He was 31 when he married and fathered a child with his third wife, who was 15 at the time of their celestial marriage. Also, during the YFZ raid he attempted to delete pictures and other evidence from his home computer. In March 2010, Jessop was found guilty on one felony count of sexual assault of a child. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison and a $10,000 fine
So I just finished reading this book, Escape by Carolyn Jessop, and I am absolutely floored. Just so ya know, I really only read non-fiction books and they tend to be about some pretty dark subjects. With the recent, and incredibly cathartic, conviction of Warren Jeffs I decided to delve into the Mormon faith, particularly things surround the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS. The things that I discovered in this book alone were absolutely astounding, this really is nothing short of a cult; let me share some of my highlights with you.
Carolyn Jessop, born January 1, 1968, is a woman who grew up in the polygamist communities of Hilldale and Colorado City, which are basically just one big “city” on the border of Utah and Arizona. The family that raised her was not of the extremist sect, i.e. her father only had two wives while she was growing up; yes, I know, to us outsiders it’s still like well 2 wives is weird, but in this crazy town it was suggested that a man must have 3 wives in order to get to Heaven. Anywho, Carolyn spent some of her childhood in Salt Lake City, this most likely also contributed to the fact that she was a little more normalized than others, it’s also to know that during this time her father had only one wife, her mother Nurylon. The family did move back to Colorado City.
Carolyn’s grandmother, Jenny, would tell her historical stories about the country (through the eyes of a staunch member of FLDS) and also about how it was an honor to be brought into this polygamist life. Jenny was seen as FLDS “royalty”, her great-grandfather Benjamin F. Johnson was one of the first men whom the prophet Joseph Smith introduced to the holy principle of celestial marriage in the nineteenth century. She was even present at the Short Creek (present day Colorado City) raid on July 26, 1953. Look it up, it was a hot mess. It was really an exhibition of how poor planning at the hands of the state government in Arizona can really fail, but since we’re dealing with crazies here, it was really because the people rallied to protect the work of God. To the nation, it looked like Arizona was the attacker and the polygamists were merely victims, which created an immense amount of sympathy. In the end, the case was thrown out in court, and the polygamists return to their homes and were free to marry whoever the hell. The raid worked to create even more fear of the outside world, especially in the women, so now the cult’s bonds were stronger than ever. Before the raid women had some say in who they would marry, and predictably they would choose men close to their own age, but older men were peeved by this because it diminished their chances of appeasing God by marrying younger wives, this is most likely where the seeds of excommunicating young men who would become the “lost boys” were planted. Now, back to the plural marriage bit. This “principle”, a reference all you Big Love people must recognize, “is what defines the FLDS faith. A man must have multiple wives if he expects to do well in heaven, where he can eventually become a god and wind up with his own planet.” We’re only hitting the tip of the nutty iceberg. The text goes on to read,
A man has spirit wives in heaven, where he fathers spirit children. (Being a spirit child is the first step on the journey in coming to earth.) We also held fast to the belief that our father was once a spirit and then came to earth to get a body and try to prove that he is worthy to become a god.
Does this mean that FLDS is polytheistic? I don’t even know what’s going on at this point, but we must go on! Please know that the Mormon Church did in fact, allow members to practice polygamy as long as there were only 2 wives, but in 1920 they changed their minds and said no more polygamy.
As daughters of God, we were bound in a covenant before we came to earth. My grandmother explained that we had pledged to God that we would never do anything to undermine his work and would produce as many children as possible. God would reveal the name of the man he wanted me to marry by sending a revelation.
So now we are finding out how these arranged marriages are preempted, the girls think that God has sent a revelation to the prophet but in reality they are usually just pawns in a really weird game. Carolyn goes on to describe some of the dynamics that are exhibited in the families that exist because of arranged marriages. She states, that violence toward children was more than common, it wasn’t surprising to see a child being “disciplined” by someone other than their mother in public, and in most cases parents did not get along. We aren’t surprised.
Carolyn also describes a childhood game that many polygamist children play call “Apocalypse” which is basically a practice run through the “end of times”. Mormons are taught that the destruction of the world, as scary as it sounds, is a good thing because it will usher in a thousand years of peace. There is a catch, before the thousand years of peace can begin, God would kill off the wicked, but before he did that he would allow them to attack and murder his “chosen people”, obviously the FLDS. Sounds about right to you, right? Well, it gets better. After the children have been hiding for a short amount of time, resurrected Indians come to save them (this is all part of the story surrounding the events that will occur during the end of days, bear with me).
We’d been taught that a lot of good Indians were killed when America was settled. God had already resurrected them because they were worthy and deserving, and he was waiting until the last day to allow them to vindicate themselves in exchange.
In addition to the government coming to slaughter these people, they were also told that they would be attacked by the Russians and the Chinese, which to me, is plausible. I’d believe that.
Carolyn begins school in 1974, in the FLDS equivalent of first grade; kindergarten was non-existent because it was seen as more beneficial to keep children at home for an extra year. It is around this time when she begins seeing the abuse that other children are enduring. “Children were seen as property, and physical violence toward them was not only permissible but a way of life. Abuse was necessary to save a child’s soul.” On the topic of abuse, families never judged one another’s methods, in fact it was against religious doctrine to speak out against extreme cases of abuse in someone else’s family, we’re talking emotional, physical, and sexual, all protected by religious doctrine. Here’s a good one:
I remember learning about sex on the playground when I was in the fourth grade. One of my classmates announced to the rest of us that her brother was teaching her how to have a baby. He wanted to show her, not just tell her. He pointed to the parts on his body and told her what he was going to do with them on hers. Then he did it. We all felt repulsed by the story and said her brother was a big liar. We knew our parents would never do anything like that.
She also described the violence of the teachers. This system was so messed up that although these were technically public schools, they were ran by and employed only FLDS members. See, the crazies have amazing ways of scamming the government through various frauds, these include welfare fraud, social security fraud, not paying taxes, the list goes on, they refer to it as “bleeding the beast” are you irritated yet? Shocked? Nauseas?
The oppression against women in particular and people in general is exhibited in how they were kept in ignorance. They were taught in school that dinosaurs did not exist and many women believed that babies came from kissing, up until their wedding night when their husbands would teach them.
At about age 10, Carolyn’s father now takes on another wife, Rosie had been their babysitter and a good friend of their mother’s. Rosie’s father was Carolyn’s mother’s brother, making Rosie Nurylon’s niece, Carolyn’s first cousin. Rosie stayed in Salt Lake City and occasionally visited the family at home, she was also educated and a certified nurse, who might have added to a more solid sense of normalcy, who even knows what that is at this point? The family continues to grow as both wives become pregnant.
In 1978, a power struggle commenced. I would try to explain it to you but I’ve read it three times and it still sounds like a soap opera plot line. Basically some people thought that ultimate power lied within the prophet, but the prophet’s stepsons began usurping some of the power. Because of the split, families stopped speaking to one another and accusations ran rampant.
A few years later, Carolyn and her sister Linda were given permission to attend the community dance; at this point they are like 13 and 14 years old. While they are there, a stampede of girls run by yelling, “Run for your lives!!” Apparently, an elderly man who was looking for a young girl to make his additional wife was also in attendance. Like shooting fish in a barrel!!
It was frowned upon for a girl to dance more than one dance with a young boy. She also could refuse to dance with a young man if she had no interest. But a girl could never refuse the attentions of an older or even elderly man. This was considered one of the most disrespectful things one of us could do.
At age 18, Linda ran away, trying to avoid an arranged marriage to a really creepy old guy. Her father tracked her down to Salt Lake City and had one request, that she talk to the prophet, to which she agreed. The prophet offered her a sure way to repent by allowing her to marry a good man, Linda refused. So they changed the ultimatum, in order to remain free she would be forced to marry a boy named Alma, she caved under the pressure. They married and were pretty much discarded from the community.
The book now begins to focus more on the story of Carolyn Jessop, and for fear of completely ruining the book; I’m not going to go into grave detail. Basically, she goes to school, encounters a group of girls that she despises and is later forced to marry their father, Merril Jessop, making her their stepmother. At this time she was 18, and though she wanted to be a nurse, in a bittersweet event she was still allowed to attend college but she would have to become a teacher, but in order to do this, she would have to marry a 50 year old man. She was miserable, but Merril actually allowed her to continue attending college but not without sending his daughters to spy on her. For year Carolyn endures this kind of weird abuse where she is constantly berated and put down by the daughters and third wife, Barbara. She eventually begins to have children, who are also abused by Barbara. Three of Carolyn’s eight pregnancies almost kill her, but in FLDS a woman and her children are not allowed to seek medical attention without the permission of the husband, Merril rarely gave permission. He also took on two more wives; his harem now included (in order of appearance) Faunita, Ruth, Barbara, Carolyn, Cathleen, and Tammy.
Eventually, Merril began marrying his young daughters off to the prophet, Rulon Jeffs (father to Warren), a palsy stricken man who already had about 70 children. Loretta and Paula were the first to go; Rulon was more than sixty years older than them. Merril used them to increase his status within the community, it worked tremendously. This rise continued as some of Rulon’s sons began marrying Merril’s daughters. Warren married the most. At this time, Warren worked as the principal at the private school owned by his father, Rulon. He used this position to brutally beat children. He would even demonstrate to groups of young boys how to keep their wives obedient by bringing in one of his wives and assaulting her in front of them.
Carolyn and the wives occasionally accompanied Merril to the priesthood meeting which was held monthly in Salt Lake City. Afterwards, there would be a pizza party which also included fried chicken and beer. Women would indulge themselves in the alcohol, even those who were nursing, at the same time. So pious.
Around the same time, Warren Jeffs began rapidly gaining power as Rulon’s health deteriorated. He would teach "special priesthood history classes" in Salt Lake City which he would tape and later distribute to a select, elite few. He would often go on racist rants stating that black people were on earth to preserve evil. He discussed the destruction of everyone in North and South America at the hands of God. He also banned the color red because it was reserved for Jesus Christ, the Lord and Savior and when Jesus returned he would do it in a red robe, making it unholy to wear it before that event.
Other weird stories emerge like a tale of man who took his pregnant wife to a farm and gave her a rope that was tied to the neck of a bull. He told her that she would have to control this bull on his orders. Obviously, she couldn’t and after two failed attempts the man tied the rope to her. The bull dragged her around, the baby was lost, and the fault rested on her shoulders for being so disobedient. Another insane even occurred when one of Warren’s wives recounted the story of the recent birth of her son. Warren had not allowed her to even go to the clinic (the one run by FLDS where they give vitamin B12 shots in place of antidepressants) and said she must deliver the baby at home. She received an episiotomy with sewing scissors and was stitched up with dental floss. Because she opened her mouth, Warren stopped having sex with her. To you and me, this may sound like a blessing, but in this society, it’s one of the most feared consequences. You see, even though most of these women do not love, or even like the men that they are forced to marry, they have been taught only their husbands could allow them into the kingdom of Heaven. They were told that were not worthy to bear their husband’s children.
During this time, Warren banned the internet, television, going to the movies, wearing large prints such as plaids, and not wearing long underwear. He also stated that sex could only be used for procreation, women would now have to keep track of when they ovulated and have sex, then they would have to wait a month to see if they were pregnant before having sex again. Merril ignored this and continued having sex with Carolyn even when she was pregnant, because of his high position in the community the wives would never speak out against him. Warren also created the notion of “the power of inspiration”. This was implemented if a woman told that her husband was having sex with her during unauthorized times, Warren could back him up by saying that the husband was inspired by God at that particular time and that his actions were what was best for the family, and therefore the woman was to blame. So not only was Warren making crazy ass rules, he was manipulating those rules on a whim.
Eventually the amount of women, pregnant and not, taking antidepressants was astounding. Women were becoming mentally unstable because their husbands were no longer having sex with them. In FLDS sex=power. If a woman pleased her husband sexually, she and her children would be protected by him. In the Jessop family, Barbara was the obvious favorite, and she used her position to excerpt power over the other wives and children. She, along with her children, was abusive to the other family members.
Merril had a heart attack, and while she didn’t really care about the man, she became terrified at the possibility of being reassigned to another husband, into a family which would certainly treat her much worse than the one she already had. Merril eventually got better and Ruth developed skin cancer on her nose. A dermatologist told her that it was caught early and could be removed. Warren Jeffs told her to pray and fast, Carolyn told her that God speaks to us in different ways and was maybe using the dermatologist in this way, Ruth decided to go with Warren’s way. She sought an alternative treatment at a health food store; she was given a bunch of herbs and a chemical to basically burn the cancer out. She whipped up a batch of this stuff and then put it on her nose. Carolyn told her that she should take what the doctor said seriously. Ruth said, “Carolyn, the doctors don’t know everything, and I have been fasting and praying to God for the answer about how to get rid of this. God can inspire me with how to care for what is wrong with my body.” The next morning, Ruth was crying in pain. Later that same day, Ruth’s nose was still green and in an immense about of pain even though she had washed the mixture off. The next morning, the situation hadn’t changed. That afternoon, after calling the clinic in Hilldale, Ruth was told she would have to go to the ER. Carolyn offered to take her, but Ruth would only go if Merril gave her permission. Upon asking, Merril replied, “You are only assuming that she has damaged her nose.” The women were instructed to take no action until he arrived home that night. Ruth nose was literally falling apart, upon seeing it, Merril told her to make an appointment with the dermatologist. The doctor told her she had burned her nose off and it would continue to burn until neutralized with vinegar. Her nose had to be reconstructed. This is how things were handled in this backwards society.
In 1996 Rulon Jeffs, had his first stroke. In 1997, Warren Jeffs made his grasp for power. He started preaching about “blood atonement”, which is basically murder in Mormon world. Then “survival classes” were being taught. During these classes, various methods of survival were taught to children of varying ages. In one scenario, the wife of the teacher tied a cow down with ropes and sawed off its head, with a handsaw.
Carolyn begins to make it known that if the treatment in the Jessop household didn’t become better then she would seriously contemplate leaving. She told Warren about the severe abuse in seventeen page letter. He said she had made all of Merril’s sins obvious but none of her own, therefore she had been lying. He handed her a book of sermons and told her to go home, read them, and repent. Carolyn would have to begin sleeping with Merril again in order to feign concession. Harrison, Carolyn’s son was extremely ill and suffered from a rare form of cancer that induced seizures, Merril offered no support. He made it apparent that he had no concern for the child’s survival.
After Barbara had severely beaten Cathleen’s young son, Wendell, Cathleen decided to take a stand herself. This beating had taken place at night during “prayer time”, Wendell who was not even two yet was awakened to participate, naturally his response was to be grumpy, and for this he was beaten, for a very long time. She reprimanded Barbara and told her to never touch her children again. Barbara snorted, “Cathleen, you are out of order and you know it. I was only doing the will of my priesthood head. For you to question is pure rebellion.” Barbara told Merril, who threw Cathleen on the floor, twice and then screamed at her for hours. The next morning, Cathleen told Carolyn that she would the prophet’s help; Carolyn tried to convince her not to. Merril was told to bring all of his wives to Warren, but this time he had married a seventh, Lorraine. Even though Lorraine had been stealing Merril’s car at night and forging checks in his name, Carolyn and Cathleen were seen as bigger threats. The meeting with the prophet resulted in Barbara gaining no power, Carolyn speaking her mind, and Cathleen being told that is she continued to act in the way she had been that she would not be invited into the kingdom.
Carolyn was suffering yet another painfully complicated pregnancy when the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center occurred. Because she was in the hospital, she was able to see the videos on the news. Her feelings and the reaction of the people of Colorado City are completely different.
The “righteous” people saw the hand of God in the attacks. The lord’s people had finally proven worthy enough for God to answer their prophet’s prayers. The destruction of the towers was just the beginning. Warren Jeffs had been preaching that the entire earth would soon be at war and all the worthy among the chosen would be lifted from the earth and protected, while God destroyed the wicked.
Soon after this, Carolyn gave birth, but not without almost dying. The doctors were forced to give her an emergency hysterectomy, which elated her.
In 2002, Warren Jeffs began kicking teenage boys out of the community in the hundreds, reasons for excommunication ranged from listening to CDs and watching movies, to kissing girls.. Cathleen responded by saying, “It’s such a shame that so many mothers are producing so many unworthy sons.” The whole thing enraged Carolyn. Jeffs also began enforcing the motto “keep sweet” were basically meant to remain emotionless. All of the dogs were rounded up and killed. Women began to be reassigned to husbands without explanation other than their current husbands would not be able to offer them salvation in the afterlife. Men were also being kicked out. On a whim, Jeffs would call a man and tell him that he was no longer a part of his own family and that he would be leaving to “repent from afar”. It became illegal to say the word “fun”. Merrilyn, Carolyn’s stepdaughter who was the same age as her, was forced out of her marriage to Rulon and became an outcast. After running and being brought back, Merrilyn was told that the only way she would be able to truly repent would through “blood atonement”; she would have to be killed. A few weeks later, on September 8, 2002, Rulon Jeffs died. He was 94 years old and left 60+ wives and 70+ children. This gave the green light to Warren to assume the title, prophet. He would make prophecies, because no one in the community was allowed any access to outside info, Warren would “prophesize” the weather, his predictions were identical to weather forecasts. He also began telling people that the armies of the world were gathering in the Middle East and WWIII had begun. Carolyn still had a radio, which was forbidden, but at least she knew what was really going on. Jeffs began preaching to the people that it was time to build a temple to do the work God had planned for his chosen people. Escape became a necessity to Carolyn. Carolyn’s mother actually escaped first, with her two youngest children.
Shortly after, following in her mother’s footsteps, Carolyn escaped with the help of her brother. Her trip was complicated by the fact that her oldest daughter Betty was physically assaulting her in protest. Eventually, Carolyn found a safe house and because she has such a great support system, she was able to seek the Utah attorney general’s help. Over a long period of time and many obstacles set in place by Merril, Carolyn was able to gain full custody of her children and allowed Merril to visit the children under supervised conditions so he would not run off with them, like he had tried. He never took advantage of these rights because he really didn’t care about the children. Carolyn and her children celebrated Christmas for the first time. She also met a man named Brian, whom she would eventually marry. Merril began marrying increasingly younger women (in the end had 14 wives), moved to Texas, and liquidating his assets in an attempt to erase any evidence that he had ever lived in Colorado City. Because of the charges against him in 2005, Warren went into hiding but did not lose any followers. People believed that he had the ability to be transported, by God, form place to place. He also credited himself with the tsunami of 2004, (you remember, the really big one that killed a lot of people in Thailand) and it was rumored that he had over 180 wives, one of the youngest was Jennet Jessop who was 14 at the time of her marriage. People began disappearing, literally without a trace, and a suit was brought against Warren by his nephew, Brent Jeffs which included allegations of sexual and physical abuse.
When Arthur, Carolyn’s eldest son, turned 18 in 2005, Merril ordered him to leave everything and go back to FLDS, Arthur said he would not because the religion had become too weird. He went on to earn his pilot’s license.
In May of 2006, the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List included Warren Jeffs, his charges included two counts of having sexual contact with minors in Arizona, accomplice to rape in Utah, and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, the reward for him was $100,000. On August 28, 2006, Warren Jeffs was caught because the car he was traveling in had not been properly registered, this practice is common amongst members of the FLDS as they are so mistrusting of the outside world. His wife, one of Carolyn’s stepdaughters, Naomi was also in the vehicle, along with wigs, a ton of cell phones, and $50,000 in cash. Ironically, the care was the red, the color he had banned from his community long before. Even after being captured Warren was and still is seen as the prophet, he sent out a message to his followers that God wanted him to be captured. See how easy this is? The trial was set to begin in 2007.
Betty, the daughter that fought Carolyn to stay in Hilldale, graduated from high school and returned to FLDS two days after her eighteenth birthday. On a side note, Betty was actually featured on an episode of Oprah and it is worth looking up, if you want to gain another perspective on this nonsense. The rest of the children have all grown to be normal, functioning and acclimated people.
I know this read as more of like a book report than a review, and I know it is VERY long but the stuff I included were things that I felt you needed to know. I, myself am very fascinated by this culture and how this kind of thing had been going on under our noses for so long. I guess most of you are like me, and just had no idea what it was like. I was recently talking to a coworker of mine who is from that area and I jokingly said can you get a picture of them? And she got really wide eyed and said, “Are you crazy?!!? Those people will shoot you and no one will ever hear from you again.”
This evening was a free concert at Firth Hall by the Jessop Sinfonia. I was delighted to be asked to play in this ensemble for the first time (2nd oboe for the Beethoven and 1st for the other two. Is it ‘principal’ or 'principle’ in this situation? Google didn’t help me, there were examples of both!). David rehearsed and conducted us very well and we almost entirely pulled it off in a very small amount of time! The concert was sold as being “Made up of Sheffield’s finest students, teachers, lecturers and professional performers, including Ensemble 360 members and internationally renowned musicians” which I was pretty flattered by. It was fantastic to play with such talented performers! We played:
Beethoven: Egmont Overture
Wagner: Siegfried Idyll
Sibelius: Symphony No.3
In rehearsal I was very excited to notice that the start of the 3rd mvt of the Sibelius is the start up music of the computer programme Sibelius 5. No one else seemed to share my enthusiasm!
I got amazing compliments from one of the French horn players after the Wagner which was really lovely. He was a big fan of my tone, especially when playing in the hall, having only rehearsed in a small acoustically unflattering exhibition space. It’s so nice to be complimented by people you don’t really know :)
betty jane jessop with one of her mothers, tammy jessop
in 2009 betty jessop said she was going to write a book about her life. it would be the first biography ever written by an active member of the FLDS. the last i heard she was shopping it to publishers, but that was over a year ago. i want to read it SO BADLY and i know other people would too! every single person who read her mother carolyn jessop’s book escape would TOTALLY buy a copy. somebody publish it already!