In 1953, at just 16-years-old, Irene Spencer became the second wife of her brother-in-law, Verlan LeBaron. LeBaron’s brother, Ervil, was a mass murderer, who together with his fellow cult members, butchered twenty-five to thirty people including former wives, his daughter, his brother, Joel, and rival members of polygamous clans. Fearing for their lives, Spencer and LeBaron moved to various encampments in Mexico, Nicaragua and California. Spencer’s obedience, intended to guarantee her a place in Heaven, landed her in Hell-on-Earth for the next twenty-five years.
Some fifty years later, Spencer, now in a monogamous marriage, reveals the trials and tribulations of being a polygamist’s wife. “I wanted to be able to tell it like it is,” says Spencer in Shattered Dreams. “Yet, I was convinced that these committed women had done as I’d been taught to do — to stubbornly maintain its advantages over monogamy. They had been forbidden to give way to their true feelings, so they smothered their own agony and wrenching pain, as I too had been emphatically instructed to do.”
Spencer finally made good on repeated threats by leaving Verlan after twenty-four years of marriage. However, she would be pulled back into the situation to live another year with her husband after receiving an ominous prediction, which turned out to finally release her completely from Verlan’s spell. He was killed in a car wreck in 1981.
Now, the favorite and only wife, Spencer has been happily and – monogamously – married for nineteen years. Recovering from the emotional damage polygamy dealt, Spencer believes Shattered Dreams will provide the closure she needs and, she hopes, will help other plural wives to find their own freedom.
At the podium, Spencer shares her life as a cult member, her story of being brainwashed, of murderous “religious cults” and being hunted by brother-in-law Ervil LeBaron. She explores polygamy as social policy and the effects of poverty, squalor, and poor healthcare for plural marriage households. She also explores “the dark side of polygamy,” her assertion that women are being suppressed and dominated. Spencer also discusses the resurgence of pro-polygamist activists and addresses the legal community’s reaction to polygamy, including the February 2007 Supreme Court ruling which has emboldened polygamists.