“Escaping Polygamy” tackled a tough case during the season 3 premiere. This was the first time that Jessica and Andrea were being asked to advise and help a member outside The Order, the cult/religion they escaped from.
Jesse of the Apostolic United Brethren presented a strange situation for the women who have dedicated their lives to assisting and counseling members of forced-polygamous sects. Not only is it unusual for a man to reach out, but as mentioned, the women had never dealt with a member of the AUB .
Jesse filled them in on the teachings of the AUB in the early portion of the season premiere of “Escaping Polygamy”. The women were told that the sect requires a man to have three wives if he hopes to enter the “Celestial Kingdom”, the highest level of heaven, where it is believed God and his son reside.
Jesse has two wives and eight children. His wives are blood sisters and have a close relationship with their mother. Over time, he has come to see the hurt and damage inflicted by a polygamous life, mostly on the wives of men in the religion. Already 30 years-old, Jesse has resisted another marriage, because he’s observed the unhappiness and pain it causes his two wives.
Unfortunately, he feared his wives would resist leaving their mother and other family members, and he wasn’t inclined to abandon his families. Jessica mused about it being odd for her and Andrea to consider springing someone from a polygamous sect, only to have him continue living in a life of plural marriage. She grew concerned about whether or not it was in contravention of her own values.
Andrea concluded that Jesse was a genuinely good man and feared that his daughters would continue to live a life that he felt endangered them both physically and emotionally. “We’re helping the kids to get out too,” she said. The next step was to see if wives Amber and Shelby would meet with them to discuss an exit plan.
Amber, 29 is Jesse’s first wife, and Shelby, her sister is 24. The second marriage took place when Shelby was 18 years-old. When the question was posed to the wives if they were ready to escape, they had yet to decide. They were taught to let their husband go, but to remain in the AUB even if he chose to live a different life.
Jessica and Andrea tried to determine if the wives were being pressured to go or if they were fully on board. Both struggled to give up all communication with their parents and siblings. Their mom is the second of three wives and they have 19 other siblings. They love Jesse and wanted to stay married, even in a plural marriage if they left the AUB, To them it was about keeping their own family unit intact.
Once the wives agreed, Jesse realized that their resolve might fade unless the escape came quickly. Matt and Brian scoped out the AUB property and a potential way to get in, and get out safely. It turns out that the 1,000 acre parcel of land is built just like any other Utah one-family community. There are tract houses on large lots. Jesse and his family live in one home, but his in-laws live next door with a full view of Jesse’s property.
“There’s no way to do this without being seen,” Andrea concluded. Even at night it wouldn’t be without risks. Brian and Matt followed the women in their vehicle, with a moving truck directly behind, which complicated things as you would expect.
Whether or not it was a good idea to begin packing boxes and containers as someone at the home next door began to observe things wasn’t up for discussion. It’s how they chose to leave. When Matt and Brian saw a laser, one that looked like it could be attached to a gun, they said it was time to get the heck out of there.
When Jesse told them that he was part of an AUB security force/militia, he realized that this could be dangerous. They had to move immediately, but schlepping all the kids and wives, plus what they packed took longer than anyone felt comfortable with. As their small caravan of vehicles left the community, they had to pass an SUV, which stayed put, luckily.
24 hours later, Jesse, Amber, Shelby and their children were safe in a new home at an undisclosed location. Andrea and Jessica got on a video chat with Jesse to scold him a a bit about not disclosing the fact that a militia was on the property and he was aware of it.
Lives were put at risk including the production company’s camera operators. He apologized and said it never occurred to him to consider that fact. In truth, he believed there was less of a physical threat than an emotional one. When the producers asked the AUB for a comment about the “secret militia”, its existence was denied. Amber and Shelby’s mom filed a missing persons report that saw authorities visit the women and Jesse. They left, convinced that Jesse had not taken them against their will.
What did you think of the season 3 premiere of “Escaping Polygamy’?
“Escaping Polygamy” airs Mondays on A&E, beginning at 10 p.m. ET/PT Image credit: RIVR Media, used with permission