Warren Jeffs, prophet of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (“FLDS”), teaches that a woman can be exalted and live with her children after death only if she is married to a man with at least three polygamous wives.
Since 1998, Jeffs’ ”three-wives teaching” has increasingly run into conflict with basic math: There are simply not enough FLDS women and girls. This causes enormous heartache. To reduce the surplus male population, Jeffs has expelled hundreds of adolescent boys from their FLDS homes – some as young as 13. Called the “Lost Boys,” they are not only pushed out, but are considered apostates, damned to Hell, and deprived of any relationship with or support from their families. Anyone willing to risk contact with them gives Jeffs a reason to expel them as well.
To accommodate more and more wives for a select few, Jeffs has also expelled scores of married men from their families and sent them away to “repent from a distance” under the false promise that if they become “worthy” these men may be reunited with their families. In truth, virtually no one is ever allowed back.
The children are instructed that their only father is their mother’s new husband, thereby destroying their genealogy. As families and last names are confused, close blood relatives will increasingly marry.
Women and young girls, though highly prized as wives, are also victimized. Not only are they usually commanded to marry an older man not of their choosing, but they are often commanded to marry as underage girls with less than one day’s notice. They also can be reassigned again and again to other men as rewards.
Warren Jeffs’ absolute control over FLDS families includes the United Effort Plan Trust, which owns the homes in which FLDS families live. Under Jeffs, the trust’s property has now been put in jeopardy. Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff asked the court to take control of the trust, and the court acted by protecting the property at highest risk. If Shurtleff is successful, it may also make it harder for Jeffs to divide and reassign families.
Prosecuting polygamy would be challenging and, for many understandable reasons, Utah has no appetite for it. But aggressively prosecuting those who destroy families and injure children for the sole purpose of maintaining and facilitating this practice is not beyond any state’s power or obligation.
Roger H. Hoole is a Salt Lake attorney representing plaintiffs in a civil suit against Warren Jeffs alleging child molestation, another against Jeffs on behalf of boys expelled from their FLDS homes and a suit against the United Effort Plan Trust, alleging fraud.