Synergy Books Publishing
Kristyn Decker was born Sophia Allred, in 1952. Her family were, and are, a major subdivision of the polygamist Fundamentalist Morman groups. In 2002, after fifty years living polygamy, it’s joys and sorrows, and many abuses, she finally left. With the support and encouragement of her third husband LeRoy Decker, and her friends on the “outside” she wrote her testimony of physical, sexual, psychological and spiritual abuse at the hands of the patriarchal polygamist cult in which she was born and raised, and to which her family had belonged for several generations. The author has set out to document life as the child of a polygamist family, and then as a plural wife. She also describes her journey, beginning in the late eighties, to find out who she was – besides being the daughter of Owen Allred and the wife of Mark, who was always there to help others and always put everyone else before herself – and to learn to love herself.
The author has managed to convey her experiences in detail, with sympathetic understanding and compassion for herself and her family. I could feel her heartbreak and depression, confusion and joy, as she unfolded chronologically the events of her life. Her addition of background information concerning the history of the Latter Day Saints, the schisms that led to mainstream Morman and polygamist groups holding such different interpretations of their gospel, and different lifestyles, the recent (the last thirty years or so of the twentieth century) events which shaped her family’s life– the further splits, arrests, attacks, state attempts to rescue women and children, documented cases of wife trading, under-age marriage, neglect and abuse, incest, murders, torture etc. – were an interesting, and essential, addition. They put events in context, and explained some of the more unusual (extreme, ignorant, insane) aspects of polygamist belief and lifestyle. I found this book engrossing yet painful. I couldn’t help but cry during much of the narrative.
That people go through such harrowing experiences, and are told that it’s for their own good, and worse still, believe that they deserve their misery for being wicked and sinful (hah!) in a ‘civilised’ country (the US) is awful and a gross hypocrisy. This book tries to describe the mentality of polygamists that allows them to stay in their abusive religious communities. Kristyn Decker succeeds in this.
The writing, while evocative, could on occasion be unfocussed. There were moments when I had to go back and re-read sections to try to make some sense of the narrative. There were also a few spelling errors that should have been picked up in editing.
If you’re interested in learning about these secretive communities, their histories and politics; the mental landscapes of the people who are a part of them; and the journey of a person who has left them, then I recommend this book.