Thursday 11 January 2018

Book ~ "Breaking Free: How I Escaped My Father - Warren Jeffs - Polygamy, and the FLDS Cult" (2017) Rachel Jeffs

From Goodreads ~ Born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Rachel Jeffs was raised in a strict patriarchal culture defined by subordinate sister wives and men they must obey. No one in this radical splinter sect of the Mormon Church was more powerful or terrifying than its leader Warren Jeffs - Rachel’s father.

Living outside mainstream Mormonism and federal law, Jeffs arranged marriages between under-age girls and middle-aged and elderly members of his congregation. In 2006, he gained international notoriety when the FBI placed him on its Ten Most Wanted List. Though he is serving a life sentence for child sexual assault, Jeffs’ iron grip on the church remains firm and his edicts to his followers increasingly restrictive and bizarre.

In "Breaking Free", Rachel blows the lid off this taciturn community to offer a harrowing look at her life with Warren Jeffs and the years of physical and emotional abuse she suffered. Sexually assaulted, compelled into an arranged polygamous marriage, locked away in "houses of hiding" as punishment for perceived transgressions and physically separated from her children, Rachel, Jeffs’ first plural daughter by his second of more than fifty wives, eventually found the courage to leave the church in 2015. But "Breaking Free" is not only her story - Rachel’s experiences illuminate those of her family and the countless others who remain trapped in the strange world she left behind.

A shocking and mesmerizing memoir of faith, abuse, courage, and freedom, "Breaking Free" is an expose of religious extremism and a beacon of hope for anyone trying to overcome personal obstacles. 

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church) teaches the doctrine of plural marriage.  In order for a man to receive the highest form of salvation, it is believed that he should have a minimum of three wives to fulfill this requirement.  There is also the belief that wives are required to be subordinate to their husbands.  Devout FLDS members believe that their prophets receive direct messages from God about everything from what they should or shouldn’t do, to who they should marry, where they should live and whether they are worthy of salvation.

Warren Jeffs is the president of the FLDS Church (his father had been the prophet).  He is also a convicted felon/child molester and currently serving a sentence of life plus 20 years.  He has/had 78 wives (some as young as 12-years-old, hence why he is in prison) and 53 children.  The author of this book, Rachel Jeffs, is his third oldest child and this is her story.

When Rachel was young, her father started molesting her (and others as it turned out) and continued for eight years.  At age eighteen, he married her off to Rich (her sister, Becky, was married off to Rich's brother the same day), who she had met the day before.  Rachel was Rich's third wife and it took some adjusting for her to go from her father's home to becoming a sister wife (the other sister wives were jealous).  Rachel eventually fell in love with Rich and they ended up having five children together.

But her father always had control over everything and everyone.  To punish her, her father had Rachel taken to an abandoned safe house for several months many times.  Her children were also taken from her several times.  For months at a time and eventually for more than a year, she wasn’t allowed to see Rich because of imaginary wrong doings.  Similar things happened to other family members and friends ... families were being ripped apart and put back together (sometimes differently).  In 2014, Rachel finally had enough and fled the church with her five children.  She hadn't seen in husband in a long time and he chose to stay with the church rather than leave with her and their children.

I hadn't heard of Warren Jeffs before I came across this book but it sounded like an interesting story.  And it was so I'm glad I read it (and would recommend it) ... but it was also disturbing.  I find it amazing that in this day and age people live this way and that Warren still had this kind of power over the members, even though he is now in prison for life.  It seemed like every week Warren was forbidding things in the members' lives because it was evil ... sugar, toys, hugging between married couples and more ... and making decisions on who to marry and when.  It just got crazier and crazier.  And no one seemed to question him and ask "WTF?  Is this guy mentally stable?"

If you are raised that way, I can see that you wouldn't know any better.  But they have access to cell phones and computers.  How can they not realize they are living their lives according to the will of a crazy man who is prison?

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