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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lost Boy

Brent Jeffs is part of a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) royal family. The FLDS is a splinter group that, decades ago, broke away from mainstream Mormonism over the issue of polygamy, and Brent’s grandfather Rulon Jeffs became the church’s prophet in 1986. His son (Brent’s uncle), Warren Jeffs, an incredibly evil man who almost destroyed Brent’s family, succeeded Rulon Jeffs in that all-powerful position.

Lost Boy is Brent’s eye-opening account of what it was like to grow up in that cult under the leadership of his uncle. Brent Jeffs was raised in a polygamous family, one that included three sister-wives and something like twenty brothers, sisters, half-brothers and half-sisters. His mother was the first to marry Brent’s father but she eventually lost her family leadership role when a younger, more aggressive wife became her husband’s favorite. That her husband’s second wife was her own blood sister made the loss of stature and affection even more difficult for Brent’s mother to accept. The second wife would be followed by a third, this time a sixteen-year-old, but his mother’s younger sister would maintain her hold on Brent’s father for years to come.

Brent vividly describes the frustrations involved in growing up inside a polygamous family, the petty jealousies and rivalries between the wives and the children and the constant struggle to get the attention of a father who could not possibly pay adequate attention to the emotional needs of all of his children. It was this lack of parental awareness that allowed Warren Jeffs to get away with sexually abusing Brent and two of his older brothers when each was around the age of five.

Warren Jeffs, during the period in which he abused the boys, was the most dangerous kind of pervert there is: a pervert with absolute power over his victims and their families. His power to excommunicate church members, a process in which they would lose their homes and their jobs before being forced to live in a world for which they were unprepared, made his crimes not only possible, but easy.

The book’s title, Lost Boy, refers to the several hundred teenage boys Warren Jeffs kicked out of the community because he saw them as rivals for the hands of their young female peers, girls and young women Warren and his followers wanted to add to their own collection of wives. Many of the excommunicated boys, such as Brent himself, turned to drugs and alcohol to survive the world into which they were suddenly tossed. Some of the least prepared, usually the ones with no family members already on the outside, were forced into male prostitution in order to survive on their own.

Brent Jeffs, despite his tough transition, found the courage to confront his Uncle Warren Jeffs in a courtroom. He survived his early years, seems to be doing well these days, and Lost Boy is his very personal story of the horror he faced as a child. Surprisingly, however, the book is written in such a dry style that it is difficult to emotionally bond with the author despite his willingness to share his deepest secrets. The writing is straightforward to the degree that it becomes flat and somewhat repetitive at times, a tendency that slows down the pace at which one expects a story like this one to be told. But this is an important story and Brent Jeffs must be commended for having the courage, first, to stand up to the pervert who so deeply damaged him and his family and, second, to share his story with the rest of us.

Rated at: 3.0

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