Tuesday, July 01, 2008
By Gary D. Naler
Author of "The Curse of 1920"
Flora Jessop, the outspoken media favorite and determined critic of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS), has had the advantage and luxury of accruing audiences who want to believe her or are understandably uninformed about Flora's real life and the FLDS church itself. Therefore, she has been able to say what she wants; and since people are often hearing what they want to hear, she has gotten off scot-free without any accountability or recourse whatsoever for what we now know are an endless string of vicious lies.
But Flora's days of unaccountability have come to an end. She has now been instrumental in causing the state of Texas to carry out an illegal invasion on an entire community at a cost to the state that carries a running tally of $14 million, and has hurt so many innocent people that these silent ones who know her well, have loved and cared for her, and endured her continual destructive behavior, are finally speaking out.
Martha Jessop, wife of the late Fred M. Jessop—beloved Bishop of the Colorado City/Hildale FLDS community for fifty years—has written a most revealing account regarding Flora's life ("The Truth About Flora Jessop," at truthwillprevail.org). From Flora's birth, until she was sixteen years old, Martha was very closely associated with her. She is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and Certified Nurse Midwife. Because of this formal training, the state of Utah appointed her as Flora's legal guardian at the age of fourteen when it was revealed that her father had molested her. Flora was under Martha's direct care and supervision, living in their home, until she left at the age of sixteen.
In representation of the sentiments of others, Martha writes: "After listening to and hearing of the stories and lies that Flora has been telling and putting out to the world through the media—lies about how she was 'abused' and 'escaped' from her childhood home and religion, I feel compelled to tell the true story of Flora" With Martha's help and the help of many others who have never been interviewed about these matters or spoken out, as well as previous news accounts, interviews, and information, we will now tell the true story about Flora Jessop. And let it be noted that the account by Martha is corroborated by Flora's mother, Patricia, who upon reading it stated, "That's the whole truth and nothing but the truth"
Flora's Growing-Up Years
Flora was born to Joseph and Patricia (Pat) Jessop in the little FLDS town of Colorado City, Arizona. "Flora was a beautiful child, well loved and enjoyable," Martha recalls. But she noticed "a tendency in her to exaggerate and embellish little incidents. She enjoyed being in the spotlight and the center of attention" Martha recalls chiding her to "tell the truth and not make it bigger than it is," a quality Flora never learned.
As Flora got older, she became "restless and wild, with unpredictable mood swings, sometimes seeming impulsive and aggressive, then swinging back to the happy and free-spirited Flora we knew and loved" As early as the age of eleven, she began going out at night, prowling around, "looking for fun" "She seemed to be dissatisfied with the family outings and social times with her friends and siblings," Martha recalled.
Her mother and others tried to deal with Flora's troubling behavior; but as her mood swings became more extreme, she soon developed a whole new set of "friends," often coming home intoxicated and violent, and it was highly suspected that she was using drugs. Today, Flora often points a limp finger at the FLDS, and regarding her drug and alcohol use and loose living states: "The pain got so bad in heaven that I was willing to damn myself to hell to escape it" But the fact is, Flora had already brought her own hell to heaven long before she left the FLDS. As is the case with many alcoholics and drug addicts or otherwise-troubled people, for Flora it has always been easier to point the finger and assign fallacious blame than to be honest and take personal responsibility.
By the early age of thirteen, Flora was completely out of control. On one occasion she was out all night and found with a fifteen-year-old boy having sex. "Such behavior went against everything Flora had been taught," relates Martha. Even so, they did not give up on her.
• Quote: "I went to school with Flora.… It's true Flora had a very abusive upbringing, sex abuse, etc., but she was a wild child, loved to sneak out and go to parties.… In my opinion, she is clinging to the only thing she really knows—slamming her upbringing. Think about it—it pays their bills doesn't it?… How would Flora like the world to know she was the easiest lay in town? The point is, I left there in 1986 and haven't looked back. My life is great. Flora should do the same!!!!" (Laddie Dockstader, FLDS classmate and friend [punctuation and spelling corrected for readability])
When Flora was fourteen, Martha was talking with her about the impact of loose morals, when she blurted out, "Well, my father has raped me!" "It struck me like a thunderbolt," related Martha. "That was terrible! I was sickened at the thought. I thought maybe she had made it up, but she insisted it was true"
In Martha's words, in their society "child molestation or abuse of any kind is unthinkable and unacceptable" Flora's father was turned over to legal authorities and subsequently excommunicated from the church. Despite this decisive correction that she is well aware of, when asked if incest was permitted in FLDS, she replied, "Incest is not only permitted, it is accepted" Evidenced here and throughout her life, Flora's habitual lies have been twisted ill-intended distortions of events.
• Quote: "She is a liar.… [Lying is] Flora's life history.… She is not credible.… I do not see how any reasonable person can believe what she says" (Benjamin Bistline, author of "The Polygamists – A History of Colorado City, Arizona," who personally knew Flora as a child and is an FLDS critic)
One of the things I learned after examining the FLDS, from both the inside as well as the outside, is that they have a near-zero-tolerance policy for young men, fathers, and husbands when it comes to moral impropriety, evidenced by the action taken against Flora's father. This high standard would certainly be one reason why there are fewer men than women in the FLDS. One man I communicated with extensively throughout the many days and hours of this careful examination was disfellowshipped for mistreating his wife. He said she and his two children could have gone with him, but decided not to, and that the present separation was best for both of them. What was his guilt? He had been looking at pornography. How many homes would be left in America today if the same standard the FLDS follow was practiced by the rest of society that so misguidedly judges them?
After Flora's father was reported to legal authorities, she was taken from his home and placed into Martha's care as the court-appointed legal guardian. In a joint interview I had with Flora on June 1, 2008, I mentioned to her that Martha had raised her after she had been taken away from her father, to which she replied, "Martha was just one of the other wives in the household" I find it both shameful and remarkably untruthful that the woman who had reached out to her so much and was in fact her legal guardian assigned by the court, was regarded with so little respect or gratitude.
Martha, Fred, and others began trying to help Flora through the healing process. To limit destructive influences, she and her court-appointed counselor thought it best that Flora be homeschooled, which she was. For a while they thought she was healing, but once again she became restless and began to return to her prior ways. "Any little thing would make her fly into a rage," recounts Martha. On one occasion she attacked Martha, scratching herself as she flailed away at her. Then, exhibiting a characteristic that would endure to this day, she called the counselor and accused Martha of beating her.
Finally, one night she left, just disappeared, and stayed gone for two weeks. When she did call, she was in Las Vegas, crying and wanting to come home. Fred drove 160 miles to get her, finding her scantily clad in bikini-type clothing.
But still they didn't stop loving her. Because of their concern about her influence on the other girls, they made her a little room at the end of a wide hall, putting curtains across it. They tried to make it cozy and cute for her, said Martha. But consistent with her slanderous lies and total lack of appreciation, Flora would later repeatedly tell her enraptured and blindly sympathetic listeners that she had been locked up at the end of a hall, imprisoned behind a wall for "three years in solitary confinement" "With curtains? Oh my!" replies Martha. "I spent three years in this room with them trying to beat Satan out of me for daring to stand up against God's commandments," Flora lavishly tells others. The little girl still cannot stop exaggerating and embellishing, taking it to unthinkable pathological levels.
Once back, her involvement in drugs, alcohol, sex, and unaccounted absences only continued. "Her behavior was quite oppressive," relates Martha. "I felt like such a failure" She continues, "One night she was out all night with a boy—a cousin. He came the next morning and told Grandpa [Fred] that they had had sex. So Grandpa asked him if he wanted to marry her. He said he did. Then Grandpa asked Flora if she wanted to marry the boy. She said she did. So he helped them get legally married. Flora was sixteen. The newlyweds left town to settle elsewhere, but I learned later that she left him several weeks after their marriage"
??The August, 2004, issue of "The Los Angeles Times Magazine" reported: "In May 1986, she [Flora] entered into an arranged marriage with a 19-year-old cousin, Philip Jessop" "Arranged marriage"? The only thing arranged about it was that Flora and Philip arranged to be out all night and were caught having sex.
Phillip's Sympathetic Marriage
Though the Times article was supposed to be favorable to Flora, it astutely noted, "Over the years, she has told conflicting stories about how [her 'getaway'] happened" One thing that she is consistent about is her repeated and convincing claim that she "escaped" from the FLDS, that she was a victim held in solitary confinement. Was she indeed a victim? This is evidently the case, insomuch that she lived in an abusive situation with her father. But beyond that, she in fact created her own world of difficulties, and the reality of an escape is framed solely within the walls of her own mind.
Many people undoubtedly reached out to Flora and tried to help her. Were their efforts sufficient? Evidenced by her life, clearly not; but at some point people have to take responsibility for their own actions. One of those who sought to be her "savior" was Phillip. I talked with him by phone several times. No one before had ever contacted him so as to verify Flora's statements. I was the first. In fact, Flora has never been questioned regarding her life accounts. Up to now, what she has said has been blindly accepted carte blanche. The name that Phillip goes by is Phil, and here is his account.
Phil was eighteen years old when he married Flora. He said that for two years they had been "sneaking out" together. Martha was right in that they were caught one night in a sexual affair, by a night watchman; but Phil did not immediately go to Fred. He related that he was first confronted by his older brother about the incident. He admitted to it, and his brother, for whom he worked, was prepared to carry out retribution for his actions. Once again we see that the idea propagated by FLDS critics that irresponsible behavior, such as Phil's out-of-wedlock sexual relationship, is accepted is unfounded. As evidenced here and in other instances, the FLDS take swift remedial action.
Phil said that two weeks afterwards, his stepfather, Bill Shapley, came over and left a note for Phil to contact him. Two days later Phil met with him. Bill asked him if he wanted to marry Flora. At the age of eighteen, Phil said he had a "savior complex" regarding Flora—he wanted to "draw her out of the negative @#*! she was in" Bill even tried to talk him out of marrying her. In Phil's words, Flora "had a rebel streak in her that was a mile long" But he made a commitment to be a friend to her and to always be there. Obviously Flora felt this as well, for she later related, "He was my friend and he helped me leave."
The next day, Phil and Flora met with Fred in his office. As Martha has noted, they both wanted the marriage. So on May 3, 1986, Phil, Flora, Fred, Phil's mother and stepfather, and Flora's father and stepmother, rode in a limousine to Las Vegas and the two were married.
After the wedding, they were taken to a motel in St. George, followed by moving in with his brother. The marriage lasted only ten days. Phil said Flora became very cold—their marriage was "like sleeping with an iceberg" He no longer wanted to be married to her and asked her what she wanted. He said she was confused and wanted to be young. Phil made arrangements for Flora to stay at his friend's house in St. George, where she remained for two to four weeks. From there, he said she went to Las Vegas, and from there to Kansas City. The next time he saw her was about six months later in Phoenix, where she was with another man, supposedly a TWA executive.
"[Flora] learned how to work people," Phil relates. "She was a topless dancer and worked for an escort service" Ten years later she finally filed for a divorce. He never remarried.
Phil maintains a great deal of compassion for Flora, and retains his commitment to be her friend. "The sad part," he said, "is that her motives are for the hurting who have experienced pain and betrayal. But she has a tainted perspective, and her methods are destructive from her pain and anger" When explaining why he married Flora, he said, "She has told a lot of lies and did manipulative stuff, but she needed someone to believe in her" Phil gave Flora that chance.
• Quote: "Flora Jessop was possibly abused as a child either by her brother or her father, both of whom were excommunicated from the FLDS church and lost their families. She moved in with Uncle Fred, whom her mother married.… She was never mistreated by Fred Jessop; he only wanted to help her. Flora left in 1986. I do not blame her one bit for being angry for what happened to her as a child, but she found identity and notoriety by blaming the church for her pain. I don't blame her, but she is wrong" (Allen Holm, former FLDS member and older brother of Fawn Holm who was a part of a huge media spectacle generated by Flora in 2004)
Flora tells her eager listeners that she was not prepared for life on the "outside," that she was "naive to the point of being socially retarded" Hardly! From the young age of eleven, to the age of sixteen when she married Phil, she was entirely experienced in the aberrant lifestyle outside of the FLDS community's high standards. She had already brought her hell into this heaven, and now she was ready to drink its cup fully.
In the years that followed, Flora freely fed her tragic lusts with drugs, alcohol, sex, prostitution, and stripping—with one brief interruption. Within a year after leaving, once again she called Fred. "She said she wanted to repent and come home," wrote Martha in her account. And once again this kind and caring man who loved her and gave her every chance to do good, took her back. He got her a room in Cedar City and paid for it. Yet today Flora shamefully accuses him of imprisoning her. He also paid several thousand dollars for dental work for her, and visited and encouraged her. Everyone was kind to her, said Martha. Phil said he came to see her a couple of times as well. But then one day, once again, she just disappeared, leaving without saying a word and giving no indication as to where she had gone.
On Court TV Flora stated in an obvious pathological prevarication, "I was married as a child bride to my cousin. Stayed with him for about three weeks, then ran like crazy. They chased me for five years after I left. I had no support, I lived on the street, I know what it's like to try and get out of this cult and to have no one there for you. That is why I now try to help those who want to escape.
"Yes. They chased me for five years, and I just hitchhiked back and forth across the U.S. for those five years. I did get pregnant towards the end of those five years, with my daughter, and she is the reason that I stopped running from them. I realized that I could not continue to run and protect my baby, so I stood up and told them if they wanted me, to come and get me, because I was not running anymore. At that point, I realized that the men from this cult are like schoolyard bullies. They only like to pick on people who are weaker than they are, and that power comes from the fear that they have instilled in the people"
It is increasingly obvious that Flora's lies are without depth or breadth, and this is recognized by all who know her. No one ever chased her. In fact, she freely returned to seek their help. In closer examination, her bizarre account serves to describe herself—always running from the truth, pressing her own distorted and corrupted agenda, and instilling false fear in others regarding the FLDS. For years Flora sold her body to destructive vices and prostitution—today she does no less with the truth.
• Quote: "I was very much a part of what Flora was doing before she ever left.… She was not forced to stay there. She could have gone anytime, just like you and I could.… She was not forced to stay in this community.… She could have gone at anytime" (Reply of James Zitting, right-hand man to Fred M. Jessop, when questioned by his brother, Les, concerning Flora)
"For many years now I have kept quiet about what I knew," relates Martha, "thinking Flora was just hurting herself. But now, since her lies and influence with authorities is affecting the lives of many innocent people, I think the truth should be told. The stories she tells have no credence and are fabricated. Her lies about being 'locked up' and being 'used' by men in our religious group are outrageous! She was never locked up in our community. When she chose to leave home, she walked out without difficulty—of her own free will and choice. Flora has not been a part of our religion or community for over twenty years. We have never hunted her or tried in any way to interfere in the life she chose to live. We have only helped her when she asked for help and did it without any thanks on her part.
"I forgive her," continues Martha, "but her lies and deceit should not be allowed to continue on as fact"
"Ruby is a Hostage"
Let's now move forward to 2001 when Flora began to dramatically enhance her public slander of the FLDS, becoming its chief persecutor. Like the written account from Martha and the interview with Phil, what you are about to read is the first ever account of actual events that unfolded regarding Flora's oft-touted sister, Ruby, whom she alleged was brutally raped at the age of fourteen. This first-hand information comes from my personal phone conversations with Ruby and her husband, Haven; with Martha; with former FLDS member, Allen Holm, the older brother of Fawn Holm; and email correspondence with Ruby's mother, Pat. For the first time, the veil of silence, misunderstanding, and false information will be lifted.
Back in Colorado City, Flora's younger sister, Ruby, made some decisions that would bring her life into an unwelcomed examination and falsely-reported public spectacle, all because of the painful intrusion of her activist sister. On the day that Flora was married, leaving the FLDS, Ruby was born. "Ruby gave me my freedom," Flora later said. "She was born the day I left Hildale. May 3, 1986" Flora certainly did not find freedom when she left Hildale, but rather an even greater bondage to the ever-increasing lusts that controlled her life. In reality, the freedom Flora needs from Ruby and others is her freedom from living a life of continual lies and of inciting wrongful harm.
On April 23, 2001, Haven and Ruby had a church wedding ceremony in Caliente, Nevada. But she was being torn at the time as to whether this was what she truly wanted. "I needed time just to find myself," she said. Her two older brothers had already left the FLDS, and three weeks after the wedding she went to be with them. But she was there for only one week and was already regretting leaving. Joseph, a friend of hers, contacted her and offered the opportunity to return. She gladly accepted and stayed in the home of the always-benevolent Fred Jessop. "I was never so glad to be home," she rejoiced!
But what about Flora? When Ruby left her two brothers, they called Flora and told her that Ruby had gone back home. This infuriated Flora and she sprang into action to try to force Ruby to leave, uninvitedly intruding into her life. Her plan? She stirred up others and called Child Protective Services (CPS), and in her characteristic style told them an aggrandized lie. Does she believe her own agenda-driven lies? Undoubtedly so. But when CPS interviewed Ruby and her mother, they found no credibility whatsoever in Flora's accusations. "[Ruby] was wonderful—gave no information of any concern, for anything," stated CPS director Gene Ashdown to Flora, "and that really, I guess, isn't a surprise" In our phone conversation, Ruby told me, "CPS wanted to have Flora there at my questioning, and I said no. I did not want to have anything to do with her"
Upon her return, Ruby turned to the same home and security that Flora herself had often fled to for help in her own times of trouble, the home Flora later fallaciously described as imprisonment for three years in solitary confinement. But now Flora sought to accomplish the same disparaging accusations relative to Ruby. With ever-mounting evidence, Flora's reports of events are more than exaggerations, but have all indications of being pathological lies.
• Quote: I don't know what information you've got, but [Ruby's] been around [since she came back]. And I know one thing, and that is that I was there personally the day after she came back. She was sittin' there with her family and she was in tears and she says, "You guys don't know how glad I am to be back" That's what she said, and I listened to it. So people that say that she's there against her will—not true, not at all.… I know for a fact that, yes, there was a time there where she thought that maybe she wanted to leave; but after she was gone for how ever many days she was, SHE WAS MIGHTY GLAD TO BE BACK. She says, "I found out that that isn't what I want" (James Zitting, right-hand man to Fred M. Jessop, June 17, 2001)
• Quote: Since [Ruby] went back to Fred's, you've seen her around?… Have you seen her around in the last two weeks?… Well that's weird. Somebody's lying to us" (Les Zitting, James's older brother who is anti-FLDS and asked him about Ruby, June 17, 2001)
Always an opportunist, in classic Flora fashion all of this made great fodder for falsely and wrongly inciting others against the FLDS, garnering great media attention and financial support. Flora's efforts, as well as the efforts of other avid FLDS critics, are agenda-driven, media-driven, predominated by flagrant wrongful exaggerations and lies, have included fraudulent Attorney General documents (re., 2002 Napolitano investigations), and serve only to hurt the innocent. In 2004, Flora's media-grandstanding and intrusive actions regarding Fawn Holm and Fawn Broadbent not only devastated families, but also infuriated other anti-FLDS crusaders, and even resulted in a court ordering her to stay away from the two girls. In 2006, Flora wildly alleged that there was an FLDS baby graveyard with 200 baby graves that were dug in one month and that "night burials" were being practiced, claims that were all proven to be totally false. Even so, she has continued to tell these lies to this day. Continually, she has proven herself to be the proverbial woman who cries "wolf"
Repeatedly, Flora appealed to her willing listeners, "This is about every Ruby that's in there that wants to be free." But the freedom Ruby needs is to be free from the threats of her obsessed sister and those like her who make their lives more difficult and threatened, to be free to raise her family, and for Flora to be free from her own torturous bondage. The revealing fact is, none of Flora's eleven sisters, or even her own mother, will have anything to do with her. "The reason I dislike seeing Flora is because it is too stressful for me to see and hear what she is doing with her life," laments Pat.
But with standard purposes of attracting attention, Flora went so far as to file a missing person report on her mother and make it a media issue. In an interview, when asked in typical demonizing questioning if her family suffers retribution among the FLDS members for her public attacks, she stated, "I've been given messages that my mother is paying the price for everything I do" She is, Flora, but not by virtue of the supportive and caring FLDS members. Rather, she pays the price of a mother's broken heart for a recalcitrant wayward daughter.
Beginning in 2001, and as recent as this year, Flora has boldly claimed that on the night of Haven and Ruby's wedding, at the age of fourteen, Ruby "was raped so brutally [by Haven] that she almost died from the hemorrhaging," and that her mother, only "a couple of doors down," was not allowed to intervene. Yet Flora is never obligated to tell her source of these repeated outrageous lies. I asked Haven and Ruby specifically about these stunning accusations; and even knowing all that I know about Flora, I was not prepared for their answer. Frankly, based on what I had read and heard, in my own mind I had formed more gracious possibilities, though still surrounding these purported accusations. But I was totally taken aback that the facts were not anywhere near what Flora has viciously spread.
Did Haven brutally rape Ruby and did she almost hemorrhaged to death? When I asked them if this was true, Ruby quickly answered, "Absolutely not! I was never raped" Haven added, "I absolutely wouldn't do that. I'd give my life to protect her" Even before hearing this, two men who personally know Haven assured me that there was no way he would have done that. It was totally contrary to his nature, his character, and his upbringing.
When I wrote Pat about this accusation, she confirmed: "Yes, I was there at the ceremony. Haven would not do these kinds of actions, let alone hurt anyone, and there is no truth in Flora's claims of any brutality" The fact is, Haven and Ruby had no sexual relations whatsoever that evening, or even in the days to come, and not even in the months that followed.
Following the ceremony of April 23 and a brief honeymoon in Phoenix, Ruby was not settled with either herself or with marriage. As she stated, she needed time to find herself. She related, "I wanted to wait a little more time and see what I wanted" "It was something Ruby needed," responded Haven, "a little more time; and we gave it to her"
Over the next six months, the two of them communicated very little. When Ruby was more comfortable and sure of what she wanted, their relationship began to progress. One year later, on May 5, 2002, they were married before a judge in St. George, Utah. Ruby was sixteen years of age, and Haven was twenty-one. Only after this marriage did they ever have conjugal relations.
Despite Flora's repeated lies and accusations that marriages are forced in the FLDS and that men abuse the women, clearly this is far from true. Ruby was in fact given all the time and freedom she needed in order to make her own choice, one she was comfortable with. And consistent with the FLDS lifestyle, there was no abuse whatsoever.
However, during this time when the community was showing patience and care, a dark storm brewed outside. In stark contrast to this peaceful people who prefer the sanctity of silence, the brutally vicious lies of Flora and others flew like hot embers from troubling firebrands. In addition to the rape allegations, other wild claims were made, including that Ruby was being brainwashed, re-educated, even whisked off in secrecy to Canada or Idaho. But by and large, Ruby stayed right there in Hildale. She said she and her mother did take a little vacation and went to visit some friends.
Today, Haven and Ruby remain happily married. And despite the unwelcomed willful intrusion of Flora and others like her, they are living the life they have chosen. Looking back at the struggles she went through in 2001, today Ruby is now able to say with gratefulness, "This is my life, and I would never go back to the world"
Frankly, I was stunned at their account. It was not at all like what I had read and heard, and I could not grasp how Flora could contrive something so profoundly different. Puzzled, I asked them, "Where could Flora get such a story?" "Where she gets all her other stories," replied Ruby, "from her head"
Does the FLDS have flaws? Of course they do. Do they have difficulties within community life. Certainly they do. Would there be conflicts and hard feelings on the part of some individuals? That is inevitable, especially when dealing with teens when they hit those infamous distressing and troubling years. But what I have seen in all my examinations is that, even so, they are a people who strive to do what is right, and who excel immeasurably better in wholesome and right living than society that exists outside of their lives. And most certainly, I have found that the accusations made against them by anti-FLDS critics hold no weight. In fact, the best characterization of these acrid critics is that their accusations are as worthy to be trusted as the testimonies of rebellious troubled teenagers who rant about their parents.
There are many who have left the FLDS who we never hear from, those who could provide a much more realistic assessment of FLDS life without the embittered accusations. But the problem is that no one, especially the feeding-frenzy media, wants to hear from them. They are much closer to reality, even with some of their criticisms. But this is a lynching mob, and the voice of the reasonable is drowned out.
One twenty-three-year-old young man who was raised in the FLDS and had been away for three years wrote on a blog regarding his experience: "I had a very happy childhood free from television, drugs, and abuse.… 95% of the men I knew were honorable and trustworthy.… I personally know every man on that [YFZ] Ranch in Texas. Search the world over, you will not find men more dedicated, more committed, and more focused on living in Peace and living their religion than within that group" He continued, "half [a figure that is probably closer to twenty to thirty percent] of the children raised within the FLDS end up leaving [of] their own free will and choice," and "95% of them you will never hear from again" But, he noted, "5% seem to spread rumor[s] and false accusations everywhere they turn, either because they are lonely and need someone or something to blame, or because they really were hurt or abused and somehow think it's the church's fault"
A common mantra of both FLDS critics and CPS is that the men are "perpetrators" of sexual crimes. But as we just read and saw regarding Haven and Ruby, nothing could be further from the truth. My experience in talking with FLDS men confirms this. One man had waited six months before he even had sexual relations with his wife, another several months as well. The latter man stated, "You have to wait until you are comfortable with one another. You love one another. You respect one another. It is very important that it is the lady's idea and she is comfortable with it. It is not our place and is repulsive to force ourselves on women. It goes against our moral fabric and goes against everything we have been taught. That is how every FLDS man that I know has been raised. Something of this magnitude in your life is important and comes from love and not lust"
Despite this reality regarding these peaceable and moral people, Flora sought to incite others with the oft-repeated claim, "Ruby is a hostage" But Ruby was not and has never been a hostage. Rather, she is the happily-married mother of four young children, two boys and two girls, who love her very much and whose lives are threatened by people like their venomous aunt. Ruby is not the hostage. But rather, it is Flora who is the hostage—hostage to her own blinding hatred and willful pursuit to gainfully destroy those who tried to help her so many times.
If there is anyone who was born and raised in Colorado City who needs to be set free from a "compound," it is Flora Jessop, the little girl who was "a beautiful child, well loved and enjoyable," who is held captive by her own walls of bitterness and self-gratifying destructive pursuits. Flora lived a lifestyle that was self-destructive, and now she seeks to destroy those who, even now, still love her. In all my contacts and interviews with FLDS members, I have yet to find a single person who is bitter towards her; they all want only the best for her.
I asked Haven and Ruby one last question: If you knew Flora was telling these vicious lies about you, then why didn't you say something? Why didn't you speak up and refute them? "In our culture," answered Haven, "we're not out to find problems, or to find fault with other people. We try to mind our own business, and others can live their own lives. If some say something bad about you, you forgive them, turn the other cheek, and move on with your life. Flora really does have family here that love her…," then Ruby interjected, "but we don't appreciate what she is doing…," and in a seamless sentence between the two of them, Haven continued, "and she needs to come out and be honest"
Somehow Flora missed this instruction about forgiving and moving on with your life, the very thing she desperately needs to do. She is in fact in every way the antithesis of the culture she was raised in, a paradox of all the good and virtue they seek to practice. And instead of adopting their pacifism, she has taken advantage of this quality evidenced in her people as a freedom to tell all her lies undisputed. As a result, she has hurt too many and caused far too much trouble. "Ruby and I were both betrayed," wrote Flora. No, Ruby survived the insidious attacks of her bitter sister, and Flora betrays herself, her people and loving family, truth, and justice.
The Yearning For Zion Raid
It's one thing to stand under a high-wire and try to catch those who might fall, and quite another to climb the pole and cut the wire.
If Flora's purpose is to help those who want to leave the FLDS, and some indeed leave and have the freedom to do so at their own will, then why is it that she seeks to enforce a destructive control for which she herself accuses them? But if her purpose is to grandstand, to lead the uninformed into deception, and to foment unjust actions so as to destroy peaceful innocent lives, then it is she who needs to be called into question and disregarded.
• Quote: Flora is a publicity-hungry "fanatic" whose "demands to have control over someone else's children are becoming eerily similar to the dictatorial attitude of her sworn nemesis, Warren Jeffs." She is "misguided and devious." ("The Phoenix New Times")
When the state of Texas and CPS invaded the YFZ Ranch with substantial militant force, removing all of the innocent children, they did so illegally. This has been the ruling of both a Texas Appellate Court and the Texas Supreme Court. So what was it that prompted Texas and CPS to take this highly extreme and costly action that has now blown up in their faces?
In March of 2004, Flora traveled to Eldorado, Texas, where she met with local law enforcement officials and held a press conference. Here she found a very receptive ear in Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran. "Flora has provided us with a lot of information and I find her to be very credible," said Doran. This relationship continued over the next four years, leading up to the YFZ raid. In fact, after the raid Doran confidently stated, "I have had a good informant who has given me good information over the past four years. This person has been assisting us as we've gone forward on this operation." A court affidavit unsealed on April 9, 2008, stated that "on more than 20 occasions" Doran's informant had provided him with supposed details about life at the ranch. He has also stated that the informant was a former member and was "instrumental in teaching me the group's ways."
Putting all the facts together, it is quite obvious that Sheriff Doran's trusted informant was none other than inflammatory Flora Jessop. She is the only former-FLDS person who had been with him for four years. Later he said that there was more than one informant. Indeed, subsequently there were other anti-FLDS former members who provided biased information, but Flora was the first and foremost.
Flora had stated prior to these events, "One day [the FLDS] will go to war with law enforcement and the streets will run red with the blood of the enemy. We were taught that from the time we could walk" She said the "compounds" aren't like homes in that they are fortified, built with thick walls. "They are very much armed. They have many, many weapons," she warned, and even went so far as to say that Warren Jeffs is "David Koresh, Jim Jones, and 9-11 all wrapped up in one nice little package. These guys are very dangerous." How then would this kind of information affect Sheriff Doran?
It is now evident who is the more dangerous—Flora. These views of Doran's trusted informant explain why he called in such a dramatic show of law enforcement with extensive firepower and militant might. With SWAT-team methods they crashed through doors and entered into homes with machine guns raised in an invasion so large and with so much might that it cost Texas $5.3 million to carry out. But what kind of resistance did they encounter? Was it Flora's forewarned apocalyptic bloodbath? No, they encountered nothing more than shocked adults and scared crying children. Where were all of Flora's promised weapons? Once again we see why Flora Jessop cannot be believed. Truth is as elusive in her life as were the purported weapons—they did not exist whatsoever.
At the October 13, 2006, Exmormon Foundation annual conference, Flora related her own purported personal experience with these gun-slingin' FLDS men. "The way these guys work, they're not gonna come after me, although they do. I've had many fun instances where we've dealt with bullets flying and things like that; but, hmm, I just think they need to get a better target to shoot at" Her account is nauseating. This blatantly outlandish statement reinforces the reality of Flora's rampant fantasy for violence, and her willingness to propagate it.
And this infection of misinformation has not been limited to Sheriff Doran. The Utah Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, ranted in an interview, "Here's a man [Warren Jeffs} who had a whole army supporting him, who thumbed his nose at the law for years, who ran from us, who had people surrounding him with guns, threatening to go down with him" Really? And where have we heard this before? And when Jeffs was arrested, where were all those guns as well? And who, once again, was telling Shurtleff this false information? And as a state official, why was he one of these eager gullible listeners?
And remember those wildly false accusations Flora made about the baby graveyard? What then could also have been expected during the raid, compliments of this same source? Reported in a press conference on June 2, 2008, by FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop, "They brought in cadaver dogs and raided all the flower gardens to try to find babies and carcasses. It's how sick their information has been" The source of that information is clearly evident. Of course, once again, they found no babies.
In a letter of June 17, 2008, to Utah officials, including Mark Shurtleff, FLDS attorney Rod Parker noted, "Moreover, as investigations proceed, Texas authorities are acknowledging that in conducting this raid they reacted to erroneous intelligence" He chided Utah officials for repeatedly providing Texas authorities irresponsible information "from unreliable sources," characterizing these as "hate groups who wish to see the FLDS destroyed" As a remedy to these false insular ideas that have brought about so many unjust and excessive actions, Parker urged them, "It would take very little investigation on the part of your office to realize that your sources are unreliable" Unreliable indeed.
• Quote: "I have a begrudging respect for [Flora].… She does more harm than good, is an unpredictable bad source, and not credit worthy.… She talks a good ball game, but when you look at her…. She rules over anybody who gets in her way, including me" (Bob Curran, founder of the anti-polygamist organization, Help the Child Brides, and who personally worked with Flora)
So much more could be said about this raid. As a much-touted public figure, how is it that Flora's lies could have incited Rosita Swinton, the bogus caller who sparked the raid? Rosita had made similar calls prior to this, going back to June, 2005, but never relative to the FLDS. So where did she get all of her information? And what inspired her to create stories in the identical pattern of Flora's stories? Many questions arise concerning this that beg to be answered.
Furthermore, one must also ask where the responsibility lies with the media. What grave part did they play in this drama as well? Why were they also so irresponsible in too eagerly and repeatedly parading a pathological witness before this nation without validating her authenticity?
When Sheriff Doran was asked about his part in the raid on YFZ, he replied: "I did not bring this on them. The call came in to assist Child Protective Services. We always assist. We pulled in the law enforcement due to the size of the operation. We pulled in the law enforcement that was necessary to carry out the operation"
Given the track record of CPS, it is likely that this is true. But given the source of Doran's information that he was operating on—Flora—we can see why he used so much militant might, and why CPS's actions were so extreme. But one has to also ask how much Doran, with his errantly skewed position, even influenced CPS's initiation of the raid? Undoubtedly, in all realms, Flora Jessop was the major influence for this despicable, erroneous, and illegal YFZ invasion.
There is no question that Flora stirred the pot and brought this entire matter to the fevered destructive lawless frenzy that it became, including Rosita Swinton's part. As she has done for most of her life, Flora pressured, cajoled, and lied until her fomenting stories became perceived reality. And one must ask in conclusion: If what Flora has repeatedly stated—that these girls are indeed entrapped abused prisoners who desperately want out—then why was it that not a single one of them fled to her once they were separated from there? Why was it that there was not a single defection, but rather a unanimous yearning to return to Zion?
After hearing Flora's tragic story—and as you would suspect, we have not nearly addressed the host of all her lies and inflammatory actions—some might be inclined to feel sorry for her and dismiss her perpetually vile and destructive behavior. This is what the FLDS community did for many years. But Martha's reply is a fitting answer to this, as she has concluded: "I forgive her, but her lies and deceit should not be allowed to continue on as fact" For too many years Flora has had free reign to lie, and this has been done to the unjust harm and detriment of the innocent lives of others, particularly of late. That time has come to an end.
• Quote: Flora has been swept up in "the TV interviews, the fame, and the glory. … She loves the attention. She's craved it her whole life.… Nobody wants anything to do with Flora" "Flora's been getting away with these [false] stories for a long time now, and it's time to shut her down" (Pennie Petersen, anti-polygamy activist who grew up with Flora in FLDS)
Gary Naler, author of "The Curse of 1920: The Degradation of Our Nation in the Last 100 Years," can be reached at email@example.com
, phone: 573-729-5439. For more information, go to www.thecurseof1920.com or www.expertclick.com, search Naler.