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From the depths of despair over an older brother's suicide and his own drug-enhanced fog, Brent Jeffs began to piece together a painful memory.
He remembered a classroom, a hallway. He remembered a bathroom where, he says, he was repeatedly raped by his uncle -- Warren S. Jeffs, now leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That memory became the basis of a civil lawsuit Jeffs filed in 2004, and now it's the crux of his the book Lost Boy , written with Maia Szalavitz.
Jeffs' allegation, never tested in court, was the first and most shocking of two lawsuits that led to a court takeover of the sect's United Effort Plan Trust and a default judgement in his favor when defendants failed to respond. Today, Jeffs, 26, is married, a father and a machinist at Ultradent, the dental products company owned by ex-FLDS member and critic Dan Fischer.
His book follows a familiar motif in memoirs by former FLDS members: A dysfunctional family includes a father with an explosive temper and dueling plural wives who make life hell. In Jeffs' case, there were three mothers and 20 children.
In the book, Jeffs' story unfolds in a mostly compelling way, although he includes some anecdotes that have no FLDS connection (such as recounting the saga of the LeBarons, another polygamist clan) or that are baseless (such as one about sinner incinerator in the FLDS's Texas temple).
What of the sex-abuse allegations? In his lawsuit, Jeffs said he was raped by three uncles but the book focuses only on Warren for legal reasons, the author claims.
Jeffs says when he was five, Warren would leave Sunday church services, take him from a class for young children, sodomize him in a bathroom as two uncles stood guard and then return him to class. Warren labeled the abuse, repeated about 10 times, "God's work" and told Brent to keep it quiet or he'd "burn in hell."
Brent's uncle, Blaine Jeffs, named in the lawsuit, has stepped forward at the book's publication to "categorically" deny the allegations for the first time. Blaine Jeffs says he left the FLDS in 1981 and didn't return until 1992. He lived in Elko, Nev., in 1988 and never attended FLDS Sunday church services where the abuse allegedly occurred. "I still to this day have not met Brent Jeffs," he says. Blaine Jeffs rejoined the sect in 1992 but was excommunicated in 2004.
The younger Jeffs, the book's author, is adamant the abuse occurred. The experience led him to periodically space out and, beginning at age 14, deaden his emotions with alcohol and drugs.
Then in 2002, older brother Clayne committed suicide. Six months before his death, Clayne, a heroin addict, recalled during hypnotherapy being abused by Warren and two uncles when he was 5 or 6. Jeffs says Clayne discussed it with him, but the younger brother kept silent about his own hazy recollections.
With his memories still buried, Jeffs directed anger over his brother's abuse and death at Warren. "The man who was, to my mind, responsible for the death of my brother Clayne should not have that kind of power," he writes. "Not only was it infuriating and unjust -- it was dangerous."
Frequent marijuana use didn't blot out his pain --- and there was a new problem. In recurring nightmares, "shards of memory" were completing a mosiac: He had been abused, too.
Jeffs met with Fischer, who has funded lawsuits against the sect, to propose that "if we could somehow bring Warren to justice, we might be able to help all the lost boys and prevent more families from being destroyed." A third brother made the same abuse claim after Jeffs' lawsuit was filed.
Jeffs isn't aware of other victims and doesn't know why he and his brothers were targeted. The author of Lost Boy says he has forgiven his uncle and moved on.
Jeffs said his motive was always justice, not financial gain, and stopping abuse -- a goal now accomplished. "It really feels good to stand back and see what has unfolded with all this," he says.
Sam Weller's Bookstore will host a reading and book signing by Brent Jeffs, author of Lost Boy, on May 28 at 7 p.m. at Sam Weller's Bookstore, 254 S. Main St., Salt Lake City.