This is the sort of non-fiction book that reads like a fiction book because the events that unfold are so shocking and hard to believe. In The Witness Wore Red, Rebecca Musser tells the story of her life in, escape from, and trial against the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). During her time in the church, Musser was pressured into becoming the 19th wife of the church’s prophet, 85-year-old Rulon Jeffs. Musser, her sister wives, and other women in the church - some of which were under 16 - were forced to participate in non-consensual sexual relations at risk of being banished or otherwise punished by the church.
This book is infuriating because as Musser recounts the events that took place, it becomes clear that the leaders of the FLDS knew exactly what kind of harm they were doing. It’s heartbreaking to read the accounts of men, women, and children alike who were brainwashed to accepting abuse as the will of God. Entire families would surrender their assets to the church, believing it was in their best interests. Furthermore, the women were wrongfully conditioned to believe their worth lay in how well they pleased their husbands and the men in the church.
From the outside, it’s easy to look at Musser’s situation and think, “I would never stand for that.” But, through the chapters of the book, she really gives the reader a deep understanding of how members in the FLDS are conditioned from birth to believe in the word of the Profit, and in him alone. When raised in this sort of bubble, where everyone is taught to fear a vengeful God, you can begin to empathize with these people who believed they had no other choice.
It’s hard to put a rating on someone else’s life experience, especially when what they experienced was something that no one should have to face. Rebecca Musser was heart-wrenchingly vulnerable in sharing her experiences so that future generations won’t have to endure what she did. Her narration is filled with compassion and respect for the church that she left behind, not one filled with vengeance at what they put her through. This is a story that needed to be told, and one that I deeply recommend taking the time to hear.