Like many cult leaders, Warren Jeffs is busy gradually cementing his hold over everyone in the community by fucking with their health care. His father has already convinced everyone that vaccines are a government plot to make children sterile. Considering previously-vaccinated FLDS women are pumping out children at a brisk pace, it’s amazing anyone believes him. But he’s their leader, the man in charge of their eternal salvation, so they trust him. Warren then comes along to see the ground his father has plowed, telling everyone that the only reason they’d ever need medical treatment is a lack of faith. If they’re truly in harmony with God, he says, they’ll be healed by prayer and fasting.
Content note: medical neglect, spiritual abuse, maiming, physical abuse of a mentally ill person.
Carolyn watches many people in the FLDS end up nearly dead from Warren’s claims. Thankfully, most people are still resorting to the hospital when faith doesn’t heal them. But some have faith in Warren. Ruth, her mentally unstable sister wife, develops skin cancer on her nose, and Carolyn gets to experience the consequences of Warren’s nonsense quite closely.
Merril apparently hasn’t yet fallen for Warren’s crap, because he sends Ruth to the clinic when a sore on her nose won’t heal. It’s cancerous, but very treatable, her doctor says. But Ruth wants to do it Warren’s way. She won’t entertain Carolyn’s idea that maybe GOd was healing her by placing her in the hands of a competent dermatologist. She wants to go the faith route. In addition to fasting and praying, faith also apparently includes questionable caustic chemicals from the health food store. God has revealed a new way of healing her cancer to her! It’s herbal, so it must be safe, despite the fact the caustic part of her concoction is illegal to sell! And while she’s been told to only use a pinhead-sized amount, she slathers it on, turning the entire end of her nose green in the process. God said to go for it.
When the burning pain keeps her up all night praying for mercy, she still doesn’t lose faith. And she won’t wash it off. “If this is what God wants me to go through to be healed from my cancer,” she tells Carolyn, “then I will do it with a humble heart.”
It’s about here I must pause to Paul out.
Fuck faith and the charlatans who prey on it. Fuck the people who spread this nonsense and end up causing vulnerable people to harm themselves.
Carolyn finally gets Ruth to wash the muck off, but the damage has been done. She’s still in terrible pain. But when Carolyn tries to get her medical treatment, she refuses. She can’t admit her faith has failed her.
On the third day, with Ruth crying in pain, Carolyn has had it. She threatens to call “911 and the National Guard if that was what it took to get her medical care.” This is where she learns about the health food store selling an illegal chemical. Ruth is trying to protect them, but Carolyn insists on getting her treatment. When the clinic tells her to go to the ER, Carolyn calls Merril to get him to agree to let her take Ruth in. But he won’t give permission, even after Carolyn tells him Ruth’s “nose is beginning to stink.” He accuses her of getting all excited over nothing. And when he gets home that night and actually sees Ruth’s nose, part of which is literally falling off, the most he does is tells her to see the dermatologist.
Have you noticed what a classic abuser Merril is? He’s a gaslighting pro. And he can’t under any circumstances admit he may have been wrong about something – if he’s downplayed his wives’ concerns and then later discovers they were right, he doesn’t apologize and correct the situation. He goes right on pretending he was right all along.
I don’t believe that violence solves everything, and I really, really try hard not to have violent fantasies about people even when I feel they deserve it, but I can’t help fantasizing about stuffing Merril into a cannon and shooting him into the sun. The world would be improved by a non-trivial amount.
There’s good news and bad at the dermatologists’ office. Ruth did indeed manage to burn off the cancer. However, she’s also burned off many healthy portions of her nose in the process. She has to have plastic surgery to fix it, but it’s a bad job and leaves her poor nose mangled.
Carolyn, happily, refuses to obey Warren’s medical orders. She defies Merril on that front: when her kids get sick, straight into the doctor they go, Warren be damned. She’s not willing to risk their lives and health for the mens’ religious beliefs.
But the medical fuckery is not the half of what Warren’s getting up to. And Carolyn is about to learn just how extreme his beliefs are.