Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser

Rebecca Musser grew up in fear, concealing her family's polygamous lifestyle from the "dangerous" outside world. Covered head-to-toe in strict, modest clothing, she received a rigorous education at Alta Academy, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' school headed by Warren Jeffs. Always seeking to be an obedient Priesthood girl, in her teens she became the nineteenth wife of her people's prophet: 85-year-old Rulon Jeffs, Warren's father. Finally sickened by the abuse she suffered and saw around her, she pulled off a daring escape and sought to build a new life and family. The church, however, had a way of pulling her back in-and by 2007, Rebecca had no choice but to take the witness stand against the new prophet of the FLDS in order to protect her little sisters and other young girls from being forced to marry at shockingly young ages. The following year, Rebecca and the rest of the world watched as a team of Texas Rangers raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch, a stronghold of the FLDS. Rebecca's subsequent testimony would reveal the horrific secrets taking place behind closed doors of the temple, sending their leaders to prison for years, and Warren Jeffs for life. THE WITNESS WORE RED is a gripping account of one woman's struggle to escape the perverse embrace of religious fanaticism and sexual slavery, and a courageous story of hope and transformation.

My take: 3 looks
From one of the "highest-ranking" members of the FDLS, Rebecca Musser, one of the wives of then-prophet Rulon Jeffs, this account is full of first-hand, privy information of this very secret religion. Easily readable and eye-opening in the accounts of polygamy, abuse, and power, the book is well-written and engaging.

This is a very distasteful story, with young teenage girls given to older men as a "thank you" for their obedience and service to the church, the constant direction to be completely obedient to "the prophet", and both mental and physical abuse of the leaders of the church to obtain these things from its members.

The fact that the new prophet, Warren Jeffs, is in prison for the rest of his life is of no comfort. He continues to direct, deceive, and control the members of the commune from his jail cell.

Where did this book take me emotionally? I came to look at the parallels of FDLS and all other organized religions, including my own. To be honest with yourself is to see that there are commonalities to all of them: teaching of a doctrine, sacraments that are closed to believers only, male-dominated hierarchy, the donation of money/property from members, and segregated schooling apart from non-believers.

We must be very careful to bemoan that a cult like this can exist in today's United States, given the current state of mainstream religions into the "megachurch". The FDLS is blatant about their abuses, using God as the reason for their behavior. With the exception of polygamy, including the heinous act of marrying young teenagers off as a reward, this looks like many evangelical Christian churches today.


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