FLDS leader's life on the run is detailed in his dictations

Desert News, Utah/February 10, 2009

As a fugitive sought by the FBI, Warren Jeffs traveled the country delivering the judgment of God.

In notes, dictations, revelations and lessons to followers, the Fundamentalist LDS Church leader meticulously details his life as a fugitive, as an inmate in jail awaiting trial and as a leader still trying to minister to his faithful flock.

The information comes from among 600 pages of exhibits attached to a Texas child custody case that were made public on Monday.

In the documents, the polygamous sect leader pronounces God's judgment on cities across the nation, believes Hurricane Katrina is the Almighty's wrath on a wicked city, visits a tanning salon and watches action movies with his wives.

Among the places Jeffs visited while on the run was New Orleans shortly before the hurricane hit. He later recalled watching the destruction on TV.

"I asked the Lord to particularly destroy the French Quarter of New Orleans, a center of wickedness that is glorified by this generation all over the nation," he wrote in an Aug. 30, 2005, dictation. "His will be done in His time and way."

Jeffs goes into detail about his trip to New Orleans.

We left our motel room around 2 p.m. in the afternoon, from 2:30 p.m. til 3:30 p.m. on Monday we did as the Lord commanded in going into disguise by going into the suntanning salon," he said on Aug. 12, 2005. "The Lord has directed that I watch certain movies to see how this generation and nation delight in warfare, immorality, about the Crusades, a very bloody, violent show, and how the people of this nation are indoctrinated in fighting against religion."

Later, Jeffs was visited by some of his wives.

"They were dressed as the gentiles are in britches and short sleeve blouses. Their hair was patterned after the gentile hairdos, and had the makeup or paint on their faces. I had them change into Priesthood dresses, and I explained why they were there," he said. "The Lord had directed that I make sure they see the program 'Man on Fire' a very violent, immoral show about kidnapping, where the parents of a child kidnap their own child to get money. I explained to the ladies that this is what the Lord showed me would happen against some of our Priesthood people."

'Dust off my feet'

While avoiding the FBI, the documents indicate that Jeffs also traveled to places like Oregon, Washington, Alabama, Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, New Hampshire, delivering them to God for judgment.

"Always in these ordinances I kick the dust off my feet against them as a witness and testimony on earth, binding you the law, sealing up the testimony against this wicked generation," he said in an Aug. 2, 2005, dictation in Massachusetts.

To kick the dust off the feet refers to a New Testament practice of separation or testimony against someone. It was also practiced in early Mormonism.

While on the run, Jeffs rarely left his motel rooms and sometimes fretted about using a public restroom for fear of being seen and captured. He maintained steady contact with his followers - including checking in with Frederick Merril Jessop, the leader of the church's YFZ Ranch in Texas, where Jeffs sent many of his most faithful followers to live. Jessop had been visited by Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran. The sheriff wanted to know why Jeffs wouldn't surrender.

"And all Brother Merril said was, 'I don't know.' The sheriff informed Brother Merril that I was now on the FBI's most wanted list. Not the ten most wanted, but on the most wanted list," Jeffs said on Aug. 30, 2005. "The Lord has warned me that my enemies do not just want to take me prisoner, but they want me dead."

Jeffs was ultimately captured in August 2006 in a traffic stop outside Las Vegas after he had been elevated to the FBI's notorious Ten Most Wanted list. He was convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a then-14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. He is currently facing sexual misconduct charges in Arizona, accusing him of performing more child bride marriages.

In a more recent entry from the court documents, Jeffs is praying fervently for deliverance.

"Let us exert our faith that it will be so, and we will see what the Lord does with me," he told a group of visitors on March 23, 2008, at the Mohave County Jail in Kingman, Ariz., where he is incarcerated while awaiting trial.

When shown the exhibits during his deposition last month, Jessop's attorney invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, noting criminal investigations on a state and federal level. The depositions were part of the case involving Jeffs' 17-year-old daughter, Teresa. The girl's court-appointed attorney, Natalie Malonis, sought to depose Jessop and church spokesman Willie Jessop as part of the custody case. It ended abruptly when a judge dismissed the entire case last week.

Contacted by the Deseret News on Monday, Malonis refused to say where she got the documents.

"I really can't - and won't - say how I came by these. That's something I'm not going to disclose," she said, adding: "I got them officially."

Attempts to reach FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop for comment on Monday were unsuccessful.

Some of the documents apparently came from law enforcement, who seized hundreds of thousands of pieces of evidence during last year's raid on the YFZ Ranch. A dozen men, including Jeffs, have been indicted by a rural Texas grand jury on charges ranging from sexual assault of a child and bigamy to performing a marriage ceremony prohibited by law and failure to report child abuse.

The documents have found their way into the hands of Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who has been reading them with interest.

"It's very cryptic and I'm not sure what it all means," he told the Deseret News on Monday.

Asked if he had found any evidence of crimes, Shurtleff said: "no."

"It raised questions for follow up," he said. "To me it was more interesting what this guy was doing."

Jeffs apparently recorded every facet of his life. Most of his dictations begin with a recitation of his "heavenly sessions," where things are revealed to him by God. He then attends to church business such as contacting members to offer them encouragement and counsel, planning marriages, or in some cases, telling others to leave.


While in southern Utah's Purgatory Jail awaiting trial, Jeffs renounced his title as prophet of the FLDS Church in a conversation with a brother that was videotaped by jailhouse security cameras. It came at a time when Jeffs was also briefly hospitalized for what was apparently a mental breakdown. In April 2007, he told his followers it was all a test from God.

"In my overanxiousness not to be a hinderment to the work of God, and feeling great unworthiness to be in a key position before the Lord, I declared I was not worthy and wondered about other individuals being more worthy," Jeffs said in the transcript. "Then the Lord intervened and showed me to rely on Him through these greater trials."

Many of Jeffs' dictations deal with regular church business, including instructions to members to perform tasks or build up various refuges scattered around the western United States. In some of the dictations, he lashed out at the state courts taking control of the FLDS Church's financial arm, the United Effort Plan Trust.

"And the Lord showed me it was a devil's trick, trying to get our people to feel like this new caretaker of the trust is our protector, where in reality they have stolen our lands and houses and are working in a conspiracy," he said in a 2005 entry. "And they are determined to destroy our religion."

Included in the exhibits is a document that apparently sought to turn the YFZ Ranch into a trust similar to the United Effort Plan Trust. It was unsigned.

In other documents, Jeffs speaks out against abuse and harsh forms of child discipline, urging love instead. The dictations go back beyond Jeffs' time as a fugitive to 2004, where he was apparently concerned about law enforcement as the YFZ Ranch was being built in Texas. He sent out detailed instructions to bishops and other followers. He worries about the righteousness of his followers and the trials yet to come.

"I am willing to go through whatever is required, rejoice to atone where the Lord allows me to do that work. The work of God goes on," he said in 2004. "Who is Zion? I am yearning for Zion. End dictation."

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