Tragedy in Short Creek
by Brenda Nicholson, former FLDS
As I have been thinking about the events that have unfolded in Short Creek over the last few days, there has been a lot on my mind. I can’t seem to stop thinking about it, actually. The tragic loss of life is always difficult, but when it involves so many, and nearly entirely families, it’s staggering.
There’s a possibility that had the people in the FLDS had access to anything from the “outside” world – radio, internet, etc. – that this tragedy could have been avoided. But it was, in reality, a horrific accident, one that was nearly impossible to predict. I have watched the videos of the flooding posted on Facebook. It wouldn’t have taken much for many others to have been swept away. Children running in the streets that were now transformed into raging rivers, people watching from bridges that could easily have been compromised and swept away. I’m just grateful it wasn’t worse. I can’t help but realize how many times, in the years that I lived at the Creek, that could have been me. I remember loading everyone up to drive around town and see if the Creek was running (or flooding). At any one of those times, had conditions changed like they did on Monday, we would have been swept away, too.
These kinds of things happen in nature, and sometimes, tragically, you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes terrible things happen that are simply out of our control.
It has been heart-warming to see the outpouring of love and support in this trying time. I would like to hope that this event will change things, opening up communication, and renew a sense of community. But that’s highly doubtful.
The real tragedy I see in this whole situation is the suffering that is avoidable, the suffering that is inflicted by choice – the choice of the men who lead the church, and who benefit greatly from it.
I noticed that the youngest child involved in this tragedy was four years old. That’s significant. Why? Because these mothers were young, healthy, and in the past would have continued to have babies. But since at least the end of 2011, intimacy has been outlawed. We were told that “More than a handshake is adultery!” Which was soon more closely defined as a handshake not lasting more than three seconds. The relationships of these people have been destroyed – for around four years. Think about that for a moment. Let is sink in. No affection, so intimacy – not even a hug or comfort.
From what I understand, the husband of two of the girls hasn’t been around a lot. Sent off to work to build up the church. To benefit men who live like royalty. Can you possibly comprehend what it would be like to be separated from your family by “god” and then have them taken in death? It’s a lonely, sorrowful existence filled with fear. Fear that you will be found “worthy,” fear that you’ll have your children removed from you, fear that you will be sent away, alone, to “repent.” Repent of what? Some people never know.
I watched the video of Joe Jessop, and it hurt my heart. But I had to wonder, if we could know the truth, how long had it been since he had been allowed to spend time with his family? Did he understand why the raid in Texas *really* happened, or is he still disillusioned about the innocence of his prophet? Was he aware of the children at the ranch who were there without either of their parents? The church leaders were the first to take children from their mothers. Seth Jeff’s, at the time of the raid, told how they were making videos and websites with the purpose of “pulling at the heartstrings of the gentiles” and turn public opinion in their favor. The other thing this accomplished was a distraction from the truth of what was happening at the ranch.
These people aren’t losing their homes over their faithfulness in any way other than because they follow Warren Jeffs, Lyle Jeffs, John Wayman and the other leading men in not following the laws and paying taxes. We were told many times to “bow our backs” and keep giving money, sometimes specifically for taxes but, we didn’t realize the money wasn’t being used for taxes. The people are likely being told this is solely about the “wicked persecuting them for their righteousness.” But that simply isn’t true.
I have spoken with women who have been sent away without their children, or had some of their children taken from them. Men have been sent away, then their wives are sometimes sent away, leaving children without their parents. Everyone has a “caretaker.” Family bonds are destroyed. Children weep for their mothers, and mothers for their children. But outwardly, they are required to rejoice in “God’s” will. These children are poisoned against their parents, being told they aren’t “worthy” and to pray for them to repent. I can hardly fathom the psychological damage being done to these little people – and their parents.
At the time of the Texas raid, I was crushed. I couldn’t imagine anyone taking away my children. The leaders summoned sympathy on the grounds of how horrible it was to remove children from mothers. Yet, they already were doing the same thing. Not really the same thing, though, what they are doing is so much worse. In the raid, those children and mothers viewed the officials as the enemy. They prayed – we all prayed – for our Heavenly Father to deliver them from the enemy and return them home. What can they turn to for comfort now? These mothers and children torn apart by “god.” They are required to be grateful for corrections, opportunities to repent, etc. They believe this is God’s judgement on them. But most have no clue why they’re kicked out. They’re devastated, alone and frightened. They prayed with every fiberglass of their being – but for what? What enemy can you point to, what can you pray for deliverance from? God?
Women (and men) have been exiled, accused of the “murder of unborn children.” In the real world, we call it miscarriage. Women who had been to see a male doctor could be sent away for that. Medical professionals who prescribed birth control for any reason were sent away, as was anyone who had used it.
The circular logic is like a cage for your mind: “god and the prophet always and only do right, but this doesn’t add up, and the scriptures say that, but God and the prophet always and only do right.” Your head spins and your heart aches, it seems as though there’s no way to win. Every event, every circumstance is twisted in its meaning to fit the purposes of the leadership.
The tragic loss of life over the past few days is horrific. But I argue that those dear people already had their lives stolen away from them. They had their families torn apart. Love was outlawed. It’s too late for them, but what can be done to help free those who are still alive but trapped in a living hell?
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