I learned early on that the human heart has the capacity to love many people. I have often heard the mainstream argument that too many children means there is not enough love and attention to go around. Not so in my family. If anybody felt left out, it was only because they wouldn’t get their lazy carcass out of bed in time to get in on all the fun.

For some reason, most of us Jessop kids were night people. I have no idea why. Our father was a morning person. He wanted us up and busy in the mornings. “Mind over mattress, people!” he often said with a grin.

Most of us spent our childhood awake and alert and full of energy at nighttime. We often played hide and seek after dark. It was way more exciting tracking the enemy in the dark.

We were like the energizer bunny. We never stopped bouncing until we finally pinked out somewhere around one ‘o clock in the morning. The next morning invariably dawned sooner than unconsciousness expired, bringing with it the typical “drag meself out of bed” syndrome.

Father often said, “If you’re going to dance all night, you have to pay the fiddler.”

My brother Joe coined a famous line to illustrate the guilt battle of sluggish mornings. “Whenever I get up late,” he said wisely, “I feel like sneakin’ around the rest of the day. I hate that.”

One time I came up with a great idea. Father had called a work project the following morning. I was only too aware of my weakness of sleeping like the dead in the morning. I could not risk being absent for the project. I reasoned with my sister Becky that the only way to be absolutely sure we were up the next morning was to never go to bed. I talked her into joining me in staying awake. What an idea!

We raided the pantry that night for stay-awake snacks, and watched the hours slip by. We managed to stay awake until it was time to get up. Nothing short of dynamite could have awakened me after I finally succumbed to weariness.

Father was not impressed. Later that afternoon when I finally awoke and explained my motive behind my absence, he was still not impressed.

“What a solution, Maggie,” he chided. “Stay up all night so you can be up early the next morning? Now that’s not only un-smart. It’s downright dumb.”

I had to agree. I was famous that day for doing the dumbest thing ever. Sure seemed like a good idea at the time. I thought I was invincible. I had so much energy at night, I thought if I never put it to rest, I could keep going like the energizer bunny. Apparently not.

After the initial disappointment of my transgression wore off, Father often told the story as though he thought his kiddos were the funniest kids on the planet.

“I have GOT to be up tomorrow morning, so I’m going to STAY AWAKE all night!” he cried slapping his knee while the whole family, including me, laughed uproariously. “What an idea!” he exclaimed.

I learned early on that to stay alive in the fast lane, I had to be able to laugh at myself. There was no other way to get out of a predicament and get past embarrassment.

Father never let us kids stew in our juices too long. He brought things out into the open and helped us to face things squarely. He always forgave us for childish pranks.

From WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN

Memoirs of Maggie Jessop coming in September 2019 on Amazon

My childhood felt free as a bird. Sometimes we may have been a little too free and were prone to mass participation in mud fights, water fights, and clod fights as opportunity permitted.

Jessop kids seemed to know no fear. Our dare-devil escapades on bikes, in swings, on roofs, in trees, on mountains, and in water holes would probably have given our parents a few heart attacks if they had seen it all. It seemed like we always had something to do and boredom was virtually unknown. Rarely did anyone fall through the cracks, but sometimes naughty behavior resulted in the loss of privilege.

I recall one instance when my brother Nathan and I got punished with the withdrawal of dessert for helping ourselves to the pantry one too many times. We skulked off together and discussed at length the unfair persecution we were suffering at the hands of our mother. We concluded that all the rest of our siblings were her favorites since they were chuffing their fat faces full of Betty Crocker chocolate cake and sticking out their tongues showing off the disgusting evidence.

Nate and I decided that since nobody loved us, we would teach everybody a lesson and run away. Oh, how they would suffer when they didn’t see us again in this life. We planned a heist of one loaf of bread and a quart jar of canned peaches for our subsistence and set off down the creek.

We hid behind a sand bank for a couple hours and polished off our food supply while watching our spoiled rotten siblings run around whooping like wild Indians. Occasionally, Mother Ruth stepped outside to check on things, but nobody even seemed to notice our absence. That was a serious insult to our juvenile pride. Our planned retribution was having no effect whatsoever.

Nate and I discussed things further. We reasoned there was a slight possibility the punishment had fit the crime. We had recently digested the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and could relate to the adventuresome idea of living on the edge. It seemed only right for us to pay for a small percentage of our crimes.

After another hour when loneliness began to set in, we analyzed the possibility that perhaps our mother loved us a little bit after all. We decided to give our family one more chance to treat us right, and we returned to the fold forthwith.

From WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN

Autobiography by Maggie Jessop Jeffs
Coming soon on Amazon

 

 

 

From Maggie’s forthcoming book “WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN”

It was typical for my sisters and I clad in ruffles and lace to be found skipping down Main Street holding hands on our way to school singing songs in three part harmony at the top of our lungs.

Once in a while, Father joined us in our skipping jubilees. We all competed to see who could skip the fastest and highest. Because Father was never embarrassed to be seen clowning with his kiddos, we weren’t embarrassed either. Sometimes our brothers joined us, but since they were outnumbered, they preferred keeping a safe distance behind the overabundance of sisters.

Sometimes tourists drove through our community. I imagine we made a fascinating picture with our unplanned parades. It was not uncommon to see unfamiliar vehicles doing the turtle drive occupied by goggle-eyed gogglers hanging out the window with tongues and cameras waggling.

The strangers seemed to think we were strange, but they couldn’t see that their strangeness was even stranger to us.

Our parents and teachers warned us to not accept rides or gifts from strangers. They said the world did not like our family structures and were busy trying to find ways to attack us and break up our community. We were taught to keep our mouths shut and not offer information. It could harm our fathers for strangers to know they had multiple wives and more children than the public thought they should have.

I was a communicator by nature, and much too friendly for my own good. But I could most definitely see the wisdom of silence. Sometimes I blundered.

One day when I was about eight years old, a stranger knocked on our front door and I answered it. I snapped to attention to see an unfamiliar face. My immediate reaction was fear, but I quickly regained my composure and offered a cautious grin. The man was a vacuum salesman. He was tall and good-looking with a mustache. “Is your mother home?” he asked pleasantly.

Without hesitation, I replied, “Nope! Neither one of them are.”

Mr. Mustache and I stared at one another, he in mock surprise, and me in horror that I had just revealed a family secret which was actually no secret at all since we had never made any effort whatsoever to hide our family relationships. We held the stare, and finally he cracked. Shaking with laughter, he blurted, “Then you are going to be in double the trouble.”

I didn’t think it was that funny. But I laughed to insure him I was in charge of the situation. Soon the mothers came home and we bought a vacuum. Mr. Mustache was ecstatic, and life went on.

In those days I suspect vacuum salesmen who were brave enough to knock on doors in Short Creek became millionaires.

In households with many children, the most valued tool of all had to be a good vacuum. I never saw one outlast a family. Any salesman with half a brain could see that if he could overlook the silly rumors of violence and death he might risk by wandering among the infamous polygamists, he might discover a goldmine.

If he could mind his manners and not ask too many questions of silly little girls who accidentally spilled secrets that weren’t really secrets, he could return every six months and make another vacuum sale.

From WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN

Coming soon on Amazon

From Maggie’s upcoming book “WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN“.

Born of Goodly Parents

I hit the Earth in May 1964, and it was big news.

What? You didn’t hear about it? Well, it was a great event for me.

I was born in a place called Utah, but it could have been Jupiter for how different my world was from mainstream America. The Father of all Creation chose me out of all the millions to arrive that beautiful spring day when I became the third child of my parents Fredrick Merril Jessop and Foneta Marie Cook.

Not only did I belong to my parents, my big brother Freddy and my elder sister Janice Marie, but I also belonged to a church and community. The church was the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The community was Short Creek, the name we call the twin towns that straddle the border technically known as Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. Nestled beneath the watchful citadel of a giant red rock mountain called El Capitan, our community felt safe, familiar, and beloved.

It would probably be more accurate to say that my parents and siblings, my people, and my church and community belonged to me because I definitely took ownership of them all. I lived among the FLDS nearly fifty years. It was a rare, wonderful, old-fashioned kind of existence. I was both blessed and spoiled. As a child I had no idea what it was like to be hungry or homeless.

Though the homes and businesses, gardens and fields, and flocks and herds of our community were always in a state of progressive improvement, it was our Eden.

Our properties were protected under the umbrella of a legal trust called the United Effort Plan. Our community was built upon several land parcels that had been donated by our grandfathers and great-grandfathers for the benefit of those who adhere to the FLDS faith.

Our birthright as Mormon children came with strings attached. Ever since our church had been founded in 1830, persecution had followed us. Many times throughout Mormon history, the people had been driven from their homes by hostiles who misunderstood Mormonism and the people who call themselves Mormons. That was part of our birthright and our heritage.

I remember as a young child listening in wide-eyed concern to the stories of mobbing, plundering, and murdering of early day Mormons in the lifetimes of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor in the 1800’s. I was even more concerned about persecution that had occurred less than twenty years previous, the infamous 1953 Raid when the state of Arizona backed by the mainstream LDS Church, the popular offshoot of the Mormons, had swooped in and arrested our fathers and taken away all of our mothers and children to Phoenix, Arizona.

My paternal grandmother Ida Johnson Jessop had been one of those mothers. A few years later, she died a premature death in her 40’s as a result of that raid.

My father had been one of the teen boys left behind because law officers were afraid the boys would give them trouble. After the forced evacuation, the boys went around to each home and performed their own brand of mischief. They retrieved baking bread from ovens, fed livestock, milked cows, harvested gardens, and tidied up the frenzy which evidenced the hurried exodus of their beloved families.

I recall as a small child gazing for long periods of time at pictures of the Raid trying to imagine what it must have been like to be suddenly uprooted from familiar surroundings by officers with guns and dragged away to the cold cruel unfriendly world.

I thought about my great grandfather Joseph Smith Jessop, who at the time of the ’53 Raid was a venerable stalwart in his nineties with piercing blue eyes and a long white beard. Great Grandpa was loved and respected by all who knew him. When the authorities with guns bristling surrounded the people, Grandpa Jessop stepped forward and said, “If it’s blood you want, take mine. I’m ready.”

He went on to state that the desert sand would drink his blood before he would give up his right to worship God as he wished in this land of America where many wars had been fought and won by honest men who had willingly given their lives for the sacred right of religious freedom.

Great Grandpa died shortly after the Raid of ‘53. It broke his heart to see the children taken away.

I could not fathom why people in the world hated us. I knew that most of mainstream America had a problem with our people because our fathers had more than one wife and our children had more than one mother. I could not understand why they called it a crime. Didn’t they realize what a benefit it was for us to have lots of brothers and sisters for friends? Why couldn’t they see that having more than one mother in the home was a great benefit to the children?

It terrified me to think I could be stolen from my parents. But life was sweet and safe. I kept my fears hidden underneath the hubbub of family life which encompassed a great deal of activity—school and gardens, laundry and sewing, babysitting and cooking, ice cream and baseball games, sunburned noses and perpetual blisters. Little did I know what further raiding and persecution that I with my people would yet experience.

 

“Where Much Is Given”

Coming soon on Amazon