“Destroying Their God” Review
“Destroying Their God: How I Fought My Evil Half-Brother to Save My Children” by Wallace Jeffs is Jeffs’ personal story about growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. His struggles both internal and external are moving, and his explanation of the ways the leaders of the church abused their power and manipulated their followers is both disturbing and fascinating.
FLDS and Warren Jeffs
First, thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of “Destroying Their God.”
Warren Jeffs is the current and infamous leader of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). He is also the half-brother of Wallace Jeffs, the author of “Destroying Their God: How I Fought My Evil Half-Brother to Save My Children.” FLDS is an offshoot of Mormonism, though the Mormon Church does not recognize it. According to Scott Anderson’s National Geographic article, “The Polygamists,” polygamist Mormons formed FLDS after the Mormon Church renounced polygamy in 1890.
Warren Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence for child sexual assault. He married and raped young girls, forced his wives to have sex with each other, and built a creepy ranch to keep his followers from having any contact with the outside world. “Destroying Their God” is a fascinating glimpse into the insular FLDS community and how Warren Jeffs used fear, exploitation, and isolation to consolidate power and commit loathsome crimes in the name of God.
Summary of “Destroying Their God”
“Destroying Their God” is also Wallace Jeffs’ personal story.
In “Destroying Their God,” Jeffs chronicles his life as a “plyg kid.” The book begins with Jeffs’ 2011 car accident that he assumes is a murder attempt, punishment for leaving the FLDS church. It sets the stage for the fear and deception we see later in the book.
Jeffs goes on to tell the story of his childhood. It gets particularly interesting in chapter five when Jeffs moves into the big house with all his father’s wives and children. Later his father, Rulon Jeffs, becomes profit, the leader of FLDS—a living God.
As a child, Jeffs is a loner and a little too curious. He questions his religion on and off throughout his childhood because he isn’t happy with his home life.
The FLDS community has always been insular and distrusting, but over the course of Jeff’s childhood, it becomes worse. In “Destroying Their God” Jeffs explains, “As members of the church, we had access to computers, television, and newspapers, but we were told not to believe anything we heard, read, or saw because everything reported by the media was a complete lie.”
When Jeffs is in sixth grade, Rulon takes all his kids out of public school and sends them to a school of his own creation in the basement of the big house. By the time Warren gets full control of the church, everyone is completely paranoid and there is almost no contact with the outside world.
Polygamy and the Law of Sarah
For me, the most interesting part of the book is the polygamy and the Bible cherry picking that the FLDS church uses to justify it.
To sum up Wallace Jeffs’ view of polygamy, it is no fun. Although, he might be biased given that his father forced him into polygamy. (He had two wives and 20 children.)
Jeffs explains, “sex was a chore—if you weren’t trying to impregnate your wife, she could report you to the prophet… it was a job you must do to be exalted.” He estimates that “ninety percent of FLDS men marry multiple wives out of fear for their livelihoods and families, not for any perverse sexual reasons.”
He also explains how jealous the wives become of one another: “fights between the mothers often turned physical resulting in kicking, slapping, and ripping out each other’s hair. The arguments usually started in the kitchen but soon moved to Father’s office for him to settle the dispute. Father would generally speak to the disputing wives quietly and use scriptural doctrine to diffuse the situation. Then he would send the women, shamed and humbled, on their way.” To mitigate these arguments, Rulon encourages his wives to live the Law of Sarah.
Genesis 16:3, which Jeffs quotes in the book, says, “and Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.” This is the scriptural basis for what the FLDS church refers to as the Law of Sarah. Sarai is later called Sarah in the bible, hence Law of Sarah. It’s all very “Handmaid’s Tale” like, though Atwood used a later verse from Genesis as the basis for “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Jeffs says that the Law of Sarah is “the highest order a woman can achieve in the FLDS religion…Under the Law of Sarah, mothers sacrifice by generously sharing their husband among them and allowing their children to be nurtured by all the women in the household.” In “Destroying Their God,” we see Rulon use the Law of Sarah to guilt his wives into getting along.
Later, Warren creates a new covenant called the “Fullness of the Law of Sarah.” It states, “The wives must ‘yearn for each other equally,’ accept each other sexually, and watch as other wives performed heavenly comfort on him.”
It’s obvious by this time that Warren has absolute power. In A&E’s special “Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil,” former FLDS member Elissa Wall says, “In our religion, we had a prophet. And he was the one man on earth who was God to us. For many generations any logic or any reasoning or thinking. These were slowly weeded out, all in the name of religion. I look back on it and Warren didn’t just appear out of nowhere. An entire society created him. They all prepared the pathway that he came on.”
Who Should Read “Destroying Their God”
“Destroying Their God” is an interesting book for any adult. It’s well written, clear, and conversational. Jeffs didn’t have to do any research for his book since most of it is his own first-hand experiences with FLDS. But if you’re a skeptic like me, there is plenty of news coverage online to back up his story. How could the media not report on a polygamist splinter religion turned child molesting cult?
“Destroying Their God” also brings up important points about indoctrinating children and using of fear to consolidate power. If you’re concerned about the adult content in this book and you are an adult, fear not. It is pretty tame, especially compared to the A&E documentary I referenced.
Destroying Their God
By Wallace Jeffs
Zarahelma Books. 265pp.