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From Polygamist Royalty To FLDS Lost Boy
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross. Growing up in a polygamist family,
my guest, Brent Jeffs, had one father, three sister-mothers, 19 siblings
and 87 aunts and uncles. The family belonged the Fundamentalist - Church
of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, the FLDS, which broke with the
Mormon Church over 100 years ago so that its members could continue
practicing polygamy, or plural marriage, after the Mormons gave up
Jeffsâ grandfather, Rulon Jeffs was the prophet of the FLDS from 1986
until his death in 2002. Rulon Jeffsâ son Warren Jeffs, my guestâs
uncle, took over as leader and prophet. Warren Jeffs is now serving a
10-year prison term, convicted of two counts of being an accomplice to
rape. Before those charges against him were filed, my guest Brent Jeffs
became the first person to sue Warren Jeffs for sexual abuse.
Brent Jeffs has written a new memoir about growing up in the FLDS and
leaving it. Itâs called âLost Boy.â Brent Jeffs, welcome to FRESH AIR.
Within the really insular world that you grew up in, your family held a
high place when you were growing up. You had what the church described
as royal blood. Your grandfather was the prophet.
Mr.Â BRENT JEFFS (Author, âLost Boyâ) Yes, yes.
GROSS: What did that mean to you?
Mr.Â JEFFS: You know, it was really different for me growing up because I
really didnât understand, you know, the impact of having my grandfather
be the prophet. The way people treated us as, you know, theyâre afraid
to talk to us, theyâre afraid to say anything to us because of who we
were. And also I didnât really like it growing up because I had
absolutely no relationship with him whatsoever. He was just considered
some very high-powered person that I just knew as a handshake, and that
GROSS: Now the FLDS is a polygamist sect that broke away from the Mormon
Church after the Mormon Church gave up polygamy. So as a polygamist
sect, whatâs the explanation for polygamy as interpreted by the FLDS?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well basically they teach that living the laws of the FLDS,
which means, you know, the polygamy, you receive more than one wife. And
if you do, you are at the highest level of the kingdom of God. And they
teach that all these other religions like the LDS, they are not at the
highest level because they do not have more than one wife. They say that
this was obviously started by Joseph Smith and that this is the word of
God through Joseph Smith and that it had to be carried on.
GROSS: And in fact, to have three wives gets you into the highest realm
of heaven? Thereâs three realms of heaven?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well, thereâs three realms of heaven, but just more than wife
basically they would call it plural marriage, and so you would have to
have more than one to make it to the highest level.
GROSS: Did you just assume that polygamy was normal when you were
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yeah because we grew up in such a closed-off society. We
rarely made it out into the real world, maybe going to the grocery
store, buying clothes and stuff like that. But you know, as far as I
knew, we were just a big group of people in this religion.
I always questioned and wondered why because we lived in a neighborhood
full of, you know, just everybody else, you know, out in the world in
our neighborhood. And they would drive by screaming at us, you know,
polygamist pigs, you know, stuff like that. That really got me
wondering, why are we so different from everybody else?
GROSS: You didnât grow up on a compound?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well I did. I did. I grew up in the compound up in Sandy,
Utah, basically encased by a big, concrete wall. The compound up here
was relatively pretty small. It only had, like, three of my uncles and
my grandfather and then our family lived on that compound. And then
there was the big school building/meeting house, and all the other
members in the church lived all over the valley, all over the Salt Lake
GROSS: Oh I see, so this was like an exclusive compound for your family.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes, and there was only Jeffs on this compound.
GROSS: Now as you point out in your memoir, âLost Boy,â a lot of people
assume, oh, in some ways it must be pretty cool to be a man with several
wives because you have sexual variety without guilt. But you say itâs
actually a recipe for misery for everyone involved.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Absolutely. You know, I can understand where some people
would come from, yeah, you know, having multiple wives and having that
variety. But yeah, only if youâre living in the world of Hugh Hefner.
Living in a society like this, you have multiple women trying to share
their love with one man, trying to have that, you know, one-on-one
connection with that one man. But obviously thereâs going to be jealousy
and hate and all sorts of things going on. So for me growing up in this
family, it was absolute chaos because they were always trying to get
attention from my dad and just trying to be that wife that he really
loved. And there would be favoritism and everything else going on.
GROSS: What was your relationship to your fatherâs two wives who were
not your mother? Your mother was one of three wives.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes. My mother was the first wife, but my relationship with
those other two moms were not good. They both hated me and my other
brothers growing up because they resented us because of, you know, we
were my momâs kids. You know, there was a lot of physical abuse going on
from both of them. And whenever these moms would fight, it would be them
attacking my mom. My mom was always just defending her kids because she
loved us, and she did not want anything to happen to us.
GROSS: Now the other two women who were married to your father were
sisters, actual sisters, like blood sisters.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yeah, two of them were. My mom and one of the other moms were
full-blooded sisters, yes.
GROSS: Oh, it was your mother who was a sister with one of the other
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes, yes.
GROSS: You know, for somebodyâs who outside of that world, that just
seems so bizarre to have two sisters married to one man. And for you to
have your aunt also be one of your mothers.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yeah, that was extremely weird. You know even for me growing
up, I thought that was a little weird, just the fact that they were
full-blooded sisters. For me, you know, thatâs a recipe for disaster.
Thatâs just never going to work. And so, you know, there was just never
any sort of calm and peaceful feelings going on around the house. You
know, they were always just trying to get my dadâs attention and stuff.
GROSS: Was there a formula for how your father divided his time between
his three wives and the children of his three wives?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes. He would, in the beginning, he would spend, you know,
like one night with each wife and just move around. And then like on the
fourth night, he would have his own night. And so, like, letâs say he
would come home and he had, you know, his evening with my mom, he would
come home and that was basically our night with him, on somewhat of a
one-on-one level with him and my mom.
GROSS: Did your mother know when she married your father that she
wouldnât be the only wife?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes, absolutely.
GROSS: And she was okay with that?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yeah, you know, she grew up the same way. You know, FLDS was,
you know, it was the highest form of, you know, in the FLDS religion, it
was the highest form of way to live to get to the highest kingdom. She
absolutely, 100 percent, believed it, soâ¦
GROSS: You put that in the past tense. Does she no longer believe it?
Mr.Â JEFFS: No. I really â I canât speak for her totally, but you know,
she doesnât believe it now. I mean, my whole family, besides a brother
and a sister, are out. Theyâve been out for 10 years.
GROSS: Out of the faith and out of the compound?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes, yes.
GROSS: I guess one of the many things I really donât understand is how
can you be an openly polygamist group when polygamy is against the law
and still, you know, not get arrested or anything?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well you know, they always have loopholes. The loopholes they
created was, you know, the first wife always is married legally, and
they would marry all these other wives so-called spiritually marriages.
And so that was a loophole for them. The law could not go after them
because they were not legally married, you know, to the man. They were
spiritually married in the church.
GROSS: I see. I see. So you couldnât accuse them of polygamy because
there wasnât a civil contract.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yeah, there was only the one wife legally married. All the
other ones, no matter how many amount there were, all were spiritual
GROSS: So your parents have been off the compound for about a decade.
You say you think your mother no longer really believe in polygamy. Your
parents are still married?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes. My dad is married to my mom. And they are absolutely the
happiest theyâve ever been.
GROSS: And the other two former wives or current wives?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well stepping back a little bit, with the third wife, she
left our family years and years ago because of just several
circumstances, it didnât work out. She basically left when we were gone
on a trip. And so she moved down to Colorado City, and sheâs married to
another man and has her own family.
GROSS: Colorado City is another FLDS compound.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes, down in Colorado City. And the other wife, sheâs just â
you know, sheâs here in the valley kind of doing her own thing, but I
mean, sheâs happy, soâ¦
GROSS: And so is your mother still in touch with her sister who used to
be a fellow wife?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes. Just the fact that the kids of, you know, of my mom and
her sisterâs kids also, they come up. You know, they hang out with my
little brothers, too. So there is always connection there, and theyâre
still my dadâs kids. So thereâs still a connection there.
GROSS: My guest is Brent Jeffs. His new memoir about growing up in the
FLDS is called âLost Boy.â Weâll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If youâre just joining us, my guest is Brent Jeffs, and heâs
written a new memoir called âLost Boy,â about growing up on a polygamist
compound as a member of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, the FLDS,
which is the group that broke away from the Mormon Church after the
Mormons gave up polygamy.
So when you were ready for kindergarten, your parents sent you to a
public-school kindergarten. And you were the first kid in the family to
go to a public school. So what was it like for you to be off the
compound and be exposed to children who werenât like you?
Mr.Â JEFFS: I felt really out of place. Thank God I had my sister with
me, but that was explained to the teacher at the timeâ¦
GROSS: So your sister was in kindergarten, too.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes, my sister thatâs like from the other sister-wife thatâs
like six months younger than me.
Mr.Â JEFFS: And so that was â thank God I had her. But the teacher kind
of knew, she knew where we were coming from, so she tried to make the
experience the best she could. But for us being around the kids, we
didnât know how to interact with them. We didnât really â in the
beginning, we didnât really know how to talk to them, but they
eventually warmed up to us. And we kind of got a taste of what the world
outside the compound was like, and I think thatâs where, you know, a lot
of questions for me started because they taught in the church that all
these people outside of this church are evil and horrible and, you know,
all these rotten people. And for me to go to kindergarten and see all
these little kids, playing with them, theyâre little kids just like me,
having fun, and theyâre not evil, and theyâre not bad. So that for me
brought up a lot of questions inside.
GROSS: Did you dress differently than the other kids? Weâve seen a lot
of photos of women and girls wearing kind of old-fashioned prairie
dresses and shirts and hairdos, but what about the boys?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yeah, we had the dress pants, long shirt, stuff like that. I
mean it wasnât â it didnât stand out near as much as the women, but we
definitely had to dress that way. There was a dress code, and so yeah,
some of the kids in the kindergarten were definitely, you know, would
ask, itâs pretty hot outside. You know, why are you wearing all those
clothes? And the teacher would kind of explain to them you know, thatâs
what they decide to wear.
They would come up to us afterwards when the teacher wasnât there and
ask us, and we really wouldnât really have an answer to give to them
because we were so confused.
GROSS: You write that things changed over time while your grandfather,
Rulon Jeffs, was the prophet of the FLDS. And that after a while, he
decided that all marriages should be arranged by him. What was your
grandfatherâs reason for deciding all marriages should be arranged by
Mr.Â JEFFS: For me, I guess it was just â it was another form of control
over the people for him to kind of decide who goes with who and how it
should happen. For me it was just another form of control on his end.
GROSS: You know you write in your memoir about some of the difficulties
of being raised a boy within the FLDS. And a lot of it is just the math
of plural marriage. So how does that work against you when youâre a boy?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well, you kind of grow up just in preparation to become
basically a man ready for that type of lifestyle. But for me I didnât
want it because I grew up in such chaos and stuff, and hatred. I dreaded
growing up and being a part of something like because I didnât want
that. I didnât want to be a husband with a bunch of wives that are
fighting and screaming and kids screaming and just chaos. I did not look
forward to that at all. So growing up, as I got older into the teenage
years, it definitely hit me hard, and it really started scaring me a
GROSS: If you wanted it, youâd be up against mathematical problems
because as you write, unless you kowtow to the leaders, youâre likely to
be expelled or have a hard time getting even one wife, let alone the
requisite three. And thatâs because if thereâs an equal number of boys
and girls growing up within the FLDS, then thereâs not going to be
enough girls for all the men to have plural wives. So what happens to
make the math work?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well basically these older men that have control, that have â
you know, that are higher up in the church, theyâre the ones that were
setting all these boundaries and all these rules of kicking these boys
out to have enough girls for them to marry, for them to keep getting
these new wives. Any sign of any sort of free thinking, rebellion or
anything, they immediately would clamp down on that with that boy and
find a reason to kick him out.
GROSS: Another thing that you grew up with was a belief that the end of
the world was near. And thatâs something that your grandfather, Rulon
Jeffs, when he was the prophet, something that he preached. Was the end
of the world supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing? Did it mean
that heaven was getting closer or that youâd be suffering? What did it
mean to you?
Mr.Â JEFFS: It was good and bad because they preached that if you were
not good enough, youâre not going to go. Youâre not going to be picked
to go. Youâre not pure enough. So there was constantly a battle within
each one of us that, are we good enough? Are we obeying him enough? So
that was definitely â we were all scared because we all felt like that
we were not good enough to be saved.
GROSS: Oh so now I really see where the control comes in because heâs
the one you have to prove youâre good enough to.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Uh-huh, and that was an absolute form of manipulation on his
GROSS: So did you in your heart of hearts believe you were good enough
to get into heaven, or that youâd punished when the end came?
Mr.Â JEFFS: I knew in my head that I was going to be punished because I
had random thoughts of free thinking, questioning things, you know,
wondering why these rules the way they are and when theyâre doing the
things they do. So I felt like for me growing up that I was never good
GROSS: The way you said free thinking, itâs like thatâs something youâd
be accused of, not praised for.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Absolutely. Free thinking meant for these leaders in the
church that we actually can see whatâs really going on, looking around
at the world around us and figuring out for ourselves this really isnât
so bad. The world around us is not as bad as youâre saying it is. Anyone
having a free-thinking mind they would definitely want to get rid of.
GROSS: Now even though your father was the son of the man who was seen
as the prophet when you were growing up, the prophet was Rulon Jeffs,
Rulon Jeffs excommunicated your father. For what reason?
Mr.Â JEFFS: Well, because he called it harboring gentiles.
GROSS: Gentiles was anybody who was not a member of the FLDS.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes. Gentiles were anyone that was not a member. And another
form would be called apostates, which were former members that were
kicked out. So he called my dad on being that, harboring gentiles, which
my oldest brother, Clain(ph), lost his little daughter, six months old.
She died of SIDS. And my dad didnât even hesitate. We helped my brother.
He was out of the church, obviously, helped him with the funeral, helped
him go through all that stuff, just be, you know, family around him
because it was such a traumatic event.
Well, when we had done that at our house, Warren at the time was spying
in our yard basically and kind of basically sabotaged us. And so he went
and told my grandfather what was going on, that we had gentiles at our
house. Soon, like the next day, my dad got a phone call from my
grandfather, basically, you know, calling him in there to talk about
that. And so on the grounds that my dad was harboring gentiles, my
grandfather offered him to either, I take away your family and you can
kind of repent and leave.
You know, Iâm going to take away your family, and youâre going to be on
probation and think about what you did, or you can just leave the church
and Iâm still going to take away your kids. So after my dad got offered
those two things, he stood up for himself and said, absolutely not. I
refuse both. I am going to leave, and I am going to take my family with
GROSS: When you say Warren, thatâs Warren Jeffs, who became the leader
of the FLDS after your grandfather died.
Mr.Â JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: What did Rulon Jeffs mean when he said he would take away the
family? What does that mean?
Mr.Â JEFFS: He would reassign them to another family.
GROSS: Reassign them to another family. Was that something that was
Mr.Â JEFFS: Not so much. It was something new that was coming up, and
basically that would mean that the man was not worthy to have his family
anymore. And so the man would literally just let them take the family
away and marry off all the wives to another man, and all of a sudden,
all those kids are that other manâs responsibility and that he has
nothing. I mean, heâs basically either kicked out or put on probation.
GROSS: Did you know about this when it was happening, and were you
afraid that you would be reassigned to a different family?
Mr.Â JEFFS: We really didnât know a whole lot when it was actually going
on. All we knew was that we were being perpetrated by Warren. And dad
just came home and told us that, you know, this is what happened, and I
decided Iâm taking my family with me. So that type of control was all
GROSS: Brent Jeffs will be back in the second half of the show. His new
memoir is called âLost Boy.â Iâm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Iâm Terry Gross, back with Brent Jeffs. His
new memoir, âLost Boyâ is about growing up in a polygamous family in the
FLDS, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day
Saints. The FLDS broke with the Mormon Church over 100 years ago so that
its members could continue practicing polygamy after the Mormon Church
gave up the practice. When we left off, Jeffs was describing why his
father decided that the family should leave the FLDS.
When your father decided to leave with the family, where did your all
go, how far away did you go?
Mr. JEFFS: My family really only moved, you know, just probably a few
miles away, and my dad just basically rented a house and sold his house
and property because he, you know, he owned it. And so he sold it to one
of his brothers. And so he basically just - we just packed up and left.
GROSS: So moving just a few miles away, were there still a lot of FLDS
members in the neighborhood?
Mr. JEFFS: No, in the neighborhood that we moved there was none.
GROSS: How did that feel?
Mr. JEFFS: Well, that was extremely, you know, that was definitely
different. Let me back up a little bit.
Mr. JEFFS: When we all found out what was going on with my dad leaving
the church, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear come over me because I
felt like all of a sudden Iâm no longer part of this religion, and if
Iâm no longer a part, Iâm going to burn in hell. So I made a personal
decision to, just me, moved down the Colorado City and live with a
friend thatâs in the FLDS church and make one final decision on whether
or not that this religion was for me.
GROSS: Yeah, you mentioned in the book youâre about 14 at that time, and
at the age of 14 is when you become a deacon in the church. What does
that mean within the church?
Mr. JEFFS: That is the first level of you becoming a man in the church,
basically, you know, that time youâre deacon, you have a few
responsibilities and then you work your way up to what they would call a
priest, a teacher, and then when you received your Melchisedec
priesthood, thatâs when youâre able to get married and stuff.
GROSS: So you had just kind of taken a step deeper into the church just
as your family was pulling out.
Mr. JEFFS: Yes. I was in question. I was in question and so I had to
find out for myself if this was really what I wanted to do.
GROSS: So you moved into a friendsâ houseâ¦
Mr. JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: â¦who was a member of the FLDS. How did you decide whether to stay
or to go?
Mr. JEFF: Well, in the beginning it was okay. Everyone in the town
treated me okay, but once they really started finding out, you know, who
I was and who my dad was, the gossip is crazy, you know, it just goes on
and on, and they found out that, you know, obviously my dad left with
his family. People started pointing fingers at me, started, you know,
not talking to me at all. And I guess I kind of bent the rules a little
bit down there. I had my very first girlfriend down there, who I had
such a deep connection with.
We would actually, you know, kind of go behind the scenes down there and
kind of get to know each other and fall in love. We got found out and
basically got ripped apart from each other.
GROSS: Sheâs FLDS too. She was anyways at the time.
Mr. JEFFS: Yes. And Iâm not sure where she is now, but she was at FLDS
at that time.
GROSS: So did that help you make up your mind that youâre leavingâ¦
Mr. JEFFS: Yes, absolutely.
GROSS:â¦ the church?
Mr. JEFFS: You know, there was nothing left for me, nothing. I knew
after all that they had nothing left for me. So I came and moved back up
to Salt Lake and just moved back in with my parents for a little bit.
GROSS: So you were how old and this was what year?
Mr. JEFFS: I was 15 by the time I moved back up, so I went to public
school, ninth grade.
GROSS: Oh, ninth grade kind of the worst under any circumstances.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. JEFFS: It was, yeah, it was absolutely just - it was just mind-
blowing for me. All of a sudden Iâm thrown into a world of these
teenagers that looked at me and talked about me behind my back and knew
who I was, and I just felt so small. I felt like, you know, why am I
here, you know, it just, it hurt really bad because I didnât choose this
lifestyle. I just grew, I was born into this lifestyle. So trying to
find any sort of a connection, it was really difficult. But you know,
after time I did. I found friends that accepted me for whoever I was,
and it felt really, really good.
GROSS: In the world outside FLDS, a lot of people donât quite understand
the distinctions between the Mormon Church, LDS, and the fundamentalist
breakaway sect FLDS, which still practices polygamy. When youâre living
in Salt Lake, Iâm sure there were lot of people of the Mormon faith in
your school and in your community. What was your relationship like with
them and how did they see you?
Mr. JEFFS: Well, you know, they wanted to obviously make it very clear
that that was not a part of their religion. That ended years and years
back, prophets back. So you know, in a way they kind of felt like they
didnât want to be associated with us as long as we were part of the FLDS
church. Now, when we were out, that was a different story. They were
open arms to us if we ever needed anything, just as long as we didnât
represent the FLDS church.
GROSS: What were some of the things that you learned in public school as
a teenager that contradicted everything youâd ever been told, or things
that you learned that astonished you?
Mr. JEFFS: For one, it was history, oh my heck. I mean history was - in
ninth grade I had so much information going in because growing up they
didnât teach us about anything. I mean they didnât teach us about
dinosaurs or anything. So all of the sudden Iâm having all this overload
of information thrown at me and I would have to after class talk to my
teacher and say let me explain to you where Iâm coming from, and if I
donât catch on, this is because I, this is all brand new to me. And so I
kind of developed a relationship with all of my teachers. So after class
I was able to kind of go talk to them and get a little bit more clear on
what was, what was being taught, you know?
GROSS: Did they understand, were they sympathetic to the position you
Mr. JEFFS: Yes. They were completely sympathetic. They got me and they
were proud of me for stepping out of that and into the real world, and
so absolutely they helped me.
GROSS: My guest is Brent Jeffs. His new memoir about growing up in the
FLDS is called âLost Boy.â Weâll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: If youâre just joining us, my guest is Brent Jeffs, and he grew
up a member of the FLDS, the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints. This is
the sect that broke away from the Mormon Church to continue practicing
polygamy after the Mormons abandoned polygamy. And his new memoir is
called âLost Boy.â Now, not long after your grandfather, Rulon Jeffs,
died in 2002, Warren Jeffs - who was your uncle?
Mr. JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: Became the prophet. You were no longer living on the compound
when that happened.
Mr. JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: But you knew people who were still living there. How did things
change when Warren Jeffs, who is now in prison, took over as the
Mr. JEFFS: All the members of the FLDS I know were just completely blown
away. Basically how it works is when a prophet knows that his time is
very limited on this Earth, he appoints another prophet, okay? So this
didnât happen with Warren. Warren stood up in front of all these people
and says that, you know, his dad appointed him as the new prophet in the
church and that that is what it is. And everyone believed him, everyone
just let it happen. All of a sudden all these rules, all of a sudden all
these changes, you know, and thatâs when everything started with him.
GROSS: How do you know that your grandfather didnât appoint your uncle
to be the next prophet?
Mr. JEFFS: Well, I guess I didnât know for a fact but there was a lot of
other members in the church that everyone felt like should have been the
next prophet, not Warren.
GROSS: Was the word already out that Warren was trouble before he took
over the FLDS?
Mr. JEFFS: Yes, yes. Just inside, you know, inside close quarters of the
people inside, you know, the church and stuff, we knew, especially for
our family, that Warren was tainted. You know, Warren was, if he was
going to be put into a position of leadership, that it would not be
GROSS: Well, you say that he sexually abused you and one of your older
brothers when you were boys.
Mr. JEFFS: Yes, absolutely. I knew for a fact he was absolutely the
wrong person for that type of position in the church. I knew that he was
going to take over that church and do all the wrong things for his own
GROSS: So what did he do? What changes did he institute?
Mr. JEFFS: For one, it was absolutely crazy. He - I remember hearing
about it, you know, I wasnât a member then, but like I had a friend call
me up and he had all of the dogs in the town of Colorado City. He made
everyone get rid of their dogs and kill them all.
GROSS: Kill them?
Mr. JEFFS: Kill their dogs.
Mr. JEFFS: Because I guess he felt like they were getting in the way of
what he was trying to do. Heâs basically punishing these people, making,
you know, gaining more fear, gaining more control over these people.
Every little thing they did was completely monitored and controlled by
him. He had people behind the scenes working for him, watching, waiting
for people to fumble or, you know, screw up a little bit and he would
nail them to the wall.
GROSS: Now, your father was threatened by your grandfather, the prophet,
with having his family reassigned because your father had quote, you
know, harbored a Gentile, which was your brother. But you write that
when Warren Jeffs became, quote, âthe prophet,â that he started
reassigning a lot of families and threatening a lot of families with
Mr. JEFFS: He saw that. He saw the advantage of doing that.
GROSS: More control being the advantage?
Mr. JEFFS: Oh yeah, and that was all him. It was - everything to him was
control. By him doing this, he put the fear of God in all these men, in
all these families, that you mess with me at all, you do anything
outside of what I say, guess whatâs going to happen? Iâm going to take
away your family. Iâm going to take away your kids. Youâre going to have
GROSS: Do you think people believed in him as being an actual spiritual
representative or do you think they were just afraid of him?
Mr. JEFFS: Afraid and brainwashed. If you could taught the same thing
over and over and over your entire life, youâre going to eventually 100
percent believe it. Thatâs going to be all you know, so by control and
brainwashing these peopleâs entire lives, absolutely.
GROSS: Now, you had sued Warren Jeffs for sexually abusing you. What
happened to that suit?
Mr. JEFFS: Basically it kind of got thrown on the backburner because it
was considered a civil lawsuit and the attorney general felt like it
wasnât a strong enough lawsuit to take against Warren. And so when mine
came out, others started following. Other lawsuits started coming out,
people started talking, and so basically that was ammunition for all
these other lawsuits to come out. It was like I paved a road for all
these other people to finally step up and come out and have enough
evidence against him to put him away.
GROSS: And the one that really put him away were the charges of being an
accomplice to rape, in other words forcibly having a 14-year-old girl
get married against her will. So heâs doing, what, 10 years for that.
Mr. JEFFS: Yeah, thatâs undeniable evidence. I mean, all you have to do
is, that girl has kids, you look how old they are and compare it to how
old she is. She is under age, thatâs completely illegal. With what
happened to me, it happened so long ago, you know, basically it was my
word against his.
GROSS: And also, I should add, it was kind of a recovered memory for
you. You didnât even have that memory until you were how old?
Mr. JEFFS: Well, it was always there subconsciously, but it really
surfaced when I had talked to my oldest brother (unintelligible) when he
had told me he was the victim of Warren also.
GROSS: Now, your brothers who left the compound before you did, they
left of their own will, right?
Mr. JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: They werenât thrown out.
Mr. JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: You lived with a couple of your brothers for a whileâ¦
Mr. JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: â¦after you left the FLDS, and both of them have drug problems,
cocaine, heroin, one of them sold drugs. Did you ask yourself why they
turned to hard drugs like that? Did you have any sense of why?
Mr. JEFFS: I had no idea. I mean, it was so scary for me moving out and
living with him at such a young age. I just followed suit. I followed
everything that they did. I mean I looked up to them because they were
the only ones I could hold on to at the time. They were my only support
system. So in a way I looked up to him and even if they did drugs, that
didnât bother me and I got engaged with him.
GROSS: Did you get addicted?
Mr. JEFFS: I never got to the extreme levels that they did but, you
know, I tried things. I tried drugs.
GROSS: Wasnât that really scary for you because youâd gone from
basically a sheltered compound behind a concrete wall, removed from the
world, suddenly youâre living with brothers who have drug problems. They
have dealers who are pretty violent guys. And youâre kind of exposed to
all of that. Itâs like one extreme to another.
Mr. JEFFS: You grow up really fast. All the sudden, you have all these
responsibilities. Youâre responsible for yourself. You got to go out and
get a job. You got to go out and be a part of society. And, you know, it
definitely - it was mind-blowing for me in the beginning and I didnât
hardly leave the apartment in the very beginning because I was - I
didnât know what to expect.
GROSS: So, one of your brothers ended up shooting himself, taking his
life. And another also died, you said it was unclear if it was suicide
or not. That must have really shaken you too.
Mr. JEFFS: Oh, it â even to this day, you know, I miss them terribly.
They were such an amazing influence in my life and they really taught me
to stand up for myself. They really did from the very beginning when I
moved out with them. It really hurt a lot because I didnât fully
understand, why they chose this way out. Now itâs different. I mean,
itâs definitely not something, you know, that you ever want to go
through but, you know, with my oldest brother, Clain, being such a
horrible victim of Warren Jeffs I can, you know, I can kind of see where
the addiction would start and wanting to numb that pain and make it go
GROSS: You had to choose what kind of life you wanted for yourself once
you left the FLDS. Your life had always been defined for you. Every
decision, kind of, made for you. You knew what was right. You were told
what was wrong. And then youâre kind of in the world and everything is
kind of grey. And everything is like a choice and you arenât used to
making choices like that. What kind of life have you chosen for yourself
Mr. JEFFS: I have absolutely chosen a life of inner peace with myself. I
love myself. I choose positive people in my life and living a very happy
and positive life. I have an absolute beautiful daughter who is my
world. She is everything to me. And being able to be a dad to her on
such a personal level and play with her and have that connection is
absolutely the most amazing thing for me.
GROSS: Do you practice any religion now?
Mr. JEFFS: No. I choose not to.
Mr. JEFFS: For me, itâs kind of a personal decision. I kind of feel like
that Iâve been - Iâve had religion jammed down my throat my whole life.
I have experimented with a few - not for me.
GROSS: Have your parents supported you in writing the book and in
testifying in courtâ¦
Mr. JEFFS: Yes.
GROSS: â¦and in filing suit against Warren Jeffs and, basically, in
taking your story and their story public?
Mr. JEFFS: They have supported me a hundred percent the whole way. I
really feel absolutely just so honored to have my parents support me
through all of this and, you know, they are very proud of me for doing
this, for standing up. They have been amazing from day one when I
started doing this.
GROSS: You know, a little bit of weird question, but do you watch âBig
Loveâ the HBO series aboutâ¦
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. JEFFS: Iâve seen it.
GROSS: â¦yeah - about a community of - basically of FLDS who practice
polygamy. I think itâs a really fascinating program and actually Iâm
surprised by how much of the family part of the story seems to correlate
with the story that you tell in your book.
Mr. JEFFS: For the most part, it does. It definitely - âBig Loveâ has
gone through, you know, television, TV, Hollywood that type of stuff.
Itâs been blown up, but as a general sense, yes. Soâ¦
GROSS: So what do you think when you watch the show?
Mr. JEFFS: I laugh. I really â I laugh because, you know, itâs so â itâs
really crazy for me to look back and think that, wow, you know, I lived
that lifestyle. I was - you know, I grew up all - it kind of sometimes
overwhelms me but now I can just sit back and say, you know what, I
really learned a lot from this. All these experiences have made me a
really strong person and Iâm able to stand up for myself. So, you know,
watching âBig Loveâ for me, it doesnât make me sad or doesnât make me,
you know, resent anybody or anything, you know. It just - I donât know.
I think - I just laugh really.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: Brent Jeffs, thanks so much for talking with us.
Mr. JEFFS: Thank you very much for having me on.
GROSS: Brent Jeffsâ new memoir about growing up in and leaving the FLDS
is called âLost Boy.â Coming up, Ken Tucker reviews a new CD by Sarah
Borges and the Broken Singles. A quintet raised on punk rock and country
music. This is FRESH AIR.
*** TRANSCRIPTION COMPANY BOUNDARY ***
Old-Fashioned Cover Band Shoots For The 'Stars'
TERRY GROSS, host:
Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles is a Boston-area band raised on punk
rock and country music. Their new album, âThe Stars Are Out,â contains
five original songs and five covers from artists ranging from the The
Lemonheads to NRBQ. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review.
(Soundbite of song, âDo It for Freeâ)
Ms. SARAH BORGES (Lead Singer, Broken Singles): (Singing) Hey you over
there, what you looking at. I feel thereâs some kind of problem, where
(unintelligible) got mad, madâ¦â¦
KEN TUCKER (Rock Critic, Entertainment Weekly): The album is called âThe
Stars Are Outâ with a picture of a glittering night sky on the cover to
make sure you donât think the title is a pun because Sarah Borges and
the Broken Singles are certainly not stars. The groupâs primary charm,
communicated very well on this album, is that itâs an old fashioned bar
band, playing a mixture of original material and covers of others hits.
What lifts âThe Star Are Outâ above the work of most bar bands is that
Borges and her cohorts are able to put their own mark on the material
they didnât write. Such as this nicely moody version of a Stephen
Merritt Magnetic Fieldâs song called âNo One Will Ever Love You.â
(Soundbite of song, âNo One Will Ever Love Youâ)
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) If you don't mind why don't you mind, where is
your sense of indignation. You are too kind, much too kind. Where is the
madness that you promised me. Where is the dream for which I paid
Mr. TUCKER: Iâd wager the line that caught Sarah Borgesâs ear in that
song was no one will ever love you honestly, since the honesty and
dishonesty in relationships runs through her recordings like an
electrical current. When you combine that theme with the bandâs fondness
with the pop side of punk rock, itâs no wonder they latched onto this
fine semi-obscure song by Any Trouble. That was a British band that
recorded for Stiff Records, once home to Elvis Costello and Nick Low,
among many others.
(Soundbite of song, âI Donât Want To Be Your Loverâ)
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) I donât want to be a lover. I just want to hold
you for the best (unintelligible). It would be another, closing your
eyes and now you keep all the light (unintelligible). That is
(unintelligible). Girl, weâve been together now for so long. I canât
tell you and anything but hear and now. I didnât want to hear it anyhow,
(unintelligible) thing that got to you. If there is loveâ¦â¦
Mr. TUCKER: No Boston area band in the past 40 years seems able to have
escaped the influence of one of that cityâs signature acts, The J. Giles
band. As Borges and the Broken Singles demonstrate with their own
composition âIâll Show You How.â Itâs a chunk of bluesy rock, featuring
honking harmonica fills, reminiscent of Giles band member Magic Dick.
(Soundbite of song, âIâll Show You Howâ)
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) Baby why you walk out of that door? Baby, why you
want to hurt me some more? When all (unintelligible). But please donât
ruin or else (unintelligible) wonât save me. Why you want to hurt me
more. (Unintelligible) outside but thatâs okay. Alright,
(unintelligible) next wants to go to heaven tonight. Till then I want
you to watch all over again. But now, you can come over and Iâll show
Mr. TUCKER: Sarah Borges and the three guys who form the Broken Singles
build their own material not just around Borgesâs voice, which can cut
across the guitars like a knife, but also around their shared fondness
for pop music history - mixing and matching. Take for example, âMe And
Your Ghost,â in which Borges does some channeling of Lesley Gore circa
âItâs My Party,â girl-group harmony, and Mersey-beat rhythms. It's a
â60s throwback free of camp or irony.
(Soundbite of song, âMe And Your Ghostâ)
Ms. BORGES: (Singing) I think I was going to put (unintelligible), one
night torn dresses. Wonât miss the boy in the bay, the one that who
could kill me in the (unintelligible). And Iâmâ¦
Mr. TUCKER: The question here is whether good taste in pop music history
and deft skill at reproducing a wide range of styles can cohere as
something original. In this, Iâm not entirely convinced. Certainly the
groupâs eclecticism, to paraphrase the NRBQ song they cover here, comes
to them naturally. But originality can be overrated. Sometimes coming up
with a great set list for your live act, which is basically what âThe
Stars Are Outâ amounts to as a collection songs, is its own reward.
Listen to Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles and you want to get out of
your house or apartment and hear some live music.
In this, the band is a fine motivator, a reminder of how much fun music
can be, making it and hearing it. Being played by people for whom it
means absolutely everything. A feeling they just want to share.
GROSS: Ken Tucker is Editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly. He
reviewed âThe Stars Are Outâ by Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles. You
can download podcasts of our show on our website: freshair.npr.org. Iâm
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.