Mormon (multiple wives) based question

I saw another documentary on the Mormon church, one of its “prophets”, his 25 plus or minus wives, and his 100+ children.

One thing struck me as I watched this program, so I decided to ask the question.

Why is it that one never sees a down’s syndrome child with these massive group families? (I guess a similar question could be asked about the Amish, but I haven’t seen any documentaries on them in a while.)

Do the Mormons ship any child born with disabilities away? Or do they not have any children with disabilities?

If most Mormon children are born at home, with the assistance of a mid-wife (more than likely a sister-wife), how is the birth and health of the child monitored? Or do the Mormons have their children delivered in hospitals?

Again, a similar question could be asked of the Amish.

And in these groups, where they are separated from society, how does the state monitor the birth and possible death of a child that has serious birth defects? If the state depends on self-reporting, isn’t there the real possibility that any children that aren’t perfect are “sent away”?

Well, the chances of a baby having Down’s are way less than 1 in a 100, so just because you don’t see one among his 100 children doesn’t mean the genetic possibility doesn’t exist. Besides, it’s entirely within the realm of possiblity that they simply kept anything “undesirable” away from the cameras.

Are you implying that they just, what… *prayed *away genetic anomalies? :confused: If so, modern science needs to have a brief word with the Mormon community. I’m sure parents everywhere will be relieved to learn that you can just wish away Down’s syndrome.

First, you do realize that the polygamous groups are splintered off from the mainstream LDS “Mormon” Church, and ordinary Mormons aren’t polygamists at all, right?

I wouldn’t know anything about polygamists, but regular ol’ everyday Mormons have children with Downs at the usual rate. I expect polygamists do too.

IANA Mormon, but I know that the vast majority of Mormons (1) don’t practice polygamy, (2) aren’t isolated from society, and (3) have no religious aversion to delivering their children in hospitals.

Also, as another poster mentioned, Down syndrome affects about 1 per 1,000 live births, so, statistically speaking, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to see a Down syndrome child in a sample of 100 children.

And, yes, Mormons can, and sometimes do, have children with disabilities. One would think that if Mormonism turned you into a genetically-perfect Übermensch, a lot more people would convert to Mormonism.

As to your question about the Amish, because of many generations of genetic isolation, some Amish communities have much higher rates of certain genetic diseases than the general population. And, as far as I know, the Amish don’t practice polygamy at all.

As per the linked article, genetic disorders do affect the Amish community (some of them at least).

I would expect these Fundamormons to have *slightly *lower rates of Downs, simply because they start breeding their girls so young. The risk of Down’s Syndrome goes up with maternal age.

There’s a whole lot of misinformation in that OP, not the least of which is that the condition is called Down syndrome (not Down’s), at least in North America. Dr. Down discovered the disease; he did not have it.

Secondly, Down syndrome is not an inherited genetic defect… in other words, parents aren’t “carriers” in the sense that it is inherited from the parents. The defect occurs during the development of the sperm or the egg. The risk of this occurring is not increased by “inbreeding.”

Those types of closed cultures are more susceptible to autosomal recessive disorders like albinism or cystic-fybrosis, because it’s more likely that two parents would carry the same recessive gene.

The vast majority of Mormon babies are born in hospitals. And the vast majority of Mormon’s condemn the crazy polygamous sects you described.

yes, I realize that. I didn’t figure I needed to go into all of those details about mainstream Mormon religion and splinter groups. I thought that was fairly well known, but my apologies for the omission if it isn’t.

Sorry, my bad attempt at humor, never a good thing in GQ.

Odesio, thanks for the link. In the Amish community, I would expect things to be a bit above average only because it is such a closed community, I would guess that genes are being recycled in the communal gene pool instead of having new genes injected into the gene pool from an outsider who wasn’t raised in the Amish community. Perhaps the Amish arrange marriages outside of the local circles to account for this.

As for the polygamists, you may be right WhyNot. Women are usually having children before they turn 20, and the instance of birth defects do statistically go up the older the woman gets.
About my other question then. The polygamist family I saw on the documentary… they seemed to give birth on their own land, outside of government circles. A normal hospital would record the birth and start things rolling like a birth cert. and even a SS card and number. So, for groups like this and perhaps the Amish, how does the state find out if a child has been born or not?

Whoever attends the birth (midwife or doctor), or the parents if the birth is done unattended, is supposed to register the birthwithin a certain period of time, which varies by state.It can cause issues if this isn’t done…

I think the underlying question is, can a obiously defective child born to a highly secretive group simply…disappear without any governmental recognition of its existence. Not to mince words, could a defective child be quietly killed?

Apologies if I’ve read more into it than others meant.

The Amish certainly do have disabled children. I’d also like to point out that the Amish have no issues with modern medicine and will go to the hospital if that’s necessary. Certainly, there is no prohibition on Amish women giving birth in hospitals. A lot of the communities will make an exception to the “no electricity” rule for life-saving medical equipment and powered wheelchairs for those who need them (each community makes its own rules, so there is some variation between Amish groups).

As noted, the Amish have a limited gene pool and thus sometimes have children with some very rare diseases. The Amish don’t practice arranged marriage, though, with the awareness that marrying close relations is not a good thing, there is some effort made to meet people from other Amish communities. They are allowed to use trains and buses to do this, so they aren’t restricted just to how far you can go in a horse or buggy.

Outsiders have, at times, converted to being Amish but it’s rare.

Whether or not the Amish will in the future make more use of genealogy and genetic knowledge remains to be seen. Since it’s a matter of health (and sometimes life or death) they might decide to adopt more testing technology.

The Amish do keep to themselves, but they aren’t nearly as isolated as people sometimes think. The Amish just to the east of where I live do interact with the rest of the world, just in a manner they control. Back when I worked in the Chicago Loop there was a group of Indiana Amish that would come into Chicago for farmer’s markets and to sell their farm products to the workers downtown. As I, too, live in Indiana I sometimes found myself on the same train they were riding. They can be quite charming and personable, and are aware of things like major current events (they do, after all, read newspapers). There’s no prohibition on them talking to “English” (that is, the non-Amish), doing business with outsiders, working for outsiders, or hiring outsiders (the Amish going into Chicago hired someone with a van to drive their goods into the city for them). It’s just at the end of the work day in the outside world they go back into their communities. You can also bump into them shopping at Wal-Mart or Home Depot… while their dress, hairstyles, and customs may be different than what the rest of us do in my interactions with them they come off as pretty normal people and don’t seem to have anything to hide. (Of course, some of them do - they have people struggling with drug addiction, mental illness, and so forth just like everybody else)

I don’t know how that compares with the FLDS crowd, I have never met one so far as I know.

OH! :smack: I completely missed that little current in the stream.

Well, I guess it depends on just how isolated they are keeping their breeding women. If they don’t get prenatal care; if they’re not in high schools with outside people to notice they’re pregnant and then no baby, if they’re not delivering at a hospital…well, sadly, why not?

Please, please, realize I’m not making any accusations here! I’m not a member, never so far as I know even met a member, of any Fundamentalist Mormon splinter group. I’m purely speculating based on media representation and popular culture notions of what the behavior of these groups is: young girls kept isolated from people outside the cult, who are secretly married to older men with dozens of other wives, and encouraged to bear children to him as a sign of his manly worth or something…

In such a secretive, controlling environment, I can’t see why they couldn’t, y’know?

I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens to plenty of people, actually.

As far as FLDS in particular, I wouldn’t know at all, but I would think not. Regular Mormons would be horrified and appalled by such an idea–the termination of unborn children with Downs or other handicaps gets the same response–and though the FLDS are in fact very different from ordinary Mormons, they tend to fall more into the quiverfull-type philosophy, not less. I won’t say it’s impossible, and I don’t know much about FLDS, but I think it’s probably less likely.

Carolyn Jessop, who’s written a memoir about growing up within the FLDS and her time as one of the five or six wives of Merrill Jessop, has a very handicapped child. IIRC (it’s been a while since I read about it), she says that she was somewhat ostracized for having such a child, as it was apparently considered a mark of imperfect faith, but I don’t think she ever mentions that church members wanted to be rid of him per se.

Among the various groups of people practicing so-called polygamy, they do have children with Down syndrome. However, they generally don’t have them photographed with the rest of the children in an attempt to portray a healthy image to the public.

However, in addition to a normal incidence of Down syndrome, the FLDS group experiences a significant percentage of a debilitating birth defect known as Fumarase Deficiency–due to intermarriage within a closed community.

You won’t see pictures of these children either even though there are more in the FLDS community than in the rest of the world’s population.

Prescriptivist nonsense. Both forms are well attested in North America. If having the disease is your criterion for whether to use the genitive, then how do you explain such well-established forms as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Crohn’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, Hansen’s disease, Klinefelter’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Raynaud’s disease, Reye’s syndrome, Broca’s aphasia, Wernicke’s aphasia, and hundreds of other less common ones?

Indeed. It would be surprising if such a small, reproductively isolated community such as the FLDS did not exhibit a higher incidence of certain genetic maladies.

As was pointed out, Down Syndrome seems to be more correlated with age of the birth mother rather than inherited through the generations. But the “founder effect” is going to play a role in these small communities and it will manifest itself more over time. The OP should keep in mind that these communities aren’t that many generations old (yet).

If I recall, the extreme isolation of the FLDS has only been in effect since the 1930’s, and even then, at the start, it wasn’t nearly as insular as it is now. They really aren’t more than a few generations into inbreeding. From here on out, though, it only gets worse.

Actually, you nailed it exactly. I was trying to get to this but didn’t want to offend anyone in GQ, and I didn’t want to come off as cold and callous. Especially in GQ, where an answer to this is probably going to be speculation unless someone knows for sure what the answer is, based on living in that kind of community.

It was not meant as a slam to the mainstream mormon or LDS church member.

anson2995 - thank you for pointing out that it is called Down syndrome and not Down’s syndrome. I meant no disrespect to Dr. Down, nor did I intend to imply he had Down’s syndrome (probably obvious since he was a doctor, but just to be clear.)


Thank you