The man polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs once pointed to as the group’s true prophet filed paperwork Monday to take legal control of the sect’s corporate entity.
William E. Jessop filed papers petitioning the Utah Department of Commerce to take over the presidency of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from Jeffs.
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In an interview with the Associated Press, Jessop, who served as bishop of the twin FLDS border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., said Monday his rise to the presidency is not an attempt to take over the church, but rather the fulfillment of an earlier directive from Jeffs.
“It is an attempt to preserve … the church,” said Jessop, 41.
Jessop said he is only stepping forward now because he believes he can help provide the church with the leadership it needs while Jeffs is incarcerated.
While in jail in January of 2007, Jeffs told family and key sect members he had never been a prophet and named William E. Jessop as the faith’s rightful leader. Jeffs made the pronouncement just before a suicide attempt and later apparently retracted it.
A video of that conversation has been released. Note: the visitor to whom Jeffs dictates his message is William E. Jessop.
In February 2007 Jeffs retracted his statements, saying he had “experienced a great spiritual test.” That claim directly contradicts his videotaped remarks in which he says — stating that ‘the Lord’ is ‘dictating’ his words — “this is not a test.”
Then, in April that same year, it was reported that Jeffs attempted to pass a handwritten note to a judge. The note reportedly stated that he is not the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The Associated Press quotes documents filed Monday by William E. Jessop:
“I, the undersigned, William Edson Jessop, have been called as the President of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in conformity with the constitution, canons, rites, regulations, or discipline of such church, and by virtue of such calling I am the corporation sole of The Corporation of the President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, organized under the laws of the State of Utah.”
Jeffs subsequently ousted dozens of key leaders. Since then there have been rumors that some of the ousted leaders were planning to challenge Jeffs’ leadership, either by launching a coup attempt or by starting a rival polygamist group.