The Creepy Truth About Warren Jeffs

If the name doesn't ring any bells, Warren Jeffs has been the head of the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints for the past decade and a half. The FLDS is a branch of Mormonism that broke off from the main group in 1890 when the main LDS group banned polygamy. The 10,000 or so practitioners live in Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Canada, and Jeffs is their prophet.

But the strangeness of this church-cult goes a lot deeper than that. Jeffs himself is a lawbreaking creep who thankfully is now sitting in jail. Here's some of the crazy stuff he's gotten up to.

He has some weird desires

The grossest (and most illegal) thing about Warren Jeffs was his relationships with young girls. But he managed to take that and make it even more disgusting. If you're going to marry lots of young, sheltered virgins, you might find they aren't so well-versed on what happens in the bedroom. CNN says Jeffs had an answer for this: he would teach them. If your skin isn't crawling already, how about some more ickiness: he audiotaped these disturbing "sessions."

In a way, that last bit became a good thing because the tapes ended up being used as a key piece of evidence during the trial that proved he had abused underage girls. His name for these teaching events? "Heavenly sessions." Gross. In them he talks about how they have to be with him physically since God said so. God was probably pretty pissed about that comment.

Even being sent to jail didn't stop his weird desires. He couldn't be with his wives physically anymore, but he could call them. And when he did he wanted to hear what he was missing. Another CNN article said he would make them do it as a group every night so he could listen. They would have to shower together and then pleasure each other. We're talking about 80 women here. (Pro tip: by enjoying it, Jeffs was breaking his own rule that sex was for procreation only and one is not supposed to like the act.)

He's trying to create a master race using 'seed bearers'

Originally the FLDS view on marriage was almost normal, at least as normal as polygamous marriages can possibly be: one husband, lots of wives, and dozens of their children running around. But in more recent years, Warren Jeffs changed the rules. He decided he wanted to create a "master race" (according to Rolling Stone) and that not all men were worthy enough to be the ones impregnating their wives.

It's almost like a gender-swapped "The Handmaid's Tale." CNN says this select group of men will sleep with all the women in the group, and hope that they can make "better" children. Obviously, the wives have no say in this at all because "who needs consent?" seems to be the FLDS's motto. But the husband still has responsibilities. For example, he has to be in the room when this is happening. Not only that, he is supposed to be holding his wife's hands during the ordeal. Someone read Margaret Atwood's classic as a goal instead of a warning.

Amazingly, these cuckolded husbands might still consider themselves lucky. They at least got to stay in the FLDS. The Guardian reports that many young men from the church (as young as 13 years old in some cases) are chased out of the group. Often they are just unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road. The reason is down to numbers: if there are too many men, they won't all get as many wives as they want, so the boys are forced to leave and somehow make it on their own.

His schools teach fiction as fact

Whether they are taught at home or in one of the FLDS schools, kids don't learn much that's actually true. Of course, religious studies are a huge part of their curriculum, but they do learn some "science" and "history" as well. And just so they never stop thinking about the important stuff, an ABC News report, "Secrets of Mormon Cult: Breaking Polygamy," found that Warren Jeffs' photo is on the front of every student's notebook.

Ex-members said they were never taught about AIDS or Santa Claus. They barely touched on the Civil War. The only thing they're taught about the Moon is that we never landed on it because God steered Neil Armstrong away from it. And they learn that Warren Jeffs is the true president of the United States. (But that's impossible because he hasn't started his reality TV show yet.)

When not learning crazy things, life got even more cultish. They would spend huge parts of the day writing out the many proverbs Jeffs had come up with. Stuff like "It is here and now that we earn our salvation" and "Consider well what you love and want in life." Okay, those don't sound that nuts but even a broken clock is right twice a day. At the very least, they aren't exactly original. Then there are the creepier ones like "When you disobey there must and always will be a punishment." Talk about motivational learning.

He rules with an iron fist

The FLDS has been around for a while, but Warren Jeffs has only been in charge since 2002. Before that his father Rulon was the head honcho until he died. Then it became the Warren Jeffs show. NPR says he and his followers believe he is a prophet and his word is law since God supposedly speaks through him.

Jeffs abuses this power in a lot of ways, and not all of them involve underage girls, amazingly. For example, he gets to decide which of his male followers will go to heaven. That means you better listen to everything he says so you don't fall out of favor. And because men need at least three wives to get past the pearly gates and Jeffs is the one who assigns them wives, it's vital for them to be in his good graces. But what about the women's salvation? Since husbands have complete power over their wives, they're the ones who decide who gets saved for eternity. Imagine the pressure of having to keep your husband happy all the time and competing with other wives for his favor, all so you can be sure you'll get into heaven.

If you do fall foul of Jeffs, you can literally lose everything. If he decides to punish a man, he can "reassign" his home, his wives, and even his children to other men. Of course, the women and children have no say in the matter.

He was one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted

When you're a criminal, there's only one thing to aim for: becoming one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted. It's a prestigious list of terrible people, and if you're going to do horrible things you may as well go big or go home. Warren Jeffs managed to get himself on the list in 2006 when he went on the run with his favorite wife. He wasn't too good at hiding and was caught later that year.

According to The Guardian, the charge that landed him on the list was setting up a marriage between a 28-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl. This charge would have gotten him just two years in prison, but they managed to get him on much more disgusting stuff a few years later.

The FBI was serious about catching their man, offering up to $100,000 for any information leading to his capture. You also learn some fun facts about the pedo, like that he used to be a schoolteacher and do accounting. Also his middle name is Steed, which is way too cool a name for someone so grody.

He's serving life in prison

The way Warren Jeffs was caught was pretty amazing. According to Rolling Stone, it was during a routine traffic stop and he was found with 16 cellphones, three different wigs, and a tidy $56,000 in cash. It was just outside Las Vegas, so maybe he'd had a good night at the poker table.

After Jeffs was caught, he was put on trial for and convicted of marrying an underage girl to another adult man. The conviction was (somehow) overturned in 2010. Thankfully, in 2011 he was arrested again. The New York Times says this time he was on trial for his two "spiritual marriages" to a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old, and for doing things with them that are usually found in plotlines of Law & Order: SVU. He even had a special bed in the temple where he consummated marriages like this. Then Jeffs went and got the 15-year-old pregnant. And if 12 seems especially disturbing, how about this: the girl's father officiated the wedding, which tells you how serious the problems are in this whole cult.

During his second trial, Jeffs warned everyone involved that God would seriously mess them up if they didn't let him go. Fortunately, they didn't let him go, nothing bad seemed to happen, and he was convicted and sentenced to serve life in prison plus 20 years, according to The Daily Beast.

His followers have to pray for him to escape

Despite getting to listen to an orgy every night, Warren Jeffs isn't thrilled about being in jail. After all, we all know what happens to child abusers in there. So he wants out, and rather than digging a tunnel for the next 20 years a la "The Shawshank Redemption," he's counting on the man in charge, God.

According to one ex-member, Joe Broadbent, followers have to stop whatever they are doing every hour on the hour and pray for Jeffs to break out of jail. It's not clear if they pray for him to get really good plastic surgery after that or maybe a plane ticket to a country with no U.S. extradition treaty. Being on the lam didn't really work out for him last time. Jeffs also insists they fast for days at a time, in order to boost the power of their prayers. And the fact that he hasn't broken out yet? All their fault. He tells them if they were faithful enough that he would be out of there no problem. CNN says practitioners are prepared to help him escape themselves if God orders them to, but apparently that message got lost during delivery.

But according to Rolling Stone, Jeffs isn't putting it all on his followers. He prayed so much in jail that he got open sores on his knees. To make him stop so his knees could heal, the guards had to chain him to the wall of his cell.

He lost a $16 million lawsuit against a child bride

In 2017, Warren Jeffs lost a lawsuit that had been going through the courts for a decade. NBC News reported he was ordered to pay $16 million to Elissa Wall, though it sounds like hardly enough after what he put her through.

According to Deseret News, when Wall was 14 years old, Jeffs ordered her to marry her 19-year-old first cousin. It didn't matter that she was underage, or that they were related, or that she didn't even like or trust him — Jeffs said God had decided this marriage was taking place. Period. She was only given a week's warning, but Wall still tried to get out of it. She knew that going against what Jeffs said could mean she would go to hell, but nonetheless she begged not to have to go through with the marriage. She was warned that refusing could not only put her own salvation at risk, but that of her family. So she gave in.

The marriage went about as badly as you'd expect. Wall would sleep in her car just to avoid her husband. In the end, Jeffs finally released her from the marriage, but she wasn't off the hook yet. When she was 18, the leader told her that the only way to have her sins forgiven was to go through the ceremony of blood atonement. That meant walking into a temple, slitting her own throat, and bleeding to death. That $16 million seems pretty low now, doesn't it?

Jeffs married 70 women and had dozens of children

When Warren Jeffs' father died, he left behind a bunch of wives, so, according to The Daily Beast, Jeffs did the only logical thing: he married most of them. Then there were the wives he already had. All in all, the estimated total is about 70 to 80 women who gave him dozens of children. And some of those children, like others in the compound, may have serious problems.

Deseret News says the issue is that because so many of the members of this insular community are related, children are starting to be born with severe birth defects. And it's only expected to get worse. As one member said, "Around here you're pretty much related to everybody." But no matter how healthy you were, Jeffs was a horrible father. One of his daughters told Today that she had been molested by him more times that she could count as a young girl.

On a less disturbing note, where does one house a family of over 100 people? In a giant mansion, obviously. AOL talked to one of Jeffs' ex-wives who wants to buy the $1.2 million, 41-bedroom house and turn it into a tourist attraction, complete with gift shop. So if you've ever wanted to visit Arizona for the crazy heat and so you can tour the home of one of the creepiest abusive polygamists ever, now is your chance. Get a keychain at the gift shop!

His cult is now split and going through a 'civil war'

Just because Warren Jeffs is behind bars doesn't mean he wants to give up control of his cult. But his power has weakened, and according to Rolling Stone, as of 2016, many people have decided he shouldn't be in charge anymore. But even though hundreds of people have been able to move on mentally, they haven't actually moved on physically, because, well, no one likes packing, right? That has resulted in those loyal to Jeffs retaliating against their neighbors.

Some of it sounds kind of funny, like the parents who send their children to pee on the lawns of people they don't agree with. Unwanted piss fountains aside, there are also much more serious accusations. Ex-members say they've had dead animals left on their porches. The window of an office was shot out. Many claim they have been driven off the road on purpose, and one person had their truck blown up.

It might be that Jeffs is the one making sure his ex-followers get the message. A private investigator who worked on the case against him says even though his power is ebbing, he's trying to hold on and if that means acts of violence, so be it. According to the investigator, Jeffs is like a cornered animal in that the more power he loses the more desperate he becomes. Hopefully more and more people will abandon him, and he'll be sitting in jail for the rest of his life.

He made a lot of (shady) money

If leading a cult, forcing minors into marriage, and molesting his own children didn't paint Warren Jeffs in an awful enough light, he had to add underhanded financial practices to his rap sheet. According to the San Antonio Express-News (via Chron), the 1,700-acre Yearning for Zion ranch that Jeffs ordered built in Schleicher County, Texas, held a value of $21 million in 2008. Jeffs raised the money for the ranch — meant as a haven for the elite of the FLDS while the bulk of the flock remained on the Arizona-Utah border — by milking church members for all they were worth. He would ask for up to $1,000 a month, with at least one member contributing $5 million in cash and property.

When the FLDS congregation wasn't enough, Jeffs sold off pieces of the United Effort Plan, the church's community trust. He also pocketed profits from construction projects controlled by members of his sect. Followers under his sway would work for scant compensation, or none at all, according to Distractify. Jeffs underbid competitors for construction projects, let his workers be underpaid, and took in $100,000 a month.

And then there's fraud. In 2016, the Department of Justice indicted 11 members of the FLDS for conspiracy to defraud the federal government of SNAP funds, with an additional charge of money laundering. Jeffs himself was already imprisoned, but his brothers Lyle and Seth were among those named in the indictment.

Did he fall into a coma behind bars?

In August 2011, ABC News reported that Warren Jeffs was in a medically-induced coma. Taking the word of an anonymous source, the report claimed that Jeffs, who claimed to be fasting, saw his health collapse over three days until doctors felt inducing a coma was necessary. But prison officials would not confirm that Jeffs was in a coma to ABC. Not long after, they confirmed to CBS that Jeffs had never been in such a state, though he had been sedated and rushed to a prison hospital.

It wasn't the first or the last time that Jeffs gave prison doctors a fright on his account. AP reports that he attempted to hang himself while held in a Utah jail in 2007. Two years later, while jailed in Arizona, Jeffs refused meals and had to be force-fed. More recently, lawyers representing an FLDS community trust argued in 2019 that Jeffs went through a mental breakdown and was unfit to provide a deposition in a sex abuse case. Of course, the prosecution argued that there was no evidence that Jeffs was unfit. And there was the little detail that the trust arguing for his incompetence would be liable for any damages.

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He banned the Internet and TV

Life under a cult leader who controls all marriages and sexual activity isn't fun, to put it extremely mildly. Warren Jeffs imposed some particularly miserable conditions on his followers, and they didn't vanish when he went behind bars. According to CNN, not long after beginning his life sentence in Texas, Jeffs let it be known that God commanded him to establish the United Order, an elite order within the FLDS made up the most heaven-worthy. Naturally, Jeffs' brothers Lyle and Seth were responsible for recommending members, with all worldly possessions part of the demanded price. In exchange, the church provided United Order elites with decadent meals and immunity from the myriad prohibitions Jeffs imposed on the rest of the flock.

Former members claim that controls on food and resources left many destitute and starving while the Jeffs' brothers and their allies lived it up. Even simple meals like cereal and milk were banned. Film, television, and the Internet were all banned. And according to Deseret News, before his imprisonment, Jeffs was rumored to have shut down the libraries in FLDS towns and spirited away the books. An attempt to build a public library for the community in Utah in 2011 was curtailed when donated books were burned.

He hates Black people (and the Beatles)

Warren Jeffs is not a pleasant man. He's a con artist, a money launderer, a cult leader, a sexist, and an abuser. He's also a racist. The Eldorado Success got a hold of audio clips of a few of his sermons, with excerpts of transcripts available via the Austin Chronicle. His preaching included claims that Black people are "uncouth ... rude and filthy, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits." He also insisted that they were Satan's representation among humanity, and that should any of his flock mingle their blood with "the seed of Cain," it would cost them all his blessings. Small wonder the Southern Poverty Law Center named the FLDS a "white supremacist, homophobic, antigovernment, totalitarian cult."

Jeffs' prejudices have their quirks. One of his tirades was inspired by a documentary he saw on television. This particular documentary — at least in Jeffs' mind — presented the Beatles as "pingy-pangy, unnoticed, useless people nobody would hire" until their manager hired Little Richard to teach them rock music. It was through the Beatles that rock, and its propensity for corruption and godlessness, infected the world. So said Warren Jeffs, at any rate, and apparently this rates a greater crisis to him than anything suffered by his followers.

He loves predicting the End Times

What's a cult without the end of the world? Foretelling Armageddon is a favorite tactic of self-named prophets, and Warren Jeffs has delivered his fair share of predictions for the End of Days. The Southern Poverty Law Center records one from as early as 2002, when the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City were supposed to herald a great tragedy. The failure of any such tragedy to manifest didn't deter Jeffs from making a more specific — and dire — prophecy in 2011. That was the year he began serving his life sentence. In response, Jeffs delivered to the Utah Attorney General's office warnings of divine retribution for his imprisonment. "I have named many places that shall be cleansed entire, and as you witness this, a memory of my word shall hearken in your souls that thy God reigneth," he wrote. Every place he named, from Arizona to Idaho, remains standing.

Jeffs tried again for a guess at the End of Days in 2012, perhaps hoping to compete with the Mayans. The Texas Monthly reported that he thought Yellowstone National Park's supervolcano would blow on December 23 of that year, Joseph Smith's birthday. As of 2022, it has yet to erupt. But Jeffs has a simple explanation for why his prophecies haven't come to pass, and it isn't that he's wrong. It's that his followers lack sufficient faith to bring them about.