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Book Review: Illegitimate: How a Loving God Rescued a Son of Polygamy by Brian Mackert with Susan Martins Miller

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Brian Mackert’s childhood is a tapestry of the familiar; wide open spaces, mischief, farm animals, and the secret solidarity of brothers. A strictly frugal and distant father, a timid yet loving mother, all of these elements form the backdrop for a life that might be taken from the pages of any number of works of classic Americana. While the details, nuances and flavours of childhood may seem so familiar to us, the larger picture of Mackert’s childhood is strikingly foreign and unfamiliar.

One father, four mothers, 31 children: Mackert’s birth into a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) community sets his experience of early life in direct contrast to those of the vast majority of North Americans. Related in a straightforward narrative Illegitimate: How a Loving God Rescued a Son of Polygamy transparently shares the logistical difficulties, emotional challenges and fear of persecution that the life of an FLDS child is filled with. Boasting a familial ancestry tracing itself to the earliest Mormon church fathers, they held firmly to the doctrine of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young despite raids, pressure from mainstream Mormons and mainstream culture.

Mackert’s recollections of his life to date are interwoven with the religio-political progression of leadership within the FLDS. With the life of each family member determined in large part by the priesthood of the FLDS church, the shifting balance of power is directly relevant to the deep wounds, bitterness and hurt that grew in Mackert’s heart. Alongside the spiritual doubts, fear and rejection we explore through the author’s life, we have access to an insiders view as the Jeffs family rising to power and Warren Jeffs seizing complete control over the community.

Reading Illegitimate was a deeply personal and troubling experience for me. Having been raised in a Mormon home (polygamy free) as a young child, it is only as an adult that that I have begun to explore the roots of that religious system. Like Mackert I too have experienced the deep hypocrisy, sexual abuse, and circular reasoning that seem to spring from these beliefs. His fall into anger towards God and family upon leaving the church is also heartbreakingly familiar in both myself and other family members. Oh, how thankful I am to be the child of a God that is patient, that draws lost sheep like Brian, a number of his siblings, and myself into His loving embrace.

Unlike similar expose biographies exposing the FLDS cult, Mackert’s work goes beyond the disillusionment, the grief, the pain and reveals the true gospel that he was denied as a child. He shares the unfolding of God’s free gift of grace, that boundless love free of performance expectations. The transformation that came over his life upon truly meeting Jesus, resulted in forgiveness and grace shed abroad upon those who harmed him.

This unique, transformative vision lifts Illegitimate above the other works trickling into mainstream consciousness on the subject. The contrast between bondage and freedom, fear and grace, works and faith is undeniable, and I highly recommend this work to both those who’ve been harmed by Mormonism and those seeking to understand the literal, erroneous, early teachings of Joseph Smith and how those play out when practically applied.

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About Jennifer Bogart

  • Lynn Ribar

    I came upon this article “by accident?” but I am now about 100 pages into this book. (I’m not mormon, I don’t believe in polygamy, I’ve just been reading tons of books on this subject) This is, next to “Escape” by Carolyn Jessup, the BEST book of about 15 books I’ve read over the past few months. I am a born again Christian and I know that Brian is, too, so I’m SO excited to get through this book and discover just how he came to accept Christ.

  • Tracy Hall Jr

    I find it interesting that although “Personal attacks are NOT allowed,” on this site, Ms. Bogart feels justified in a general attack on the faith of thirteen million members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Jennifer Bogart’s personal apostasy from Mormonism does not make her an expert on the subject. Her attempt to blacken her former religion with the despicable acts of people who have NEVER had anything to do with it betrays, at best, poor judgment, and at worst, mendacity.

    [personal contact info deleted]

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Tracy, in what universe is dissing 13 million people a personal attack?

    It’s about as impersonal as you can get…

  • Brian Mackert

    Tracy…the people of the FLDS Church are like me, 5th, 6th, and 7th generation Mormons whose family history in the LDS Church dates back to the days of Joseph Smith and the establishment of polygamy in Mormonism. They are more connected to the LDS Church’s history than most of the 13 million members of the LDS Church you just mentioned.

    Attacking a religious movement isn’t a personal attack. You are attacking the theological and philisophical ideology of that movement. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament spent much of his writings arguing against other religious movements and how they fail where Christ did not.

    You seem to forget that it was Joseph Smith who started all this by attacking all Christian Creeds calling them an abomination before God. So before you start painting someone with that paint brush I think you should liberally apply it to Joseph Smith as well.

  • Brian Mackert

    Lynn…thanks for the excellent review. If you are only 100 pages into the book, then you haven’t even gotten to the good part yet. Enjoy!

  • Brian Mackert

    Jennifer…this is by far one of the best reviews I’ve seen to date. Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. And praise God that we both know the healing power of Christ.

  • http://quiverfullfamily.com Jennifer Bogart

    Thank you Brian and Lynn,

    I too have a long family history of mormonism, so your story rings so deeply in my heart, though we were never FLDS. My paternal grandfather has a family lineage that traces back to the original mormons who settled in Alberta.

    Dearest Tracy,

    I’m sorry you felt personally attacked. Christianity isn’t a religion at all, but a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ based not upon works but upon His deep, unending love for us – even while we were sinners! There is NOTHING I or you can do to be justified before God, it’s only His redeeming work that saves.

    God bless you Tracy.

  • Lynn Ribar

    Brian, I just finished the book. What a testimony.

    I counted my “polygamy-related” books and yours is the 23rd I’ve read since I became interested in the subject about a year ago. (I did read “Under The Banner of Heaven” a few years ago, though,when it came out.) Most are autobiographical and some are “documentary” type books about the FLDS, Warren Jeffs and other related books.

    Yours is the first autobiography I’ve read from a male who has left the cult and I am SO glad I came across it. I didn’t know when I ordered it that it would be about someone who accepted Jesus as Savior! (I was ordering other polygamy books on Amazon online when your book title popped up – on a “whim” I clicked it into my shopping cart!)

    Perhaps you may know, or have read, an autobiography by Susan Schmidt (7th wife of Verlan LeBaron of Mexican infamy). She also came to Christ despite her background and upbringing and so eloquently shared all in her book. I pray that some of the others whose books I’ve read who have escaped polygamy have found Jesus or will.

    My life has completely changed since I gave my life to Christ – for me it was two years before you, Brian, and I was the ripe old/young age of 33. I personally have quite the “sordid” past myself of drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, geez I could go on, but I’ve been rescued!

    Back to your book – what a GIFT! Great reading, just laying bare your soul. It was great to see how God used people in your life or who you crossed paths with (your nephew’s coach, siblings,others)on your journey to accepting Him. The bible references you refer to hopefully will plant seeds in others who read this book.

    The Gospel is really that simple! Salvation by works just isn’t God’s plan! NONE of us are good enough! (Although “good works” is something that comes natural to a truly repentant heart!) I found it interesting when your father said that “born again Christians” basically ask for forgiveness and then just keep on sinning and this is why “Christianity” from the mormon perspective is not valid. I just paraphrased that so I hope I’m not too far off or over simplistic. Your explanations of the mormon “godhead” and comparing/contrasting with parts of Isaiah – it was great that you expounded on that – very educational and thought provoking for the average person.

    I gotta tell you that I had tears in my eyes as I read the last 5 sentences of page 276, especially the very last sentence. Tear of unabashed JOY!!!!!

    Thanks for sharing your life in words with us.

  • Brian Mackert

    Lynn,

    I’m really happy to hear that the book really connected with you. Even happier to hear that you have come to know the Lord too! I love those last five sentences too! I choke up everytime I read it. One because I really miss my horse “Butch” but most importantly, it summarizes my life and the vision God has given me for my life and my position as a child and citizen of His Kingdom.