By Stephany Spencer: Review of my cousin Anna LeBaron’s Memoir: “The Polygamist’s Daughter”
Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., I was honored with a complimentary ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of cousin Anna LeBaron’s bravely written book, The Polygamist’s Daughter, published March 21, 2017.
I was disappointed Anna didn’t tell more about her miscreant father, “Evil Ervil” — the murderous “Mormon Manson”. Also wish she had gone more into the details of her “running away from home.” (Would not have cared if the book were longer!)
As it was, her book said little about her colorful father. And her “running away” was to call her married sister to take her in — a sister within walking distance. Still, I give her credit for having the sense and courage to leave her home at all, under the circumstances, and at the tender age of thirteen! She might have been killed by the cult she fled for having left it—though I doubt she knew that then!
Her book was milquetoast in comparison to what was really going on in her family and father’s violent cult. However, I believe she was between a rock and a hard spot when it came to relating this treacherous past family and cult history.
Furthermore, she was very young when much of the malevolencey transpired within her family’s cult. She apparently didn’t know about it — and maybe still doesn’t know that much — and doesn’t want to know. But there are a number of good books on the subject — books hard for my Uncle Ervil’s children to read and accept. I understand that!
I’m a veteran of that history. I realize that were Anna totally up front, it would possibly compromise her present and future — her amazing success at having survived and trumped her dangerous past. Given this estimable accomplishment, Anna is certainly an outstanding example of what the human spirit is able to overcome and rise above.
Her father is my mother’s brother. And was my husband’s buddy/ boyfriend for ten years. I knew Uncle Ervil well … as well as one could know a devious and manipulative man like my Uncle Ervil LeBaron. I had felt much love, respect, and reverence for him till he went off the deep end and into his murderous, power-pushing psychopathy.
Presently, I feel mostly pity, shame, and disgust for my dangerous but now-deceased, criminally insane uncle — who, though mentally ill, sociopathic, and revengeful, nonetheless, had a lot of people convinced he was a prophet.
To better understand what I’m talking about, read Cult Insanity by Irene Spencer; Prophet of Blood by Ben Bradlee Jr. and Dale Van Atta. And The 4 O’clock Murders by Scott Anderson — among other books and articles on this history. (See my Reviews of these books.)
There are also YouTube documentaries and interviews on Ervil, the LeBarons, and Mormon fundamentalist polygamists. They give background and insight into what Anna LeBaron was brought up in; and was up against. But you won’t find it in her book.
To further understand this bizarre, LeBaron-crime-family mafia scene, also check Wikipedia and other online Info about Ervil LeBaron, including my Website Menu bar under “Media About my Family, Friends, and Mormon Fundamentalist Cults.” And “Famous ‘n’ Infamous Relatives of Mine.” You could, as well, watch the excellent film, “Prophet of Evil,“ starring Brian Dennehy.
Getting back to Anna LeBaron’s Memoir, The Polygamist’s Daughter, everyone in the LeBaron Colony in the 1960’s saw how Uncle Ervil went about preaching and “doing missionary work,” totally indifferent to the needs of his nine neglected children by his first wife Delfina.
These indigent kids were left to roam the streets, starving, and unkempt — not to mention his fifty or more other deprived and abandoned children he eventually fathered by an additional thirteen wives he added to his harem.
(Sadly, on top of everything else, he and his wives taught all their kids to be murderers in the name of religion — Avenging Angels!)
It hurt me deeply to read, in Anna’s Memoir, her account of how she felt about being so badly neglected and used by her non-empathetic, sense-of-entitlement, mentally-off father.
But when I read how Ervil’s unloved, abused daughter Lillian died, I grieved for days. She was one of my Aunt Delfina’s darling children whom, when Aunt Delfina was depressed and mentally ill, I had helped look out for while I lived near them in the LeBaron Colony in Mexico — before escaping in 1967, at age twenty-one.
Sweet Lillian was only around five or so, then. And I don’t believe Anna had been born yet. But I had lived across the street from her jolly, red-haired mother with the beautiful singing voice, Aunt Anna Mae Marston/AKA LeBaron.
I had taught her older siblings (including gorgeous David Marston — see his life’s story I have posted on my Website) in my Colonia LeBaron Preschool I started and conducted in my home at age seventeen.
Though I wish Anna had gone more into depth about her past life, I’m proud of her efforts and the work she put into writing and publishing her Life Story. The world benefits by knowing “the unspeakable” and by hearing her speak of how she triumphed over it.
Her tragic memories were anything but easy to relive in order to put them in print. But I get a sense she’s protecting her 50+ siblings and other relatives by not revealing more of her early upbringing and beliefs.
However, there is much meat only she and her siblings could reveal to an amateur social-psychologist like me. But she kept it from us.
I felt her story picked up in the latter part wherein she finally shot from the hip a bit. I especially found it enlightening and helpful when she detailed how she overcame a bout of deep depression.
I benefited, also, when she told of her epiphany that gave her a new lease on life — a greater purpose for living. She’s presently a Life Coach. And works to help improve the world — just the opposite of what her pa did!
Though her papa preached that he was “Here to set the house of God in order, to prepare it for the second coming of Christ,” in reality, he did the opposite of everything he preached and claimed: He was really here “to set up the devil’s house” and prepare the world for a living Hell!
Like her dad Ervil, Anna LeBaron is bright, a writer, and a leader. Unlike him, she exhibits integrity, sanity, empathy, and a loving, giving spirit. So hats off to Anna LeBaron! She has come a long way, met redemption, made a lot of good choices, and overcome a LOT.
I look forward to her next book — if she shoots from the hip and “tells all.”
For me, a person that grew up in the LeBaron cult her father helped build, that would be much more helpful — a healing, insightful, sociological study and Memoir — not more mishmash; but worth my time and money to buy and read
An afterthought: Possibly, The Polygamist’s Daughter, given its book cover and all, was mostly meant for the “Children’s”/ “Young Adults” section of the library. In that case, it didn’t need more depth and information — the likes of which older, informed adults like me would likely be looking for.