I was born some time ago,
Way out in the sticks,
In a valley of old Mexico,
(So begins my saga.)
“I am conscious that my narrative
savers of incredibility:
The fault is in the subject,
not in the narrator.”
~The City of the Saints,
By Richard F. Burton,
*(Quote borrowed from Irving Wallace’s
“The Twenty-Seventh Wife”)
The Cards of Life
Life dealt me cards —
I played my hand
With confidence —
I had it planned …
When, later, life revealed the score
It shook me to my very core!
I wondered then — still wonder now:
Could I have changed my life somehow?
And — if life dealt this hand again —
Would I repeat my life of pain?
Or would my hand, ignoring me,
Repeat this life and destiny?
“Hiding in a Cave of Trunks”
Ester Benjamin Shifren
“I learned that even when life
deals you a bad hand,
you can still have a happy life
if you are willing to take a chance
and put the past behind you.”
December 10, 2016
In four months I will turn 71, and it will be the 50th anniversary of my 1967 escape from living “The Principle” (polygamy) in the now largely extinct, bizarre, and dangerous Mormon fundamentalist LeBaron cult headquartered in Colonia LeBaron, Galeana, Chihuahua, Mexico.
I was born and raised a fifth-generation Mormon polygamist — “polygamist” meaning anyone who believes in and lives polygamy.
My great-great-grandfather, Benjamin F. Johnson, a polygamist, was a gifted writer and leader; and the brother-in-law, confidante, and Power of Attorney for the self-proclaimed Prophet Joseph Smith.
It is said Joseph Smith sealed Bengamin F. Johnson to himself as a son. If you take this seriously (as my parents, et Al, did) that makes Joseph Smith my Great-great-great-grandfather.
That’s the most prestigious bloodline one can come by if one is Mormon. Mother didn’t mince beans about letting me and my thirteen siblings know we were “part of the royal blood.” She held her head high as she proclaimed we were of this enviable hierarchy.
I happily missed being the child (perhaps) of the self-proclaimed prophet Rulon Jeff’s: While Mother was single and living in Utah in the early 1940s, she dated polygamist Rulon Jeffs, father of the now incarcerated, infamous FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs!
As my youngest sister Lenora (born on my wedding day) likes to facetiously say,” Warren Jeffs could’ve been another brother by another mother!” And I like to retort, “We also could’ve been his sister by a different Mister!” (Heaven forbid!)
Even more ironic — blood-curddling, when you consider our “royal” blood: Mother’s brother Ervil LeBaron is the now-deceased, infamous criminal known as the “Mormon Manson,” or “Evil Ervil” LeBaron — the past “Mormon Mafioso” and Malevolent Dictator of the now-extinct LeBaron Crime Family.
Uncle Ervil was, at one time, the all-powerful, priestcraft-working, cult-creating Uncle whom I had been taught, as a kid in the FLDS LeBaron cult, stood as “The Second Grand Head” — next only to God and my Uncle Joel, the self-proclaimed prophet of The Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times/CotFotFoT.
I had loved, feared, and revered Uncle Ervil before his scandalous, schizophrenic psychopathy worsened, leading him completely off the deep end.
Another coincidence in my life: My Aunt Irene Kunz LeBaron/Spencer, author of the Memoir Shattered Dreams, used — as her second book’s cover, Cult Insanity, a book about Ervil and the LeBaron cults — a photograph I took of Uncle Ervil holding my eight-year-old daughter — before I knew he was a paranoid schizophrenic and serial-killing psychopath.
To view this photograph, see Irene’s book, “Cult Insanity,” in my Menu under “Media on Some of My Extended Family.” Uncle Ervil’s then right-hand man, my brother-in-law Dan Jordan, is also in the picture.
I took this Photo of them in 1972, when I was a student at UCLA. The two had come to my home, at Mother’s request, to go with me to the U.S. Immigration Office to bear witness that I was an American: I needed to get my U.S. citizenship papers in order to become a public schoolteacher in the United States.
I was born in old Mexico of American parents, but they didn’t register my birth with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. So, about 26 years later, I was having to verify my citizenship in order to get these needed documents.
I had no idea, when Uncle Ervil LeBaron and my brother-in-law Dan Jordan came to my home, they were at that very moment plotting the murder of people such as my Uncle Joel LeBaron, my Uncle Ervil’s own brother and the self-proclaimed “Prophet” of their backward, isolated Chihuahuan-desert cult I had escaped five years earlier.
I consider myself lucky these two sociopaths — my brother-in-law Dan Jordan and my Uncle Ervil LeBaron — didn’t kill me during that visit, I being a “daughter of perdition” for having abandoned their so-called church.
Perhaps all that saved me is, though I had fled Uncle Joel’s and Ervil’s cult five years earlier, Ervil held a fantasy I was going to go to all the trouble to get my Bachelor’s Degree and Teaching Credential, then return to their cult to teach “the Saints,” for free, of course — as I had for four years before I escaped the LeBaron cult. Well, thanks but no thanks!
I started teaching in the LeBaron colony at age fourteen, shortly after my family repatriated to Mexico in 1960 to live again in “LeBaron” a colony my maternal grandfather Dayer LeBaron started; built on land my father and mother left him when they returned to the United States in 1947. I was a year old then.
Seven years after my parents returned in 1960 with their family to live in Mexico, I managed to escape and to return to the United States. That was a miracle in itself.
But then I miraculously entered East Los Angeles, Jr. College/ELAC within five months after I made it out of the cult! I was twenty-one, penniless, had a three-year-old toddler — and only six years of formal education!
When Uncle Ervil came to my apartment in 1972, I was in my fifth year of struggling through college on little education and less money — struggling to get a college degree and a teaching credential, so I could acquire a job as a school teacher.
Though I wanted to be a teacher, I was never going to get stuck barefoot and pregnant again in Colonia LeBaron teaching for free — like I had before. But Uncle Ervil didn’t know this. So I lived to tell my story!
Nevertheless, it was a God-send Uncle Ervil came to my home to help me get my Citizenship papers: I was considered in his eyes an “apostate.” Apostates are generally left to die by family, relatives, and the rest of the cult. It is said they have left “the truth.”
Leaving “the truth” was synonymous with turning my back on God and His all-important “Church,” to join hands with the devil. Such people were considered in their eyes to be “the biggest dangers to “the Lord’s work,” because they had once known the truth; then turned their back on it.”
That catchphrase is an understatement — a “glittering generality” used to create a smoke screen so people won’t suspect what they are really up to. Now I know I have to take glittering generalities and re-word them.
For example, a number of them were involved in illegal activities. They cloaked their crimes under the guise of the glittering generality, “We are doing the Lord’s work.“
Other favorite “cloaks” and glittering generalities they used to cover their secret activities (especially from children and outsiders) was: “We’re doing missionary work;” or: “We’re going on a mission;” or: “We’re preaching the gospel to these people.” Or “We’re being persecuted for our religious beliefs.”
For example, when I was a kid, Mother used these terms from time to time, as she locked us out of the house (while Daddy was out of town) so she could do “missionary work” (in the missionary position?) with a man she was attracted to — Don Mills, an LDS Mormon, married and with children.
Her glittering generality/smokescreen worked well because we kids were indoctrinated as to the perfection of our parents and the importance of “spreading the gospel, being Saints, and doing what was right.”
It never entered our mind they were doing what was wrong, rather than what was right; i.e., they were not preaching the gospel.
It was years before I realized such statements as “Apostates are the biggest threat to the Lord’s work and the building up of the kingdom of God” were cover-ups, smokescreens, and understatement for their real fears: Underhanded people in cults greatly fear people who leave their “Church” because they know too much.
They know, for example, about at least some of the illegal activities done and justified in the name of “bleeding the beast” “to build up God’s kingdom.” Yes, people like me who leave such a cult “know too much.”
I definitely did and DO “know too much;” though I didn’t realize it at the time. If I want to take my life in my hands, I may explain, later, what I mean by “knowing too much.” Meanwhile, read between the lines.
Going back to my family being related to the “royal bloodlines,” and Mother being SO proud of this: Uncle Ervil (along with his fourteen wives and around sixty children) was also related to these “royal bloodlines,” and very proud of it, as well — as were all his wives, children, and posterity.
Quite an irony, yes? You might say I’m getting it from both ends! But, as one of Uncle Ervil’s children told me recently, “You can’t choose your family, relatives, or bloodline.”
Everybody I have told my story to over the past fifty years has said to me, “Your story would make a good movie. You must write a book! If you do, I’ll buy it. Let me know when it is published.”
I haven’t written it because it wasn’t safe to tell the truth I wished to write. Only if I could tell the whole truth, did I wish to write my story.
It’s still not safe. I can’t tell the whole story without compromising my safety and lifestyle. But, at long last, I’ve begun getting this book out that has been building and simmering on my back burner since 1967 when I escaped the Mormon fundamentalist religion I was raised in.
Another reason I’ve not written my book until now is that, for the first fifty years after fleeing the extremist Mormon sect, and thus all my family, friends and foundation there, it was too painful to dwell for long on my past life in that “Church.”
It depressed me so much that I couldn’t write a book on my past, even if I had felt my present status and security wouldn’t be compromised by publishing my truth about that past life.
I have journaled regularly from age nine till the present day -– did an awful lot of stream-of-consciousness writing. Therapists say that is what kept me from “going under” all these years. But some may beg to differ. They will tell you that I am crazy/odd/unique/strange/weird! To such comments, I say:
“If only all my writing, reading self-help books, and talking to the occasional therapist could’ve saved me even more from the ravages of my despotic, cultic upbringing! And if only my life could’ve been normal!”
People have enough to deal with and overcome in life without all the deprivations, devastations, and privations that are added to it by being raised in an abusive, backward, isolated cult.
For starters, it’s very discouraging and humiliating to be seen by others as odd, weird, crazy, different, backward, naïve, gullible, unsophisticated, a country bumpkin, poorly educated, a Plyg — and so on.
One vain person jeered as he told me, “You can take the girl out of the mountain, but you can’t take the mountain out of the girl.”
All this and more I’ve had to endure over the years — Even people making fun of my Tex-mex drawl. But there is a bully born every moment. When I take a look at the people grinding me under, I find their words tell more about them than about me.
But, as for writing my Memoir, all I’m sure of is, given a choice of leisure-time activities, writing was and still is my first-choice activity, despite how time-consuming and how much work it is. I enjoy writing; especially like the creative aspect of it.
Through writing, I find company when my isolation and loneliness is otherwise unbearable. And there I unwind from the anxiety, tiredness, and tensions of the day, gain insight and find answers through the inspiration that comes from my “writing meditation.”
There I cathart, thot-fart, find solace; and am my own best friend and companion — my mind, my muse and I.
And there I unravel the pains, plans, and mysteries of my past as well as my present journey towards self-actualization and individuation.
There I grow and develop as I ponder each breakthrough — each step of my awakening into this brave, new world.
While journaling, I also compare my new insights and experiences with the drama, trauma, and brainwashing of my past.
In my writing, I celebrate and come to better understand each epiphany and step I encounter in my exciting adventure as I look through my new window — my new “looking glass” on the world — and reflect on the past and present.
Actually, like Alice in Wonderland, when I was seventeen and still in the cult, I too, looked through a “looking glass;” i.e., a different window, saw a new window on the world, and was catapulted through it, and out of that tunnel vision—as well as the tunnel I had been raised in.
I fell right through that new and open window, and out of my secluded cult tunnel into this “foreign world—the USA.” I have been progressively making my way through it ever since.
During my first few years in this new world, the USA, I questioned whether I had done the right thing — or whether I had maybe been turned over to “the buffetings of Satan” and his wicked world.
But the longer I was away from the cult, and the more I saw what was happening there, the more I became confident I had made the right decision in 1967 to leave “God’s only true church on earth,” as the cult calls it.
Many of my-past life experiences, and the brainwashing of growing up in a cult, had blocked my feelings and thoughts. Writing helped and is still helping me unblock these feelings and the mind control, thus allowing me to gradually move ahead in my life’s journey, free and unencumbered.
It is through my journaling — and now this blogging and book-writing, too — that I assimilate all. Like taking notes in a college course, I compare each new idea, feeling, and insight with the dogma and experiences of my past -– the craziness of the cult I was finally able to escape –- escape from in person, at least.
But try as I may, I have not been able to thoroughly escape from its bind on my subconscious, my persona, and my life. To completely escape the cult-created damage, wrong teachings, and warping is one of my fervent goals.
At least, it gives me something to live for when all else seems hapless, helpless, and hopeless; and old age threatens to devour me before I’ve half-fulfilled my hopes, dreams, and goals — as the old German saying goes: “Too old, too soon; too ‘schmart’, too late!”
I understand the ACLU requests we don’t call the extremist sect I escaped from a “cult.” Also that we don’t say “I escaped,” and was “brainwashed,” for fear we may offend those who belong to what I managed to finally escape!
But my opinion is: Such words as “cult” are the truth it takes to jolt -– to help awaken the mind-controlled, brainwashed, true-believing people continuing to be born into and bound by the grips of these Mormon-Fundamentalist doomsday cults. If we can’t use some social pressure, what hope have we to stop this vice vehemently invading our quite-unaware world?
The political-correctness protectionism of being unable to call it a “cult” reinforces and propagates the captivity of those born into bondage and White slavery in Mormon fundamentalist organizations — that, by the way, are growing by leaps and bounds as I speak, due to such things as polygamy, child bride marriages, mind control measures, and not practicing birth control.
Of course, those embondaged by Mormon fundamentalism are those least likely to read what I write. Therefore, I mainly write for people who have managed to get out, and are looking for backup material to further assure them they did the right thing by leaving.
I especially write for escapees of Mormon fundamentalist groups who are looking for more understanding of what happened to them in their cult; and why.
I write, as well, for all Mormon fundamentalist sects who are looking for more information on how they can better make it in this “foreign land:” The United States of America; i.e., the normal world they have found themselves in.
I hope reading my story of success and redemption, upon having escaped radical Mormonism, will help Mormon fundamentalist cult escapees better make it in their own new existence.
It took me years of University courses, reading, counseling and therapy, and simply living free from Mormon Fundamentalism, before I could stand back and realize what I had grown up in was nothing but a cult. It helped me immensely to understand that!
Because then I could better see that I had done the right thing, at age twenty-one, to get myself and my child out while I could.
It helped me to know I had definitely made the right choice — despite being warned, all the years I was in the “Fundies” cults, that I’d be damned and turned over to the “buffetings of Satan” if I dared question the words of the prophet, let alone dared leave “the truth/the church;” i.e., The Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times and Mormon Fundamentalism.
The Sociological definition of “cult” is: “A body of religious rites and practices associated with the worship or propitiation of a particular divinity or group of supernatural beings.”
Also: A religious group and way of life that secludes its members from the world so much so that they are unable to fit into normal society.
The American Heritage Dictionary describes “Cult” as being a religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living communally under an authoritarian, charismatic leader.
That said, I believe if it looks like, feels like, and rattles like a snake, it is a Diamond Back/ a “cult”! Who are we kidding?! Why call it by any other name? Besides, where is my right to freedom of speech? (See Steven Hassan: Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide – Amazon.comhttps://www.amazon.com/Combatting-Cult-Mind-Control-Best-selling/…/0892813113)
How do we warn or make aware those who could benefit from our observations and experience, as Ex-Mormon fundamentalists, if we can only adhere to “political correctness” which simply works to cover for and placate the vice Mormon Fundamentalists/Fundies have already been too adept at perpetrating? To pretend the Fundy groups are not cults is doing just that: It’s helping to perpetuate the many evils of the Mormon fundamentalist sects.
For example, Mormon fundamentalist sects perpetrate and perpetuate: Mind control and brainwashing, Lawlessness, Being laws onto themselves, Pedophilia, Polygamy, White slavery, Welfare Fraud, Child Labor, Child Abuse, Child Trafficking, Racketeering—and more, all in the guise of “An alternative lifestyle full of Saints just trying to live God’s laws under the freedom protections of the US government” –- a government they bleed daily, and regularly pray for the destruction of!
Note: At the same time the adults in these cults demand “freedom of religion” (i.e., protection from the US government), they, in the name of religion, take away all the rights and protection of the children born into their cult! They refuse to accept that “One person’s “Rights” end where another person’s “Rights” begin!”
As my years in freedom roll on, since having fled the Mormon fundamentalist “underground” slave trade, barbarism, and bondage I was raised in, I continue to become more deprogrammed … more sure of what a wayward, warping, diabolical church/cult/monster I was born into, and my life ruined by, in the name of religion.
The more I continue to think, question, read books, and listen to educational documentaries and interviews done by Rebecca Kimbel, Doris Hanson, Ed Kociela, Kristen Decker, and others on YouTube, C-SPAN II, and other such, the more aware I become that many of the main tenets I was taught to most revere and embrace were and are complete rubbish; i.e., the total opposite of what is good and righteous.
In my Memoir blogs, I make it a point to unravel untruths and cover-ups, so as to show the world what I mean by “The total opposite of what is good and righteous.” This way, I better dispel what the snake—the Diamondback—would have us see as God’s Plan rather than Satan’s!
This is a Memoir as opposed to an Autobiography, because of the leeway given me thus. In other words, though I have, from age nine, kept journals –- They reach from the floor to the ceiling by now — I would never get this history written if I were to go back and uproot every piece of Info in my journals to make sure of the exact day, etc.
So, where it is not necessary, I don’t worry about petty details. It’s the big picture that is important. This said, I’ll leave off here to continue my story in “Chapter 1: My House of Cards.”
Till next time, thank you for visiting my Website — And for reading my blog that tells you what my Memoir’s intentions are.
Stephany Spencer/AKA: Beulah Spencer-LeBaron