Book details woman's life while married to polygamist
His Favorite Wife

Susan Ray Schmidt, author of "His Favorite Wife - Trapped in Polygamy," will conduct a talk about her book at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Book Cellar, 130 N. Main St., behind Kinko's. Margi LaPorte, owner of the Book Cellar, said everyone is invited to attend but is asking people to RSVP to ensure seating is available. Call the Book Cellar at 652-0227.

Schmidt also will sign her book Saturday in Cedar City and St. George. Schmidt will be at Mountain West Books, 77 N. Main St. in Cedar City from 10 a.m. until noon and at B. Dalton Bookseller in the Red Cliffs Mall on Red Cliffs Drive in St. George from 1 to 3 p.m.

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.

Schmidt said growing up in isolated communities, where there are no other influences, makes it easy for people to be abused and manipulated.

The church that her family moved to in Mexico was a splinter group that also splintered, leaving the LeBaron family divided.

Schmidt said although Verlan's group was not violent, the family suffered from Ervil's violence. Schmidt almost ended up as Ervil's wife when he came to her and said he had a revelation that she was supposed to marry him.

"I was convinced, and it was right down to the very wire when were going to be sealed, and I rebelled," Schmidt said. "It's only by the grace of God I was not one of his wives."

Two of Schmidt's cousins were married to Ervil LeBaron, and Schmidt said that one of them participated in murders on her husband's behalf.

Schmidt says she is a born-again Christian and that she is grounded not only in her faith but in her life.

"I'm happy - more so than I ever dreamed," she said.

Now that her book has been published, Schmidt is hoping it will raise awareness about the potential problems with polygamy.

"I want to explain what I have seen and the injustices that take place," Schmidt said.
Originally published May 9, 2007