I’ve got through half of the book by a former fundamentalist Mormon and one of six wives of an elder in the community. It’s called Escape by Caroline Jessop.
It reads almost like a dystopian novel, except it’s real, but still hard to believe. In her childhood, her dad got a revelation from the prophet to take on another wife which added to her already large family. Mormon women are baby machines and expected to bear as many children as possible. The more children, the more status and respect she has in the community. Caroline’s plans to become a doctor were changed when her parents woke her up in the middle of the night after her graduation from high school to tell her the prophet had received a revelation telling her her new husband was to be a 50 yr. old man with three wives. She was married to the man that weekend after only having been introduced to him the day before and joined his ready made family of 3, now 4, wives and 30 children. These were just the ones still living at home!
One fascinating aspect to the story is Jessop’s favored wife Barbara. She rules the hen house and reports on the other wives to “the father” and when Carolines new husband allows her to go to college (to be a teacher—doctor was out of the question) it is because she would not be there all the time vying for Jessop’s affections. In addition to be domineering and manipulative, Barbara was also jealous. We learn that most polygamous marriages contain rivalries and domination by a favored wife. In reality, most sister-wives are not “in harmony” with fundamentalist latter-day saint values (FLDS). They are always in conflict with one another over chores, their husband, children, and social life—what little they have.
When Caroline did go off to college, Jessop’s two oldest daughters still at home went with her. Not so much for the education, but as spies. The girls would report back to favored wife Barbara on any little discretion. When Caroline caught on their scheme, it failed to rile her. So then the girls would make stuff up about her. Then when Caroline went home, she’d get lectured by Jessolp for disobedience.
Another fascinating thing about her story are the family dynamics concerning the other wives. One of them is out of favor and spends her days sleeping and nights watching tv. Another one is emotionally unstable and does weird shit like prancing around and throwing dishes to get the devil out of them and trying to take all her clothes off in the family van to nurse a baby even though she had no more milk. During this time, the new prophet has a revelation and gives Jessop two more wives that “belonged” to the previous, now deceased, prophet.
There was also an interesting story about the division in the community involving the apostles and the prophet’s successors. Depending on which side a family was on in the divide depended on where they sent their kids to school and which church building they met in. That feud lasted 7 years.
more to come…