If ever a book were “overtaken by events” this expose by Stephen Singular was overtaken and made both relevant, as background to the raid last month at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, and irrelevant, as those who were interested learned more about the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints than anyone needed to know and more even than Mr. Singular, after a year of research, knew when he wrote his book. In fact, although the book gives the reader a lot of information on the history of the FLDS, it’s obvious that very little, if any, of Mr. Singular’s information came from actual, current FLDS members. Probably that’s not his fault, since I’m sure they refused to speak to him. Still, he had to get his information from law enforcement officers, social workers, and disgruntled ex-members. None of those groups could be expected to give an unbiased report on the FLDS, and they don’t. Mr. Singular’s picture of life inside the FLDS is unrelentingly negative. Reading about it feels like reading about life under the Taliban in Afghanistan.
However, the difference between Afghanistan and Short Creek is night and day. It truly is possible to leave the FLDS; many men and women and teenagers have done so. Although “prophet” Warren Jeffs probably is a power-hungry cult leader with sadistic tendencies, no one is forced by law to obey him or even listen to his dictates. Mr. Singular writes about girls and women “forced into marriage” and about men who “lost their families” when Mr. Jeffs excommunicated them from the FLDS. However, no adult woman had to marry anyone, and those families chose to disown their excommunicated loved ones. Many of the situations Mr. Singular describes constitute a tragedy, to be sure, but the participants in those tragedies for the most part chose to obey Mr. Jeffs as consenting adults. The crime for which Mr. Jeffs is now in prison, participation in the forced marriage of a fourteen year girl, is an exception to that rule of adult willingness to obey Warren Jeffs, and Mr. Jeffs is rightly serving time for his disregard for the wishes of the (minor) girl involved.
There are lots of allegations of child abuse and spiritual abuse and under-age marriage and polygamy in this book, but Mr. Singular never explains why, if these crimes were being committed, no one was ever charged or prosecuted. He implies that this lack of prosecution is due to a lack of willing witnesses, a common problem in cases of spousal abuse and child abuse. Nevertheless, anyone can write a book and allege all sorts of crimes, but unless some proof is offered that will pass the standards required in a court, the accused are considered innocent in the eyes of the law.
Because Elissa Walls was willing to testify against Warren Jeffs, he is in prison. Because the Texas DFPS had no solid evidence to back up their allegations of physical and sexual abuse at YFZ Ranch, the FLDS children should be returning to their parents very soon. (I hope.) And that’s all as it should be.
When Men Become Gods was published “sooner than planned” according to Mr. Singular’s website “because of recent events.” The book has no index, maybe because of its rushed publication, a serious drawback since I wanted to give a few specifics here but I was unable to find some of the incidents and events I wanted to discuss. It’s also NOT about YFZ Ranch, but rather centers on the FLDS community at Short Creek on the Urah/Arizona border and on the rise and fall of leader and prophet Warren Jeffs. It’s a fascinating read, and it’s obvious that Mr. Singular and Texas law enforcement and CPS officials were getting their information about FLDS beliefs and practices and crimes from many of the same sources.
If you would like more information about the raid on the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado and subsequent events, check out the coverage at The Common Room or at Grits for Breakfast. Either blogger has much more, and more accurate, information posted on this CPS power grab than can be found anywhere in the mainstream media.