Before leaving his family's compound in Utah's west desert for perhaps the last time, polygamist Tom Green placed his hands upon his teen-age son's head and ordained him into the "priesthood of the father."

Knowing that a bigamy conviction could land him behind bars for more than two decades, Green, a self-described Mormon fundamentalist, anointed 14-year-old Mel to become head of the household of five wives and 25 children.

The Tom Green Case

  • A Modest Defense of Polygamy By Richard Mouw

  • The Life of a Polygamist: A Salt Lake Tribune photo gallery

  • The Tom Green Case: Read the indictment

  • Utah Steps Up Polygamy Prosecutions

  • The Mormon Church and Polygamy: A history lesson
  • "Mel will stand in my place in my absence," said Green, fighting back tears two weeks before his trial on four felony counts of bigamy and one count of criminal non-support. If Green is imprisoned, his family worries that their already arduous existence in remote Juab County--100 miles from the nearest grocery store--may become untenable.

    The women sell magazine subscriptions and run a telemarketing company out of their homes to carve out their meager lifestyle. If Green is imprisoned, they plan to earn commercial driver licenses so they can work rotating days as long-haul semi-truck drivers.

    "My biggest fear is that all our children might not see their father for 20 years. His kids would all be grown and gone by then," said Hannah Bjorkman, one of Green's five wives.

    Pregnant like three of the others, she battles tears at the thought of giving birth without her husband. In the past, they have given birth to their babies at Green's mother's Salt Lake City area home with the help of a midwife. Now, the women plan to deliver in a hospital in Delta, 100 miles away from home.

    Green's five-day trial begins Monday in Provo, and he has spent his time away from home working with his Salt Lake City lawyer. Bigamy, the technical violation used by prosecutors to charge polygamists, is a statute usually applied to a married person who secretly, and usually with intent to defraud, takes a second spouse.

    While Utah's most outspoken polygamist remains hopeful a jury will find him innocent, Green has "prepared for the worst" and taught his sons how to take care of many household duties.

    "I'm sort of nervous, but I'll be able to cope because I have so much help," said eighth-grader Mel, the oldest son living at home. "I feel humble."

    Green also anointed a younger son, Chris, to "the office of high priest" to serve as "a second elder, and Mel's assistant." But Green's five wives--including Mel's mother, Linda Kunz, who joined in the ordination ceremony with her husband--will have the final say.

    The Tom Green Case

    asp?pageLoc=/story/67/story_6702_1.html&boardID=11173" target="_top">The Mormon Church and Polygamy: A history lesson