At 88, Joe Jessop is an elder of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the controversial sect that split from the Mormon Church after it banned plural marriage. In Hildale, Utah, he has tried to fulfill his duty to build up his "celestial family"—5 wives, 46 children, and 239 grandchildren. "I've had a blessed life," he says. "I wouldn't trade places with anyone."
At 88, Joe Jessop is an elder of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the controversial sect that split from the Mormon Church after it banned plural marriage. In Hildale, Utah, he has tried to fulfill his duty to build up his "celestial family"—5 wives, 46 children, and 239 grandchildren. "I've had a blessed life," he says. "I wouldn't trade places with anyone."

The Polygamists

A sect that split from the Mormons allows multiple wives, expels "lost boys," and heeds a jailed prophet.

The first church members arrive at the Leroy S. Johnson Meeting House in Colorado City, Arizona, at about 6 p.m. Within a half hour the line extends out the front doors, down the side of the building, and out into the parking lot. By seven, it stretches hundreds of yards and has grown to several thousand people—the men and boys dressed in suits, the women and girls in Easter egg–hued prairie dresses.

The mourners have come for a viewing of 68-year-old Fo­neta Jessop, who died of a heart attack a few days ago. In the cavernous hall Fo­neta's sons form a receiving line at the foot of her open casket, while her husband, Merril, stands directly alongside. To the other side stand Merril's numerous other wives, all wearing matching white dresses.

Foneta was the first wife.

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