Here’s a reposted exmo lit review for those who like that sort of thing. It’s yet another review of a book I enjoyed and don’t want to have to review again. It was originally written for Epinions.com in November 2012 and appears here “as/is”.
I have been interested in reading about the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) for several years, even before the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas was raided in the spring of 2008. My fascination with fundamentalist Mormonism comes from being married to an ex Mormon. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) does not claim any kinship with the FLDS sect, which parted ways with the LDS church mainly over the issue of polygamy. They are separate entities, with the FLDS sect mainly operating in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. Other branches are located in Texas, Mexico, and Canada.
Having already read Jon Krakauer’s book, Under the Banner of Heaven, I was intrigued when I saw that he had collaborated with author Sam Brower in writing the 2011 book Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints. I knew if Krakauer had anything to do with the book, it would be well-researched and well-written. So I ordered it for my Kindle. A printed version is also available.
Sam Brower is a private investigator and Mormon convert who moved to Utah after having lived in southern California for many years. He got involved with investigating the FLDS sect in 2004, when a family asked for his help in extricating themselves from the FLDS. He accepted a payment of one dollar, which he, in fact, had to loan to the family because they were too poor to pay him. When they became his paying clients, Brower was able to work on his clients’ behalf. That’s when he began to uncover Warren Jeffs’ amazing fiefdom which had been allowed to exist largely unmolested in Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Colorado.
Brower became familiar with the people involved in fundamentalist Mormonism and had his eyes opened to the extreme control Warren Jeffs, the so-called FLDS living prophet, maintained over his flock. He learned of girls as young as twelve being “married” to men in their 40s, even though these men already had other wives. Brower writes of how members of the FLDS were compelled to do whatever Warren Jeffs demanded of them, lest they lose everything. Jeffs was unconcerned about and unconstrained by federal law. He ran his compound as if it existed entirely seperate from the rest of the United States. Over seven years, Sam Brower learned about it all and wrote about his experiences in a comprehensive and well-written account.
I have read several books about Mormon fundamentalists, so I was already familiar with some of the sects’ practices and beliefs. Nevetheless, it was interesting to read Sam Brower’s account of following the FLDS. He writes in a personal tone which comes across as both matter-of-fact and occasionally disgusted. I was definitely interested when he wrote about some of the techniques he used to get information and stop FLDS people from harassing him as he went about his duties.
Sam Brower is clearly no friend to Jeffs. He writes in vivid detail about watching Jeffs being loaded onto an airplane in Utah, escorted by Texas Rangers on his way to Texas, where he would stand trial for raping minors. Jeffs is described as a bit of a nerdy pipsqueak, and yet he was able to command his followers to do his bidding. I had a hard time reading some of the chapters, especially the one that had to do with Jeffs’ declaration that no FLDS family should own a pet dog and the ones having to do with young girls being forced to marry middle aged or even elderly men.
Brower includes commentary about the raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch as well as the court case that followed the raid. He writes about the incredibly incestuous nature of FLDS families, many of whom are intermarried and interbred. Brower explains how the children, particularly the young mothers, who were taken from the ranch made it very difficult for investigators to figure out exactly what was going on. He also writes a great deal about the way members of the FLDS sect use government programs and funding to expand their empire. And he makes it clear that this sect has been allowed to do these things unbothered for many years– in part, because in Utah, there are many people who are related to FLDS members and are ambivalent about prosecuting them for breaking laws related to polygamy. Brower also includes photos, which were clear as a bell on my iPad.
If you’re curious about the FLDS sect and want to know more about Warren Jeffs and his followers, I think Prophet’s Prey is an excellent book to read. Brower is a good writer and has the backing of Jon Krakauer, who is also an excellent writer. This book held my intention and informed me. I think it rates five stars.
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