Triumph (Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer)

You know you’re obsessed when it makes your day to find out that your favourite polygamy autobiographer has written a follow-up book. Carolyn Jessop’s first book, Escape (2007), recounts her marriage at 17 to a powerful FLDS member and the emotional abuse she endures, dished out not only by her husband but by some worse-than-catty sister wives. She recalls her struggle to stop having children with Merril Jessop in order to concoct a realistic plan to get her growing brood of children out of the FLDS compound in Colorado City, Arizona. In 2003, she escaped, living on welfare in shelters, and then a set of trailors. Eventually, Carolyn succeeded in being granted sole custody of her children, but not without the help of a team of state workers, psychologists, lawyers, philanthropists, and the independent living skills she was able to acquire, being one of the few FLDS women to have gone to, and completed, university.

Triumph was published just this year, and Carolyn takes stock of her life up to date: she’s in love with a man who makes her feel safe and loved in return, and 7 of her children have successfully been unassimilated. They now recognize that their mother has given them the greatest gifts: protection and a sense of self-worth. Her eldest daughter, Betty, returned to her father only days after her 18th birthday.

Barbara Jessop, far left, with Carolyn's daughter, Betty, on the far right. The FLDS brought Betty to the courthouse, threatening that should would testify that everything her mother wrote about FLDS society was a lie.

Carolyn takes a step back in this book, looking not only at her family situation, but also recounting the raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch in April 2008 (link); the raid affected the whole FLDS community and brought their lifestyle into public consciousness. Carolyn recalls her involvement in the recovery of the children on the ranch and her disappointment when the state sent them right back into the cycle of abuse and arranged underage marriages. Further, Carolyn looks back on her first reunions with Merril and her terrible former sister-wife, Barbara in court –  Merril trying to avoid child support and Barbara pleading the Fifth 50 times in a case that determined whether she would lose custody of her 14 year old daughter, whom she had married off to the ‘Prophet’, the now-incarcerated Warren Jeffs, at 12.

Evidence: Jeffs kissing his then-12 year old wife

When she refused to provide good enough evidence that she could protect her daughter from further abuse, her daughter was taken away. Carolyn writes about hearing that Barbara asked if she could substitute her daughter for someone else’s.  This is what Carolyn means when she talks about a lack of individuality and self worth as a mode of ensuring members’ absolute loyalty to the cult.

What makes this story so engaging is that it takes place in the present. Warren Jeffs is going on a tour from state to state, being tried in each one and being let off the hook due to technicalities. Pray that Texas, his next stop, can provide an air-tight case that Jeffs won’t be able to slither out of. Returning to the personal for Carolyn, he ex-husband will be standing trial for his crimes as acting head of the YFZ Ranch in October. I know I can’t wait to watch the backlash on TV and engage in this living history.


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6 responses to “Triumph (Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer)

  1. I am reading “Triumph” right now…and it so far is a good follow-up to “Escape”. It is a little less engaging than the story of “Escape” – I think just because it is a little heavy on court facts and dates. But still fascinating. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah, and had the pleasure of meeting Carolyn Jessop and her fiance, Brian, last year at a book club meeting. It was a small book club, only about 15 women, and we sat and talked to her for at least three hours. She is very bright and articulate – and her boyfriend is VERY fired up about the abuses of the FLDS and how they just seem to be ignored by the state and federal government. Are they too scary and big to take on, or what? Warren Jeffs is completely nuts. I believe he knows what a fake and a liar he is – he is basically a sociopath that found “religion” as a way to control and manipulate people. It’s so crazy.

    • Wow – it must have been so inspiring to meet Carolyn Jessop in the flesh. Likewise, I am totally unsurprised that her fiance was so fired up against the FLDS – I can only imagine the post traumatic stress she endures daily and he is a champ for supporting her. Did she say anything about Betty? I hope she’s found protection after her father’s sentencing.
      I don’t think that the FLDS are too big and scary – I think that they’re too irrational, or are fighting on entirely different grounds, and therefore make it difficult to achieve what the government wants to achieve. If they don’t recognize the government, how can the government rule over them? That’s the million dollar question.

  2. Disgusted

    There are no words …when it comes to the brainwashing and abuse of the FLDS! Sadly the whole story illustrates how religion = doctrine. We see it in almost every faith known to our planet…… The true and good and holy kernel in all our world faiths ( all faiths start out as true and good, with holy epicentre intentions)….however many religions and faiths get manipulated and changed to match into egotistical, power hungry individuals wants and needs, individuals who want to control the masses……….so people become indoctrinated and brainwashed………..ego is man’s biggest downfall… when it comes down to the outright evil as in the case of one Warren Jeff, we can only feel compassion for the people who lives he has ruined! He studied and worshiped Hilter and the Nazi doctrine in the very beginning, which gave him all these ideas and tools…..need I say more…….

  3. Susan Dodson

    As far as I’m concerned, after reading Escape, by Carolyn Jessop, I seriously think that her ex-husband, Merril and his favorite wife, Barbara are bona-fide psychopaths. Carolyn and her kids were dealing with thugs, controlling bullies. The best move she made was to get away from Merril and his psycho wife, Barbara (plus the rest of the whole dysfunctional “family”). Just thinking about what Carolyn and her children had to endure makes my blood boil, wanting for KARMA to occur, getting revenge upon these two sub-humans.

    • Well Karma is quickly taking its toll! Merrill is serving a sentence that’ll probably last longer than his life, and I believe that Barbara passed away a few years ago. I totally agree with you that this is no tragedy. Hopefully her children will now live a life without her cruelty.

  4. I was Googling images of the Jessops and came across your blog. Someone left ESCAPE in my office’s book exchange bin and I picked it up and have almost literally been unable to put it down for almost a week! Most of the time while I’m reading my jaw hangs slack, or I gasp in disbelief at what I’m reading. I knew the FLDS were brainwashed and freakish, but didn’t realize just how cruel and evil some of them could be. I admire Carolyn SO MUCH and would love to hear her speak in person some day. I’m glad to know she has written a 2nd book, which I will definitely read.

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