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MAIA SZALAVITZ is the author and coauthor of several books, including Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Elle, and is a Senior Fellow at stats.org, a media watchdog group. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
|Author's Note||p. ix|
|Heaven or Hell||p. 7|
|Weddings and War||p. 16|
|The Plurality of Wives||p. 26|
|Division of Labor||p. 37|
|Revelation Adapted to Circumstance||p. 58|
|ôGod's Workö||p. 66|
|Alta Academy||p. 71|
|Pulling Rank||p. 76|
|A House Divided||p. 92|
|Calves in a Stall||p. 97|
|Double Yoke||p. 106|
|Short Creek||p. 115|
|The Chronic||p. 135|
|Dazed and Confused||p. 142|
|Family Values||p. 151|
|Losing Clayne||p. 155|
|A Prophet Dies||p. 163|
|Lost and Found||p. 171|
|Nightmares and Revelations||p. 176|
|Seeking Justice||p. 185|
|Legal Action||p. 189|
|Getting Better||p. 194|
|Lost Boys Speak Out||p. 201|
|The Decision||p. 214|
|Most Wanted||p. 217|
|A Prophet in Purgatory||p. 223|
|New Life||p. 228|
|Photo Credits||p. 243|
|Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.|
Heaven or Hell
Every child believes he’s special. But when you are number ten of twenty, with three “ sister- mothers”–two of whom are full- blooded sisters–and a grandfather whom thousands of people believe speaks directly to God, it can be hard to figure out what “special” really means.
All told, I have roughly sixty- five aunts and uncles on my dad’s side and twenty- two on my mom’s–with probably thousands of cousins. In families as large as mine, even keeping track of your own siblings–let
alone cousins and aunts and uncles–is difficult.
As a grandson of Rulon Jeffs and nephew of Warren Jeffs, it once seemed that I was destined for high honor in the FLDS. My family had what our church called “royal blood.” We were direct descendants of our prophet through my father’s line. My mother, too, is the child of a prophet, who split from our group in 1978 to lead his own polygamous sect.
When I was little, my family was favored, in the church’s elite. I was assured that there was a place for me in the highest realms of heaven and at least three wives for me right here on earth once I attained the Melchizedek priesthood. I was in a chosen family in a chosen people, visiting sacred land near end times. I would one day become a god, ruling over my own spinning world.
So why would I ever abandon such status and rank? In the world of the FLDS, things are not always what they seem. The shiny, smiling surfaces often hide a world of rot and pain. And even royal blood and
being born male can’t protect you from sudden changes in its convoluted power structure.
Outsiders tend to think our form of polygamy must be a great deal for us men. You get sexual variety without guilt: in fact, you are commanded by God to have multiple partners and the women are expected
to go along with it. Indeed, they are supposed to be happy about doing so and obediently serve you. This is the only way for all of you to get to the highest realms of heaven.
To many men, that sounds like heaven right there, without any need for the afterlife part. They focus on the sex–fantasizing about a harem of young, beautiful women, all at their beck and call. They don’t think
about the responsibility–or the balancing act needed to keep all of those women happy, or even just to minimize their complaints. During the one full year I attended public school, the few guys who befriended
me rather than ridiculing me were fascinated by it all.
But while it might seem good in theory, in practice, at least in my experience, it’s actually a recipe for misery for everyone involved. In the FLDS anyway, polygamy and its power structure continuously produce a constant, exhausting struggle for attention and resources.
In families as large as mine, it simply isn’t possible for all of the women and children to get their needs met. Just making sure the children are fed, clothed, and physically accounted for is an ongoing challenge. Simply keeping dozens of children physically safe is close to impossible.
I’d estimate that maybe one in five FLDS families has lost a child early in life, frequently from accidents that better supervision could have prevented. And that number doesn’t include deaths related to the
genetic disorder that runs in our church–which handicaps and often kills children very early in life but which many members refuse to see as a result of marriages among closely related families.
For the father, even though he’s at the top of the heap in his own family, he must constantly disappoint, reject, ignore, and/or fail to satisfy at least some wives and kids. There’s only so much of his time and
attention to go around, and supporting such a large family takes many hours, too. At home, if one person has your ear, s
Excerpted from Lost Boy: The True Story of One Man's Exile from a Polygamist Cult and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life by Brent W. Jeffs, Maia Szalavitz
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