US polygamist sect facing the end as leader dies

The Times (England), via, Sep. 17, 2002

America’s largest Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, died last week leaving 19 or 20 widows, about 60 children and hundreds of grandchildren. Five thousand followers attended his funeral and at least 33 of his sons were pallbearers.

Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets

The church, which has an estimated 10,000 members, will have to endure a lengthy succession battle. The two main candidates are Fred Jessop (92), a bishop in the church, and one of Mr Jeffs’s sons, Warren (45). But the complex process of deciding on a new prophet, understood by few, could take months, even years.

The death of Mr Jeffs followed last month’s conviction for child rape of Tom Green, a Mormon from the neighbouring state of Utah, who impregnated his 13-year-old “spiritual wife” in 1986. He was 37 at the time.

In Colorado City Mr Jeffs, the eighth “prophet” or leader, lived in an opulent home overlooking a valley containing the ever-expanding homes of about 4,000 other polygamist Mormons.

The recent child rape case drew attention to the church and growing criticism of polygamist lifestyles. The fundamentalists’ dependence on public funding to support their families further eroded tolerance.

The area has failed to develop any economic infrastructure: the only commercial businesses are a small restaurant, a clothes shop and a petrol station. As a result, about 78pc of residents receive food stamps, compared with an 18pc average for Arizona state.

Supporters of the church argue that Colorado City is a role model for other American communities with “good old-fashioned” values. But critics say the church is a virtual dictatorship run by a small religious elite.

Travel Religiously

Book skip-the-line tickets to the worlds major religious sites — or to any other place in the world.

We appreciate your support

One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at


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 service free of charge.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog)

More About This Subject

Religion News Blog last updated this post on CET (Central European Time)