The fallout from the arrest and subsequent conviction of Warren Jeffs shocked the Fundamental Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and its contingent of believers. The man who proclaimed himself to be the prophet has been revealed to be nothing more than a pedophile with a talent for extreme rhetoric. He and many other powerful men, kept the members of the FLDS in an iron grip was they exploited them for their own personal gain. Child labor, sexual abuse and underage marriage have resulted in infamy and the interest of State and Federal authorities. Defectors from the church have become testifying witnesses and told their stories on television and in books. Among these heroic individuals if Carolyn Jessop, whose own story of escape and survival is just as moving and shocking as many others. In confluence with ‘Stolen Innocence‘ and ‘The Witness Wore Red‘, she also takes the reader deep inside the FLDS to witness the reality faced by her and dozens of young women who are married off to far older men who sometimes are even related to them by blood. At the age of eighteen, Carolyn is married to Merrill Jessop, a leading figure in the FLDS. Over fifteen years, she gave birth to eight children, including one with a sever physical disability. Miraculously, she escapes the church and starts a new life but her old life remains with her as a reminder of the fate faced by other young girls who are unable to make their own escape.
Laura Palmer who is an author of several books including another with Jessop titled Triumph, puts Carolyns words into writing as she tells her incredible life story that is sure to leave the reader in a state of shock and confusion. To some it may seem unreal that her story is being told in 2007. But the reality is that in some parts of this country, things are done in a completely different way. But the question is when does that way become both a crime and tragedy? Jessop in some ways was lucky, she gained freedom for herself and all of her eight children. Others who have left have not been as fortunate and have had to get authorities involved to reclaim their families. And some have even faced continued harassment from the community they once called home. As to be expected, the book’s antagonist is her former husband Merrill, a man much older and of a sometimes vindictive nature. His actions in the book are beyond reprehensible but critical in understanding the methods of control both physically and mentally that are employed by the powerful male members of the FLDS.
There are times where the book is a tough read and some parts are infuriating. But if you can make it through, you will find yourself in her corner rooting for her and her children to finally gain their freedom. And in this case, she truly does save the best for last. Leaving the only culture you have ever known is never easy and for those that do, they leave behind people that they despise but also people that they love deeply. The human mind is an invention that continues to mystify even those that understand it the best. Carolyn’s story reminds us that not all prisons are physical. The power of the mind is often underestimated and taken for granted. If I had been born into a FLDS family, perhaps my way of thinking would be different from the way it is now. I use the term free thinking in the title of the blog because I believe that everyone should have the ability to engage in free thought and form their own opinions. After finishing Jessop’s story, I am even more grateful for the many freedoms I do have and I make it a point to never take any of them for granted. For a good story about the real FLDS, this is a good place to start.