Today marks the thirty-first anniversary of my father's assassination by a rival polygamous leader and his followers. My father, Dr. Rulon Clark Allred, tended to forty patients in his office that day when two women in disguises walked in and emptied a handgun into his neck and chest. He fell and bled out on the floor, his hands—those hands that stitched up cuts and set broken bones and delivered babies--trembling as he gave up his spirit. What a loss to his patients, his followers, his family, the world of a good man, a healer.
How did this kind and generous-hearted man become associated with people who wanted to kills him? The details are in my books, but we can summarize the cause here: My father engaged in an outlawed religious practice, the Principle of Plural Marriage. Although he was a good citizen in every other way—paying his taxes, driving the speed limit, and absolutely refusing to allow any family member to go on welfare, the one law he broke threw him into the company of criminals, people who had become "a law unto themselves," who broke many laws without remorse. One of those criminals authored his murder. Two others carried it out.
This mix of otherwise good people with ruthless criminals can be found in the FLDS compound in Texas. For every thousand devotees practicing polygamy as an earnest religious commitment, there's at least one wolf in sheep's clothing pretending to be righteous while using the secrecy and seclusion to exploit, defraud, and manipulate people: women, children, and even powerful patriarchs like my father. Warren Jeffs stands a prime example of what happens when fundamentalists are forced underground. Allegedly, Merrill Jessop has carried out his imprisoned leader's dark purposes, insisting that adolescent girls marry and bear children, just as Ervil LeBaron's followers carried out my father's murder. Many polygamists live their faith earnestly, but we must shine light into those shadowy and isolated places where human tigers and snakes thrive.