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.
While none of the women are happy, Merril is over the moon. He’s now got two daughters permanently tied to the most powerful man in the FLDS. Of course, that measure of power isn’t enough for him, but he still has lots of pretty daughters in reserve. And he’s “now considered one of the most exalted men in the community.” His wives are still starved and abused, but hey, at least they get to jump to the front of the line at the store. And people feel special when they get to associate with them. So yay?
Merril next turns to marrying daughters off to Rulon’s sons for extra power and prestige. Warren Jeffs, rising to the top like a bloated corpse in a pond, marries the most. He’s a creep, and there are plenty of stories floating around about what an abusive shit he is, but Merril doesn’t care that he’s tying several of his daughters to a brutal scumbag for life. Power is all. Women are only worth the status they can get him: they have no value to him outside of who he can marry them to. Who cares if the tools get banged up, as long as they do the job?
At the school, Carolyn hears plenty of disturbing tales about Principal Warren, who likes to take kids from their classrooms so he can beat them. Of course, like any bully, he only chooses the ones whose families won’t or can’t fight back. It’s not enough to be trapped in a bad home: now these poor kids have got Warren Jeffs taking out his sadistic desires on their hide because their parents won’t do shit to stop him.
But of course, brutalizing children isn’t enough for him:
One day he brought one of his wives into the auditorium, which was packed with boys. Annette had a long braid that fell past her knees. Warren grabbed the braid and twisted and twisted it until she was on her knees and he was ripping hair from her head. He told the boys that this was how obedient their wives had to be to them.
People think this is a bit much even within the FLDS, but the only thing Rulon gets upset with Warren about is reading up on Hitler (Warren’s a fan). Women and children ain’t shit to them. And people will stop talking about Warren’s exploits when he takes over the FLDS because they’re terrified of him.
Warren was always a complete asshole with dreams of dictatorship. And many people were well aware of that fact. Keep this in mind as we delve further into the FLDS.
Paula, freshly married to decrepit prophet Rulon, goes to work at the school where Warren’s the principal. Of course, he can’t stand her college education. He makes her throw out all of her college books, because “if you’re going to teach in this school you cannot bring worldly contamination into the classroom.” Some kids may get the idea they don’t have to obey the Jeffs if she gets her icky higher education all up in the school, right?
Meanwhile, Merril’s discovering that training your daughters to work as spies against your wives bites you in the ass once they are married to the prophet. They train their younger siblings to report to them regarding home happenings, and then relay that intel to Uncle Rulon, who then calls Merril and bawls him out for not being a proper dictator over his family. Oops.
Now that Merril has two daughters married to the prophet, he gets to go to the monthly priesthood meeting in Salt Lake City. He regularly takes Carolyn along, where she finds out how the wives of the mightiest men cope with their constrained lives: they sit around getting thoroughly drunk, even while nursing their babies.
Carolyn comes off as a judgemental beast as she clucks her tongue at these poor women for having the gall to self-medicate. But it’s the only comfort they’ve got. They can’t even partake of the pizza, fried chicken, and other treats, because the Jeffs men absolutely do not allow their personal sex machines and baby factories to get fat. It’s so bad that Rulon thinks one of his wives got fat just to spite him. Of course it could have nothing to do with the sixteen children she bore him, back when he could still get his willy working. And of course, the other dudes jump right on his bandwagon and complain about their obese wives, all while Carolyn serves them and seethes. The other women are too busy getting drunk so they can escape these assholes to help her.
Carolyn’s gotten yet another rude shock about the men her faith teaches her to exalt. Reality is far from pretty.
Cracks are showing.
I’m reviewing Escape chapter-by-chapter. Pick yourself up a copy if you’d like to follow along. The full list of reviews to date can be found here. Need a chaser? Pick up a copy of Really Terrible Bible Stories Volume 1: Genesis, Volume 2: Exodus, and Volume 3: Leviticus today!