Fundamental Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS)
Most Notorious Cults
Warren Jeffs - FLDS
Jeffs was born to Rulon Jeffs and Marilyn Steed, the daughter of Woodruff Steed. His father, the leader of the FLDS Church at his death, was survived by 19 or 20 wives and approximately 80 children. Former church members claim that Jeffs himself has 70 wives. Two of Warren Jeffs' children, a son and a daughter, have publicly claimed that they were sexually abused by him.
Prior to his father's death, Jeffs held the position of counselor to the church leader. When Rulon Jeffs died in 2002, Jeffs became his successor with his official title in the FLDS Church becoming "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator" as well as "President of the Priesthood". The latter concerned being head of the organization of all adult male church members that were deemed worthy to hold the priesthood, a tradition carried over from the LDS Church.
Following his father's death, Jeffs told the high-ranking FLDS officials, "I won't say much, but I will say this-hands off my father's wives." When addressing his father's widows he said, "You women will live as if Father is still alive and in the next room." Within a week, Jeffs had married all but two of his father's wives; one, Rebecca Wall, fled the compound, the other refused to marry Jeffs and was subsequently prohibited from ever marrying again. Wall, the older sister of Elissa Wall who was instrumental in Warren's incarceration, later married Jeffs' nephew. Naomi Jessop was one of the first of Rulon's former wives to marry Warren, subsequently becoming his favorite wife and confidant. Jessop was with Jeffs at the time of his arrest.
As the sole individual in the church with the authority to perform marriages, Jeffs was responsible for assigning wives to husbands. He also had the authority to discipline male church members by "reassigning their wives, children and homes to another man."
Until courts in Utah intervened, Jeffs controlled almost all of the land in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, which was part of a church trust, the United Effort Plan (UEP). The land has been estimated to be worth over $100 million. Currently, all UEP assets are in the custody of the Utah court system pending further litigation. As the result of a November 2012 court decision, much of the UEP land is to be sold to those who live on it.
In January 2004, Jeffs expelled a group of 20 men from Colorado City, including the mayor, and reassigned their wives and children to other men in the community. Jeffs, like his predecessors, continued the standard FLDS and Mormon fundamentalist tenet that faithful men must follow what is known as the doctrine of plural marriage in order to attain exaltation in the afterlife. Jeffs specifically taught that a devoted church member is expected to have at least three wives in order to get into heaven, and the more wives a man has, the closer he is to heaven.
Changes in location, leadership
Before his 2006 arrest, Jeffs had last been seen on January 1, 2005, near Eldorado, Texas, at the dedication ceremony of the foundation of a large and elaborate FLDS Church temple on the YFZ Ranch. The ranch came into the public eye when Texas authorities took legal custody of 416 children on April 7, 2008, when a 16-year-old girl reportedly phoned to report abuse. The girl in the report claimed to have said that she was married to a 50-year-old man and had, at age 15, given birth to his child. However, residents told authorities that there was in fact no such girl; the calls were ultimately traced to a woman totally unconnected to the FLDS Church, Rozita Swinton, and known for repeated instances of filing false reports. Nevertheless, Texas authorities continued to investigate whether it was a hoax. The children and women who were suspected of being minors were returned after Texas courts established that the state had not presented sufficient evidence of abuse to have removed all of the women and children.
On June 10, 2006, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard told the Deseret Morning News that he had heard from several sources that Jeffs had returned to Arizona, and had performed marriage ceremonies in a mobile home that was being used as a wedding chapel.
On March 27, 2007, the Deseret Morning News reported that Jeffs had renounced his role as prophet of the FLDS Church in a conversation with his brother Nephi. Nephi quoted him as saying he was "the greatest of all sinners" and that God never called him to be a prophet. Jeffs and his defense team had no comment on the statement. Rumors suggest it was a lie from his brother Nephi, who was trying to usurp his brother's role, while more rumors circulated saying Jeffs must step down as prophet so a new man could perform marriages and continue adding wives to the men of the community. An unnamed source said that Jeffs retracted his statement to Nephi. However, the veracity of that source was called into question when Jeffs presented a handwritten note to the judge at the end of trial on March 27 saying that he was not a prophet of the FLDS Church.
On November 7, 2007, the Washington County Attorney's Office released video of jailhouse conversations between Nephi and Jeffs. In the videos, Jeffs renounces his prophethood, claiming that God had told him that if he revealed that he was not the rightful prophet, and was a "wicked man", he would still gain a place in the telestial kingdom. Jeffs also admits to what he calls "immoral actions with a sister and a daughter" when he was 20 years old. Other records show that while incarcerated, Jeffs tried to commit suicide by banging his head against the walls and trying to hang himself.
Jeffs formally resigned as president of the FLDS Church effective November 20, 2007. In an email to the Deseret Morning News, Jeffs' attorneys made the following statements: "Mr. Jeffs has asked that the following statement be released to the media and to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints .... Mr. Jeffs resigned as President of the Corporation of the President of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Inc." The statement does not address his ecclesiastical position as prophet of the FLDS Church, and many in the FLDS communities still regard him as the prophet and their current leader. There are also reports that Jeffs admitted his position of prophet in the FLDS Church was a usurpation in a conversation to his brother, and declared that "Brother William E. Jessop has been the prophet since [my] Father's passing", though Jeffs' attorneys have claimed he misspoke. In early 2011, Jeffs retook legal control of the denomination.
Sex crime allegations and FBI's Most Wanted
In July 2004, Jeffs' nephew, Brent Jeffs, filed a lawsuit against him alleging that in the late 1980s his uncle had anal sex with him in the Salt Lake Valley compound then owned by the FLDS Church. Brent Jeffs said he was five or six years old at the time, and that Jeffs' brothers, also named in the lawsuit, watched and participated in the abuse. Two of Jeffs' other nephews also made similar abuse claims against him. One of the alleged victims, Clayne Jeffs, committed suicide with a firearm after accusing Jeffs of sexually assaulting him as a child.
In June 2005, Jeffs was charged with sexual assault on a minor and with conspiracy to commit sexual misconduct with a minor for allegedly arranging, in April 2001, a marriage between a then-14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old first cousin, Allen. The young woman, Elissa Wall (then only known as "Jane Doe IV"), testified that she begged "Uncle Rulon" to let her wait until she was older, or choose another man for her. Rulon Jeffs was apparently "sympathetic", but Warren Jeffs was not, and she was forced to go through with the marriage. Wall alleged that her new husband raped her repeatedly and that she repeatedly miscarried. She eventually left Allen and the community. Jeffs faced the above charges in Mohave County, Arizona. In July 2005, the Arizona Attorney General's office distributed wanted posters offering $10,000 for information leading to Jeffs' arrest and conviction.
In late 2005, Jeffs was put on the FBI's most wanted fugitive list, offering $60,000 for information leading to his arrest. Shortly after being placed on the FBI list, Jeffs was featured on the television program America's Most Wanted.
Around this time, Jeffs' brother Seth was arrested under suspicion of harboring a fugitive. During a routine traffic stop on October 28, 2005, in Pueblo County, Colorado, police found nearly $142,000 in cash, about $7,000 worth of prepaid debit cards, and Jeffs' personal records. During Seth Jeffs' court case, FBI agent Andrew Stearns testified that Seth had told him that he did not know where his older brother was and that he would not reveal his whereabouts if he did. He was convicted of harboring a fugitive on May 1, 2006. On July 14, 2006, he was sentenced to three years' probation and a $2,500 fine.
On April 5, 2006, Utah issued an arrest warrant for Jeffs on felony charges of accomplice rape of a teenage girl between 14 and 18 years old. Shortly after, on May 6, 2006, the FBI placed Jeffs on its Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. He was the 482nd fugitive listed on that list. In addition, the bounty on his head was raised to $100,000, and the public was warned that "Jeffs may travel with a number of loyal and armed bodyguards".
The updated posters warned that Jeffs had ties to Utah, Arizona, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, British Columbia, and Quintana Roo. There was also information that he had ties to some rural farms run by some of his followers near Pioche, Nevada, as well as construction companies in Mesquite, Nevada.
On May 27, 2006, Bruce Wisan, the court-appointed accountant in charge of the FLDS Church's trust fund, filed civil suits against Jeffs. Wisan claimed that Jeffs is responsible for "fleecing trust assets". Along with church leaders, former trustees Truman Barlow, Leroy Jeffs, James Zitting, and William Jessop were also named as defendants. "We feel that they've taken things from the trust," Wisan said. "Their actions have caused harm to the trust."
On June 8, 2006, Jeffs returned to Colorado City to perform more "child bride" marriages.
On May 27, 2008, the Smoking Gun website released images of Jeffs with two underage wives, one of whom was 12 years old, celebrating one-year anniversaries in 2005 and 2006.
Arrest, trial and conviction
On August 28, 2006, around 9 pm Pacific time, Jeffs was pulled over on Interstate 15 in Clark County, Nevada, by Highway Trooper Eddie Dutchover because Jeffs' red 2007 Cadillac Escalade's temporary license plates were not visible. One of Jeffs' wives, Naomie, and his brother, Isaac, were with him, and Jeffs had four computers, 16 cell phones, disguises (including three wigs and 12 pairs of sunglasses), and more than $55,000 in cash. His wife and brother were questioned and released.
In a Nevada court hearing on August 31, 2006, Jeffs waived extradition and agreed to return to Utah to face two first-degree felony charges of accomplice rape. Each charge carries an indeterminate penalty of five years to life in prison. Arizona prosecutors were next in line to try Jeffs. He was held in the Washington County, Utah, jail pending an April 23, 2007, trial on two counts of rape as an accomplice for his role in arranging a 2002 marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old first cousin.
Jeffs was believed to be leading his group from jail, and a Utah state board expressed dissatisfaction in dealing with Hildale police, believing that many members of the force had ties to Jeffs, and as such, did not cooperate. In May and July 2007, he was indicted in Arizona on eight counts, including sexual conduct with a minor and incest.
Jeffs' trial ran from September 11 to 25, 2007. The trial was held in St. George, Utah, with Judge James L. Shumate presiding. Jeffs was housed in Utah's Purgatory Correctional Facility in solitary confinement for the duration. At the culmination of the trial, on September 25, 2007, Jeffs was found guilty of two counts of being an accomplice to rape. He was sentenced to prison for 10 years to life and began serving his sentence at the Utah State Prison. On July 27, 2010, the Utah Supreme Court, citing deficient jury instructions, reversed Jeffs' convictions and ordered a new trial. The court found that the trial judge should have told the jury that Jeffs could not be convicted unless he intended for Elissa's husband to engage in nonconsensual sex with her. Elissa subsequently wrote an autobiography on her experiences in the FLDS Church and with Jeffs entitled Stolen Innocence. The book was co-authored with former New York Times journalist Lisa Pulitzer.
Jeffs was also scheduled to be tried in Arizona. He had entered a not guilty plea on February 27, 2008, to sex charges stemming from the arranged marriages of three teenage girls to older men. He was transported to the Mohave County, Arizona jail to await trial. On June 9, 2010, a state judge, at the request of Mohave County prosecutor Matt Smith, dismissed all charges with prejudice. Smith said that the Arizona victims no longer wanted to testify, and that Jeffs had spent almost two years in jail awaiting trial-more than he would have received had he been convicted. Combined with the pending charges against Jeffs in Texas, Smith concluded that "it would be impractical and unnecessary" to try Jeffs in Arizona. Jeffs was then returned to Utah; at the time, his appeal of the 2007 conviction was still pending.
On August 9, 2011, Jeffs was convicted on two counts of sexual assault of a child and sentenced to life in prison. Jeffs, Texas Department of Criminal Justice #01726705, will be eligible for parole on July 22, 2038.
On July 9, 2008, Jeffs was taken from jail in Arizona to a Nevada hospital for what the sheriff described as a serious medical problem. Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan did not specify Jeffs' medical problem, but said it was serious enough to move him about 100 miles from Kingman Regional Medical Center to the Nevada hospital.
Jeffs has engaged in lengthy hunger strikes, which his doctors and attorneys have claimed were for spiritual reasons. In August 2009, Superior Court Judge Steve Conn ordered that Jeffs be force fed. Thereafter, Jeffs was fed through a stomach feeding tube. On August 29, 2011, Jeffs was taken to East Texas Medical Center, Tyler, Texas, and hospitalized in critical condition under a medically induced coma after excessive fasting. Officials were not sure how long he would remain hospitalized, but expected Jeffs to live.
Jeffs is incarcerated at the Louis C. Powledge Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice near Palestine, Texas.
In December 2012, Jeffs predicted that the world would end before the year 2013 and called for his followers to prepare for the end.
Jesus Christ Message to All Nations
While incarcerated at Louis C. Powledge Unit, Jeffs penned a book purported to be revelations from Jesus Christ delivered to Jeffs. This book, titled Jesus Christ Message to All Nations, includes several directives to set Jeffs free.