Just finished several books about the narcissistic, paranoid, Fundamentalist LDS "prophet," Warren Jeffs who was recently tried in Texas. I wanted to read these to learn more about Jeffs after he was sentenced to life-plus-20 years for the rape of underage girls. This raid at the Texas compound, Yearning For Zion (YFZ) was just the tip of the iceberg, however. The many years of Warren Jeffs manipulating the FLDS faithful were appalling, vicious, and hate filled, reminiscent of the actions of the Taliban.
Some of the accounts are truly heart-stopping. The most riveting of these is "Answer Them Nothing: Bringing Down the Polygamous Empire of Warren Jeffs," by Debra Weyermann. It's very well written, including the accounts of how Jeffs had begun down the violent path of voluntary "blood atonement" for real or (his) imagined sins of the true believers. This meant that any accused persons had to willingly offer themselves up for the "gift" of being murdered by the hierarchy of his group. Only through blood atonement (having your throat slit from ear to ear) could any besmirched person have his or her sins washed away and then enter the kingdom of God. This was terrifying to read since the sacrificial altars were being built in the new FLDS temple in Eldorado, TX when it was raided. Many of the followers were trying to escape when it became clear that Jeffs was beginning his implementation of blood atonement. There isn't any fiction that could be more shocking than this story. That, and the undisputed evidence of Warren Jeffs's sexual assault upon girls as young as 10-12 is almost too much to read, especially in view of Jeffs having constructed a rape altar in the YFZ temple with spectator seats. Jeffs is a monster, a real psychopath whose entire life's effort has been devoted to gaining power, destroying the lives of others, and wreaking agony on any follower who dared to deviate from Jeffs's demand of utter and complete obedience.
It is heartening to read how Texas officials finally came to grasp that Jeffs headed a criminal enterprise in which young girls were being used as the means of exchange for power to older men. Jeffs would trade so many of a follower's daughters to older men who then gave their daughters to him. Then, the men who complied were given "priesthoods" or elevated as bishops. Many old men had as many as 100 "wives" including dozens of prepubescent "brides." Those females who tried to escape were rounded up immediately by the police who were themselves FLDS members with sworn loyalty to Warren Jeffs. Very few females have escaped.
The plight of young men was equally horrific. In order to keep the females for the elite and to avoid competition, adolescent and young men were cast out into the desert with no education, no skills, and no experience of contact with the "satanic" outer world. Many committed suicide, and many died shortly after. Some have survived. There are now safe houses for some of the cast-out males where they are given job skills and supported as they can never again see their families for the rest of their lives.
Sam Brower's new book, "Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the FLDS" is also an extremely solid, well-written book. Brower approaches his investigation of the FLDS from the perspective of a bloodhound, tracking the monster, following the more than $100 million that Jeffs used as his private slush fund (for his extravagances as his private jets, luxury cars, untold excesses), and laying open the endless schemes to defraud and cheat not only his followers but the state coffers and the U.S. government. Excellent book with meticulous detail.
I'm just now finishing Carolyn Jessop's second book, "Triumph: Life After the Cult--Survivor's Lessons." Her first book, "Escape" was a shocking bestseller about how she managed against all odds to escape from the tentacles of the FLDS with all eight of her children, one of whom is severely disabled. This second book is very well written, also, and it speaks to the strength of someone who has fully recovered from a lifetime of cult indoctrination. This is a human being who refused to be a silenced robot--just an unencumbered uterus for men's folly-- and found ways to survive. She is a remarkable woman, and the book is great. I admire her strength beyond all words.
After reading these accounts, I was aghast that this level of human slavery, pedophilia, and cruelty could exist in the U.S. in the year 2011. A great portion of the blame goes to the State of Utah which has consistently turned a blind eye to the excesses of the FLDS for fear of political blowback. No matter how much evidence they were given of serial child rape, underage marriage of girls, slavery, and financial scams, the State of Utah refused to act or to prosecute. Only when Warren Jeffs made the irreversibly smug decision to take his flock to the State of Texas did he finally stumble: Texas was only too happy to burn him and his "bishops" to the ground and put them all in prison--Jeffs for life plus 20 years. Texas may have some rough edges, but with the FLDS, it's a moral bullseye, and I applaud their courage. Amen.
Sorry for the length of this review, but these books are all connected and awesome in giving a total picture. They place before the public for the first time the full accounts of rampant evil and abuse tolerated under the sacred cloak of religion. I can only say that, after reading these, especially Debra Weyermann's compelling work, "Answer Them Nothing," I wanted Warren Jeffs and his evil clique of pedophiles to burn in a conflagration worse than hell itself. In fact, I only wish I could light the match.
I have purchased all these books through Amazon.