BOB ABERNETHY: On October 15th in Utah, a man is scheduled to be formally charged with complaints growing out of a polygamous marriage. A 16-year-old girl says her father violently forced her to marry her uncle and become one of his 15 wives. The girl's complaints revived national attention to polygamy, or plural marriages, as some call them, and produced estimates that in Utah, where the Mormon church once encouraged polygamy, the number of people still living in polygamous marriages is about 40,000.
Both the Mormon church and the state of Utah have forbidden polygamy for more than 100 years, but the state law is rarely enforced so the practice continues, mostly among a splinter group calling themselves Mormon fundamentalists, but with no connection to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Our correspondent Lucky Severson found a polygamist family out in the high desert about 100 miles from the nearest town.
LUCKY SEVERSON: Almost everyone who lives here under the red mesas in Colorado City, Arizona, is a polygamist. Even though they are not members of the Mormon church, they refer to themselves as Mormon fundamentalists, reaching back to the mid-1800s when the church practiced plural marriage. It was church doctrine then, that the only way to attain the highest degree of heaven was to give birth to as many souls as possible. And because there were far more women members than men, the solution was plural marriage. But in the 1890s, the church abandoned polygamy, and in 1896, when Utah became a state, it was declared illegal.
Professor IRWIN ALTMAN (University of Utah): And it is not an easy lifestyle.
SEVERSON: University of Utah psychologist Irwin Altman has written a book called POLYGAMIST FAMILIES IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY.
Prof. ALTMAN: I think that the Mormon church very vigorously and very explicitly excommunicates members of the church who they find to be practicing plural marriage.
SEVERSON: In 1951, the National Guard raided Colorado City, broke up dozens of families, and threw them in jail. It was a dark time polygamists will never forget. It's why they are always looking over their shoulder. Their lifestyles are so secretive: even in Utah, thousands of polygamists literally head for the hills, where they can live their lives as they please -- in this case, 200 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. And there's plenty of room to manage an extra-large family without drawing any attention.
Every day at 4:00 sharp, the school bus stops along this dusty road, delivering Lauren and Joseph, Mindy and Kelly and Sierra home to Greenhaven, Utah.
Mr. TOM GREEN (Polygamist): Bonnie, come here.
SEVERSON: You won't find Greenhaven on a map. The state and the Mormon church would just as soon forget about the 35 people living here, five women, 29 children ...
Ms. HANNA GREEN (Wife): Go play, Elizabeth.
SEVERSON: ... and their father, Tom Green.
Mr. GREEN: It's the members of the church who feel that it's their duty to try to stop what we're doing. And those are the people who cease to be Christians and become zealots and become persecutors. And I'm sad about that. That's one reason why we live away from those people.
SEVERSON: Green settled here a few years ago. He lost one child when his home burned down. Now, his rather large family lives quite snugly in a motley assortment of mobile homes. The first thing you'll notice at Greenhaven is the children, well-behaved, and they seem happy. The wives, who look young enough to be their siblings, actually are -- sisters, that is.
Ms. H. GREEN: Play ring around the rosie.
SEVERSON: Four of them.
Unidentified Woman: That's good. Very nice.
SEVERSON: Carrie and Hanna are only two years apart. They've been married to Tom seven years.
Mr. GREEN: This is my wife, Shirley.
SEVERSON: Then there's Shirley and her sister Leanne. Together, they eke out an existence, selling magazines by telephone and raising turkeys. They share everything, including the same man.
Did Tom ask you for your permission to -- when -- to marry his second wife?
Ms. LINDA GREEN (Wife): No. I told him he should marry her.
SEVERSON: What about jealousy? Do you ever get that way with each other?
Ms. CARRIE GREEN (Wife): Some. There's -- I think there's always jealousy. But it's something you -- you overcome. And you learn to deal with. And it's never caused a problem where you hate your sister/wife or anything.
Ms. H. GREEN: You get to where you -- you love your sister/wife so much that you want for them to have what you have.
Offscreen Voice: Will you hand me a fork?
SEVERSON: The Green family runs a fairly tight ship. They have to, with so many mouths to feed, and with a meager $1,400 per month food budget, nothing is wasted.
Ms. H. GREEN: Sharon, come sit right here.