Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Witness Wore Red by Rebecca Musser

Rebecca Musser lived most of her life as a member of the FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints).
Although she understood that their religion was not widely accepted, Rebecca was raised to believe that the group was unfairly persecuted by the outside world, and that many of their ways needed to be kept secret.
For the few years that she atteneded Salt Lake City public schools she never disclosed that her mother was a second wife.  Instead Becky held tight to their secret existence in the basement of the family's ranch home and accepted that her father, an engineer, would sometimes entertain customers upstairs without revealing that a second wife and group of children were quietly hidden away downstairs.  Soon Becky, her siblings, and other FLDS students were attending an academy where Warren Jeffs taught and served as principal.
Despite having once held a dinosaur bone in her hands (at public school) and having a father who sold o-rings to the space industry, Becky was expected to believe that both dinosaurs and space travel were lies perpetrated by the evil world.   Deep inside Becky hears a quiet, questioning voice, but she pushes it aside and strives to be the best student possible, just as she has pushed aside early memories of abuse by Mother Irene (her father's first wife) and her half brother.  Through her preteens and early teens, Becky tries to follow every rule and edict of the group, hoping to please the church's prophet.  Later, at age 19, she is told that she will marry the prophet, a man 85 years old.  As he takes wife after wife, despite his ailing health and diminished mental capacity, Becky begins to again question what is happening.  When the prophet dies several years later, she fears that she will again be forced to marry someone seeking to climb the power ladder of the sect.  She especially fears her old teacher Warren Jeffs, son of Becky's prophet husband, as he appears set to declare himself the new prophet.

Rebecca will decide to flee the group, along with Ben Musser, a young man who Becky will later marry.
Despite her escape, Rebecca continues to suffer.  First, she is cut off from most of her family and life time friends.  Secondly, both she and Ben find themselves totally unprepared for work and life in the outside world.  Thirdly, Becky cannot escape deep despair as she hears news that Warren Jeffs is forcing girls as young as fourteen to marry.  Slowly Becky realizes that her former life as a wife to the "prophet" has given her a unique window to the inner dealings of their church.  When Warren Jeffs is arrested and charged with being a party to child rape for the forced marriage of Becky's fourteen year old sister, it is Becky who will take the stand against him.  Later, she will help Texas law enforcement and child protective services as they investigate the ranch that Warren and hundreds of loyal followers have built.  What is uncovered will sicken readers, but will also have you admiring Ms. Musser for her strength.

The title of this book comes from one of Warren Jeffs edicts to the young FLDS women.  They are always to wear clothes and hair that is modestly pleasing to their husbands.   Red is a color too bold and too wicked.  To Rebecca, red becomes a color of challenge and truth.  Each time she testifies against the sect, she will wear red.  I obtained this book on cd through interlibrary loan.  At fourteen hours, it is a lengthy book, much of it quite disturbing.  I already had listened to the first four cds when my husband and I took a weekend drive to our daughter's.  Once I popped a cd in the car player, Russ was hooked.  When we still had 4 or 5 cds left after arriving home, we decided to listen to one cd per day.  That quickly became 2 per day, with both of us feeling compelled to listen to Rebecca's story in its entirety.   May God bless Rebecca Musser, her efforts to help others achieve the dignity and freedom they deserve, and all the others who have helpe women and children (including the lost boys) who have found the courage to leave the group.

Check out her website to learn more about this book and also about the FLDS.

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