Saturday, March 9, 2013

Library Shelf: Triumph

When Texas raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch in 2008, I followed the news stories for months. I felt an emotional connection with the secluded FLDS children who had been suddenly thrust into an environment they had been taught would threaten their eternal souls, separated from their families, faced with unfamiliar food and clothing, trying to make sense of a culture foreign to them. Having grown up in a cult myself, I was ready and willing to be a foster parent to any of those kids, had it been possible!

So I was thrilled to discover this book by Carolyn Jessop, an ex-wife of the YFZ cult leader. During the proceedings in Texas, she became an adviser to state authorities about what they were dealing with in the FLDS. And by the end of the first chapter of this book, she became one of my favorite heroines.

I cannot recommend Triumph highly enough. This is the story of a brave woman's determination to leave the patriarchal, abusive, totalitarian Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints cult and her struggle to create a brand-new life for herself and her eight children. Read an excerpt here.

I love that Carolyn takes the time to recount how her mind slowly changed along the way, the radio programs that gave her a new perspective on healthy relationships, the secret trips to work out at Curves,  how she experimented and waited until she was ready to thoroughly leave patriarchy behind. Hers was no sudden decision but a methodical plan based on new beliefs and thought patterns that gradually overwrote the old.

Carolyn with her sister-wives

"But the men were onto something: exercise is dangerous. Once women start getting control over their bodies, they think about getting control over their lives. After a woman loses fifteen pounds and likes the way she looks, having that ninth or tenth child is less appealing. Getting in touch with her body puts her in touch with other areas of her life, like sexuality. Women who claimed sexual power were as threatening to the FLDS as women who claimed any other power. We weren’t supposed to have sexual needs; we were merely the breeding stock that kept the cult replenished."
Carolyn's story has its disappointments and setbacks (her oldest daughter later returned to the cult), but it is overwhelmingly inspiring. And the chapter on homeschooling should be required reading for every state legislator.

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