23 May 2008

When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back

Rocky Mountain News - May 22, 2008

Book Review by Karen Algeo Krizman, Special to the Rocky

Nonfiction. By Stephen Singular. St. Martin's Press, $24.95. Grade: A-

Book in a nutshell: With polygamists in the news nearly every day lately, Singular couldn't have picked a more timely topic. Documenting the rise and fall of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs, this book offers an intriguing look inside the very same polygamist Mormon sect that is making headlines for the recent raids in Texas.

As a self-styled Mormon prophet, Jeffs ruled his followers with an iron fist. Television, radio and newspapers were banned. Dancing, basketball and water sports were forbidden. Families were ordered to throw away their Bibles. Business owners had to turn their assets over to the prophet. And underage girls were forced into polygamous marriages with much older men. Anyone who disobeyed Jeffs or who in any way posed a threat to his reign was banished - along with all dogs, laughter and the color red.

Jeffs' tyrannical ways ultimately led to his downfall. As he began kicking more followers out of the fold and as more women escaped their polygamous marriages, word began seeping out about what was happening in the sect. What had been Arizona's and Utah's "dirty little secret" suddenly began making national headlines.

Charged with rape for his role in arranging marriages with underage girls, Jeffs went on the run for two years and landed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List before being arrested in 2006.

Best tidbit: When Jeffs was arrested, he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and was riding in a red Cadillac loaded with lottery tickets, high-tech gadgets and money - clothes, colors and things he had long since banned his followers from having.

Pros: Exploring thousands of followers living on compounds in Utah, Arizona, Texas - and even Colorado - this book gives a thorough look at a far-reaching issue.

Cons: Every other person in the book has the surname Barlow, Jessop or Jeffs, and the author keeps introducing more people long after it's necessary. Good luck keeping everyone straight.

Final word: With thousands of church members - many still loyal to Jeffs - we haven't heard the last of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.

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