Former FLDS Member Remembers Abuse
Dorothy Barlow

FLDS member Dorothy Barlow.
Laura Chapman

Laura Chapman
Laura Chapman

Laura Chapman

WESTCLIFFE, Colo. (CBS4) -- The polygamist group the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, has acquired at least eight properties in four Colorado counties.

CBS 4 reporter Rick Sallinger became the first TV reporter allowed inside one of their of their compounds and he spoke with the women living there.

They say they are yearning for heaven and outside Westcliffe, they perhaps feel they have found Heaven on Earth.

"I love it. Very invigorating and the atmosphere is just lovely," one member of the FLDS church told CBS4.

Those in the compound consist primarily of widows who have spent their lives in polygamy, like Dorothy Barlow.

"When we were children they would call us "plyg" ... polygamist, and that was just something we got used to, but it wasn't fun; it was something we got used to," Barlow said.

They were in what they call plural marriages. Some of the women were married to now deceased FLDS Bishop Fred Jessop.

Sallinger asked Barlow, "What is it like having all these wives and one husband?"

"It's really quite exciting if you want to bless him and want him to have the best; want him to be cared for, then how can you feel bad," she responded.

Wearing their prairie dresses with their hair in a French braid, they live in a communal setting. When CBS4 visited, they were passing the time canning fruits. Their daily needs are met by an FLDS caretaker and his family. They rarely venture out.

Rose Jessop says she was never mistreated while in a polygamous marriage.

"I had a happy childhood. I never knew anything but sweet love in the home. I saw beauty, heavenly beauty around," she said.

That is not what Laura Chapman saw. Her memories include abuse against women and children.

"I had four mothers and one father and 31 siblings; and I was number 25 of 31," Chapman said.

Chapman fled the FLDS in 1991.

Earlier, at age 18, she was almost being forced into a marriage to a man she had never seen before.

"My dad took me by the hand said this is my daughter Laura, she's ready to get married," Chapman said. "I didn't even know he was going to do that and suddenly I am handed over like merchandise to the prophet to decide my fate who will be my husband."

Chapman ended up marrying another man and left with their five children. She now provides training for officials who want to learn about the FLDS.

FLDS member Debbie Steed calls the talk of forced marriages "misconceptions."

"Our religion is to be good and do right and if there were evils and force and dreadful things we are accused of, why would any of us stay a part?" she said.

A religion challenged and tested through the generations.
Originally broadcast November 12, 2008