BONNERS FERRY — “So often, when people go through hard experiences, they have to make that choice to use it to become successful, or else it takes them down,” said Boundary County resident Rachel Blackmore.
Blackmore is more recognizable by her maiden name — Rachel Jeffs. She is the daughter of the infamous Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), the secretive polygamist Mormon cult that was run by her father.
After suffering years of emotional and physical abuse, Blackmore escaped with her five children, finding a life of freedom in Boundary County. The agonizing details of her life under the ruling hands of her father’s radical splinter sect of the Mormon Church are now on the pages of her new book, “Breaking Free”.
Blackmore was inspired to record her life experience because so many people from the church kept coming to her, asking to hear her story, wanting to know why she left.
“So I started writing it right after I left because it was such a long story to just tell,” said Blackmore. “I decided to write it down for everyone. It was just amazing how it happened so fast. I got a publishing company interested and it was just amazing how fast it happened.”
Through the painful experiences, beginning with sexual abuse at the hands of her father when she was only eight years old, and escalating through being forced into an arranged polygamist marriage to a man who she did not know
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and who already had two wives, and eventually leading to her being isolated from her five children for seven months, a message of quiet strength and hope permeates the pages.
“I just want people to realize that they are still a good person and that they can become something, and make something of their life, and be happy, even if they have had hard experiences,” explained Blackmore.
In 2011, Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison for aggravated sexual assault of a 12 year old girl and 20 years in prison for the sexual assault of a 15 year old girl. From prison, he continues to control the thousands of members who still believe him to be a prophet, his edicts becoming more restrictive and bizarre over time, Blackmore said.
“They just don’t have any freedom, they don’t have phones, they don’t have cars, they don’t have any way to talk to anybody,” she added.
When asked about how Blackmore felt about her father, she responded that she was mostly sad for the choices he made.
“Not very much love,” she said. “I mean he is my dad, and I’m grateful that I came to this world. I don’t really know how to feel. I don’t think about him very much because I don’t want anger or hatred to take over how I feel.”
“I just want to live my life. I feel that if I waste my time being angry or hateful then he wins,” explained Blackmore. ”If I Iove and forgive, then I win, but I realize that I had to make that choice.”
Amidst all the cruelties Blackmore suffered, she admits that her father did teach her many good things.
“Even his abusive was against what he taught me,” she said. “I feel like I learned a lot of good things from him even though he did wrong.”
“You know, Rachel, if you don’t want to be like somebody you have to love and forgive them or else you are going to be just like them,” Jeffs told Blackmore when she was struggling with feelings of dislike towards a person.
“As bad as he is, that is very true because I have learned that if I live in anger and hate, even toward my dad, then it feels like he wins because I am not happy,” Blackmore explained. “All our enemies want us to be angry and mad toward them, but if we can just forgive them and just go on with our life, then we win.”
In her book, Breaking Free, written under her maiden name, Blackmore delves into the psychological abuse that she, and others, suffer as Jeffs tightens the control to suit his whims, executing orders in the name God.
“They slowly take a little bit more power, and power over you in ways that you don’t even realize what they are doing until it’s almost too late,” said Blackmore. “When you step away from it, you’re like ‘oh my God, that was bad,’ but you don’t even realize — until you are out of that situation — how really bad it was.”
As Breaking Free nears its conclusion, it explores the circumstances that led to Blackmore finding the courage to leave with her five children.
“Having my kids taken away was a big reason why I decided I couldn’t put up with this,” said Blackmore. She had already spent seven months being punished, separated from her family, her husband, and her children, living in isolation for a perceived crime that she had not committed — having sexual relations with her husband.
When faced with the possibility of no chance of escape, and realizing that her father would never let her see her husband again, Blackmore asked for help.
“When my sister, Angela, told me that she had been abused, and I realized I wasn’t alone — I just needed one person that loved me, to hear me — then I felt like I had the power to leave,” said Blackmore. “One person loved me and understood. That was the time when I decided to that I could leave.”
Where the book ends, Blackmore’s new life began, a life where she had to learn to be free. Her indomitable spirit, that had lay dormant throughout her life, was finally able to be nurtured.
In a world once deemed “wicked” by her father, Blackmore learned that she could have one of the most fundamental rights of humanity — the ability to dream.
Blackmore had once believed the abuse that she suffered, must be far worse in the wicked world, that the other dad’s must be doing even more horrible things to their daughters.
“That is what I thought because we were taught we were so much better than them, and then to realize, that is not how dads are. Dad’s don’t really do that,” said Blackmore. “It was really awesome to come out and realize that there were good people and they weren’t that way. He was the bad one and there was good people out there.”
Blackmore had decided that there were good people in the outside world, but she was truly surprised at how much of her new world was filled them.
“I was surprised that society really doesn’t put up with that, and that’s why my book was healing, to realize that people don’t agree with all that abuse,” explained Blackmore. “That was really so healing for me.”
In the final pages of the book, Blackmore talks about meeting her current husband, how for their second date, they met in Bonners Ferry, even though neither lived here.
After the book, Blackmore moved to Boundary County, and has now resided here for a year and a half, marrying her new husband on Sept. 23 of this year.
“It’s very beautiful and I like small towns,” said Blackmore. “Everybody is really nice and I love my kids going to school here.”
She says that her children are also healing and blossoming in the newfound freedoms of a normal childhood. Where they once were denied toys, schooling, medical attention, and even their parents, they now revel in swimming, hiking, and other normal childhood activities.
“They all have friends and they enjoy school. I think because they know what it is like to have such a hard life, they are so happy to be free and do things that are fun,” explained Blackmore. “Little things make them happy because they have had such a hard life.”
“They love to dream about what they want to become, because I never had the opportunity,” said Blackmore. “It is fun to me to see them be able to dream and do what they want.”
In a whirlwind of activity surrounding the publishing of her book on Nov. 14, Blackmore has appeared on many radio and television programs, including the NBC Today show with Megyn Kelly. Her book is now gracing the shelves in places such as Walmart and Costco.
When things slow down, she plans on returning to teaching the violin, a passion of hers that saw her through some of the darkest times. Blackmore also loves to garden, photography, and photo editing — the small freedoms that so many take for granted.
“I dreamed about it but it was just so far fetched that I didn’t really let myself dwell on it very much,” said Blackmore. “You just know that it’s not going to happen, so I didn’t let myself think about it very much.”
Despite the horrors that she has faced, Blackmore remains optimistic in the face of her new life.
“I am grateful for those experiences because it has made me stronger,” she said. “I feel like it makes it so I can help other people not suffer that same way.”