Rumors in FLDS community: A challenge to Warren Jeffs?

In the ‘old days’ when Warren Jeffs, leader of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) sect, ousted people for real or perceived offenses against his strict rules, the excommunicated men did as they were told: they left homes and families behind and moved elsewhere.

Their homes, owned by the cult’s land trust, as well as their wives and children were re-assigned to other FLDS followers.

Jeffs — — jailed since his arrest in August 2006 — — ruled his sect with an iron fist, and to about 10,000 followers in the twin border communities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, he remains their spiritual leader;, a feared prophet who channels divine revelations.

Over the years since his arrest a relatively small number of people have left the FLDS, but overall members have remained loyal to their prophet.

Now, however, there are rumors of a possible challenge to Warren Jeffs’ leadership.

ABC 4 News in Salt Lake City reports that a number of people who remain in the polygamist community of Colorado City do not believe Jeffs is a prophet:

They’re part of a growing number of people who Warren Jeffs calls “apostates.” In fact, in the last few months their ranks have grown substantially as Jeffs has aggressively kicked out up to 60 men effecting hundreds of women and children.

Among the exiled are some pretty big names in the FLDS community: Merril Jessop, who once ran the ranch outside of Eldorado, Texas, Wendell Nielson, a Jeffs’ counselor, Terrill Johnson, mayor of Colorado City, and Willie Jessop who was once the FLDS spokesman.

Whenever a man is rejected, he’s told to leave his community, his home and his family and “repent from afar.” But this time some are refusing to leave. […]

It is rumored that they are either planning a coup against Jeffs or starting a rival, polygamist group.

After Jeffs was apprehended in August 2006, one cult watcher reportedly predicted the arrest would mark the end of the church.

But cult experts and others familiar with the FLDS thought Jeffs would retain his grip on the cult’s followers even from jail.

Even after his conviction as an accessory to rape for coercing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin Jeffs remained a dominant force within the FLDS.

Jeffs’ conviction was overturned last July on a technicality. Last December the cult leader was extradited to Texas where he will stand trial on sexual assault and bigamy charges.

In December 2007 Jeffs resigned as president of the business entity of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but last February — still in jail awaiting his trial — he resumed control and ousted dozens of male church members.

Theologically the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) is a cult of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint (LDS) — better known as the Mormon Church, which itself is theologically a cult of Christianity.

Sociologically the FLDS has many cult characteristics as well. [Note the differences between theological and sociological definitions of the term cult]

Research resources on the FLDS

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 28, 2011.
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