When Benjamin Bistline, who was born and raised in Colorado City, Ariz., wrote “The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City,” the book was banned by leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) and its members were forbidden to read “its lies.”
He received an anonymous letter threatening, “We, down to every single last man in Colorado City, will gladly die to protect our prophet. As the mouthpiece of God on this earth, we will do whatever the prophet commands us to do to protect the work of God. The best advice I can give you is to stay away from us and let us do God’s will as revealed to us by the prophet Warren Jeffs.
“When you take on God’s chosen people you are playing with his fire,” the note continued. “If I were you, I would be shaking in my shoes with fear for your life because the Lord’s going to take your life … At this point, there’s no place you can hide that the prophet can’t find.”
Bistline isn’t worried about it. “If someone wanted to kill me, they wouldn’t send me a letter,” he said. “It’s probably a crackpot.”
Nevertheless, the FBI took a hard look at the letter. There are some sinister implications in it.
Credible reports have surfaced that Warren Jeffs, FLDS prophet, wants to practice an early Mormon doctrine known as “blood atonement.”
In 1856, Brigham Young, second prophet of the LDS (after founding prophet Joseph Smith), delivered a sermon which was later published announcing that there were some sins for which the blood of Christ could not atone. In those cases, those sins could only be atoned by the shedding of the sinner’s own blood.
Young even went so far as to state that these sinners, if they truly understood their condition, would beg their brethren to shed their blood, that their sins might be atoned for.
While the Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) denounced this teaching in 1978, fundamentalist groups such as the FLDS are increasingly going back to their roots and adopting these original teachings as their creed.
According to the Eldorado Success, Rulon Jeffs, father of Warren Jeffs, told his followers in 1997, “This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it.”
Fann Stenhouse in “Tell it All,” published in 1874, wrote, “The doctrine of the ‘blood atonement’ is that the murder of an apostate is a deed of love! If a saint sees another leave the church, or if even he only believes that his brother’s faith is weakening and that he will apostatize before long, he knows that the soul of his unbelieving brother will be lost if he dies in such a state, and that only by his blood being shed is there any chance of forgiveness for him; it is therefore the kindest action that he can perform toward him to shed his blood – the doing so is a deed of truest love. The nearer, the dearer, the more tenderly loved the sinner is, the greater the affection shown by the shedder of blood – the action is no longer murder or the shedding of innocent blood, for the taint of apostacy takes away its innocence – it is making atonement, not a crime, it is an act of mercy, therfore meritirous.”
A former member of the FLDS said Warren Jeffs is teaching the doctrine of blood atonement to his followers. Jeffs has said they cannot live it right now because the government won’t allow it, but in the future they will be allowed to carry it out.
Robert Richter, former FLDS member, says he worked on secret projects on and off for Jeffs while employed by Colorado City, Ariz.
It was at this time that he worked on the thermostat controls for what he has come to believe is a crematory at the newly built temple at the FLDS compound in Texas.
“Warren has been teaching for a long time that those who are guilty of adultery must be blood-atoned,” Richter said.
According to Richter, Jeffs has even commented that they need to figure out a way to start doing blood atonement so those who have committed adultery can be saved.
Additionally, Jeffs has hinted that FLDS members who commit certain sins should be cremated.
Richter can’t say for sure that’s what he worked on, but he is haunted by the secrecy of the project.
“They kept me uninformed as to what the furnace was for,” he said. “I do know that I wanted an LCD display for it,” Richter said. But he was told they needed an LED display – a red display like the one on an alarm clock. “They said because where it’s going, it’s going to be quite dark,” he added.
Richter said he believes Jeffs is building a blood atonement room in the Texas temple where sinner’s throats would be slit and their bodies burned in a DNA-incinerating crematory.
Richter said the upper limit of the sensor was 2700°, at which level human DNA is destroyed. He said he didn’t feel qualified to handle the project and wondered why a licensed specialist wasn’t hired to do the project.
Richter, who was working in Colorado City, said he knew the thermostat was to be used in conjunction with a furnace, but was told it was top secret.
“It was definitely a furnace. And the thing about the furnace,” he said, “it was weird. It was real hush hush. I was told to keep quiet.”
When a company is working on a patent, such as turning biowaste into biofuel, he said he could understand why that company would want it kept quiet. “I hope for the best,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s top secret for something legitimate.”
Richter, who has a degree in electrical engineering, also helped design and install scrambling devices for about 50 two-way radios to prevent outsiders from eavesdropping on conversations.
Richter left the FLDS in April 2005. He first began to question his involvement in the FLDS in February of that year. “The cult meeting in April at Western Precision where secrecy was pounded down our threats was the first straw for me,” he said.
“When a religion goes wrong, you have to get out,” he added. “I got out by a string of events. Since getting out I’ve been more convinced. I’ve been reading and I’m starting to think this thing is a cult. It fits the template perfectly. I used scripture against scripture and Warren contradicted LeRoy (Johnson, former FLDS prophet) on too many things. My eyes started to open up. I think the whole thing is wrong.”
As for Jeffs’ whereabouts, “I’m as clueless as anyone else,” he said. “Before Richard Allred was mayor (of Colorado City), his son Jeremiah informed me, while I was working at Richard’s house, that his father had just gotten back from talking to Warren, and Warren informed him that he wanted a compound in every state that didn’t have a law against a ‘priested’ people.”
Richter doesn’t believe the situation with Jeffs will turn into a “Waco,” but rather a “Jonestown.”
“I’m hoping we can get this thing stopped,” he said. “My concern is that Jeffs has said that blood atonement should be used for those who commit adultery. What is scary is that those who have lost priesthood have done a sin worst than adultery. If you can take that to the next step, it’s to be blood atoned.
“I can see him teaching men who have lost their families that they need to be blood atoned. I think this may get to the point where fathers blood atone sons and sons blood atone fathers.”