After escaping from in the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, Flora Jessop has devoted her life to rescuing other girls from polygamy and abuse in the cult.
Church of Lies is an incredibly powerful story. The beginning chapters describing Flora Jessop’s abuse at the hands of her father were harrowing and there was a lot I had to skip over because it was a bit too explicit. But when the story turned to Flora’s attempts to work within and outside of the system to rescue girls from polygamy, I fell in love with her courage and spirit and passion.
The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints are a sect/cult of Mormonism led by Warren Jeffs, the Prophet. He controls his followers through fear and indoctrination, teaching them from childhood that they will go to hell if they don’t do what he says. The men curry favor with him, otherwise they will be kicked out and their wives and children reassigned to someone else. Of course, they’re all also waiting for Jeffs to die in the hopes that they can become the next Prophet.
There are some warring branches of the FLDS, as I learned in Daughters of Zion. It’s hard to tell them apart because they share only a few last names among them. Flora Jessop was part of the same group as Carolyn Jessop, but she was born a Jessop instead of marrying one like Carolyn. Their group lives in the “twin cities” in Arizona near Colorado, where everyone is FLDS. That means that there’s no safe place for the abused kids to turn to for help. They’re beaten at school, raped at home, the girls are married off at 14 and the boys kicked out of the community because they’re competition for the older men who want to collect wives for celestial glory. And over and above them all is Warren Jeffs, child molester, rapist, and demagogue.
That Flora Jessop could leave the FLDS is amazing–but her story is even more incredible. She gets involved with a network of safe houses that help girls who want to leave the FLDS, only to find that the police and CPS just don’t understand the depth of depravity of the indoctrination foisted upon these poor kids. The girls have no clue they have any civil rights at all. The boys who are allowed to stay are told they are mini prophets and after age 12 all women have to obey them. All of them live in poverty. Physical abuse runs both ways, and many of the children are molested. It’s just so psychologically complex.
Near the end of the book, Flora touches on some of her spiritual journey, wrestling with the concept of God and her inability to move past her hatred of the God she was taught about in the FLDS. There is a truly amazing scene near the end of the book between Flora and her rapist father that points to tremendous spiritual growth on Flora’s part. I wish she had time to tell us more about that part of things, because I really hope that Flora finds healing on that level, too.