Monteview — The mother of a teenager who has been missing for over three weeks believes her daughter ran away to re-join members of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in southern Utah.
Elintra Fischer, 16, left her Monteview home on Jan. 1 in her mother’s gray Honda Civic. The car was later found at a gas station but Elintra is still missing.
Elizabeth Roundy, Elintra’s mother, was a member of the FLDS church until 2020. She’s worried for her daughter and in an effort to bring her home, Roundy agreed to sit down with EastIdahoNews.com to share her story publicly for the first time.
In part one of our conversation, Roundy spoke candidly about growing up in a polygamous family, her arranged marriage, how FLDS leaders forced her to leave because she had a miscarriage and why she ultimately chose to abandon the faith three years ago. The second part of our interview and story will be posted Tuesday.
Growing up FLDS in eastern Idaho
Roundy grew up in Monteview with 25 siblings. Her father had eight wives and she was her mother’s sixth child.
After being excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Roundy’s dad and their family joined the FLDS Church. It was led by Leroy Sunderland Johnson, Roundy’s great-grandfather, until he died in 1986. Rulon Jeffs then assumed the position of prophet.
“We had a good life growing up. All of our family got along pretty good and all my siblings loved each other as if we didn’t have different mothers,” Roundy explains. “I had a very good father who taught us the gospel. I’m very grateful for my good parents.”
As Jeffs’ presidency progressed, Roundy says he began implementing rules claiming they were commandments from God. The color red was banned because Jeffs said Jesus would be clothed in red when he returned and members wearing it was a “mockery to the sacredness of his coming back.”
Roundy never dated, even though her father said it was OK once she turned 18.
“He would have let me if I wanted to and would not have stopped me,” she says. “Once we turned 18, he told us we had our own free agency and it was my choice because he believed that was the correct way to do it.”
One day, when Roundy was 24, her father was milking cows in the dairy barn when Jeffs called and asked to meet with his daughters.
“My father didn’t have very good hearing and the milk pump was going. He couldn’t hear very good, and there was a misunderstanding,” Roundy recalls. “My sister and I were actually supposed to be going to get married, and we didn’t know that.”
Roundy, her 25-year-old sister and their father traveled to Salt Lake for what they thought was a meeting, but in reality, their new husbands, who they had never met, were waiting for them with their other wives.
“Our husband’s sisters were there and they came running out. They said they were so excited and asked us if we wanted to meet the men,” Roundy says. “We had no idea that we were supposed to be getting married and then, when they realized there was a misunderstanding, there was kind of a little bit of a scuffle.”
Roundy and her sister insisted they talk with Jeffs and explain they weren’t ready for marriage. The president finally agreed to see them and the young women asked if they could have some time to go home and pray about whether they should get married.
“He wasn’t very happy with us, but he did allow it. He acted like he was very disappointed in us for not just going ahead with the marriage that day, but we were not ready,” Roundy explains.
The family returned to Idaho, but one week later, the sisters, who had never held a boy’s hand, went to Hildale, Utah. It was February 1999, and Warren Jeffs, Rulon Jeffs’ son, performed the marriage ceremony for Roundy and her new husband, Nephi Fischer. They were never legally married, as Fischer had another wife named Dorothy.
Marriage and changes
Roundy moved to Hildale to begin life with her new husband. Around this time, Rulon Jeffs suffered a stroke and Warren Jeffs took an active role in leading the church.
“I had only been married for about three months when the leaders told my father he was not welcome to come to their meetings anymore,” Roundy says. “My family from Idaho was basically exiled and most of the community where I lived in Utah considered them to be apostates. My husband put a lot of stress and pressure on me to not associate with my family right from the time I married him.”
Roundy believes her father was exiled because he questioned the doctrines and changes happening within the church. Leaders told members they could not have anything to do with “apostates,” so the young wife cut off all contact with her Idaho family.
Over the next few years, Roundy gave birth to five children and living conditions in Hilldale became extremely difficult. Warren Jeffs took over as president when his father died and quickly introduced strict “commandments” he said were revelations from God.
“My husband came home one day and had the children throw all their toys away. He had them go through their drawers and cupboards and get rid of everything they played with,” Roundy says. “Our children had a whole bunch of little metal dump trucks and down in Hildale there was a lot of sand. They’d love to go out and play in the sand with the dump trucks. He had them load all the little dump trucks and all our bikes into his truck and took them down to the junkyard.”
Jeffs put pressure on FLDS members to live “perfect lives to qualify for Zion.” Children were punished if they made mistakes, and Roundy says she witnessed “heartbreaking” abuse.
“My husband required me and my sister wife, Dorothy, to punish our children very severely, which neither one of us liked,” she said. “I think some of the only arguments I ever got into with my husband was over some of the punishments he was requiring us to do. I told him it isn’t right, and we need to be loving with the children and try to teach them what’s right instead of just punishing them all the time.”
Warren Jeffs arrested
In 2006, Warren Jeffs was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List and arrested on charges of felony child sexual abuse. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison for child sex crimes in Utah, Arizona and Texas.
Despite being locked up, Roundy says Jeffs continued to lead the church through written “revelations” distributed to his brother, Lyle Jeffs, and other leaders.
“We were taught from the pulpit that he was God’s prophet and he was going to be miraculously delivered from prison,” Roundy says. “We were told time after time after time that it was our fault and our own sins and weaknesses that were keeping him in prison.”
Roundy gave birth to her fifth child in 2012. Ten days later, her husband was called home from his construction job and told he needed to go see the bishop. Fischer was given a letter from Warren Jeffs saying his behavior needed to be corrected because he failed to raise his children “in love,” according to Roundy.
Fischer returned home, gathered a few of his belongings and told his wives and children they could have no contact with him, Roundy recalls. He left the house and Roundy was unsure if she would see him again.
Forced to leave
Roundy, her sister wife and their 11 combined children stayed together in their home but church leaders began separating “worthy” members from those who were “unworthy.”
Lyle Jeffs deemed some of the kids in Roundy’s home unworthy and they had to live on a separate floor from the others.
“All of the families that I knew of got split in half. They kept having all these interviews and there were people that were were deemed unworthy and they were not allowed to be rebaptised,” Roundy recalls. “The non-members moved upstairs and the members lived downstairs. My 8-year-old son was taken from me and moved upstairs with the other mother. I was allowed to check on him and tried to talk to him, but I was not let allowed to interfere or have any say in his life.”
In July 2014, Roundy was called into a meeting with Lyle Jeffs. She brought in $5,000 she had saved up as leaders of the church were constantly asking for donations.
Roundy was told because she had a miscarriage years earlier, she needed to leave the community with Benjamin, her “unclean” 10-year-old, and go “far away” to repent.
“There was a constant pressure (that) people were guilty of murdering unborn babies but there is nothing I would have ever done to try and hurt a baby or get rid of one of my babies,” Roundy explains. “I did everything I could to have children. I love children.”
Jeffs told Roundy she could have nothing to do with her family in Hildale or Idaho and to go home and make arrangements for her remaining children, who were between 2 and 12 years old.
“I bawled and bawled. It’s really hard to drive away and leave your children like that,” Roundy says. “I just felt like I was so brainwashed, and I really honestly believed I was doing the best thing for my children when I drove away and left them there. I felt like I was going away to repent and the people they were with were way more worthy than me.”
Roundy quickly learned her children were moved from their caretakers into homes that made her uncomfortable. But it would take years before she was able to see her kids again and for her to realize that she needed to leave her religion.
Tomorrow on EastIdahoNews.com, read the rest of Roundy’s story and find out where she thinks Elintra is and why she’s so concerned for her daughter’s safety.
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