When it comes to reading, there is a WIDE variety of books on my bookshelf. I’m just as likely to get lost in something poorly written and trashy like 50 Shades of Grey as I am to read non-fiction. I find memoirs particularly fascinating, especially memoirs about polygamy or cults. I’m not exactly sure what this says about me and I’m equally sure I don’t care. However, after a recent chat on Twitter I discovered more than a few people are also interested in reading memoirs from people who have lived in (and left) polygamous communities. For those of you asking for “the list” – here you go!
Warren Jeff’s Sect (aka: the FLDS)
Perhaps the most famous, this is the fundamentalist sect that was in the news so heavily a few years back (including being featured on an Oprah episode). You would definitely recognize the women from this group by their prairie dresses and their very large hair poofs. Their main presence is in Utah, and they also have a presence in Arizona and Texas. At one time, ex-sect members were offering “polygamy tours” of the compound in Colorado City, but as of this post it looks like they have closed up shop. These books detail a community that shuns modern society (and technology), lives under the strict rule of “The Prophet” (at the time the books were written this was Warren Jeffs) and experiences the reality of arranged marriages (often when the girls were extremely young to men old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers). Authors of these memoirs literally escaped from this sect (some during the middle of the night).
LeBaron Sect (aka: Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times which later split into a second sect Church of the Lamb of God):
This fundamentalist group split from the Colorado group in the 1920s and moved to Mexico, where they started an FLDS farm called “Colonia LeBaron.” In the 1970s, there was a disagreement between the “prophet” of the compound’s two sons over the direction of the church and so one son, Ervil LeBaron, decided to form his own sect (the Church of the Lamb of God) after receiving a revelation from God. These books detail the sect members’ lives in Mexico and Nicaragua (often living in abject poverty) during this time period and discuss the issues that lead to the Church of the Lamb of God’s religion-inspired murder spree. I could not stop reading these books, mainly because my mind was just blown by the poverty and murders detailed by the authors.
Favorite Wife: Escape from Polygamy – Susan Ray Schmidt (On sale for $2.99 through June 2012)
You’ve probably seen these folks on TV. The Brown family currently has a TV show on TLC (Sister Wives – Sundays at 9pm) and the Dargers did a large publicity tour last year when their book came out. I can’t substantiate this one way or the other, but the Dargers claim that they are the basis for the HBO show Big Love (which I loved and am sad was cancelled).
3rd Party Non-Fiction Books:
These books are all non-fiction books about the FLDS written by 3rd party journalists. I’m including Under the Banner of Heaven in this list because it comes up a lot when researching FLDS polygamy, but I feel like it needs to be noted that UTBH is a fairly negative portrayal of the LDS religion. It does, however, explain where the polygamy doctrine came from and it also discusses the events leading up to the official Church of Later Day Saints renouncement of polygamy in 1890.
*Denotes books I have not yet read
For the sake of this list, I’ve stuck to non-fiction books printed by a major publisher. When I was compiling this list on Amazon, I noticed that there are a lot of first person polygamy accounts written by indie authors. Since I have not read any of them myself and because there were a good number, I have not included those books on this list. With the exception of Kim Taylor’s book, all of the books listed under the “Warren Jeff’s Sect” and “LeBaron Sect” sections were written by individuals who were directly related in one way or another to a sect leader. Kim Taylor may or may not have been (since I have not read her book I cannot say for sure).
Disclosure: All of the links above to Amazon are affiliate links. If you purchase any of the books from this list after clicking through to Amazon, they will pay me a small referral fee. I’ll probably use it to purchase the books I have no read on this list.