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.