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Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

4.2 705
by Lisa Pulitzer, Elissa Wall, Renie Raudman (Narrated by)

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In September 2007, a packed courtroom in St. George, Utah, sat hushed as Elissa Wall, the star witness against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, gave captivating testimony of how Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin at age fourteen. This harrowing and vivid account proved to be the most compelling evidence against Jeffs, showing the harsh realities of this


In September 2007, a packed courtroom in St. George, Utah, sat hushed as Elissa Wall, the star witness against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, gave captivating testimony of how Jeffs forced her to marry her first cousin at age fourteen. This harrowing and vivid account proved to be the most compelling evidence against Jeffs, showing the harsh realities of this closed community and the lengths to which Jeffs went in order to control the sect's women. Now, in this courageous memoir, Elissa Wall tells the incredible and inspirational story of how she emerged from the confines of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and helped bring one of America's most notorious criminals to justice. Offering a child's perspective on life in the FLDS, Wall discusses her tumultuous youth, explaining how her family's turbulent past intersected with her strong will and identified her as a girl who needed to be controlled through marriage. Detailing how Warren Jeffs's influence over the church twisted its already rigid beliefs in dangerous new directions, Wall portrays the inescapable mind-set and unrelenting pressure that forced her to wed despite her repeated protests that she was too young. Once she was married, Wall's childhood shattered as she was obligated to follow Jeffs's directives and submit to her husband in "mind, body, and soul." With little money and no knowledge of the outside world, she was trapped and forced to endure the pain and abuse of her loveless relationship, which eventually pushed her to spend nights sleeping in her truck rather than face the tormentor in her bed. Yet even in those bleak times, she retained a sliver of hope that one day she would find a way out, and one snowy night that came in the form of a rugged stranger named Lamont Barlow. Their chance encounter set in motion a friendship and eventual romance that gave her the strength she needed to break free from her past and sever the chains of the church. But though she was out of the FLDS, Wall would still have to face Jeffs-this time in court. In Stolen Innocence, she delves into the difficult months on the outside that led her to come forward against him, working with prosecutors on one of the biggest criminal cases in Utah's history, so that other girls still inside the church might be spared her cruel fate. More than a tale of survival and freedom, Stolen Innocence is the story of one heroic woman who stood up for what was right and reclaimed her life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The juxtaposition of Raudman's narrative equanimity and the young girl's shocking experiences creates an arresting audio experience." —AudioFile

Product Details

Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
MP3 - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.60(d)

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Stolen Innocence
My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs

Chapter One

A New Mother

For us, it is the priesthood of God or nothing.
—Flds Parable

I can still smell the Dutch-oven roast on the table the night Dad announced we were getting a new mother. Even though there were already two mothers in our house, receiving a third was cause for celebration. I was nine years old and a little bit confused, but mostly I was excited because everyone else at the dinner table was acting so happy for our father.

It didn't seem at all unusual that we would have a third mother—or that our family would continue to grow. That was just a part of the only life I had ever known as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a group that broke away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—more popularly known as the LDS Mormon Church—so that they could continue to practice plural marriage. Sure, our home already had two mothers and almost a dozen kids, but many of the children I knew had far more than that in their families. It seemed to make sense that we would get another mother. It was just that time.

Back then, I didn't really understand much about the FLDS, but I knew that we were different from the people living around us in our Salt Lake City suburb. For one thing, we weren't supposed to play with other kids in the neighborhood, and we usually kept the curtains in the house drawn to protect our privacy and the secret life we led. Unlike most of the neighborhoodkids, we didn't get on the yellow school buses and go to public schools. Instead, we went to a special place, Alta Academy—a huge, unassuming white brick house that had been converted into a school for members of the FLDS. We also dressed differently from everyone else, wearing long church undergarments that covered our entire body and stretched from the neck to the ankles and the wrists. On top of these, the girls and women wore frilly long pioneer-style dresses year-round, which made it hard to play in the backyard and even harder to stay comfortable in the summer heat. Whereas most kids would go out in shorts and a T-shirt, we didn't own either, and even if we did, we would not have been allowed to wear them.

At the time, I didn't really know why everything had to be so different; all I knew was that I had to "keep sweet" and not complain. We were God's chosen people—and when Judgment Day came, we would be the only ones allowed into heaven. Judgment Day was known to the FLDS people as the day the destruction of the Lord would sweep across the earth, bringing fire, storms, and death in its wake. The wicked would all be destroyed and when it seemed like none would survive, the Lord would lift the worthiest people—us—off the earth while the devastation passed beneath us. Then we would be set back down and would build Zion, a place without sadness or pain. We would reside there with God and enjoy a thousand years of peace.

My father, Douglas Wall, was an elder in the FLDS Church. For him, and indeed for our whole family, receiving a third wife was a major blessing and an important milestone on the long road to eternal salvation. The idea of having more than one wife had become an integral part of the Mormon religion after Joseph Smith founded it in 1830, but the Mormon Church officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, in part, so that Utah could gain statehood. Still, some of its members continued to practice in secret at the risk of being excommunicated. By 1935, some of the men who'd been expelled from the Mormon Church formed their own breakaway sect, first known as "The Work" and decades later as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They viewed plural marriage as a central tenet—and the only way to attain eternal salvation.

Members of the FLDS believe they are following the true Mormon religion as it was first envisioned by Joseph Smith. One of its central teachings is the idea of celestial marriage, in which a man must have a minimum of three wives to gain admittance to the highest of the three levels of heaven. That Dad was getting a third wife meant that he had begun to secure a place in the Celestial Kingdom for himself and his family.

Eleven of Dad's twenty-two children were still living at our home in Salt Lake City, Utah, when he broke the news that Saturday evening in October 1995. Many of my older siblings were married and had moved out to start lives of their own. My family lived on a quiet street in a suburb called Sugar House, about thirty blocks southeast of Temple Square, the headquarters of the Mormon Church, located in downtown Salt Lake City. Established in 1853, six years after Brigham Young guided the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley, Sugar House was named for the sugar mill whose contruction had never been completed there. Still, the name stuck.

Our house was set back about twenty feet from the road, with views of the Wasatch Mountains in the distance. Large pine trees and shrubs in the front yard obstructed much of the view and made the house appear smaller than it really was, but Dad had always loved this location because it had a big backyard where the kids could play. More important, it afforded a degree of privacy, which was crucial, since we didn't want people to know too much about us. Because plural marriages were forbidden in Utah, our family, like all families in the FLDS, was concerned about the attention we could receive if the outside world knew what was going on inside our house.

Stolen Innocence
My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs
. Copyright © by Elissa Wall. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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From the Publisher
"The juxtaposition of Raudman's narrative equanimity and the young girl's shocking experiences creates an arresting audio experience." —-AudioFile

Meet the Author

Elissa Wall is a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) who was forced into marriage at age fourteen.

Renée Raudman is a multi-award-winning audiobook narrator and actor. A multiple Audie Award nominee, she has earned a number of AudioFile Earphones Awards, and her narration of Homer's Odyssey by Gwen Cooper was selected by Library Journal as one of the best audiobooks of 2009.

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Stolen Innocence 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 706 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From the moment I opened the front cover I was pulled into a story of strength and very real trauma that Elissa was subjected to in her childhood. Elissa's account of her life makes your heart ache for her, and makes you feel as if you were right there with her but like many other people in the story unable to help her and you are left feeling as desperate as she did. The strength and survival instinct Elissa displayed is amazing. I encourage anyone to read this book, there are lessons for every man and woman. Elissa is a role model of what can be achieved when you are trusting of the process and are not willing to be defeated! A portion of the proceeds from the sales of this book go to MJ Fund , a fund designed to help other people in the situation. That alone is a great reason to purchase this book. God bless you Elissa, and thank you for filling my heart and showing women not to back down and be defeated.
frannyprice More than 1 year ago
This is a brave book. It is well written and I had to read it all right away - late night! I also wanted to talk about the ideas with others. This would be a good choice for a book group. I'm so glad Elisa was brave to go to trial and brave to write a book. She had a painful childhood. Her story shows how a tradition with some nourishing elements went very very bad under the autocratic rule of a bad man. Truth is stranger than fiction. Some very weird stuff happens in Southern Utah.
hotfingers More than 1 year ago
Elissa Wall writes an eye opening, often shocking account of what it was like to be raised in a polygamous household where young girls are groomed to be teen aged brides in marriages arranged by the church leaders who exercise absolute control over the lives of their members. She relates how she escaped from the sect and today lives with her husband and children. We also learn of her heartbreak at the separation from other members of her family who are still in the sect. She includes details of the arrest and trial of Warren Jeffs, and her ongoing fight for the rights of young girls still in the sect, including two younger sisters.
laxcrazymom More than 1 year ago
The story was incredibly riveting. I could not put the book down. Great story of survival.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like a prisoner sentenced to a life of hard-labor, Elissa tells how no one came to her rescue as she was trapped in this loveless marriage. No one. Not her mother, not her father, not her step-father. Nobody. Everyone was afraid of going against this Hitler-like tyrant, Warren Jeffs. Ms. Wall even states how he was like a god to them because this was all they were taught to believe. And that is probably what is fundamentally wrong with this cult. Because no one was ever allowed to think for themselves. Free-thought was not just frowned upon, it was reason enough to be expelled from this group. Thrown out like garbage. But why would anyone want to stay?  Ms. Wall also explains with great triumph how she found real love and how, over time, she got away. Some of this portion of the book was very bittersweet and heartbreaking, though. Because Elissa was vilified by her soon-to-be-former cult. Elissa's rapist husband went running to Warren Jeffs when he couldn't control her any longer. Can you believe that Warren Jeffs actually blamed her again and even said that she should sacrifice her body (a human sacrifice?) Because of so much real degradation and oppression, the truth inside this book really is stranger than fiction.  When Elissa was pregnant with her baby she left the FLDS and shortly afterwards was encouraged by her sisters who had also left the FLDS to file a suit against Allan, Warren Jeffs, and the FLDS which is detailed in the book.  It's just so hard to believe these things happened to someone so young and that not one adult took action while this abuse was happening. I guess that's what happens when you are that brainwashed.  She took her pain and did something so positive with it. God Bless you Elissa and all the other victims that are brain washed to accept true evil as a way of life. I believe in freedom of religion. What I just read was not religion. It was organized pedophiles. Every single person that is a member allowing this to happen is just as guilty as "Uncle Warren" Putting yourself before your innocent children is something I personally don't understand. I would die for my children's protection. Regardless of anything. Elissa's courage saved her life. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book to be a very interesting look at the polygamist way of life. I wonder how many other women and young girls have this same story to tell. I feel sorry for these women.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
gives real insight into the polygamist lifestyle.
Brandi Supple More than 1 year ago
Very touching and insperational
Mary Ann Metzger More than 1 year ago
This book kept my interest it was hard to put it down
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished this book and it was great. I felt every ounce of pain that Elissa was dealing with. I was hoping that her brothers and sisters would be able to help their mother and two youngest siblings. It was very unfortunate that her husband Allen had no official charges brought against him. Elissa displayed such strength and courage. I am glad that she is happily married and was able to have two successful pregnancies.
Christy Foley More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, had a hard time putting it down as I wanted to know what happened to her. Interesting look into another way of life.
dfehling More than 1 year ago
I can only imagine how difficult it was for Elissa Wall to put into writing her shocking true life experiences in the FLDS church, her forced marriage at age 14, and her ultimate escape from the only life she knew. The courage she had not only to account in detail the horrors she suffered at the hands of this sect, but also to ultimately bring criminal charges against self-proclaimed prophet Warren Jeffs, is remarkable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
poorly writen. Sad story but hard to read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was totally absorbed by this book. It just makes one wonder how so many people can be taken in by a "Prophet". How the innocent can be duped and led down a path that just isn't right. I was happy to see that Elissa and her sisters were strong enough to pull away from this religious control. I'm sorry that their mother and younger sisters are lost in the control of the church and not allowed to be a part of Elissa and her sister lives. Taking the stand against Warren and putting him where he truly belongs was a truly brave thing. Kudos to Elissa Wall
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed hearing what's really happening in these cults...well not "enjoy" but it's shocking and heartbreaking what's happening. This woman had a lot of courage and strength to break away from this life.
TammyR More than 1 year ago
Honestly, I didnt learn anything new about the FLDS from reading this book. Also They could of condensed the book more...They kept repeating events but in different ways. I did find Elissa's story very inspirational. I would recommed this book to an older teen. I feel like Elissa is a strong woman and has overcame alot of obstacles in her life. She is someone to look up 2.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very intense read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book a while back a while back however i just finished reading the book by Elissas sister Rebecca Musser The Witness Wore Red and although that book gave more information about the trials, this book gives more detail ang insight into what it was like to actually live in that world. I feel like Elissa Walls story is a better read because it is an emotional story of being born then imprisoned into a life noone should have to live and she is so very honest about the cruelty she suffered. I feel like her sister didnt suffer the same abuse although she did suffer, i also feel like her sister toots her horn a little too loudly whereas Elissa seems very humble and instead of bragging about her testimonies and appearances, she is just simply greatful to be out of that life. So if you want info on the trial read her sisters book and if you want heartfelt honesty about an escape from an imprisoned life and marriage and journey into a new one then read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was excited to start this book after reading and enjoying other books about the polygamist lifestyle. However, I found this book slow, dull, and poorly written. The author is very redundant, and it seems that her writing lacks any style or excitement. I thought the book Escape was much more interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started off excrutiatingly slow but picked up & became interesting. Its crazy how these people are brainwashed and how the women are mistreated! Glad the author was able to overcome and escape the situation she was in
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written. An incredible story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was an easy read. Full of insider information on the craziness prople for fall. I cant believe they allowed such outlandish activities!! I am happy Elissa was able to depart from such an awful state of existence!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Must read for anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story especially considering the recency ...
Rachel Rogers More than 1 year ago
There were some interesting things in this book about the FLDS faith, but overall I found this book slow and kind of scattered.