FLDS Names Warren Jeffs New President

AP, Nov. 23, 2002

COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Warren Jeffs, 46, has been named president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, succeeding his father, Rulon Jeffs, who died in September.

Warren Jeffs, who was the church’s first counselor, has been serving as head of the religious organization since his father’s death, said Colorado City Mayor Dan Barlow.

“Nothing has really changed from what there was before,” said Barlow. “Warren will continue his father’s work.”

Rulon Jeffs, who became president of the church in 1986 and was regarded by followers as a prophet, died at 92. He was believed to have had 17 to 75 wives.

His death prompted speculation about a power struggle between his son and Bishop Fred Jessop, 95, who Barlow, speaking at Jeffs’ funeral, said was “the only living witness now of the beginning of this work here in Colorado City.”

Rod Parker, an FLDS attorney, said documents were filed with the state last week that indicate Warren Jeffs now occupies the office of president of the FLDS Church.

“I don’t see any changes coming at all in the church,” said Parker.

The FLDS church is highly secretive and its leaders rarely grant interviews. It is one of the polygamist sects that have been the target of allegations of welfare abuse and forced marriages of young teen girls.

Two years ago, the leaders told parents to pull their children out of public schools and teach them at home.

Mainstream members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned polygamy a century ago, but tens of thousands of people in Utah and other western states continue the practice.

The mainstream church excommunicates those who practice it.

Most of the Fundamentalist church members live in the Hildale-Colorado City area, but the church has an enclave in Creston Valley, British Columbia, near the Idaho border. Estimates of the membership have ranged from 6,000 to 12,000.

Colorado City and Hildale have been dominated since 1935 by polygamists, who used the border to escape raids by either Arizona or Utah law enforcement officers. The raids ended in 1953 after an attempt to break up the hundreds of polygamous families drew public scorn.

However, there has been a renewed effort to prosecute polygamy cases where there has been welfare fraud, incest or underage marriage.

In October, Rodney and Suzie Holm, a Hildale couple, were charged with bigamy and unlawful sex with a minor.

Rodney Holm, who is a member of the FLDS faith and practices polygamy, married Suzie’s 16-year-old sister several years ago.

The Holms are scheduled to be in 5th District Court on Tuesday for a preliminary hearing.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday November 23, 2002.
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