Polygamist’s retribution? Jeffs allegedly invoked curse on capital cities
Even before he became a fugitive, polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs began visiting state capitals to “shake the dust off his feet in condemnation,” asking that each be punished with “the wrath of God,” Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Friday.
Speaking to a symposium at the S.J. Quinney College of Law in Salt Lake City, Shurtleff said Jeffs visited all 48 contiguous states to perform the ordinance, which he detailed in “priesthood letters” and journals seized in April from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
Shurtleff recounted Jeffs’ travels to several dozen attorneys and law students at the Non-State Governance symposium at the University of Utah. The symposium focused on whether it is appropriate to limit constitutional rights when a community’s members are put at risk.
Texas authorities temporarily removed 439 children during the April raid, and carted off 400-plus boxes of documents, photographs and other items. That evidence was screened for any religious or attorney-client privilege exemption and then turned over to the Texas Attorney General’s Office.
Shurtleff told The Salt Lake Tribune he received a stack of documents Thursday that had been attached as exhibits to a deposition transcript taken in a Texas case involving Jeffs’ 17-year-old daughter, one of the children removed from the ranch.
Willie Jessop and Merril Jessop, both members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were deposed in the teenager’s case.
During his speech, Shurtleff said Jeffs, incarcerated in Mohave County while he awaits trial in Arizona, has predicted “the prison walls are going to be falling down at any moment.” FLDS members are waiting to see what happens with the criminal case before deciding whom to follow, he said.
“Everybody is hedging their bets on Warren Jeffs,” Shurtleff said, adding Jeffs’ journals suggest “he is in control. He’s controlling everything.
“Ultimately, if and when they realize he is never going to get out of prison, I think it will result in a change of leadership,” Shurtleff told the symposium.
Shurtleff said Willie Jessop — a man who “I used to call a thug” — seems to be jockeying for position within the FLDS community. Shurtleff told The Tribune it’s unclear who gave Jessop authority to represent the sect in ongoing negotiations regarding its communal property trust.
The trust is under court supervision following allegations of mismanagement, but a Utah judge is urging a settlement in the case.
“A constant question,” Shurtleff said, “is if the person we’re negotiating with is the right person” and what might happen to any deal if that person were excommunicated by Jeffs.
Shurtleff defended his description of the FLDS as a “Taliban-like organization,” telling the symposium there is “no greater example of pure theocracy than the FLDS and the way they were functioning before, but mostly after, Warren Jeffs took over.”
“Shake the dust off” is a Biblical phrase attributed to Jesus Christ in several New Testament books. Luke 9:5 says: “And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”
It can also be found in a revelation recorded by Joseph Smith in the Doctrine & Covenants, a Mormon scripture: “And in whatsoever place ye shall enter, and they receive you not in my name, ye shall leave a cursing instead of a blessing, by casting off the dust of your feet against them as a testimony, and cleansing your feet by the wayside.”