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Note: Originally a link to Archived story, the Archive no longer works. This is a copy in text form.
Spectrum Online


6-17-2001 Sun Jessop HEADLINE: Flora Jessop escaped a polygamy life 15 years ago - seeks to help sister
BY: Patrice St. Germain
Patrices@thespectrum.com

HURRICANE - Flora Jessop has a special connection to her sister, Ruby - a person she has never met. "Ruby gave me my freedom," Jessop said. "She was born the day I left Hildale. May 3, 1986." Jessop only knows her sister through telephone conversations. She is now trying to find her. Ruby Jessop, 14, attempted to flee an arranged marriage in Colorado City, Ariz., on April 23. On May 15, she left her husband to go to her brother's home, also in the Colorado City/Hildale area. On the weekend of May 19 and 20, the child bride went swimming at Quail Lake with her brothers. There, a friend picked her up and returned Ruby to her parent's home. No one has heard from Ruby since, said Flora Jessop.

"I don't believe she is around here. If she was, I would be able to feel her here," Jessop said pointing to her heart.Flora Jessop is one of 28 children born to Joseph C. Jessop Sr. and his first two wives. She first tried to get away from the strong Fundamentalist LDS Church ties by bringing sexual abuse charges against her father when she was 14 years old. She said she saw her father hand the judge $4,000. The judge said he could see the girl had lied and the case was dismissed.

Flora was then confined to Fred Jessop's home, her uncle, until she agreed to marry her first cousin, Philip Jessop when she was 16. "He was my friend and he helped me leave," she said. "Philip has since left the area as well."

At an Apostate Potluck lunch Saturday at Jay Beswick's home, Jessop recounted her life after listening to a tape-recorded conversation between Charlene Jessop, her father's third wife, and Les Zitting, who is Charlene's brother. During the conversation, Zitting asks Charlene Jessop about Ruby. "Ruby who?" was the reply. Later in the conversation, Charlene Jessop tells her brother that he is working hand-in-hand with the devil and said she couldn't deal with the devil's work. She then told her brother she would not speak to him again.

Flora Jessop, now 32, lives in Phoenix and has a normal life after escaping what she calls abuse and brainwashing. "Abuse is so rampant over there (Hildale/Colorado City)," Jessop said. Flora considers herself lucky to have an education. Like other girls in Hildale/Colorado City, she was forced to leave school after eighth grade. But because of the charges she brought against her father, the court system required her to earn an education. She received a G.E.D. through the American School while imprisoned at her uncle's home.

Dressed in a pair of short striped shorts and shirt on Saturday, Flora said this wasn't her normal attire until after she left the FLDS lifestyle when she was 16 years old. "Sleeves have to be below the wrist bone, but you can roll them up to do dishes - but not to work in the garden. Collars need to be above the collarbone and dresses, six inches below the knee," she said. "Long underwear is worn under dresses. In fact all the time. Shoes are tennis shoes or shoes without a heel. No makeup or jewelry is worn other than a wedding band and hair is not to be cut and is always worn up." Jessop said the long hair is part of a belief that women will have to wash Christ's feet with their hair when they pass onto the next world. The long underwear has significance as well. Members of the church believe there will be an Indian uprising, but they will be left unharmed because the long underwear is a sign that they are part of God's work. "You are born dressing like that," Jessop said. She also said men aren't required to dress in any special way. Jessop calls the religion a cult that uses brainwashing to keep people under control.

When she left Hildale in 1986, the first thing Flora Jessop did was cut her hair short - very short. A picture of Jessop during an interview with television journalist Harry Reasoner in 1986 shows Jessop with short hair, pierced ears, nail polish and a tank top with her bra strap showing. "Heck, it was surprising I even wore a bra," she said with a smile. Jessop said she knows that actions her sister took showed she wanted to leave the Hildale community. "She cut her hair and changed her clothes," she said. "I know she wanted to leave." Flora also said that during telephone conversations with Ruby in May, Ruby said she wanted to leave the culture and the marriage. Jessop said she would not rest until she has found her sister. But she added that there are a lot of Rubys in the Colorado City-Hildale area. "Every single one of them is a Ruby," she said. "Some don't even realize it. That's how deep it goes. They don't realize it until they get out."

The teachings of the FLDS Church are that the Colorado City/Hildale area is God's World and those outside the area are disciples of the devil. Jessop, because of her upbringing, was never sure what would happen if she changed her hair and lifestyle. "Nothing would be worse that what happened to me in God's world," she said. "I hated God when I left and despised the church and religion, but now I realize that God was sitting on my shoulder the whole time."