What-in-the-heck is Warren Jeffs Doing?

By: Bored in Vernal
March 13, 2011

Warren Jeffs has been a fascinating character to watch ever since he took the reins of leadership of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) upon his father’s death in 2002. He’s an interesting case study for Latter-day Saints to observe, since practically everything he has done or claimed was also done or claimed by the Prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith. (If anyone disagrees with this statement, please give specific examples.) I can actually see quite clearly why someone who was raised in any kind of Mormon tradition might believe and behave the way he does.

Were some of Joseph’s teachings (esp. polygamy) only applicable for the time in which he lived, and no longer necessary today? Will they be reinstated at a later time or in the afterlife? Or were Joseph and his immediate successors mistaken on which teachings were of an eternal nature and which were not? These questions are difficult to answer definitively. One of the major ideas that distinguishes Warren Jeffs from those of the main Church is the zealousness with which he adheres to the fundamental doctrines taught by Joseph Smith. LDS today struggle with how to reconcile our early practices and how we live our religion today.

Indeed, Latter-day Saints who follow President Monson are taught that the level of zealousness exhibited by Jeffs and his followers is inappropriate. Recently, an article by Robert Millet on BYU’s Religious Studies Center blog, A Sane and Balanced Life, exhorted us not to “exceed the bounds of propriety and go beyond the established mark,” lest “we open ourselves to deception and ultimately to destruction.” We shouldn’t try to be “truer than true,” Millet explained. For many, Warren Jeffs will be the consummate example of what dangers could await if we do not heed these cautions. But others might wonder how he compares to the lives of the founders of the Restoration and the scripture which admonishes believers “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”

Warren Jeffs made national news in May 2006 when he was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on charges related to his alleged arrangement of illegal marriages between his adult male followers and underage girls. After he was apprehended he remained in prison in Utah, exhibiting such behaviors as fasting for over a month, until he was fed intravenously; and developing ulcers on his knees from kneeling in prayer to excess.

On November 20, 2007, after Jeffs was convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years to life in Utah, his attorneys released the following statement: “Mr. Jeffs resigned as President of the Corporation of the President of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Inc.” Since the FLDS do not require their prophet to be fiduciary president of the corporation, there has been some confusion regarding the leadership of the sect. But according to a Salt Lake Tribune telephone transcript, there is evidence that Jeffs told William E. Jessop, his former first counselor, that he had never been the rightful leader of the FLDS. His statement can be viewed on YouTube:

During this period of uncertain leadership, the public has seen a few important changes in FLDS policy. An announcement was made that they would no longer approve marriages of females under the age of 18, for example. But Jeffs’ conviction was reversed by Utah’s Supreme Court on July 27, 2010 because of incorrect jury instructions. He has since been extradited to Texas, where he will face charges of bigamy and sexual assault in connection with a raid on a West Texas ranch in 2008. Upon arriving in Texas, Jeffs has seemingly taken back the reins of the FLDS Church. Apparently Jeffs has increased access to communication with the outside world, and his followers have seen a return of the zeal he was known for before being imprisoned. From an electronic connection, he has been giving instruction to FLDS members at Sunday meetings. He has excommunicated about 30 members in leadership positions, and has issued a warning letter to the President of the U.S. and a prophecy to the nations, predicting a whirlwind of judgments and a great destruction in the land of Illinois. What is Warren Jeffs doing? No one would say he’s living a “sane and balanced life.” But how does he compare to other prophets, ancient and modern?

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29 Responses to What-in-the-heck is Warren Jeffs Doing?

  1. Mormon Heretic on March 13, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Fascinating video BiV! I had read in the newspaper years ago that Jeff’s had denied being a prophet, but this is amazing video. What in the heck is Jeff’s doing? Apparently this was a revelation from God for him to call himself a liar.

    God works in mysterious ways.

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  2. allquieton on March 13, 2011 at 3:44 PM

    “…practically everything he has done or claimed was also done or claimed by the Prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith. (If anyone disagrees with this statement, please give specific examples.)”

    Jeffs pulled married women out of their homes and “gave” them to other men. He also confessed that he was a false prophet, that he thought he would go to hell, and he tried to kill himself. He also apparently was sodomizing young boys for years. Given the testimony of many close to him, there is not much reason to doubt this.

    Also, before you decide JS was a polygamist, read Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, by the Prices.

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  3. Will on March 13, 2011 at 4:00 PM

    “If anyone disagrees with this statement, please give specific examples.”

    BIV You are wrong. Dead wrong. The comparison between Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith is plain blasphemy. It is speaking evil of Joseph Smith and the contribution he made to the restoration. The litmus test the savior provided when determining the authenticity of a true Prophet – by their fruits shall ye know them. Joseph restored the Gospel to the earth; he restored the Priesthood; he restored the revelations contained in the D&C; he translated the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. As indicated by the mouth of God, he has done more for the salvation of man than ANY other man save Christ only. Warrens has done nothing comparable in any way.

    As for Polygamy, as I have indicated earlier I find it to be an odd practice. I don’t fully understand it and I don’t think I could do it. I couldn’t chop off another person’s head as Nephi did, but for reasons I don’t understand these men were commanded to do the things they did. The fruits of Polygamy practiced by Abraham, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young are consistent with the Lord’s dissertation on the subject in Jacob (2:26-30):

    “Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of
    old.

    Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;

    For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.

    Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes

    For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

    The areas settled by Abraham, Joseph and Brigham have flourished and a righteous seek as resulted from thier Polygamy. Nauvoo rivaled Chicago in its economic prosperity at the time it was settled by the saints. The early saints took an area of the world no one else wanted in the high desert of Utah and it has flourished into one of the most prosperous areas in the world. Various sources point to Utah as having one of the best economies in the Country. The sole exception would be the hell hole settled by the FLDS in Colorado City, Utah. If you want prima facia evidence of what the Lord means when he says ‘cursed shall be the land for their sakes’ then visit this cesspool.

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  4. Will on March 13, 2011 at 4:12 PM

    righteous seed has, not “righteous seek as”

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  5. Kevin Barney on March 13, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    I hadn’t seen that video; very interesting!

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  6. Mark D. on March 13, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    Blasphemy? I don’t think President Smith ranks quite that high. (So far as we know, anyway.)

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  7. Dan on March 13, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    Count me as one who doesn’t give a damn about Warren Jeffs.

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  8. john willis on March 13, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    If you look at the “Wilderness Revelation” of Wilford Woodruff in 1880 which condemed the leaders of the Unitesd States Government and promised destruction and judgment on the nation and compare it to Jeffs “warning letter” the the United States you will see a lot of similarities.

    Of course the governemental authorities ignored Wilford Woodruff and will ignore Warren Jeffs.

    As an attorney I am convinced that it is unconstitutional to prosecute consenting adults for praticing plural marriage. Justice Christine Durham of the Utah Supreme court agrees with me and wrote a well reasoned opinion saying so in a prosection of one the FLDS leaders for marrying an underage girl. Of course she didn’t convince any of the other justices on the Utah Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

    I think the solution to the FLDS “problem” is not to prosecute members for practicing plural marraige buy for child abuse and statutory rape.

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  9. Proud Daughter of Eve on March 13, 2011 at 7:02 PM

    BiV, you raise an interesting point but I don’t think your parallel works. Joseph Smith did not teach everything Jeffs has. Yes there was polygamy and even some polyandry. It does get confusing. But he did not give entire families away nor did he force anyone to marry anyone else. (I’m aware of at least one situation where for whatever reason he seems to have pressured someone to marry him, but he did not force marriages for others.) Nor was he ever involved in under-age marriage. Even the youngest girl he was involved with was legal age at the time.

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  10. Bored in Vernal on March 13, 2011 at 8:20 PM

    I would not want to be considered blasphemous. I do believe Joseph was a prophet, everyone! Warren Jeffs, I’m not so sure. Perhaps I should soften my statement comparing him to Joseph. However, I would still like to make the point that Warren Jeffs’ actions parallel Joseph’s in many ways.

    • Two of Joseph’s wives, Helen Mar Kimball, and Nancy Maria Winchester, were 14 years old at the time of their marriage. Joseph also performed sealings of 14-year-olds to older men.
    • Joseph threatened both men and women with eternal damnation if they did not enter into the marriages he suggested
    • Joseph assigned the wives of other men to himself (thus polyandry).
    • Joseph made proclamations and prophecies, some of which remain unfulfilled.

    Also, I consider the YFZ ranch in Texas a lovely, blossoming place comparable to what Joseph was doing in Nauvoo.

    I am not saying that Jeffs is another Joseph, or that he is a prophet. I am saying that I understand why he does what he does. I understand his and his followers’ beliefs that they are following the fundamentals Joseph instituted.

    And yet, I am stymied by Jeffs’ latest course of action. I wonder at the many excommunications (which Joseph also did, btw). I wonder at his recanting the role of prophet and taking it up again. I’m interested to see what will happen next.

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  11. Bored in Vernal on March 13, 2011 at 8:23 PM

    Oh, and I’d also really like to know what people think of Millet’s talk about being overzealous? Do you think there is danger in this? I actually admire the dedication of the FLDS and think it is worthy of emulation. How many of us would be willing to go so far for our religion?

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  12. Will on March 13, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    BIV,

    To compare a small group of men that steal the fruits of others and use it for their own gain building a compound, to the prosperity of the LDS church and the manner in which it is uses its assets to promote good around the world is almost as insulting as comparing Warren Jeffs to Joseph Smith.

    Do you see the FLDS with a humanitarian program that is in any way comparable to the Fruits of Joseph and Brigham? Do you see the FLDS with a welfare program that is in any way comparable to the Fruits of Joseph and Brigham? Do you see the FLDS with a missionary program that is in any way comparable to the Fruits of Joseph and Brigham? The answer to all of these is a resounding NO. The fruits of Joseph and Brigham are the stone that was cut without hands that will consume the whole earth.

    The conditions of the women and children associated with the FLDS group is appalling – rape, insect, dominion and compulsion, control, manipulation and outright poverty. It is despicable. The comparison is despicable.

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  13. SUNNofaB.C.Rich on March 13, 2011 at 10:04 PM

    religious overzealousness… guess it worked for Mother Theresa but it’s usually a losing proposition. Problematic prophets… that is a really really sticky situation. Kinda makes you think that religion can’t honestly be that important to God.

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  14. Mormon Heretic on March 13, 2011 at 10:06 PM

    Will, you’re getting in over your head here and showing you’re complete ignorance of Mormon history.

    Do you see the FLDS with a humanitarian program that is in any way comparable to the Fruits of Joseph and Brigham?

    The FLDS live consecration, which is a much higher and divine law than LDS humanitarian efforts. Joseph and Brigham didn’t exactly set up the LDS Humanitarian services and send vaccines all over the world, did they? LDS Humanitarian services is a quite recent organization. The FLDS church was started in 1935, rather than 1830, so I guess we need to give them another 100 years before we can start comparing Humanitarian efforts.

    Do you see the FLDS with a welfare program that is in any way comparable to the Fruits of Joseph and Brigham? Yes, it’s called CONSECRATION. I think a strong case can be made that the FLDS consecration covenants are much closer to Brigham and Joseph than anything the LDS church has done with consecration in the past 100 years.

    The conditions of the women and children associated with the FLDS group is appalling – rape, insect, dominion and compulsion, control, manipulation and outright poverty. It is despicable. The comparison is despicable.

    Wow, I think they said the same thing about Reed Smoot and Mormons who practiced polygamy during the US Congressional hearings in 1903. In fact, they compared polygamy to slavery. Did you forget the Republican Party was founded to rid the U.S. of the “twin relics of barbarism: polygamy and slavery”?

    Really Will, you should study a bit about Mormon history. It might help you avoid sticking your foot in your mouth so often.

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  15. Mormon Heretic on March 13, 2011 at 10:15 PM

    BiV,

    Oh, and I’d also really like to know what people think of Millet’s talk about being overzealous? Do you think there is danger in this?

    I think Millet is right on the mark. I worry about over-zealousness with many fundamentalists (whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Communist, or whatever).

    I actually admire the dedication of the FLDS and think it is worthy of emulation.

    I admire them and am repulsed by them simultaneously. Consecration and polygamy are 2 extremely tough laws to live. I admire anyone that can do it successfully, but I just am too unrighteous to even think I could do it.

    How many of us would be willing to go so far for our religion?

    Not me. But I admire Brigham and Joseph. Brigham seems to have been much more successful at the implementation of both polygamy and consecration–especially consecration. Although truth be told, Brigham instituted the United Order, which he admitted was a lower law, akin to the Law of Enoch. Still, Brigham’s accomplishments with the United Order in Utah are unparalleled.

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  16. Mai Li on March 13, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    Will, What do insects have to do with rape, dominion, compulsion etc?

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  17. Will on March 14, 2011 at 5:51 AM

    MH,

    I do know the History and it is you that have missed the point. By their fruits shall ye know them!

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  18. Justin on March 14, 2011 at 8:31 AM

    By their fruits shall ye know them!

    Which clearly refers to the works of men [education funds, building programs, welfare, etc.] — right?

    Lol.

    Will, the “fruit by which we shall be known” are the gifts of the Spirit and the signs that follow them that believe.

    We’re playing the part: wearing the right colored shirts [I know -- your favorite!], donating the right amount of money to the right places, have all the appropriate legal forms in line, etc. — but righteousness is not discerned by these physical metrics. Sanctified believers in Christ will work by the powers and gifts of the Spirit — and only thus shall they be known.

    Oh, and I’d also really like to know what people think of Millet’s talk about being overzealous? Do you think there is danger in this?

    Re: Millet’s article — the only way that a “zeal for goodness and righteousness” can “become [a] weakness,” is when it is not based upon knowledge.

    If Jeffs was abusing women for the sake of adhering to polygyny — then to that extent he was off-balance, having a so-called “Gospel Hobby”.

    However, drawing a line in the dirt and standing on your “hill-to-die-on” is only considered necessarily “unbalanced” by a group that doesn’t know what to stick to their guns on [or also known as a "lukewarm" group, as you quoted in the OP].

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  19. Will on March 14, 2011 at 9:02 AM

    Justin,

    Your opinion is different than the Saviors:

    15 ¶ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
    16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

    He is pretty clear, ye shall know knw them by their fruits.

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  20. Justin on March 14, 2011 at 9:23 AM

    Will — your dogmatism makes me chuckle every time I visit W&T.

    I never doubted the existence of the fruit — I was challenging you on what they are.

    You would point to the works of men, while I would point to the gifts of the Spirit and the signs that follow them that believe.

    Read a comment carefully before you shoot from the hip buddy.

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  21. Derrick on March 14, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    What message is he trying to send by saying, “Just a minute–the Lord’s still dictating.” It seems that if he really wanted people to believe he was not a prophet, he would have not used words like “gentile and apostate,” as well. Very interesting video. It really leaves the mind boggling.

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  22. Will on March 14, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Justin,

    Works of Men? Allow me to reiterate what I stated above;

    “….made to the restoration. The litmus test the savior provided when determining the authenticity of a true Prophet – by their fruits shall ye know them. Joseph restored the Gospel to the earth; he restored the Priesthood; he restored the revelations contained in the D&C; he translated the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. As indicated by the mouth of God, he has done more for the salvation of man than ANY other man save Christ only. Warrens has done nothing comparable in any way.”

    You can classify that as the work of men and I would call it the work God. After all,he did commune with God.

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  23. Justin on March 14, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Will — see comment #14 and your reference to the LDS humanitarian programs.

    Not that I’m here to defend the guy, b/c I have no dog in the fight on his prophetic mantle [or lack of one] — but at least Jeffs has stopped short of answering an interview question about his position as a prophet with:

    Q: You are the president, prophet, seer and revelator of the Mormon Church?

    A: I am so sustained, yes. (Laughter)

    Q: And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like?

    A: Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don’t need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received.

    Now, if a problem should arise on which we don’t have an answer, we pray about it, we may fast about it, and it comes. Quietly. Usually no voice of any kind, but just a perception in the mind.

    Ahh, the socially acceptable-ness of it all is just like a breath of fresh-air to me.

    No, we build lots of temples and have funds for perpetual education. We have tithing sufficient for our needs and invest the difference.

    We like the soft perceptions and feelings in the mind articulated in telepromptered talks as vague principles — b/c claiming “voices” might cause someone to ask, “What-in-the-heck are those Mormons thinking?

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  24. Alice on March 14, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    As far as overzealousness goes, it seems like in modern LDS times, overzealousness often goes hand in hand with judging others who don’t seem to be “as righteous”.

    I also think when we get so caught up in a desire to overshoot the law, that we miss out of some of the sweet blessings of the gospel.

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  25. Shorty on March 15, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    Will:

    “The areas settled by Abraham, Joseph and Brigham have flourished and a righteous seek as resulted from thier Polygamy. Nauvoo rivaled Chicago in its economic prosperity at the time it was settled by the saints. The early saints took an area of the world no one else wanted in the high desert of Utah and it has flourished into one of the most prosperous areas in the world. Various sources point to Utah as having one of the best economies in the Country. The sole exception would be the hell hole settled by the FLDS in Colorado City, Utah. If you want prima facia evidence of what the Lord means when he says ‘cursed shall be the land for their sakes’ then visit this cesspool.”

    Do you think that “economic prosperity” is a fruit of living the gospel?

    If so, you might have something in common with someone else:

    “And behold, we are strong, we shall not come into bondage, or be taken captive by our enemies; yea, and thou hast prospered in the land, and thou shalt also prosper.” [Source]

    Also, why do we consider Nauvoo the height of Mormonism? A lot of things happened in Nauvoo, but I can’t say that people were really focused on building up what they were told to build up. The town may have been prosperous, but only because the people were so focused on building up businesses and personal economies.

    I was listening to the following hymn the other day and was struck by the story they told, and how different that is from today:

    “The Spirit of God like a fire is burning! The latter-day glory begins to come forth; The visions and blessings of old are returning, And angels are coming to visit the earth.”

    From there to quotes from Hinckley on not needing revelation and to an utter absence of these gifts. The whole premise of converting people to the gospel in the early 1800s was based on the gifts of the Spirit being present – i.e. Angels coming to visit the earth. Now, we convert people to the gospel based solely on “authority.”

    Perhaps it’s because we think the Priesthood is a baton we use to rule our respective congregations (Jeffs has certainly done so, as has many, many LDS leaders both past and present), but only because we wholly misunderstand the Priesthood:

    “Who can deny such a power to another? No man. Who can bestow it on another? No man. We like to think that the Church is divided into those who have it and those who don’t have it; but it is the purest folly to assume that we can tell who has it and who does not… The result is, that if there is anyone who really holds the priesthood, no one is in a position to say who it is — only by the power to command the spirits and the elements is such a gift apparent.” [Source]

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  26. The Other Clark on March 15, 2011 at 12:50 PM

    For the record, Millet is a scholar, but his opinions are not considered authoritative in a Church sense.

    Still, before dismissing his views entirely, one may want to review Jacob 4:14. Both Dallin Oaks and Quinten Cook have given sermons on the topic.

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  27. [...] Warren Jeffs is not a Prophet March 16th, 2011 Mormon Heretic Leave a comment Go to comments BiV at Wheat and Tares has an amazing 4 minute video of Warren Jeffs in prison stating that he “never was a [...]

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  28. [...] capitalization, folklore, divine mysteries, values, favorite guns, where the hell is hell, who is the prophet, who needs the priesthood, who is god, and what does S/He think? Should we silently dump our least [...]

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  29. Bored in Vernal on March 28, 2011 at 10:22 PM

    The plot thickens as William Edson Jessop moves to take over the leadership of the FLDS. I believe this will splinter the group rather than unify them….
    Tribune article

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