Friday, March 7, 2014

The Witness Wore Red

Author: Rebecca Musser/Bridget Cook
Genre:  Non-Fiction

Five Stars
Rebecca Musser grew up in fear, living downstairs from her father's "real" family, and concealing her family's polygamous lifestyle from the "dangerous" outside world.  Covered head-to-toe in modest clothing, she attended Alta Academy, a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints school headed by principal Warren Jeffs.
In her teens, she became the nineteenth wife of her people's Prophet: eighty-five-year-old Rulon Jeffs, Warren's father, and watched as forty-eight additional wives were added to her marriage.  After she was widowed, Warren Jeffs threatened her with remarriage, so she pulled off a daring escape and sought to built a new life and family on her own terms.
But by 2007, though far from the church, she was no longer able to stand for the abuse and underage marriages still being perpetuated within it - ones that she believed put her own sisters at risk.  So Rebecca took the witness stand against Warren Jeffs, the new, self-proclaimed Prophet of the FLDS.
I read this book because living where I do (Nevada), we are very close to the polygamists and I was interested more in how Warren Jeffs was prosecuted.  I have seen the polygamists firsthand many times, and my sister lives in San Angelo, Texas, where the trials took place, so between us there is a slight knowledge of what goes on.
However, it is only slight; and this woman, Rebecca Musser, is one of the most courageous women I have ever heard of.  She could have done what others have; just left the 'cult' and gone on building a new life, but she chose to come forward and expose the abuse.  Abuse that she herself felt at a very young age; when her father's first wife would beat her and her siblings every time her mother and father were away.
It saddened me to hear how every one of her brothers were driven from their home and left on the side of the road to fend for themselves; we have many of these "lost boys" here in Las Vegas where they have luckily managed to find help and a new life.  Her sisters, being more valuable to the FLDS, were traded for favors, as one might trade a book for another.  While Rulon was alive, girls were married from the ages of eighteen on.  Rebecca herself was 'married' off to this old man, and while she achieved a semblance of status in the FLDS, she also had to spend nights with him - and I don't believe I need to go into detail.  Her entire life, she was taught 'boys are like snakes,' and to have nothing to do with them.  She knew absolutely nothing about sex when she married, and was horrified at some of things required; she began to find ways to avoid spending "her night" with Rulon.  After six years with him, once he died, she never wanted to marry again.
However, Warren had other ideas.  For years, while his father was ill, he was taking over the FLDS and instituting new 'laws.'  There would be no more television, no radio, no playing outdoors, no toys, etc.; only work and school lessons.  As horrific as it sounds, nothing compared to the fact that he decided eighteen was too old to be married.  He began giving young girls, as young as twelve, to older men, some nearly eighty.  He married a twelve-year-old himself.  
Rebecca's sister, Elissa Wall, (who wrote her own book, Stolen Innocence, also recommended), brought suit against Warren Jeffs because of a forced marriage, and Rebecca volunteered to help the Texas Rangers bring Warren down.  She worked with them for months on end, putting her own life, and that of her family's on hold so that Warren could not ruin the life of another young girl.
What is in this book sickens and saddens me.  These people blindly follow 'the prophet,' and cover pedophilia under religion.  I ask anyone if they would allow their pre-teen daughter to be 'married celestially' to someone as old as their own grandfather?  If you are in your right mind, I think not.  Her own mother saw nothing wrong, being raised in it herself. 
The title refers to the fact that Warren Jeffs refused to allow the color red because 'it was the color of the devil.'  To show her own independence and freedom from him and the FLDS, she wore it to court every day.  Kudos to Ms. Musser.
This is a powerful book, strongly written; and a compelling read.  For anyone who has any knowledge of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS, highly recommended.

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