In his memoir, Lost Boy, Brent Jeffs depicts his experiences living among one of the most infamous religious cults in American history, the Fundamentalist church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Jeffs describes in full detail the quotidian of the devout life: dealing with a maniacal figurehead, religious ceremonies, family life, and their lasting effects.
On the home front, Jeffs details the struggle that he and his family would have to face throughout the religious part of their lives. Indeed, he remarks several times throughout the book that many people tend to think the Mormons have it right: more women for every man, how could that possibly be bad? But Jeffs details every last grueling facet of polygamous life. The larger the household, the more mouths to feed, the more clothes to buy, and the more angry everyone is for not having Dad’s attention.
Stress was further compounded as each wife (Jeffs’ father had three) desired attention (both literal and intimate) from him, but he was regularly unable to deliver. Any special attention paid to a particular wife lead to immediate jealous from another, any gifts seen as favoritism, and all of those consequences would be felt throughout the house. Mothers would take out their feelings on another’s birth children, or take out their feelings directly on Jeffs’ father. There were no winners in this game.
Church life was not much better for the family. A large amount of the FLDS congregation lived in a particular area of Colorado owned by a trust managed by the church patriarch. On the one hand, this meant cheep, if not free housing for church goers, on the other hand, the lack of property rights also became a source of worry, as Prophet Warren Jeffs would later demonstrate.
Using all of these power advantages, Warren Jeffs was able to commit numerous atrocities that his cult would be forced to tolerate. In the name of God, and for the sake of upholding the principle of polygamy, Warren regularly excommunicated members who had committed the most arbitrary of offenses. From his perspective, however, creating enough wives for every male put an enormous constraint on the male to female ratio. Thus, men and their sons were regularly expelled without the possibility of return (though still encouraged to donate in case they were permitted to return). Fathers and mothers regularly kicked out “misbehaving” sons from their house for fear that the consequences of not doing so would be greater.
In a humble display of honesty, Brent recalls the several occasions where Warren abused his priestly position to rape Brent. Being only five years old at the time, Brent also recollects the rape’s lasting influence. Throughout the latter part of his memoir, Brent describes the effect the rape had on his personal relationships, and the lives of his brothers (who also suffered sexual abuse at Warren’s hands). Jeffs reveals that, for at least two of his brothers, the abuse they suffered would eventually lead to their suicides. The age group Warren targeted allowed many of his victims to forget or repress the memories, and those who would remember had to keep quiet or risk detriment for their families.
The influence that Warren Jeffs had on his congregation was furthered by his absolute control over the whole enterprise. From property ownership, to a constructed culture of guilt, Warren could assert any law, however arbitrary, and trust that it would be carried out without contest. Those who would not obey would either be shamed into submission, or faced with the possibility of breaking up his/her family, being evicted from his/her property, or losing the respect of his/her entire community. Indeed, it is safe to say that Warren’s power was reaching.
In a fitting conclusion, Jeffs details the eventual downfall of his prophet. Caught in the midst of the debauchery he tried so hard to prevent in his congregation, Warren Jeffs was arrested, and forced to stand trial in a class-action lawsuit initiated by former members of his church. The Lost Boys, as they are known, had their moment of revenge as Jeffs was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison for his abuses. Warren Jeffs, prophet of god, was broken by the law of the infidels he tried so hard to de-legitimize.
Brent Jeffs concludes his work on a happier note as a champion of circumstance. Though having suffered enormous losses from his religious upbringing, he has managed to make a life for himself on the other side. Jeffs describes how his wife Jody helped him through one of the rougher parts of his life, and how, without her influence, he may have followed the path of his brothers, taking his own life. Instead, Jeffs played an integral role in bringing the false prophet, Warren Jeffs to justice. Brent Jeffs is now the head of his own, monogamous and loving family.