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Jesus Rescued Me from My Father’s Cult

Anna LeBaron grew up in a violent, polygamist cult—a radical off-shoot of the modern-day Mormon church. The leader was her father, Ervil LaBaron, and he demanded total allegiance. He commanded followers to carry out mob-style hits on those who opposed him or fled his cult. Media outlets nicknamed him “the Mormon [Charles] Manson” for the atrocities he committed, and authorities in multiple states (and Mexico) issued arrest warrants for him.

Anna and her family moved often, living in constant fear of getting caught. The FBI and Mexican police would raid their home, looking for her father and the others who had carried out his orders. Anna writes:

We experienced poverty of mind, spirit, and body. One man cannot support 13 wives and over 50 children. Everyone, even young children, worked long hours in grueling conditions to ensure we didn’t starve. Even so, we regularly scavenged—or stole—to meet basic food and clothing needs. We were never allowed to make friends with anyone outside the cult. Eventually my father was taken into custody by the FBI agents, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in a Utah prison.

Even though I grew up in a religious group that claimed to believe the Bible, I had no idea who Jesus was. When anyone in our tight-knit community spoke the name of Jesus or mentioned Christianity, they did so with contempt and derision. But God had his eye on me even then.

My older brother Ed, who lived in Houston, wanted a better life for us. After my father’s imprisonment he showed up in Denver with a U-Haul truck. After about a year the phone rang and the caller reported that my father had been found dead in his prison cell. I was shocked, but I found it difficult to mourn as a normal child would.

After hearing the news, her mother decided to move back to Denver and the chaos of the cult. Anna called Lillian, an older sister who had married and had begun distancing herself from the cult. She told her, “Start walking.” Anna walked out of the house with just the clothes on her back. Her sister hid Anna in a hotel for three days while her mother looked for her that night. When she couldn’t find her, she drove her siblings back to Denver.

I (Anna) moved in with Lillian, her husband, Mark, and their six children. They enrolled me in a Christian school. Several students there showed me love and acceptance quite different from anything I’d ever experienced. I could tell they had something inside them that I was missing and desperately needed. I learned about the Good News of God’s love for me. I learned how Jesus, God’s Son, was sent to earth to die on the cross for my sin. I learned that Jesus lived, was crucified, and was raised from the dead.

My sister allowed me to go on a retreat with the church youth group. The youth pastor gave me the opportunity to ask Jesus to come into my life and change me. That night, God took the broken heart of a 13-year-old girl in his hands, and since then he has been gradually restoring the wholeness that my chaotic childhood smashed to pieces.

My faith has carried me through the dark valleys and has helped me persevere through intense fear, tragedy, and multiple murders of people I love. As a child, I knew myself only as the polygamist’s daughter. But when I came to truly know God as my father, he shattered the evil grip my earthly father had on my life. I began to find my identity as a daughter of God and learned to experience true freedom in and through Jesus Christ alone.

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