Dateline   |  September 13, 2013

Unbreakable, Part 1

Rebecca Musser returns to her roots in Short Creek and remembers her past life growing up in a polygamous family in Utah.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> it's a long way home, back to that place tucked away beneath the towering red cliffs between utah and arizona. the place she lived in that other lifetime.

>> it's tough to be back. it brings up a lot of things that are still really raw.

>> then when she was known as sister becky and wore those colorful prairie dresses and piled up her long and braided hair and shared a husband with more than 60 other women. it was here in this place they call short creek, or just the creek, here where it happened, on the dark side of the real big love .

>> a lot of us the same. and a lot has changed. and i'm not the same person that i was either.

>> her name is rebecca musser. she has come back to the creek for the first time in years, hoping to find family or friends she left behind . anyone that is, who might actually speak to her, given what she did. given what she caused. oh, yes, she's the one. you've heard perhaps about the strange religious leader, his shocking crimes, his dramatic undoing. here is the incredible behind the headlines story, which she chronicled in a brand new book "these are the secrets told for the very first time." the story of the woman in red versus one of the fbi's most notorious fugitives, the unlikeliest soldier who went to war with a prophet and said --

>> if that is holy and that is divine and that is heaven, i will take hell.

>> short creek is actually the two little towns of hilldale, utah, and colorado city , arizona. the mountain that rises above them is called canin. here lived some 80,000 souls, the core, the center of what they call the work. most people know it as the flds, fundamentalist church of latter-day saints. not mormons. mormons are considered doomed for eternity for the perceived sin of having rejected fundamentalist ideas. like polygamy.

>> we were taught you should want to be a plural wife because it was more holy. you were fulfilling a higher law by being a plural wife.

>> no, not just allowed, required by god.

>> their measure of success for the women to marry a good faithful priesthood men where she brings forth as many children as she can, because the more children he has, the larger of a kingdom he has.

>> not exactly mainstream belief or even legal for that matter. but this is after all america, blessed with a constitution that quite pointedly shelters religious freedoms in all their stunning variety. becky 's father lloyd wall, a convert to the work was a college educated engineer who lived in salt lake city and designed equipment for the space shuttle . in public he was very successful. but in private? in private lloyd was fully aware, as they all were, that polygamy was illegal, so he did all he could to keep his huge and growing family secret .

>> my father had 25 children total. nine from his first wife. 14 from his second wife and two from his third.

>> did you feel different from the people around you?

>> they told us that we were different from the rest of the world .

>> your parents did?

>> yes, and our parents taught us we needed to be more obedient because we had this higher way of life , and so they just created a tremendous gap between us versus them. and terrified us of the outside world .

>> there was a reason for that primal fear buried deep but unforgotten in the dna of the flds, the raid. it was july 26th , 1953 , the governor of arizona ordered the arrest of every single man in short creek, and more than 250 children with their mothers were carted away. some of those families weren't reunited for years. rebecca , like every flds child heard the story over and over again. from the time she was old enough to listen about the day they remembered as their most terrible, and about those awful things the outside world did when policemen came. and so they were watchful, wary of outsiders who lived around their crowded split level here in the salt lake city suburbs.

>> my dad's first wife and her children lived in the top floor, and my mother, the second wife, and her children lived in the downstairs t bottom basement floor.

>> how did the two wives get along?

>> not so good.

>> no?

>> no. there was a tremendous amount of jealousy from my father's first wife.

>> nevertheless, said rebecca , she practiced the work and studied the holy books and put her twus and favorite in the church and its prophet, rulon jeffs . to rebecca , uncle rulon , who ruled the church and his home in salt lake was more than just a man. by then he had ten wives and over 50 children, and as little becky was thought to believe, rulon spoke directly with god.

>> he was our connection to the divine, and so yes, i did look up to him.

>> so of course rebecca , along with everyone else in the flds, obeyed the prophet's directive. to obey was the key to salvation.

>> obedience is the only act that you can perform and anything otherwise is damnation.

>> but as rebecca entered her teens change was in the air. behind uncle rulon 's gentle smile, rules hardened, control tightened. not just for rebecca , of course, for all of them. this was her childhood friend , andrew chatwin.

>> rulon jeffs started teaching you don't have a choice anymore. you have to be perfectly obedient. you're ordered to donate your time. ordered to donate your car or make sack mices that you normally wouldn't do because it was hurting your family.

>> it was more dictatorial.

>> yeah, very dictatorial. a lot of the members were going around and putting everybody on the spot constantly. they would say, well, are you for him or against him?

>> rebecca 's father was very much for the prophet. he enrolled his children, including becky , in uncle rulon 's special flds school, called the alta academy. and there the elements of an explosion were mixed together. all that remained was to light