The Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 12, 2003
BY KEVIN CANTERA and MICHAEL VIGH
A Watergate-era Secret Service agent stole copies of sacred religious ordinances from the Seattle LDS temple at the behest of Utah polygamous leader Owen Allred, the former agent has claimed in sworn testimony.
Allred — prophet, seer and revelator to about 5,000 followers throughout the western United States — acknowledges reviewing the sacred texts, which were brought to him by Rod Williams, former security director at the Bellevue, Wash., temple in the 1980s.
But the 88-year-old leader of the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) adamantly denied asking Williams to furtively copy the holy ordinances.
Though copies of the ordinances “were at my house for a while,” Allred told The Salt Lake Tribune, Williams “got those things from the temple, and said he got them for me.
“I said, ‘Take them right back.’ That’s the truth,” Allred said.
The ordinances document ceremonies held in temples for worthy members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In order to enter, members must have received approval from ecclesiastical leaders. All members are forbidden from discussing temple ordinances outside temple walls.
Williams’ 8-year-old sworn testimony about the thefts is now part of a lawsuit against Allred and dozens of his followers. The former federal agent helped plaintiff Virginia Hill investigate her case, in which she claims AUB leaders stole $1.5 million she had earmarked to buy a ranch in southern Utah.
Fourth District Judge Donald Eyre has taken the suit, filed in Juab County, under advisement.
The AUB is an offshoot of the LDS Church, which banned the practice of plural marriage more than 100 years ago. AUB followers, however, still believe in polygamy.
Allred said Williams’ testimony was aimed in part at trying to “destroy my reputation,” because some of Williams’ children still believe in Allred’s version of polygamy.
The 1994 deposition, taken under oath by attorney Mitchell R. Barker in Salt Lake City and transcribed by a certified court reporter, tells a tale Williams now disputes and says he “embellished.”
In the sworn statement, Williams said he joined Allred’s church in the late 1980s but for a time remained a Mormon with temple privileges.
Williams — who purports to have been “right outside the door” as President Nixon plotted the 1972 break-in of Democratic party headquarters — testified he surreptitiously led a group of four polygamists on an exploration through “every room” of the Bellevue temple.
Williams said the four interlopers — brothers Morris and Marvin Jessop of Pinedale, Mont., and two of their wives — posed as temple patrons.
“I made it look like they had just got through a session and I was just walking them through before they left,” Williams said.
In an interview with The Tribune, Morris Jessop recalled the spring 1987 “field trip,” saying: “It is true. We walked through the entire temple.”
Morris Jessop remains a member of Allred’s church. Williams also claimed to have led the group into the temple president’s office, an attic, and through audiovisual rooms.
Less than a month after the unauthorized temple tour, Williams used his security clearance at the temple to filch the text for every church ceremony performed in the temple, which he copied and “filled up a complete briefcase,” he testified. He said he pilfered ceremony texts in every language “from Navajo to Chinese.”
Williams said he had access to the filing cabinet where the texts were kept, and went to “extra effort” to make it look like nothing had been disturbed.
Allred wanted the sacred rites in order to perform religious rituals for the dead in polygamous endowment houses, Williams said. The polygamous prophet later claimed the stolen rituals came via direct revelation from God, Williams claims, leading to his disillusion with AUB.
By the time of the 1994 deposition, seven years after the thefts, Williams had left the AUB and was trying to persuade his children to do the same.
Now Williams claims he broke his oath to tell the truth during the deposition because John Putvin, a defendant in Hill’s lawsuit, had promised him in exchange an audiotape that Putvin claimed demonstrated Allred’s purported involvement in a plot to steal Hill’s cash.
Williams also recalled that his attempts to persuade his children to leave Allred’s group had put him in “an emotional state,” and that he “just told them what they wanted me to say. . . . For my children I would gladly perjure myself again.”
In an interview last week, Williams asserted: “As far as I’m concerned, I did not lie” in the deposition. One day later, however, Williams contradicted himself, telling The Tribune, “OK, I lied in places.”
Williams said that when he gave the testimony, he “purposely embellished to the point where [LDS] Church officials could read it and know it was nothing but a fantasy.”
Williams said that he gave a copy of his 1994 testimony to LDS Church officials immediately after it was transcribed.
“Ecclesiastical discipline resulting in loss of membership was deemed by church leaders to be the appropriate response to Mr. Williams’ actions,” LDS spokesman Dale Bills said in a statement last week.
Putvin acknowledges that he arranged for Williams to give the testimony, but denies there was a deal to exchange the tape for testimony. He said the deposition was taken because he “was outraged by what [Williams] had done. . . . I wanted to get it on the record.”
At trial in the Hill lawsuit in November, Putvin introduced the testimony in an attempt to discredit Williams’ subsequent statements about his investigation of Hill’s claims.
He added, “I wanted to show that [Williams] is obviously somebody who would betray trust.”