Three women kicked out of the Fundamentalist LDS Church returned to Hildale Tuesday to demand their kids after being separated about three years ago.
Sarah Draper was one of the mothers.
When leaders kicked Draper out with just the clothes on her back, they kept her five minor kids. At the time their ages were 2 through 12. Leaders exiled the kids’ father three years earlier, claiming ownership over the children.
“It took us about three years for us to be able to be to the standing that we are — to have the courage and find it within ourselves to know, we were living a lie,” Draper said.
With the help of an attorney and organizations aimed at helping former FLDS members, the mothers went to get their kids back. They dressed as their former selves to face the family and friends who still live there.
“They’re my brothers and sisters, sons and daughters,” said May Keate, another exiled mother. “I know my adult children are going to be devastated, because they still believe with all their might.”
But Draper and Keate said the FLDS Church has undergone drastic changes since their departure. Through contact with current members, they said leaders have done away with the institution of marriage.
“The things that they are taught are contrary to what we believe as good wholesome, foundation upbringing for children,” Draper said.
Lawyers put notices on the doors of the compounds. The court documents demanded the leaders return the children to their mothers, or face kidnapping charges.
“I think that’s where we’re at, I think it’s the truth,” said Great Commission Utah employee Mike Menning. “When the moms want their underage children back, and church authorities take them, they have no right.”
Supporters waived signs, and FLDS members drove by as an intimidation tactic. After confronting her adult son, Draper got her five juvenile children.
Another mother got her four and Keate got her seven. However, it’s a difficult transition for the kids, many don’t want to go out of fear. Keate had to take hers kicking and screaming.
“The children were told at our departure that it would seal their damnation if we were contacted,” Draper said. “And it would seal our damnation.”
But Draper said there are thousands of parentless children in the FLDS Church, all told their mothers don’t love them. She said their main message is to those kids, that they are still loved. The second message is to other mothers, that there’s hope of seeing their kids again.