In Elissa Wall's new tell-all book, "Stolen Innocence," we learn, among other things, that polygamists spell dysfunction just like the rest of us, only with a capital D.
Elissa is the FLDS child-bride whose testimony sent FLDS leader Warren Jeffs to two consecutive five-years-to-life prison terms on accomplice-to-rape charges. In her book, written with New York freelance writer Lisa Pulitzer, she not only provides details of the why and how Jeffs got convicted, but gives us an insider's tour through the mostly walled-off world of plural marriage.
And if you think things can sometimes get upside down in a normal monogamous family, try multiplying that by a power of x multiple wives.
For Elissa's family, it all started when Doug Wall, a native of central Utah and a football player at BYU, got married, joined the FLDS, and then got married again ... and again.
In the summer of 1986, he had Elissa, one of 24 offspring he would produce, with his second wife, Sharon, and for a time everybody lived in Salt Lake City, where they were the biggest family on the block until the wives didn't get along and Doug had to travel a lot to keep everyone fed and some of the kids started acting out and all of that conspired to have Doug's priesthood taken away by the church leaders because he "couldn't control his family."
After that it went from bad to worse to real bad until Elissa's mother and her respective children were ordered to the FLDS compound in southern Utah, where they were grafted into a whole new family headed by Fred Jessop, aka Uncle Fred.
It was Uncle Fred, Elissa's newly appointed father, who "placed" her to be married to her 19-year-old first cousin, Allen Steed, three months before Elissa turned 15.
Remember Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in "War of the Roses?" A model marriage, by comparison.
For two years, Elissa dodged Allen the best she could, when she wasn't insulting him and he wasn't abusing her, until she got pregnant by another FLDS man, was taken away from Allen, left the faith, was banned and shunned by those in the church fold, including her mother, got married to the father of her child, cut her hair, filed civil and criminal charges against Warren Jeffs for making her marry her cousin when she was 14, and wrote her book.
In the interim, she also turned 21.
I didn't make any of this up. Unfortunately, I don't think Elissa did, either.
Exactly nobody looks good in this story, especially Elissa, who blames, in essence, almost everyone in the controlling culture she was born into for her troubles but stops short of ever blaming the three people who could have made a difference: her mother, her father and herself.
Today, they are three people living apart and estranged one of them still among the "faithful," one on the border and one on the outs while the leader of the church and lifestyle that got them that way is a convicted rape accomplice languishing in prison.Small wonder "Stolen Innocence" has vaulted to No. 6 on the New York Times best-seller list in just two weeks. Nothing sells like conflict.
Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.