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God's Brothel: The Extortion of Sex for Salvation in Contemporary Mormon and Christian Fundamentalist Polygamy and the Stories of 18 Women Who Escaped Paperback – June 1, 2004
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"'Not a single woman I've ever known is happy,' one polygamous wife says. Reading 'God's Brothel,' you'll understand why." -- Denver Post, August 15, 2004
"... a stinging indictment of the hidden practice of polygamy, in which patriarchy reaches an almost unfathomable extreme." -- Patricia Ireland, former president of the NOW
"As God's Brothel makes clear, fundamentalist Mormon polygamy can lead to pedophilia, rape, domestic violence... incest and welfare fraud." -- Editorial, Salt Lake Tribune, August 15, 2004
"Reading [these stories] I felt like a curious spectator to a gruesome accident." -- Fred Silverstein, former producer, CNN, CNBC
"[An] illuminating new book..." -- CNN.com, August 1, 2004
From the Publisher
Until I received the manuscript for Gods Brothel, I had given little thought to polygamy, even though I had grown up in Utah and attended school with the children of polygamists. I thought, "Whatever. They dont seem to be hurting anyone."
Gods Brothel changed my view entirely, with its reports of the women who escaped from polygamist groups and several independent families. The book describes a patriarchal world where girls from a very young age are treated as sexual objects and denied an education. Sexual abuse and coercion are at the core of these chilling accounts of Christian and Mormon fundamentalist polygamy.
The womens stories told in Gods Brothel offer a rare insight into the complexities of polygamy in the United States. The book debunks any idea that polygamy as practiced in the U.S. is a "quaint lifestyle choice," or that the instances of abuse are rare.
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If I had any criticism of this book it would be of the cover design, with the small girl in a short white dress. It does not represent polygamy as I understand it.
The author discloses a map showing Mormons and Christian fundamentalist polygamist communities spread all over the U.S. and Mexico. Some members live in major cities besides Salt Lake City such as Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Sacramento. Fundamentalists LDS (Mormons following the original scriptures of Joseph Smith) are fragmented among tens of groups. Those groups split apart to create new groups in other areas. They are lead by self appointed leaders who claim being direct descendents of either Joseph Smith or Jesus.
These self-proclaimed prophets are delusional. They rewrite the history of the world to fit their mad self glorification (pg 157). They have apocalyptic visions of the return of Christ. Some proclaim communicating with beings from other planets (pg 156). Others lead anti-government militia and believe the government controls the weather (pg. 169). A few have been arrested and placed in azylum.
Groups splitting results from rivalries. A rival breaks away from a group to start his own, declares himself a prophet. The splitting gets violent with killings under the guise of religious "blood atonement." Such killings are also aimed at members trying to escape.
The author suggests that the ills of fundamentalist polygamy emanate from Joseph Smith scriptures. She quotes his `Doctrine and Covenants': "And if he have ten virgins..., he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him,... if one... of the ten virgins..., shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed..." Those words engendered communities that both the author and Jon Krakauer compare to the Taliban.
The author covers the history of the Mormon Church and how mainstream Mormons renounced polygamy only under military attacks from the Feds. To this day she indicates that in Utah State and police authorities make efforts to avoid prosecuting polygamy and related crimes (child molesting and rape, etc...). As polygamists referring to Utah authorities say "That prosecution dog don't hunt."
Such communities are disasters for males too. If the average male has 5 wives, this means 80% of the males are ousted to maintain this unnatural 5-to-1 female/male multiple. What happens to the 80% of males? The author states on page 50 "they are driven away... [or] stay to become worker bees ... or they die mysteriously." On page 181, she reiterates how they die mysteriously of car accidents on rural roads with no traffic.
Such societies are disasters for children. They are deprived from descent education, nutrition, and parenting. They are exploited as child labor to work for free for the businesses managed by those communities. The level of child abuse, beating, molestation, pedophilia, sodomy of young boys, and rape is sickening. On pg. 171: "My father began raping me when I was eight years old. My mother sexually abused all of us..." Herpes among very young children related to sexual abuse is common. Girls as young as nine are ordered to marry relatives sometimes in their fifties. They bear children soon after risking their own lives in the process. They never receive adequate medical care. They are taken out of school at a young age to ensure their total economic dependence.
From a genetic standpoint, this lifestyle is insane. The level of in-breeding through inter-marriages is unprecedented in the U.S. The rate of Down syndrome, autism, dwarfism, and deformities in many of those communities is sky high. Down Syndrome is hoped for by expectant parents because such individuals are compliant and bring in larger government benefits (pg. 173). Community leaders attribute those deformities as God's punishments to wives that have not been subservient. They don't know that procreating through incest, uncle and nieces, and brothers and sisters is not good.
The health of women is entirely subjugated to procreation. Women are ordered to produce a child per year regardless of their health condition. Women often have more than 10 children with little means to support any. On page 126, a testimonial describes a woman dying of brain cancer who gave birth against the advice of the doctors. She died during childbirth. Child birth is undertaken without any descent health care support. On page 136: "Brenda's pregnancy ended in miscarriage, and she hemorrhaged for four hours with out any medical attention." Treatment of women amounts to persecution (pg. 163: `Her husband had mutilated her genitals ... with fishing wire.'
From an economic standpoint, those communities are failures. They live in some form of totalitarian communism whereby all economic resources and assets are owned by the Church. The individual laborers (mainly wives and children) keep nothing. Economic subsistence is solely reliant on State and Federal subsidies. Those communities are all adept in extracting the maximum government benefits totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And, they are proud of this feat. They call it "bleeding the beast" as an effort to bring the government down.
The testimonials of the 18 women who survived polygamy are nauseating. This passage comes to mind: `When Laura was four, one of her stepbrothers tied her to a bedpost and attempted to rape her... After I was crying, my father told me he would slap me until I stopped crying, which he proceeded to do... My mother made herself busy in the kitchen so she wouldn't have to watch." Another passage: `on her 16th birthday, her father took her for a ride in his Cadillac because it was time for her "Sexuality Lesson."
The book gives you much more in depth info that I don't come close to cover. This is an important book to read for anyone interested on the subject.
went on to form offshoots of the LDS Church.
God's Brothel is not a bad book but it's not a great one either. It attempts to give some background on some of the fundamentalist churches, the psychology of why these women stay and also includes a few personal stories of women who have left their respective churches. My biggest problem with the book is that it feels like the author was trying to fill up space with big print and many wasted pages with forwards and introductions and not enough content. There was so much more to say and the personal stories and background infomration could have had a little more depth.
There are much better books out there that give a personal viewpoint of what it's like to live (and leave) polygamy such as "Escape" by Carolyn Jessup who really explains why women just don't leave. Another good one is "His Favorite Wife" by Susan Ray. Again, this is not a bad book but kind of like a Reader's Digest version of the subject matter. It's not worth the money.