Samantha's Reviews > Escape

Escape by Carolyn Jessop
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's review
Feb 28, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: religion
Recommended to Samantha by: Mom
Recommended for: Everyone
Read in February, 2009 , read count: 1

** spoiler alert ** At the age of eighteen, Carolyn was forced to marry a fifty-year-old man named Merril Jessop, becoming his fourth wife. Over the next 15 years, she would give birth to eight of his children, watch him marry three more women, and become more and more disenchanted with her religion, Mormon Fundamentalism.

Growing up, she was taught that she was special because she would one day grow up to give birth to the special souls waiting in heaven to come to earth to do God's work. Polygamy was a way of life for her, although her own father only had two wives and didn't marry for the second time until later in life.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) is an extreme form of Mormonism that holds dear the tenet of polygamy, calling it 'celestial marriage' and the plural wives, 'spirit wives.' Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the first two men to hold the title of "President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator" of the Mormon Church, practiced polygamy and when the church banned the practice in the 1920s, those who held strongly to the practice cleaved from the mainstream church to form their own sect, the FLDS.

The sect of the FLDS that Carolyn Jessop grew up in was and still is centered in Colorado City, Utah. There, under the leadership of their various prophets (first Uncle Roy, then Uncle Rulon, then Warren Jeffs), Carolyn was raised in the faith and taught to practice 'perfect obedience' to her husband.

But faith could not snuff out her inner spirit and as things got weirder, more extreme, and more dangerous within the FLDS church, she knew she had to get out. And she did, with a little help of from her friends, most of whom were outsiders whom she was led to believe were evil (in the FLDS, all outsiders were evil and minions of Satan).

The most disturbing and fascinating thing about Carolyn's story is the inside look at life inside a polygamist home. Multiple wives, dozens of children, and one father who runs the show with an iron fist. Only, in Carolyn's case, the show was mostly run by Merril's favorite wife, Barbara, who made it a point to use her influence to punish the other wives and their children as often as possible.

In the FLDS culture, a woman's only value is as a mother--providing more and more children for the FLDS faith. The more children a woman has, the more status she has. But she is still considered the property of her husband in every way. Education was banned beyond the very basics (although she was lucky enough to obtain a college education before Warren Jeffs banned all public education) and scamming the welfare system was common. In fact, the irony of it is that the FLDS thumbed their noses at the government, yet bilked it of millions of dollars because they thought it was their sacred duty to do so (they called it 'bleeding the beast').

A fascinating book that I read off and on in about four days. Carolyn Jessop got herself and her children out just in time before Warren Jeffs destroyed everything.
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