The summer before 5th grade my family moved from Mammoth Cave National Park to Zion National Park. For a family of native Kentuckians, Utah was not only a change of scenery, it was also a culture shock.
Zion in an isolated area. In 1976 Southern Utah that was practically all Mormon. This was particularly apparent at two-room elementary school in Springdale that my sister and I attended. Besides the two of us they where only four other non-Mormon kids. I’m sure my face showed utter confusion the first time I was called a gentile, a term the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) kids used for non-Mormons.
One or two Saturdays a month we would go to St. George or Cedar City for groceries and to enjoy being in town. I can still remember seeing some distinctive families also shopping and having a day in town. The girls wore long dresses like what Laura Ingalls wore on the TV show “Little House on the Prairie.” The men all seemed to have beards and the women also wore long dresses and had BIG hair buns. I stared at them. I’m sure I stared even more when I learned they were polygamists, a concept that mystified me. These people were members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS). They lived in a community divided only by state lines and united by the guidance of their profit. Short Creek, Arizona and Hilldale/Colorado City, Utah are only 45 minutes away from St. George, but were a world away from my mid 1970’s modern life.
“Unfinished: Short Creek” is a fascinating 10 episode podcast about the FLDS. Reporters Ash Sanders and Sarah Ventre do an outstanding job of guiding listeners through the history of the church, profit Rulon Jeff’s, his son Warren Jeffs and the community’s struggles and evolution since the imprisonment of Warren. Ash and Sarah took their time to getting to know the people of the town. The voices of the community really give a panoramic understanding of history and change. The reporters cared about the people and that is reflected in the professionalism and care taken in telling this story.
This is a story of faith, power, abuse, fear, love, joy and pain. This is a human story. The humanness of this community and the people who have and still call it home is something listeners can identify with regardless of experiences.