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Lost boys (Mormon fundamentalism)

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"Lost boys" is a term used for young men who have been excommunicated or pressured to leave polygamous Mormon fundamentalist groups, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).[1] Although sometimes officially accused of apostasy or disobedience,[2][3] it is thought that they are mainly pressured to leave by older adult men to reduce competition for wives within such sects,[2][3][4] usually when they are between the ages of 13 and 21.[5]


Since boys and girls are born in approximately equal numbers, and women do not enter the community in large numbers, the pool of available women is not sufficient for all men to have multiple wives.

While some boys leave by their own choice,[6] many have been banished for conduct such as watching a movie,[7] watching television,[6][8] playing football,[6] or talking to a girl.[5][4][6] Some boys are told not to return unless they can return with a wife.[citation needed] One 2004 source estimated that more than 400 teenage boys have been ostracized from the FLDS Church for violating community rules.[9] Another article from 2005 estimated that between 400 and 1,000 boys and young men had been pressured to leave for such reasons.[1] Many young women[10] also have left or been pressured to leave because they did not want to be part of polygamous marriages.[11]

Boys in these sects are commonly raised to not trust the outside world and that leaving their communities is a sin worse than murder.[12][13] With little education or skills applicable to life outside of their community of birth, they must learn to live in a society they inherently distrust yet know little about and as a result, some lost boys become homeless or end up in the criminal justice system.[6] The families of banished boys are told that the boys are now dead to them.[8]

Specific incidences[edit]

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (hereafter FLDS) is a particularly controversial fundamentalist sect which has repeatedly been connected with the concept of lost boys. As early as 1968, the church's home turf of Colorado City, Arizona had a peace officer whose responsibility was "to make sure that the boys would not associate with the girls.”[4] This officer's main police duties evolved over the next two decades to include "running the surplus boys out of town" so as to allow the "worthy" men of the community to live plural marriage by adding new, younger wives.[4] More recently, in the mid-1990s, a Colorado City police officer named Rodney Holm was one of a dozen men who attacked and assaulted a 17-year-old named Robert Williams because Williams had shown interest in a girl his age. The attack was organized by the girl's father, who was Officer Holm’s brother. Afterward, in February 1996, they pleaded no contest to simple assault.[4]

Some individuals, such as Dan Fischer, a dentist who left the FLDS Church, work to help young men who have left or who have been ejected from polygamist organizations in cities such as Colorado City or adjacent Hildale, Utah.[5][14] The FLDS church was sued by six "lost boys" in August 2004 for "alleged economic and psychological injury."[15]

Brent Jeffs details his early life as the grandson to a FLDS prophet and his eventual excommunication as "very different".[16] At an early age, Jeffs' father decided to leave the church and take his family with him.[16] Upon hearing this news, Jeffs decided to return to the church to make the decision on his own. During this time, he experienced a social black-balling for his family’s history with FLDS, as well as becoming romantically intertwined with a girl his age,[16] and removed himself once again from the church.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

In the HBO television series Big Love (2006–2011), the main protagonist is a former lost boy, having grown up challenging the elder who drove him out of their community as a teenager. The series portrays machinations of some senior men within a fundamentalist congregation to "reserve" young unmarried women for themselves.[citation needed]

The documentary film Sons of Perdition (2010) depicts the struggles of three real-life lost boys.[17]

The off-Broadway play Exit 27 (2013) dramatized the story of four lost boys struggling to survive in the desert outside Colorado City. Playwright Aleks Merilo based the script on interviews conducted with lost boys living in Hurricane, Utah.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Borger, Julian (2005-06-14). "The lost boys, thrown out of US sect so that older men can marry more wives". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  2. ^ a b Bryant, Seth L. (2009). "Reviving the Millennial Kingdom: Mormons, Morrisites, and Massacre". The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. 29: 115–139. ISSN 0739-7852. JSTOR 43200347.
  3. ^ a b Miller, Anne Catherine; Karkazis, Katrina (2013). "Health Beliefs and Practices in an Isolated Polygamist Community of Southern Utah". Journal of Religion and Health. 52 (2): 597–609. doi:10.1007/s10943-012-9593-x. ISSN 0022-4197. JSTOR 24485008. PMID 22438183. S2CID 28895834.
  4. ^ a b c d e Kent, Stephen A. (2006). "A Matter of Principle: Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy, Children, and Human Rights Debates". Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. 10 (1): 7–29. doi:10.1525/nr.2006.10.1.7. ISSN 1092-6690. JSTOR 10.1525/nr.2006.10.1.7.
  5. ^ a b c Henetz, Patty (July 31, 2004). "Krakauer still vexed by FLDS". Deseret News. AP. Archived from the original on 2010-07-31. Retrieved 2013-12-11. [...] Fischer has housed the castoff children and given them jobs in his company, Krakauer said.
  6. ^ a b c d e Wright, Stuart A.; Richardson, James T. (2014). "The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints after the Texas State Raid: Assessing a Post-Raid Movement Trajectory". Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions. 17 (4): 83–97. doi:10.1525/nr.2014.17.4.83. ISSN 1092-6690. JSTOR 10.1525/nr.2014.17.4.83.
  7. ^ Holstein, MD, MS, Ned (2008-04-15). "Texas Polygamy Case: Don't the Boys Count?". Fathers and Families. Archived from the original on 2013-06-24. Retrieved 2013-06-20.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ a b Kelly, David (2005-06-19). "Polygamy's 'Lost Boys' expelled from only life they knew". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
  9. ^ Nielsen, Michael (2009). "Opinions Regarding Polygamy Among LDS Church Members: Demographic Predictors". Archiv für Religionspsychologie / Archive for the Psychology of Religion. 31 (2): 261–270. doi:10.1163/157361209X427788. ISSN 0084-6724. JSTOR 23910032. S2CID 143499720.
  10. ^ "Man Accused Of Assaulting Kingston Polygamist Daughter Appears In Court". KSL-TV News. 2006-06-24. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  11. ^ "Polygamy or abuse? Utah case stirs controversy". CNN. 1998-08-18. Archived from the original on 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  12. ^ Wagner, Angie (2004-09-04). "Religious sect's outcasts caught between worlds". Associated Press.
  13. ^ Wagner, Angie. "Boys exiled from polygamist sect seek new life in the outside world". Associated Press. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  14. ^ "The Lost Boys of Polygamy". Archived from the original on 2018-03-15. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  15. ^ Watson, Marianne T. (2007). "The 1948 Secret Marriage of Louis J. Barlow: Origins of FLDS Placement Marriage". Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. 40 (1): 83–136. doi:10.2307/45227157. ISSN 0012-2157. JSTOR 45227157. S2CID 254401041.
  16. ^ a b c d "From Polygamist Royalty To FLDS Lost Boy". NPR.org. Retrieved 2022-11-09.
  17. ^ Rosanne Colletti (24 April 2010). "The Sons of Perdition in Person". NBC New York. Retrieved 1 May 2010. External link in |publisher= (help)
  18. ^ Clarke, David (2013-10-27). BWW Interviews: Aleks Merilo Talks EXIT 27. Broadway World, Wisdom Digital Media, 27 October 2013. Retrieved from http://www.broadwayworld.com/off-off-broadway/article/BWW-Interviews-Aleks-Merilo-Talks-EXIT-27-20131027#.


  • Krakauer, Jon. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (2003).
  • Emmett, Andrea Moore. God's Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped (2004).
  • Bistline, Benjamin G. Colorado City Polygamists: An Inside Look for the Outsider (2004). A Colorado City historian presents the beginnings of the group and its original religious doctrine.
  • Bistline, Benjamin G. The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, Arizona (2004)
  • Tracy, Kathleen. The Secret Story of Polygamy (2001). Centered on the trial of John Daniel Kingston, who was tried for assault on his 16-year-old daughter.
  • Llewellyn, John R. Polygamy Under Attack: From Tom Green to Brian David Mitchell (2004)
  • Dan Simon & Amanda Townsend (September 7, 2007). "Warren Jeffs' 'lost boys' find themselves in strange world". CNN.
  • Main Street Church. Lifting the Veil of Polygamy (2007). A documentary film on the history and modern-day expressions of Mormon polygamy, including numerous testimonials.
  • Jeffs, Brent & Maia Szalavitz, Lost Boy, Broadway Books, New York, 2009, 241 pp. First person account of life and exile of Brent Jeffs, nephew of "prophet" Warren Jeffs of FLDS Church.

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