The man who has been the public voice of Utah’s highest-profile polygamous sect said Thursday he can no longer stand up for jailed leader Warren S. Jeffs, the Salt Lake Tribune reports:
“I came to the point where Mr. Jeffs’ conduct was indefensible and have chosen not to defend it publicly or privately,” said Willie R. Jessop.
Authorities have accused Jeffs, 55, of spiritually marrying six underage girls, some as young as 12. He is facing sexual-assault and bigamy charges connected with two of those girls and is in a Texas jail awaiting trial.
On Thursday Willie E. Jessop, a distance relative of Willie R. Jessop, asserted his right to the position as the leader of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — using statements made by Jeffs himself.
In the document filed with the Utah Division of Corporations and Commerce, William E. Jessop also cites intimidation tactics used by those close to Jeffs as a source of Jeffs’ power.
Jessop is in an ongoing dispute with Jeffs over who is the rightful president of the Utah-based Fundamental LDS Church.
“If members of the church act inconsistent with the instructions of Warren S. Jeffs, they are subject to being immediately cast out of the church, male members of the church who hold their priesthood may have their priesthood removed, and non-compliant members may be evicted from their homes and have their belongings removed,” Jessop wrote.
Jessop, who said he has served as the bishop of the FLDS Church since 2004, said his recent attempt to assume the presidency fulfills a 2007 directive from Jeffs himself.
He quotes numerous conversations he has had with Jeffs, who was then incarcerated, in which Jeffs told Jessop he was to be the “key holder” or leader of the church.
“I (Jeffs) am not the prophet,” Jessop quotes Jeffs as saying. “I was never the prophet. And I have been deceived by the powers of evil. And brother William E. Jessop has been the prophet, since father passed — since the passing of my father.”
He states that Jeffs also told him that he was “immoral” and therefore unworthy to hold the keys of a president of the FLDS Church.
A video of the jailhouse conversation has previously been released. William (Willie) E. Jessop is the visitor to whom Jeffs dictates his message.
The Salt Lake Tribune says Willie R. Jessop
is a longtime Jeffs bodyguard and supporter. He emerged as a church spokesman during a massive 2008 raid on the group’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas. More than 400 children were taken into protective custody — though they were later returned to their parents — and authorities seized hundreds of boxes of evidence. In the crush of media attention during and after the raid, Willie R. Jessop presented the FLDS to the world and defended its people to dozens of outlets, from The New York Times to Oprah.
“I loved who Mr. Jeffs was, when I thought I knew who he was and who he stood for,” Willie R. Jessop said Thursday. “But what came to light in Texas is morally indefensible.”
If other members of the FLDS saw the evidence filtering out, most of which has yet to be made public, he believes they wouldn’t support Jeffs.
“I don’t know of anyone I associate with within the church [that] would defend or endorse what Mr. Jeffs has done,” he said. […]
Challenger William E. Jessop, he said, “seeks to govern out of love instead of through fear.” But the rival’s case for leadership hasn’t reached many members because leaders have restricted access to the Internet during the past two months, Willie R. Jessop said.
The Deseret News says
In March, Jessop then filed to take over the church presidency from Jeffs. Just days later, Jeffs loyalist Boyd Knudsen responded with a counter-filing saying Jessop never had authority to assume the role. […]
The Utah Department of Commerce placed an administrative hold on the two legal entities that make up the FLDS Church. It is in place until May 2.