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on September 13, 2013
***If you don't already know the story--then this review contains the basic plot spoilers. Also, as of November 22, one of Rebecca's brothers has made some mildly inflammatory comments about this book in a short ebook. Short story--it's sensationalism without any substance over minor details and reads like that of a jealous family member angry at the way he was portrayed. Don't bother purchasing it (for anyone interested--I wrote a detailed review of it)***

First things first. This book is not an attack against Mormons, God or even polygamy. And neither is this review. It makes clear distinctions about why the type of FLDS that Warren Jeffs was leading was in fact very different from both Mormonism as well as other forms of Christianity. If I recall--not once does Rebecca even use the word cult--but for the purposes of this review, I am going to. In my opinion, whether it's under the guise of religion or helter skelter--when you have a population of people who are both terrified of as well as essentially worship a singular leader, cut off from the rest of the world, indoctrinated from birth, driving out all those who dare to question, and most importantly creating a system of that greatly disadvantages and mentally stunts a portion of the population so that they are easier to control--that is in fact a cult.

I rarely read books like these (although I did greatly enjoy the Susan Atkins' autobiography), but every once in a while I come across a news story that just captures my imagination. I remember seeing news articles when Jeffs was arrested where there was just a lot of controversy about whether or not Jeffs and his congregation of FLDS members were just misunderstood or whether they were in fact criminals. Eventually, during his trial--more evidence came to light that Jeffs was in fact a serial pedophile and abuser not to mention was a total con artist concerning his "religion". Jeffs would preach about abstaining from "worldly sins" but then would use the substantial tithe money to live the very type of life that he preached against. Enough tales of 12 year old brides, rape and systemic corruption emerged that I think eventually the media finally came around to the side of the prosecutors--but some still made the case that Jeffs and his members should have just been left alone.

I dare anyone who thinks that to read this book. It's clear that even the prison terms that Jeffs and several high ranking members received was only just the tip of the iceberg. This book is positively heartbreaking. Told through the eyes of Rebecca Musser, this books gives a gripping perspective into the tragedy of the Warren Jeffs era FLDS.

Rebecca starts with her traumatic childhood of her siblings and mother forced to live in a dark basement and abused by her father's first wife. The physical and emotional trauma she received in this house was in no way merely a form of physical discipline. This was not spanking a child carefully--this was full on bloody beatings from the first wife to the point of organ failure in the case of one of her beloved brothers, sexual molestation from a half brother, and grievous mental and emotional abuse. Rebecca makes it clear though, that at least in her mind---she viewed this as unusual and not the norm for all polygamous families. She makes it clear that child abuse is not a necessary byproduct of bigamy--though she did see reoccurring jealousy leading to violence or passive forms of aggression repeatedly in in first/second/third/etc... wife relationships.

Something that was surprising to me though, was the realization that the FLDS movement was much more like the Amish than cult like towards the beginning of the book. While I would disagree with many if not all of their views, the FLDS church was not always synonymous with human trafficking and child rape. It seems it used to have a more democratic (though barely) structure not to mention didn't seek to wholly cut off their children from the outside world. Rebecca even attended a normal school up until somewhere in elementary I believe. Unlike many in the church, her father was a highly educated engineer who clearly passed on his mental acuity and passion for knowledge to Rebecca. It seems things honestly didn't reach the point of outright major law breaking (for the greater organization--certainly Rebecca and her siblings would have all been taken away and her parents put in jail if authorities were aware of the child abuse) until maybe the late 90s early 00s.

What changed things was Warren Jeffs. He had taken over the "school" system and little by little chipped away at whatever real knowledge these kids had and replaced it with a systematic indoctrination of both the church, himself, "sexual purity"/total submission of women and how evil the rest of the "Gentile" world was. When his father (the revered yet lecherous Prophet who Rebecca was married off to at 19 and he 85) became sick, he took over the main religious not to mention purse strings of the cult. When his father died, Jeffs began a systematic purge of all those who opposed him as well as rewarding young and younger girls as wives to those who backed his rise to power. When Jeffs started to pressure the sister wives of his father--specifically Rebecca--into marrying him, this was the moment when Rebecca found the courage to escape the compound as she was absolutely sickened and terrified of Jeffs.

In the time Rebecca left and the time Jeffs was finally arrested--it's clear that things just got worse. Just because these young brides weren't chained physically, they might as well have been. When you have virtually zero education, poor communication skills and own zero property to your name, you really don't have a choice. It's either leave (provided you aren't dragged back like many girls were) or marry. Neither of which is a fair choice. And many boys were also either raped or sent off to work in almost chain gain like conditions for various construction FLDS owned companies if they showed the slightest sign of mere hesitation or rebellion.

As she became increasingly aware of just how great some of the lies told to her were, not to mention broken over the unknown fates of her biological younger sisters--she began a relentless yet cautious effort to locate her littlest sisters who she was concerned had been forced into marriage. Eventually, as the federal and state governments began to make a case against Jeffs and senior members of the church--they called upon Rebecca to help them. At great emotional and psychological harm to herself and her marriage, Rebecca slowly started helping the authorities build a case against these members. Eventually, she became the star and fearless witness in a series of trials which eventually ended up in prison sentences for Jeffs and other members. She symbolically wore red during her testimony in Jeffs trial, a moment of defiance as Jeffs had banned the color red from ever being worn in the FLDS church.

While emotionally difficult to read, I do want to make it clear that this book was incredibly riveting. I knew the ending, I knew Rebecca had survived, I knew Jeffs was arrested and sentenced to life--and yet this was genuinely more tense and gripping than several thrillers I've read recently. All credit to Rebecca as well as Bridget Cook (co-author) for masterful storytelling.

Part of what made this book so powerful to me is that it's not a rant. It's not a pity party. It's not even about how heroic Rebecca was--which she unquestionably was. It's clear the journey Rebecca went through was gradual and that she often felt hopelessly alone and not in control. And yet, with each little decision she made--she got one step closer and closer to not just freedom for herself but many of her siblings and others. Her steely determination and self respect is what saved her. And that's an incredibly empowering message.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone simply curious about the history and insight into the world of the Jeffs era FLDS, as well as young girls. One of the many powerful ideas from this book that has really stuck with me--is that Rebecca didn't know she had the choice to respect herself. She had been taught that she was nothing except a body in which to sexually and otherwise serve the whims of the men in charge. And it was the moment that she realized that she was special that she was able to start questioning what she saw around her.

Emotional, visceral, enlightening and riveting--this book can help you see the world a little bit clearer. Highly recommend.

*********Promised myself I wasn't going to write any more--but ended up buying and reading the book by Rebecca's little sister Elissa who had been married off at 14 to a first cousin and repeatedly raped. I don't want to take anything away from her story--but the perspective here is wholly different. Elissa was a kid and relaid her story through the eyes of a kid--and tho Rebecca wasn't much older, she had much more knowledge and an awareness of what was actually happening due to her status as the elder Prophet's wife. Honestly, Rebecca is also simply a much better writer. Essentially, this book is much more detailed and provides a better perspective of the entire FLDS situation.
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on February 3, 2016
This book touches the heart. It’s hard to wrap your mind around all the complexities Rebecca Musser endured growing up in the fundamentalist LDS church (FLDS). Noble ideals, like faith and endurance, are hopelessly entangled in a web of human faults of the darkest kind. Years of indoctrination in the FLDS faith prepare women to accept subjugation of every kind. Teenage Rebecca is forced to become the nineteenth wife of the eighty-five-year-old prophet of the FLDS church. At his death, given no other option but to marry again, Rebecca knows the time has come to leave.

Though she escapes, Rebecca carries heavy burdens. Her younger sisters, open to exploitation, are never far from her thoughts. Knowing those left behind are being beaten and assaulted, Rebecca makes a decision that will forever change the lives of everyone she’s known and loved. She takes the stand to testify against the men who have subjected those she loves. In that decision, she is forever changed.

I read The Witness Wore Red because I have deep respect for Bridget Cook, who worked with Rebecca to bring this book to life. They present this world like none else can. Reading this book is a transformative experience, promoting a deeper understanding of the world we live in and our power to change it.
--Kate Calina
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on March 15, 2014
I read "Stolen Innocence" by Elissa Walls, and at the end of that book, I felt like there was more to the story and was hungry to fill in the gaps. So I was thrilled to realize that Elissa's older sister also released a book, and immediately purchased it. I am so glad that I did, because this is the natural follow-up to Elissa's story and it answers so many questions raised in her book.

Read together, Elissa and Rebecca's stories tell a horrifying and harrowing account of life within the FLDS Church. While Elissa's story focuses on the gut-wrenching emotional and moral turmoil within the church, Rebecca's story fills it in with important insider's information of the FLDS Church. Through Rebecca, we learn about the twisted politics and rationales behind the decisions that so dramatically impacted Elissa's life. Rebecca's story is refined, engaging, and honest. It has a much larger scope than "Stolen Innocence" did, and I couldn't put it down. I applaud this remarkable, brave woman for publishing her story and exposing the corrupt and power-hungry leaders of this cult.
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on November 4, 2013
Audio version read by the author and the former FLDS wife to the FDLS "Prophet"--leader of the supposedly religious sect, which seems nothing more than a cult, with people following blindly. This is not the Mormon LDS church and religion we know. It's an offshoot of zealots following their own brand of religion for their own reasons, nothing to do with God and goodness.

Rebecca got out, and I admire her courage and convictions for doing so, and even more for the backbone it took to keep going after the FDLS to change the appalling practices. She helped criminally prosecute the leaders and perpetrators. She tells her own story. From her story you can surmise that the higher ranking FLDS men and the "Prophet" --the leader of the "cult" --that women and girls were nothing. They were there to perform labor, keep the higher men of power happy thru sex and reproduction, and being subservient and ignorant, blindly forever. And many stayed that way. Some of them should have known better, the sheep leading the sheep. Others were born into it, and became a product of their environment and never knew different.

Boys got the short stick too, because the FLDS leaders--men--picked the wives they wanted and married so many, I don't know how there were ever enough to go around to all the males. The Jessops--Willy Jessop particularly, but another clan of this sect's "church" leaders--procreated children with IQs of 25 or less, from limiting their gene pool to their own flawed genes. Willy Jessop and Warren Jeffs ...or his father Rulan--were not nice in any sense. It did not start when Warren took over, it just worsened.

Rape, incest, polygamy, and turning out young boys with no where to go, were all common. Many women and men and parents blindly followed ridiculous teachings for the promise of eternity in the afterlife with their Proffet. Jeffs and his father had close to a hundred wives.

I found the media stories back then horrific, and the book gives even more candid views. It's sickening and a gross misuse of power in the name of a false God. I don't think they should have been left alone, the world was entirely too passive. Adults had a choice, the children do not. These people were brought up to be passive sheep.

Rebecca is articulate. The book is a bit drawn out, but it's a well told compelling story. I'm not Mormon, or particularly religious. But the book gave a good overview of the FLDS lifestyle and the people good and bad who followed this warped "faith". I'm not sure I could have done what Rebecca did--in her relentless support of Warren Jeffs' criminal proceedings over the years. I'm glad she was strong enough to get out, and to make a new life for herself.
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on March 19, 2014
A look around the world at the conclusion of this fantastic read lands me squarely in the heart of Saudi Arabia. How so you say? Where else outside of the FLDS do you find ,in this modern world, a parallel universe where little girls (pre-pubescent) are traded among men of all ages like brightly colored marbles? A secretive world where institutions write ,teach, and print fantastic fictional history's including angel's speaking to men in caves and on mountain tops. These are largely desert kingdoms where fantastic wealth: black gold, Texas tea, sand dollars, turn to greenbacks, rubles, riyals, instantly digitized and flashed into hiding across continents. It is said that sunlight is the best disinfectant, these lands are subsumed with sunlight but none seems to enter.
Malala, Rebecca, and Princess Sultana, come into our lives while running for their own. Surviving gunshots, electrified fences, kidnapping, and sexual predation are just a small part of the collective adventure of these daring few.
Pick up a copy and come along for escape. Camels in the desert, magic carpets, exploding fences, and finally, love and salvation.
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on March 6, 2016
I liked this book for its many down-to-earth details of what it is like to live in the stifling closed world of the FLDS. As a long-time feminist, it is difficult to see women subjugated and abused in a deeply entrenched community mindset. With no contact with anyone outside of their cult, they have no way to know that there are other ways to live and think. It's a wonder that any of them were able to take the leap into the unknown escape. They had no idea what they were going to do or where they were going to end up. They just knew they had to get away. It's a testament to just how bad things have gotten under the rule of polygamy. At a number of points in the book, I kept wishing the author could have gotten therapy instead of having to work the psychological damage out by herself.
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on January 28, 2016
What a powerful book. Who knew a woman, raised to be a blind follower, could stand up to one of the most diabolical abusers of women and testify against him. I was proud of my fellow Texans who embraced Rebecca's strength and wore red to bolster her fearlessness. It motivates every woman to stand up for her rights, whatever her individual situation, and have pride in every single accomplishment.
To quote a tv show I recently viewed "no one would suspect such strength in such a small package but that is exactly how evil is defeated".
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on September 16, 2013
This book was very powerful. Kudos to Rebecca Missed for having the strength and courage to escape and fight the FLDS. I shall forever be changed. We need to be aware of the insidious crimes that are going on around our sheltered lives. We are all children of God and deserve the respect, that stems from that truth and honor.
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on October 15, 2013
Well written and great insights from someone with an insider view. I applaud her courage in taking a stand without turning her back on her people. Also appreciate her sensitivity in making it clear the practices described here are uniquely FLDS and contrary to those of the mainstream LDS (Mormon) church. As a member of the latter, I was appalled at the depraved sick mind of Warren Jeff's in twisting sacred ordinances to enact disgusting sexual crimes against children.
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on June 20, 2015
I felt like I'd read this story before, because I'd already read Elyssa Wall's & Carolyn Jessop's books. Lots of the same people, although in Elyssa's book, Rebecca is referred to as Kassandra. It was pretty easy to figure out, although I'm not sure why the names were changed. That said, this book goes into far greater detail about the repulsive crimes committed against young girls, and boys by Warren Jeffs. There are even transcripts of recordings made inside his "temple". I won't go into details, but after you've read this book, you'll be of the opinion that you hope Jeffs rots in prison for the rest of his life, hopefully with many nocturnal visits from "Bubba". Rebecca was very brave for finally escaping, telling her story, and doing her part to make sure this monster was put away. A great, but disturbing read.
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