Subtitled “My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints”, Brower details the years leading up...moreSubtitled “My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-Day Saints”, Brower details the years leading up to the raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch (YFZ Ranch) in Eldorado, Texas he spent as a private investigator working for those expelled from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) embroiled in a civil dispute over property rights. The FLDS holds all the land around their original home of Short Creek, a community that straddles the Utah-Arizona border, in an economic trust and those expelled from the faith also lose their homes and jobs in addition to being shunned by the only community they have ever known. This civil investigation quickly morphed into a criminal as Brower, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), learned more about this separatist religion that maintains polygamy as a main tenant of its faith.
My interest in fundamentalist religions makes it impossible for me to pass up any book on the subject even when I think I’ve learned all there is to learn. I’m glad I didn’t pass this book up because while I was familiar with most of the topics covered in the book, the particular details forming Brower’s investigation were new to me. It was also interesting reading about the raid on the YFZ Ranch — the event that familiarized most of my friends with the FLDS — because it was so spun by the FLDS and swept under the rug by Child Protective Services in Texas. The review of the raid, as cited by Brower, stated that all of the children were returned to the YFZ Ranch despite the fact that:
“…a total of 439 children had been removed from the YFZ Ranch, and that 274 of them, from 91 families, had been the subjects of abuse and neglect. One in four prepubescent girls was involved in an underage marriage.” (pg. 287)
Except I never saw any of these shocking statistics in the coverage of the 2008 investigation. In fact, Brower’s book was actually the first time I learned of the outcome for the children removed from their home. And Brower spends the majority of the book detailing how the FLDS make up one the largest organized crime syndicates since untold tens of thousands of people (the FLDS won’t allow themselves to be counted in the U.S. census) support a religion that participates in child abuse, rape, interstate and international sex trafficking, and welfare theft. It’s an organized entity complete with safe houses that officials from Utah, Arizona, Texas, and the United States government have turned a blind eye to.
The most interesting part of this book, though, is the profile of the FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs spun by Brower. Using Jeffs’ own writings, interviews with former members of the FLDS, and his own interactions with current FLDS members as well as Jeffs, Brower creates an absolutely horrific description of a man who abused children of all ages and sex either by his own hand or through his performance of marriages for other men in the upper hierarchy of his church. Brower continually interjects personal stories or those of his clients to illustrate his points and connect so-called past practices with current events within the religious sect.
Although this book is technically a personal memoir, it could have benefited from additional editing to turn it into a better investigative report. I liked hearing about the FLDS’ response to Brower because it does illustrate how closed off the FLDS are and what lengths they will go to maintain that break. However, the timeline gets a little lost as Brower tries to group events around themes and then repeats those events when he tries to go back to a timeline. I would have prefer him to stick to one format so I did not have been left muttering about how he already talked about this so many times. But it’s a minor complaint given how much information Brower brings to the reader.(less)
Krakauer’s book about Mormon fundamentalism begins with the story of the Lafferty boys and the violent murder of Brenda Lafferty and her young daughte...moreKrakauer’s book about Mormon fundamentalism begins with the story of the Lafferty boys and the violent murder of Brenda Lafferty and her young daughter, Erica, on July 24, 1984 two of the Lafferty boys committed. The two brothers claim they were ordered by God to kill their sister-in-law and niece, and both align them with a fundamentalist, break-away sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons), the fastest growing religion in the world. (Because the two are not apart of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it would not be correct to identity them as FLDS.) Drawing from this fact, Krakauer delves into the development of this “American religion” and the, often troublesome, history of the religion founded by Joseph Smith.
When I first picked up Krakauer’s book, I was a little apprehensive about how much the narrative rests on a single, gruesome murder, and I honestly did not see the connection between the murder and Mormon fundamentalism. But I found the book to be a very interesting examination both of what religious extremism does the psyche and the history of this religion.
A simply chilling, if unsympathetic, look at Mormon faith, the conflict between Mormons and Gentiles (read all non-Mormons, including Jews) and between the upper echelon of LDS leaders and U.S. government completely fascinated me. As for Mormon fundamentalists, Krakauer likens them to the proverbial uncle everyone avoids at family functions — the one that should not be heard and not seen. He manged to maintain a distinguish between LDS and FLDS (as well as other fundamentalist sects), in my opinion, but he does draw a thread through his discussion of the church’s history and theology that connects its underlining of direct communication with God and charismatic leadership with the manifestations of particular elements in fundamentalist Mormon communities that makes it easy to understand why the fundamentalists appear more like the crazy uncle than a completely different religion.
Despite skipping a few pages here and there that dealt more with the Lafferty brothers and their villainous act, I found Krakauer’s book to very interesting. Rather than concentrating on polygamy like other nonfiction books covering Mormon fundamentalist, Krakauer covers the shared history between the two groups and how FLDS can still be considered “Mormon”.(less)
I found the first 100 or so pages to find very funny. Not in a poking-fun-of-religion funny, but funny in the way Jacobs presented his journey. After...moreI found the first 100 or so pages to find very funny. Not in a poking-fun-of-religion funny, but funny in the way Jacobs presented his journey. After all, to go from shaving everyday to growing your beard out to your chest is bound to present some humorous material. It’s until Jacobs and his wife takes the instruction to “be fruitful and multiple” seriously that the humor stops because the way he talks about his wife (and his son) isn’t comical.
Jacobs picks and chooses what rules to follow and when to follow them; a decision he says reflects modern-day Christianity and Judaism because even Hasidic Jews and fundamentalist Christians pick and choose what to follow. That maybe be true, but it's also in contrast with his goal – to follow the Bible literally and document his journey. As a self-described workaholic, Jacobs is unable to keep basic rules such as keeping the Sabbath, and while I know that keeping all 700-plus rules must be an insurmountable attack, I started to feel as though this journey became more and more about his parenting skills and his interactions with his son, Jasper. This is especially true after he reached the New Testament because he begins to talk more and more about becoming/being a father to twin boys. Plus, there’s quite a bit of boasting about how he wrote a book studying the encyclopedia from A to Z, and complaining about the fact that people have written negative reviews of The Know-It-All, which lowers his rating on Amazon.
An interesting premise that includes trips to visit the Amish and an ex-uncle that became an Orthodox Jew after experimenting with every other religion, but one that ultimately fell on its face. (less)
Fifty-year-old Corrie ten Boom awakens from her sickbed to see an old man being shoved into the cupboard along the side wall of her room by a younger...moreFifty-year-old Corrie ten Boom awakens from her sickbed to see an old man being shoved into the cupboard along the side wall of her room by a younger woman. Despite her sickness, the spinster leaps from her bed to help push a wheezing elderly woman into the same cupboard, which leads to the secret room built for the very purpose of hiding these people — the hunted Jews of Holland. Since May 1942, Corrie — along with her spinster sister Betsie and their father — hid Jewish refugees in her home, the Beje, and took an active role in the resistance movement while using her father’s watch business as a front for their activities, but on this day, February 28, 1944, their activities are quickly coming to a grinding halt.
I devoured this book on my flight from Montana to Minneapolis; I opened it to the first page as soon as I got on the plane and finished it as soon as the wheels touched down, never once looking up. I can remember starting to read this book once when I was much younger (around eight, I think), but I had such horrific nightmares I had to stop. Now I’m not such why (other than age) because ten Boom’s account is incredible and inspirational. For ten Boom, her work was merely the job of humanity and her suffering was the trial of her faith, which guides her and Betsie during their time in concentration camps as they struggle to forgive their persecutors and praise God in times of sickness and fleas.
There have been very few books about people who worked against the Nazis that weren’t Jews or weren’t fictional characters that have landed on my shelf, but this is one that certainly sheds light on what happened to those who did help and how they did so. Occasionally, I would stumble on a part that had me wondering if the push for Christianity was by ten Boom or her co-authors, but I certainly will not judge this amazing woman’s memoir on that basis. I will say that I had a bit of a difficulty getting into the book as it begins with ten Boom’s younger years and descriptions of her father’s watch shop. Regardless, though, this is another inspirational and well-written memoir I plan to hang on to for quite some time.(less)
Wallis’ “new vision for faith and politics in America” was the selection of my parents’ Sunday School class five years ago. I was sort of a member of...moreWallis’ “new vision for faith and politics in America” was the selection of my parents’ Sunday School class five years ago. I was sort of a member of the class, but I gave up on the book after thirty pages. It’s been on my TBR list ever since, especially since the class had such interesting conversations and reactions to Wallis’ thoughts.
The book — subtitled “Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It” — asks why believing in God and having moral values makes you pro-war, pro-rich, and pro-Republican? And why promoting and pursuing a progressive social agenda with concern for economic security, health care, and education means you have to put your faith in God aside? Wallis stresses that Jesus’ greatest concern was for the poor and argues that the most important political and social issue for Christians should be decreasing poverty in America and the world. At the same time, Christians should accept global warming and work to sustain God’s creation and place less emphasis on hot-button, litmus-test issues such as abortion.
I wound up giving up on this book again; stopping at 282 pages out of 371 and skimming to the end.When I read the introduction, I once again found myself nodding along with the basic premise of Wallis’ book because when did one side of American politics gain a monopoly on the Christian religion. But I had to give up and move on to something else because there was very little food for thought. Let me clarify, when taking a position, Wallis does not reference the Bible as his support. Because he either chose to or refused to do so, he basically states his position and then moves on. The lack of support — biblical or not (very few footnotes and citations for outside facts) — makes it nearly impossible to respond to him or think critically about his position.
I also felt like I was being preached to, especially since God’s Politics is very repetitive and Wallis cites own company as an outside source. In several chapters Wallis presented his view, follows it up with a copy of a letter/speech/ad by him restating that view, which he would later repeat in another section. Additionally, as someone in my parents’ class pointed out (I kept notes tucked in my Bible), Wallis never discusses America’s ideal that the church and the state be separated; he assumes that because most politicians are self-described Christians (even if his book says they’re really not), this country should conform and follow Christian ideology — whether that be pro-environment, pro-war, or anti-poverty.(less)