Daddy's Girls

If you want to understand how on earth all those women in the FLDS community near Eldorado, Texas can tolerate early marriages and the threat of losing their children—if not to the state, then to Warren Jeffs and other "priesthood leaders"—you might want to read Elissa Wall's book, Stolen Innocence. As she tells the story of how Warren Jeffs and her "reassigned father" Fred Jessop forced her into marriage/rape by her first cousin/ husband, I'm reminded of the fundamentalist reality: patriarchs expect that their children will never grow up. Girls move from their father's house to their husband's house without ever being on their own. Always, the patriarch is in charge, with the "prophet" overseeing everything and making all the decisions.

Most girls never really become women. Oh, they start their periods, and they develop breasts and they have babies. But they don't become women in the sense of taking responsibility for their lives, or making decisions or creating what they want and need to live happily.

Elissa's mother, Sharon, started as a dutiful daughter whose father made most of her life decisions. He, of course, submitted to his own "priesthood head"--the voice of the "prophet" of the FLDS group, who could overrule any decision made by any member of the religious sect. When Sharon married "Doug" Wall, she invested all her decision-making power in him, but once again, the "prophet" could overrule her husband.

The "prophet" took Sharon and her children away from her husband, "reassigning" her to a much older husband who would bring her children "back in line." One by one she lost each of her sons who left willingly or were run off by church elders in behalf of the "prophet." Horrified that her fourteen-year-old daughter, Elissa, had been assigned to marry a first cousin and one she despised, Sharon spoke to the "prophet," but that's as far as she went. She made the wedding dress, decorated the cake, put cookies on the wedding bed. Elissa was faced with being turned out into "the wicked world" or going through with the unwholesome marriage. Before long, Elissa grew up, if that's what losing innocence means.

I remember my own mother referring to herself and my father's other wives as "Daddy's girls." I suppose one reason I had to leave polygamy was that I reached a point where I stopped being one of my father's "girls" and became my own woman.

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