Jessica Bradford

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I come from an active LDS family. I have 2 older brothers and a little brother and sister. I don’t view my childhood as a happy one or extremely negative. Some of my favorite memories are being with my younger siblings. I was a fairly petite kid, and I would pack my little brother around on my hip everywhere. He was 5ish years younger than me, but he was about the same size I was. It’s really not far off to how my daughter and son are.

I feel like I need to preface this by saying my memories aren’t the greatest. I blocked out a lot of memories because I didn’t want to remember them. I also feel like some memories were heavily influenced by other people’s feelings.

I was told by a couple of people that when I was born my dad blamed me for his… shortcomings… I really don’t know how to say any of this nicely so… Here we go. He disappeared when I was only a few months old to get a penis enlargement and he put our already poor family in a considerable amount of debt by going to a cash advance store. And as I’m sure you can imagine because he was now as large as a horse this negatively affected the relationship with my mom. He blamed all of this on me because it was my fault I ruined my mom’s body and he felt he had to get surgery because my mom’s body was ruined, and now we were even more poor because of the surgery. If only I was able to think about this before I was born.

This led to my dad being extremely inappropriate with me. I don’t like to use the word abusive, but what he did… Well, let’s just say I don’t trust him and it is the reason why I no longer talk to him. Despite the treatment from my dad, I still loved him. I did everything I could to make him proud of me. I played basketball and did gymnastics. I eventually had to stop gymnastics though because my parents couldn’t afford it. And I eventually quit basketball because I overheard my mom crying. She didn’t know how to pay for my sisters soccer. So I quit in hopes that it would help their financial situation. I was already paying for my own things but I didn’t have enough left over for basketball. I absolutely loved basketball and I was a great player. It was one of the few things I could actually bond over with my dad. He would often get Jazz tickets from work, and I loved going with him to the games. But I haven’t played since I was 14 years old.

I had started paying for my own things at the age 8 by babysitting, newspaper routes, selling phone books in the summer and cleaning homes. Sometimes my brother would pay me to mow the lawn too so he didn’t have to. I was a straight A student and graduated early with a large scholarship. My original plan was to graduate with an Associates degree, but my plans eventually changed as you will find out why soon. I dedicated myself to church and earned every reward possible by age 14, and I also played an active part in young women’s. I was an overachiever to make my dad proud. I just wanted him to see me as he did my brothers.

Anyway… Backing up I was an extremely sensitive child. So much so that my brothers and cousins all called me a cry baby. Happy, sad, angry tears. I had a lot of emotions. This all came to a stop when I was 7ish. When my “best friends” wanted to play judge. But really it was just them calling me names and if I said anything they would berate me and tell me how horrible I was. My parents came by during this and I begged them to bring me with them or to send me home. They did neither.

That day I started to question a lot. Starting with how I didn’t really have the support of my family or friends. I was also often bullied by kids who disliked my brother just older than me. It was not uncommon for me to have to find alternative routes home from school. I tried ignoring one boy like my mom suggested and I ended up getting beat up. Most of the time I would run away and luckily I was a fast little shit.

Teachers and parents didn’t do anything to stop the bullying. So I took matters into my own hands. I became the bully to other bullies. Of course I saw myself as the protector and not a bully. I would have kids from school ask me to protect them when they were getting bullied. The school playground became a safe place.

When I was 9 I started to question the church. I learned how terrible porn was and because of my dad’s high standing at church I started to question the church. I loved my dad but according to the church he was a bad person. And my dad believed in the church. Something didn’t line up for me.

I had read a bit of the book of Mormon but I never seemed to feel the spirit like everyone else did. And it was hard for me to understand. I remember praying and hoping for God to answer my prayers. But the only voice that ever responded was the one in my head.

I felt inadequate. And I also felt like I was a sinner because I felt responsible for the actions of my dad. I figured it was because I was going to outer darkness for my “sins” and that was just my lot in life.

As a teenager I wouldn’t say I was depressed but I definitely wasn’t happy. I just was. I had quit basketball at this point, and there weren’t any more awards I could earn from church. I didn’t have a lot to keep myself busy with. I would escape from my reality to books. Eventually I read so many fiction books at the library that I was running out of things to read and I started reading personal diaries. And being in a smaller town in Utah county it was mostly people in the LDS church. I kept thinking there had to be more to this book of Mormon. Why do so many others feel this spirit that I lack?

I also had a lot of conversations with my eldest brother. He is a very logical person. And he opened up my eyes to a lot of possibilities I never considered. I remember him being the first one to tell me we didn’t understand the book of Mormon, the word of wisdom or really any of Joseph’s teachings. This is when I thought maybe I didn’t understand what was healthy for me. I started experimenting with giving up meat and dairy.

This is where Kyle Bradford comes into my story. I grew up down the road from Kyle. One thing I always found fascinating about Kyle was he always, and I mean always, had a small book of Mormon in his pocket. This, and due to Kyle being the kindest individual I had ever met, I wanted to know more about him.

Kyle and I became close. And he started to print me portions of a book that I thought was the book of Mormon. But it was different this time. This book started to answer my questions that nobody else did. Kyle eventually told me it was the Sealed Portion. He was scared that if he told me what it was I would be mad at him like the few people he had already told. So he would only give me a few pages at a time.

I remember Kyle once telling some friends and I that he wanted to save the world. His friends laughed at him, told him he was crazy and asked him how in the world he would do this. This is when Kyle introduced the Worldwide United Foundation, which would later become the Humanity Party. This was the coolest thing to me, and I wanted to be a part of it. This song reminds me of Kyle and how he has always talked as long as I have known him.

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I guess it was weird for two teenagers spending so much time reading together that we were eventually found out. My parents banned me from Kyle.

This next part is harder for me to talk about. This is where my rebellion comes in, but because of these experiences it only made the Marvelous Work and a Wonder more important to me.

When I was banned from Kyle and this work I felt like I had been put in chains. I was free, and my freedom was taken away. Fine. My parents wanted to play this game. So I played.

A boy started to text me. I don’t know how he got my number. Weirdly enough, this actually happened a lot over the next year. I had a lot of guys somehow get my number, and I have no idea how as this wasn’t something I was handing out.

This first boys name was Brandon. He was good friends with one of Kyle’s friends. His grandpa actually lived across the street from Kyle, and he and his cousins used to throw rocks at my brothers and I as we would walk home on occasion from my aunts moms house. I told Brandon this and he apologized to me. This was good enough for me, but my parents didn’t like him. My mom didn’t like he had tried to hurt her babies. I can understand this, but my dad didn’t like him because he didn’t go to church. Brandon wasn’t exactly what my parents would call a good kid. He occasionally drank, and he had a bullet bike. He was perfect for what I wanted to accomplish. I feel bad for how I used Brandon. I never liked him more than a friend, and I eventually hurt him. Brandon never made me feel uncomfortable, and he always asked me if I was comfortable with him before we ever did anything together. He was a lot like Kyle in that way. My parents disliked him though, and I needed to break my chains anyway I could.

The next boy that reached out to me was a childhood friend, JR. I hadn’t talked to him in years, but I knew him and his family. They lived in our stake. He was a good LDS boy and a football star. Everyone liked him. I liked him. As a friend. I still remember in Kindergarten arguing with him about Santa Claus. He never did believe me that Santa was a fake.

One day JR and I started texting all the time, and we decided to go get ice cream together. My dad wanted me to get some for the family too and gave me some money. JR came to pick me up, and asked me to sit next to him in the middle seat of his truck. I didn’t mind because he had always been my friend. He told me we were going to take the scenic route. I thought it was so we could have a chance to talk so we didn’t have to rush back to my house with ice cream. JR had different plans. He took me down to the river bottoms, and drove out to the middle of a field. I’ve tried really hard to block out this memory because of how uncomfortable it made me. JR pinned his body onto me and I couldn’t move. JR was a big guy. Although I have always been strong (often stronger than most guys), JR was much larger and stronger than I was. He started kissing me, and he is probably the worst kisser ever. It felt like someone had dumped a cup of saliva into my mouth. I remember I was trying not to throw up. Although thinking back that probably would have saved me. JR was touching me all over and kissing me, and then I felt something warm on my leg. He immediately stopped and didn’t say anything on the way back to my house. He told me to get out of his truck and he left.

I felt humiliated and so embarrassed. My family was waiting for ice cream from me. I didn’t know what to say to them. My “friend” just drooled on me like a dog, cummed on me and left.

I thought that was the end of JR, but I saw him a few weeks later. I had to pick up my little brother from football camp. As I pulled into the parking lot I saw JR’s truck. Of course I was driving my older brothers old clunker that couldn’t stick out more if it tried. I sent my little sister to find my little brother, and I laid down in the car. JR still saw me. He came over and started talking to me. I don’t remember what he said because I froze up. The next thing I remember is him reaching into the car and pulling my boob out of my shirt. I couldn’t move. In my head I was yelling at myself to punch him, scream, roll the window up on him, anything! But I couldn’t. I finally was able to whisper, “Please, go away.” JR just looked at me, and walked off.

I felt devastated. This was supposed to be someone I trusted. He was supposed to be a good guy. I went home and told my mom. I didn’t want anything bad to happen to JR, but I wanted him to know that wasn’t okay. She called JR’s mom. You know what JR’s mom said? She only believed me because she had known me so long and I went to church every week. I was floored! So my voice only mattered because I went to church?? Unbelievable. How many girls has JR taken advantage of? How many voices were suppressed because they believed differently?

This happened with a few guys over the next few months. One guy spammed my phone with nasty texts but because he was a Priesthood holder he wasn’t capable of that and it must have been someone else. Another guy took me out to the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night and told me he would leave me out there if I didn’t show him my breasts. One guy tried to rape me in his living room, and later told me no one would believe me. The last guy was a good friend of my oldest brother. He told me we were going to a party at his friends house. We went out to his friends house who lived on a farm. I was told everyone was in the trailer (which happened to be far from the house). When we walked in, my heart dropped and he locked the door behind him. Nobody was there. Although he didn’t rape me he did do other things. A week later he went on a mission.

I eventually had a meeting with the Bishop that my parents forced me to go to. He wanted to give me a calling. I told him no. He spent the next half hour insisting that I was out having sex, and telling me I needed to repent for my sins. He wasn’t far off from the truth, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. And most of the time it wasn’t my choice. Apparently my voice didn’t matter to him either.

I was close to giving up. My voice didn’t matter to anyone. I felt abandoned and uncared for. I was also mad. I was mad at everyone. Why was everyone so intent on not letting me decide what I can and can’t do? My parents, all these boys, my bishop…

I was working at the movie theater when I started talking to one of the other workers. I found him to be one of the most boring people I have ever talked to. I wasn’t attracted to him in any way, and he had a way of making you feel so uncomfortable. We were not compatible. But he was nice and he was my last attempt at breaking my chains. He smoked, drank, and didn’t go to church. I didn’t think he was going anywhere in life. He had no ambitions. My entire family hated everything about him. Great. Maybe I’ll stay with him forever. I dated him for about 6 months. I think this was about the point where my parents were getting concerned that I really was going to stay with theater boy, so when Kyle and I started to talk again they didn’t mind.

When I graduated at 17 I decided it was time to stand up for myself against my parents. I was done going to church. My dad yelled at me. He didn’t understand how I could possibly believe in the Sealed Portion. How could I believe in Joseph Smith but not the church? He wasn’t happy with any of my answers, and I got kicked out of the house. As hard as that moment was, that was the first moment that I truly felt I was free. I could actually picture for the first time living a life for me and not under the control of anyone else. And Kyle and I could finally start “dancing in the moonlight.”

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Kyle and I are still together and I couldn’t possibly imagine being with anyone else. We have two amazing children. And I have only grown to love this work even more. I only wish that everyone could feel as free as I do. And I will never stop fighting for everyone to have a voice.

Jessica Bradford

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