This is a short chapter, but it gives us quite a bit of insight into Merril’s thirst for power, Warren Jeffs’ creepy early years, and FLDS hypocrisy and dysfunction.
Content note for forced marriage, child abuse, and spousal abuse.
Merril wants more power and prestige within the FLDS, and of course, the way to get it is by bartering your young daughters into sexual slavery. He’s already forced one to marry ancient prophet Rulon Jeffs. Now he sacrifices pretty Paula. As she’s married off to a man 60 years her senior, “Her still smile barely [hides] her despair.” All Carolyn can think about is how she and Paula had joked in school about “having to marry an old man who was a rest-home patient.” This is Paula’s nightmare: her new husband is so old and weak he has to sit throughout the ceremony. It’s one thing to marry someone older for love: it’s quite another to be sold off, with no choice in the matter, and no chance he’ll give you the children who are your only worth in your society. Continue reading “(Repost) “The List of Ugly Realities” – Escape Chapter 17: Marrying into the Jeffs’ Family”
So, you know how the FLDS takes ordinary things and turns them into something horrible? Then you won’t be surprised at all to see them do it with childbirth.
Content note for emetophobia, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, child abuse, coercion, sexual coercion, gaslighting, and victim blaming.
Carolyn is seven months pregnant, and has to regularly dash from her second grade classroom to vomit due to morning sickness. But she loves teaching and doesn’t want to leave her students. They and her own children are the only people who make her life worthwhile.
But her children are a vulnerability as well as a delight. The other wives find excuses to chastise and punish her young son in order to provoke and attack Carolyn by proxy. Continue reading “(Repost) “I Won’t Let You Deny Me My Dignity” – Escape Chapter 16: Giving Birth in the FLDS”
This chapter really highlights how dysfunctional Carolyn’s family is, and how fucked up FLDS doctrine is – and keep in mind, this is before Warren Jeffs took over and it got extreme.
Imagine getting the opportunity to vacation in Hawaii. Awesome! Only… you have to go with the husband you hate. Not as awesome. And he’s taking two of his other wives… so not awesome. And your husband doesn’t even bother to tell you and your sister wives that you’re going: he just kind of lets you find out on your own… even less awesome. And you’re pregnant and have horrible morning sickness. Now we’re pretty fucking far from awesome.
Content note: emetophobia, emotional abuse, family drama, mention of rape.
Merril usually isn’t interested in his wives other than Barbara, but in the FLDS, you have to at least keep up an appearance of treating all wives equally, and his tendency to only take Barbara on long trips is getting noticed. Because a woman can only get messages from God through her husband, it can damage his standing in the community if he appears to be failing at the task of keeping his family under control. Merril has tried to keep the illusion of equality going by keeping most of his younger wives pregnant. But that only gets him so far. So he figures he’ll knock down three long trips in one and haul three of his wives to Hawaii. Continue reading “(Repost) “An Unmitigated Disaster” – Escape Chapter 15: Hawaii”
This is a super-short chapter. It basically centers around one religious event in Carolyn’s life: her patriarchal blessing. The blessing is the most important part of a woman’s life outside of her marriage and childbearing. It’s delivered by one of the church’s patriarchs (the dudes just below the Prophet and his apostles), and generally consists of them telling a young woman that she’s going to “become a faithful wife and a mother in Zion, raising faithful children up to the Lord.”
Carolyn hadn’t gotten her blessing prior to getting married and having kids, so her patriarch, Joseph Barlow, has to get creative. He pulls out all the stops. He puts his hands on Carolyn’s head, and informs her that she’s “a direct descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus Christ.” In fact, “The pure blood of Jesus Christ runs through” her veins.
Waal okay then.
Then he tells her she’s a totes special spirit that God was saving up for the last days. She’s been born on this earth “to be part of ushering in a thousand years of peace.” And she’ll even get to see Jesus hisownself in this lifetime!
Why so special? Because she’d “been an enormous influence in casting the devil out of heaven.” She’d been super-smart in that whole kerfluffle. And because she was so smart, God had decided to use her on Earth. She could tell if someone was good or evil just by looking at ’em. (Well, she’d pretty much proved that with Merril, right?)
So God has spirits watching over her, and will be using her “to protect his people in the last days.” She’ll “work in the temple and be responsible for many people receiving their priesthood training.”
Carolyn’s back home after graduating college, but that home is anything but sweet. She and Tammy are the only two wives trying to make the family chaos more orderly. Merril’s business has been fined for violations of some sort, and they have less money than ever to manage on. He gives them only $100 per week to meet all the needs of almost 40 people. Merril’s older daughters, the nusses who had lorded it over all the other girls in school, are now stuck at home doing housework and childcare, and they show their displeasure by doing a piss-poor job of it.
Content note for financial and verbal abuse, food insecurity, starving children, and forced marriage.
Merril, of course, doesn’t let himself or his favorite wife suffer. He and Barbara enjoy expensive dinners out in Page. When he comes home, he takes all of his wives out to eat – which only increases his daughters’ resentment.
Carolyn and Tammy take over the shopping, organize meals and cleaning, and plant a garden. People who haven’t gardened in the northern Arizona desert won’t understand what an undertaking that is, but it’s not simple to nurture plants in that environment.
“Personal items” like soap are a luxury they can’t afford, so the household does without.
The two women are virtual superheroes. They keep everyone fed and the house somewhat in order – as much as is possible under the circumstances – but Merril isn’t grateful. He’s upset to the point of tantrums that they didn’t consult Barbara on their activities first. He expects them to follow the orders of a woman who is never there and doesn’t have to live in dire poverty. He’s beyond ridiculous. Carolyn can’t even think of him as her husband: he’s “that man, an egocentric bully,” forced on her, and not a “gift from God” as her religion teaches. But she still clings to her faith. At this point, it’s very nearly the only thing she has, aside from her kids.
Winter arrives. There’s no more produce from the garden, just a dwindling supply of tomatoes picked green and left to ripen in buckets. The family is subsisting on cracked wheat for breakfast, and tomato sandwiches for lunch and dinner, while Merril and Barbara live it up in Page. Children, including Carolyn’s son Arthur, are losing weight, and she’s afraid she won’t get enough nutrition herself to keep producing breast milk for baby Betty. Continue reading “(Repost) “We Were Nearly Starving” – Escape Chapter 13: Move Home”