THE WITNESS WORE RED by Rebecca Musser


The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice
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With the assistance of Cook (Shattered Silence: The Untold Story of a Serial Killer's Daughter, 2009, etc.), Musser describes her transition from obedient daughter and wife in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to a key witness in court cases against church leaders, including the "Prophet" Warren Jeffs.

The author was born into the religion, where multiple marriages were the norm, girls were taught to be subservient to their fathers and husbands, and marriage was the path to salvation. At 19, she was forced to become the 19th wife of the 85-year-old FLDS leader, Rulon Jeffs, who had more than 60 wives when he died. When Rulon’s son, Warren, followed him as leader, the abuses became rampant. More and more girls, some underage, were forced into “spiritual marriages” under the guise of God’s will, as handed down by Jeffs. On the other hand, teenage boys were routinely expelled from FLDS to fend for themselves, leaving more girls for church leaders. After her 14-year-old sister was forced into marriage and knowing that being a widow didn’t protect her from a second marriage, Musser fled. A motivational speaker, she views what happened at FLDS as nothing short of “human trafficking—both for labor as well as sex.” Though compelling, Musser’s story is buried in a detail-laden, chronological narrative. The energy picks up when she describes her role in investigations of FLDS activities. She testified 20 times, always dressed in red, a color FLDS women were forbidden to wear. Courageous as she was, her role in seeking justice took a heavy toll on Musser, who lost all contact with family members still in FLDS. She felt the heavy weight of testifying against her “own people,” guilt for “deserting” her siblings and conflicting emotions about church teachings.

A decent addition to a growing body of work about polygamy, the book speaks to the ways isolation, fear and secrecy can shelter insidious abuses until someone has the courage to step forward as a witness.

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4555-2785-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2013


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