"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: How Young is Too Young?

Friday, April 18, 2008

How Young is Too Young?

A former OALC member called to say she felt physically ill watching the news about the polygamist sect in Texas.

"I think the children should be with their mothers," she said. The women on TV, with their plain dresses and upswept hair, remind her of OALC women. She thinks they are probably terrified of "the world" and what it will do to their children. I sympathize, but if the allegations are true (and there is good reason to think they are) these are the same women who are allowing, or actually facilitating, the sexual abuse of their daughters.

Leaving aside the question of polygamy, at what age do you think a child can give consent to marriage?

I know of several teen couples who were advised to marry by the OALC preachers, apparently in order to prevent sex outside of marriage.

In one case a 15-year old girl was urged to marry her teen boyfriend. They had to do so in a different state. Long story short: many children, much strife, a nasty divorce, and many damaged lives.

Are teen marriages less common now in Laestadian circles? I hope so.

This is from a recent article about the sect:

A Houston child psychiatrist testified today in the custody hearing for 416 children from a polygamist sect that the group's sheltered environment makes members more immature than children in the outside world.

Dr. Bruce Perry said the adherence by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to underage marriage and underage sex puts all children at risk.

"I think that young girls — 14, 15, 16 (years) — are not mature enough to consent to a marriage," Perry said, testifying for the state of Texas.

Raised in a highly authoritarian culture, girls grew up believing that marrying early and having multiple children was their only option, Perry said. Boys grew up to perpetuate the abuse. Perry said he found even adults to be much less mature and less capable of making their own decisions.

What are your thoughts?


  1. I also saw many similar traits that are similar to the Laestadian movement when I was watching the news about the FLDS group. I think 18 years should be the minimum age for marriage, and we know that even at that age, most people cannot handle the stress of marriage and children.

    I know their are many people within the Laestadian movement that think its okay and in the kids best interests to get married if they are 18 years old (or younger) and sleeping together.

    What you need to remember is that many of those women - and even some of the men are suffering because they have to take on so much responsibility at such a young age. They don't even know who they are yet or what the meaning of life is. I feel for the women that feel like they have to get married to please their family and/or church family and are silently suffering. I know their are many in the Laestadian system that got married too young, had too many kids, and are now trapped and depressed.

    Encouraging young girls to get married is putting a "band-aid" on the situation.

  2. I agree that marrying under the age of 18 is too young, but in the case of the FLDS Church, they are within their legal rights in Texas to marry at 16 with permission of their parents. Unless Texas can prove that marriage happened under 16 or was forced, they will have to let the children go back to the compound.

    I think that the FLDS Church is a cult and it abusing it's members but thinking it and proving it are two different things.

    As for the OALC, I have seen many young people under the age of 18 get married. Many times they have to go to an adjoining state to get married because of differing state laws. When the preachers find out the kids are sleeping together, they are told to get married. Sad but true!

    The differences between the FLDS and the OALC? OALC allows only one wife and OALCers don't live in communes. Otherwise, Hmmmmmmmm!!!!

  3. Stylux commenting...

    This situation calls for much comment on polygamy, the sect, religious freedom and the law but I will wait on those.

    Eighteen is way too young to make such a decision. I encouraged my kids to wait and this is one of those areas where I actually was successful. (If I allow myself to take at least partial credit for outcome when it comes to children.)

    In my experience the changes that take place between the teens and the twenties are significant. Combine this with the responsibility that comes with raising children forces me to draw my conclusion. Draw the legal limit where you must, but any encouragement to wait is all for the better.

    In this specific situation... How can a "girl" of 15 be considered to be making a considered decision in marrying a man of 50!!! I have not been able to contrive a sensible scenario that explains this in a rational way.

  4. Many difficult questions in this one...

    For the first, I think the kids should have stayed with their mothers. How will they ever recover from the sudden shock of having been separated from the only world they knew and having been given to the care of "aliens" they have been taught not to trust?

    Personally, the thought of me getting married in my teens is horrifying. No chance I would have been mature enough to take on the responsibility or even to make the right choice. But people are different and their experience is different, which makes some peole more mature than others. I also think the average level of maturity varies depending on the type of society. In our society we are allowed to stay kids longer (however I suspect that might be changing) than in the same areas a few hundreds of years ago or in some other areas in our time. As a result, the right age for getting married might be higher in our society than in some other society elsewhere in the world or far away in time. In the middle ages, 16 maybe was even a rather old age to get married, although it seems young in our society, and the same might apply to other societies in our time.

    As for polygamy, I can't understand why many people see that as such a big problem. If a society is allowing same sex marriages, wouldn't the only logical way be to also allow polygamic marriages? A big part of the society is living in casual polygamic relationships anyway. Personally I believe both same sex marriages and polygamy to be detrimental to the well-being of those involved, but in my opinion polygamy is still thousand times more natural and acceptable than same sex marriages. Besides, polygamy is Biblical, same sex relationships are not... ;)


  5. Has anyone heard of an ALC commune in northern Minnesota called "the Big House?"

    I don't know much about it, but from what I've heard the community holds all the property in common (it's a big farming community), as a corporation, and families have to get permission from "the elders" in order to get money to go shopping and other minor things.

  6. I don't have time to read RWB's lengthy comment right now, but I did have one observation re FLDS: has anyone wondered what happens to the extra boys? If one man has 20 wives, 19 boys get none at all. According to the woman from Az who left the sect, they "excommunicate" most of the teenage boys and send them out into the larger LDS world to fend for themselves (I wonder how their mothers feel about that). That's how the old duffers keep all the young girls to themselves. What young girl would opt for an old fart, if the community is full of virile young pups? Are they forced? I don't think we even need to ask that question. Seems like a lot more than "religion" going on here. Many Trails Home

  7. Spot on, MTH. This is power, pure and simple. Ninety percent of the males are sent out so that 10% of the them can have 100% of the females. The females, indoctrinated from birth to be submissive breeding machines (upon threat of excommunication and eternal damnation) are effectively imprisoned. One "lost boy" said, of the women on TV, that they look like droids. Empty eyes.

    You can find plenty of stories online. In reading them, I saw some parallels with my own experience, but the OALC is positively decadent, positively WORLDLY compared to the FLDS. Hooboy. Some OALCers wear red, for heaven's sake. And tank tops.

    RWB, I wish this story was just hype. But there is probably MORE here than meets the eye; unlike the Duke case, there is ample personal testimony and precedent. The "prophet" Warren Jeffs was arrested with a cache of cash and weapons. That should give us a clue.

    FLDS children absolutely need the state to step in and protect them. Perhaps former members will be able to become foster parents. Who better understands the mindset?

  8. Doesn't it sound like a dog breeding ranch?

  9. Since we are now discussing polygamy and its consequences, I'll join the crowd. Polygamy, as practiced in micro-societies in the US is untenable for two major reasons. The first is touched upon my MTH and Free... the necessity to exile the young men in the group in order to maintain peace and harmony. The second is that it requires the women to seek aid and assistance from the society at large in order to feed the many children that come as a result. I guess one could say that the society should refuse this help, which comes in the form of AFDC, Food Stamps and the like, but we have chosen to offer this aid and must provide it to all comers who qualify. For these two reasons, I believe that it should continue to be outlawed and a way must be found to penalize those who practice it unofficially such as the group in Texas. It is worth noting that our child welfare laws actually allow mothers to marry the state so in that sense we facilitate this behavior.
    As far as the children are concerned and the mothers who are protesting their removal… It seems from the news reports that some of the children do not know who their mother is and the mothers are refusing to identify them. Although, I am against the raiding tactics involved by the heavy hand of government, it seems as if we have no choice but to break this group up.


  10. Good gracious, I cannot keep up with one wife! I'm already a minority of one in our house, although I don't know exactly how that math works and her one is the majority...

    The thought that any 18 year old is ready to have a spouse and family -- much less anyone younger than that -- is absolutely preposterous, irresponsible, and downright stupid. What happens is a never ending spiral downward -- a marriage with neither spouse able to make a decent living because they have no education, but raising a tribe of kids in virtual poverty. Of course this fits the model and fulfills the psychotic need of living in a vail of tears.

    Our three children all waited until they were beyond 25 -- after they had obtained their education, had some years to enjoy being a young person, matured, and saw some of the world that God created. Now they're all in rock solid marriages, have good jobs, and are thinking about starting their own families -- and the baby is already 27! OK, so I'm more than a little impatient about the grandkid thing, but praise the Lord, the first one is on the way!

  11. Congratulations, cvow! Can we call you Gramps now?

  12. x alc and free4/23/2008 07:10:00 AM

    I understand completely what those women in Texas are going through.
    My sister-in-laws and mother-in-law were married at 16 and my x-husband is trying to convince my 16 yr old daughter to marry a boy in the church now! The reason they use is to prevent them from sinning by having sex before marriage. He is one of 17 children. I was condemned for not having more children even though I was having dangerous pregnancies.
    I am scared to death. even though I am divorced from him now, he is still trying to brainwash my children ! I live in the same town and I cannot afford to leave.

    I am going to a different church now, but he knows people in my church and he is trying to turn them against me too by spreading lies about me!

  13. RWB here...

    x alc: I'm not sure what to say about what you have written. I can only speak from my own experiences and observations. This would be to say that what you apparently have experienced is not even remotely common. In fact, I have never heard of a situation quite like yours...that is not to say it didn't happen...I don't know...but based on my own experience with a divorce very close to me in my family I know that those details and stories got blown way out of proportion to the point of outright lies. It is a very horrible situation for all involved.

    Divorce is not anywhere near a common thing in the OALC and there are many, many rock solid marriages....as a percentage there are many more happy, solid marriages in the OALC than there are outside the OALC.

    As far as CVOW's comments:

    I don't agree at all with your assessment. Marriage and children are God's affair. That's not to say everybody should run off and get married straight out of high school and start having babies. However, for me personally and many I know this has been our way and lot in life. I have a good job and a "tribe of kids" who all get top notch grades in school. They say please and thank you. The respect their parents and teachers. My wife is a stay-at-home mother who I have the utmost love and respect for. This is a snapshot of what many OALC families are like....a far cry from what you describe as what you apparently see as "the model" for us.

    We don't use birth control and many get married at a younger age...so OH MY GOODNESS...you have soooooo many kids...how EVER do you manage? You poooooor thing!...comments I and my wife hear somewhat frequently! We just smile and don't say much. It ain't rocket science to figure out why or how so many marry and have large families....it is according to God to be this way. Even the Catholic Church holds birth control and sex outside of marriage to be wrong and something that should be confessed before receiving Holy Communion....it just isn't accepted or practice by many of "the faithful". In part I think that is what the pope meant in one of his speeches that Catholics need to get back to practicing their faith to strengthen the church. Numbers and attendance are falling way off in the RC church and part of it is as a direct result of the people not wanting to practice what is preached. The family life and the core of many teachings and church beliefs (no matter what church) starts in the home...if it ain't happenin' at home it aint' gonna happen anywhere. This is my TWO CENTS....can I get change cause I'm livin' in "virtual poverty" here. Sorry for my sarcastic tone, but I'm so sick and tired of the OALC portrait being painted by those with such old and narrow brushes. That is to say that I don't deny your experiences, but I can say with authority that this is NOT the experience and image for the vast majority of us.


  14. x alc, do you have health insurance? It would be wise to get counseling for you and your children, either through your medical provider or church. My heart goes out to you and them.

    RWB, I'm sure there are lots of happy marriages in the OALC and good-on-ya for having one of them. But are you seriously content to have one of your children marry at age 16?

    If all sins are equal, as they say, isn't premarital sex on the same par with smoking or greed or lying?

    You wouldn't require a child to quit school the first time they committed the sin of "intellectual pride," would you?

    Would YOU require your daughter to marry because she had sex?

    Just asking. And thanks for continuing to post here! You are a brave soul.

  15. RWB, I'm glad that you have a strong marriage and family and apparently are providing for them well. I've known many large families that have succeeded in similar fashion. That said, I've known just as many for whom the kids didn't have a great deal of hope -- and it was propagated by statements such as "you can't afford to go to college", hence banishing many of those very bright young people to a life far beneath the capability that God gave them. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying it's a sin to be poor, but it's no great honor, either. (Thanks, Tevye!) I like to see young people get opportunities rather than have them withheld, and those young marriages with "a tribe of kids" miss out on a lot, even if the parents blindly proclaim they are happy. I have to admit that I chuckled when I read your comment about your "lot in life", because that goes right along with the thinking about "living in this vail of tears", and is so reminicent of my memories of the OALC. Of course there is a better place awaiting all of us -- we all believe that! However, that doesn't mean we should not avail ourselves of the gifts God has given us here in this life -- and that is not a sin!

    With regard to your statement about RC membership, you might want to check your information again. The Catholic Church comprises more than 50% of the world's Christians, and the number is steadily growing -- to more than 1.1 billion people, and that's not even current. A friend of mine is the pastor of one of Los Angeles' largest parishes, and I seem to recall him saying that they are doing something like 14 masses every Sunday now, and they still cannot fit everyone in. The churches are bursting at the seams.

    Now if you want to quote an accurate statistic, you could say that Catholic membership is not growing at the same pace as world population is growing, but that is true of probably most mainstream churches.

  16. Thanks, Free! I hope and pray to wear the honorific "Gramps" well. Late July/early August. Maybe I will change my moniker then...

  17. The big house is in northern Mn. It is alarge family of 6 brothers and there families that farm together. Evidently this group of alc. Is more lenient than what you are claiming. They do as they please. Some families even have miore lenient views than others

  18. Every church takes what is in the bible and puts it to how they want it...INCLUDING the laestadian churches. For example: They dance in the bible, does that mean dancing to music (which the llc teaches is wrong) or dancing as in "feeling happy"? It can all be taken many different ways. This argueing is kind of annoying..you're never going to agree because the llc sees what is in the bible differently than most "worldly" churches do. (and i have to say i agree with the "worldly churches"
    And I just have to say to RWB- I don't see much of an increase in the LLC..not counting all the babies being born into the religion. It's not very often that someone from the "outside" comes looking for the LLC...

  19. It seems so silly to argue about what is "common" and what is not as that is such a variable, too easily redefined by every person.

    RWB, it doesnt matter how old a painter or a paintbrush is and you can be as upset about it as you like but it is NOT an inaccurate picture just because its not yours!!!!

    And we all know that what is preached "behind the pulpit" is not neccessarily what is given as advice to an individual... I have a cousin who is 16 and her boyfriend is 17. THey were caught having sex and thier wedding is next month!!! I am SO ANGRY as neither one wants to marry!!!!

    I also have friends that married for the same advice given them and are now divorced, and several more who are miserably married. (no we didnt all sleep around, there were some other reasons for the advice to marry as well ;) There is also many, many varying definitions of "making it work" or "God providing"

    But it remains that we can each only speak for ourselves and our individual experiences. Im glad you and your circle of friends and family seem happy to you, but dont critisize those of us with different experiences... and we should all forget the words like "most" or "all" or "everyone" etc...

    On another note: when the bible refers to "plaiting of the hair" for women, what does this mean? Are braids a sin? There is so much that can be interpreted so many different ways; and the Holy Spirit promises to fill those who believe, so what makes one interpretation right, and another wrong? And who gets to decide here on earth????

  20. RWB: how about "Quakers . . . spiritualism and unprogrammed worship" leading to a direct experience of God and living a GOD--DIRECTED life? Why do you assume (there's that judgmentalism again) that listening to advice from God would lead to a life that conformed with the ego's desires? Just because you cannot imagine anything different? Well, I'd suggest you start looking outside your box.
    Furthermore, are you absolutely sure you know what and only what constitutes the Word of God? Where do Laestadius' sermons fit in that scheme? And why are you so sure you have the wisdom to judge? Openness, my dear RWB, I really do believe God wants us to open our eyes and "awaken." Many Trails Home

  21. I am the anon who said I have seen MANY marriages in the OALC between people under the age of 18. I spent many decades in the OALC and I know of what I speak.

    Many young people have been advised to marry young by the preachers, causing both to drop out of high school. Children soon follow and the couple struggles economically. The young wife comes to church looking drawn and unhappy, while she and the husband struggle with the responsibility of multiple babies born close together. I have seen this personally, yes , many times. I have seen church ladies go to visit these young mothers who were not "doing well", sometimes offering pills to help cope!

    Don't tell me this does not take place yet today. I know better. When a 17 year old boy marries a 16 year old girl, trouble is on the way.

    And yes, RWB, it still takes place today!!

  22. Free, on a completely unrelated note, the code letters to put in when posting have become extremely hard to read!

  23. To get back to the FLDS saga, it also makes me physically sick. We thru our experiences in LLC churches have a unique insight into what is going on right now. I feel so sorry for the children, and for the mothers! They must all be so distressed. Yet I dont know what I would do. The children and mothers know nothing different than what they have been taught since birth, and have been kept in isolation. It is a sick situation all around and I believe the marriage of teens with 50 y.o.men should be stopped, but it makes my heart hurt thinking of the children separated from their mothers! I hope it can be resolved and they can be reunited. The situation does make me think of history when white Christianized people took the Native American children from their tribal homes and made them live in schools to learn the white mans ways. But this FLDS situation is different due to the abuse of power and sex all propagated in the name of religion!!

    The LLC has many similarities. Women with no choice but to have many children- feeling overwhelmed by yet another child, but unable to leave/use birth control due to the threat of spiritual death. And its their "lot in life." so just accept it and die inside. And, having grown up in a family like this, I can speak for the idea that the children are not all happy! There needs to be openness and choices!! Yet that can never happen because then the LLC religion would die. It only keeps going by isolating and making rules to keep people from questioning.

    Im going to take a name here cuz I'm posting more now-My Truth

  24. The FLDS situation is painful no matter which way you look at it. If the allegations are true, they are sickening and are just cause for removing the children from that environment. But at the same time, I start feeling uncomfortable when I've heard some people (not here but elsewhere) mocking the clothing and the people themselves. We need to remember that even though the women are part of a system that may be very unhealthy, they are still people. They are people, not "Others" or "blind cultists completely unlike us in any way."

    As for marriage ages, there were many that married young in my recent experience. Some at 16, many at 17, and many more at 18. It's interesting to think about the members of my confirmation class and how their station in life is different in many cases from my life. I'm certainly glad I didn't marry young, because I'm such a different person now than I was at 18 or even 20.

  25. From a news report:

    One of two guides provided to caregivers notes that the FLDS have a "deep, instilled fear of the outside world," view Warren Jeffs as a "persecuted martyr," and distrust outsiders.
    "The children appear to cooperate but may not," it says. "They will demonstrate politeness but may disclose little and/or contradictory information."
    Boys, it says, "have made derogatory remarks to staff of color" and children have made "negative comments concerning women wearing jewelry" and "men that are not clean shaven and are not wearing long-sleeve shirts."
    FLDS men and women follow a strict clothing style that requires the body to be completely covered and, other than simple wedding rings, women do not wear jewelry.
    Jeffs, drawing on early Mormon teachings that blacks were cursed, has preached that anything to do with black culture, music and dress in particular should be avoided.

  26. Interesting conversation going on here. I'm in the ALC currently, just in case anyone is wondering. :) Couple of comments...
    The "Big House" or however it was referred to, I'm quite sure is a farm in west/central Mn. It's been in the same family for generations, and is nothing more, or less, than any other family owned business.
    I agree whole-heartedly that teen marriages are just too young!! It makes a big difference in outcome though, on how you raise your kids. I remember thinking that getting married early was just "what we did", while my kids probably haven't entertained the thought of actually getting married in their teen yrs. (I certainly HOPE so anyway! :)) If they are being encouraged to have a career, it gives them something to think about and plan for. And certainly with the economy as it is, I really would like to see my kids in some area of work not so dependent on construction. Nothing against it, but it's definitely a "feast" and "famine" type of industry. And as someone else stated, it's not easy to get additional education with a spouse and kids in the picture. I haven't seen as many young marriages as before, although they still do happen. Depends a lot on the family(s).


  27. I have enjoyed reading this discussion because this topic hits closer to home for me.

    I am a former member of a laestadian based church and I married someone from one of those polygamous mormon groups. My father in law had 3 wives at one time and he fathered about 30 kids. My husband is out of the group now but, I find many simularities between the laestadian movement and the fundamental mormon groups.

    Because me and my husband have both left different forms of cult-like religions, we have been able to learn and start out out lives together without either of those churches in the way. Could you imagine my husband coming out of one of those mormon fundamentalist churches and dragging him into the FALC, LLC, or OALC? I don't blame my husband for not having a lot of trust in many religious institutions at this time. It has taken a lot of patience and love for me to understand what he went through growing up, but I have also learned to have compassion for those people. Not surprisingly, my husband finds it hard to assimilate into normal society and often clings to his family and others from the group he was raised in. It is hard for many of them to explain the strange way they were brought up. This is why I can understand why members of the OALC )and other churches that do not follow the mainstream culture) seem distant from everyone else and choose not to get too close to them. You can't relate to "worldly" people in society if you have never lived the life they have.

    The FLDS story just makes me sick, and I do think that the kids should be taken away so the abuse stops. However, I have heard so many sick stories from being around my husband's family that this hardly fazes me anymore. Believe it or not, some people who live polygamy actually make it work, and can support their wives. I have seen several examples of this, and the kids grew up with plenty of opportunities. However, its worth noting that this is not the case for MOST of the families, and the women suffer from more depression living this way than you can even imagine. Those women on TV claiming they are happy living that way are clouded with delusion.

    Its similar in a way to women having large families. Some do make it work because raising kids is their talent, but many cannot handle it and suffer from, and often hide, their depression.


  28. Thanks for your insight into polygamous communities. As someone who was raised in a Laestadian church, I've been more curious about specific ethnic/religious communities than the average "bear." Recently I ran across information about the "Travelling Irish" or "Irish Gypsy" communities in the United States. The American branch of this group of people still speak a particular Irish-hybrid language of their very own, they're nominally Catholic, but they practice endogomy to the point that one village in which they live there are about 1,000 people but only about 11 surnames. Their marriages are arranged by their families and often occur in their teens. They make their living by traveling throughout the country doing roofing and other construction-type industries, women rarely work outside the home, and they often have large families. One "Travelling Irish" considers another a "cousin" or "kin" regardless if they have a close family tie or not. They seldom have more than an 8th grade education, and children are discouraged from mingling outside their own group. Yet this is not a religious community in any way, just an ethnic community with roots in the UK. There are multiple explanations as to their origins, some say they're an ancient group of Celts and others say that they're simply dispossessed Irish who were thrown off their land after the potato famines of the mid-nineteenth century. Despite that they're often referred to as "gypsies" there is no connection to the Roma group traditionally referred to as gypsies. In Ireland and in the U.S., they've been sometimes refered to as "tinkers" because of their ancient craft of repairing pots and pans.

  29. Very interesting comments. I was raised in a FALC family with 5 kids. My parents each had 10 kids in their families. In my mom's family, about half of them are still involved in the FALC and the other half are involved in a variety of religious groups. My relatives seems to have a negative view on the ones in the other religions because all 5 of them that married outside of the FALC ended up with a divorce. When I married someone outside of the FALC, I got a lot of negative comments, people asking me if "I was sure", that "marriage was for life", etc. I don't feel like I would have gotten all those comments thrown at me if I was marrying someone from the FALC.

  30. I have a young friend who married into OALC she has 4 children, the last child birth nearly killed her. Her husbands family rule their lives and her husband will not stand up for her. Another birth may very well kill her. She has no job, no money and no family of her own. She is scared of losing her children if she were to leave the OALC and divorce her husband. Is there anyone out there who knows of lawyers who have helped women leave with their children? She is severly depressed, but OALC frowns upon any medication. I fear for her sanity and life.