Polygamous teen bride: Jeffs warned it was spousal surrender - or loss of heaven

The Salt Lake Tribune/September 14, 2007

St. George -- As a young girl, Jane Doe was taught there was a high price for disobeying her religious leaders: Loss of heavenly salvation.

The consequences of disobedience were driven home by polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs in school lessons, church sermons and personal interviews, Doe said.

"The prophet was a God to us, God on Earth," she said, and his counselors were the same.

"We were to follow them obediently as though we were led by a hair," she said, a hair that if snapped would cause them to "forfeit our chance at an afterlife."

Doe took the stand for about an hour Thursday afternoon as the state's first witness in its case against Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice.

With Doe and audio excerpts from Jeffs' teachings, prosecutors began building their argument that the sect leader enticed Doe, then 14, into an unwanted marriage with her 19-year-old cousin six years ago.

Doe, who is now 21 and remarried, will resume her testimony today.

Attorneys selected seven women and five men to hear the case. Five are in their 20s or 30s, while seven are middle age or older. There are several retirees and a couple of homemakers. Others have careers in education, government, finance, construction, retail and engineering.

Also in the courtroom were 15 FLDS members, including Rodney Holm. Holm is the only other FLDS member prosecuted by Utah authorities in recent years; he was convicted in 2003 of bigamy for taking a 16-year-old as his third wife.

Jeffs' supporters and jurors alike listened intently as Doe talked about attending Alta Academy, the private school once operated by the FLDS church. Jeffs was the principal and taught classes there, she said.

In many lessons he instructed girls about their proper roles and duties as wives.

Young people were taught that dating and intimacy before marriage were inappropriate. Girls and boys were to treat each other "as though they were snakes," she said. "There was nothing permitted romantically."

She said she received no instruction on maturation or sexual intimacy.

"That would be taught to us by our husbands," she said.

Craig Barlow, an assistant attorney general assisting Washington County, played recorded excerpts from Jeffs' lessons. In one, Jeffs describes the FLDS marriage covenant and how marriages are arranged through revelation received by the prophet.

This "frees you completely from all the terrible mistakes girls can make," Jeffs said in one clip.

In another, Jeffs tells listeners that the FLDS marriage covenant requires "full obedience" to their husbands. "You are to obey him as he obeys the Lord," Jeffs says.

Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap previewed Doe's testimony in his 15-minute opening statement. He emphasized Jeffs' position of authority and constant teachings on the dutiful and obedient behavior expected from women.

He made repeated references to Doe's age and to her "adult husband." Belnap also focused on Doe's numerous objections to marrying her cousin, a man she despised.

When Doe learned who she was to marry, she went to then-FLDS leader Rulon T. Jeffs, got on her knees and begged that it not happen, Belnap said.

But Jeffs, then a first counselor in the FLDS church, told Doe "her heart was in the wrong place and she had a duty to go forward," Belnap said.

Doe was told that "entering the Celestial Law of Marriage was the most important thing she could do with her life," Belnap said. And being married to a "righteous priesthood man" was the only way for her to get to heaven.

"She also learned that she was to keep sweet," Belnap said.

He showed jurors two pictures: one of Doe being fitted in her wedding dress the night before her marriage and one of decorations left on a new queen-size bed placed in her room the day the ceremony took place.

"A 14-year-old girl left home that morning . . . and was expected to climb into that bed with her adult husband," Belnap said.

Tara Isaacson, one of three attorneys representing Jeffs, countered with a 35-minute statement that quickly got to the defense's main theory.

"Was she really raped?" Isaacson asked. "That's the core question. What did Warren Jeffs have to do with what was going on in her bedroom? Did he even know she was being forced to have sex against her will?"

Isaacson cast doubt on Doe's motives, noting she sued Jeffs in 2005, seeking a monetary award before taking her claims to law enforcement. That suit is pending.

With a portrait of a smiling Doe and her former husband as a backdrop, Isaacson said the couple were at the center of the case - not polygamy, arranged marriage or her age, since under Utah law she was old enough to consent to sex under some circumstances.

"You may personally believe it's too young," Isaacson said. "For me, it's too young. But that's not the issue."

While Doe's testimony has changed over time, she has never said her husband forced her to have sex, Isaacson said.

"She didn't tell anyone she was being raped," Isaacson said. "She was saying . . . she was unhappy, but being unhappy is different from being raped."

She showed jurors a portion of a lesson Jeffs gave on Feb. 14, 1999, on marital relations, in which he said that "A man should only have those marital relations with a wife if she invites it."

That, Isaacson said, is "the exact contrary to the concept of rape."

Jeffs counseled the couple to make their marriage work and never suggested to Doe or her husband that they should engage in nonconsensual sex.

"Pressure to marry is different from pressure to submit to rape," Isaacson said.

And there were other people in Doe's life who "encouraged her to marry and encouraged her to stay in her marriage" besides Jeffs, she said, among them her mother and sisters.

FLDS couples will testify during the trial about their own marriages and counsel they received from Jeffs, Isaacson said. Their stories "vary greatly" from that of Doe and other state witnesses. So does that of her former husband, who also will testify, she said.

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