Officials probe whether cult leader Warren Jeffs broke prison phone rules
ReligionNewsBlog.com • Friday December 30, 2011
Texas prison officials are investigating whether jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs preached to his followers from behind bars on Christmas Day in violation of prison rules, officials said on Thursday.
In recent weeks Warren Jeffs has tightened his grip on members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — the polygamous sect he leads as “prophet” even while he is in prison.
Known for his iron-fisted rule, the cult leader has demanded his followers abandon amenities such as toys, pets and recreational vehicles to give more money to their church, possibly to support the sect’s massive ranch in Texas, a sect member said.
In the past week there have been almost daily meetings at various FLDS locations.
A former FLDS member has said that that Jeffs spoke to his congregation from prison during one such meeting that took place on Christmas Day.
Jeffs’ surprise sermon was delivered from prison during a First Ward church meeting in the small, rural Arizona town of Colorado City near the Utah state line.
In his sermon, Jeffs ordered that his followers be “chosen” by December 31 or be destroyed. Jeffs’ latest do-or-die edict has sent the FLDS community into a frenzy and launched the state inspection general into investigation mode.
Texas prisons spokesman Michelle Lyons confirmed Jeffs made two calls to a relative on Dec. 25. The Office of the Inspector General is now investigating those calls. Though there is no specific prohibition on speaking to large groups, authorities suspect he may have recorded a message to the congregation during that time, Lyons said.
If the call was recorded or his voice was broadcast to the congregation, he may have violated the prison phone call rules because he wasn’t actually talking to the person on his approved call list (each inmate gets a 10-person list of vetted people who they can call and are allowed to visit.)
“If it’s determined that Jeffs circumvented or otherwise disregarded TDCJ’s telephone policies, he could face losing his telephone privileges altogether,” she said.
Texas prison inmates are ordered to adhere to a strict set of rules in using telephones, and are typically allowed to call only 10 people on an approved visitation list, Clark said.
“Those people have to have gone through a vetting process, meaning that phone number has to be registered, it has to be registered to a land line,” he added.
“If the calls he made on Christmas were put on speaker phone or patched through to someone else, that would be a violation of policy,” Clark said, adding that recording the conversation would also constitute a violation.
Texas prison inmates are not allowed to possess cell phones, and their telephone activity is monitored to make sure they are not calling crime victims, organizing escapes, or doing anything other than conducting one-on-one conversations with individuals on their approved list.
Most of his followers appear unaware of the fact that Jeffs is imprisoned, while those who do know apparently consider his incarceration to be proof of religious persecution.
Jeffs’ claims that, if he is not released, a succession of natural disasters will strike the U.S. and other countries.
About the FLDS
Mormonism, in turn, is theologically a cult of Christianity.
Theologically, the FLDS is also considered to be a cult of Christianity.
Ironically, in contrast to the Mormon Church, the FLDS practices a more original version of Mormonism while LDS doctrines and teachings constantly change in response to outside pressure and realities.
The FLDS and dozens of other LDS sects came into existence when the Mormon Church was forced to renounce polygamy – till then one of its key doctrines. Followers of these sects are referred to as Mormon Fundamentalists.
Sociologically, the FLDS is a high-demand, high-control, destructive cult. Among other things, it teaches and practices polygamy, breaks up families and marriages, and has engaged in arranged and forced marriages — some with underaged girls.
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