Warren Jeffs is gaining more control over the FLDS daily. In this chapter, we’ll see just how badly his teachings affect women and children, while giving men the freedom to be as terrible as they want to be. And we’ll see why Merril dying would be worse than Merril living. There’s a horrific thought…
Content note for spousal abuse, spiritual abuse, medical neglect, casual ableism
After leaving her teaching job due to Rulon and Warren fucking up the educational system, Carolyn starts a web design business and sells health food online. She’s soon pregnant with her sixth child, which means unremitting sickness. And Uncle Rulon and his horrid son are squeezing the life out of the community.Movies and television are forbidden. The internet is to be used only for business. Various clothing styles and fabric patterns are outlawed, reducing people to only a few types of solid pastels. Long underwear is required at all times for everyone, including toddlers.
Mind you: this is in a desert.
But people accept it, because they’ve been told “that God believed his people were now ready to live by a higher law.” You can get people to subject themselves to nearly any outrage if you can convince them that’s what God wants.
Things are bad for everyone, but Warren’s wives have it the worst. One of them tells Carolyn that Warren forced her to give birth at home rather than at the clinic. She looks absolutely terrible. When Carolyn asks what happened, she says, “I was given an episiotomy with sewing scissors and then stitched up with dental floss.”
So, Warren treats his wives like complete shit. And, of course, since he’s the second most powerful man in the FLDS, other men start treating their wives like complete shit. Do you want to know what happens when a religious leader tells his followers that wives should be completely obedient to their husbands? Domestic violence skyrockets. Women and children end up injured and/or killed. Recall the story of the police officer who tied his wife to a bull as a test of her obedience. That shit happened because Warren gave him the moral authority to do it.
And then Warren severely regulates everyone’s sex lives. Just about every cult leader and religious fanatic ever goes there, because it’s a great way to keep people miserable and off-balance. Warren says people can only have sex when the wife is ovulating. Then they can’t have sex for a month while they wait to see if she’s pregnant.
This basically gives men carte blanche to stop fucking the wives they don’t like.
Their husbands would say they were not worthy to bear their children and quit having sex with them altogether. This freed up men to just have sex with their most favorite wives. He’d tell the other wife that when she was worthy enough he would give her a baby. It was as crass as that.
And again, this isn’t inconsequential. These wives have no protection except what their vaginas can offer.
Sex was power in the FLDS. If a man stopped sleeping with his wife, she was cut off at her knees. She lost power and status within her family. We always knew which wife in a family was like Barbara, the favorite. The woman having the most sex won the intense sexual competition played out in polygamous families. Her husband treated her like a queen and she used that power to lord it over her sister wives.
But children got caught up in the crossfire of these sexual wars. Husbands tended to become more abusive toward the wives they no longer had sex with. They also mistreated the children of those wives.
As if that isn’t pressure enough, FLDS women are taught that their husbands are their “passport[s] to eternal life.” So it’s no wonder that anti-depressant use among the women goes off the charts after Warren’s sex edicts go into effect. Up to a third of women in the community are taking medication for depression. It’s one of the only ways they can cope.
Of course, the men don’t suffer as much from these rules. While a man risks getting kicked out of the FLDS if he decides to have sex whether his wife is ovulating or not, he probably won’t. His wives aren’t terribly likely to report him. Even if they do, he’s safe as long as Warren likes him. There’s a loophole, see: he can claim that God inspired him to fuck his wife at a forbidden time. Then it’s the wife who reported him who’s in trouble. She wasn’t perfectly obedient, see.
Before Warren, many men tried to treat their wives equally. Lots of them were total abusive assholes, but it wasn’t as acceptable. But now, Warren’s encouraging them to play favorites, and a vast number of families end up like Merril’s – or worse.
Warren says this is “a higher spiritual plane,” and that their sexual purity will cause Christ to choose them.
Carolyn thinks they’ve crossed into far more dangerous territory. She’s so right.