Sunday, May 4, 2008

(40) Escape by Carolyn Jessup

There is something about the FundementalistChurch of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) that intrigues people. So much in fact that HBO created a very successful series called Big Love based on the Cult that practices Polygamy.

And as we all know the FLDS have been in the news recently due to the raid on their compound in Texas. The YFZ (Yearning for Zion) ranch.

Well, right before Christmas this book came out. Escape by Carolyn Jessup. Carolyn was the fourth or fifth man to Merril Jessup. One of the most powerful men in the "church".

Carolyn had been born into the religion. Her father had two wives & for the most part she grew up in a functional family. Early in the book she details the abuse she suffered at her Mother's hands. Make no mistake, they were BEATINGS. Yet, later in the book when her life was really & truly at risk, she chose to seek comfort & refuge at her parent's home.

Carolyn was just 18 when her marriage to Merril Jessup was arranged. Jessup was a man in his fifties with either three or four other wives & more children than he knew what to do with.

Carolyn then moved in with her new husband & her family. She goes into great detail what life was like in that "home". The chaos. The backstabbing. The verbal & physical abuse by the "favorite" wife, Barbara. Even though favoritism was strictly forbidden by their religion, the was clearly a favorite. And she made life a living hell for the other wives & their children.

This is a quote that stood out to me about a family trip that Merril wanted to take to the San Diego Zoo. They rented a barely running Greyhound bus for the 34 children & a couple of the wives. One of whom was mentally ill. The other wives traveled with Merril in one of the family vans.

"We were a traveling road show of freaks and noisy children. Before I married Merril, my life had been relatively normal with moments of strangeness. Now it was surreal, with occasional bursts of reality."

Carolyn was lucky though. She was allowed to go to college. She shared an apartment with a couple of Merril's daughters. Who took lessons from their Mother on how to make her life a living hell. Carolyn was pregnant with her third child when she received her teaching degree.

The stories that Carolyn tells in her book will leave you speechless. She details the extremism that was implemented when "Uncle" Rulon Jeffes health started to fade & Warren Jeffes was named the new "Prophet". For example Jeffes decreed that the color red was reserved for the Second Coming of Christ. And to wear or own anything red was considered a sin. He did not allow schools to teach certain subjects. He collected all of the books that were considered "unwordly" and burned them. He randomly "re-assigned" wives to other men's. They & their children were pulled from their homes & their families & given to other men. And boys of all ages were "excommunicated" and kicked out of the religion & out of their family homes. These boys were deemed "The Lost Boys". "Our lives were currency for others to spend"

Heartbreaking, shocking stories of abuse & neglect & emotional power play to try & break the women like Carolyn, who knew that they were not being treated right.

This book was absolutely fascinating. I could not put it down. I so badly wanted to reach through the pages and kick Merril Jessup in the balls. I am serious. The man is so EVIL & VILE that I just could not help but CHEER when Carolyn & the children made it to the safe house.

It is surreal to read of these "religious" practices taking place in our society today. But it does. And it is. And we are foolish to think that it will end because Warren Jeffes is in prison. Or because there was a raid at one of their compounds. As long as women believe that polygamy is an act of God, as long as women believe that the violence towards them is "God's way", it will never end.

We, and by we, I mean those who have Escaped, can only be there to help them when & if they ever want help


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