'Church of Lies' details woman’s life in FLDS
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.

"We’re told that everything outside the compound is wicked, and everyone on the outside are demons," she said. "But after a certain point, I hated living in ‘heaven’ so much that I would rather walk with the ‘demons.’"

Jessop, who left the church 24 years ago, has dedicated her life to making the outside world aware of the abuses that occur in these cults, which are scattered throughout the western states. She works closely with Americans Against Abuses of Polygamy. More information about polygamy and the groups that practice it can be found on their Web site: www.tripleap.org.

"This is a problem for all Americans," she said. "The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints operates under the radar all around us."
Originally published June 24, 2009