Warren Jeffs And Samuel Bateman's Relationship Explained

In September 2022, extreme religious leader Samuel Bateman was arrested under suspicion of taking underage wives, as The Salt Lake Tribune reports. Living on the Arizona-Utah border, Bateman is the self-proclaimed prophet in an offshoot of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), widely considered a cult. Three months later, federal court documents related to Bateman's arrest revealed Bateman had at least 20 wives in the view of his church, most of them minors. Bateman now faces tampering with evidence and child abuse charges, to which he has pleaded not guilty, based on Associated Press reporting.

Unlike the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) or the mainstream Mormon church — which distanced itself from polygamy in the 1890s and now bans plural marriage — the FLDS and Bateman's splinter group maintain the practice. The FLDS was once led by Warren Jeffs, now serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting two underage girls who Jeffs claimed were wives, according to BBC News. In his absence, many FLDS members continued to look toward Jeffs as their leader, but in 2019, Bateman convinced some of Jeffs' followers he was their new prophet, based on Insider reporting.

Jeffs reportedly told Bateman to invoke the Spirit of God in his followers

As Insider writes, at Warren Jeffs' urging, Samuel Bateman, who was 46 at the time of his arrest, positioned himself as the new prophet of an extremist FLDS splinter group. Jeffs reportedly told Bateman to bring forth "the Spirit of God on these people," and many of the sex acts Bateman engaged in with his followers were characterized as "Godly duties," according to an FBI affidavit (via PBS News Hour). Though outlawed in Arizona, polygamy was decriminalized in Utah in 2020, though as mentioned, despite that state law, the mainstream LDS church still prohibits it, as PBS News Hour goes on to note.

After claiming to be the new prophet of his own FLDS subgroup, Bateman's own marriage fell apart. Since 2019, Bateman has gathered 50 followers and at least 20 wives, some under the age of 15. Bateman's group lived near Colorado City, Arizona on the Utah-Arizona border, per Insider. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, Bateman told his followers to leave the FLDS and follow him because Jeffs was dead. In the 1990s, Bateman's father, DeLoy Bateman, a one-time member of the FLDS, left the church and quit polygamy. It was also around that same time that Samuel Bateman's belief grew more fervent.

Bateman attended Jeffs' trial in Arizona

Though Samuel Bateman's father, DeLoy Bateman, left the FLDS and denounced polygamy, Samuel Bateman remained a faithful follower. He was among a few FLDS members who attended Warren Jeffs' 2006 trial in Arizona on accomplice to rape allegations, as The Salt Lake Tribune explains. Jeffs' conviction on those Arizona charges was overturned, but he was later convicted in Texas on two additional sex abuse charges, for which he now serves a life sentence, based on BBC News reporting. With Jeffs behind bars, some FLDS members, including Bateman, relocated to Nebraska.

At that time, Jeffs still claimed to be prophet of the FLDS, but Bateman's status within the group began to rise. Not long after, Bateman claimed that Jeffs was speaking through him as their prophet. Believing Jeffs to be either dead or "translated," an LDS term for a soul changed by God from mortal to immortal, some former Jeffs followers switched their allegiance, per The Salt Lake Tribune. They offered Bateman money, and in some cases, their own daughters and wives, according to KCRA. Speaking with Insider, Jeffs' son Wendell Jeffson, who left the FLDS, said in doing so, Bateman " ... took a page out of [his father's] playbook."

To Bateman and his followers, Jeffs is Uncle Warren

Also according to Insider, though Samuel Bateman's offshoot of the FLDS has adopted him as their new prophet, Bateman and some of his followers still call Warren Jeffs "Uncle Warren." Speaking with Insider, Jeffs' son, Wendell Jeffson, said that though most within the FLDS community still consider Jeffs their prophet, Bateman did manage to draw a number of Jeffs' followers away to his own Colorado City community. Also according to Jeffson, in his time within the FLDS, he remembers Bateman trying to become like a member of the powerful Jeffs family.

Jeffson recalled, "You know when you have a group of friends, and you have that one person and they really want to join the group of friends? That's how he was toward my brothers, trying to get into the circle of the Jeffs family." According to Jeffson, under Bateman, his father's mode of operation within the FLDS has continued. Elsewhere, Jeffson added (via Insider), "He's taken the same message that Warren Jeffs used, but is putting it in his own words. It's the same thing repeating itself."

Jeffs has now denounced Bateman from prison

According to the Daily Mail, Jeffs has now denounced Bateman in a letter sent from prison to FLDS members. As of this report, Bateman remained in custody, deemed a flight risk by U.S. Magistrate Judge Camille Bibles. Bateman was arrested after an August 2022 traffic stop, towing three underage girls in an enclosed trailer. The small fingers of the girls were reportedly spotted emerging from inside the vehicle.

Three of Bateman's alleged wives in the view of the FLDS also face charges of kidnapping and impeding a foreseeable prosecution, according to the Associated Press. After Bateman's August arrest, he told his followers to prepare to flee, get a passport, and to erase all messages related to Bateman and his FLDS group. The three girls between the ages of 11 and 14 were found in Bateman's trailer with a makeshift bathroom facility, primitive seating, and poor ventilation. According to The Salt Lake Tribune, even after his arrest, many women in Bateman's following expressed their loyalty.