FLDS sells cult fashion online; Ex-member helps FLDS victims

The children removed from the Yearning for Zion ranch of the FLDS cult have been returned to the custory of the parents.

However, legal counsel has advised FLDS mothers to stay away from the ranch until the investigation by Child Protective Service is over.

Work at the ranch has come to a standstill, but the members of the group have come up with a new way to support themselver: cult fashion.

Looking for something red? Sorry, the cult’s jailed leader has forbidden his followers from using the color. (By the way, he also banned the word “fun” from the community. But don’t let that stop you from supporting the cult.

FLDS fashions for kids sold on enterprising Web site

ELDORADO, Texas – A new clothing brand may be born out of the Texas raid on a polygamous sect.

FLDS women for the first time are offering their handmade, distinctive style of children’s clothes to the public through the Web site fldsdress.com.

Launched initially to provide Texas authorities with clothing for FLDS children in custody, the online store now is aimed at helping their mothers earn a living.

The venture, which has already drawn queries from throughout the U.S., is banking on interest in modest clothes, curiosity and charity to be a success.

“We don’t know what to expect on demand but we have had a flood of interest,” said Maggie Jessop, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. “Our motive is not to flaunt ourselves or our religion before the world. We have to make a living the same as everyone does.”

The initial Web site featured only photographs of clothes because the children were still in state custody. Now those are being replaced with photographs of smiling, beatific FLDS children modeling the fashions.

The sect is offering dresses, overalls, shirts, pants, nightgowns, sleepers, onesies for babies and, yes, ankle-to-wrist underwear. There are denim jeans for boys and “teen princess” dresses in plain, jacket and vest styles in pastel shades of pink, peach, yellow, green, aqua, blue, lavender and lilac. The dresses sell for $35.65. Women’s apparel could be added if demand arises.

Cynthia Martinez, a spokeswoman for Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, said that many of the 48 mothers her firm represents face financial challenges that didn’t exist when they lived at the ranch in a communal lifestyle.

“Now they are renting homes and apartments and have to figure out how to pay for that,” she said.

Although the children are back with their parents, legal counsel advised many FLDS mothers to stay away from the ranch until the CPS investigation and action is over. The sewing enterprise allows the mothers to care for their children and support themselves.

Sewing expertise is widespread in the community. The women have long made the community’s clothes. And for many years, the FLDS operated a contract sewing business in the adjoining towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Called Barco, it made such things as uniforms.

Other contract sewing operations flourished, too, said Jessop, who for 20 years ran her own sewing business in Sandy and, later, in Hildale.

The Web site, sprinkled with scriptural sayings, describes the clothes as meeting FLDS standards for “modesty and neatness” and as being made with “joy and care.”

“This is not about Wal-Mart quality,” Jessop said. “The clothes are washable, durable and children proof.”

Often described as a “prairie-style” way of dressing in the media, the uniform FLDS fashion has been targeted by critics and cult experts who considered it an example of brainwashing within the sect.

The style became widely followed under current prophet Warren S. Jeffs. But sect members defend it as an outward reflection of their values that actually began roughly a decade ago.

The transition was gradual, Jessop said.

Women wore out dresses that featured floral and gingham prints, flounces and frills, and replaced them with the plain, simple styles seen today.

Jessop said the clothing preference is based on Biblical and Mormon scriptural references and a desire to apply those dictates more deeply to their lives.

“I really like wearing plain clothes,” she said, because it is part of being able to “focus on doing things for others rather than on seeing how darling I can look.”

– Source: Brooke Adams, FLDS fashions for kids sold on enterprising Web site, The Salt Lake Tribune, USA, June 30, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog

As mentioned, cult experts and other critics, including ex-FLDS members, do not take a benign view of the sect’s fashion:

Like many other religious groups, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a dress code, which in its case can be traced back to the late 19th century, a time when polygamy was still common in mainstream Mormonism. But those familiar with the cult say the women’s attire is not just a matter of tradition or preference. Rather, they say, fashions are dictated by very strict rules imposed and revised by sect elders to promote modesty and enforce religious devotion.

Controlling dress is a way of controlling behavior, experts say, and isolation from the outside world is precisely the point.

“They see the world as filled with the presence of Satan,” Stephen Kent, a professor of sociology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, who has studied polygamy, told ABC News. “The conservative dress of the women sets them apart from the outside world. It fosters among them the attitude that the outside world is sensual and bad.”

Kent added that women in the polygamist sect are often proud of their appearance, seeing their attire as a reflection of their piety and proximity to God.

“These groups believe that they are the path to heaven,” Kent said. “And so they value their public statements about their elite exclusivity.”

Carolyn Jessop, a former member of the sect who was married to a 50-year-old man when she was 18 but later left the group, agreed. She told ABC News the distinctive style of dress was meant to make women feel not only separate from the outside world, but also more dependent on each other.

“It was just a way to control individuality,” Jessop said. “Everybody starts looking like everybody else. And then you control it to the point where people can’t be an individual.”

The FLDS reportedly is planning additional commercial offerings, including a website offering CDs of songs for children, children’s books, and cookie recipe books — all written, produced and/or performed by members of the sect.

It all sounds innocent enough, but another FLDS-related story in the news brings home — again — the destructive nature of the cult:

Ex-polygamist Dan Fischer is a thorn in the side of FLDS

SANDY, UTAH — The polygamist sect preached that Dan Fischer was a heretic who had turned his back on God’s chosen children.

But for Enos Deloy Steed, who was banished at age 17 for kissing a girl, Fischer was like a guardian angel, the kindest man he had ever met.

Steed’s father disowned him and left him wandering southern Utah in search of menial work. Fischer gave him a place to live — and volunteered to put him through college.

It can take a long time to unlearn the tenets of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which forbids the color red, claims man never landed on the moon, and has allegedly forced pubescent girls to marry old men. (The FLDS split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints long ago after the Mormon Church disavowed polygamy.)

Former FLDS members can count on loving support from Fischer, a onetime polygamist who invented a popular tooth-whitening formula in his barn and uses his resulting fortune to fight the sect and help fellow outcasts.

Fischer, 59, secretly practiced polygamy for years in the Salt Lake City suburbs, maintaining three wives and fathering 16 children. But he chafed under a church leadership that he considered increasingly authoritarian and “goofy,” and he broke free in 1995 with his second wife, Leenie, the one he truly adored.

Well-off thanks to his dental company, Ultradent Products Inc., Fischer could have distanced himself from his polygamist past. Yet he felt that someone had to stand up to Warren Jeffs, whom the church considered prophet — and after the church disgraced Fischer’s father, he said, he realized it had to be him.

Fischer learned in 1999 that his 72-year-old father had been stripped of his three wives by sect leaders for supposed disloyalty. FLDS foes estimate that 250 plural families have been similarly torn apart, with wives redistributed like heads of cattle and children told to call a stranger Father.

“In the annihilation of my family, Warren Jeffs called the shots,” Fischer said, his voice trembling with evident rage.

Like many who leave the FLDS, Fischer is shunned as a traitor. Even his mother refuses to talk to him. But like a long-lost uncle who offers a hand in times of need, other outcasts have discovered they can always call “Dr. Dan.”

Through his charity, the Diversity Foundation, Fischer has provided shelter and counseling to hundreds of so-called lost boys, teens like Steed who are expelled from polygamist enclaves for alleged moral violations. Critics say the real reason for their expulsion is polygamy’s brutal math: For a few men to have many wives, the rest have to be removed from competition.

“He’s a remarkable man,” Utah Atty. Gen. Mark Shurtleff said of Fischer. “He has done more for the lost boys than everyone else combined. I know he doesn’t like to brag about it, but he has spent millions.”

Fischer has also aided women who left the FLDS with their children — most notably Carolyn Jessop, whose 2007 memoir, “Escape,” became a bestseller.

“Without him, I would not have survived,” Jessop said, recalling that Fischer harbored her and her eight children after she fled in 2003, even as she was hunted by the FLDS elder she had been forced to marry when she was 18 and he was 50.

But it is by paying private investigators and attorneys to expose his former religion’s seamier side that Fischer has had the biggest effect.

After testimony from a child bride whom a Fischer sleuth tracked down and persuaded to go public, Jeffs was convicted in Utah last year of being an accomplice to rape for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old to her 19-year-old cousin. He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life in prison.

Spurred by a lawsuit that Fischer funded, Utah persuaded a court in 2005 to take over an FLDS trust that owned nearly all the land on which sect members built houses along the Utah-Arizona border.

– Source: Miguel Bustillo, Ex-polygamist Dan Fischer is a thorn in the side of FLDS, Los Angeles Times, USA, June 30, 2008 — Summarized by Religion News Blog
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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday July 1, 2008.
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