Warren Jeffs - Biography

Biography

Warren Jeffs is the son of Rulon Jeffs. His father, the leader of the FLDS Church at his death, was survived by 19 or 20 wives and had about 60 children. No information is available about Warren Jeffs on the FLDS website, although according to the BBC Storyville programme "Leaving the Cult", he has 31 daughters.

Warren Jeffs' official title in the FLDS Church was "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator". He also held the title of "President of the Priesthood," which meant that he was the head of the organization of all adult male church members that were deemed worthy to hold the church's priesthood. Jeffs was a counselor to his father Rulon Jeffs when the elder Jeffs held these leadership positions; upon the death of Rulon Jeffs in 2002, Warren Jeffs succeeded him and became FLDS Church leader.

One of Jeffs' statements after his father's death was directed at high-ranking officials in the FLDS Church: "I won't say much, but I will say this—hands off my father's wives." Addressing the recent 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 fled the compound, the other simply refused to marry Jeffs and was subsequently prohibited from ever marrying again. One of his father's wives, Rebecca Wall (the sister of Ellisa Wall who was instrumental in Warren's incarceration) left the sect and ended up marrying Jeffs's nephew. One of the first to marry Jeffs was Naomi Jessop Jeffs, who became his favorite wife and confidant, and who was with him when he was arrested.

Jeffs, the sole individual in the church who possessed the authority to perform its marriages, was responsible for assigning wives to husbands. Jeffs also held the authority to discipline wayward male believers by "reassigning their wives, children and homes to another man."

Moreover, the FLDS Church owns essentially all of the homes and real estate in the areas where its members reside. The FLDS also appears to exercise substantial if not complete control over the children born into the congregation. Male subjects are reported to have been frequently exiled from the church due to their alleged competition with the elder male members of the church for the limited number of suitable marriage candidates.

In 2000, the Colorado City Unified School District had more than 1200 students enrolled. When the FLDS Church decided to remove its members' children from public schools, enrollment decreased to around 250. Jeffs, however, did not require the FLDS members who made up the majority of the school district's administrators to quit their positions.

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 "Celestial Marriage" or plural marriage in order to attain the highest degree of 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. Former church members claim that Jeffs himself has seventy wives.

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 new FLDS temple on an area of land called 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, 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 Prophet. Jeffs and his defense team had no comment on the statement. Rumors suggest it was a lie from his brother Nephi, trying to usurp his brother's role, while more rumors circulated saying he 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 he retracted this statement. 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 Warren Jeffs. In the videos, Warren 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 celestial 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 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 Father's passing", though Jeffs' attorneys have claimed he misspoke. In early 2011, Jeffs retook legal control of the denomination.

On August 9, 2011, Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison. Jurors deliberated for 40 minutes before ordering Jeffs to serve life in prison for one count of aggravated sexual assault of a child and 20 years in prison for one count of sexual assault of a child. They also determined Jeffs must pay a $10,000 fine."

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