Zach Bowers is a “plig.” No, I’m not being insulting, nor was that a “pig” typo. “Plig” is short for polygamist child, and Zach and his brother grew up in a Utah polygamist compound. His dad married two sisters and raised 32 children.
About four years ago he had an argument with Polygamist Dad, left home, and joined an ongoing exodus– read: escape– from the sect. Of course, not all Mormons practice polygamy. The main Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disavowed that a century ago, but per a report in the Los Angeles Times, Zach defected from “the secretive Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a breakaway sect of the Mormon Church that practices polygamy, dictates almost all aspects of people’s lives and casts women into subservience.”
He’s 18 now, and he, his older brother, and his younger half-brother live northeast of Las Vegas with a caring married couple, along with their two kids, in a six-bedroom house.
They’re adjusting well, but learning about “the intimacy of a nuclear family” with “parental figures” and living a more mainstream life has been challenging:
On his first ocean swim, Zach gulped water and nearly vomited: He’d never heard of saltwater. They’ve learned how to talk to girls, whom church elders warned “to avoid like poisonous snakes.” [...]
Sect members who escape their compound are largely invisible to society, and are often without birth certificates or Social Security numbers. [...]
Zach was home-schooled — lessons involved reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon exclusively — and he was forbidden from watching TV or reading newspapers. He left the sect with little grasp of math, science or history. Multiplication tables baffled him and his reading skills were below normal. Zach admits he didn’t know who Osama bin Laden was until the terrorist leader was killed in 2011.
“I didn’t even know what the president was,” he said. “I knew there was somebody over the United States, but I didn’t know they called it the president.”
Both Zach and Isaiah were once told how to wear their hair, what type of shoes to wear. They could never take off their long-sleeved shirts in public and had to wear long underwear year-round.
No birth certificates or Social Security numbers would make it impossible to vote for a president they never knew existed, as well as any other candidate or issue.
It took a few months for Zach to realize girls weren’t poisonous snakes and to realize what “Star Wars” movies were. And understandably, the brothers now distrust organized religion.
But because of the couple that took them in, they are learning what a loving family really is.