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We believed he was born first as a spirit child to Heavenly Father and Mother, and came to Earth to receive a body. He atoned for our sins in the Garden. Like the Pharisee in Luke 18, I thought I knew him better than others through the exclusive instruction I received in the temple. In , I completed my doctorate in education and was hired at BYU. We moved to Zion.

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Sound like Jesus? Nope, this hymn is about Joseph Smith. Here's the first verse:. This is one reason we attended the temple regularly. Three weeks before the end of his two-year mission, Micah called to tell us he was being sent home early—a horrific disgrace in Mormon culture. He had been reading the New Testament. There he encountered a different Jesus than the one I was taught about in Mormonism—a God of grace, not of works, so that no one can boast.

Micah was riveted. To a roomful of missionaries at his parting testimony, Micah had professed faith in Jesus alone and not the Mormon Church. He told them he had found a deep and genuine faith—one that didn't include Mormonism. It did not go over well. Church leaders told us that Micah had the spirit of the Devil in him, sent him home, and subsequently, back in Utah, invited us to bring him before the high council.

To prevent excommunication, we put Micah on a plane out of Utah. His expulsion put our family in turmoil. As I read, I became increasingly consumed by reading about the God of grace. I barely ate or slept. It's all I wanted to do. After Micah's expulsion, questions about Mormonism that I had harbored for years—about my patriarchal blessing, about the church's history of racism, about the scope of Christ's atonement—kicked into high gear.

In John's gospel, I read, "These are the very scriptures that testify of me yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I began to see clearly that Mormonism taught a different gospel than what the Bible taught. When I read what Jesus said in John , "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them," I knew I was being drawn—sucked, pulled, conveyed, transported. In physics, an event horizon is a boundary beyond which the gravitational pull is so powerful that there is no escape.

This was my event horizon.

The Journey Out: Women Who Escaped a Polygamist Mormon Cult Share Their Story - VICE

As I read the Bible, my appetite for God grew exponentially. I felt myself drawn to him at an ever-increasing speed. Then, on a chilly October evening in , Michael and I settled in with Katie in our basement to watch the movie Luther. My heart pounded as I learned of the reformer's struggle against the Catholic Church. I seemed to be facing a similar struggle: Did I believe the Mormon system of obedience to laws and ordinances would secure my forgiveness?

That night, speeding toward the point of no return, I lay face-down on the carpet, arms extended, and cried out to Jesus, "I am yours. Save me. From that point on, God became personal. I talked with him. He sometimes answered. I had stark dreams. Carolyn Jessop. Hildale, Utah. New York: Broadway Books. Retrieved April 12, New York Times. Retrieved 28 April Vancouver Sun.

Newsletters are the new newsletters.

Archived from the original on ABC News. NY Times. The Secret World of Polygamy. Retrieved Triumph: Life after the Cult, a Survivor's Lessons. Broadway, a division of Random House. The Eldorado Success.

Archived from the original on 21 October Deseret Morning News. New Statesman.

The Journey Out: Women Who Escaped a Polygamist Mormon Cult Share Their Story

Retrieved July 29, The Salt Lake Tribune. NBC 's Today. San Angelo Standard Times. Archived from the original on February 27, He had 78 wives at the time of his arrest—a third of them under the age of In , Jeffs was successfully convicted on two counts of felony child sexual assault for the rapes of just two of his child brides, ages 12 and Yet, despite that fact that he is currently serving a sentence of life plus 20 years from state prison in Palestine, Texas, Jeffs continues to control the cult from behind bars, using his loyal brother Lyle Jeffs as a proxy and mouthpiece.

In the years since his arrest, "Uncle Warren" has issued new rules from jail. Easily the most disturbing is that physical contact between a man and his wives is utterly prohibited, and physical intimacy——meaning sex——is expressly prohibited. In current-day FLDS, a woman can only become pregnant by one of the 15 " seed bearers " appointed by Warren to carry out their worthy bloodlines.

According to court documents filed by Lyle Jeffs' former wife as part of a divorce case, "It is the husband's responsibility to hold the hands of their wives while the seed bearer 'spreads his seed. In layman terms, the husband is required to sit in the room while the chosen seed bearer, or a couple of them, rape his wife or wives.

This is a community where most children have never even heard of Christmas or Santa Claus, let alone celebrated the holiday these Fundamentalists don't celebrate any "worldly" holidays. In addition, Jeffs enforced a full ban on toys in for those in the sect. I watched that man stand at the side of his garbage can, as he had his small children bring out their toys and he would then, one-by-one, break them and violently throw them into the can," wrote former FLDS member Brenda Nicholson at Voices for Dignity , an organization founded by human trafficking survivor Christine Marie Katas to speak out against the abuse, exploitation, oppression, and humiliation of human beings in patriarchal polygamous cults and other related instances of ecclesiastical abuse.

People say there is a cloud over the town. I planned the First Christmas to bring happiness and help that gray cloud get dispersed by love.

Inside the Holm Sunday School Building in Hildale, Utah, rows of folding tables were laden with iced sugar cookies in every color and shape. Other tables offered an array of crafting supplies: paper and paste, glitter, pipe cleaners, and all manner of kid-friendly art supplies for DIY ornament making. There was also a booth set up and staffed by volunteers from Premier Pediatrics , a southern Utah-based healthcare provider for mothers and children. Though not as exciting as a dense puff of cinnamon divinity, their presence was a blessing for these young families, whose healthcare and medical needs are flagrantly ignored inside the FLDS, as Carolyn Jessop details in her memoir Escape.

Onstage, dressed as Santa, ex-FLDS volunteer Clinton Holm whose family owns the building posed for pictures and handed out stockings filled with handmade toys and small candies to the hundreds of children who had been brought by their mothers for their first-ever Christmas celebration. For the kids, the lavishing of such kindness was literally unbelievable.

All of these women and children had left the FLDS within the past four or five years, some as recently as just a few months ago. For many, it was the first large, purely social gathering they had ever attended. Leaving the FLDS is not a simple process. Most women flee without much more than the clothes on their backs and whatever belongings they are able to throw quickly into a plastic garbage bag.

Once you're out, you are considered an apostate. The same goes for any children you bring with you. Those who leave the cult are shunned by all family and friends who remain in the FLDS.

Anna LeBaron: How I escaped my father's murderous polygamous cult

Originally commissioned by Warren Jeffs from behind bars, this modern mansion was intended to serve as a home for him and his many wives. Though he's not getting out any time soon, Jeffs tells his followers that the bars of his cell will melt and that he will be delivered back to them, and all who remain loyal believe this to be true. The walls of the many-roomed building are upholstered in the same ugly but expensive baby blue carpeting that covers the floors, and the door jams are a good 12 inches thick; these rooms are designed with acoustics in mind.

He has expressed hope that, in his hands, the property will help reunite families who fled under Jeffs's control. Willie was nowhere to be found, however, and for many of the women I spoke with here, his absence was a relief.

Willie is "a really bad dude pretending to be a good one," I'd been told by a Los Angeles-based film producer who has worked in the community. Here, the women shared a meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, and red wine for those who drink it. After dinner they were invited upstairs to a string of rooms, which had been packed wall-to-wall with gifts for young children and teens.