The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is an offshoot of the LDS church - commonly known as the Mormon church. Warren Jeffs is the infamous president and “Prophet” of the FLDS, notorious for its polygamy and child brides. In addition to the FLDS’s Texas compound - the Yearning for Zion ranch - sects were also based in Utah and Arizona.
In 2006, the FBI was suspicious of Prophet Jeffs, who they believed was arranging marriages involving underage girls. Authorities failed to convict him as an accessory to rape in 2007. In 2008, Texas authorities raided Jeffs’s compound. Investigators garnered enough evidence to convict Jeffs on aggravated and sexual assault charges, and in 2011, the courts sentenced the Prophet to life plus 20 years in prison. Subsequently, filmmakers released five documentaries about the FLDS and Jeffs’s misconduct as the organization’s leader.
In 2006, Jeffs married his youngest wife, Merrianne Jessop, when she was 12 years old, and Jessop’s father performed the ceremony. Jeffs consummated the marriage on a temple bed. Jessop told caseworkers when she was 15 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.”
Jeffs made at least some of his other reported 70-plus wives watch as he consummated his marriage to Jessop. Reportedly, he made an audio recording of the event. In 2001, prosecutors asked the jurors to listen to the recording when Jeffs was on trial for sexual assault.
The tape, which investigators seized following his arrest in 2006, also included recordings of Jeffs instructing other “child brides” to “assist” and “comfort” him physically. It also documented him directing the girls to shave their pubic hair. Jeffs referred to the sexual misconduct as “heavenly sessions.”
According to Jeffs’s doctrine, wives may belong to their husband for all eternity. As the FLDS Prophet, Jeffs had the authority to “reassign” wives and children to other men as punishment for misdeeds. The wives rarely resist because, in accordance with their beliefs, obedience to the Prophet was paramount.
The FLDS dictated each man take a minimum of three wives, and ultimately, the husbands decided whether or not to “invite” their wives into heaven.
In 2007, Jeffs had telephone conversations with various family members while temporarily in Utah jail for an accessory to rape conviction. There, Jeffs “renounced” his prophet title because, when he was 20, he engaged in “immoral actions with a sister and a daughter.”
In 2011, court documents revealed Jeffs allegedly kept a journal chronicling his history of sexual assault: "If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree."