If you’ve never heard about the horrible things now-incarcerated FLDS church leader Warren Jeffs has done, prepare yourself: this is deeply unsettling stuff. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is, as the name implies, a fundamentalist offshoot of the LDS church (commonly known as the Mormon church). Before being sentenced to life plus 20 years in prison in 2011, Jeffs was the President and “Prophet” of the FLDS, notorious for its polygamy and child brides.
Warren Jeffs’s biography is still being written, but he’s already done a lifetime of gut-wrenching things. He reportedly still leads the church and community from behind bars, meaning he might yet add a few things to this list via one of his many proxies. If you can stomach it, here are some facts about Warren Jeffs and his long, strange history as a "Prophet."
He Married His Youngest Wife When She Was Only 12
Jeffs married his youngest wife, Merrianne Jessop, in 2006 when she was just 12 years old, later consummating the marriage by raping her on a temple bed. Jessop told caseworkers when she was 15 that the then-50-year-old “Prophet” couldn’t possibly be guilty of a crime because “Heavenly Father is the one that tells Warren when a girl is ready to get married.” Merrianne’s own father performed the ceremony. Jeffs, in an odd bit of symmetry, gave one of his own daughters away to an older man on the same day.
He Made Audio Recordings of Rapes and Sexual 'Training'
As if the rape of his 12-year-old child bride wasn’t horrific enough, Jeffs also made at least some of his other reported 70-plus wives watch as he did it—plus, he made an audio recording of it all. Jurors were asked to listen to the recording of the rape during the trial where Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison for sexual assault in 2011. The tape—seized following his arrest in 2006—also included recordings of Jeffs instructing other “child brides” to “assist” and “comfort” him physically (as well as shave their pubic hair). He called the rapes “heavenly sessions.”
He 'Reassigned' Wives and Children to Other Men
As FLDS prophet, Jeffs has given himself the power to disrupt the lives of his followers as he sees fit. Wives may belong to their husband for all eternity, according to Jeffs’s doctrine, but the prophet may “reassign” wives and children to other men as punishment for misdeeds. Tragically, the wives rarely resist, because obedience to the prophet is paramount. However a family is broken up and put back together, the husband, ultimately, gets to choose whether or not to “invite” his wives into heaven—a rare decision the prophet can’t influence.
He Admits to 'Immoral Actions' With His Sister and Daughter
Recordings of a telephone conversation Jeffs had with various family members while in jail in 2007 revealed he thought he was a “wicked man” because of “immoral actions with a sister and a daughter” when he was 20 years old. Jeffs didn’t go into details.
It was a rare moment of Jeffs appearing remorseful for his actions, or at least aware that the world at large considered him a criminal. In 2011, another such moment: court documents revealed Jeffs kept a journal chronicling his history of sexual assault. "If the world knew what I was doing,” he wrote, “they would hang me from the highest tree."
He Says Homosexuality Is 'Like Murder'
The Southern Poverty Law Center compiled an intelligence report on Jeffs in 2005, including audio recordings of him expounding on various topics. Regarding homosexuality, Jeffs minces words a little, but his feelings are clear. “It is like murder,” he says, but not before first declaring it “the worst evil act you can do, next to murder.” Jeffs thinks a vengeful God doesn’t tolerate homosexuals: “Whenever people commit that sin, then the Lord destroys them."
He Allegedly Raped His 5-Year-Old Nephew
During his trial in 2011, Jeffs’s 28-year-old nephew Brent Jeffs told jurors his uncle raped him in a restroom following a “family meeting” when he was five. He allegedly asked Brent to kneel “like he was praying” before warning Brent “this is between me and you and God.” Jeffs’s adult niece also told jurors he made her sit on his lap when she was 7 and did undisclosed "inappropriate things” to her. She was reportedly sobbing so hard in the courtroom the prosecutor stopped questioning her and didn’t ask for details.
He Says Black People Are 'Evil'
Another Southern Poverty Law Center recording revealed Jeffs thinks black people are how the devil “has always been able to bring evil unto the earth." He also thinks even having “connections” to a black person will cause someone to become “cursed.”
Jeffs tries to back these claims up with the Bible, claiming Cain “was cursed with a black skin and he is the father of the Negro people.” Cain also still manifests himself, apparently, “as a mortal man” that’s “used by the devil.” Jeffs thinks he “has great power,” including the ability to “appear and disappear.”
He Is Allegedly Creating a Miniature 'Master Race'
Former FLDS members tell Rolling Stone that Jeffs, at least as early as February 2016, has decreed only men of a so-called “royal bloodline” can reproduce in the community. These 15 men are also limited to sex with women selected to be a part of the “United Order,” an elite group within the faith—many of which are already married. The 15 “seed bearers” hide their identities using a hood and a sheet during sex. The cuckolded husbands are forced to watch the “breeding session” for some twisted reason. If the impregnated United Order woman follows the required “special detox diet” and successfully gives birth, the baby is whisked away and put into hiding, thus creating the start of a “master race” loyal only to Jeffs.