Heaven’s in the bank

Profit and prophet go hand in hand according to the latest documentary to screen as part of the Movies that Matter series. Banking on Heaven tears the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints a new stigmata in this documentary expose of their practices along the border between Arizona and Utah.

The film examines the notorious FLDS church, which splintered from the Mormon Church in the early 1900s when the Mormons denounced the practice of polygamy. Since then, FLDS followers have grown to about 10,000 and show no signs of slowing their undoubtedly effective reproductive scheme.

Director Dot Reidelbach weaves the past, present, and future of the fundamentalist sect together with a dynamic soundtrack to create an informative and emotional experience. Banking on Heaven offers a glimpse into a secretive society where inbreeding is rampant, a man needs at least three wives to get to heaven, teenage girls are married off to older men and the “prophet” Warren Jeffs reigns as a god.

Yes, the man whose smirking face was recently smeared across televisions and newspapers everywhere as one of America’s 10 most wanted criminals is running a cult with over 10,000 followers. To anyone who watched the news while David Karesh was on a polygamist rampage, this should be a familiar image. Banking on Heaven delves into the deranged society in which Jeff’s every word is gospel in the most terrifying, literal sense.

The film features a wealth of interviews with escapees and ex-members of the FLDS Church from Colorado City and Hilldale, Utah, who tell haunting tales of indoctrination, incest and repression, including mental and sexual abuse. Anything but complete subservience means risking eternal damnation. The community expels many young boys and men for the slightest act of resistance against the “prophet” and his gospel, rewarding older followers with more child brides to populate their kingdom.

The title Banking on Heaven derives from the financial success of the FLDS community. The residents of Colorado City and Hilldale have drained an estimated $30 million of U.S. taxpayers’ money to support their polygamist lifestyle. The systematic process of draining the outside world of money is known as “bleeding the beast.” This, combined with tax evasion and affluent careers produces massive profit for the cult. The end result is a powerful financial and religious entity known as the FLDS.

Banking on Heaven is a must-see eye-opener on the abuses of religious institutions and the widespread subjugation of women. The film points out that North Americans are quick to turn a blind eye to the egregious human rights abuses occuring within our own culture, yet condemn similar behaviour by fundamentalists towards women in other countries.

The film draws many harrowing personal experiences together with analysis of the social stratification and the obstacles facing those who attempt to stop the vicious circle of abuse.

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