Flora Jessop was born into, indoctrinated and abused by, then ran like hell from the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a Christian cult with large, isolated compounds in Utah, Arizona and Texas, USA and British Columbia, Canada. The church’s president and so-called “prophet,” Warren Jeffs, is currently in prison for raping girls and other crimes. He hand picked young girls to “teach” them about sex by raping them, taking them as a wife and/or passing them on to his pedophile buddies as a reward for their loyalty. Warren would also rip wives away from their husbands to punish “disobedient” men and pass the women on to “more deserving” men.
FLDS practices polygamy (also known as celestial and plural marriages) and it is common for these men to have many wives, sometimes more than 50 (such astronomical wife numbers were only among the most privileged of Warren’s buddies, and he of course had the most). It is also common for the men to marry/rape girls in the same age range as their own granddaughters. Boys are kicked out of the church and community, left to fend for themselves when they’re as young as 12 because they are seen as a threat to the old patriarchs of the religion who rape and trade young girls like baseball cards. A teenage girl and boy falling in love or even crushing on eachother is unacceptable, and same-sex love? Forget about it.
“Stay sweet” or “Keeping Sweet” is a term FLDS preaches to and demands of girls and women. It means that females must be completely submissive and obedient to their “prophet” (Warren Jeffs), their fathers and their husbands. If you can stomach it, here’s a glimpse into the dis-eased mind/religion of Warren Jeffs where he instructs girls about sex and wifely behavior in this audio clip and this one. The below video/audio clip is of Warren Jeffs instructing girls and boys about marriage, how girls can be worthy of marrying a prophet, and other fantastically absurd and disturbing teachings. These examples serve as snapshots of FLDS’ grooming process in action that systematically mines (and dulls) minds and eats the Spirits of innocent boys and girls:
Flora Jessop was a girl when she was raped by her father, Joe C. Jessop and then punished over the years for acting out the deep despair, distress and harm that his betrayal caused her. When forced to marry as a teenager, Flora bravely escaped the church’s clutches and ran away, and for the last 20+ years she has been putting all her time, energy and resources into helping other FLDS members wanting to escape the community. Sometimes the escapes work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it takes more than one try. The pull and pressure to go back is a strong one, for no matter how horrible one’s environment is, it is hard to leave everything and everyone that you know, especially a community as insulated as the FLDS. Complicating this is the lack of education FLDS members have because they are pulled out of school at young ages and the only education they get are the non-sensical and damaging religious teachings. Escape is no easy feat because the policing of members is a violent and vigilant affair, with escapees having gone “missing” or else locked away for long periods of time for punishment and “re-teaching” of the religion. “The Law” cannot be counted on to help with escape OR stop abuse because some of the police officers are FLDS members themselves, so successful escapes are usually done underground.
To undertake an escape from such starkly oppressive and abusive conditions and barriers is an act of fierce courage and Flora Jessop is a real hero for doing it. She took her terrible childhood experience and made it her life work to save and protect others living in the same despair she was trapped in as a girl. In her book, she explains:
[I was] a child with no way to protect herself and no one to help. I know many good people who live polygamy, but I know none who live polygamy and are happy. I also come from the inside where the protection of the predators is the norm and shunning, shaming, and abusing the victims is common. This abuse of the victims continues today against those who have broken away, only wanting to be free and loved without the conditions imposed by the doctrines of polygamy.
I never wanted conflict; I only ever wanted to be free. For those born into the FLDS, freedom comes at a very high price, staying comes even higher. If I am a hero, maybe it’s because I just didn’t know what else to do. Or maybe it’s because every time I can play a part in saving a child or a woman from a life of servitude and degradation, I’m saving a little piece of me, too.
Thank you so much Flora for speaking for the voiceless and protecting the innocent, you are a real inspiration! There is a real cost and risk that comes with your work but your passion and determination far exceed the pressure from the abusers and their silencing and smear-campaigning tactics (which don’t work!). Please keep doing what you do Flora, you are helping, liberating and inspiring people and are the wind beneath my wings!