RALLY ROUND THE FAMILY
WITH A POCKET FULL OF SHELLS
MONOLOGUE WRITTEN BY CLYDE LEWIS
I have found that after a major tragedy that the media exploits, I believe it is best that I chime in with what can be called the second wave of reporting as the mainstream shapes a story and as usually decides to put an agenda behind everything.
I know that while I have been pigeonholed as a conspiracy theorist – much of what I report is not a conspiracy theory as it is reporting information that is neglected by the mainstream.
Now, this does not mean that I do not entertain a conspiracy theory now and again but rest assured I do so only to analyze why the theories are made in the first place.
I ask myself what would be the motive or what is the reason for grasping at specious information? There is so much to consider and since I have been doing this for 25 years I believe I should not have to defend my skills as a reporter or messenger.
However, with social media in the way, there is always someone that believes that if you are questioning the mainstream media during a tragedy you most certainly are a heartless and hateful individual.
The sad thing is that conspiracy theory anymore is what the media wishes to label a story that they feel does not match their framed narrative. So they use their power to malign people that question their motives – the war for information is real and when you are dealing with the crowd that wishes to be consoled rather than to be informed the process is thankless and exhausting.
In the wake of the horrific attack on the fundamentalist Mormon families in Mexico, I felt that it was important to underline the fact that as the media was lazy in calling these families “Mormon” I felt it was important to indicate that the media got it wrong again as these families are not traditional members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but members of a separatist cult whose families moved to Mexico in order to practice polygamy.
Stating this fact in social media was a volatile act as there were a number of people who thought that reporting this was akin to spitting on the corpses and memory of these families and somehow I was accused of siding with the drug cartel’s responsible for the ambush killing.
I also reported on social media that the family name, LeBaron, is associated with a sordid history. As a boy growing up in Utah, I was aware of the LeBaron and the Romney polygamist families as being violent as some members would practice what are called blood atonement rites which included murdering family members that did not wish to follow a self-proclaimed prophet in a splinter Mormon group called “The Church of the Firstborn.” They were also at odds with the drug cartels then and the cocaine trade.
After I was attacked in my forum for trying to report the history of this family, I had to ask myself, is it possible for traditional reporters to both do their job and be empathetic humans?
If you report some inconvenient facts during a tragedy does this make you a hateful individual?
Well, of course, I sincerely believe that as a human being I can have empathy for a tragedy of this magnitude but when you are a reporter or a messenger there is always the appearance that you are detached. When you are fact-finding or even reporting facts and history, of course, you become somewhat detached but it does not lessen the blow when you hear a man giving the narrative about how his family and grandchildren were shot and incinerated in their vehicles.
Again I cannot stress enough about how horrific this is and how it certainly shows the inhumanity that can be levied against innocent people who are attacked by those who represent the cartels.
However, there are so many questions that are going unanswered about why this family may have been targeted and how the family, in general, have been caught up or connected to some criminal element and those who try to break away always wind up as victims whose lives are ruthlessly snuffed out.
The LeBaron family, whose relatives were victims in the ambush in Mexico on Monday, have a history in the country that dates back generations and includes various encounters with drug cartels. The family is part of a group of fundamentalist Mormons who migrated to northern Mexico after polygamy was outlawed in the United States in the 1800s.
Contemporarily Mormonism eschews polygamy, while various offshoots and small cult groups practice fundamentalist Mormonism which includes polygamy and other fundamentalist views first proposed by Joseph Smith.
Many of the family members are dual citizens and speak both English and Spanish.
Even as the practice of polygamy faded, the family continued to call Mexico home, despite threats of violence.
A 2012 documentary by Vice Media, “The Mexican Mormon War,” focused on the violent history of the Mexican drug cartels toward the LeBarons over the family’s apparent wealth and resources.
Those run-ins date back to at least 2009, when 16-year-old Eric LeBaron was kidnapped and held by a Mexican cartel on a $1 million ransom. The family says they refused to pay it, and he was eventually released.
But the violence didn’t end, and a few months later an angry drug lord allegedly ordered a hit on Benjamin LeBaron, an anti-crime activist in the family. He and his brother-in-law were killed.
The victims in Monday’s attack were part of the extended LeBaron family. They lived in La Mora, a small community with a population of less than 1,000 dual U.S.-Mexican citizens.
Their ranch is located in a desert valley in Sonora, Mexico, about 70 miles south of Douglas, Arizona.
The media called them a Mormon family; well, they are a fundamentalist off-shoot group.
The LeBarons are one of many small Mormon splinter groups that lived in Mexico to escape persecution for their religious beliefs.
In fact, Utah Senator Mitt Romney’s family helped form one of the Mormon fundamentalist colonies in the 1800’s. Romney still has relatives in Mexico.
Ten years ago, his cousin was kidnapped and held hostage for several days until a ransom was paid.
In a statement, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said that there are more than 1 million Mormons that live in Mexico – they also said that the LeBaron family and those killed in the tragedy are not part of that group.
Taking a look back at the history of this family we can’t help but realize that there are many layers that the media has suspiciously left out.
I can only assume that this story is about to be turned into yet another border issue where if expanded upon by the mainstream media will put us in a position to declare war on the border which most certainly would stoke the fires of Latino xenophobia.
The reason I see it this way is because of the fact that most American fundamentalist Christians know nothing about Mormonism and that most of them see it as a non-Christian cult.
I will admit that what I am feeling is cynicism about the LeBaron story because quite frankly there are many Americans out there who certainly do not sympathize with Mormons let alone fundamentalist polygamist Mormon families.
Warren Jeffs was the prophet and president of a polygamist Mormon sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until he was convicted and sentenced to life for child sexual assault. Jeffs had a border town compound where he chose to house his polygamist family and membership.
Jeff’s had 15,000 followers that were holed up in a compound located on the border between Utah and Arizona. He also had a compound in Texas.
Jeffs actually claimed to have 80 wives.
His compounds were raided where young children were separated from their mothers.
Evidence collected in the raids included audio tapes of Warren Jeffs having sex with several underage girls, and those tapes helped a San Angelo, Texas, jury sentenced Warren Jeffs to life in prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl that he claimed were his spiritual wives.
When this made national headlines there were many people who used this as fodder against Mormonism when again, Jeffs was part of a sect that is part of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints movement.
While Jeffs and the LeBarons are not connected in any way, the Warren Jeffs arrest was treated in a manner that made Mormonism in general look like the breeding ground for malicious cult activity.
What is also interesting is that the LeBaron family also has in its family history a moment where a similar polygamist mad man known as the Mormon Manson – Ervil LeBaron killed family members and others who did see him as a prophet in the group known as “The Church of the First Born.”
In 1974, Ervil LeBaron, was accused of ordering several murders, including that of his own brother, which were considered revenge-related. Ervil was extradited to a Utah prison for one of the murders, where he died in the 1980s.
Anna LeBaron, granddaughter of Alma Dayer LeBaron, said none of the LeBaron family’s dark past seems to be connected to Monday’s killings.
Mexican Security Secretary Alfonso Durazo has said it may have been a case of mistaken identity –– a drug cartel mistaking the convoy of large SUVs the family was traveling in for a rival gang.
The LeBaron family founded the Church of the Firstborn, which soon split off into factions that viciously fought with each other following the patriarch’s death. Ervil LeBaron broke away from the rest of the family to found his Church of the First Born Lamb of God –– a sect driven by warped doctrines including the central belief in blood.
The tenet of blood atonement states that some acts like murder are unforgivable –– and the only way to offer atonement is to spill the blood of the offender on the ground as a sacrifice. This is also why in Utah convicted killers with death sentences were offered a choice between lethal injection or firing squad.
Ervil LeBaron used this doctrine as his motive for ordering the murder of his own brother Joel LeBaron in Mexico. Ervil was convicted for the crime in 1974, but his conviction was later overturned on a technicality, and amid allegations of bribery. Ervil LeBaron’s movement went on to kill at least 25 people throughout the southwestern United States during the 1970s.
Ervil had 13 wives and more than 50 children.
After Ervil’s death, the cult began to break apart but violence continued well into the 1990s. The violence was abetted by Ervil’s disciples drawing on a hit list of 50 people he regarded as traitors, hidden in a final theological tract known as “The Book of the New Covenants.”
Several members of Ervil’s group were arrested in the 1980s and 1990s, including his sons Haber LeBaron Douglas Barlow, and Aaron LeBaron. Aaron LeBaron was sentenced to 45 years in prison for orchestrating a series of four killings in Texas in 1988, now known as the “4 O’Clock Murders.
For the record – the Le Barons now have largely worked to shed its dark past. Most members of the extended family no longer practice polygamy and the family today includes Catholics and people who are not religious.
The extended LeBaron family has spoken out for years against drug cartel violence in Mexico and in support of looser gun laws, saying the family members need to protect themselves. The region where the attack took place Monday is disputed by two criminal groups, the Sinaloa cartel and a group linked to the Juarez cartel.
Mexican authorities have arrested a suspect they believe is connected to the brutal massacre. The unidentified suspect was allegedly found heavily armed and holding two hostages who were bound and gagged in a vehicle.
Meanwhile, the New York Post reported that some of the LeBaron clan may have had ties to the sex Nxivm and their sexual predatory leader, Keith Alan Raniere.
Raniere was actively seeking a virgin to anoint as his future “successor” and assigned several of his slaves to seek them, DOS First Line Slave Master Rosa Laura Junco invited 11 girls from Chihuahua to come to Albany to take part in a special Pilot Project for teen girls that had created by Raniere.
At least four of the girls’ last names were LeBaron and it is believed all of them came from the LeBaron clan.
Reportedly, the LeBaron clan had been persuaded to send the girls to Clifton Park NY, because Nxivm offered them a special Pilot Project for free. The curriculum, in the form of special modules, was written especially for teen girls and would lead to female empowerment, they were told. While in New York, the girls were to be offered opportunities to do rewarding work to earn money.
If the Pilot Project worked out well, Raniere said he hoped to introduce it into high schools across America.
Raniere personally came from time to time to try to mentor the girls and apparently, one or more incidents occurred that was inappropriate and possibly sexual in nature.
It is known the girls fled back home to Chihuahua. According to one source, there may have been a threat of a police report and Raniere and others in Nxivm seemed to have been deeply worried for several days just prior to the girls’ sudden departure.
The LeBaron clan also figured in a movie that former Nxivm member, Mark Vicente directed for Nxivm. It was supposed to be about approaches to nonviolence in Mexico. Vicente later repudiated the film as Nxivm propaganda.
The film included an interview with Julian LeBaron, who is a cousin of one of the women killed Monday and a current leader of the LeBaron clan.
In an infamous 2009 video, Raniere said he had people killed for his beliefs.
While all of these layers of the story paint a complex picture of the tensions, not only within fundamentalist Mormon groups, it also demonstrates and shed a light on the lawlessness that plagues Mexico. It also is setting the stage for a possible border war between the United States and the drug cartels of Mexico.
The Pentagon believes Mexico is on the verge of becoming a failed state. The country’s President is cautioning against a strike on the cartel. It may lead to his ouster. He may not find a method for placating President Trump.
If Mexico is on the brink of collapse, then war may be coming to our border no matter the wishes of the pacifists — this is a war that I am sure most Americans would support.
Before World War II, Neville Chamberlain is said to have told Winston Churchill that Britain wasn’t ready for war with Germany. “War doesn’t wait until you are ready,” is an approximation of Churchill’s response.
Mexico isn’t the only teetering regime in the vast area known as Latin America. If nation’s start falling like dominoes, we’ll be looking at a refugee crisis like nothing ever seen before in North America.
This could be the crisis that could already foment the air of civil war in America – another piece to the puzzle of an already fragmented America.
Again, I approach this story not only with a sense of horror and sadness for the families of those killed but for what looks like an excuse for a war that will be right at our doorstep with nebulous borders that attract terrorists.
You can call this a conspiracy theory but it runs deeper than this – it is a conspiracy of exploitation where the media wants you to care about an American family killed by Mexican Nationals.
This could also be an opportunity for groups like ISIS to retaliate in the major cities in the United States while we are distracted by extended border war.
Mexico and the U.S. have long cooperated on security under the Merida Initiative, a multibillion-dollar partnership under which the U.S. has trained Mexican police and soldiers and pushed for other criminal justice reforms.
It is obvious that these policies are failing in light of the recent massacre.