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.
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.
"We take things at Heavenly Father's pace," said Jessop, who has been living on a church ranch in Pringle, S.D., since 2004.
In the documents filed Monday, he wrote:
"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."