Lyle’s Freedom = the People’s Oppression

On Thursday, June 9, I attended the third detention hearing for Lyle Jeffs. Lyle is a full brother to the imprisoned Warren S. Jeffs, self-proclaimed “prophet” to the FLDS.

Lyle is also one of the three men who judged me, and hundreds of others, as “unworthy” to be members of the elite United Order.

Lyle has done so much to hurt people. He has directed them to commit fraud. He holds their very lives in his hands and doesn’t hesitate to crush them.

I was present in a meeting for the unworthy in early 2012. The meeting where Lyle stood before us and announced that “the Lord” had now made the decree that those who were found “worthy” could no longer live with those who were found “unworthy.” As he began going over the details of what that meant, and what was to be expected in the very near future, he took on an almost jovial attitude. As he compared tearing apart families, removing children and wives from their homes and family ties to “the biggest game of fruit basket upset ever,” he actually chuckled. The contrast between his seeming amusement before me, and the heart-racking sobs behind me will always be stuck in my memory.

Then he added, that we needed to accomplish this quickly and efficiently, so that we can get the flow of money going again. No kidding. “The flow of money” was the most important thing on his mind. Not that I was surprised, but I was heart sick. There could no longer be any doubt in my mind that this man did not serve a loving god. Something was terribly wrong.

We all knew that these were no idle threats. We all knew of people who this had already happened to. Families were being torn apart on all sides. Men being sent away to repent, and then their families scattered to the four winds.

To think of mothers giving up custody of their dearly loved children may seem insane to outsiders. But to those who had lived their entire lives under the teachings that your life and eternal salvation hangs on your perfect obedience to church authority, there could be no question.

By the time my family escaped, I personally knew of many people – young people especially – who were calling Lyle “Father.” I saw many smart phones with their wallpaper set to a picture of Lyle’s smugly face. Fear was the number one emotion and motivator that existed among the people at that point – and I’m sure it has only become worse. Fear was preached over the pulpit, enforced and rooted deep in our hearts by the actions we witnessed.

When it comes down to knowing that you were in danger of having your family ties severed at any moment, often without explanation or reason being given, your focus on perfect obedience becomes the driving force in your life. Even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it meant sacrificing everything. Often, even when it meant committing crimes.

But committing crimes is nothing new. It is even justified. I grew up in an environment where our attitude toward the “laws of the land” were colored and influenced over the pulpit. We were taught that “god’s laws are greater than man’s laws,” and that our allegiance should always be to god’s laws first. Doesn’t sound too dangerous, does it? But I’m here to tell you that there is great danger in it. There are those who have lost their lives because of the disregard, and even disdain, for law.

I had hoped that the judge would have more consideration for the victims involved in this crime, and allow them some freedom from their oppressors – those who directed fraud to be committed, and then benefited from that fraud. These men stole the food out of the mouths of hungry children so they could continue to live lives of luxury and excess. They did it with no remorse, no pangs of conscience, and no regrets. In fact, they are trying to claim that it was their religious right to do so.

To say that I’m upset and disappointed with the judge’s ruling and seeming disregard for the victims in this case is an understatement. My heart is heavy for those who don’t understand what their rights are, and don’t realize that they are being deceived. My sense of justice is outraged that the rights of the few at the top have once again outweighed the rights of the many at the bottom.

I am working hard with myself to shift the original feelings of hopelessness, disappointment and sadness into more power behind my determination to see real justice served.

I hope that I am not alone in this determination and that real, meaningful changes will come – and soon!

 

 

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