TikTok: Nicole Mafi talks about leaving The Order polygamist cult

A popular TikTok star has racked up thousands of views online and has spoken out about her experiences escaping a polygamist cult as a child.

A popular TikTok star has racked up thousands of views online and has spoken out about her experiences escaping a polygamist cult as a child.

Nicole Mafi is the daughter of Paul Kingston, leader of the notorious polygamous sect The Order or Kingston Group, an offshoot of the mainstream Mormon Church based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

“I grew up in a polygamous cult in Utah,” she says in a TikTok video.

“My father had 27 wives, I don’t know how many children. My mother was wife number five and she had 11 children of her own and I am the eldest.”

In another video, Mafi estimates her father has “between 200 and 300 children.”

“I don’t know the exact number,” she says.

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“When I counted 10 years ago when I left it was about 200 and he’s had quite a few more in the last 10 years. Like I said, I left about 10 years ago, I got married, I started a family. I’ve lived in Utah for most of my adulthood and recently moved to Missouri to start my own life and do my own thing.”

She also reveals that she has no relationship with her father and “I never really had that when I was in the cult”.

“And I probably did more than a lot of his kids just because I’m one of the older ones and I was there when the family was a lot smaller,” she said. “I went about 11, 12 years ago and probably saw him twice.”

Mafi, who has more than 76,000 followers on TikTok, has spoken out about her experiences in the group over the past four years.

She self-published a book in 2018, The leader’s daughterwho revealed her “first-hand account of being born into this famous cult and the traumas that plagued her childhood.”

Mafi fled at the age of 17 to avoid an arranged marriage to her first cousin.

She wrote in a popular Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit in 2018 that she first began questioning her family circle after sneaking out to attend martial arts classes.

“My sensei listened to my crazy ideas and then discussed them with me,” she wrote.

“He examined my questions and helped me see things from an outside perspective. The more I questioned my belief system, the more I realized that religion was abusive and wrong.”

She revealed that she suffered sexual abuse as a child in the cult, beginning when she was six. The last straw came when she was 16.

“My dad sat me down on my 16th birthday and told me I had to get married,” she said. “I knew I was leaving at about that point, even if I couldn’t admit it to anyone just yet.”

Describing her possible escape, she wrote: “One night when I was 17, I packed my photo album, journals and some clothes in the back of my car and disappeared. I was homeless for a month before I found a friend who would let me stay with him.”

But after contacting her family, “they brainwashed me into coming back.”

“I left when I was 18,” she says. “I stayed with a friend’s parents while I waited for tables and struggled through college.”

The Kingston Group, officially known as the Latter Day Church of Christ or Davis County Cooperative Society, was founded by Elden Kingston in the 1930s.

The powerful cult has thousands of members and controls assets worth an estimated $300 million, according to a Rolling Stone Report in 2011, with a sprawling empire of companies and land holdings.

Estimates of the group’s size vary, but author Andrea Moore-Emmett put the number at 3,500 in her 2004 book God’s brothel about Mormon fundamentalism.

People who have left the order claim that the cult “exploits its members as virtual slave labor and hides profits from tax collectors.” Rolling Stonesaid the report.

“Children born into the clan make up a large part of the workforce,” the outlet wrote.

“Girls, many of them teenage brides, answer the phone at the Order’s law office, pack groceries at the supermarket or look after the clan’s many children. Boys work in the coal mine and stack boxes at Standard Restaurant Supply, a huge discount store. You will not be paid in cash but in scrip, an arcane form of credit used by the Mormon pioneers and redeemable only at the company’s stores.”

Several members of the group have been accused of incest in the past, but officially the order says it does not condone underage marriage.

“The DCCS has publicly spoken out against fraud and abuse for decades,” it says on its website.

“We affirm to our members that this type of behavior is totally against our beliefs and principles and we cannot support anyone engaged in this type of behavior. Any person engaged in, or becoming aware of, any illegal activity is encouraged to promptly correct any impropriety.”

According to the Associated Press, an estimated 30,000 people live in Utah’s approximately 11 polygamous communities, or religious groups whose adherents believe plural marriage brings exaltation in heaven — a legacy of the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The mainstream Mormon Church abandoned the practice in 1890, but it survived in numerous factions, even though plural marriage was a crime in the state for nearly a century.

In 2020, the Utah legislature passed a law that decriminalized polygamy, reducing it from a third-degree felony to a violation equivalent to a speeding ticket.

“Bigamy has been a crime in Utah since 1935 and it clearly hasn’t done what the law I think or the people who made that law intended it to do,” said Lt. Governor Deidre Henderson of the AP.

“That hasn’t stopped people from engaging in polygamy. It ended up driving people underground and creating a wall of secrecy surrounding some communities.”

Public interest in the topic has been fueled by the reality TV series sister wives and more recently the Netflix documentary stay sweetwhich deals with another Mormon polygamous sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), and the widespread underage sexual abuse of its members.

Warren Jeffs, the president of the FLDS, is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting children in 2011.

Mafi watched the Netflix show and shared her thoughts with her TikTok followers.

Commenting on Jeff’s assertion to members, Mafi said, “If you question me, you question God,” Mafi said that this is a big part of the Mormon religion.

“Here they keep a lot of control,” she said.

“So you mustn’t question – if your prophet tells you to do something, you do it. This is how marriages are arranged and everyone puts up with it, this is how daughters are sold, this is how people lose their homes, their businesses because they are not allowed to question whether the prophet is telling them anything.”

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