FLDS teen disputes mom’s book
Betty Jane Jessop’s favorite phrase: “Good grief!”
That’s what Betty utters as she reads the new epilogue in her mother’s best-selling book, Escape. In those pages, Carolyn Jessop describes her daughter’s return to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, calling her brainwashed.
“It just makes me want to laugh,” said Betty, 19, shaking her head.
Carolyn Jessop discusses her book, Escape.
Besides Carolyn herself, the character in Escape that most intrigues readers is Betty — the second of Carolyn’s eight children with FLDS bishop Merril Jessop.
Why, they ask, did Betty return to the sect after four years in mainstream society? And: Is she OK?
Soon they may be able to read Betty’s answer to those questions. Since April, the teenager has been working on a book about her experiences, aided by older sister Maggie Jessop.
“It is time for the other side of the story to be told,” said Betty, who will shop it to publishers this spring.
Carolyn Jessop, who will speak at the Sugar House Barnes & Noble bookstore at 7 p.m. today, declined an interview about her daughter, saying only that “Betty has the right” to share her views. In her book, Carolyn holds out hope Betty will return to her.
Based on several early chapters, Betty’s book — the first by an active FLDS member — promises an intriguing perspective on her family, her view of mainstream society and the sect’s beliefs.
Both Betty and Maggie Jessop said their father set several rules for the project: Tell the truth, let readers reach their own conclusions, and do not slam Carolyn.
“He has specifically worked with Betty to forgive her mother and not express bad feelings about what happened to her,” Maggie Jessop said.
Merril Jessop oversees the sect’s Texas ranch and has been indicted for conducting an illegal marriage involving a daughter who allegedly was spiritually married at age 12 to FLDS leader Warren S. Jeffs. Carolyn has said one reason she left the sect is she feared such a marriage for Betty.
Betty is slim, with strawberry blond hair, fair skin and a laugh that comes often. She was 13 in 2003 when her mother left and moved to Salt Lake City.
As described in Escape — and acknowledged by Betty — she went kicking and screaming. Betty said traumatic years followed as she struggled to cope with mainstream society and fought with her mother.
Their arguments, she said, centered on her desire to live according to the sect’s principles and her mother’s determination to keep her from the faith, her father and her extended family.
“I was such a representation of everything she hated so much,” Betty said.
On July 2, 2007, Betty turned 18. Two days later she returned to the sect, celebrating what she now calls her own independence day.
“I just couldn’t deny what was in my heart — my belief in my religion and my love for my father and my family,” she said. “I spent four years [in mainstream society], and there is nothing there for me.
“I would never trade my experience for anything in the world,” she said. “It made my fire and determination much more intense.”