FLDS: features at cult-studies meeting; appears leaderless, but fights back

FLDS to loom large at cult-studies meeting

The Yearning for Zion Ranch raid will likely serve as a backdrop for discussions of polygamy during the International Cultic Studies Association annual conference next week.

The agenda for the June 26-29 conference in Philadelphia includes three sessions on polygamy, and other presenters have focused in the past on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Among them: Janja Lalich, a cult expert and professor at Cal State, Chico, who traveled to Texas in April to meet with caseworkers and providers involved in the FLDS case.

Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said no state employees will attend the conference.

Paul Murphy, spokesman for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, and Jane Irvine, community outreach and education director for Arizona, will speak June 27 on “Polygamy and Government: Policies, Powers and Limitations of State and Local Governments.”

That session is being moderated by Livia Bardin, a Washington, D.C.-based social worker and self-described cult expert.

Bardin led a daylong workshop in St. George in 2007 on authoritarian groups for the Utah Safety Net Committee.

Lalich will give the keynote address and will speak at sessions about cult research and brainwashing. In a recent interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Lalich said the FLDS have “all the hallmarks of a cult.”

It is a “self-sealing” system, she said, and is led by a charismatic leader who commands power, sets norms and guidelines for the group.

Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney who has acted as a spokesman for the FLDS, says it is not surprising that some consider the FLDS a cult. “Those same people call Mormonism a cult,” he said.

– Source: Brooke Adams, FLDS to loom large at cult-studies meeting, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 22, 2008

In the above item Janja Lalich and Rod Parker each use the term ‘cult’ in a different way. As the term ‘cult’ has several definitions, it is important to qualify it. For instance, here is how Apologetics Index — the parent site of Religion News Blog — defines the term in relation to the Mormon Church and its FLDS offspring group:

See also: Sociological vs. theological definitions of the term ‘cult.’

Note: In contrast to the Mormon Church from which it divided, the FLDS practices a more original version of Mormonism. Mormonism’s doctrines constantly change in response to outside pressure and realities.

The FLDS, and most other sects of Mormonism, divided from the Mormon Church over the latters rejection of polygamy — which till then was considered “the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on earth.” [John Krakauer, Under The Banner of Heaven, Doubleday (July 15, 2003), pages 5, 6.]

Other speakers scheduled at the International Cultic Studies Association:

Stephen A. Kent, a Canadian scholar who has written about the FLDS, will talk about “What the scholars missed and why they missed them: A retrospective examination of several major ‘cult’ stories from the end of the 20th century.”

Marci Hamilton, who has opined about the YFZ Ranch raid in Texas newspapers, is giving the distinguished legal lecture.

Andrea Moore-Emmett, Laura Chapman and Sylvia Mahr will address “Polygamy: Recent Developments.” Moore-Emmett is the author of “God’s Brothel,” a collection of stories about the experiences of women who left various polygamous communities. Both Chapman and Mahr are social workers and former members of polygamous groups – Mahr was in the Apostolic United Brethren, while Chapman left the FLDS nearly two decades ago.

Canadian scholars Marie-Andree Pelland and Dianne Casoni will speak about “The Socialization of Women into a Polygamous Lifestyle: The Experience of Canadian Fundamentalist Mormons.”

– Source: Brooke Adams, FLDS to loom large at cult-studies meeting, The Salt Lake Tribune, June 22, 2008

The International Cultic Studies Association is the primary network of lay and professional cult experts. The world’s largest secular cult-information organization, it is one of the professional organizations recommended by the publishers of Apologetics Index.

The cult studies field includes many professionals, but has also attracted some odd ‘lone ranger’ cowboys. Should you be in need of a cult expert, Apologetics Index provides guidelines or selecting a counselor/cult expert

Judge grants a restraining order against FLDS’s Jessop

A lawyer for a 16-year-old girl taken in the raid on the FLDS Church’s YFZ Ranch in Texas obtained a restraining order Friday against a high-profile member of the polygamous sect.

The restraining order accuses Fundamentalist LDS Church member and spokesman Willie Jessop of trying to coerce the girl into avoiding a subpoena to testify at next week’s grand-jury proceedings.

– Source: Ben Winslow, Judge grants a restraining order against FLDS’s Jessop, Deseret News, June 21, 2008

Natalie Malonis filed the request for the restraining order against Willie Jessop in District Court in San Angelo, Texas. She is an attorney ad litem on behalf of the 16-year-old girl, who has been named in court documents as the daughter Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned “prophet” of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The girl was among more than 400 children that state child welfare workers seized from the FLDS’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in April.

The girl’s return to her mother was delayed after her attorney said she was a victim of sexual abuse. Eventually, she was allowed to return to her mother under certain conditions, including that she be kept away from Jeffs and the YFZ Ranch.

Since Jessop has inserted himself into the case, Malonis said, her excellent attorney-client relationship has deteriorated, and she has not been permitted to speak to the girl without him being present.

According to court documents, Jessop told Malonis that the girl needed an attorney who would advocate for the FLDS church and the members’ lifestyle.

– Source: CNN, June 20, 2008

FLDS is left without a leader

Al Holm lived his entire life as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — until he confessed two years ago to being addicted to online porn sites and was expelled.

Now, contrite, lonely and grieving the loss of his family, he’s trying to work his way back into the secretive polygamist sect.

But he can’t find anyone with the authority to pardon him.

“There are a lot of people underground,” said Holm, a long-distance truck driver. “I know it’s difficult for me to get in touch with (the leaders) when I need them.”

Legal pressure is mounting against the breakaway Mormon sect on several fronts. Courts forced Texas authorities to return the hundreds of children it seized in April from the FLDS ranch near Eldorado but is building a criminal case as it investigates alleged forced marriages between minor girls and older men there. A massive civil suit against the church is winding its way through the courts in Utah.

And the group’s leaders appear to be underground, and possibly on the run.

In Utah, former members are suing them and the church they lead for millions of dollars. Should criminal charges be filed in Texas, the church’s leaders will likely be targets, said a knowledgeable source close to the sect who asked not to be named because of the sensitive nature of the proceedings.

From his Utah jail cell, the group’s “prophet,” Warren Jeffs, issued very few church-related communiqués, according to a court-appointed special trustee.

The trustee, Bruce Wisan, had access to the transcripts of all Jeffs’ jailhouse visits and copies of his written correspondence from the time Jeffs was arrested in August 2006 until his recent transfer to an Arizona jail where he awaits trial on four counts of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor, stemming from the marriages of two girls. Jeffs was sentenced last year in Utah to 10 years to life in prison for being an accomplice to rape.

Wisan said he was ordered by the court not to divulge the contents of Jeffs’ communications but said, “It’s a lot of what I’d call family stuff, really mundane minutia.”

So if Jeffs is little more than a figurehead, who’s calling the shots inside the FLDS?

Wisan said no one — not even well-placed members — seems certain of the answer. “I’ve got active FLDS members that I talk to, and they don’t know,” he said.

Instead, people make guesses about who among a handful of likely contenders has stepped in or will step in to become the group’s de facto leader.

Some possible potential FLDS leaders:

• William Timpson Jessop, who once was anointed by Jeffs to be the sect’s bishop.

• Lyle Jeffs; a half-brother of Jeffs who is said to lead the sect’s enclaves on the Utah-Arizona border.

• Merrill Jessop, who was in charge of the Yearning for Zion Ranch in West Texas at the time of the raid that removed the children. He is said to remain the leader in Texas, though he was reported missing by a wife last month during a custody hearing.

• Wendell Nielson, a man in his late 60s listed in a church document seized during the raid as having more wives — 21 — than any other resident of the Yearning For Zion Ranch.

– Source: Lisa Sandberg and Terri Langford, FLDS is left without a leader, Houston Chronicle, June 21, 2008

Winston Blackmore, leader of the FLDS group in Bountiful, B.C. (Canada), has also been mentioned as a potential leader.

Polygamist sect fights back by emerging from isolation

The days of turning the other cheek appear to be over for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The polygamist sect, which in recent years has tried to separate itself from mainstream society, is no longer hiding behind closed doors or locked gates.

From inviting reporters to its once off-limits Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado to demanding last week that Utah officials correct “slanderous statements” about sect members passed along to Texas law enforcement officials, the FLDS has emerged from its self-imposed exile.

Rod Parker, the Salt Lake City attorney who represents the FLDS and who wrote the letter to Utah officials, said it is a significant policy shift by the sect.

“I think what you are seeing now is they’re not going to just take the hit and not respond to it,” Parker said. “I think they’re going to fight back and hold these people to a higher standard of truthfulness. It’s a very dramatic change for what had been going on over the last few years.”

But as Parker encourages them to be more forthcoming, FLDS leaders are bracing for another round of legal woes.

A Schleicher County grand jury is expected to meet this week to explore possible criminal charges against some members of the sect.

– Source: Bill Hanna, Polygamist sect fights back by emerging from isolation, Star-Telegram, June 23, 2008

Vacation? Short break? Day trip? Get Skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday June 23, 2008.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at Amazon.com.