Jeffs recounts his fight to extricate himself—and his children—from a dangerous religious cult.
Debut author Jeffs grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was born the 30th child of Rulon Jeffs, a polygamist and soi-disant prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. By 8, the author lived in one house with all his father’s wives and children—eight women and as many as 50 children under the same roof—and was encouraged to identify all the women as his mothers. The author was taught that the prophet’s word was unchallengeable law and lived under the constant fear of the world’s end. Jeffs chillingly details the strange sexual dynamics of the FLDS world: he had two wives and fathered 20 children himself, and his second wife was his half sister’s daughter. Eventually, he learned that the church leadership also indulged in darker activities, including rape and pedophilia, practices worsened by the tyrannical rule of his half brother Warren. Once Warren was arrested and the latest FLDS compound was raided, Jeffs finally understood the depths of the church’s deception, and he tried to rescue his younger children from its grip. In 2011, he was nearly killed in a terrible car crash, an accident he believes was orchestrated by his brother in response to his perceived betrayal. The author lucidly depicts his harrowing story, ably discussing the epistemological silo one’s environment can become and the ways an otherwise rational man can be vulnerable to such extraordinary mendacity. Jeffs’ account can be frustratingly minute—his play-by-play account of the internal politics of the FLDS becomes exhausting. And some of his narrative digressions seem incongruent with generally dark themes—for example, his complaints about the tasteless cooking of FLDS mothers or his misadventures in internet dating. Jeffs’ experience is spellbinding, but he writes with greater passion and candor than he does authorial adroitness.
A remarkable but sometimes-tedious account of the human mind’s susceptibility to wholesale manipulation.