Howard Mackert was born in 1955, one of 27 children born to the three wives of Clyde Chapman Mackert. His mother was the first legal wife. She had eleven children. Howard and two of his half-brothers were born just months apart to three different mothers just three years after his father had been released from prison by signing a paper saying he would no longer live with multiple spouses.
Howard’s mother, Midge, was converted to Mormon polygamy. She and Clyde already had twin girls, Carole and Connie. Midge converted Clyde and the moved to Short Creek (now Hildale, Ut./Colorado City, AZ). In time, Clyde took two more wives, Myra and Donna. Myra had six children, Donna had 10.
Howard’s family moved to LaSalle, Moab, and finally Salt Lake City when he was about 5. They lived in three different houses, and learned to lie about polygamy. E.g. “If a kid came up to me at school and said he’d heard my dad was a polygamist, I’d say, ‘that’s funny, I heard the same thing about your dad.”
Howard loved to play football but couldn’t play on the team because his picture might be in the paper and if his brothers were also in the paper in the same picture, people would start asking questions.
They never had Christmas because Mormons believe Christ was born on April 6th but April 6th would also come and go without anything happening. After Christmas break kids always wanted to know what you got for Christmas. Howard learned to turned the question around by saying he got some clothes and stuff and asking what they got for Christmas, “because the only reason a kid asks you what you got for Christmas is because they want to tell you what they got for Christmas.”
Howard and his brothers had a great time in the summers working on the farm in Sandy, Utah. They were in charge of the irrigation and had to get up early to go change the gates so the water would be directed to the right areas.
Howard had a zero relationship with his father except on Sunday when his dad taught religion to him and his siblings. The only time he ever saw his father was if he had to wait up at night for him to come home to punish him. That didn’t happen too often, but everyone dreaded having to go to his den for punishment.
Howard can remember his dad coming out to play football with him once. Clyde Mackert had been a football player and loved the game. He stopped going to afternoon church meetings when Howard was about 15 and would stay home to watch football games.
Roy Johnson was prophet of the FLDS at that time. Carol married Roy Johnson when she was 17 and he was 72. Connie married a man older than her and had several children. Because women were supposed to produce a baby a year and because the families were so intermingled, there were a lot of birth disorders, autism and Down’s-syndrome.
It was Roy Johnson who instigated placement marriage. Members were to hold all their natural feelings in check and magically fall in love when they were married. It didn’t happen that way for Howard. All of us had spirit bodies up in heaven and we had to come to earth to a mortal body so we can become gods.
Mormons teach that as man is God once was, and as God is man may become.
Howard told the Mormon version of the great war in heaven where Jesus and Lucifer both volunteered to be the saviour of the world. Lucifer wanted all the glory for himself but Jesus wanted God to have the glory; so, Lucifer and those who followed him were cast down to hell and Jesus was chosen to atone for our sins. Joseph Smith also taught that black people were descendants of Cain and could not have exaltation.
Howard told how birth control was not allowed. The whole family moved into one house in 1970. By that time a fourth wife had been added. She had two daughters and two sons from two previous marriages. The house in Sandy, Utah, had four bedrooms upstairs. His dad would give one wife a kiss good-night and then go off to another wife’s bedroom. As soon as his dad had that house paid off, he gave it to the UEP (United Effort Plan) of the church.
They never had money. Once when Howard was a small boy, he saw a piece of candy on the floor. It was wrapped, so it wasn’t dirty. He picked it up and ate it. His mother made him pay back the penny debt of that candy seven-fold like it says in the Bible. When his mother took him into the store to confess his crime and pay the store owner seven pennies he had earned by doing very hard chores for a penny a chore, the man behind the counter dismissed it and said it was okay. His mother pounded her fist on the counter making the pennies bounce. “How can I teach my son to be honest if you don’t help me?” The man took the pennies.
This was very confusing to Howard because they had to lie about so many things. His dad was a polygamist who had four wives and 31 childrfen to feed. His mother bartered at the grocery, bottled fruit and vegetables, ground her own wheat. He and his siblings would work in orchards just to be paid in fruit. They wore hand-me-downs and homemade clothes.
He didn’t realize the strained relationships between the sister wives until he was in his early teens. Donna was very strict. Myra was a case. She sometimes didn’t remember accurately. Howard told of one incident where Myra claimed to have told one of boys to pick up something when she didn’t. Howard was 16 and stood between his brother and Myra so she couldn’t punish him.
Seventeen was old for a girl to be married. Most were married before they left high school.
Howard told about his arranged marriage. He had been out of high school for six years. Howard was the last of his siblings to graduate from high school. The rest were taken out of school and home-schooled. Roy Johnson phoned him one Sunday morning. “Do you know. . .what was that girl’s name?” Howard could hear his sister’s voice in the background telling Roy the name. Howard thought that was rather odd. Roy said the name and Howard said he didn’t know her. “Well, I want you to meet her today and marry her tomorrow.” Right after that call, his parents phoned him and told him what a sweet girl she was and he had to marry her and follow the prophet.”
“Follow the prophet” was what everyone was supposed to do. Do you know what that does? It makes it so you are not responsible for anything. Well, Howard met the girl. She was 17, uneducated and fat says Howard. He wanted to become a teacher and a football coach. He didn’t want to be married to an illiterate, fat 17-year-old.
Over time Howard had many questions but whenever he brought up something that bothered him, he was told to put it on a shelf.
Howard didn’t want to marry the girl but he couldn’t say NO to the prophet so he married her. After three months he still hadn’t had sex with her. He knew he had to get out of the marriage. He paid $400 for the divorce, totally ignorant of the fact that he could have had the marriage annulled, and that was the end of his relationship with the church. He says the title of his book could be “I was a 25-year-old divorced virgin.”
He started to attend a Presbyterian Church in Cedar City, Utah. All he saw around him were old women lamenting that the Mormon church was taking all their kids. He stopped going because he couldn’t stand it.
He had to take a choir class in college because he needed a one-credit course to complete his requirements for a scholarship. He met a girl and suddenly got a crash course in respect and proper courting. She converted him to Christianity. She was a devout creationaist. He read and studied the Bible. His mother’s reaction was she was glad he found something to keep him on the straight and narrow.
Howard came out of fundamentalist Mormoism into fundamentalist Christianity. He gradually got out of that because he was tired of religious groups that devalue other people.
Meanwhile, Rulon Jeffs had become the prophet. He told Howard’s mother that Clyde Mackert was not worthy to become a god. She left him and was sealed to a more worthy man. It broke his dad and eventually killed him.
Howard’s sisters stayed in the FLDS. One of Donna’s daughters stayed. All of Myra’s children left. Warren Jeffs disallows apostates to visit with their relatives but Howard’s mother still runs a thrift store so he sees her frequently.
Howard describes himself as a happy man with his own business. He is active in the community.
In answer to the question asking if it was a damaging way to grow up and be reared, his immediate response is, Oh, yeah! “Yes, it was a damaging way to grow up. The cards were stacked pretty heavily against me.” Howard feels he could have been on scholarships instead of scratching his way through college. “I have an inquisitive mind and it was always being shut down.”
Those people are trapped by a warped, manipulative society. Warren Jeffs rips families apart. No one can go against him. You live your life with no hope. There is so much incest but no one says anything because they are so numb. . .Human rights are violated by the system that controls them.
Warren Jeffs is like the emperor with no clothes and no one dare say he has no clothes on. There is really something terribly wrong when a child doesn’t know who his real mom is.