Recapping the testimony

The Salt Lake Tribune/September 25, 2007

In the opening days of the trial, Elissa Wall described the shock she felt upon learning from her stepfather, Fred Jessop, that she was to be married at age 14.

Jessop was a bishop in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and second counselor to then-prophet Rulon T. Jeffs. One state witness said Jessop had "put the marriage together" and that Warren S. Jeffs was the "errand boy" who carried it out.

The FLDS believe their arranged marriages are divinely inspired by God, speaking through the prophet.

Wall learned she was to marry Allen Steed, her 19-year-old cousin, when he sat beside her at a family gathering days before their April 2001 ceremony. (Wall has agreed to the use of the name she then used.)

She said she felt tremendous pressure - from family, friends, FLDS teachings - to put aside her objections and go forward with the wedding. But she took her plea to Rulon Jeffs, telling him she was too young to marry, or at least should be placed with a different man.

She said the prophet told her to follow her heart, but Warren Jeffs later said her heart was in the wrong place and she was to do as directed.

A "rocky" marriage. To question was "not keeping sweet and I was going against teachings I had grown up with and listened to my entire life and I was risking my spiritual salvation," Wall told jurors, explaining why she eventually folded.

The wedding took place on April 23, 2001, at the Hot Springs Motel in Caliente, Nev., which was owned by an FLDS member. The motel was used for many weddings during this period, which prosecutors said was done to circumvent Utah laws about plural and underage marriages.

Thus began a relationship that Wall said horrified her and Steed described as a "rocky and rough."

They offered differing accounts of how, about three weeks later, the marriage was consummated. Wall said she was sobbing, shaking and protesting as it happened. Steed said she initiated the intimacy, waking him up and then allowing one thing to lead to the next.

Prosecutors used recordings of lessons Jeffs gave at Alta Academy, the private FLDS school where he served as principal, to show jurors that women like Wall were to follow the prophet's assignment in marriage and then be obedient to their husbands.

A delayed claim of rape. But Jeffs' attorneys also used Jeffs' school lessons, as well as testimony from faithful FLDS members, to emphasize teachings that leave sexual contact up to women and admonish followers against force in any context.

The defense also focused on the fact that Wall never told anyone, including her "fiercely loyal sisters," that she was being raped by Steed.

Steed was never interviewed by police before state officials filed the two charges of rape as an accomplice against Jeffs, defense attorney Walter F. Bugden pointed out.

Steed testified he never spoke with Jeffs about the marriage until later, when it was in serious trouble. When he did, Steed said Jeffs counseled him to be patient and loving toward his wife.

The defense said no one in Wall's family took any action to stop the marriage and none of them believed she would be raped afterward.

The rape claim emerged, Bugden said, only after Wall met with a lawyer about suing Jeffs for money.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.