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Inside 'The Order,' One Mormon Cult's Secret Empire

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In the meantime, the police were closing in on the missing silver. A sheriff's deputy traced the license plate of the Honda to a run-down house in a working-class suburb south of the city. Pulling up, he noticed the getaway car parked in front of the house. As he talked to the woman who lived there, Luke Brown came out of the house, and his brother Scott soon joined him.

At first, the two boys denied any involvement in the break-in at Young's house. But the more the deputy pressed, the more their stories didn't add up. It didn't take long for them to break down and confess that they had robbed their aunt. The deputy opened the trunk of the Honda, where he found two duffel bags stuffed with silver. After the boys were taken into custody, one of their first calls was to Stephen. "We're fucked," they told their cousin.

One crime had been solved — but the chest of gold stolen from Patty Kingston's closet remained a mystery. The deputy heard the Brown boys knew who stole the gold — but suddenly, without explanation, they and everyone in the clan clammed up. "Paul was upset any of this had been reported at all," says a former member close to the boys. "The Order stays as far away as possible from police, and this was like inviting them in your front door."

With its vast wealth suddenly exposed to public view, the clan moved quickly to hush up the scandal. The Brown boys, charged with felony counts of burglary, wrote a letter to their aunt apologizing for stealing the silver in her house. She, in turn, wrote a letter to the judge on their behalf, and the case was settled without a trial. The boys were sentenced to two years of probation and taken back into the Order. Luke Brown now insists that he and his brother simply borrowed the silver, and planned to return it to their aunt later. "It wasn't like we thought about it a lot. It was a total spur of the moment thing," Brown says. "I love the Order. It's who I am."

To keep the police from prying into the matter any further, the clan also hired a private investigator to track down the missing gold. Within the clan, the pieces started to add up. The theft of the silver bars from Rachel Young's basement, they concluded, had been a copycat crime. In all likelihood, Stephen and his brothers had stolen the gold from Patty Kingston first — and then the Brown boys, in an effort to emulate their cousin's rebellious acts, had robbed their aunt weeks or even months later. Former Order members remain convinced the Knights stole the gold. "They did it," says Christian Kingston. "Everyone knows it."

After the gold disappeared, the Knight brothers suddenly seemed to have a lot of money — especially for young men on their own in the world for the first time. Unable to visit his mother, Stephen would leave a $100 bill in her mailbox or, with his brothers, buy her new furniture. "The Knight brothers were driving new trucks, and so were their friends," says Levi Kingston. "Some people say they funneled the money through Mexico. Others say they buried it out in the desert and are slowly cashing it out. If I had done it, the Order probably would have killed me. But because they were the sons of the prophet, they got away with it."

Stephen vehemently denies that he or his brothers had anything to do with the heist. "I honestly didn't even know there was any gold until they accused me of taking it," he says. These days Stephen works on a cattle ranch near the Idaho border, just down the road from where he grew up. It's a quiet, haunting place, with massive hayfields that stretch to the horizon. His arms are sunburned and his hands calloused from long days moving the irrigation pipes that water the fields. "Look around," Stephen says. "Do you think if I took $5 million in gold, I'd be working out here?"

In the months after the robbery, Stephen couldn't shake the feeling he was being watched. Mysterious cars followed his girlfriend, and he once came home to find that someone had rifled through his drawers. Then one night, a clan member called and told him that the Order planned to kill him. Terrified, he went out and bought a stash of guns to arm himself, just in case his family tried to gun him down.

Now, two years later, Stephen still sleeps with a gun near his bed. But the constant fear has subsided. "If they kill me, they kill me," he says. "I've lived a good life." Sometimes, lying in bed at night, he thinks of his brother who died not far from here, and the rest of his siblings who remain in the Order. He thinks about his mom, and wonders if she misses him. Every now and then, as he's driving around the ranch, his phone will ring. Fishing it out of his jeans, he'll recognize the number. It's his father, the prophet, calling to coax his wayward son back into the fold.

"Come back," his dad will say. "You could be such an asset to the Order."

Stephen hangs up and drives home in silence. He is not ready to forgive his father. But he hopes that one day his family will be able to forgive him for leaving them behind.

 

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