Born into the FLDS, Elissa Wall spent her life conforming to the strict requirements of her religion, complete with being forced to marry her 19 year old cousin when she was only 14 years old. Elissa Wall knew of no other life besides polygamy, adhering to the her religion and planning for a future where she would bear many children, while sharing a husband with numerous other husbands. Her father had three wives and had repeatedly changed their lives around with no notice because the church said to. His best efforts were not enough and one day, he was m the church and soon, two of his wives and most of his children, including Elissa, were given to another man. In the eyes of the church, the man their mother married was now their father and they were not allowed to have anything to do with him.
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Although she does well with the domestic chores that are crucial in this fundamentalist religious group, she also excels in public school when she is allowed to attend. In her community, there is no dating and the head of the church determines who will marry and when. At the age of 14, she was commanded to marry a young man she detested named Allen Steed, who happened to be five years older than her and her cousin. She attempted to delay or prevent the ceremony, but ultimately complied because she had no choice.
Unfortunately, young girls in that sect are not told anything about boys, intimacy or even the basics of reproduction, so she did not expect sexual advances from her new husband. After several nights of avoiding him, he forced himself upon her and told her that it was part of marriage. Despite her revulsion, he continued to rape her repeatedly over the course of their marriage, resulting in three miscarriages and a still-birth.
On numerous occasions, Elissa went to the head of their church, Warren Jeffs and asked to be released from her marriage. He refused and blamed the problem on her and her inability to submit to Allen in all ways, as their religion demanded. By the time Elissa was 16, she slept in her truck in the desert, spent the night with her mother and essentially did everything she could not to be with her husband.
When Warren Jeffs become the new prophet, the religion became much stricter. Young men were kicked out of the group for very little reason, while very young girls were married to much older men. When Elissa turns 16, she gets a job as a waitress and makes a few friends. One night, in the desert and experiencing another miscarriage, she gets a flat tire and meets Lamont Barlow.
Despite their efforts, the two soon become close and fall in love. She knows she will leave her husband, but worries about her family that she will leave behind. Upon finding out she was pregnant, she ran out of time. After a brief meeting with Warren Jeffs, she was finally given the right to a release from her marriage, although it also meant she was the worst kind of sinner to the church.
Law enforcement finally steps in and issues a federal warrant for Warren Jeffs. Upon his arrest, he is tried for multiple sexual crimes and is sentenced to at least ten years in prison. Lamont and Elissa have a son, marry and soon have a daughter. She testifies against Warren Jeffs and is instrumental in his guilty verdict.
Finally, today she is free from the tyranny of that sect. She dresses, lives and works like everyone else in modern society and raises their children to be safe.
Best part of story, including ending:
Although Elissa's story was horrifying, she is only one of many with a similar story. It was brutally honest and shared details about her forced marriage and her loving relationship with Lamont. I really enjoyed knowing that through everything she endured, she maintained a love for her mother, father and siblings, even though they would not and could not help her.
Best scene in story:
When Elissa testifies again Warren Jeffs in court, I was deeply moved by her words and actions. This was a young, heavily pregnant woman with limited education being asked to testify against the man that her church believed was their religious leader, and she did so eloquently and clearly. It must have been very difficult and she was testifying for nearly four hours, according to her statement and yet, did not second guess herself or falter in her statements. She had guts!
Opinion about the main character:
I loved that Elissa Wall was and is a survivor. She took her experiences and used them to help others and has a non-profit organization that will help more women and children in her position. She is giving them resources she never had.