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Report: Polygamous town on Arizona border has genetic problem

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PHOENIX — The practice of having multiple spouses, in particular wives when the practice was popular, was outlawed almost a century ago.

However, a town on the Arizona-Utah border, Short Creek, holds citizens who still live polygamous lives.

According to a report by BBC, that town has a genetic problem.

Some children are born with drastic physical and mental disorders, with many not being able to walk for as long as they live.

In every case, the child had the same distinctive facial features, the same delayed development – most couldn’t sit up, let alone walk – and, crucially, they were from the same region on the Arizona-Utah border, known as Short Creek.

Even more intriguingly, this region is polygynous. In this small, isolated community of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the likelihood of being born with fumarase deficiency is over a million times above the global average.

In this polygamous town, children are a million times more likely to be born with fumarase deficiency.

BBC reports that, “fumarase deficiency is rare because it’s recessive – it only develops if a person inherits two faulty copies of the gene, one from each parent.”

The Short Creek area holds about 7,700 people, with most men holding three wives.

The theory BBC reports on for why this genetic crisis is happening in the polygamous town is because of the decrease in genetic diversity.

The fumarase deficiency gene has been traced to Joseph Jessop and his first wife, Martha Yeates (14 children). One of their daughters went on to marry co-founder John Barlow – and the rest is history. Today the number of people carrying the fumarase gene in Short Creek is thought to be in the thousands.

Few men spread their genes over and over, making it hard for the fumarase deficiency to completely leave the community.

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