Brent Jeffs is the nephew of Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of the FLDS. The son of a prominent family in the church, Brent could have grown up to have multiple wives of his own and significant power in the 10,000-strong community. But he knew that behind the group’s pious public image—women in chaste dresses carrying babies on their hips—lay a much darker reality. So he walked away, and was the first to file a sexual-abuse lawsuit against his uncle. Now Brent shares his courageous story and that of many other young men who have become “lost boys” when they leave the FLDS, either by choice or by expulsion.
Brent experienced firsthand the absolute power that church leaders wield—the kind of power that corrupts and perverts those who will do anything to maintain it. Once young men no longer belong to the church, they are cast out into a world for which they are utterly unprepared. More often than not, they succumb to the temptations of alcohol and other drugs.
Tragically, Brent lost two of his brothers in this struggle, one to suicide, the other to overdose. In this book he shows that lost boys can triumph and that abuse and trauma can be overcome, and he hopes that readers will be inspired to help former FLDS members find their way in the world.
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About the Author
MAIA SZALAVITZ is the author and coauthor of several books, including Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Elle, and is a Senior Fellow at stats.org, a media watchdog group. She lives in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
O N E
Heaven or Hell
Every child believes he’s special. But when you are number ten of twenty, with three “ sister- mothers”–two of whom are full- blooded sisters–and a grandfather whom thousands of people believe speaks directly to God, it can be hard to figure out what “special” really means.
All told, I have roughly sixty- five aunts and uncles on my dad’s side and twenty- two on my mom’s–with probably thousands of cousins. In families as large as mine, even keeping track of your own siblings–let
alone cousins and aunts and uncles–is difficult.
As a grandson of Rulon Jeffs and nephew of Warren Jeffs, it once seemed that I was destined for high honor in the FLDS. My family had what our church called “royal blood.” We were direct descendants of our prophet through my father’s line. My mother, too, is the child of a prophet, who split from our group in 1978 to lead his own polygamous sect.
When I was little, my family was favored, in the church’s elite. I was assured that there was a place for me in the highest realms of heaven and at least three wives for me right here on earth once I attained the Melchizedek priesthood. I was in a chosen family in a chosen people, visiting sacred land near end times. I would one day become a god, ruling over my own spinning world.
So why would I ever abandon such status and rank? In the world of the FLDS, things are not always what they seem. The shiny, smiling surfaces often hide a world of rot and pain. And even royal blood and
being born male can’t protect you from sudden changes in its convoluted power structure.
Outsiders tend to think our form of polygamy must be a great deal for us men. You get sexual variety without guilt: in fact, you are commanded by God to have multiple partners and the women are expected
to go along with it. Indeed, they are supposed to be happy about doing so and obediently serve you. This is the only way for all of you to get to the highest realms of heaven.
To many men, that sounds like heaven right there, without any need for the afterlife part. They focus on the sex–fantasizing about a harem of young, beautiful women, all at their beck and call. They don’t think
about the responsibility–or the balancing act needed to keep all of those women happy, or even just to minimize their complaints. During the one full year I attended public school, the few guys who befriended
me rather than ridiculing me were fascinated by it all.
But while it might seem good in theory, in practice, at least in my experience, it’s actually a recipe for misery for everyone involved. In the FLDS anyway, polygamy and its power structure continuously produce a constant, exhausting struggle for attention and resources.
In families as large as mine, it simply isn’t possible for all of the women and children to get their needs met. Just making sure the children are fed, clothed, and physically accounted for is an ongoing challenge. Simply keeping dozens of children physically safe is close to impossible.
I’d estimate that maybe one in five FLDS families has lost a child early in life, frequently from accidents that better supervision could have prevented. And that number doesn’t include deaths related to the
genetic disorder that runs in our church–which handicaps and often kills children very early in life but which many members refuse to see as a result of marriages among closely related families.
For the father, even though he’s at the top of the heap in his own family, he must constantly disappoint, reject, ignore, and/or fail to satisfy at least some wives and kids. There’s only so much of his time and
attention to go around, and supporting such a large family takes many hours, too. At home, if one person has your ear, someone else doesn’t. Yes to one wife is no to the others. And, if a man wants more wives, he will have to engage in his own highly competitive fight for status and influence with the higher- ups in the church.
Then there’s the math problem: half of all children born are boys, of course. For some men to have many wives, others are either going to have to leave, recruit new women into polygamy (a difficult task, unsurprisingly–and one rarely attempted by the FLDS), or go unmarried.
Consequently, being born a boy in the FLDS is not the privileged position it first seems to be. Unless you are willing to kowtow to the leaders and attempt perfect obedience with constantly changing demands
and hierarchies, you are likely either to be expelled or to have a hard time getting even one wife, let alone the required three. Just on the numbers alone, you will need a lot of luck to avoid losing everything as
you hit manhood. Being born into the right family like I was is a good start–however, it may not be enough.
Once people get over their titillation and harem fantasies, and think through these issues, they start wondering why anyone stays. “How can you believe such strange things?” they ask. “Why didn’t you leave years earlier?” “And how could those parents marry their teenage daughters off to old men, abandon their sons, or give up their wives and children at Warren’s command?”
The answer is tangled in family loyalties, family history, and a church that has become expert at using these bonds to move beliefs into brainwashing.
On my father’s side, I come from around six generations of polygamy. My mother’s history is similar. Our families have lived polygamy since Joseph Smith first introduced “the principle” of “celestial marriage” in 1843–and the same is true for most members. One reason we stay is that this is the only life we know. Another is that leaving involves giving up contact with basically every single family member and friend you have–sometimes, everyone you know, period.
And, too, there’s the fact that you have been kept ignorant of the way the rest of the world works: you have been indoctrinated nearly every single day of your life to believe that all other peoples are evil, wish to harm you, and are damned by God, unchosen.
It’s weird, but even if you truly don’t believe what they have told you, some part of you remains frightened that they may be right and that fear–and your fear of losing everyone you love–is at the heart of what traps people. Then there’s the weight of family history and tradition.
My great- grandfather, David W. Jeffs, was born in 1873 and baptized in the Mormon Church when polygamy was officially part of the religion. Founder Joseph Smith had begun practicing polygamy before
he preached it. The identity of his second wife is disputed because the ceremony took place in secret, without even the knowledge of his first wife, who vigorously opposed the whole idea.
As Smith’s biographer Fawn Brodie wrote, Joseph Smith “believed in the good life . . . ‘Man is that he might have joy’ had been one of his first significant pronouncements in the Book of Mormon.”1 The
prophet’s belief in the rightness of things that gave him joy meant that he couldn’t see having more than one wife as sinful. That just didn’t make sense to him. Of course, a prophet couldn’t have mistresses. And so, “celestial marriage” was born. It is not known how many wives Joseph Smith had–but the number is believed to be around fifty.
Joseph Smith’s revelation on plural wives was grounded in the Old Testament, and in our church it is sometimes called the Law of Sarah, who was Abraham’s first wife. The Jewish patriarchs and kings of the Old Testament were polygamous. While the rest of Christianity accepts the New Testament and rejects polygamy, fundamentalist Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon supersedes the New Testament in the way that the New Testament updates the Old.
Joseph Smith’s 1843 revelation on polygamy was personally directed at his resistant first wife. He was tired of hiding his other wives from her and everyone else and wanted it all out in the open. He wrote that God told him, “I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith,” to “receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph” and “cleave unto my servant Joseph and to none else . . . if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed.”2
Believing this to be a true revelation, Emma complied. Still, she didn’t hesitate to expel from her home the women she believed her husband was favoring–and, according to some, she once demanded her
own “spiritual husbands” as fair play. Needless to say, a revelation making this practice into gospel was never received by Joseph Smith.
The rest of the doctrine on plural marriage is written this way: “If any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and
have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery . . . and if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him.”3 Given Emma’s strenuous objections, clearly, Joseph Smith had a very flexible definition of consent. Unfortunately, that probably had a great influence on the fundamentalist church.
And oddly, despite the prohibition against marrying those who “have vowed to another man,” many of the first Mormon plural wives also had other husbands. Some had left their spouses to join the church and were essentially separated. But others were married first to other Mormon men, then to leaders like Joseph Smith who decided that they wanted those particular women for themselves. Being lower in the
church hierarchy, many men accepted this–some even saw it as an honor.
Probably for public relations purposes, the marriages of church leaders to women with other husbands were originally presented as unions that were “for eternity,” but not “for time.” In other words, they weren’t supposed to involve sex here on earth. However, accounts of the time suggest that these marriages were consummated and indeed sometimes produced children. In the FLDS, when a polygamous marriage is entered into, it is “sealed” by the prophet both “for time” and “for eternity.”
My former church doesn’t just preach multiple wives, however; it also preaches multiple gods and multiple heavens. Understanding this is important to understanding what happened to my family and how the FLDS works.
Joseph Smith preached that “God himself was once as we are now,” and Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the LDS church, wrote, “As man is, God once was; and as God is, man may become.”4 That’s a very exciting idea for many people–and you can see why it might have helped the early church attract converts. But by the 1860s, this transformation from man to God began to require the practice of polygamy.
As Brigham Young proclaimed, “The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy. Others attain unto a glory . . . but they cannot reign as kings in glory, because they had blessing offered unto them, and they refused to accept them.”5
The idea that one should never reject a blessing is a cornerstone of the FLDS belief system–one that would also have a profound impact on my family and my life. As you’ll see, there were several “blessings” that we truly could have lived without. But my parents didn’t feel that they could reject them. Few people in the church felt they could challenge this doctrine. That would mean failing at another key objective in the church: being obedient.
The FLDS conception of heaven is complicated, too. In our religion, it’s not getting into heaven that counts–it’s getting into the right heaven. There are three realms. The highest and most “glorious” is the
“celestial,” which can be entered only by men who have had at least three wives in polygamy. Here, men become godlike and rule over their own planets. The reason that FLDS members have so many children, in fact, is to populate their personal planets.
In the celestial realm, plural wives become “queens,” who bear celestial children (yeah, women get a raw deal even in the highest realm of heaven in our religion). The middle realm is the “terrestrial”–this is
somewhat like purgatory in Catholicism and is for people who never knew the teachings of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, but it’s still supposed to be pretty glorious.
The lowest realm is the “telestial,” which is for people who refused to worship God. This is not hell, it’s just a kind of mediocre heaven. Hell is reserved for the worst of sinners who refuse to repent and continue to wallow in sin. They are called the Sons or Daughters of Perdition.
Not surprisingly, as word of Mormon views on polygamy and men becoming gods first became public, the Gentile world was shocked and outraged. At the time of Joseph Smith’s polygamy revelation, Mormons had already fled both Ohio and Missouri (in the case of Missouri, it was under threat of extermination by the governor).
It was non- Mormon fury over polygamy and over Joseph Smith’s growing political power that led to his assassination in 1844 in an Illinois jail and to the subsequent migration to Utah led by Brigham Young.
The main LDS church banned polygamy in 1890 to pave the way for Utah statehood, which was granted in 1896. The manifesto that prohibited plural marriage made clear that the ban was being imposed only because the practice was illegal and the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that laws against it were constitutional. But the LDS didn’t begin excommunicating polygamists until 1904.
I don’t know when my father’s family converted to Mormonism. But when the polygamy ban took effect, my great- grandfather David W. Jeffs had already married plural wives in the church and refused to give
them up. He sided with the men who would become the first leaders of the FLDS. They believed that the Mormon leaders who accepted the end of polygamy were not the true holders of the keys to the holy priesthood preached by Smith. These keys are important because, in Mormon belief, only those who have been given them by a legitimate authority can truly be prophets. Without them, prophets have no authority and men cannot receive true revelations. Lines of patriarchal authority– through these keys and through blood–shape most aspects of life in the fundamentalist church.
My great- grandfather believed that these sacred keys had been passed to the FLDS leadership, during an event known as the “ eighthour meeting.” This occurred in 1886. At that time, John Taylor was the
president and prophet of the whole LDS church. He was living underground, to avoid federal prosecution for polygamy.
Lorrin Woolley, who would become a prophet of the FLDS, guarded the door to the room where Taylor was staying the night before the meeting. He said that it had no door to the outside of the house and had covered windows. According to his account, “I was suddenly attracted to a light appearing under the door leading to President Taylor’s room and was at once startled to hear the voices of men talking there. I was bewildered because it was my duty to keep people out of that room and evidently someone had entered without my knowing it.”6
Woolley said that Taylor told him the next day that the voices he had heard had been those of “your Lord” and Joseph Smith, and that they had instructed him not to sign a manifesto banning polygamy. Woolley
wrote that at the eight- hour meeting Taylor “placed his finger on the document, his person rising from the floor about a foot or 18 inches,” and said that he would sooner have his tongue or arm cut off than
He then gave five men who were at the meeting (including Woolley) the right to perform polygamous marriages. He made them swear that they would ensure that “no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage.”8
The first two prophets of the FLDS church were among the five selected to carry out these marriages. But while great- grandfather David Jeffs sided with the fundamentalists, my grandfather Rulon, who was
born in 1909, became opposed to polygamy as a young man. He was baptized into the LDS and became estranged from his fundamentalist father.
Tall and handsome in his youth, Rulon had mischievous brown eyes and chestnut brown hair, although his hairline started receding quite early. He trained as an accountant, and after a mission to England during the Great Depression, he took a job in Salt Lake City with the Utah State Tax Commission. Clearly seen as a man of promise by the LDS, my grandfather Rulon was permitted to marry Zola Brown, the daughter of one of the highest- ranking leaders of the church, known as an apostle.
After he had his first son, however, Rulon reconnected with his father. David soon convinced him that he should live polygamy. But Rulon ran into the same problems with his first wife that Joseph Smith had had. She did not want to share him. Although Rulon built their new home with basement accommodations for a second wife, unlike Emma Smith, Zola Jeffs utterly refused to submit.
When Rulon told her in July 1940 that a mountaintop revelation had shown him that God had designated a cute young shop clerk in Provo to be his second wife, Zola broke down. According to their divorce papers, she became “so worried and upset that she cried almost day and night, that her milk dried up so she was no longer able to nurse her baby.”9 She took the couple’s two small children and moved to California. Two weeks after a judge granted the divorce in 1941, Rulon was excommunicated by the LDS.
My grandfather, however, was not to be deterred. He didn’t even go to his own LDS church trial. He wrote, “For the first time I say, I would put God’s work before anything else in my life.”10 He joined a group led by John Y. Barlow, who was the FLDS* prophet from 1935 to 1949. In 1986, Grandfather Rulon would himself become the prophet.
And that put my family right at the center of an organization that was extremely loyal to its leaders. The church reflected and amplified both its leader’s good sides and his flaws. With a relaxed leadership, the
FLDS was mighty peculiar, but not particularly perverse. There was child abuse and domestic violence in some families, but there is no way of knowing whether abuse was more common in our church than anywhere else at the time. The problem was the FLDS’s growing isolation– and a change in leadership structure that would inevitably produce corruption.
Before my grandfather came to power, there had been a leadership council that ran the church. This council was more powerful than mostn religious hierarchies because–at least in Colorado City and Hildale, where two thirds of the FLDS lived at the time–most people’s houses were owned by the church, not by the people who lived in them. This occurred through a system that became known as the United Effort Plan (UEP). The communal arrangement was based on one used by the early Mormons.
The council provided at least some checks on the prophet’s control over the group. It ensured that he did not have absolute power over both theology and property. But part of what brought Grandfather to the prophet’s position was his opposition to that council–and his belief in what they called “one man rule.”
A dispute over this issue splintered the FLDS in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My grandfather’s position swayed the majority, who stayed, with the belief that the prophet should have absolute power. Rulon would eventually have this power for himself. And this set the stage for his son Warren, who would use the idea that he was God’s special messenger to do unspeakable evil, without any voice of reason or earthly authority to stop him.
* The FLDS did not formally incorporate under that name until some time in the 1940s. Prior to that it had just been known as “The Work,” but I will use the term they are now known by throughout for clarity.
Reading Group Guide
1. Why is being born male not the advantage that it would seem to be in the FLDS? How does the church use gender roles to control people?
2. What is “keeping sweet,” and how does this idea constrain the expression of emotion in Brent’s family?
3. Some argue that polygamy is always linked with abuse of women and children, while others claim that if women have equal rights, polygamy can be a healthy lifestyle. What does Brent’s story suggest about the power dynamics of polygamy and patriarchy, and their relationship to child abuse and abuse of women?
4. Why is polygamy harder for Brent’s father than he expected it to be? What are the challenges that seem to face men with multiple wives, and how can this make them act insensitively toward their multiple wives and children?
5. In Brent’s family, fights over things like toys or money were really conflicts about who was getting love and attention. Does this play out differently in polygamous families as opposed to monogamous families? If so, how?
6. How does Warren use theology to justify his sexual abuse of children? Why might being abused by a religious authority be especially destructive to a child?
7. What positive values does Brent get from his church and parents?
8. What impact does Clayne’s drug use and rebellion have on his brothers? Why does Brent admire Clayne?
9. Why do you think Brent stays in the church after his family is excommunicated?
10. The FLDS gave Brent’s family a sense of meaning and purpose as part of a chosen people and relatives of a prophet of God. How hard do you think it is to go from that kind of spiritually charged life to the secular world?
11. Brent tries to be a good FLDS member in Colorado City but quickly goes astray and falls in love. How did being raised in the church shape his relationship with Lisa?
12. Why is it so difficult for Brent and his brothers after they leave the church? Why do you think so many lost boys become involved with alcohol and other drugs?
13. Why did Brent and the other lost boys decide not to seek monetary damages primarily, but instead to get a trustee appointed to head the UEP trust? What does this decision show about their values?
14. What can we learn from Brent’s story about family and how our connections to one another matter?
15. Brent’s mom forgave his father for leaving her for Felicia. Do you think you could do that–or do you think that kind of infidelity should ever be forgiven?
16. How does trauma affect memory, and why do you think Brent says telling his story “put him back together”?
17. The HBO series Big Love also deals with a polygamous family with three wives, with a father who has been expelled from a group similar to the FLDS. What are some differences and similarities between that family and Brent’s, and has reading Brent’s story changed your perspective on that show?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Lost Boy was an incredible story of Warren Jeffs nephew, Brent. For those who want to expand your knowledge of the FLDS sect this book is for you. It was an incredibly sad yet inspiring book and my heart goes out to Brent and all the lost boys (and girls) who have been abused, manipulated and treated like trained animals in a zoo ..and not just by the FLDS but by those of us outside the sect who didn't understand, who didn't hear the cry for help, who made fun and teased those different from us. Thank you Brent for the courage it must have taken for you to write this extremely poignant novel of your life - the one you had and the one you wanted.
This book was very interesting. I bought it after I saw the author do an interview on tv. I read it in a day. It amazes what people will believe and follow, even if it doesn't make sense or hurts you. I understand that the children have no say but it would seem that the adults would know better. Sheep to slaughter. What this young man went through living with the FLDS, the burden of his last name and the trials he is still going though to overcome his past, shows how resilient a person can be. If you want into the mind and heart of an FLDS survivor, this is an amazing read.
loved the book.Sheds much light since there are very few men's stories involving Jeffs.
This book is both sad and informative. After having read this book and Escaped as well as Triumph, I have a better understanding of how things are or were for these poor people. That life is all they ever knew and how hard it was to learn that the outside world was not so bad.
This book really gives great insight into the FLDS. The things that happened to poor Brent leaves me without words. Exploring the difference of my religion with the FLDS is astonishing. Definitely a good read, but leaves me wondering how people can live like they do in the FLDS.
In the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), girls can become valuable property as plural wives but boys are expendable, even a liability. In this powerful and heartbreaking account, former FLDS member Brett Jeffs reveals both the terror and the love he experienced growing up on his prophet's compound - and the harsh exile existence that so many boys face once they're expelled from the sect.The most memorable FLDS member in current time is past leader Warren Jeffs who is now in prison for multiple offenses. Brett Jeffs is his nephew and could have grown up to have multiple wives and power within the church. After realizing that there were darker secrets behind the church's pious public image he walked away and was the first to file sexual abuse charges against his uncle.He shares the history of the Mormon church and startling details of his own life growing up in a polygamous family. He describes how harsh and isolated life was and the fact that his uncle, the prophet, maintained absolute power and could change the rules at will and often did. Their religion demanded complete obedience with no individuality and the reality of the outside world was distorted and viewed as evil. Since multiple wives are encouraged, young men are seen as competition and are often cast out unprepared for the real world. They frequently turn to drugs and alcohol and suffer emotional and psychological distress.Eventually Brent Jeffs left the church with his whole family, which was highly unusual, but continued to live a polygamous life. This is usually hard to do outside of the FLDS. Fortunately they had the love and support of each other, which is also unusual. Brett Jeffs repressed memories of his uncle molesting him and other boys ages 5-7, eventually led him to press charges against him. He tells of his own struggles into adulthood and what has become of him and his family members. He has also helped establish support for other lost boys so their own transition may be easier than his was.I was fascinated by the insight Brent Jeffs provided into the FLDS. It's sickening to realize how much power an individual can have over so many other lives and the corruption that was involved under the guise of religion and God. I'll be curious to see how these lost boys and others from the community will fare in the future. I hope that this man's courage will help them to all have an easier life. If this is a topic of interest I would highly recommend this book.Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for a copy of this book.
Last month when we were travelling to Arizona we stopped in Moab, Utah for a few nights of camping, and enjoyed the sunsets with a some beer, in this case, Polygamy Porter. Why have just one? The Lost Boy, Brent Jeffs, was raised in a family with three sister-mothers and twenty or so children. His grandfather was their powerful prophet, his uncle was the infamous Warren Jeffs, now serving jail time for accomplice to rape. Although Brent was led to believe that he was "in a chosen family in a chosen people" and would one day become a god himself, his story reveals "the shiny, smiling surfaces often hide a world of rot and pain."Brent tells his story simply, letting the facts speak for themselves. He tells about not only the darkness and injustices of life in this sect, but also about the happy times, few though they were. The members of this group are kept ignorant of much of the world, brainwashed by repetition of what they are expected to believe. Obedience is everything, and even faced with the reality of what they have endured, many cannot face the guilt associated with rebellion. Some women escape the group and many return, unable to assimilate to life in a world with which they are so unfamiliar. But many more boys leave the cult, since they are unnecessary. Do the math, plural wives mean a surplus of males. Their families are expected to shun them, and many do. The boys are left with no supports and in their exile often turn to drugs and alcohol. Brent's hope is to help these lost boys overcome the trauma of the harsh abuses they have suffered.The book is absorbing and easy to read, with Brent's adolescent voice organized by his co-writer's skill. Maia Szalavitz injects references to world events that help set the time line and attempts to build momentum with simple foreshadowing. They make a good writing pair. The publisher encourages us to watch footage on YouTube: search "Lost Boy by Brent Jeffs" and to visit Brent's Facebook page. Both are worthwhile.
Brent Jeffs gives a harrowing account of his experience growing up in and later leaving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). His recollection of events that took place in his polygamous family provided insight into some of the struggles a household with more than one wife/mother might face. Brent also explains why boys, even those from privileged FLDS families, are not guaranteed a spot in church leadership and that many are kicked out of the church and abandoned by their families only to become ¿lost boys.¿ Brent tells his story with the assistance of Maia Szalavitz, and her style makes the book compelling to read and easy to follow. At times the descriptions of Brent smoking ¿chronic¿ and listening to rap were hard to picture, but then again, much in the book was hard to imagine. The book was upsetting at times, but I was impressed by Brent Jeffs¿ bravery at facing a world that he was raised not to trust and ultimately seeking justice against those who wronged him.
There were a lot of great things about this book. First, Jeffs¿ story pulls you in from the beginning and the book is VERY hard to put down. His accounts of what life was like in the FLDS church were fascinating to read about, and even though I had already read these same types of stories from two other perspectives, both perspectives were female so it was very interesting to hear about his life as a child from a male¿s point of view. It was interesting to me that Jeffs questioned his family¿s lifestyle even as a child; since he had the benefit of a public school education for kindergarten he saw firsthand that his way of life was not exactly ¿normal¿ and so he started having independent thoughts about polygamy even as a little kid. I was also fascinated by the dynamics of his immediate family, which was his father, his mother, and his father¿s other two wives (one of whom was also his aunt/mother¿s sister). What was interesting was that since his parents had both been raised in the church, even Jeffs¿ mother was excited when the second wife (her sister) married his dad. Everyone in the family truly believed in the principle, even when things got incredibly tough between the sisters conflict-wise, Brent¿s mother always believed that they were doing the right thing in the eyes of God by practicing polygamy.Brent Jeffs¿ story is different from other polygamy memoirs because his family actually all left the church together. Technically, they were declared apostates and forced out, but when Jeffs left the church he took his parents, brothers, and sisters all with him, unlike most individuals who leave the church. This was interesting because even though his parents left the church, they still remained polygamous and their struggles living polygamy without the shelter of the FLDS were very interesting to read about. Another thing that was different about Jeffs¿ memoir was that he really ¿outed¿ Warren Jeffs, his uncle and prophet of the FLDS church for several years before finally being arrested and given a very long sentence last year. Warren Jeffs, in addition to his many crimes against the women and children in the FLDS, raped Brent Jeffs and many other boys for years when the boys were between the ages of five and seven. In fact, Brent along with two of his brothers had repressed these memories for years because of how painful they were. Brent himself didn¿t even recall the abuse until he was hypnotized in therapy as an adult. Brent and his brothers were the main force behind getting Warren Jeffs caught and captured. Because Jeffs¿ memoir is so new, there was a lot of information in the book about Warren Jeffs not previously revealed in other polygamy memoirs.One aspect of this book really fell short for me, I have to admit, and that is the quality of the writing. It seems that Jeffs had a co-writer, but even with her assistance, the book is not written all that well. Jeffs wrote in a very conversational style, which was nice when reading the book ¿ the reader really feels like he is telling him/her his story. But, it¿s almost TOO conversational ¿ some sentences don¿t make a lot of sense, there¿s a lot of slang and swear words, and tons of sentence fragments, run-on sentences, etc. Personally, I don¿t normally pay too much attention to writing style, but it was starting to get in the way of my enjoyment of the book in this case. I really feel bad for criticizing what was otherwise a pretty good book, but it stuck out so much to me that I feel compelled to mention it.Generally, if you are interested in polygamy (as I know MANY of you are!) Lost Boy is well worth the read. Brent Jeffs provides a new and interesting perspective to the story of the FLDS church and his story really needs to be heard. I¿m glad, for his sake and ours, that he had the opportunity to tell it.
I was pretty happy when I found out that I was being sent a copy of LOST BOY by Brent W. Jeffs with Maia Szalavitz as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewer Program. I am a regular viewer of the HBO series Big Love, and I'm strangely fascinated with the beliefs of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS.) I knew this book was going to be one of those tell-all books, but I had no idea just how amazing Brent Jeffs' story is.It's difficult to say that I could actually enjoy a book like this, so I'll say that I found it very interesting and almost unbelievable. When I use the term "unbelievable," I don't mean that I didn't find the book truthful; rather I am just blown away by Brent Jeffs' story. As I read this book, I was utterly disgusted by how much damage Warren Jeffs did to so many people. I almost hate to admit this, but one of the main reasons I wanted to read this book was to get details about Warren Jeffs. I'm not going to go into specifics here because I don't want to give away too much of Jeffs' story; however, suffice it to say, that the mental and physical abuse that took place in this church is horrific.I guess what amazed me most about this book was that ultimately, it wasn't just a sensationalized account of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. As sad as this book was (and it is very, very sad), I actually found this book to be uplifting. I have so much respect for Brent Jeffs. I am amazed by how he was able to work through his problems (unlike so many members of his family) and eventually find love and happiness. I can't imagine even surviving what Brent Jeffs went though, but that he was able to open up and share his story with so many others is remarkably brave to me. Even when he decided to go after Warren Jeffs, his motives were about saving others -- he didn't do it for financial gain.I also thought it was very interesting how the author portrayed his parents. Despite their questionable parenting skills, he shows them as loving parents who were caught up in a bad situation. It was clear that he has a good relationship with both of his parents and loves them despite their lack of support when he was young. He also showed how difficult the FLDS rules were for his parents to follow, and I eventually found myself feeling sorry for them (once I got over my anger for certain aspects of their behavior.) I think the love of his family and his respect for his parents helped him work through his abuse and start a new life.I was a little bit surprised that Brent Jeffs wrote this book with another author because at times, I didn't really think the writing was polished. I thought the first part of the book was much rougher than the second. I'm not sure if the writing detracted from my appreciation of the book because it read like Brent Jeffs was telling his story to me -- maybe that was the authors' and editors' intent. All I'm saying is that I was surprised to find that someone helped him write it.If your book club enjoys reading non-fiction or memoirs, then LOST BOY might be a good fit for your group. I was slightly surprised that there is a reading guide available for this book, but the more I think about it, the more I can see the value in discussing this book. I thought the discussion questions were very thought-provoking, and I think it would be very interesting to hear my friends' opinions on Brent Jeffs and his family. In fact, as I was reading this book, I kept telling my family and friends things that happened in this book because I so wanted to talk about it with someone!
Brent Jeffs was part of a family of polygamist royalty as the grandson of FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs. Unfortunately, this did not translate into an easy life. Brent's father Ward was the only one of Rulon's sons to go to Vietnam and he returned with PTSD. Add to this the fact that two of Ward's three sister-wives were actually sisters who had never gotten along and the third was a supremely messed up teenager who married him to get away from a controlling mother and didn't seem to know how to interact with other people, particularly children, and you can start to see why Brent's life may not have been very easy.However, things did not stop there. When Brent and some of his brothers were around 5 years old, they were molested by their uncle Warren Jeffs, the man who would later take over his father Rulon's position as FLDS prophet. Warren molested them only from about ages 5-7, but afterwards seemed determined to make life difficult for them - not a hard task since he was the principal of their school. This led Brent and many of his brothers, all of whom seem to have initially repressed these memories, to become rather troubled adolescents.This was a very interesting book. It seems that most books dealing with polygamy and FLDS explore the effect this life has on women. In "Lost Boy," we see the effect it can have both on the boys who are pushed out and the men who are more fully integrated into the polygamous adult male life style, like Brent's father. The writing isn't the best - there are far too many exclamation points! in some places - but it is serviceable. This is not the sort of book you read looking for lovely prose anyway, you read it to learn what is happening perhaps only miles from where you live. By that metric, I think this book succeeds. I found it to be an interesting and informative read, and one I would recommend to people interested in this topic.
I have always been fascinated with the FLDS church and polygamy. I have a lot of books on the subject but haven't made the time to read most of them yet. When I received Lost Boy to review from LibraryThing I was very excited.Jeffs story is fascinating. I was pulled into it right from the start and read the entire book in two sittings. The detail he provides along with all the colorful, and unbelievable, people in his life, make Lost Boy unforgettable. The story is told in almost a conversational tone, and while that worked great in some parts, in other parts in came of as unpolished. I was actually surprised that there was another author credited on Lost Boy with the informal feel of the book.If you are interested in polygamy or the FLDS Church I highly recommend Lost Boy.
More than anything else I have read about the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, this book gives you a real feeling of what it's like to grow up in the church - and later be kicked out of it. He had a lot of good times growing upad: his love for his brothers, the fishing trips with his father, big community events that brought out the best in their community. But there were also problems. How can there not be when one man is juggling three wives (two of whom are sisters who didn't get along when they lived at home, the third a teenager from a dysfunctional family), 20 kids and a demanding religion?To an outsider, the religion's tenets make it a prime target for abuse. The primary tenet of the religion is complete obedience. The Prophet can change the rules at will, because he receives instructions directly from God. Members are taught from childhood that everyone outside their religion is bad - evil, corrupt and untrustworthy - so they have little contact with the outside world. When you believe that one man holds the fate of your immortal soul, how do you turn away from him?The book is full of detail about their daily lives, something I often found missing in other books about the FLDS. What they wore, how they were educated, the logistics of such a large household and the crazy rules they lived by. They were taught, for example, that the Earth was made up of bits and pieces of previous worlds. Men who had married the at least 3 wives and were granted access to the celestial heaven would have their own planet, populated with their wives and children. Bits of these leftover worlds were used to make the Earth, so dinosaur bones were a relic of one of those other worlds, not something that walked on Earth, necessarily. No outsider would believe a story like that! But when it's all you've known, it probably seems more reasonable.Through the years, Brent Jeffs and his brothers have suffered for their parents' obedience. They were sexually abused by Warren Jeffs, aided by two of his brothers. They had problems with alcohol and drugs after being throw out of the church (their family was excommunicated because their father invited his eldest son back home after the death of his infant daughter). They had very little education, no idea of how to survive in the modern world and they were ill-equipped to make their own way. Brent Jeff's lawsuit, along with the claims of other Lost Boys. were instrumental in bringing some sort of justice to Warren Jeffs. Still, the book highlights just how difficult it is to break up this cult. It was not so long ago that authorities took mroe than 400 children from their families, in a move that was highly criticized. There is little doubt that these children are at risk for abuse, but how do you protect them when that abuse is a central part of their religious belief? The book is well-written and seems very clearly told in Brent's own words. He presents the whole story - black, white and chades of gray. The only thing I really missed was information about his sisters. He talks at length about his brothers and how they fared, but it made me wonder about the rest of his family.
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program and I continue to be fascinated by the books that are chosen to be sent to me. I have read numerous books over the years about both the FLDS and LDS, starting with Sonja Johnson's book over 20 years ago entitled, "From Housewife to Heretic". Even though I had this previous education, reading a book from the perspective of a male who was born into the "right" family was a real eye-opener and it left me wondering why none of the other memoirs I had read ever broached this issue. The actual "structure" of the writing seemed a little unfinished and I thought it could have used a bit more editing, but the story was compelling and I did not find myself disinterested in any portion of the telling of events. Neither was I surprised to hear of the broken lives that were left behind. I was a bit struck by the obvious admiration Brent had for his father and the lengths he went to in making sure we knew he was "above" many of the men who take on plural marriage, going into great detail about how long it took his father to "deflower" each new wife. Those parts made me wonder why he would have that knowledge and why it would figure as so central to the telling of the story. That being said, I'm sure that Brent found it cathartic to write this recounting of his life growing up in FDLS and I'm happy to have the opportunity to view it from another perspective.
I'm fascinated with cults, the FLDS, Mormons, and polygamy, so this memoir was right up my alley (and I should say I received this book as an Early Reviewer, and wonder how Abby can tailor the books we receive so well!). I've read about the FLDS from a woman's perspective (The 19th Wife, a novel; and Escape, another memoir), and a historical perspective (Jon Krakhauer's Under the Banner of Heaven), so it was interesting to read about it from a boy's perspective. The focal point of the book is the sexual abuse he suffered at age 5 from his uncle, who had become the new Prophet, and the process he went through in recovering this memory. The story is told simply, but engagingly, and moves fast (I got the feeling it was more of an "as told to" Maia Szalavitz, and that she was responsible for the organization and pace, though the cover just says it was written "with" her). The other thing that interested me was how many details of the story he tells appear in the HBO series Big Love!In retrospect, though, the simplicity of the writing style leaves me a little flat. It's brave of him to write this now, and he probably did because, with Warren Jeffs recently arrested, it's timely. But it lacks the perspective that transforms memoir from a recounting of fact to literary art.
I have read a few books about the brave people who have left the FLDS society, but Brent Jeffs' story is the first that I've heard from the male perspective. When I mentioned to a co-worker that I was reading this book, her reaction, as many have reacted was "Why would a man leave when he can have all those wives?" Jeffs paints the reader a picture as to why so many boys leave, either of their own choice or by the choice of others.One thing that I really liked about this story is that Jeffs is blunt and unapologetic. He has made some mistakes along the way, most notably his drug abuse, but while he could blame that on his upbringing and general confusion, he is instead very matter of fact about it, which I appreciated.He tells a fascinating tale, revealing even more about life in an FLDS compound. I will be passing my copy to a friend and recommending the book to many others, and recommend you do the same.
I really didn't like this book like I thought I would. It read like a textbook and I really didn't care for the writing style at all. As others have said, not sure who really wrote the book, Jeffs or Szalavitz.
Clear description of how the FLDS church works and why its people behave the way they do. But the book was marred by Brent Jeffs' eagerness to present himself as one who questioned the faith -- as a 6-year-old? -- and its flat tone made me reluctant to believe all he said.
Amazing look into the life of a former fundamental Mormon. I was amazed that this story occurred in contemporary times. Very good book.
This was a good book on the life of a boy in the Mormon Religion. I have read other books about the Mormon religion but always from a females perspective. It always amazes me how a few bad people can brainwash hundreds.
Brent Jeffs is part of a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) royal family. The FLDS is a splinter group that, decades ago, broke away from mainstream Mormonism over the issue of polygamy, and Brent¿s grandfather Rulon Jeffs became the church¿s prophet in 1986. His son (Brent¿s uncle), Warren Jeffs, an incredibly evil man who almost destroyed Brent¿s family, succeeded Rulon Jeffs in that all-powerful position. ¿Lost Boy¿ is Brent¿s eye-opening account of what it was like to grow up in that cult under the leadership of his uncle. Brent Jeffs was raised in a polygamous family, one that included three sister-wives and something like twenty brothers, sisters, half-brothers and half-sisters. His mother was the first to marry Brent¿s father but she eventually lost her family leadership role when a younger, more aggressive wife became her husband¿s favorite. That her husband¿s second wife was her own blood sister made the loss of stature and affection even more difficult for Brent¿s mother to accept. The second wife would be followed by a third, this time a sixteen-year-old, but his mother¿s younger sister would maintain her hold on Brent¿s father for years to come.Brent vividly describes the frustrations involved in growing up inside a polygamous family, the petty jealousies and rivalries between the wives and the children and the constant struggle to get the attention of a father who could not possibly pay adequate attention to the emotional needs of all of his children. It was this lack of parental awareness that allowed Warren Jeffs to get away with sexually abusing Brent and two of his older brothers when each was around the age of five. Warren Jeffs, during the period in which he abused the boys, was the most dangerous kind of pervert there is: a pervert with absolute power over his victims and their families. His power to excommunicate church members, a process in which they would lose their homes and their jobs before being forced to live in a world for which they were unprepared, made his crimes not only possible, but easy. The book¿s title, ¿Lost Boy,¿ refers to the several hundred teenage boys Warren Jeffs kicked out of the community because he saw them as rivals for the hands of their young female peers, girls and young women Warren and his followers wanted to add to their own collection of wives. Many of the excommunicated boys, such as Brent himself, turned to drugs and alcohol to survive the world into which they were suddenly tossed. Some of the least prepared, usually the ones with no family members already on the outside, were forced into male prostitution in order to survive on their own.Brent Jeffs, despite his tough transition, found the courage to confront his Uncle Warren Jeffs in a courtroom. He survived his early years, seems to be doing well these days, and ¿Lost Boy¿ is his very personal story of the horror he faced as a child. Surprisingly, however, the book is written in such a dry style that it is difficult to emotionally bond with the author despite his willingness to share his deepest secrets. The writing is straightforward to the degree that it becomes flat and somewhat repetitive at times, a tendency that slows down the pace at which one expects a story like this one to be told. But this is an important story and Brent Jeffs must be commended for having the courage, first, to stand up to the pervert who so deeply damaged him and his family and, second, to share his story with the rest of us. Rated at: 3.0