SAN ANGELO, Texas — Jurors leaned in to peer at sacred forms in the case of Merril Leroy Jessop.
Jessop, 35, a member of a polygamous sect, is on trial, charged with sexual assault of a child in connection with allegations he illegally married an underage girl.
Rebecca Musser, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, testified to a dozen of those forms being family records, birth records, marriage records and priesthood records, all of them with special spiritual significance to the FLDS, she said.
She was shown a collection of such forms bound in a cover and called, “The Book of Remembrance.”
“The Book of Remembrance would coincide with the book in heaven. It had to be recorded on earth to be recorded in heaven,” Musser said. “If it was not recorded, you would not get the blessing in the afterlife.”
Musser also testified about marriage in the FLDS community.
She had grown up 26 years in an FLDS community and is one of Jessop’s cousins. Their mothers are sisters, she said.
Musser said only men hold the power of the priesthood, which she defined as “the power of God on Earth.”
The prophet, the head of the FLDS community, is the one who “places” men and women in “spiritual” or “celestial” marriages, unofficial unions that allow the FLDS to practice polygamy, Musser said.
“They do not date (once they are placed with a husband),” Musser said. “They are to have nothing to do with the opposite sex.”
Musser said women are sealed “For time and eternity,” a phrase that has turned up on pictures displayed to the jury of Jessop with his wives. The phrase means the women are married for this life and the next, Musser said.
“She is told who she belongs to,” Musser said of placed women.
Musser said civil marriages are not held in very high regard.
She said they are considered to be “a matter of paperwork” that allow a woman to change her name or to get tax benefits.