They look like a warm and loving family celebrating a meal together. Guests arrive in formal attire to the smell of a roast in the oven, a spotless house and a crowd of children dressed in their Sunday best. While the kids politely gather around the large table, their father introduces his family to his business associates.
Nearly every light in the top half of the house is ablaze, while the daylight basement is shrouded with darkness–except for one small candle hidden from the street. The family upstairs is enjoying a feast, while the children downstairs hover around their flickering light, eating crackers and listening to their mother tell stories about hiding from her own childhood.
Hiding in the dark, in the minds of a these young children is comparable to Nazi Germany. “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom is a popular book among their friends. They have been warned that someday they too, will be persecuted, but for tonight they must remain silent because their father is having dinner with his other family and his business associates have no idea he has more than one.
Rebecca Musser, the author of the book, “The Witness Wore Red,” is a daughter of the second wife and she was one of these children hiding in the basement. Her book is full of candid details about growing up in the cult of the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter Day Saints.
Before I read this book, I found it difficult to imagine why any woman would allow herself to be anything but an only wife, but this book explains how mind control and fear messages create the perfect environment to support slavery and pedophilia.
Rebecca chronicles her childhood brainwashing, the coercion that forced her to become a prophet’s wife and the daring escape when she realized the truth, but her story doesn’t end with just finding a better life for herself–she was drawn back to face her abuser and testify in court at least twenty times against the leaders of the FLDS to do what she could to stop the abuse.
It is a long book (340 pages), but I found it to be such a fascinating read that I couldn’t put it down until I had finished it.
Women in the FLDS are given very little rights of their own. They are treated like commodities with little respect for their minds or feelings, while the men scramble for power and the right to collect more women.
When person after person give up the right to choose for themselves, it’s obviously not a religion, but a cult. As with many cults, the innate human need to belong and feel a part of community and the desire to be good enough for heaven, work together along with the manipulations of abusers to control minds. Some view the FLDS Church as simply a sex ring–masquerading as a church, but because of the culture of mind control it is also so much more than illegal and abusive sex.
Musser’s description of consummating her so-called marriage to the 80 year old prophet Rulon Jeffs when she was nineteen, would be hilarious as a Saturday Night Live Skit–if only it weren’t so sad and true. She literally had to lift him onto the bed and help him undress. Under his rules women always obey men. He said, “The greatest freedom you can enjoy is in obedience.”
After being forced to do unspeakable things
with him, she states–
“I had always followed the church’s teachings,
why would God punish me in this way?
I finally decided that I did not like God.
Nor could I trust Him.”
Can anyone blame her? Things only got worse after the old prophet died and his son took over.
Warren Jeffs had little respect for the people he was leading. He separated children from their parents and husbands from wives as though he was God himself. When they sent him envelopes with money and prayer requests, he didn’t bother to read their prayers, but just slit the envelopes to take out the money.
Jeffs talked about “blood atonement” a secret priesthood ordinance. It’s supposed to be a way to absolve an otherwise unpardonable sin by literally giving up one’s life. Those who take part in such a tragedy could be tried for murder, so it has to be done in secret. How twisted that a leader of a group proclaiming to be Christian would not recognize the power of Jesus and the blood He shed to forgive all of our sins.
When it comes to raping young girls, Jeffs seems to have no conscience. Over and over, He has stolen what was pure in the name of God, while blasphemously calling on the Holy Spirit to help him. He was worse than a pedophile with the power of a church president, he was facilitating other men to become pedophiles as well by holding out young girls like carrots to reward those who did his evil work.
One of the most inspirational scenes for me was when Rebecca, still living in the community, stood up to her father who reprimanded her for telling the truth. He said it was no one’s business to know the timeline of abusive events in their family. To cover up his own sins, he called her a liar and denied the things she remembered. When Rebecca reminded him of her excellent memory, he raised his hand as if to hit her, but she reminded him that he had already married her off to gain more position and she was now the prophet’s wife and he didn’t dare hit her anymore.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil
is that good men do nothing.”
The atrocities that have happened and continue to happen in the FLDS Church keep proving Burke right. Rebecca Musser is an exception; she stood up and let her voice be heard.
Rebecca is a good writer who does not bother the reader with disgusting details. This is less a book about a diabolical false prophet and more about the story of a young victim who overcame mind control to become a free thinker in a chorus of Stepford wives. It is the story of a young woman finding the courage to leave and return to stare down her abuser and confront him with the law. It worked because she helped to send Warren Jeffs to prison for life. Sadly, he still controls the cult from prison–but little girls are safe from him now.
Rebecca Musser–You are definitely wholehearted. You are a walking miracle and hero. Bravo!
Here are few quotes from the book–
“There is a girl…The Lord wants me to take.
She is thirteen. Oh I just want the Lord’s will…
If the world knew what I was doing,
they would hang me from the highest tree.”
-Now Incarcerated False Prophet Warren Jeffs, in 2004
“If that is holy and that is divine
and that is heaven, I will take hell.”
“The power of words means breaking your silence.
To be silent is to be enslaved.
And there’s an amazing thing called choice–
and that is freedom.”