In Prophet's Prey, private investigator Sam Brower pulls back the curtain on Warren Jeffs—now serving a life sentence in Texas—the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). The book shines an unforgiving light on the leader and his polygamous religious sect, which the author says is just like the mafia—only devoid of any family values.
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Why did you write this book?
Curiosity. I was new to Utah, never really had gone out to Short Creek. I didn't think there as such thing as polygamy, so I didn't believe it that it would be something like that would be happening in America—this is not the place where those things take place.
It almost reminded me of sort of tribal thing from the Middle East—and that piqued my curiosity, and I wanted to check it out. The more I was blown away by how things really were, the harder it became to turn my back on it.
What surprised you most about your seven-year investigation?
How young the girls were. I came to find out there were 11-, 12-year-olds, even starting at 8 or 9 years old, being groomed as "heavenly comfort" wives. That was a shocker for me—just how young they were, and how sophisticated FLDS were in planning and arranging those marriages, taking them to different places out of state to keep quiet and avoid the law.
And I don't think they were quite figuring on federal violations—and they figured right, because so far the Feds haven't gone after them for any of the human trafficking.
Why do you think law enforcement has been so lax?
I wish I had an answer. Over the years, I've seen the Feds especially take an interest—the raid in Texas—but it seems everyone gets together, pounds their chest and then it fades away. I do believe that if this was a pack of Satan worshipers or something like that they would fully expect to be prosecuted—and they would be, the government would be all over them like a bad rash. But for some reason when there's this religious component involved, law enforcement seems to step back.
Another reason is that it's very complex. It's not easy. It's like Al Capone and Prohibition, very complex and their crimes aren't out in the open, they're behind closed doors and the victims don't want to talk about it—in fact, the victim's don't consider themselves victims. It is very hard to prosecute crimes when you don't have anyone wanting to talk about it. But we know it can be done.
Also when you have government agencies involved there's a chance they might lose, or it will get too expensive, or they'll get bad press. It's always easier to just not get involved then take the chance of something going wrong, and I think that's part of the problem. But this is child abuse for crying out loud, and they really need to take that leap and do something about it.
You mention in the book that the media's been duped by Short Creek—what did you discover that hasn't been reported?
There have been prominent media outlets that in their race to get an exclusive give up editorial control to some of the people that are giving them access to the community. I've seen a National Geographic article portraying this very industrious people living in nice tidy homes—they've been shown that's what FLDS are. They're shown nothing but the best and everyone is on their best behavior.
But the real Short Creek is that most of the town is rundown, half-built homes, with ragamuffin little boys running on the streets barefooted. It's nothing that's been portrayed in some of the magazines and the New York Times.
They took Oprah on a tour of a ranch in Texas, and she asked if she would be well received because of her race. She's told, "We're taught to just love everybody." That's such a load. They are taught to be racists and bigots.
Maybe I'm a little hypercritical maybe I know more than everyone else…but when I see the race by the media to get an exclusive, that's usually what happens, they portray FLDS in a light that's less than realistic.
Has your investigation in any way soured you on organized religion?
My opinions haven't changed as far as organized religion. I'm LDS, I was before I started—but this makes you take a step back and analyze your beliefs. It'll either make you or break you. I've gone through those periods of time and step back and take a look at things and test my resolve as far as my faith and the things I believe. No, it has not soured me at all.
What would you like to see come out of this book?
The focus for me is to get the story out there. I've said to people a million times, "My gosh, you cant make this stuff up." I want to get it out there for the purpose of getting people involved, get them to go to their congressmen and senators.
If this was a regular organized crime syndicate they would have law enforcement checking it out, investigating, and this is the same thing. They've been taking children and raping and molesting them. It's systemic, and this is part of their belief system. We can't tolerate that. My hope is that through the book, and people becoming more aware, there will be more pressure placed on law enforcement and government.
This is really personal for you.
It's turned that way, it's been a struggle to keep your professionalism and look at things with a "just the facts, ma'am" type of attitude. I think I've managed to keep it that way, but that doesn't mean I'm heartless or devoid of an opinion.