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Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  869 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Life for Irene Spencer was a series of devastating disappointments and hardships. Irene's first book, Shattered Dreams, is the staggering chronicle of her struggle to provide for her children in abject poverty and feelings of abandonment each time her husband left to be with one of his other wives. Irene was raised to believe polygamy was the way of life necessary for her ...more
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Published August 12th 2009 by Center Street
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Apr 13, 2010 Terrie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terrie by: 8/12/09
Shattered Dreams was good, but this seemed just a rehash of exactly the same incidents, only with a slightly different focus. There wasn't really any new material here, and by omitting the daily details of her life it was less interesting.
This book got only 3 stars due to the disjointed way it was written, there were too many names thrown around with no explanation of who they really were, it like to drove me nuts reading it. Lets put it this way...this is NOT a smooth read. The subject matter on the other hand was so interesting. I just don't understand the fundamentalists Mormons, the whole time I am readng this I am thinking "any normal, sane person would of walked away" why anyone would subject their children or themselves to ...more
Sep 06, 2009 Dayna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating account. She included many in-page references to other books which also talk about her experiences with the cult....I found these references unnecessary, as everything she says rings true. There is no need to justify her story. I already believe it. I wish the story was written in chronological order, but I'll take it.
Lenore Webb
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Parts autobiography, parts true crime thriller, "Cult Insanity" is the story of Ervil LeBaron's rise to power in two fundamentalist Mormon nut-job cults. First he's the number two man in his brother Joel's Church of the First Born, but he gets kicked out for a long list of screw-ups including an increasing thirst for "blood atonement." Basically, the guy quoted scriptures that said you could put people to death for even petty crimes. Most of which he commits himself, but you know, it's cool with ...more
Oct 22, 2009 Katrina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was an intense and powerful look at a life I never knew existed. Although the writing was a bit amateurish in some areas, the subject matter and the actual story kept me enthralled with every page. It is the story of Evril LeBaron, the leader of a fundamentalist faction of the Mormon faith. Irene, the author is Evril's sister in-law and lived years in the same compound as Evril, with him being the "Patriarch" of the group. The things Irene describes are terrible and frightening. I am s ...more
Oct 27, 2009 Rhonda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoirs
Cult Insanity is a riveting true story of a woman who lived in a Mormon polygamist cult in the 1970s. Unlike the polygamist members you may have seen living a wealthy lifestyle on TV both in fiction and news shows, this cult lived in abject poverty in Mexico. It is an interesting story of the generational hold that this type of cult has on its members. There are quite a few people that you have to keep track of, but that is to be expected when the men had 10 or more wives and dozens of children. ...more
Linda B
Oct 26, 2009 Linda B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cult Insanity is a riveting true story of a woman who lived in a Mormon polygamist cult in the 1970s. Unlike the polygamist members you may have seen living a wealthy lifestyle on TV, both in fiction and news shows, this cult lived in abject poverty in Mexico. It is an interesting story of the generational hold that this type of cult has on its members. There are quite a few people that you have to keep track of, but that is to be expected when the men had 10 or more wives and dozens of children ...more
Jan 05, 2010 Becca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really powerful book about polygamous sects of Mormonism. I had no idea what life could be like for both the men and the women, and was shocked to read about what their daily lives were like. This book is a must read for anyone interested in various religions, or just anyone looking for something different than most other books they've read.
Cult Insanity is the true-life memoir of the author, a woman who for years was married to one of the LeBaron brothers. To say that this family was simply "crazy" is putting it lightly: several generations of family members hearing voices, being locked up in insane asylums, running around nude in preparation of UFOs landing, and, oh yeah, all the murders places this family in the realms of the seriously mentally disturbed.

I didn't read the first book the author wrote (Shattered Dreams), which tel
This was yet another book picked up on a whim from the "New Book" shelf of my library. I kind of wish I had read the author's first book before tackling this one, as I was kind of lost. The book concentrates more on the cult itself than the relationships between the husband, the wives, and the many children.

What a heartbreaking story... It's a perfect example of what happens when someone gains too much power and starts controlling other people. I don't really understand polygamy itself, though
I really like Irene Spencers first book "Shattered Dreams" but this one was only ok. Still very interesting subject, but not written as well. My conjecture is that this book is all the stuff that was edited out of the first one. It doesn't have a good narrative flow. It is much more disjointed. Also, you HAVE to read the other one first or you will be pretty lost since she jumps around a lot. Definitely still worth reading to better understand all the CRAZY crap that went down among this group o ...more
Apr 06, 2011 Maggie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: borrowed-books
This is the story of Irene Spencer and the blood atonement that went on in the religious groups she was associated with. While reading this book I kept going back to the thought that with so much insanity running thorough the blood line I would be really worried about my children's futures. I suppose if you are worried about living through the day it isn't as concerning as it would otherwise be.

I read this book because I really enjoyed Shattered Lives by the same author. This was also a really g
Mar 05, 2011 Cherrybomb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not as good as Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife but still giving it four stars for an interesting read.

The one thing I didn't like about it was the tendency to skip around in time a bit. It was mostly chronological but a little back tracking of events got on my nerves. I may be nit picking so not holding it against the book. Just the fact that the author was able to remember all these people and their intertwined relationships is pretty impressive.
Cynde Moya
Men who are convinced that they are priests, or infallible, in a milieu that encourages the nutty to believe that they are the one mighty and strong; the resurrected. Add the ethic of multiple wives. And you get a bunch of assholes who use their daughters as a medium of political exchange, giving 15 year old girls to old men as plural wives.
Compare to the Islamic multiple wive social structure. There's something intrinsic in this polygamous organization that devalues women even as women are the
I thought this would've been so much more interesting. The author seemed to be a strong, intelligent woman who could obviously see these men were nuts, so her story just came off as whining and complaining and it bored me. I didn't finish this book but got pretty far. I sort of have a feeling I may have cut it off just before it was about to get good. Oh well, it just wasn't worth waiting it out.
May 14, 2012 Heather rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion, memoir
Life was never easy for Irene Spencer. She was born into a polygamist family and at a 16 became the second wife of a much older man named Verlan LeBaron. She would eventually bear 13 of his 54 children and struggle to provide for all of them. Irene put up with it all because she was raised to believe that living in polygamy was the only way to get to heaven. However, things got even worse when her brother-in-law Ervil gained power as a self-proclaimed prophet sent by God to put His people in ord ...more
Sep 04, 2015 Shawna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I found this book a bit harder to get through than Shattered Dreams. I just kept thinking, "how did this charlatan manage to dupe so many people for so long?" Maybe because it was the 1950s and 60s and people were a lot more credulous than they are now. (Let's hope.) There were a few light moments like when one follower who was told that an angel had revealed something to Ervil asked, "Were the angels legs broken?" And when told no exploded, "Then why didn't the angel come into the next room and ...more
Amy Adams
Wow...this book took me a long time to wade through. It doesn't have the same zing as other cult books I've read, but the story is every bit as penetrating. The thing that strikes me most about this book is that the author never seems to regret living a polygamist lifestyle, and even though her husband abandoned her and her children repeatedly, she still held him in the highest esteem.
I went into the book thinking it was going to be about how Spencer and her children escaped polygamy and a cult
Dec 31, 2012 Marian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a truly fascinating account of what it is like to be in a cult. If you are interested in cults but have difficulty with the more academic works then this is an excellent alternative. While it is best to read this with some background understanding of Mormonism and it's modern day fundamentalists, it is by no means required. Irene Spencer walks you through her experience like a friend.

Delivered in a personal first hand account, it reads easily and beautifully. I personally listened to th
At the end of Irene Spencer's first book, Shattered Dreams, she mentions that she'd written about her evil brother-in-law Ervil but then ripped those pages out so his story would not overshadow her own. This book is basically those ripped pages put together into a book, re-following Spencer's own life story but through the experiences of Ervil's horrific reign of power. It does feel a bit scattered and sometimes the chronology is confusing because she jumps between time periods, and I really jus ...more
Oct 08, 2013 Anne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Got it from the library last week,
Similar to Carolyn Jessop's two books, Escape and Triumph, Irene Spencer's previous memoir, Shattered Dreams, is a much more personal account of her struggle living polygamy whereas Cult Insanity documents the religious, political, and criminal behavior of the cult as a whole. Each has their purpose and I found Cult Insanity very enlightening because the FLDS is often portrayed as one homogenous sect, which Spencer proves it most certainly isn't! In fact, rivalries between purported prophets hav ...more
Sep 07, 2014 Jessie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a unique experience. It was harrowing, and surprisingly different than the books I had read about the Short Creek/Colorado City polygamist colony. It offered a look at stunning and almost unfathomable violence through the eyes of a warm-hearted and selfless narrator. The things Ms. Spencer has gone through in her lifetime could be called unspeakable, but I thank her for braving her past and showing us that people can come out on top even in less-than-ideal circumstances.
Rena Sherwood
Think you're stupid? Cheer yourself up by reading this -- a whole book about dozens of polygamist Mormons that have the combined IQs of lawn furniture. The author is not a good storyteller. She tells but does not show. She also does not explain why she felt trapped in an abusive cult for 28 years.

I happen to be a domestic violence survivor. I think explaining why you do not leave when you are getting abused regularly is a vital part of a victim's story. Anyone can be conned by an abuser. It's im
Another horrific first person account of religious fanaticism and the bloody consequences of zealotry. Irene Spencer’s tale of horror reminds us all that, combined with significant mental instability, cult leaders frequently become mass murderers and tyrants.

Ervil LeBaron certainly fits this description. Insanity in his genes and narcissism at his core, he overthrew and murdered his brother, subsequently terrorizing a splinter group of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints in Mexico, the Church of t
Kelsey Hanson
Actual rating: 2.5 (still waiting for the half star Goodreads Hint hint)

This book was good but it seemed a bit repetitive after reading Shattered Dreams. This book focuses on the crimes and reign of terror of Ervil LaBarron. It's worth mentioning that it's important to read Shattered Dreams first, or this book will not make a whole lot of sense. Once again, I can't help question the credibility of a book that has so much dialogue but overall it was an interesting look at Irene's life.
Priscilla Herrington
The late Irene Spencer was a fifth generation polygamist, niece of Rulon C. Allred, leader of the Apostolic United Brethren, a breakaway fundamentalist Mormon sect in Utah. Contrary to her family's wishes that she have nothing to do with the LeBaron family, she married Verlan LeBaron whose brother Joel was the Prophet of the Church of the Firstborn in the Fulness of Times he had organized. Their younger brother Ervil LeBaron who had been President and worked through Joel, founded his own church, ...more
A sensational riveting true crime story: "Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement" (2009) authored by Irene Spencer is her intense impassioned account of her life as the second polygamist wife of 10, bearing 14 of her husbands 58 children; living in extreme poverty at "The Colony," (est. in 1944) a ranch in Mexico located 200 miles South of El Paso. Irene's brother-in-law Ervil LeBaron often called the "Mormon Manson" was sentenced to life in prison for murder, 28 foll ...more
I loved this author's other book Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife and to me it was the one of the best memoirs. This book for some reason turned out to be so-so. It was so full of details that after a while my mind got tired from trying to decipher them all.

Don't try reading this book without first reading Shattered Dreams. The drama and trauma of dealing with her killer fanatic brother-in-law was almost completely absent in her other book but thoroughly detailed in this one. I
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