jeffs’s escape from prison. According to Broadbent, Jeffs puts a lot of pressure on his followers and makes them feel guilty by saying, “the only way that I’m not out is because you’re not faithful enough.” Followers go days without eating, hoping that fasting and prayers will help Jeffs escape.
The FLDS allegedly preaches a controversial belief of the second president of the Mormon church, Brigham Young. Young reportedly claimed that certain sins (like murder and adultery) were so heinous they required a blood sacrifice before any forgiveness could be considered. Ideally, the sinner would agree to be killed so their blood could be spilled on the ground and they could be forgiven in the afterlife, but the sacrifice could be carried out without the sinner's consent if necessary.