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Saturday, October 5, 2013

Book Review/Summary "Church of Lies" by Flora Jessop

"Church of Lies" by Flora Jessop 

 Flora grew up in the FLDS church, which is still controlled by the infamous self-proclaimed prophet Warren
Jeffs. Today, she is a well-known anti-polygamous advocate. This heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant, narrative begins in Flora's own words: "My name is Flora Jessop. I've been called apostate, vigilante, and crazy bitch, and maybe I am. But some people call me a hero, and I'd like to think they're right too. If I am a hero, maybe it's because every time I can play a part in saving a child or a woman from a life of servitude and degradation, I'm saving a little piece of me, too."

Flora, one of 28 children born to her father and his three wives, grew up in the bordering cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. Her childhood was anything but idyllic. Abuse ran rampant in her home. Her father, someone she should have been able to count on for protection and support turned out to be the worst perpetrator of all. At age 8, her father molested her. At age 12, he raped her. 

When Flora was 14 years-old, she managed to escape her abusive situation. Her freedom, however, was short-lived. Although the woman who took her in as part of the underground railroad was kind to her, she felt lonely and scared. The outside world was foreign to her. One day, she called her uncle to come take her home. Fred Jessop was her father's half-brother and the bishop of the FLDS. Instead of bringing Flora home, she spent the next two years a captive in his home. Flora describes living in a room no larger than a closet, being beaten and tortured by her Aunt Lydia, and made to be a domestic servant in their household. 

Eventually, she was given a choice: marry or be sent to a mental institution. Again, she chose freedom. Flora's husband-to-be was her first cousin, Phillip. He and Flora had enjoyed one another's company prior to their marriage. In fact, it was the "God Squad," a secretive group of men who patrolled the town, who had seen them talking together and reported it to her Uncle Fred. In twisted FLDS logic, this alone was a cause for marriage. Phillip and Flora were given a gun-shot wedding in Las Vegas by a Justice of the Peace. 

Ironically, this arranged marriage turned out to be a source of freedom for Flora. Although she was only 16 years-old at the time of her wedding vows, she was legally married. That meant legal emancipation. Flora chose to leave three weeks later and, with the help of her husband, she moved to Las Vegas. 

An out-of-the-blue call from a producer of the show 60 Minutes changed her life forever. Although Flora was initially startled, she eventually decided to give an interview. For her, it was "...the first of many media interviews I'd do and the beginning of my lifelong passion to tell the world the truth about polygamy and its abuses." Sadly, it wasn't all roses after that for Flora. She went through a drug bing to bury the guilt and shame of her past. She survived an attempted kidnapping by her Uncle Fred. Flora's life became something of a giant road trip, traveling from place to place, and from one bad relationship to the next. Flora also found stripping to be a lucrative career option. The one joy from this period of her life was the birth of her beautiful baby daughter, Shauna. 

The next chapter of Flora's life developed into something drastically different. During this time, she fell in love with Tim, the man of her dreams, and they and their children became a family. Flora also learned that she need not hate and/or fear God. Last, this new era ushered in Flora's declaration of an all-out war against the FLDS.

 In April of 2001, Flora's baby sister Ruby Jessop was forced into an unwanted arranged marriage to her step-brother, Haven Barlow. Ruby was only 14 years-old. Flora's unsuccessful attempt to protect Ruby meant that the family had to hider her away. Thus began more than a decade-long mission to rescue her sister. Flora's search for Ruby soon led to anti-polygamy activism. She became a member of the underground railroad, helping young girls to leave their abusive Mormon fundamentalist communities. 

She began an organization called "Help the Child Brides." Later, she was recruited to be the executive director of the "Child Protection Project." One of Flora's most interesting underground railroad experiences was with two 16 year-old girls-- friends and both named Fawn-- who were leaving the FLDS. KTVK 3TV's reporter Mike Watkiss came along for the ride, filming the rescue as it was happening. Later, Watkiss created a documentary from the footage, "Colorado City and the Underground Railroad." (see video below)

Flora's book highlights some of the heart-wrenching stories of those she tried to help. Their courage to leave seemed to be a mere first step in a long process to claim true freedom. Life on the "outside" would be filled with legal battles, all while trying to recoup from their pasts and trying to acclimate to their new lives. For the young runaway girls, simple things such as a haircut and new clothes were powerful experiences. So, too, were learning to make choices for themselves. 

Last, Flora recounts the arrest, trial, and conviction of Warren Jeffs as well as the raid on the YFZ ranch compound in Texas. For her, these have been victories. They have also served to help get her message out about the horrors and abuses going on within the FLDS and other Mormon polygamist communities. The tattered tapestry of Flora's past has helped to weave a safety net for others. She chooses to be grateful for the painful experiences of her past, for they have helped to shape her into who she is today: a survivor, an activist, and a heroine. 

Though her work is far from over, Flora works tirelessly on in her quest to bring freedom to an oppressed people-- those who live not in a foreign, far-away land, but men, women, and children right in the heart of America. ~ ~ ~ As a side-note, earlier this year in January, Flora's dreams of rescuing her sister Ruby finally came true. Ruby, now 26 years-old was able to leave the FLDS with her six children, ranging in ages from 2 to 10 years of age. She recently gave her first interview with Katie Couric concerning her ordeal. We wish Flora, Ruby, and her children all the best as they begin their new lives!   -- Review by PlygKoolAid 


33 comments:

  1. May they all have a better and happier life.

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  2. I love Flora! I remember an interview. that. she gave years ago in which she said she would never have more than 2 children because that's all she could. carry if she had to run. Makes me cry every time i think of that. Flora, you are incredible and an inspiration to everyone! Keep up the good work sister !

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  3. PlyKoolAid, what a great book review. I haven't read the book but your review sure tells what a fascinating story it is. More people need to know these stories and the horror and anguish that the women and children go through.

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  4. I just finished Flora's book about 10 minutes ago. It's a hard read, it's raw and painful, but it's important to know what she is fighting for.

    If you ever take the time to read here Flora, You Go Girl! Fight the Good Fight.

    Someday I can only hope that the health and well being of women and children will be put before the greed of power and money of sick and twisted men.

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  5. I just finished reading this last night, and it certainly is a powerful book. I've got to slow down or take a break from polygamy for a bit- I think that in the last two weeks I've read The Witness Wore Red, Under the Banner of Heaven, Stolen Innocence, and bought Plygs and Escape.

    I really admired her absolutely unflinching honesty- I can't imaging having the guts to lay my soul bare like that for the general public. And her passion, and the work that she is doing to help others. She is a hero.

    One thing that surprised me a bit- when I was finishing the book, and after I finished, I went to google many of the groups mentioned in the book, to see if there was anything that I could do to help in her work from another country. Maybe I was just having bad luck, but most of the groups seem to have dead or very outdated webpages. Is it possible that the blog could put up a list or a sticky somewhere of 'ways to help'- lists of organizations, contact people etc, and what they need? I know that goes a bit beyond discussing Sister Wives, but there have been so many thoughtful posts lately about fundamentalist Mormonism that it might be useful.

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    1. Jen,

      That's a great idea and I think you should email MS with your suggestion.

      She is having computer problems just now so please be patient.

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  6. I watched a bunch of UTube videos about polygamists yesterday. Flora said on the Katie Couric show that the vitamins given to FLDS children were really psychotropic drugs. She felt that those medications contributed to the ease with which folks leaving FLDS fell into drug/alcohol abuse. I'm very curious about this. Which psychotropic drugs are being administered? Since Warren Jeffs has banished all the medical professionals, how are prescriptions being obtained? Do the parents have any idea what they're giving the children? How long has this been going on?

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  7. Flora Jessop's book is a great read. I recommend it. One thing I thought was really beneficial was that Jessop graphically described her father's rape of her. I believe that society too often cloaks rape and incest in sanitized terms, and this undermines the brutality and intrusion of the crimes involved. Jessop doesn't say her father was "inappropriate" with her; she tells it as it is. Very admirable candor and woman.

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    1. i read this book several years ago and it's a hard and gut-wrenching read to get through. i cried my eyes out several times and had several tummy aches too from it. Flora's mother's life was extremely nightmare hellacious w/her plyg husband (flora's father) and sadly, Flora could never get her out of the cult. The woman's fully convinced she must continue to "endure to the end" now to get her eternal reward and not be damned to hell - even tho she's been in hell her whole earthly life because of this godforsaken religion! so sad.

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    2. It's disturbing book, but very well done. Each time I put the book down--and that was hard to do-- I just said, "Wow." I'm so impressed that Jessop has become such a strong ass-kicker. A lot people leaving that type of upbringing would have problems getting out of bed in the morning.

      For the past two years, I have been involved in some activism that has nothing to do with polygamy. My activism leaves me constantly amazed at how the government officials look the other way at some serious corruption, crime, regulatory infractions and abuse that have ruined people's lives. Reading about Jessop's shocking interactions with government agencies has somewhat spurred me to keep going and realize that I'm not "crazy" when I'm perplexed at what officials are not doing to address a serious problem, and /or to cover up the problem. Before reading Jessop's book and experiencing what I have over the past two years, I would have told you that these things could not happen in America.

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  8. Am about to read it. Thanks for the review.

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  9. Thanks PlyKoolAid for a great review! Wishing Flora, her sister and kids all the best - well wishing all who escape the best! Praying for those still in captive and praying Flora finds you! Godspeed...

    dj

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  10. Thank you, everyone! I know it's not the world's greatest review, but it was written from my heart! I am pleased to say that Flora, one of my heros, has also seen this review. I hope my words inspire you all to read the stories of those who have been courageous enough to leave their abusive upbringings and embrace true freedom.

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  11. Excellent review. I have to go the library and get that book now!

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  12. I am thankful to the owners/administrators of Sister Wives Blog for the information this site brings to us so we can understand the issues relating to polygamy and mormonism.

    God Bless Flora. May her work continue and others be moved to help as well.

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  13. Princess&ThePeaOctober 6, 2013 at 7:12 PM

    Excellent review, I just wished it was longer! Who did Flora have a child with? so many questions. I guess it's time I get the book!

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  14. Thanks for the good review--I put this one on a request list on my library account (in our state our library can borrow from any other participating library within the state).
    In what way, if any, is Flora Jessop related to Carolyn Jessop of "Escape"?

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  15. Shoot-- I woke up at 8am this morning-- after being out at a party with my husband until nearly 3am-- too excited about Elizabeth Smart's book coming out to keep sleeping! It being 8am means it is midnight back in the US! Right now, I am eagerly devouring her tell-all book! I can't wait to write a review!!! :-)

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  16. Oh my gosh what an amazing life story. I will have to try get this book here in Ireland.

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    1. Enie, you can purchase a digital edition of the book via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, etc. It is a lifesaver!

      I feel your pain, though. My husband and I are Americans who live in the Middle East. I am grateful for the free Kindle App on my computer and iPad. I invite you to check it out!

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  17. Stories like this really make me realize polygamy isn't religious freedom. Its a culture and "faith" steeped in horrific abuses and controlling others with fear. This is a great book review and I intend to download it. Kudos to Flora helping as many women as she can! Also does anyone know if/how she is related to Carolyn Jessop? The author of Escape.

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    1. Yes, Carolyn married a Jessop. Flora is a Jessop by birth, and they were cousins by marriage.

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    2. The longer version:
      Flora Jessop is the daughter of Patricia (Pat) Icke and Joseph (Joe) C. Jessop Sr. Joe is the adopted son (sorry, I'm too lazy to check up who is biological father is) of Fredrick Meade Jessop. Flora's mother and Flora were reassigned to Fredrick Meade Jessop, so "Uncle Fred" is both Flora's adopted grandfather and stepfather.

      Carolyn Jessop was born Carolyn Bistline Blackmore. She married Merril Jessop. Merril Jessop's father is Richard Seth Jessop and his mother is Ida Johnson.

      Richard Seth Jessop (Carolyn's father-in-law) and Fredrick Meade Jessop (Flora's stepfather/adopted grandfather) were brothers.

      To bring this full circle to Sister Wives: A third brother, Joseph Lyman Jessop, is the grandfather of Robyn's exhusband David Preston Jessop.

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  18. I'd love to hear more! these book reviews are great! My only request is that they are longer, I get hungry for the story

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  19. Thank you for the review. Flora seems like just a fearless person. I saw her on Biography "I survived a cult" show and she was fascinating. God bless her and I will be watching her show. Is the blog going to cover it? Sorry, haven't been on much lately. My sister had triplets and spend most of my free time helping her.

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  20. Thank you, PlygKoolAid for the review! The story is heartbreaking but I admire Flora's courage and will to live. Freedom is something most of us here at SWB probably take for granted. I am so grateful that I have been able to make choices in my own life. And I praise those women and men who can get out of the FLDS, survive and be an inspiration to others. God will surely bless them all.

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  21. I couldn't put this book down and I keep it in my bathroom to read sections of it over again. It reminds me to be grateful for the life I have and to use my sufferings to help others instead of an excuse not to function in life. She went through such trauma over a long period of time and was able to blossom into a beautiful person who devotes her life to helping others.

    What really floored me was the man from the Utah DCFS who had taped her interviews and then turned them over to Uncle Fred. I believe his name was Chuck Sullivan. (Just a thought....I wonder if he was any relation to Robyn Sullivan Jessop Brown?) I have no doubt the FLDS has a number of politicians and state workers in their pockets. How sad that this has gone on for so long and is getting exponentially worse as Warren Jeffs is sending his edicts from prison. Something must be done!

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  22. This is an excellent book but very disturbing, I read it about a year ago and am still haunted by some of the things that happened to her and others around her. At times I would have to quit reading because I was crying, physically sick or cheering for her. Flora is a survivor, no doubt about it. I did also watch the show about her a few months ago, the Escaping a Cult show and noticed that small bits and pieces were slightly different from the book, so if you watched the show but have not read this book, it's a must.

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  23. I just received my copy of this book. I can't put it down. What a brutally compelling story!!! Flora Jessop tells her story in a clear voice. There is no hysteria in her account; just the listing of all these horrors, one on top of the other. I recognise this as the voice of courage. I have heard other survivors of childhood sexual assault speaking about their experiences in the same way. They seem flat and devoid of emotion. That shows just how traumatic the experience is. I cannot imagine how much courage Flora needed to survive in the cult, to escape, to survive slavery, to escape again, to tell her story, and then to be devastated by the way her little sister was victimised. All of that happened within a cult that preached and caused so much devastation. I would never have survived any of it.

    Sister Wives has allowed some light into the idea of polygamy in the USA. This is a good thing in my opinion. Most people refused to believe Flora's story because they could not conceive that such evil and wickedness would be allowed in that country. The conviction of Warren Jeffs also shone publicity on this secretive group and the extreme corruption of all the authorities that should have intervened.

    I really hope and pray that all this publicity, which is a PR campaign to decriminalise polygamy, backfires on them. The theology behind the practice is evil. The people who perpetuate it are perverts and deviants; too many of their inbred offspring learn to continue the tradition. This evil must not be allowed in any free democratic society. I really hope Flora and everyone else gets all the support they need. Even if only one girl gets away from these groups is worth all the effort required.

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  24. I just love Flora, I can't wait for her new show.Thank you for the review, i never get to reading books, and always interested.

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  25. Flora I can not wait for your new show to come on!

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  26. I read Escape by Carolyn Jessop 6 years ago. Now I think I have to check out Flora's book.

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