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Suggested Reading

Below are some of the books you may find interesting to learn more about the polygamous culture.
REVIEW: A Cruel Arithmetic
POLYAMORY / New memoir looks back on BC's historic polygamy case
Jeremy Hainsworth
Xtra! - Vancouver, BC
Originally published Friday, November 30, 2012

Dozens of lawyers introduced themselves to BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman at the start of the polygamy reference case on Nov 22, 2010, but only BC government lawyer Craig Jones remained standing.  Jones would spend the next few hours outlining polygamy's "cruel arithmetic" — why the government believed the law criminalizing the practice of multiple spouses was justifiable and constitutional.  The case grew from the controversy surrounding the southeastern BC polygamous community of Bountiful, a hamlet divided between two factions of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).  The community of about 1,000 residents had been investigated repeatedly during the past two decades but avoided prosecution until its leaders were charged with polygamy in January 2009.  Winston Blackmore was accused of having at least 19 wives, and Jim Oler at least three.  FLDS members practice polygamy in arranged marriages, a tradition tied to the early theology of the Mormon Church.  The main branch of the church renounced polygamy in 1890, but several fundamentalist groups seceded in order to continue the practice.  Blackmore has long claimed religious persecution and protested what he sees as the denial of his constitutional right to religious freedom.     Read more
The mathematics of polygamy
By Susanne Martin
Bowen Island Undercurrent - Bowen Island, B.C.
Originally published October 18, 2012

A Cruel Arithmetic: Inside the Case Against Polygamy is more than just an account of a court case. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the case known as Polygamy Reference that was debated in the BC Supreme Court. The author is Craig Jones, who acted as lead counsel for the Attorney General of British Columbia. Jones is also a Bowen Island resident and will launch his newly-released book at the Gallery at Artisan Square on Sunday, October 21, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Jones has included a wealth of information about the Polygamy Reference, a two-year-case that included 44 days of trial and more than 100 witnesses. The process, he says, also changed his personal views. "I very much moved from the civil libertarian position of Trudeau, 'the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation', to wholehearted support of the ban on polygamy. All of the evidence we brought forward - and the Chief Justice said that the evidence was 'overwhelming' - showed that when polygamy was practiced, even consensually by responsible adults, harms began to spread through the community," Jones said. He believes that Bountiful was a perfect case study and explained, " It was started in 1947 as sort of a Mormon hippy commune. Within two generations, the mathematics of polygamy wrought havoc in the community, and led to an increasingly authoritarian and abusive community, child brides, lost boys, and eventually a kind of social implosion. We showed that wasn't just something that happened. Polygamy caused all those things to happen, it was absolutely predictable."     Read more
Speaking on recovering
Author to talks about overcoming from 'spiritual trauma'
By Brian Passey
The Spectrum
Originally published November 23, 2012

Victoria M. Reynolds teaches that many religious beliefs cause trauma to the soul and prevent adherents from discovering true happiness.  As a result of her own experience of leaving a polygamous sect at age 17, Reynolds developed a six-step process to recover from what she calls "spiritual trauma." She defined the steps in her book, "Transcending Fear: The Journey to Freedom and Fulfillment."  Now she plans to teach the steps during a workshop Sunday afternoon at the Center for Spiritual Living St. George.  Reynolds grew up in Montana as a member of the Apostolic United Brethren, a group that practices a form of fundamental Mormonism, including polygamy.  However, during her workshop she will focus on those who have left the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the polygamy-practicing Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  "I'm focusing specifically on recovering from the spiritual trauma of LDS and FLDS individuals," she says.  Reynolds knows firsthand about the pain of leaving behind family, friends and faith. She grew up in a secluded community she knew only as "The Ranch."  As a teenager Reynolds began having suicidal feelings.  She thought about it all the time and even played out various scenarios in her mind.     Read more
'Plygs,' a fact-based novel by southern Utah journalist
Arts & Entertainment, Columnists, Life, Local News, News
St. George News
Dixie Press Online
Originally published July 25, 2012

ST. GEORGE – STGnews' columnist Ed Kociela examines the world of polygamy in a new book now available through His book, "plygs," is a fact-based novel based on his 17-year career as a southern Utah journalist. "This is a story about how some people will do anything in the name of religion," Kociela said.  "It's about love, lust, and greed and the heartbreaking loss of innocence."  He said although polygamy has been a part of the Utah culture for many years, the modern-day effects are still relevant politically, socially, and, most importantly, morally.  "I really don't care which religion people believe in or what consenting adults do with each other or to each other," he said, "but when innocent children are brought into it, the picture changes dramatically. Some of these girls who are placed into marriage should still be playing with dolls instead of raising babies of their own."  "As the parent of a blossoming daughter, who was raised in a place where polygamy is a part of the culture, it breaks my heart to think of other young girls and the lives they missed because they were trapped in a religious culture that would not only deny their childhood, but womanhood and individuality as well."  The societal effects, he said, are equally distressing.  "I don't see how public officials who are so determined to run undocumented workers out of the country can sleep at night when, on one hand, they are going after a group of people who they insist are a burden on the system, while turning a blind eye to another that flaunts the fact that they are 'bleeding the beast' by fraudulently collecting food stamps, health care benefits, and other forms of welfare."     Read more
Watch the June 11, 2012 KSL TV interview of Kristyn Decker, the author of
"Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies"

Former Polygamist Turned Author to Hold Book Signing at Bryan Bennett Library June 26th
WJBD Radio - Salem, Illinois
Originally published June 18, 2012

A former polygamist is telling her story in Salem next week.  Former polygamist turned author Kristyn Decker will be holding a book signing for "Fifty Years in Polygamy: Big Secrets and Little White Lies."  The book signing will be held on Tuesday, June 26th at the Bryan-Bennett Library in Salem at 6:00pm.  Decker says she was born into the second largest polygamist cult in America, and was raised in the polygamist lifestyle, with her father as the leader of the group.  She endured years of neglect, molestation, and abuse, and married at seventeen.  She says there were a few good times during that part of her life, but it was very difficult to live that lifestyle.  "It was very difficult living that way, and trying to figure out how to raise my children in poverty, and the pressure and the loneliness and sharing my husband and watching all around me the unhappiness as well. So it took me a long time to get out. That's why my book is called "Fifty Years of Polygamy" because the year I got out of it was the year that I finally walked and said I'm done", said Decker.  She says she finally had the courage to leave polygamy, but says it was a very long process because she was raised in the lifestyle from birth, and she had many choices to make.  "My choices were either live it and go through all the heartaches and suffer and endure to the end, or you can go to hell, and you don't get to be with your family in the hereafter. So I went through a lot of things that just didn't sound right, weren't right, or didn't feel right. I finally realized that I was so depressed that I wasn't going to make it through life and I was suicidally depressed, and was going to die if I didn't get out. So that was the major first factor", said Decker.     Read more

CNN's Randi Kaye talks with former polygamous wife Kristyn Decker July 2, 2012
Account of Warren Jeffs' fanaticism a riveting read
'Answer Them Nothing: Bringing Down the Polygamous Empire of Warren Jeffs'
Ben McNitt
Book Review
Tucson Sentinel
Originally published September 28, 2011

Polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs' summation last month to the Texas jury that ultimately convicted him on two counts of child rape was to stand silent before them for over an hour, staring at the floor, answering them nothing.  "Answer Them Nothing" is author Debra Weyermann's riveting account of how—after over half a century of existing as a state unto itself — the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and its beyond-lurid leader Jeffs were brought to a long overdue accounting before the law.  FLDS is of a genre that raises deeply troubling questions about how fanaticism can draw otherwise normal people into a world of insular perversion.  Jim Jones' cult was of this type.  So were the Nazis.  To view it through Weyermann's solidly documented, lightning-fast narrative is fascinating and repellent at the same time.  FLDS neither was nor is it still some tiny fringe sect of the Branch Dividian variety consumed in the Waco tragedy.  Established as a polygamist bastion of Mormonism in the 1940s, FLDS commanded the services of Salt Lake's top-flight legal talent, controlled $110 million of followers' property, ran businesses with multi-million dollar government contracts, set up tax-supported police, fire and school systems for its 10,000-plus followers in the Short Creek enclave spanning the Arizona-Utah border and had more adherents scattered across at least six states, Canada and Mexico.  And at its core the group was feeding the prophet and those male followers he chose to "bless" with a continuous stream of "celestial wives" who had no say in the matter, picked for their "sweetness," often teenagers given to men old enough to be their grandfathers.     Read more
Warren Jeffs and Polygamist Henchmen Subject of Fine New Book
By Paul Rubin
Phoenix New Times
Originally published Wed., Sep. 21 2011

We remember Debra Weyermann from our long-ago days trolling for stories for the Sierra Vista and Bisbee dailies down at the Mexican border.  She was known as "D" in those days when she covered the courts for the Arizona Daily Star, and did a bang-up job.  Fast-forward to now: Weyermann's newly published book, Answer Them Nothing, Bringing Down the Polygamous Empire of Warren Jeffs is a worthy read, even if you already know the outlines of the creepy tale of incest, rape, greed, power, and religious fanaticism..  Weyermann writes crisply and occasionally poetically and is at her best when recounting the chilling anecdotal accounts of heroic characters such as Ruth Stubbs, a young woman who finally escaped from the bizarre cult after enduring a nightmarish existence under the tyrannical leadership of now-imprisoned "prophet" Jeffs.  We were especially pleased by the extensive (and well-deserved) credit that Weyermann gives to our friend and former colleague John "The Senator" Dougherty, who broke the FLDS scandal wide-open in this paper.  Weyermann points to Dougherty's March 2003 groundbreaking story, "Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona," which blew the proverbial lid off one of Arizona's dirty little secrets, and how then-Governor Janet Napolitano was continuing to pretty much ignore the substantial evidence of forced marriages (of underage girls), welfare fraud, and all manner of other wrongdoing.  Napolitano, as most of our readers probably know, is currently the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.     Read more
RICK SMITH: Author unveils private world of Jeffs, FLDS
San Angelo Standard-Times
Originally published October 20, 2011

SAN ANGELO, Texas — After years of intensive press coverage, we think we've heard all there is to know about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  Then along comes Sam Brower, a Utah private detective who spent seven years investigating the sect and its leader, Warren Jeffs.  His new book, "Prophet's Prey," investigates the private life of the sect, focusing on its now-imprisoned leader, Warren Jeffs.  Brower will sign copies from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Hastings, 4238 Sunset Drive.  In the book, Brower traces Jeffs' involvement in the sect from childhood until his imprisonment.  It's not a pretty story.  The investigator admits he had a stake in revealing "FLDS atrocities and abuse."  In 2004, he agreed to help a couple who were being forced from their home by the FLDS in Short Creek, Ariz.  Since then, he wrote, "my life had been dominated by Jeffs and his cohorts for years. My office overflowed with documents, transcripts of old court cases, boxes of tapes, files and folders and thousands of hours of recordings of Jeff's droning lectures. My brain was just as full. I probably knew more about the FLDS than most members of the religion did."     Read more
Warren Etheredge interviews Sam Brower on his award winning program The High Bar

Xpress Reviews—First Look at New Books, September 30, 2011
Library Journal
Originally published September 30, 2011

Brower, Sam. Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. 2011. c.336p. ISBN 9781608192755. $27.


Private investigator Brower gives readers a firsthand look at the investigation that brought down prophet Warren Jeffs and the cult-like Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Brower came to the aid of an FLDS church member being kicked out of his house and stumbled into a case that would dominate the next seven years of his life. Sifting through the lies and the strictly enforced code of silence of the FLDS church, he worked with law enforcement in three states to uncover the sexual abuse of underage girls that the church practiced under the shield of the claim to religious freedom. After years of watching children abused and families destroyed, Brower had the satisfaction of seeing Jeffs behind bars, incriminated by his own words written in his diaries and captured on tape.

Verdict This compelling story of one man's crusade against a pedophile prophet will appeal to readers of current events and religious history as well as to crime fans. [See Prepub Alert, 4/25/11.] — Deirdre Bray Root, Middletown P.L., Dayton, OH
The Ugly Truth Behind Polygamy in 'Prophet's Prey'
by Gary Buiso
Kirkus Reviews - Austin, Texas
Originally published September 27, 2011

In Prophet's Prey, private investigator Sam Brower pulls back the curtain on Warren Jeffs—now serving a life sentence in Texas—the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). The book shines an unforgiving light on the leader and his polygamous religious sect, which the author says is just like the mafia — only devoid of any family values.

Why did you write this book?

Curiosity. I was new to Utah, never really had gone out to Short Creek. I didn't think there as such thing as polygamy, so I didn't believe it that it would be something like that would be happening in America — this is not the place where those things take place

It almost reminded me of sort of tribal thing from the Middle East — and that piqued my curiosity, and I wanted to check it out. The more I was blown away by how things really were, the harder it became to turn my back on it.

What surprised you most about your seven-year investigation?

How young the girls were. I came to find out there were 11-, 12-year-olds, even starting at 8 or 9 years old, being groomed as "heavenly comfort" wives. That was a shocker for me — just how young they were, and how sophisticated FLDS were in planning and arranging those marriages, taking them to different places out of state to keep quiet and avoid the law.

And I don't think they were quite figuring on federal violations — and they figured right, because so far the Feds haven't gone after them for any of the human trafficking.     Read more
Sam Brower - Book Reading and Signing
Books & Authors
Salt Lake City Weekly
Originally published October 26, 2011

Sam Brower, the private investigator whose work led to the arrest of Warren Jeff's, will read from and sign his new book, Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeff's and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints. Despite considerable press coverage and a lengthy trial, the full story has remained largely untold. In Prophet's Prey, Brower implicates Jeff's in his own words, bringing to light the contents of Jeffs's personal priesthood journal and revealing to readers the inside world of FLDS members. Raised in the Mormon Church, Brower lives in Cedar City, Utah. To arrange an interview, contact Michelle Blankenship at 646-307-5063 or

Date: Oct 26, 2011
Time: 7 pm
Phone: 801-484-9100
Address: 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 84105
Where: King's English
Far from heaven: Sam Brower takes aim at the FLDS church in "Prophet's Prey"
Cheryl Eddy
San Francisco Bay Guardian
Originally published November 2, 2011

If you read Jon Krakauer's 2003 book Under the Banner of Heaven, and followed the trial of Warren Jeffs — notorious leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Christ of Latter-Day Saints, now in jail for life for sexual assault (after a stint on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List) — you'll dig Sam Brower's Prophet's Prey (Bloomsbury, 336 pgs., $27).

Brower's book, subtitled My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, is the thrilling and disturbing tale of the private investigator's relentless crusade for justice — not just in the Jeffs case, but against high-ranking FLDS members across Texas, Utah, Arizona, and beyond. The sect, which is completely removed from mainstream Mormonism, is best-known for its polygamist beliefs, often pairing underage brides with elderly church leaders (Jeffs is estimated to have over 50 wives, including the two, ages 12 and 15, that he was convicted of assaulting). They're extremely well-funded, with leaders who live in mansions even as the rank-and-file go hungry. They also don't care much for outsiders.

In Brower's estimation, the FLDS church is "an organized crime syndicate that specializes in child abuse" — after reading his book (with a preface by Krakauer), you'll tend to agree. He'll be reading in Berkeley Tues/15; I caught up with him by phone at his home in snowy Cedar City, Utah, just over an hour's drive from FLDS stronghold Short Creek, an isolated community straddling the Utah-Arizona border.     Read more
Author's Investigation Helped Bring Jeffs to Justice
FOX 10 Phoenix
Originally broadcast Monday, 21 Nov 2011

PHOENIX - Warren Jeffs has been in Arizona's news for more than a decade.  He was on the run for years, trying to evade officials for child rape charges.  He was finally captured and tried in Utah, Arizona and Texas.  Currently, Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting underage girls.  He was brought down in part by private investigator Sam Brower.

Prophet's Prey
My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints
By Sam Brower

Author's Investigation Helped Bring Jeffs to Justice:

Sam Brower to sign books Saturday
Southern Utah Life In Brief
The Spectrum
Originally published November 22, 2011

ST. GEORGE - Sam Brower, author of the top-selling book "Prophet's Prey," will be at the St. George Barnes & Noble from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday to sign copies of his new book.  "Prophet's Prey" comes from the private investigator who cracked open the case that led to the arrest of Warren Jeffs, the self proclaimed prophet of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints.  Brower is the investigator who pushed forward the long and hard legal battles against the FLDS and Jeffs.  He currently resides in Cedar City.  Visit or for more information.
An Excerpt from Secrets and Wives
by Sanjiv Bhattacharya
The Brooklyn Rail - Brooklyn, New York
October 2011 issue

It's a low overcast day as I leave Salt Lake City. Splatterings of showers from a dirty sky. I'm heading for Manti, the home of a polygamous group called the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (TLC), led by the prophet James D. Harmston. Now in his 60s, Harmston is said to have in the region of 14 wives and, according to former followers, he considers himself the reincarnation of Joseph Smith, a living messiah. In 1998, he was sued by a couple of women who claim he'd swindled them out of $287,000, a case summarized by the headline: "Two Women Sue Church When Christ Fails to Appear." (The lawsuit fizzled out in the end, with no clear guilt established on Harmston's part.) And by several accounts, he has a prophet's penchant for young girls. In 2006, the book Polygamy's Rape of Rachael Strong (by former polygamist John Llewellyn) argued that 20-year-old Rachael had been spiritually coerced into marrying Harmston, who at the time was married to Rachael's mother.

Usually, bad publicity sends polygamist prophets scuttling for the shadows. But Harmston has displayed a rare taste for the limelight. In the late '90s, he even allowed A&E to make a documentary about his church and consented to an interview. And he came across well on TV — gentle, ursine, and approachable, the kind of preacher who might just talk your ear off if you got on his right side.

So I drive south down I-15 to what locals call "real Utah" — the farm-raised, fetus-friendly state that dismisses Salt Lake as a Gentile-infested Gomorrah. As the miles clock up, the clusters of box-fresh homes beside the freeways peter out and give way to the occasional Home Depot or Comfort Inn until eventually there's nothing but a bereft-looking barn every seven miles or so. The magnificent desert skies are interrupted by signs that pop up like spam, the signs that blight all American freeways — Denny's, Chevron, McDonald's, La Quinta, Motel 6. They herald the approach of a small town that has been colonized by corporations. Freeways have become as sterile, anonymous, and spatially dislocated as airports. The small towns have become the food courts.     Read more
Visiting professors lecture on Mormon feminism
By Marissa Ditkowsky
The Justice
Brandeis University - Waltham, Massachusetts
Originally published Monday, October 29, 2012

At the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute in the Epstein Building, participants gathered last Thursday for a presentation on "The Faces of Eve: Varieties of Mormon Feminism" led by anthropologist and Prof. Janet Bennion of Lyndon State College in Vermont and historian and Prof. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich of Harvard University.  During the event, Bennion and Ulrich spoke individually about their research, and a question-and- answer session followed.  Bennion and Ulrich focused on revealing the feminist aspects possible in polygamist relationships as a part of fundamental Mormonism.  "[T]here are a variety of feminisms that just because you disagree with another woman's decision to be in a patriarchy doesn't mean she's not a feminist; it means she's defending her rights, and we as feminists have to provide that protection for her ... [M]any of the women I study are in rigid patriarchal groups, [but] I would never be in one of those groups," said Bennion in an interview with the Justice.  "I think alternative sexuality and marriage are a way to adapt to a changing socioeconomic environment that we should be seeing these alternative forms as adaptive mechanisms."  The event was cosponsored by the Women's and Gender Studies program; the Feminist Sexual Ethics Project; the politics Department and the HBI and Project on Gender, Culture, Religion and the Law.     Read more
Life After the Cult--A Survivor's Lessons
Publisher - Broadway Books (Random House)
Category: Biography & Autobiography - Personal Memoirs
Format: Hardcover, 288 pages
On Sale: May 4, 2010
Price: $25.99
ISBN: 978-0-307-59070-1 (0-307-59070-4)
(Available May 4, 2010)
Also available as an unabridged audio CD, unabridged audiobook download and an eBook.

The author of The New York Times bestseller Escape returns with a moving and inspirational tale of her life after she heroically fled the cult she'd been raised in, her hard-won new identity and happiness, and her determination to win justice for the crimes committed against her family.

In 2003, Carolyn Jessop, 35, a lifelong member of the extremist Mormon sect the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), gathered up her eight children, including her profoundly disabled four-year-old son, and escaped in the middle of the night to freedom. Jessop detailed the story of her harrowing flight and the shocking conditions that sparked it in her 2007 memoir, Escape. Reveling in her newfound identity as a bestselling author, a devoted mom, and a loving companion to the wonderful man in her life, Jessop thought she had put her past firmly behind her.     Read more
Zero Chance:
Power of Love...Love of Power
By Jason Williams (Author), JM and Anthus Williams (Contributor)

Book Description
When religion and family turn on you, what is left? This is the amazing story of a young man willing to do whatever is necessary to maintain a relationship with his children. After growing up in a polygamist family and life-style, Jason Williams is given zero chance for salvation from the leaders of the FLDS. His wife and children are kidnapped from him and he is instructed to have nothing to do with them. Instead of giving in, read the true story of how Jason took on the FLDS leaders and saved his children.
"What Peace There May Be" by Susanna Barlow

Author of What Peace There May Be, Susanna Barlow, gives her audience insight on the concept of polygamy,
her experiences and reviews TLC's Sister Wives show.

What Peace There May Be: A Memoir
By Susanna Barlow

Book Description
Young Susanna doesn't know anything other than the family environment that has been created for her — a system without regard for society or man's laws.  Raised in a sequestered home in a busy city neighborhood, everything beyond the front gate is off-limits.  The isolation proves to be a breeding ground for abuse, and Susanna struggles to reconcile her desire to escape and her need to belong.  The book recounts six critical years in Susanna's life as she comes to terms with her conditions.  This coming-of-age story is as much a testament to survival as it is to surrender.  Pushed to the limits of her coping abilities, Susanna tries anything she can to bring about the peace that seems always out of reach.
More than a middle child
Author to present memoir on growing up in a polygamous family
Arts & Events
Idaho Mountain Express and Guide - Ketchum, Idaho
Originally published Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Author Susanna Barlow grew up in a Mormon fundamentalist home.  Her upbringing shaped her life values and views.  She was raised in a busy city neighborhood in Utah but was not allowed past her front gate.  She says she suffered a great deal of abuse as a young child — the 23rd of 46 children.  Barlow managed to escape her family and the grips of the Mormon fundamentalist religion.  As part of her healing process, she wrote a memoir, "What Peace There May Be."  She will present her story at The Community Library in Ketchum on Thursday, Sept. 2, at 6 p.m.  The presentation is free.  "This publication needed to happen," Barlow said.  "It was important for me to free myself from the secret that was my life."  Barlow's book is a peek into a world that is an extreme religious organization.  "It's tribal," she said.  "Everyone must conform for the survival of the whole. We were not allowed to talk with each other."  Barlow's account reveals that no matter how hard her family tried to keep out the rest of the world, it was impossible.  She writes about how the world crashed into her house, breaking barriers.  "My parents have not read the book," Barlow said.  "They are devastated."     Read more
Author to appear at Book Cellar
The Spectrum
Originally published September 8, 2009

ST. GEORGE - Susanna Barlow's first book, "What Peace There May Be," a memoir, was so good that Elaine Tyler can't wait to read the continuation of her story in Barlow's second book.  Tyler, president of the Hope Organization, a United Way Dixie partner agency assisting people who have left the polygamous lifestyle safely transition into mainstream society, said she has read almost all the books written by people who were in polygamous family relationships.  Barlow's book was, at times, difficult to read, she said, but bottom line, Tyler said the book talking about Barlow's childhood and family relationships was a great book.  "It upset me about all the abuse she endured, but she has such a positive attitude," Tyler said.  Barlow will be at the Book Cellar bookstore on Thursday at 6 p.m.  Information found on Barlow's Web site states that she is the 23rd child of 46 children, growing up in a The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints religious home that shaped her life, her values and her views on everything.  Her memoir tells of growing up while suffering abuse in a polygamous family living in Utah.  Raised in a sequestered home in a busy city neighborhood, everything beyond the front gate was off-limits.     Read more
Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy
By Zoe Murdock

Book Description Inspired by true events, Torn by God is a riveting family drama that takes place in 1959 in a small Mormon town in Utah. It chronicles the devastation brought upon the Sterling family when the father has a vision which leads him to become involved with a local polygamist group run by a self-serving fundamentalist named Brother Reuben. Under the influence of this group, the father comes to believe that the Mormon Church never should have rescinded polygamy. He knows that the practice is against the law and grounds for excommunication, but he feels it is something God demands of him. Twelve-year-old Beth watches helplessly as her father becomes increasingly involved with the polygamists and her mother sinks into depression and illness. Even Beth is not safe from Brother Reuben with his piercing eyes and suggestive sexual remarks. When her father leaves home to build a church for the polygamists, the family is cast off by the Mormon community. It is up to Beth to take care of her sick mother and her little brother, Mikey. This story delves deep into the controversial association between mainstream Mormons and fundamentalist off-shoot groups such as those led by Warren Jeffs.

Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: H.O.T. Press (January 6, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0923178066
ISBN-13: 978-0923178062
Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.7 inches
Upcoming Events
Author of polygamy novel visits St. George
Public Service Announcements
News 88.9 KNPR - Nevada Public Radio
Originally published September 24, 2009

Zoe Murdock will be in St. George, Utah on September 24 to read from and discuss her new novel "Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy." It shows polygamy as a bad thing, and "exposes the destructive power of religious indoctrination and control."

She'll be at the The Book Cellar (37 East Saint George Boulevard) starting at 6 p.m. More about her and her writing at
Author to discuss polygamy book
For The Spectrum Daily News
The Spectrum
Originally published September 20, 2009

ST. GEORGE - Zoe Murdock always saw a deep sadness in her mother's eyes, but she wasn't sure what caused it.  Then when her mother died, she read her journals and began to understand.  Some of the things her mother wrote revealed just how terribly hurt she was during the period her husband was exploring polygamy.  Murdock will discuss her novel at The Book Cellar, 130 N. Main St., Suite C, St. George, on Thursday from 6 to 7:30 p.m.  Call 652-0227 or log onto for more information.  Murdock knew about her father's interest in polygamy and she knew his best friend had become a polygamist, but she didn't know exactly what had happened between her parents.  She was young at the time, and they never talked about polygamy around the children.  She did remember her mother saying, "If there's polygamy in heaven, I don't want to go there."  She remembered finding her mother in the bathroom with a towel over her head, crying.  When Murdock's father died several years ago, she found a notebook in which he had written his thoughts about polygamy, about wanting to see God and wanting to become a god himself.  She was startled to see just how obsessed he was with it, and it made her remember more things: like how he always wanted to practice the Law of Consecration, and how he tried to move the family to Hurricane about that same time he was exploring polygamy, and how he left home for three months and she didn't know where he was or what he was doing.  Murdock novel, "Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy" is the product of a journey back in time.     Read more
Author to discuss a family's struggle with polygamy
The Spectrum
Originally published August 26, 2009

ST. GEORGE — On Sept. 24 from 6 to 7:30 p.m., The Book Cellar will present Zoe Murdock in a reading and discussion of her new novel, "Torn by God: A Family's Struggle with Polygamy."  Inspired by true events, "Torn by God," is a riveting family drama that takes place in 1959 in a small Mormon town in Utah.  It chronicles the devastation brought upon the Sterling family when the father has a vision that leads him to become involved with a local polygamist group run by a self-serving fundamentalist.  The father comes to believe that the Mormon Church never should have rescinded polygamy.  Even though the practice is now against the law and grounds for excommunication, he feels it is something God demands of him.  When her father gets more and more involved with the polygamist group, 12-year-old Beth watches helplessly as her mother sinks into depression and illness.  When he leaves town to build a church for the polygamists, the family is cast off by the Mormon community, and it is up to Beth to take care of her sick mother and her little brother.  Murdock currently lives in California, but she was born and raised in a small town in Utah.  Although this is her first novel, Murdock has previously published a number of non-fiction books.  She and her husband, Doc, teach advanced writing workshops in California. To learn more about the author and this book log onto  The Book Cellar is located at 37 E. St. George Blvd.  For more information or reservations call 652-0227.
Books: new releases
Baltimore Sun
Originally published May 17, 2009

Lost Boy by Brent W. Jeffs with Maia Szalavitz (Broadway, $24.95).  Jeffs, the nephew of former (now imprisoned) president of Utah's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), recently filed a sexual-abuse lawsuit against his uncle.  Two of his brothers, also former FLDS members, killed themselves after leaving the FLDS community.  This memoir aims to help former members cross the chasm that stands between the disparate worlds of the FLDS and American society.
Lost Boy
Web-Exclusive Reviews: Week of 5/18/2009
Publishers Weekly - New York, NY
Originally published May 18, 2009

Brent. W. Jeffs with Maia Szalavitz. Broadway, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 9780767931779

In this moving debut memoir, the nephew of a Mormon sect leader chronicles life in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and what came after.  Among a 10,000-member Mormon community, Jeffs grew up with three mothers, more than a dozen siblings, and a deep fear of the world outside of the church.  Within the secretive community, Jeffs was taught that purity came from special attention to dress, hard work, generosity and, most importantly, obedience to one's elders (especially his uncle, the prophet Warren Jeffs).  The focus of this fast-paced memoir is the sexual abuse Jeffs and his brothers endured at the hands of their relatives during church and school functions, for which he would file a class-action lawsuit in 2004.  Jeffs's descent into depression proves the beginning of the end for his relationship with the church and, consequently, with much of his family.  Jeffs outlines the core beliefs of the Church, along with the oppressive ends to which they were used, and the heartbreaking fate of those church members expelled into a society they were raised to see as evil and corrupt.  This hard-to-put-down, tightly woven account pulls back the curtain on what's become a perennial news story, while illustrating the impiety of absolute power and the delicacy of innocence. (May)
Inside Warren Jeffs' Polygamous Group
Read an Excerpt of 'Lost Boy' Below.
Good Morning America
ABC News
Originally published May 21, 2009

Former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints member Brent Jeffs details his life inside the polygamous sect in "Lost Boy."  Brent Jeffs, who is the nephew of imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, walked away from the religious group in which he grew up because it hid a dark reality.  He was the first to file a sexual abuse lawsuit against his uncle, and in his book, he discusses how in FLDS girls are valued property, but boys are expendable.  Read an excerpt of this book below and check out more interesting titles in the "GMA" Library.

Heaven or Hell

Every child believes he's special. But when you are number ten of twenty, with three "sister-mothers" — two of whom are full-blooded sisters — and a grandfather whom thousands of people believe speaks directly to God, it can be hard to figure out what "special" really means. All told, I have roughly sixty-five aunts and uncles on my dad's side and twenty-two on my mom's — with probably thousands of cousins. In families as large as mine, even keeping track of your own siblings — let alone cousins and aunts and uncles — is difficult. As a grandson of Rulon Jeffs and nephew of Warren Jeffs, it once seemed that I was destined for high honor in the FLDS. My family had what our church called "royal blood." We were direct descendants of our prophet through my father's line. My mother, too, is the child of a prophet, who split from our group in 1978 to lead his own polygamous sect. When I was little, my family was favored, in the church's elite. I was assured that there was a place for me in the highest realms of heaven and at least three wives for me right here on earth once I attained the Melchizedek priesthood. I was in a chosen family in a chosen people, visiting sacred land near end times. I would one day become a god, ruling over my own spinning world.

So why would I ever abandon such status and rank? In the world of the FLDS, things are not always what they seem. The shiny, smiling surfaces often hide a world of rot and pain. And even royal blood and being born male can't protect you from sudden changes in its convoluted power structure.     Read more
'Lost Boy' a searing memoir of social control and abuse
Darrell Squires
The Western Star - Corner Brook - Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Originally published March 20, 2010

Brent W. Jeffs is the nephew Warren Jeffs, imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).  His memoir, "Lost Boy," is a startling and frank discussion of his experiences as a part of this order, and what his life was like after leaving the polygamous sect.  It's startling because we've become somewhat accustomed to hearing the experiences of women who were once a part of this Mormon fringe — their subjugated role, and how they survived their experiences as male property.  But what of men and boys who grow up in this milieu?  And what happens to them once they realize they don't fit in?  Jeffs breaks certain misconceptions as they pertain to boys and young men in the FLDS, foremost among which is that, from birth, they enjoy a certain privilege; Jeffs quickly shows that this is simply not true, and that being born a boy in the FLDS is not the privileged position it first seems to be.  He writes that unless you are willing to completely bow down to the leaders and attempt perfect obedience with constantly changing demands and hierarchies, you are likely either to be expelled or to have a hard time getting even one wife, let alone the three required to attain a position of power.  As Jeffs puts it, the simple problem of mathematics is enough to put pressure on the sect to remove males from its population — as young women are a sought-after commodity.     Read more
Recommended New Paperbacks
Shelf Life
Book reviews from Larry Cox
Tucson Citizen
Originally published July 29, 2010

Lost Boy: The True Story of One Man's Exile from a Polygamist Cult and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life by Brent W. Jeffs with Maia Szalavitz (Broadway Books, $14.99)

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints routinely expels young men and teenage boys from its compounds in order to give higher-ranking older men their pick of the teenage — and sometimes pre-teen — girls. These so-called "lost boys" are expelled for such infractions as watching a movie or talking to a girl. Since they generally have no place to go, many find themselves living in a confusing modern world for which they are unprepared. Brent W. Jeffs, nephew of polygamous prophet Warren Jeffs, filed sexual abuse charges against his uncle and followed that with a searing memoir that recalls his harrowing childhood, the tramatic exile that cost his brothers' lives, and his daunting, victorious road to justice. "Lost Boy" is not easy to read but with Warren Jeffs back in the national news, this disturbing book couldn't be more pertinent or timely.
Book Review: Illegitimate: How a Loving God Rescued a Son of Polygamy by Brian Mackert with Susan Martins Miller
Part of: It's All About Him
By Jennifer Bogart
Books - Aurora, Ohio
Originally published May 4, 2009

Brian Mackert's childhood is a tapestry of the familiar; wide open spaces, mischief, farm animals, and the secret solidarity of brothers. A strictly frugal and distant father, a timid yet loving mother, all of these elements form the backdrop for a life that might be taken from the pages of any number of works of classic Americana. While the details, nuances and flavours of childhood may seem so familiar to us, the larger picture of Mackert's childhood is strikingly foreign and unfamiliar.

One father, four mothers, 31 children: Mackert's birth into a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) community sets his experience of early life in direct contrast to those of the vast majority of North Americans. Related in a straightforward narrative Illegitimate: How a Loving God Rescued a Son of Polygamy transparently shares the logistical difficulties, emotional challenges and fear of persecution that the life of an FLDS child is filled with. Boasting a familial ancestry tracing itself to the earliest Mormon church fathers, they held firmly to the doctrine of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young despite raids, pressure from mainstream Mormons and mainstream culture.     Read more
Former FLDS Member Reveals the Truth Behind the Headlines in a New Book
Press Release
7thSpace Interactive
Originally published Monday, September 29, 2008

The shocking news of polygamous cults has sparked a national dialogue on religious sects. Splintered from and repudiated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these secretive families exist in a world far removed from mainstream American culture.

Yet for Brian Mackert, life inside this sect was all too real. As the 28th child in a family of one father, four mothers, and 30 siblings, Brian experienced firsthand the devastating realities of polygamous cults. Brian's family belonged to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the same splinter group that made headlines when its Texas compound was raided and children were taken from their families due to suspected abuse.

In a provocative new book called Illegitimate: How a Loving God Rescued a Son of Polygamy (October 1, 2008 - David C. Cook), Brian Mackert takes readers behind today's shocking headlines of this controversial sect, and gives us a glimpse as to what it was like to grow up as a child in the FLDS. A heart-wrenching and gripping account, it is the first-ever memoir written by a man raised inside the FLDS.
Read more
Survivor of Violent Polygamist Cult Shares Her Story
PR Web (press release) - Ferndale, WA
Originally published February 17, 2009

It began as a quest for a peaceful existence in an unorthodox religious society. It ended in mayhem, murder, and tragedy.

Grants Pass, OR (PRWEB) February 17, 2009 -- First time author Kim Taylor has surprised members of her small community, including some of her own family and friends, with the release of her tragic memoirs in a book that reads stranger than fiction. For the first time ever, the easy-going Oregon housewife shares in detail the fascinating events that took place in her young life.

In her story, titled Daughters of Zion: A Family's Conversion to Polygamy (212 pp, tpb, $15.95), Taylor chronicles being uprooted from her family's comfortable middle class home in Utah at the tender age of seven to be raised in a polygamous cult in Mexico. Her life takes unbelievable twists and turns as her older sisters become plural wives, and young Kim herself is eventually courted by the polygamist fathers of her close friends. All semblance of a peaceful life is shattered when violence erupts within the ranks of the priesthood leaving one sister a widow. Kim fears for her own life as some of the people she cares most about become murderers in the name of religion.     Read more
"Nauvoo Polygamy" awarded "Best Book" by historical association
By Clair Barrus
Salt Lake City Mormon History Examiner
Originally published September 28, 2009

A book on Mormon polygamy was given the "Best Book" award by a conference of Mormon scholars earlier this week.  The John Whitmer Historical Association held its annual conference with historians presenting their latest research on Mormon history to several hundred attendees.  This year's award went to George D. Smith for 'Nauvoo Polygamy: "... But We Called It Celestial Marriage" published by Signature Books.  Bill Russell, Awards Committee Chair said "Polygamy has been the stickiest issue in the history of Mormonism ... Mormon polygamy defied the norms of Western Christianity."  The John Whitmer Historical Society is sponsored mainly by the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS Church), but opens its doors to all scholars interested the history of the restoration.  "Though civilly married to Emma Hale, Joseph Smith married some 37 additional women" says Tom Kimball of the book.  Some of the prophet's 'celestial' wives included mother-daughter pairs, sisters, girls in their teens, women in their late fifties, and most controversially women already married to living husbands."  Kimball is the publicist for Signature Books.  The Community of Christ denied that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy for over a century.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continued the practice under Brigham Young, ending it under difficult circumstances around the turn of the 20th century.  "But today both of our churches would like to forget that it ever existed" joked Russell.     Read more
Sunstone panel critiques book on Mormon polygamy
By Clair Barrus
Salt Lake History Examiner
Originally published August 13, 2009

"In order to get a complete picture and understanding of Joseph Smith, I see this book as absolutely essential reading."  So declared Newell Bringhurst, former president of the Mormon History Association Thursday at the Salt Lake Sunstone Symposium.  Bringhurst was one of three panelists critiquing George D. Smith's new book -- Nauvoo Polygamy: "... but we called it celestial marriage."  Also on the panel was 3rd generation fundamentalist Mormon Marianne T. Watson, who found it a difficult book to read.  As a practicing polygamist, Watson found the topic too close to her heart with it's less than generous attitude towards the practice of polygamy.  The Sunstone symposium is underway this week with over 100 scholars and Mormon studies enthusiasts presenting their analysis on aspects of Mormonism.  But Watson was glad to have read it because of it's in depth analysis of the Latter-day Saint practice of polygamy.  She particularly enjoyed information on the rise of Mormon fundamentalism in the early 20th century, calling the book a "tremendous contribution" to Mormon history.  Cheryl Bruno, an active member of the LDS church found the book "intriguing" but felt the author betrayed his bias against polygamy.  However she felt the author's willingness to explore innuendo and rumor in Nauvoo made the book come alive.  Bruno noted there was a lot of information in the book never before published, and thought the tables and charts listing data on Nauvoo polygamy enhanced the book.     Read more
The Essentials
City Weekly's Entertainment Picks Dec 25-31
By Dallas Robbins
Salt Lake City Weekly
Originally published December 25, 2008

With an endless stream of books on polygamy and its discontents, do we really need another one? If the answer includes mention of NAUVOO POLYGAMY: "... but we called it celestial marriage" by George Smith, it would be a definitive yes. Ten years in the making, Nauvoo Polygamy traces the origins and establishment of Joseph Smith's vision of "spiritual wives" before it ever stepped foot in the State of Deseret. The book should dispel forever the common misperception that Joseph pined after only one wife, and polygamy was Brigham's idea while crossing the plains.

The book argues that good brother Joseph engaged in extramarital affairs - e.g., Fanny Alger - before officially marrying his first plural wife, Louisa Beaman, in 1841. Afterward, he married women at an average rate of one per month until late 1843. By early 1846, nearly 200 men and 717 women entered the practice, making up the polygamous pioneers who would later lay the foundation in the Great Basin. The book fills a gap in exploring how polygamy was established and worked at this early stage.     Read more
Book festival ready to start Wednesday
For The Spectrum & Daily News
Originally published October 18, 2009

ST. GEORGE - Book authors, filmmakers, poets, book clubs, puppet show, bookstores, book signings, local author displays, discussion groups - all these will converge at the St. George City Town Square for the annual St. George Book Festival, beginning Wednesday and running through Saturday.  Sponsored by the Utah Humanities Council, Utah Arts Council, The City of St. George, The Spectrum and Washington County Library, all the events are free to the public.  Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the St. George Tabernacle, Drs. Ron Esplin and Dean Jessee will discuss the massive Joseph Smith Papers project sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Historical Department.  The first volume, Journal Volume 1, 1832-39 appeared in 2008 and has enjoyed brisk sales.  It is the first of approximately 30 volumes that will document the life of the LDS Prophet Joseph Smith.  On Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., authors will speak and discussions will be held in the Community Arts Building (the Old Dixie College) on the corner of Main Street and 100 South.  Booksellers and local authors will have signing tables and book displays near the entrance.  At 9 a.m. Stephen Nasser, a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust, will tell of his experiences as a seven-year-old child in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau.  He will discuss his book, "My Brother's Voice," which is based on the journal his brother secretly kept during the imprisonment.  Nasser lives in Las Vegas.  In a different session, William Kerig will talk about his book, The Edge of Nowhere, which describes searching for his father who was lost while skiing in the Utah mountains.  Stephen Singular will speak in the third session that hour.  He is an investigative reporter from Colorado who has published, When Men Become Gods, about FLDS polygamy and their prophet, Warren Jeffs.     Read more
Watch a video on with Steve Singular (author of When Men Become Gods) and Laura Chapman filmed September 16, 2008 during a book signing event at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver, Colorado
New York Times Best Selling Author Stephen Singular to discuss his new book – When Men Become Gods
Press Release
The Book Cellar - St George, Utah
Originally published June 20, 2008

For Immediate Release - Historic Downtown St George, Utah, The Book Cellar, June 27th, 6pm:

The Book Cellar will be hosting Stephen Singular discussing his newest book When Men Become Gods, Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and The Women Who Fought Back on Friday June 27th at 6pm. In May 2006, Jeffs was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List for crimes in Arizona (alleged) and Utah and was arrested in August 2006. This book exposes the social impact of plural marriage, the dangers of religious extremism, and the intersection where faith meets criminal behavior. Twenty years ago the author was nominated for a national award for documenting the rise and fall of the neo-Nazi group known as The Order. Two decades later the subject of violently fanatical theology has become a worldwide issue. When Men Become Gods examines Jeff's story, how it fits into this larger phenomenon and offers a different approach to fighting terrorism.

With new revelations into the nearly impenetrable world of the FLDS, a place of 19th century attire, inbreeding, and eerie seclusion, bestselling author and veteran crime journalist Stephen Singular provides a rare glimpse into a tradition that's nearly a century old, but only now gaining wide exposure. In Singular's new book he discusses forced under-aged marriages, young "lost boys" being kicked out of their homes and the community, the rise to power of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, the courageous women who helped bring Jeffs to justice, the efforts of investigators and what the Mormon church has (or has not) done to help the victims of the FLDS.
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Book Review: Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall
Written by Alyse Wax
BlogCritics Magazine
Originally published June 30, 2008

This book deals with the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the extremely conservative sect of Mormonism that has recently been in the national news with the raid on a Texas FLDS camp. Mainstream Mormonism is not a factor in this book. All references and opinions in this review are strictly based on the FLDS as presented in these pages.

Stolen Innocence is the autobiography of Elissa Wall, a former FLDS member who managed to break free from the religion. Elissa was born into the FLDS. Her mother – who birthed 18 children - was the second of three wives. All three were "assigned" to Mr. Wall, and it led to a strained home life. After much shuffling, Sharon Wall and all her birth children were removed from the Wall residence. After staying with relatives, the prophet "assigned" them to a new man, Fred Jessop. He was an elder in the FLDS community, and was to be Elissa's new father. She was not allowed any contact with her biological father.

The FLDS operated much like a cult. Television and pop music were banned. Clothing was restricted to heavy prairie-style dresses that covered clavicle to ankle, even in the summer. For a brief time, children were allowed to attend public school. But when prophet Rulon Jeffs fell ill, and his son Warren took over, things became even stricter. Children were forbidden to attend public school. Their education came from church elders, was completely based in religious teachings, and often children were pulled from school by the time they reached their teen years.

Throughout her childhood, many of Elissa's siblings were either "married" off, shipped off to "behavioral camps," or simply excommunicated. But the trauma doesn't end there for Elissa. At age 14, she is assigned to "marry" Allen, her first cousin, a man of 18 who was quite a bully to Elissa in their childhood. Despite constant pleas for help – from church elders, from her new father Fred, from her mother, from her older siblings – no one would allow her to postpone her "marriage." The marriage is not a legal one; the FLDS members marry in secret across the Nevada border to avoid the attention of the authorities.
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Book review - Stolen Innocence, Elissa Wall and Lisa Pulitzer
By Stephen Davenport
The Independent Weekly - Adelaide, South Australia
Originally published July 28, 2008

Warren Jeffs was the leader in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a polygamous sect which has been accused of widespread child abuse. A raid on Jeffs's ranch in Texas resulted in the removal of hundreds of children from their homes and thrust the church's practices into the spotlight. Arguably the darkest secret of the sect unfurls at a secluded motel in Nevada, where girls as young as 14 are forced into wedlock. Elissa Wall claims she was one such under age bride and had no choice but to marry her 19-year-old first cousin Allen Steed. In Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, Wall tells her story.

Her vivid account of the sect's behaviour is by turns shocking, bewildering, harrowing and compelling. Wall emerges as a courageous and credible woman who testifies against a twisted criminal. However, it is her childhood perceptions on life and the harsh realities in a closed community that prove to be the most haunting and inspirational. She discusses her turbulent youth, her family's devotion and Warren Jeffs's influence over the church. Then she reveals the truth about her marriage. Insisting that it was her duty to submit to his every desire, Allen nightly raped his bride Wall found the strength to break free and give evidence against her husband and the church.
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What a tangled web they wove
When 15-year-old Debbie Oler married Ray Blackmore, it was with the belief that she could cure him of his leukemia
By Daphne Bramham
Vancouver Sun

Daphne Bramham has been a columnist at The Sun since 2000, winning a National Newspaper Award in 2004. Since May of 2004 she has written more than 100 columns on the fundamentalist Mormons. She has been honoured by the non-profit group, Beyond Borders, for her continuing series on the fundamentalist Mormons. Her new book, The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect, comes out Tuesday.


Daphne Bramham

Random House Canada, 480 pages ($32.95)

- - -

It wasn't just the exhortations and expectations of the priesthood leaders that made Debbie Oler anxious to marry. She also believed in the power of revelation, and that by fasting and praying she would come to know God's plan for her. And what she came to believe was that God not only had chosen her to be Ray Blackmore's wife, but that he would tell her how to cure Ray of his leukemia if she loved him enough, was obedient enough and prayed hard enough. That fall, after her 14th birthday, Debbie told her father about her revelation and how she felt about Ray. Dalmon Oler approached the prophet LeRoy Johnson on his next visit to Lister. The prophet listened but said nothing. Debbie was heartbroken and, in her distress, poured out her heart to her friends, and Ray's busybody son heard almost every word.

"Oh what an uproar at school," Winston wrote in his questionable account of the strange romance:

"The girls sobbed their hearts out . . . In her mind, she [Debbie] was mature, desperate and time was running out for my father, who had been diagnosed with cancer and he was in the fight for this life. She seemed to be driven by the belief that if she could just marry him then she could somehow prolong his life, and she seemed driven to get out of her own father's home. Her tears and fuss at school brought on a whole new scene of wonder among the students . . . .
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Polygamists' secrets laid bare
Journalists takes governments to task for not acting
Catherine Ford,
For the Calgary Herald
Originally published Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Secret Lives of Saints:

Child Brides and Lost Boys in a Polygamous Mormon Sect
by Daphne Bramham

(Random House Canada, $32.95, 432 pages)

- - - -

The fatal flaw in polygamy is arithmetic, writes Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham. Given that a society normally produces as many boys as girls, what does a polygamous community do with all the extra men? Kick them out, of course, preferably before they present a challenge for the charms of girls their own age.

But the story of these "lost boys" is incidental to the focus of The Secret Lives Of Saints, although they are the collateral damage of the tale. The real damage is the fate of young, pubescent, nubile girls. This is one society where protection would come in the form of physical ugliness.

Bramham is unsparing in her criticism for the "religion" of fundamentalism, for the law, the legislatures concerned and, ultimately, the lies that underpin the promotion of polygamy as some sort of normal, albeit alternative, lifestyle. She is scathing in her condemnation of the notion that it is appropriate to marry off girls barely in their teens to men old enough to be, and in some cases are, their own grandfathers.
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Secrets of Bountiful
By Jan DeGrass/Arts and Enterainment Writer
Coast Reporter - Tsawassen, BC, Canada
Originally published Friday, May 30, 2008

There are two reasons why the latest book from Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham, The Secret Lives of Saints, is a riveting read. One is the sheer power of the story itself: an investigation into the complex machinations of the sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) who live in Bountiful, near Creston, B.C. The book's sub title is Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect, and the stories cover similar territory to newspaper articles from the award-winning journalist.

Bramham's stand is clear. Though her account employs a journalist's training — it is detailed and factual and she has checked her sources and done extensive research into the roots of polygamy — her repugnance lies close to the surface.

Bramham recounts tales of child brides of 14 or 15 "assigned" to husbands by the self-proclaimed prophets of the sect. She describes stories of rape and abuse from those who have left the group, and of the despair of boys forced to work on construction projects owned by the sect's leaders at slave wages or banished from their community because they are rivals for the gene pool of young women.

Families are torn apart with wives and children "reassigned" to other men and homes taken away because husbands did not comply with the revelations of the prophets. It seems no one wins: women, children, young men or disobedient husbands — except for the prophets themselves, which in Bountiful means Winston Blackmore with his dozens of child-bearing wives or Warren Jeffs, the accused in a U.S. rape trial, both of whom own companies that have made them wealthy and powerful.
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The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect
New book examines the religious sect that infringes on human rights
Book Review
By Sheryl Spencer
United Church Observer - Toronto, Canada
Originally published Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Secret Lives of Saints: Child Brides and Lost Boys in Canada's Polygamous Mormon Sect

By Daphne Bramham

(Random House of Canada) $32.95

In 1843, Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, had a revelation. Only men with multiple wives would reach the highest realm of heaven, Smith proclaimed before taking on additional "celestial" wives himself. Smith's successor, Brigham Young, also practised polygamy. But in 1890, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints renounced the practice, which was, and remains, illegal in both the United States and Canada.

Still, dissidents persisted in believing that they must abide completely by all the commandments set down by Smith. The polygamous communities located in Bountiful, B.C., and the twin cities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, are the creation of one such splinter group, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), and the topic of Daphne Bramham's exhaustive research in The Secret Lives of Saints.

For the most part, FLDS polygamists have been treated with a "live and let live" attitude by their neighbours and by all levels of government in both countries. Bramham is determined to point out, however, that the FLDS developed from a religious sect into an economic and social construct that infringes on human rights. She illustrates this by detailing some of the FLDS's more abhorrent practices, such as assigning marriages of girls as young as 14, imposing child labour and systematically expelling boys into the "outside" world, for which they are woefully ill-prepared.
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Written by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer
Publisher - Broadway Books (Random House)
Category: Biography & Autobiography
Format: Hardcover, 413 pages
On Sale: October 2007
Price: $24.95
ISBN-10: 0767927567
ISBN-13: 9780767927567

The dramatic first-person account of life inside an ultra-fundamentalist American religious sect, and one woman's courageous flight to freedom with her eight children.

When she was eighteen years old, Carolyn Jessop was coerced into an arranged marriage with a total stranger: a man thirty-two years her senior. Merril Jessop already had three wives. But arranged plural marriages were an integral part of Carolyn's heritage: She was born into and raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the radical offshoot of the Mormon Church that had settled in small communities along the Arizona-Utah border. Over the next fifteen years, Carolyn had eight children and withstood her husband's psychological abuse and the watchful eyes of his other wives who were locked in a constant battle for supremacy.     Read more
Young Wife's Tales of Polygamy
By Carolyn See
Washington Post
Originally published Friday, November 2, 2007


By Carolyn Jessop (with Laura Palmer)

Broadway. 413 pp. $24.95

Up against the Arizona-Utah border lies a town comprising about 10,000 zealots, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They differ from conventional Mormons in that they continue -- with enthusiasm-- the practice of polygamy. Their current prophet, Warren Jeffs, recently was convicted of being an accomplice to rape. They've been the subject of some marvelously over-the-top journalism, from Michael Fessier's landmark magazine piece decades ago in New West magazine to Jon Krakauer's "Under the Banner of Heaven," which appeared in 2003.

Carolyn Jessop's "Escape" is different from Fessier's or Krakauer's work because it's written in the first person by a woman who was raised as a member of FLDS, and lived by the tenets of the faith until the age of 35, when, with her eight children, she felt she absolutely had to get out. It must be said up front that her narrative is inconsistent at times and irritatingly vague. You never know, for instance, whether she thinks that her escape has ruined her chance for salvation, whether she even believes in God, or whether, indeed, she ever did. But the book is fascinating for all that, mainly because of its close attention to the details of her everyday life and how it seemed to her. She took each event as it came, until her existence became unbearable, untenable, and then she came up with the courage to radically change her life.     Read more
Carolyn Jessop's Escape from Eternal Oppression
Read Review of Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer - Escape
By Bryan Carey
Originally published December 28, 2007

The ultimate triumph of the human mind and spirit

Writing a little too detailed at times

The Bottom Line
This is a very good book for all to read. Carolyn gets a little carried away with details at times, but her story is still very inspirational.

Full Review
"For the first time, I began to see how religion could suppress something positive and life- giving. Failing to educate our children was unconscionable" - Carolyn Jessop, reacting to the decision of cult leader Warren Jeffs to oppose the opening of a new charter school in the community, based on the concern that educated children were a threat to his religious sect.

Religious extremism can take on many forms. When most of us think of radical religion, we conjure up images of radical Muslims or other groups threatening to destroy an enemy in the name of God or actually following through on their threat via various means of force. We think back to the attacks on September 11, 2001, and wonder what makes some individuals so willing to commit such heinous acts under the banner of religion.

Most of us don't associate Christianity with extremism, but there are certainly radical groups in the Christian ranks. One such group is the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and at least one of its members has escaped from the cult and lived to tell her story. The woman's name is Carolyn Jessop and in this book, Escape, Jessop explains how she went from neglected, disrespected polygamist wife to a free woman with a newfound outlook on life.     Read more
A Book A Week: Escape by Carolyn Jessop, with Laura Palmer
By Becky Holmes
The Daily Page - Madison, Wisconsin
Originally published Originally published July 16, 2009

I don't usually read books about the issue du jour, if you know what I mean. For some reason, however, I was attracted to Escape by Carolyn Jessop, who escaped from the FLDS, the fundamentalist polygamous cult that was recently raided by the Texas authorities for alleged child abuse.

Carolyn Jessop was raised in the FLDS community in Colorado City, Arizona, and forced at age 18 to marry a man 30 years her senior, a man who already had three wives and numerous children. She endured more than 15 years of marriage to him and gave birth to 8 children. Her book tells the story of how she went from being a true believer in the tenets of her religion to understanding the real nature of the FLDS: that it brainwashes its followers through isolation, violence and intimidation into total subservience to the leadership, which consists of corrupt old men.
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Escape, by Carolyn Jessop (with Laura Palmer)
By Lori Savery-Hinze
McCook Daily Gazette - McCook, Nebraska
Originally published June 27, 2011

Carolyn Jessop grew up in an FLDS Polygamist community. Though her mother suffered from depression and was prone to violence, Carolyn did not associate this with her religion. From her grandmother, she learned to take pride in her religion. She was raised to believe that they were God's chosen people and that husbands would be fair to their wives in plural marriages. She had dreams of becoming a pediatrician someday. Though the only working women she knew in her community were nurses or teachers, she dreamed that she could achieve this and be a role model to other girls.

When she was eighteen, she was arranged in marriage to Merril Jessop. She became the fourth wife to a man 32 years older than her. Carolyn Jessop paints a vivid picture of the emotional abuse she experienced being treated as little more than Merril Jessop's property and being subject to mistreatment based on the jealousy of Merril's favorite wife, Barbara. Through the course of her marriage, she gave birth to eight children. Ultimately, she came to the realization that even if she believed in her religion, its leadership had become corrupt, and she and her children were in danger. While her husband was away, she fled with her eight children.     Read more
His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy
A true story of violent fanaticism
By Susan Ray Schmidt

Book Description
His Favorite Wife details the experiences of a young girl raised in a fundamentalist polygamist sect. At the age of 14, Susan becomes the sixth wife of Verlan LeBaron, one of the sect leaders. Woven with jealousies, and heartache, her story leads the reader through a murderous power struggle between the LeBaron brothers. Polygamist women are taught that obedience and unquestioning acceptance of polygamy will assure them a crown in heaven as a goddess. Few search out truth for themselves. Living a cloistered, sheltered life and giving birth to many children, traps them. Susan's book deals with these issues, as she too, was one of these women.

Cascading with well-developed characters, this true story will capture your soul and imagination as the author reveals how a group of kind-hearted, sincere people are led to embrace this controversial lifestyle in their pursuit of the highest degree of glory. Laced with surprising brush-strokes of humor, this heart-rending saga will take its readers on a journey that outsiders whisper of and shudder about. It answers the question that a polygamist's wife is asked countless times: How can you tolerate sharing your husband?     Read more
Book details woman's life while married to polygamist
By Patrice St. Germain
The Spectrum
Originally broadcast May 9, 2007

After leaving her husband of eight years, Susan Ray Schmidt starting writing as self-therapy, to try and make sense of her life and her own belief system.  Eventually, her writing evolved into a book - "His Favorite Wife" - in which Schmidt writes about her marriage at age 15 to Verlan LeBaron and the struggles she endured before, during and after the marriage.  Schmidt was married for only eight years, but the marriage produced five children as Schmidt took on the role of the sixth wife to LeBaron.  Schmidt will share her story as well as discuss her book and polygamy in general Thursday at the Book Cellar in St. George.  "The personal account (in the book) is amazing," Book Cellar owner Margi LaPorte said.  "Susan is an inspirational person, and people need to listen to her story and see how far she has come."  The LeBaron family was head of the Church of the First Born in Mexico, where Schmidt's family moved from Utah to join the church, which held plural marriage among its tenets.  She married Verlan, whose brother Ervil was excommunicated and began his own church - Church of the Lamb of God.  Schmidt said Ervil orchestrated several murders, including the slaying of his own brother, Joel, and the attempted killing of Verlan.  Schmidt said since she left that life behind in 1974, she has developed strong convictions.  She said that she hopes people will read her book for a deeper understanding of what living in a polygamist group is like.     Read more
Escaping a lifestyle
Author Susan Schmidt shares polygamy story
By Patrice St. Gemain
The Spectrum
Originally published May 11, 2007

ST. GEORGE - Susan Ray Schmidt believes that she is truly one of the lucky ones - one who escaped a life of polygamy.  Yet as Schmidt talked about her life, which she turned into a book, "His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy," Schmidt had a message for the more than 100 people who attended her book discussion: Help others who want to leave the life.   Schmidt spoke at the Book Cellar in St. George about how as a young girl living in a polygamist community in Mexico, she became the sixth wife of Verlan LeBaron when she was still in her teens and he was 38.  A member of the audience asked Schmidt if she ever questioned what she was doing, especially marrying so young or questioned the wisdom of the church leaders.  "You are not allowed to think for yourself," Schmidt replied.  "You don't feel there are any other options."     Read more
Local author talks about past life of polygamy, on Rachael Ray show
By Michelle Costa
KMVT Channel 11 - Twin Falls, Idaho
Originally broadcast January 2, 2011

A local woman is making national headlines.

A Twin Falls woman who found herself trapped in polygamy is opening up to the world about her lifestyle.  On Tuesday, you can watch Susan Ray Schmidt speaking with TV star Rachael Ray.  It's airing on the CW (cable channel 2) at 11:00am.  For Susan Ray Schmidt, it's just another day.  But years back, her life was something she couldn't escape: a life of polygamy.  Schmidt said, "For me, polygamy wasn't right in God's eyes. And I recognized that through some of the studying that I started doing and from looking around and seeing people unhappy."  To help her get out her feelings after she'd left the cult, Schmidt wrote a book called His Favorite Wife.  Now, the book has been re-published and is called Favorite Wife.  It's a story of her life, the good and the bad.  She said, "I wrote it over the period of 20 years. I didn't think I could write to start with, but as I started doing it, the words flowed and it was therapeutic."  At fifteen, she became the sixth wife in a family of polygamy.  It's this riveting story that leads her to the spotlight of national television.  Schmidt was asked to be on the Rachael Ray Show.  It's something she never imagined.  Schmidt said, "It was honestly a dream come true to see the statue of liberty, Times Square and to go on a subway for the first time in my life. It's (polygamy) kind of a hard subject to talk about a lot of people are judgmental."  For Schmidt, telling her story is still difficult.  As the last line of her book reads, she simply hopes a few others would find their way out of the whirlpool that sucked them under.
Life After... Being a Sister Wife
Rachel Ray Show - New York, NY
Originally broadcast January 4, 2011

For most girls, the teenage years are all about school and boys and dating, but for Susan, being a teen in a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon Church meant something completely different. "Since I was a church girl," she explains, "I needed to marry a righteous man who could take me to that celestial kingdom." When she turned 15, Susan became the sixth wife of the prophet's 38-year-old brother, and gave birth to her first child 19 days shy of her 16th birthday. Over the next eight years, Susan had five more children while her husband continued to take other wives, who had more children of their own. The arrangement began to take its toll on Susan. "I could not come to grips with the fact that my husband wanted to marry other women when his wives were so lonely," she says.

Finally, Susan made the fateful decision to leave the community behind. She convinced her father to bring her and her children along on a business trip to Utah, where she turned to her brother. "I fell apart in his arms," she recalls. "And I just told him, 'I don't want to go back.'" Soon after, Susan started a new life in Utah, got a new job, went back to school, and fell in love. "For the first time in my life," she smiles, "I knew what it was like to be in a relationship with a man who was just mine, someone who made me feel special and secure and loved."

Tune in today when Susan pinpoints the catalyst that lead to her decision to change her life, and how she and her children are doing today. Plus, read more about Susan's story in her book Favorite Wife: Escape from Polygamy.

Watch the show
Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy
By Debbie Palmer and David Perrin

Winner of the 2005 VanCity Prize for the best book published in British Columbia on women's issues.
Book Description
Best Selling Author, Dr. David Perrin, co-authored Keep Sweet with Debbie Palmer so that readers could understand what it would be like to be a young girl growing up in the polygamous Mormon community of Bountiful. The foreword was written by Jon Krakuer, author of Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, and Under the Banner of Heaven.

Although the book is set in the early 50s and 60s, Debbie's experiences are representative of those that many children of polygamous groups are currently experiencing.

Keep Sweet is non-fiction, but names have been changed to protect the safety and privacy of people mentioned. Based on Palmer's early memories, letters, and diaries, the memoir takes the reader inside the daily lives of children, sister-wives, husbands and leaders and provides an in-depth insight into the teachings of the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Palmer's story begins when her father takes her to the polygamous community near Creston, BC in 1957. We follow Debbie from age two as she struggles to integrate into a strange society and culture. At age fifteen she becomes the sixth wife to the community's fifty-five year old leader. Keep Sweet follows Debbie's trials until the death of her husband in 1974.

Palmer remained in the community until 1988 when, pregnant with her seventh child, she managed to escape.     Read more
By Benjamin G. Bistline

Book Description
The author has received a warning. The FBI is now involved.

For the media, a synopsis of the development of and recent events in Colorado City can be found by clicking here.

What some of the people have been forced to endure in Colorado City is little different from living in a third world country.

Ten-year-old Benjamin Bistline moved with his parents to Short Creek (Colorado City), Arizona, in 1945 to join with a group of excommunicated Mormons who believed in honoring the law of polygamy as revealed by the Prophet Joseph Smith and instituted by Brigham Young.

Mr. Bistline has compiled A DETAILED HISTORY of the significant events that shaped and sustained this community from the beginning. He tells of the shifts in power, changes in leadership philosophies, persecution from outside forces – and from within.

Mr. Bistline's goal in writing this history is to reveal that the original leadership structure of a Council of men holding common and balancing power has slowly descended into a ONE-MAN TYRANNICAL RULE over the people.

Bistline has observed:
  1. Older men being taught to take CHILD BRIDES before the girls are attracted to boys their own age.
  2. BOYS DRIVEN OUT of the community for competing with older men for wives.
  3. Plural wives expected to apply for WELFARE as single mothers.
  4. Men out of favor are "EVICTED" from their homes with their wives and children reassigned to a more compliant man.
  5. Community members AFRAID TO DISOBEY the "Prophet" out of fear for their eternal salvation.
    Read more
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
By Jon Krakauer

Book Description
Jon Krakauer's literary reputation rests on insightful chronicles of lives conducted at the outer limits. In UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN, he shifts his focus from extremes of physical adventure to extremes of religious belief within our own borders. At the core of his book is an appalling double murder committed by two Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this "divinely inspired" crime, Krakauer constructs a multilayered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, polygamy, and unyielding faith. Along the way, he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America's fastest-growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.

Krakauer takes readers inside isolated communities in the American West, Canada, and Mexico, where some forty-thousand Mormon Fundamentalists believe the mainstream Mormon Church went unforgivably astray when it renounced polygamy. Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the leaders of these outlaw sects are zealots who answer only to God. Marrying prodigiously and with virtual impunity (the leader of the largest fundamentalist church took seventy-five "plural wives," several of whom were wed to him when they were fourteen or fifteen and he was in his eighties), fundamentalist prophets exercise absolute control over the lives of their followers, and preach that any day now the world will be swept clean in a hurricane of fire, sparing only their most obedient adherents.
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Ron Howard to direct 'Under the Banner of Heaven' film
By Hal Boyd
Deseret News
Originally published Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Warner Bros. is currently bargaining for the rights to Jon Krakauer's controversial book, "Under the Banner of Heaven," according to a report from The Wrap on Wednesday.  If negotiations are successful, Ron Howard ("The Da Vinci Code" and "Angels and Demons") will direct the film and Dustin Lance Black ("Big Love" and "Milk") will write the film's script, the story also reported.  Krakauer's non-fiction book chronicles the story of two Mormon-fundamentalist brothers who, in 1984, committed the gruesome murders of their sister-in-law Brenda Lafferty and her baby Erica.  Using the Lafferty's case as his guide, Krakauer explores violence in modern fundamentalist offshoot groups of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  His book received considerable praise by some, for example Washington Post's Anne Rule called it, "a tour de force that must be read carefully and savored."  Yet, it was criticized by others, "... It would have been nice to see some of religion's upside. Something must explain the vibrancy of mainstream Mormonism, and I doubt it's just the dark energy of residual authoritarianism. Religion, like patriotism, can nurture virtue within the group even while directing hostility beyond it," said Robert Wright of the New York Times.  Inside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the book was met with considerable disapproval.     Read more
In Review: "Under the Banner of Heaven"
By Sara Kaufman
The Ponte Vedra Recorder - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Originally published December 29, 2008

During the holiday season, it's difficult not to focus on religions and their interpretations of the miracle of the season.  With that in mind, I picked up "Under the Banner of Heaven" in the hopes that I would get a more in depth look at the details of the Mormon Church.  What I found wasn't exactly warm and fuzzy.  Jon Krakauer is most well known for his books "Into thin Air" and "Into the Wild," both of which achieved commercial and critical success and were turned into movies.  In 2003's "Under the Banner of Heaven," Krakauer stepped away from outdoor topics and tackled the roots of the fundamentalist Morman culture.  In 1984, Brenda Lafferty and her 18 month old daughter Erica were killed by Dan and Ron Lafferty.  The Lafferty brothers are fundamentalist Mormans who believed they were ordered by God to end the lives of Brenda and Erica.  Krakauer's book tells the story of this gruesome murder through interviews with the brothers and others close to them and tackles the history of the Mormon Church from its roots to the modern day and circles around the most highly disputed doctrine in the church - polygamy.     Read more
Bookshelf for October 25, 2008
"Under the Banner of Heaven"
By Susan Orr
Evansville Courier & Press - Evansville, Indiana
Originally published October 25, 2008

"Under the Banner of Heaven"

By Jon Krakauer (nonfiction, Doubleday, 2003, paperback, $14.95)

With the arrest and rape conviction of religious leader Warren Jeffs and the federal raid last April of its Texas compound, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has made headlines often in recent months.  But several years before the polygamous sect became so widely known, author Jon Krakauer wrote about the group in his book "Under the Banner of Heaven."  Krakauer, who also wrote "Into Thin Air" (an account of a fatal climbing trip on Mount Everest) and "Into the Wild" (about a young man who dies in Alaska's wilderness), is known for writing heavily researched nonfiction books that explore extreme aspects of human belief and behavior.  "Heaven" is no exception.     Read more
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
By Jon Krakauer

Hilary Spurling with The Telegraph (UK) reviews this book
The core of this book is an interview with a Mormon, handcuffed and shackled by the ankles in Utah State Prison, who hasn't cut his hair or shaved his beard for 18 years because he believes himself to be a reincarnation of the prophet Elijah.  "I'm here to prepare the way for the return of the Son of Man," Dan Lafferty explained to Jon Krakauer.  "I will be the one who will identify Christ when He returns."   On July 24, 1984, Dan turned up on the doorstep of his sister-in-law, Brenda Lafferty, who refused to let him use her phone.  "I was kind of silently talking to God," he explained to Krakauer, "and I asked, `What do I do now?'   It felt comfortable to push past her and enter the house, so that's what I did.'"   A few minutes later, Dan's elder brother Ron burst in to find him sitting astride Brenda on the floor, still being talked through his mission by remote control.  "And I kind of said to myself, `What am I supposed to do, Lord?'   Then I felt impressed that I was supposed to use a knife.  That I was supposed to cut their throats."  So he did, murdering first his baby niece, then her mother, with a butcher's knife supplied by Ron.   Both men insisted they had committed no crime, since they were acting on orders from heaven.     Read more
Jon Krakauer Responds to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' Official Response To 'Under The Banner of Heaven'
Jon Krakauer - Interview
Originally published July 3, 2003

At the end of June 2003, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints issued an official "response" to my new book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith. Disseminated nationwide more than two weeks before my book was scheduled to appear on bookstore shelves, this preemptive attack was authored by Richard E. Turley, Jr., a high-ranking church official who serves as managing director of the LDS Family and Church History Department. In his lengthy, carefully worded screed, Elder Turley characterized Under the Banner of Heaven as "a decidedly one-sided and negative view of Mormon history." According to his assessment, my book was written as "a condemnation of religion generally," and the Mormon faith in particular.

It saddens me that Elder Turley, speaking for the LDS leadership (and by extension for the church as a whole), elected to regard my book in such a reductionist light. Other reviewers have assessed Under the Banner of Heaven quite differently. As critic Edward Morris wrote in the July issue of Bookpage, "Raised among Mormons he greatly admired, Krakauer treats their religion--in all its theological shades--quite seriously. There's never a snide remark or sarcastic aside. But the studiously balanced reporting can't soften the savagery of the [Lafferty murders]."

In fact it is impossible to comprehend the actions of the murderous Lafferty brothers, or any other Mormon Fundamentalist, without first making a serious effort to plumb their theological beliefs, and that requires some understanding of LDS history, along with an understanding of the complex and highly fluid teachings of the religion's remarkable founder, Joseph Smith. The life of Smith and the history of his church may be considered from myriad perspectives, of course. And therein lies the basis for the Mormon leadership's profound unhappiness with my book.     Read more
HICKMAN: 'Banner of Heaven' shakes church book club
By Kathy Hickman
The Sun Chronicle - Attleboro, Massachusetts
Originally published Monday, March 5, 2007

"This is scary stuff going on here."

"I couldn't bear to go back to it."

"It was the most horrendous book I've ever read!"

"The 'sacred' underwear intrigued me."

Fuse together a lurid murder, an award-winning author, and his exploration into "the roots of brutality andthe nature of faith," add Murray Universalist's fervid First Sunday Book and Lunch Bunch, and you have all the ingredients to ignite an incendiary book discussion.  Club members Linda Censorio, DJ Campbell, Joan Macauley, and the Rev. Sandra Fitzhenry, whose comments appear above, were among nine group members who recently shared spirited reactions to "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith," Jon Krakauer's shocking account of Mormon "fundamentalists."  After investigating the terrifying extremes of climbing Mt. Everest and of challenging the wilds of the Alaskan wilderness, Krakauer's 2003 book, "Under the Banner of Heaven" turns a critical eye on a "religious extremism" that has its roots in "the underbelly of the United States' most successful homegrown faith."  He takes as his starting point the savage murder of a mother and child committed in 1984 by brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, excommunicated members of the Latter Day Saints, who to this day insist that they received a personal "revelation" from God to act as instruments of death.     Read more
God's Brothel
By Andrea Moore-Emmett

Sandra Dallas with The Denver Post reviews this book
When she was 4, Lillian was sexually abused by a half-brother.  As a young child, she was raped by another half-brother and fondled by a half-sister.  At 12, she was courted by one of her father's friends, and when she slapped his straying hand, the enraged man screamed that she didn't have the right as a child or as a woman to reject him.  Instead of chastising his friend, Lillian's father punished her.   On Lillian's 13th birthday, her sister's husband gave her a wedding cake as his way of proposing to her.  She married him at 17, and four months later, Lillian's husband began looking for yet another wife.  Some years later, she had flashbacks of being raped by her father and his friends and forced to eat rats.  A half-sister had identical nightmares.     Read more
By Dorothy Allred Solomon

Susan Whitney with the Deseret Morning News reviews this book
In a new autobiography, "Predators, Prey and Other Kinfolk," local author Dorothy Solomon tells of growing up as the 28th child of polygamist Rulon Allred.   Allred, as most Utahns will remember, was the naturopath who was murdered in 1977, shot by members of a rival polygamist group led by Ervil LeBaron.   The murder was not the only drama in Solomon's family.  Before she was born, her father served a jail sentence for polygamy.  Then, when Solomon was 5 and it seemed that federal agents were again on his trail, she and her mother and some of the other wives and children fled to Mexico and hid out for a time.  They were afraid that social workers would take the children.  They were also afraid the wives would go to jail.   The LeBarons came to Mexico, too, as Solomon recalls.   She remembers being afraid of them.   Soon after the Allreds returned to the United States, Rulon's families scattered.   For years they lived separately, avoiding detection.  Solomon and her brothers and mother were in Nevada.   Solomon describes all the upheaval and intrigue in a straightforward way.     Read more
Prisons of the Mind
By Kasiah May Hancock

Book Description
A powerful story of an unscrupulous man using religious compulsion in the extreme to subject and exploit other human beings to his own personal gain.  By adding a word where it was convenient and subtracting words so as to give the Holy Scriptures a new meaning, then claiming power and rights, he locked naive victims into a trap.  Preach long enough, loud enough, often enough and they will begin to believe it.  Control the environment.  Do not allow your subjects to have outside communication, then capitalize on their labor.  And what do you have?   Prisons of the Mind - a true story you will never forget.     Read more about this remarkable lady
The Dark Side of Utah Polygamy
By John R. Llewellyn

Book Description
A riveting story of intrigue, murder, and sex. Lusting for worldwide power and recognition, the fanatical leader of a Utah polygamist cult launches a plan to become "the prophet" of all the polygamist cults—and then to take over the entire Mormon Church. Detectives fear a doomsday Waco-type standoff with women and children. Investigator John Llewellyn, polygamy expert, creates a fascinating tale of fiction based on real-life events.

As the drama unfolds, the personal background stories of individuals portray a realistic portrait of —
  • Easy manipulation of deeply faithful people taught unquestioning obedience by unscrupulous leaders.

  • Depictions of the negative social and genetic effects of many polygamous cults.

  • Vibrant, playful little girls often devolving into lifeless, emotionless women.

  • Occasional men, sexually intimidated by mature women, and having absolute control over their children, fall into pedophilic behavior as they train girls "when they are still young" to become a pleasing wife to the husband.

  • While claiming polygamy is simply a mandate by God to raise up a righteous progeny, and that men are being "holy" as they fulfill this directive to qualify for Celestial Glory, two polygamist leaders lustfully pursue a beautiful new woman convert, each wanting her as wife.
    Read more
By John R. Llewellyn

Book Description
The worldwide bombshell of Brian David Mitchell, the itinerant sidewalk preacher who kidnaped Elizabeth Smart, finally brought the world's attention to what Oprah Winfrey's show labeled as third-world Taliban-type abuses in Utah and Arizona. The entire world had been focused on publicity hungry Tom Green and his claim of a peaceful life as a polygamist, when Mitchell and his accomplice wife shocked the world by their crime against Elizabeth Smart.

Polygamy expert and retired law enforcement officer John Llewellyn provides a dramatic inside look at each of the polygamist groups, how they began, how they rule their people, their beliefs, and how many are living off your tax dollars. He explores serious human rights abuses that occur in many groups such as forcing young girls to marry men old enough to be their father. A former friend of Tom Green, the author provides deep background on Tom's life and polygamist activities. John explores the fascinating underground fraud by the various groups and evaluates Brian David Mitchell's efforts to turn Elizabeth Smart into a compliant plural wife.

And finally, he takes a hard look at the possible value of decriminalizing polygamy so that the many hidden abuses, including tens of millions of dollars of welfare fraud when polygamist wives pose as single mothers with children, can be brought out into the open and finally be dealt with realistically.     Read more
Child Brides
By Carole A. Western

Book Description
CHILD BRIDES is an illuminating, intimate story of Julia Jefferson, who on her thirteenth birthday becomes a polygamous wife. In a religion where men have absolute control, Julia retaliates and saves her sanity by writing her memoirs. Through her journals, we experience the deprivation, jealousy, humiliation and abuse of being one of many women serving the sexual fantasies of one man. We learn how she and her daughters finally realize they are valuable human beings as they make their dangerous escape to the outside world and freedom.
Holy Murder: Polygamy's Blood
By James R. Spencer

Book Description
HOLY MURDER is a look into the dark underground of polygamous Fundamentalism, practiced by more than 50,000 people in the West. Here sex and blood mix in religious excess. Men driven to obey God's devotion to "The Principle" live and die for their beliefs. Sometimes the violence spills over and touches people outside the system.

HOLY MURDER is set in the Wyoming of the Author's youth and describes the saga of Jan Kucera, a retired AP Bureau Chief who retires to the old homestead along the Bighorn River in Wyoming. Now freelancing, he writes a story for the New York Times about a polygamous sect located on a compound near the mouth of Shell Canyon at the foot of the Bighorns. Shortly after that account is published, a car bomb meant for him kills his wife. Now Jan has to face down his fears and the head of the cult, Prophet Hansen. Hansen is wealthy, politically savvy, and stealthy. State authorities are unable to connect the prophet, convincingly, to the crime.
Read more
New Book on Warren Jeffs' Polygamy Sect Provides Insight into Lives of Women Enslaved by Fundamentalist Group
Women Who Escaped Tell Their Stories; Author Went Undercover to Interview
Business Wire - San Francisco, CA
Originally published February 27, 2008

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A new book, Inside the World of Warren Jeffs, by author Dr. Carole A. Western, takes the reader inside Short Creek, two nearby communities in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) leader ruled until his arrest and conviction in the fall of 2007 as an accomplice in the rape of a 14-year-old girl.  Western details the experiences of several young women enslaved in Short Creek and lets them tell in their own words how they were coerced into virtual servitude and forced into unwanted pregnancies by the "husbands" they were ordered to marry.  In addition, Western explains the power of the "First Wife," family sleeping arrangements and how polygamists manage to receive support from the U.S. Government under its welfare programs as well as Medicaid.   Western also covers how teenage boys in polygamy sects are forced out of the colony, so as not to create competition for older men.     Read more
Anti-polygamy activist pens book on FLDS
By Ben Winslow
Deseret News
Originally published Friday, Aug. 1, 2008

An anti-polygamy activist who has been a lightning rod of controversy when it comes to the Fundamentalist LDS Church will publish her autobiography next year.  Flora Jessop's "Church of Lies: The True Story of Escaping Slavery and Polygamy, and Rescuing Women and Children from the Notorious Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints" will hit bookstore shelves in February 2009.  It's being published by Jossey-Bass, a division of Wiley Publishing.  "It's a book about my life, about what I come from and why I do what I do," Jessop told the Deseret News on Thursday.  "I think that it's important to know why I do what I do, and for people to know why I'm fighting for these children."  In the book's preface, Jessop said she was one of 28 children born to her father and his three wives.  At 8, she said she began being sexually abused and tried to run away throughout her teenage years.  She finally left the church about 20 years ago, enduring a rough life until she became an advocate for abused children in polygamy.  Jessop now heads the Phoenix-based Child Protection Project, where she has helped women and children seeking to leave the FLDS communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.  She once proclaimed she'd be willing to go to jail for harboring runaways, if it meant protecting children from abuse.     Read more
'Church of Lies' details woman's life in FLDS
By Tim Sampson
The Daily Times - Kerrville, Texas
Originally published June 24, 2009

When Flora Jessop was 16, she was forced to marry her own cousin.  She was forced to do it because a "prophet" told her to.  Jessop spent the first 16 years of her life as a prisoner to a fundamentalist sect of the Church of Latter Day Saints — a cult that practices an extreme version of the Mormon faith.  The church alienates its followers from the outside world, practices polygamy and strips women of virtually all autonomy, she said.  She chronicled her experience in the memoir "Church of Lies."  She will be at Hastings on Main Street today from 1 to 3 p.m. for a book signing and discussion.  Jessop was lucky to escape from the isolated religious compound where she was raised in Arizona.  It was only by the permission of her husband — and cousin — that she was permitted to leave.  Although men are free to leave, woman are held against their will.  "If women and girls leave, they are hunted down," she said.  "They are the prize. You need women and girls to continue and make the next generation."  Marriages are all arranged by a single male leader, or a group of male leaders, who are viewed as prophets.  She said girls are forced into marriage as young as 8.  Like all members of the church, Jessop was born into it.  The church doesn't take outsiders. The cult eliminates all access to the outside world.     Read more
Irene Spencer, daughter speak of hardships of polygamy
Written by Shelley Singler
Daily Vidette Reporter
Daily Vidette - Illinois State University
Originally published Wednesday, 16 March 2011

As part of the speaker series at Milner Library, Irene Spencer, author of "Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife," spoke about her struggles as a polygamist wife Tuesday evening.  Spencer is the second of 10 wives, the mother of 14 children.  Spencer comes from a long line of polygamists, approximately five generations, and has spent 28 years of her life in a polygamist relationship.  There are between 60 and 1,000 practicing polygamists in Canada, the Western United States and Mexico, according to Spencer.  She also spoke about the background of polygamy and how it started.  Spencer, along with her daughter, Donna Goldberg, who helped her mother publish her books, spoke of the hardships and suffering of both women and men in a life of polygamy.  "Because I had been taught that polygamy was the only way to get to heaven, I went and married my half-sister's husband. You don't get married because you fall in love; you get married because God wants you to help this man build his kingdom," Spencer said.  Spencer also discussed how women never had their needs met and spoke about her battle with low self-esteem.  Women were not valued as much as men and seemed to have no purpose in life but to bear children into polygamy.  "You make a promise when you get married that you won't let a year go by without seeing that a baby is born into this group. I have one girlfriend who had 21 single-births, now that is abuse," Spencer said.  Spencer had also gone through hardships from giving birth to so many children, which led to health problems and, at one point, she was told she could die if she had any more children.     Read more
Rebecca Kimbel interviews Irene Spencer, a fifth generation polygamist. Irene has relatives in almost every fundamentalist polygamist cult. She tells of boys working to support their fathers so they can have more wives, women who wore their suffering like a badge, children raising children, lies on birth certificates, lieing for God, living in poverty and how her oldest daughter quit sixth grade and had to stay home to help raise her father's children.

Rebecca Kimbel interviews Irene Spencer who tells of blood atonement, murder, incest, men having their wives and children taken away and given to other men, young boys working to support their fathers who take on more wives, suicide, mental break downs, and the interconnected reality of all fundamentalist polygamist cults.

Rebecca Kimbel interviews Irene Spencer, who explains why women promote polygamy in the media, the dangers and losses they face if they leave polygamy and her response to the Darger's statement concerning polygamists marrying into other races. She speaks of racial prejudice, blood atonement, and Lisa Ling's Our America, on polygamy in Centenial Park. Irene reads basic polygamist doctrines.

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