When Men Become Gods by Stephen Singular

when-men-become-godsI spent my internship at a local newspaper around the same time the raid at Yearning For Zion Ranch was conducted, so I was intrigued to learn more about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and their practice of polygamy.

I’ve seen a couple episodes of “Big Love,” but I doubted Hollywood’s interpretation would be completely accurate, so I was pretty excited to see Singular’s book, subtitled “Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back”, on the current collection self of my local library.

When Men Become Gods starts out giving a brief history of the FLDS, with a heavy emphasis on Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah, which originally was one large city called Short Creek or “Short Crick” or “The Crick.” The title is derived from Joseph Smith’s divine revelation on polygamy, or “Celestial Marriage.”

“Celestial Marriage and a continuation of the family unit enable men to become gods…For behold, I reveal unto you a new and everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then ye are damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory…And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore he is justified.” (pg. 11)

The book goes onto detail the rise of Warren Jeffs, the so-called prophet of the FLDS Church {He later says he is not the prophet, which shot his legal defense in the foot.} For what I know about Jeffs, it appears that Singular completed a lot of research to aid him in writing how Jeff came into power within the FLDS, a difficult task since the church was originally run by a council of seven men, in addition to the prophet, that he forces down to just one. Jeffs comes to control the followers through scare tactics, which gave rise to the “Lost Boys,” adolescent boys kicked out of the church to less competition for teenage bride.

“Warren taught us to have nothing to do with those who’d been banned from the church, but the worst thing he did was create a huge chasm between parents and their children. He knew exactly had to do this. When he began throwing teenagers out of the FLDS, it made kids hate their parents for listening to Warren, and it made parents hate their kids for doing things to get kicked out. This went right to the heart of the parent-child relationship. When you tell a mother she can’t talk to her child anymore, how much more manipulative can you get?” (pg. 109)

In addition, When Men Become Gods details how FLDS members who escaped helped authorities build their case against Jeffs. Singular also did a good job highlight all the people involved, from former members to good Samaritans who began investigating the group on their own, in bring down Warren Jeffs, but so little attention is give to each one that they all start to muddle together after  while. And, after a while, the information becomes really repetitive because he’s trying to tell the story from every person involved.

Probably the most interesting part was how often the national and state governments turned a blind eye to the FLDS, which made the community like its own separate nation. The local police, government and the school board were all under their control of Jeffs, which allowed them to get away with rape, incest, polygamy, and mental and emotional abuse.

“Further, though it was illegal to practice polygamy in Utah, nearly every politician in the state had ancestors or relatives who’d done preciously that. If anyone made too much fuss about reforming he FLDS, somebody was sure to point ou that the critic’s father or grandfather or great-grandfather had married a score of Mormon women and sired two or three dozen children. Why bother taking the political risk?” (pg. 17)

The writing is chalked full of legal jargon, which can make When Men Become Gods a pretty slow read. But, for the most part, it’s interesting and gives a clear cut picture of Warren Jeffs and the FLDS church.

Book Mentioned:

  • Singular, Stephen. When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2008. Print. 294 pgs. ISBN: 9780312372484. Source: Library.
Book Cover © St. Martin’s Press. Retrieved: January 3, 2009.
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