Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Had the opportunity to meet Carolyn Jessop last night. I had invited her to the store to do a reading and signing. She escaped from the FLDS Colorado City/Hildale group of polygamists four years ago and has just come out with a book about her experience living among that group of people. She was married to Merril Jessop as his fourth wife. This was/is the group that claims Warren Jeffs as their prophet.

This is a very good and fast read. The event last night was sobering. Carolyn escaped from Colorado City in the middle of the night with all eight of her children with $20 in her pocket. In four years she has succeeded in winning full custody of all eight of her children and writing the most vivid portrayal of FLDS polygamy that I have seen.

Jessop calls this group a cult. She was a fourth or fifth generation member of this society and it seems her childhood was good. But she was married to a very powerful and manipulative man who saw her as his property. She said that when Warren Jeffs became prophet things really spiraled downward in Colorado City. Now, the core members of the group are hiding out in closed compounds like YFZ in Texas.

Strangely, Jessop's oldest daughter always wanted to go back to Colorado City. When she turned eighteen just this July 2nd, she left on July 4th to return.

I have thought alot about polygamy this week. And, about our own upbringing. How we spent our formative years on a farm with a very large family, who wanted to live their own higher order. How far were we away from fundamentalism? I look fondly upon those times on the farm out in Thatcher, where I was until I was eight. But, talk to someone like Marjean about her experience living in the basement underneath Bob and Fawn in the same house in Canada and you might find surprising similarities.


Stacey said...

I just watched her on Oprah the other day. They had her on as well as some group that is in Arizona the "centennial" group I think. It was sad to watch her because her story was so upsetting and sad vs. this other family that seemed to be very wealthy and happy in their polygamist family. I really felt for her.

Mark said...

Fascinated about your comparisons (unless I misread) to your upbringing and that of a polygamist? Care to elaborate?

Reese Zollinger said...

I don't know if you have read "under the banner of heaven" or not, but Krakauer brilliantly exposes the violence and near militancy lying beneath the surface of these aberrant communities. I'm just finishing the book, and would highly reccomend it, not only for its modern relevancy, but for the candid look at Smith and Co., and how polygamy evolved within the LDS church. Fascinating read if nothing else.

Shari Zollinger said...

I think my comparisons went a little deeper into the core of my upbringing and its beliefs and the core of this polygamist group. They call themselves the fundamentalist LDS. I see similarities in their upbringing to my the tribal influence of a large family with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles. Our grandfather at one point held finances for the entire family including sons their wives and their children. They were trying to live the law of consecration. So I guess what I often wonder, is, why didn't my tribe make that step into fundamentalism? Mark, do you have any thoughts on this given the journey you have seen your parents go on? I would like to know your thoughts.

staceygriff said...

I personally couldn't read "under the banner of heaven" due to the pain and suffering that has come from Mark's parents actions. It just hit too close to home. I know Mark read it though and I've never really talked to him about his thoughts. I know this is an older blog but I still wanted to comment.