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.
My friend and ordained rabbi Gershon Blackmore posted this musing on the Torah to Facebook. It’s one of those stories that has human power, human value, and tells us a little something about the people we must deal with today. And at the end, I think, is exactly what we need to hear as power passes from capable, measured hands into the hands of a thin-skinned, hot-headed, sticky-fingered ego tripper.
There are always men like him. But there are always people like us. And that gives me hope.
Way back in the early days of Scriptural “history,” before Abraham or even Noah, there was a fellow named Lamech. We know nothing of him except the following literary tidbit:
Lamech said to his wives
Adah and Zillah
Hear my voice
You wives of Lamech
Listen to my speech
For I have slain a man for wounding me
And a boy for hurting me.
If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold
Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
And that is what we know of Lamech. A man who sang, in literary Hebrew, of his exceptional powers of revenge. His song bursts out of the ancient cloud of time and event, and tells us of the power of being known as vengeful, visiting a hurt from a boy on the poor lad seventy seven fold. The Hebrew doesn’t say “young man” (na’ar). It says “Yeled,” or “child.”
Lamech would destroy a child for “hurting” him. This was an adult who could be hurt by a child. One can imagine the world within his mind–in which one takes savage retribution on children. He was the archetypal abuser of all. Continue reading “Lamech’s Children”→
One of the best ways to control people is to control how and what they think. Warren Jeffs, like many cult leaders before him, knows this well. Seems he may have learned it from his father, who forbade higher education after he became prophet. This allowed him to keep dangerous things like reading and critical thinking in check.
Now, as Angie Jackson often points out, you can be highly educated and still fall for cult nonsense. But it’s far easier to maintain a hold on people if they’re not exposed to outside information.
Forbidding any higher education within the community means there’s soon a shortage of teachers for the elementary and high schools. They’ll need to start recruiting from outside the FLDS community, but the salaries are too low to attract anyone. Even with some families homeschooling, the existing teachers are flooded with far too many students. Something has to give – and Carolyn thinks she has the solution when Arizona starts funding charter schools. After some research, Carolyn figures that with the state funding they would get per student, they could easily afford to hire good teachers. So she and some of her fellow teachers begin working on a proposal. Surprisingly, she gets support from Merril, who tells her she’s got a good idea and that he’ll talk to the prophet about it.
Meanwhile, to relieve the pressure on the existing teachers, Carolyn suggests using computers for students to do reading and math drills. She could even do the necessary software development. The school superintendent thinks this is awesome and jumps aboard the charter school train.
Their proposal makes it past the first hurdles, and so Carolyn and her fellow teachers end up in Phoenix to present it. They’re up against a hundred other potential charter schools, most developed by high-ranking educational professionals. Competition is fierce, and almost all of the presenters before them get turned down. But they sail through to approval: the board is extremely impressed by their assessment plan and innovative ideas. All they have to do is build the school building in time, and the FLDS folks are old hands at putting buildings up fast. Carolyn and her team are elated. Even Merril’s impressed. He goes to tell Uncle Rulon about their victory.
But then Warren gets wind of it. And he doesn’t like it.
It will be a school run by professionals, with professional teachers, unlike his school, where only two teachers have actual degrees and some don’t even have a high school diploma.
Kids won’t have “learning” beaten into them with yardsticks, the way he does it.
The charter school will make liberal use of computers. Warren has banned computers.
The children will be well-educated, which means they can read things he doesn’t want them to read, and think things he doesn’t want them to think.
Needless to say, he’s not a fan. And because by now he’s pretty much in control of his father, Uncle Rulon is also not a fan. As far as Carolyn knows, Merril doesn’t even attempt to change Rulon’s mind. He just accepts the verdict and forbids Carolyn from having anything more to do with it.
I was furious. My anger touched a core in me that burst into flame. For the first time, I began to see how religion could suppress something positive and life-giving. Failure to educate our children was unconscionable.
Carolyn is so distraught that she can’t continue her teaching career – she quits at the end of the school year. She can’t be a teacher while Warren is prophet in all but name. Still.
I didn’t think about what might happen after his father died. No one really expected Warren to become the next prophet. I certainly didn’t. He was too much of a nobody.
When you’re dealing with a “nobody” who’s as cunning and power-hungry as Warren Jeffs, though, you can’t take their failure for granted. That’s a lesson we should all endeavor to remember.
Content Note for racism, spiritual abuse, physical abuse, miscarriage due to injury
Warren Jeffs is one of those people who knows how to use those around him for his own gain. He knows how to manipulate his elderly father, the current prophet, and get him to proclaim that Warren speaks for him. He knows how to push the fear buttons. And he knows that making something scarce and exclusive can increase desire for it. This is how he gets his awful recorded racist rants to spread. He tapes his sermons talking about how “the black race had been put on earth to preserve evil,” and how God’s gonna destroy everyone in North and South America except those who do this huge list of stuff, and then he releases a limited number of those tapes. Well, of course, not being able to have them means everybody wants a set.