Warren Jeffs must be cut off from FLDS

by Brody Burns

Artwork Courtesy of Rob Piper
Artwork Courtesy of Rob Piper

Warren Jeffs, a demonic cross of wacko Charlie Sheen, serial adulterer Tiger Woods and super teethy televangelist Joel Osteen, are all back in the news. Apparently Jeffs filed paperwork this past month to retain legal control of his purported 10,000 member, offbeat, absurd and peculiarly dressed sect of Mormonism, The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The significance of this filing is that it was made from prison, while Jeffs awaited charges of bigamy and aggravated sexual assault in Texas. So, legally he can control a mega-church from prison, disseminating whatever he sees fit to his followers and openly endorsing criminal activity, but I can’t even use my phone while on a computer in the Library?

Here’s a brief timeline of FLDS history. It hit the Arizona-Utah border in the mid-19th century and got busy, fast. Citing an 1886 revelation, the core value it pontificates is the virtue of plurality in wives. Despite being formally excommunicated from the larger Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FLDS still kept on trucking. Think of it like this: If Christianity were like pizza, you start out with cheese, let Catholicism represent meat lovers, and LDS would be a supreme, all basic denominations within one religion. FLDS would be like a cheese pizza with cyanide and pop rocks. Seriously, these people are odd.

FLDS is led by a single man, the “Prophet, Seer and Revelator,” and generally the “Jesse Jamesiest” of the organization. Before Jeffs, it was led by his father, whose number of wives falls somewhere along 75, many of whom Jeffs “inherited.” I don’t even know 75 people. Jeffs flew relatively below the criminal radar until 2005, when he cracked the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List. Jeffs was being sought by federal authorities for fleeing charges against him in Utah, for arranging illegal marriages between his adult, male followers and underage girls. In 2007, he was found guilty of being a first-degree felony rape accomplice in Utah. The Utah Supreme Court overturned that ruling last July, citing improper jury instructions during the trial. Jeffs also faced charges relating to polygamy last year in Arizona, but these charges were eerily dismissed last June by a joint decision of the prosecutor and a Mohave County judge. Jeffs had quite a good summer. Lady Justice did not. Jeffs is currently in Texas, where he was extradited from Utah, awaiting charges of bigamy and sexual assault, his third state and third instance of sexually-related charges.

With the filing, Jeffs is aiming to regain control of the FLDS church from prison, despite awaiting trial. Former FLDS member, Carolyn Jessop, told USA Today how “extensive access” to a telephone has allowed Jeffs to preach sermons to the church from prison. How is the proposition of Jeffs’ gaining control of his FLDS while incarcerated even possible? What provision in our justice system allows a presumed criminal to continue the behaviors that led to their incarceration in the first place? This legal filing is all occurring within the Texas justice system, which may be the most bizarre aspect of this story. Texas routinely executes more Americans than any other state, a sign that exacting justice is of critical importance. Preferential treatment to criminals is blatantly counterproductive in Texas. An incarcerated person should not be able to promote an illegal virtue that happens to also be a criminal activity, while behind bars.

Let’s assume some drug lord were taken into custody, what rights would be granted to this individual? Would this hypothetical person be enabled, through the use of a telephone, to directly contact his drug runners and dealers? Can Bernie Madoff still manage my investment portfolio from a federal prison? Then why is Jeffs able to control FLDS and preach sermons? Business for incarcerated persons cannot continue to run, business in this sense is a crime, illicitly defined and debilitating to lives outside of the prison. Incarceration attempts to correct and change behaviors, yet Jeffs is being aided by the system to perpetuate the overarching beliefs of his church: taking a plurality of wives. This should not happen. FLDS deserves a share of the blame. FLDS makes no attempts at denying the “celestial plural marriage,” and holds these values to the highest standard. It’s sickening.

It doesn’t stop there. Investigators in Canada are alleging that Jeffs orchestrated the transport of two 12-year-old girls across the border to marry him in the U.S. Jeffs deserves no special treatment. Without the necessary behavioral restrictions, it appears he will still corrupt the minds of his flock, perpetuating his filth throughout the world, and ruining people’s lives. All I can say to those still involved in FLDS are the immortal words of Antoine Dodson, “Hide yo kids, hide yo wife.”

—Brody Burns is seeking a master’s in business administration.

—The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Daily Aztec.