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