'Stolen Innocence' Excerpt

Panic swelled inside of me, and I searched my mind for what to say next. "I don't know if this is right for me," I told him after a long pause. "I don't feel ready. I don't feel like that is what I should be doing because I'm really young. And I think there are so many other girls in the house who would be more ready for this calling."

Not deterred, Uncle Fred instructed me to "go and pray about it." I was at a loss for words, and I realized that he intended for me to go forward and marry. I asked if he could at least share the identity of my future husband. Perhaps if I knew who God had chosen for me, it would set my mind at ease.

"That will be revealed to you at the right time," he replied.

I felt physically ill as I stood to leave. The conversation was over, and there appeared to be nothing more I could say.

In the days ahead, I was flooded with congratulatory words from my family and many stepsisters, who, much to my surprise, knew that I was among the three girls chosen for marriage. I struggled to hide my true feelings as they told me how lucky I was, and at moments it felt nice to have so much attention. Getting married is the highest honor for a girl in the FLDS Church. It was what women lived for—our dream and our mission. Even though I was only fourteen, it was hard not to get caught up in all the excitement. Soon, though, those feelings would pass, and the anxiety returned.

I discovered I wasn't the only young girl who had been assigned a husband. The prophet had also chosen my stepsister Lily, who was only a few months older than I was. She would be celebrating her fifteenth birthday before me. The third girl chosen was Nancy. She was a few years older than Lily and me and seemed excited at the prospect of achieving what she'd been preparing for her whole life.

As we looked at our similar situations, Lily and I formed a bond in our attempt to come to terms with our futures. Like me, Lily had been through a difficult time. A few months earlier, she'd begun a secret friendship with an older FLDS boy who had recently moved to Hildale from Salt Lake City. Since the prophet is the only person who can authorize romantic relationships, this friendship went against church teachings. Inevitably, Uncle Fred found out what was going on and forbade her from seeing the boy again. Lily was beside herself with sadness, and she tried to take her own life using Tylenol and ibuprofen.

Her attempt failed, but her marriage announcement seemed to be in reaction to her improper friendship, as though the powers above her thought that marriage would force her back into the correct FLDS mindset. At moments, it even appeared to be working, as Lily seemed to share Nancy's excitement. But my resistance never wavered, and despite everyone's words, I remained unconvinced that this was my time.

In the days after Uncle Fred's announcement, I wrote down my thoughts about what was happening in a journal.

Sunday, April 15, 2001
It sure has been an amazing weekend. Many things have happened to make things feel a little upside down. Yesterday was quite a nerve- shaking day. It was about …

My mother came into the room, and I could feel her standing over me as I began to put my worries and questions on the paper.

"Lesie, you should be careful what you write," she cautioned, interrupting my stream of consciousness. "Your words are not private."

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