I am one of thirty nine children born to my father's six wives. I am among the thirty one which Dad claimed as his own.
I was born in secrecy, grew up hiding my identity and raised in fear of a blood thirsty and terrifying God, whose dominance few of us escaped and fewer still dare to speak about, but I am not the typical product of polygamy.
Infamous intrigue of polygamy, power and murder was front page news for over a decade. Several books have been written on the subject. One of them, "Under the Banner of Heaven" by Jon Krakaur, is a national best seller.
Ervil LeBaron ordered the executions of all those who opposed him, leaving a trail of bodies from Mexico through California, Utah and Texas. This book was written by his brother, my brother in law. (Holding up the book "The Le Baron Story" by Verlan M. LeBaron.
A well known Dr. and religious leader was gunned down in his Murray Utah office. This book was written by my cousin. (Holding up the book, "In MY Father's House", by Dorothy Solomon. The murdered Dr. was my uncle.
(Holding up a third book), this book, " The Sixth of Seven Wives", was written by my
Niece. You may have seen her on T.V. She was trying to help young women escape from Colorado City, a polygamist community on the Utah Arizona boarder. The same community dominated by the Warren Jeffs the infamous fugitive on America's most wanted.
Doctrines that make polygamy work are basic to all fundamentalists. For generations we have been a people whose lives and destinies were sealed in blood covenants, based on the belief that;
1-There are sins the blood of Jesus Christ did not atone for. One of them is having the sacred doctrine of polygamy revealed to you and then refusing to live it. For that the only salvation is blood atonement?your blood. If you do escape blood atonement your punishment doesn't?t end there. Your eternal damnation will be so great the human mind cannot comprehend or imagine it.
2-We were taught that we had our free agency, BUT after reading those doctrines and understanding them, we must choose and accept the consequences of our choice. (You have your free agency so now choose, like holding a gun to your head and saying, 'Do you obey or do I shoot?' Your choice.
Death by blood atonement and eternal damnation are the prices for many other sins as well .
Realizing these SACRED SECRETS one contemplates their response thoroughly, knowing those they love may also be adversely affected by their choice. Most fundamentalists obediently and quietly hide their anxiously and submit to what they are told is a commandment of God. Their submission will allow them to keep their place in the religious group, to keep their families, their homes, and their friends. Thus they deny their gut wrenching feelings and accept their position in what has become America's Stockholm syndrome.
Those who suffer from it become loyal to those who would use, hurt or destroy them, like an abused child seeking safety in the arms of the very parent who abuses them.
Polygamist men have total power over their women and children, BUT THEY are subordinate to men above them on the priesthood ladder. If they don't submit, they can be thrown out of the community, have their wives and their children given to someone else, forfeit their homes, land and businesses.
IF THEY LEAVE the faith completely, that is a BLOOD ATONEMENT sin. Some men negotiate, some run, some die. Many break away and form their own polygamist groups, maintaining everything except the power struggle. THIS IS THE REASON there are so many polygamist groups and this is the primary reason there are so many murders
In polygamy, women and children literally belong to their husbands and fathers, thus women have no rights to their children. This creates a powerful lever for keeping women under control. If they imagine they could leave they could forfeit their children. If they reach for assistance in the outside world, they are told they may loose their children to the state, as was the threat to Lydia Black in the 1950 polygamist raids on Short Creek Arizona.
For Fundamentalists, allowing everyone, including people of color and women to have equal rights, is a sin against God.
My people don't comprehend freedom without fear. It?s either fear of God or it's fear of the outside world and it's persecution.
We were taught not to speak to strangers, that they were evil and dangerous. This had a dual effect. It protected our polygamist life style and kept information from getting in or out.
THERE WERE FOUR babies born in four months when I arrived. We slipped into our enormous family comparatively unnoticed in a sea of women and children whose psychological and emotional needs were considered to be unnecessary and unimportant.
We were regimentally trained in blind obedience and self sacrifice from our earliest memories.
When we wanted affection or attention from our over worked and over loaded mothers, they would attempt to dissolve our needs by quoting scriptures and ignoring them, the same way those before them had handled their unfulfilled needs.
"Be ye perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect," still rings in my ears, followed by, "You are loved and accepted according to how much you love and accept the gospel."
I was a hard working obedient child, constantly seeking positive recognition from those too empty to give it. I was crying out for acceptance among those who had none and praying for love among a people who were starving for it, a people whose men treated affection as though it were a loaf of bread that they alone had access to and one should be eternally grateful for even one crumb.
We were taught that the Priesthood leaders spoke for GOD and we knew no other way of life.
In my world the men had the power, the women had the responsibility.
The men had the freedom, the women had the servitude.
The men made the rules and if anything went wrong, the women got the blame and the consequences.
Men were to become God's in eternity, which most of them believed started NOW and women were born to serve them and have THEIR children.
COME WITH ME to my childhood, which stood on the fear of God.
The sermon was loud and dramatic, reminding us that the men of the priesthood were God's mouth piece on earth. They held the power over life and death, even the power to decide if and when we were to be resurrected from the grave.
They would be God's in eternity and we were the chosen few, the people of God, Royal blood of the priesthood, God's chosen people on earth.
I was six years old. New snow was falling. My feet were bare. No buttons graced my open coat. No underclothes were beneath my stained, ill fitting cotton dress, save panties Mama had made from a flour sack .One of my thick braids had come undone and the wind blew strands of hair that stuck to my runny nose and shinned across the dirt on my face, as I obediently listened to that sermon.
I struggled with identification. Was I Royal Blood? And if so, why did the lady who stopped to ask for directions refer to me as 'poor white trash?'
The strange paradox held its own gift. I was never capable of looking down at the drunk who lay in his vomit in the gutter. Somehow I knew he didn't know how to handle life any better than I did.
I was not able to look up to powerful people, not even kings, presidents or statesmen. They simply had a different consciousness than mine.
Movies were rare in my childhood, but I did see Cecil B. DeMill's Ten Commandments. There is a scene where Moses returns from the desert after forty days, clothed in a ragged sheep skin and sandals. A villager seeing him asks, "Who is that beggar?"
Other replies, "That's no beggar. Look how he carries himself. The man is surely a king." Then every one knew that Moses was royalty.
That line suspended my young mind. Didn't they know that Moses was found in the bulrushes and born to a poor peasant woman who could not protect him? Just like me. Just like me.
I didn't know then that in the dirt and the squallier of the lowliest of mankind, in the pain, the deprivation and the hunger, lays a seed of motivational spirit, capable of noblest aspirations.
Somehow one knows, one hears, one feels, there has to be something better. The echo from the mountains heights resounds through the lowest of canyons.
There is nothing in me that is not in you. I just had my incentive ignited by a hot and powerful flame, one that enlisted my heart, reason and purpose.
Superior and inferior are often definitions of convenience, not truth.
The human soul knows no higher or lower, no us and them. It knows only US. ALL of US. US. Humanity. US.
MY Father always had the first word, the last and all those in between. Daddy knew the answers when he didn't?t even know the questions. He was on his way to becoming GOD.
We lived in constant fear that strangers may discover who we were and how we were and the welfare may come and take us away from our mothers or Dad may go to prison, (which he ultimately did)..
Mother, like other polygamist women, was in bondage to responsibility, ignorance and fear that embraced our culture. She lived in sorrowful obedient submission.
Dad wasn't there much.
We spent one winter in a chicken coop. Mama hung heavy quilts up over the chicken wire facing to keep the snow out. Our drinking water froze solid in the bucket. We huddled beneath heavy quilts Mama had made from discarded clothing.
Our horse died. We ate him. As our hunger subsided so did our pain of loosing him. Mama said, "The Lord chastises those he loves." And I was afraid. If God loved us any more we might not be able to stand it.
WE GIRLS were taught to protect our virginity with our lives or we could never enter heavens highest glory or be worthy of celestial marriage, but would instead be servants through out eternity.
AFTER MY FATHER went to prison , my Motherremarried.
When I was eleven years old, Horace, my step father, violently beat and raped me. He hit me so hard he removed part of my left eyebrow, which is deeply scared to this day. He cut me in numerous places with his pocket knife and pulled my hair out by the handfuls while dragging me by it. He dislocated my arm and my leg while bring his weight down upon me after chaining me to an old iron bed.
I thought he would kill me. I wanted him to kill me. I fought for my death or my escape, but I attained neither!!! I was damned for time and all eternity!! never to enter the gates of the celestial kingdom!! Not for anything I had done, but for SURVIVING what had been DONE TO ME.
My bruises cuts and missing hair and my difficulty walking could not be hidden, nor could the blood go unnoticed that overflowed the maxi pad I wore and stained where I sat. Weakness kept me from attending school, but I uttered not a word or a whimper. If I did, Horace had promised to kill my little sister.
My Mother avoided looking at me. She did not address my silence, my pain, my wounds or even my missing hair. Our house had an atmosphere of denial and fear so heavy it made it hard to breathe.
Jesus' blood was shed to atone for our sins, but our religion taught that there were sins Jesus' blood did not atone for. Since had not protected my virginity with my life, the only salvation for me was to have my life taken in blood atonement. My blood would have to be shed for the redemption of my own rape.
Suicide was guaranteed damnation so that was not an option.
In the days that followed, Mama read the scriptures a lot. She would read and reread quotes on blood atonement, as if she really knew it applied to me right then. She never looked at me and I wondered if she didn't like me any more. Mama never did seam quite the same toward me and I never spoke to my Mother about anything important to me after that, not ever.
Back then I was too terrified, too young and too needy to understand that the rape and our religious belief had thrown my Mother into her own trauma. Like a prisoner in a concentration camp, she knew if she acknowledged or responded to the rape of her child, she may put her own life and her other children in danger and still accomplish nothing. She struggled to accept what she feared to challenge.
At night I would cry myself to sleep praying that God would just let me never wake up again.
IT DOESN'T MATTER if you kill someone who should already be dead, I thought, so I begin to stand between Horace and my little sister when he would threaten her. I begin to stand between Horace and my mother when he would curse and yell at her...and I accepted the out come...totally...every time...no matter what.
Soon the silent cold war in our house was no longer silent. Horace would hit me and throw me out of his way but I would come right back .Mom and my little sister were begging and crying. Mom made frantic weak attempts to protect us. Then Horace would take Mama out and fight with her alone. Her solution was to send me away. I worried about my little sisterbut was otherwise glad to go.
I was sent to Trout Creek Utah to live with the school teacher there. I did not reunite with my mother again until after Horace had gone, many months later.
I did not escape the bondage of my ignorance because I was brilliant or smart. I escaped because I was pushed so far I had nothing left to loose.
I was too young, too inexperienced, and too uneducated for it to be any other way.
My escape did not come over night, but the event of my rape jarred the foundation of my capacity to believe that the God of my people was a just God. I still believed in and feared God, but my belief system and the interpretation of it was shaken. Even so, it would take years before I was strong enough, capable enough and daring enough to escape the clutches of my upbringing, but the lock on the gate revealed its first major crack when I was raped.
I searched and I read diligently to find a way to become acceptable in the eyes of God. In the years to follow I read my way through most of the worlds great religions, through many philosophies and psychologies.
It was many books and many years later, before I understood that while Horace was a strong man in his late forties and I was just a skinny little eleven year old girl, he was a more pathetic example of humanity than I shall ever be.
I GREW UP isolated from non believers.
I never dated. Marriages are arranged among our people. Girls are given in marriages that will most benefit the family or the group. While neither of my parents had requested monetary gain, in my case it was offered and ACCEPTED. I married a stranger who paid cash to expatiate our union. To me the money exchange confirmed that men own women, like cattle, breeding stock. I had five children when the oldest was five, ultimately nine pregnancies, and six living births.
Babies were born at home among our people. If there was a death it was the will of the Lord.
MY HUSBAND Robert was a collage graduate. He never allowed me to forget his superiority. Psychological and emotional abuse fueled his need for power.
I grew two inches. A crime for which I was never forgiven.
Robert taught me that all personal interests and attachments were to be sacrificed, on my part, not his. His actions taught me things he never intended for me to know, things I dared not speak aloud. I could see that arrogance could never be class. Criticism is not superiority, it's just criticism, and wisdom doesn't necessarily accompany education.
TIME and total defeat had destroyed my capacity to care about myself. If I didn't make it, at least I may have some respect for the fool who stared back at me from the mirror. My only hope was to save my six little girls from a life like mine. For that I was willing to pay the ultimate price.
Robert took me and my children with him to Nevada.
Away from our people, I contemplated the possibility of a new beginning.
To leave would be without the backing of my family, without support of any kind, without job skills, with nothing except the will that my daughters would be free.
I would not only loose my husband, I would loose the acceptance of my entire family and all the friends I had ever known. I'd be stepping into a world I was ill prepared for.
As I contemplated the future, tears filled my eyes and in my anguish and hope I prayed aloud, "God, Dear God, stand by my children."
Robert wanted me to adopt out the two younger children instead of divorcing him. I told him I would keep the children and under my breathe I whispered that we were going to adopt him out instead.
On the day of my divorce, my happiness was unobtainable. My step was so much lighter, the sky was bluer. I felt a spontaneous joy I had never known.
Robert smirked with confidence as he said, "You?'l be back when reality sets in."
SUCCESS was not a gift. It was a hard earned journey.
I was very na´ve. I made many mistakes, but I had a blind faith in life and in humanity and a dedicated purpose that could not be denied.
There were times I felt like I was pulling a train load of concrete up hill. Remember the story of the little engine who said I thought I could? I would repeat to myself, "I can, I will and I am." And some how I did.
I spent the rest of my life not looking back. I've been in California over twenty years and at this moment, you know more about me than my closest friends.
All of my daughters have placed well in life and today, needy would not be a word used to describe me in any way.
I have had employees tell me that I don't know what it is to want anything. I just smile.
I WAS BORN INTO a cult, but that is not who I am.
I have been beaten, raped and threatened with death, but that is not who I am.
I have been betrayed, used and almost destroyed, before I had the strength and courage to recognize and be who I am...
Who I am is not what has been done to me, nor what has happened to me.
Who I am is defined by the direction I chose and the decisions I made despite and regardless of the behavior of others.
The obstacles thrown in my path are not me. I am more than that. We are all more than that. We are the strength of the choices we make, if not despite the obstacles, then perhaps because of them.
As these facts are true for me, so are they true for all of us.
PERHAPS the greatest challenge is to realize, no matter how others push you, press you and attempt to make you into what they want you to be, underneath it all is your authentic self and that authentic self is wonderful, creative and joyous, with it's own gifts to offer life, my gift, your gift.
I know who I am and I know who I am not.
Recognize who you are. Be who you are. Love who you are, because who you REALLY are is truly grand.
Many of us have lived under the influence of someone else's control until we have lost sight of who we really are. Everyone has been in bondage to ignorance at some time and to some degree in our lives. If we submit to that bondage we perpetrate it.
Despite my complexion, there is no difference between me and any black child born in this country a century ago.
I AM the child born into slavery in my own country.
I AM the little girl who survived a brutal rape to be told my death was required because I survived and the perpetrator would not be held accountable. I AM the pregnant teenager, so ill I feared for my life and the life of my unborn child. The teenager who was told childbirth was my duty, without medical care. If I died it was the will of the Lord.
EVERY HUMAN HEART knows, it is not God who is the author of inequality.
Today I speak so you may know that no matter what color you are, no matter what sex you are, you were born to be you, not a robot that wastes it's self trying to balance it's masters insatiable ego.
If I can help you to believe in your own beautiful mind and the keys to understanding that your senses and emotions are crying for you to heed, if I can help you find the path to fulfillment in your own life and to know you have the power to direct your hopes, your dreams and your future, If you can know that if I can do it, you can do it, then my freedom becomes your freedom and your freedom becomes the hope, strength and courage that ignites freedom for those in bondage everywhere. This is America. Freedom is our right; but thousands will never taste freedom until they have the courage to stand up.
Societies where women are considered property and or are considered, less important and have fewer rights, always have rape and child abuse violations higher by direct proportion of the assumed entitlement of those who abuse them...
There are thought to be forty to sixty thousand polygamists in Utah alone and that number is growing. Most of my siblings EACH brag of having over a hundred grandchildren and that number is my no means complete.
Many create excessive responsibility before they know how to be responsible for them selves. In the case of polygamist girls, they are not aware they have a right of choice regarding anything. Including responsibility. They are taught to obey their husbands and fathers without question and to think for themselves is a sin against God.
I grew up without knowing there was such a thing as choosing what one wanted to do with their life.
AFTER GENERATIONS of polygamy, associating primarily with ones religious group, these families are caught up in the current of a stream that is so powerful they feel there is no escape and they must go where ever it carries them.
The band aid for their suffering is the hope of heavenly rewards they will receive for remaining faithful and long suffering despite it all. "KICK the mustard seed and it will only spread," is their slogan.
They believe in Holy Secrecy, but the thinking mind wonders what would loose it's power if seen in the full light of day. No one questions who looses their freedom, who gains in money, women and power. Naked facts are protected from exposure. Speaking the truth or even acknowledging, it has had a long history of being a very dangerous thing to do.
Aristotle said, "To free a man it is not enough to strike the shackles from his limbs, one must liberate his mind from the bondage of his ignorance. To enlist a man it is not enough to take him into your army, you must enlist the power of his reason."
There is no other freedom. We cannot give it to those who are unprepared to receive it, nor can we force it. It must come through benevolence and wisdom.
It will take courage, compassion and time to liberate those in bondage to terrifying belief systems. Sometimes it also takes a lot of professional help.
One cannot change what one refuses to look at. Understanding their point of view, their position and how they got that way is a beginning.
It is compassion to extend a sense of grace to those who lack understanding, but compassion is not condolence, nor should it be.
We were told God commanded, "Not one year would pass that children weren't born in polygamy, and the Lord would provide." The Lord was usually in the form of aid for dependant children, social security, working wives and children, or if you were at the top, you received 10% of everyone's money as tithing paid to the Lord of course.
Follow the money trail. See who gets it and what it is spent on and you'll discover more than you wanted to know.
If a man finds a woman with assets or income, or can create income by having children with her and never marrying her legally, if he can crawl into her bed and control her and all she has or is or ever hopes to be. The POWER is his.
People, who cannot or will not control themselves, find a great deal of satisfaction in controlling others.
When ever you see someone living BEYOND or Beneath their obvious income, Look at the money trail. Where does it come from? Where is it going and why? The answers to these questions are extremely reveling
The pain of the belief system of polygamy doesn't end if you are the first or only wife. My husband had no interest in taking me anywhere, sense he already had me. His interest was in getting other women. He gave me NO positive attention and that included his sexual behavior, though he did keep me pregnant, humble and submissive.
ANY feelings on my part were considered a weakness to overcome.
Make men PERSONALLY financially responsible for the children they spawn and polygamy would quickly shrink.
Remove poor self esteem, the fear of God and retaliation, and polygamy would cease to exist.
IN THE NAME OF RELIGION there is a mind boggling lack of responsibility for behavior. In the real world every ADULT SHOULD BE RESPONSIBLE for their own behavior, not their leader, not someone who lived a hundred years ago and not a church they admit they don't even belong to.
They and they alone are responsible for what they do. As long as they don?t have to take that responsibility, you can be guaranteed THEY WON'T.
Freedom of Religion is NOT a license to deny freedom to others.
Justice, wisdom and compassion can work in harmony, if we have the courage to actually see this and not just look the other way, until it affects YOUR DAUGHTER .