This book deals with the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the extremely conservative sect of Mormonism that has recently been in the national news with the raid on a Texas FLDS camp. Mainstream Mormonism is not a factor in this book. All references and opinions in this review are strictly based on the FLDS as presented in these pages.
Stolen Innocence is the autobiography of Elissa Wall, a former FLDS member who managed to break free from the religion. Elissa was born into the FLDS. Her mother – who birthed 18 children - was the second of three wives. All three were “assigned” to Mr. Wall, and it led to a strained home life. After much shuffling, Sharon Wall and all her birth children were removed from the Wall residence. After staying with relatives, the prophet “assigned” them to a new man, Fred Jessop. He was an elder in the FLDS community, and was to be Elissa’s new father. She was not allowed any contact with her biological father.
The FLDS operated much like a cult. Television and pop music were banned. Clothing was restricted to heavy prairie-style dresses that covered clavicle to ankle, even in the summer. For a brief time, children were allowed to attend public school. But when prophet Rulon Jeffs fell ill, and his son Warren took over, things became even stricter. Children were forbidden to attend public school. Their education came from church elders, was completely based in religious teachings, and often children were pulled from school by the time they reached their teen years.
Throughout her childhood, many of Elissa’s siblings were either “married” off, shipped off to “behavioral camps,” or simply excommunicated. But the trauma doesn’t end there for Elissa. At age 14, she is assigned to “marry” Allen, her first cousin, a man of 18 who was quite a bully to Elissa in their childhood. Despite constant pleas for help – from church elders, from her new father Fred, from her mother, from her older siblings – no one would allow her to postpone her “marriage.” The marriage is not a legal one; the FLDS members marry in secret across the Nevada border to avoid the attention of the authorities.
Elissa, too young and unworldly to understand her situation, is miserable. Allen rapes her nightly, insisting that it is her duty as a good FLDS wife to submit to his every desire. Having had no education on the subject, Elissa doesn’t have words to describe what is happening to her. That doesn’t stop her from reaching out for help – but none was forthcoming.