Brenda Nicholson grew up in the Salt Lake Valley as a faithful member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS). Growing up in a “normal” neighborhood had ts challenges when a family’s belief system is so different from the rest of the neighbors. But in her childhood years the gap wasn’t as wide as it was to become – gradually at first, but with increasing speed. By the time Brenda graduated high school the rules were tightening. She attended Alta Academy where Warren Jeffs was the Principal and the main High School teacher. Every class had religious dogma intertwined with the subject material, and there was immense pressure to conform.
Much of Brenda’s life was tied to the big white house on the Jeffs property – it was where church was held, where she attended school, where she was baptized into the church at eight years old. She got married in the big meeting hall and her first three babies were born in the upstairs birthing room.
Once the people were concentrated in Short Creek, things changed quickly and got increasingly bizarre. For Brenda and her husband, the final straw came with a decree that said they were found “unworthy” to raise their own children, and that the Lord required that they surrender them to the church. Even after all the sacrifices they had already made, this was a line they refused to cross.
Once Brenda and her family broke free from the church, they started to learn the truth of what had been happening inside the church – what Warren Jeffs had done, why he was in jail – helped them realize that the church was wrong.
Cut off from family, friends and the community that had been all they knew, the very foundation their lives were built upon had crumbled beneath their feet. With little left to call their own, other than debt, they now embarked on a long and lonely road to rebuilding their lives. They are among very few who made it out as an intact family.
Brenda is now going to college, loves writing, and works to be an advocate and a voice for others who are still trapped – physically and/or mentally – in similar circumstances. She is working through a variety of medium to bring awareness to the issues and conditions that thousands of others still endure on a daily basis.
She has finally experienced what true happiness and freedom feels like, and she believes that everyone should share in that experience.