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PARK CITY — Sundance is full of movie premiers and celebrity sightings. But there was a different kind of exclusive event Friday night, one aimed at raising money for former members of the FLDS Church.
There were roughly 100 people in attendance, including former FLDS member Elissa Wall. She fled the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints six years ago.
"I have moments where it feels like a lifetime ago — a completely different lifetime — and then there's moments where it feels like yesterday," Wall said.
She stood up to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, which ultimately contributed to his arrest and imprisonment. Before that, she says she was a lot like 18-year-old Natalie Knudson.
"My dad has two wives and 19 kids," Knudson said.
Her polygamist father agreed to letting her leave Colorado City, but not before he forced her to get married at age 17. She is now divorced and starting over.
Knudson is enrolled in college, working on her nursing degree, and she's finding support in the nonprofit group Holding Out Help.
"It's a lot different. There's a lot more freedom — and my dad was really strict so I couldn't do anything without being watched by him or one of the moms," she said.
"There's a lot of pitfalls that can be bypassed by having that support system, by having people that have already come out and made the way for them," Wall said. "(It) makes it a lot easier for them to have continual progress, instead of falling backwards."
There's a lot of pitfalls that can be bypassed by having that support system, by having people that have already come out and made the way for them.
–Elissa Wall, former FLDS member
Both women are now involved in Holding Out Help. The organization's mission is to provide support, assistance and guidance to anyone wanting to leave a polygamist community.
Friday night, a mansion in Park City hosted a fundraising event for Holding Out Help. In attendance: Jon Krakauer, author of "Under the Banner of Heaven", a book about the FLDS Church.
"I think this organization, Holding Out Help, is doing amazing stuff," Krakauer said. "The need is great; it's getting greater not smaller. The FLDS Church is not going away even though their leader is now in jail for life. He still controls the church.
Sam Brower, a private investigator who carefully watches the ins and outs of the FLDS, says a group like Holding out Help can make all the difference.
"It's a whole strange, foreign world for them as they leave," Brower said. "I've compared it sometimes to taking someone from Somalia, or tribal areas of Pakistan, and dropping them off in L.A. and saying, ‘survive.'"