Even though the leader of the polygamist church is still in prison, there are still many faithful members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Many of these faithful live in the sister cities Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona – an area collectively known as Short Creek. It’s about two and a half hours northeast of Las Vegas.
Warren Jeffs was arrested in 2006 in Nevada for multiple counts of rape and the sexual assault of children. His brother, Lyle Jeffs, continues the day-to-day operations of the church and was named the Bishop of Short Creek in 2007.
This week, Salt Lake Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle wrote an extensive profile of Lyle Jeffs, and life for the people living inside the walls of what is known as "the block."
Carlisle joined KNPR to talk about those stories.
Why did you write a profile about him?
“We know so little about him but he seems to be the man running the day-to-day operations of the FLDS. We know so much about Warren but this younger brother of his, who seems to have a lot of power, is a much lesser known figure even though law enforcement or at least the federal government has been pursuing him in some fashion as well.”
Lyle Jeffs has never been just an FLDS man. What does that mean?
“Of course, he’s a full brother to Warren. All the children from that wife of the former prophet Rulon Timpson Jeffs, who died some years ago, they were all the kind of preferred children of the prophet. That is from a mother named Marilyn Steed and she believed her blood line was superior to other FLDS families and so Warren and Lyle and their brothers, full brothers, were brought up to believe that they were the particularly chosen ones of the FLDS”
According to your articles, Lyle Jeffs has a reputation for treating women badly?
“We should specify there are no allegations of physical abuse against women by Lyle. But, there is one story a half-brother tells of driving down the street in Salt Lake County and Lyle leaning his head out the window and propositioning women for sex in very derogatory terms. That is very unusual in the FLDS. He’s made a lot of sexual comments and innuendos over the years, which is unusual in the FLDS. There are also descriptions of him counseling women who come to him for spiritual guidance and he’ll be sincere when the woman is in the room and as soon as she leaves, he’ll start making fun of her and her problems.”
So, how has he gotten power if he acts like this?
Well, he’s gotten power because he was the preferred son of THE prophet, Rulon Timpson Jeffs, and of course his brother rose to be prophet. So he’s had a lot of loyalty toward Warren over the years. He also gained favor with his father through his business dealings here in Salt Lake County.
A lot of people are leaving the FLDS church since Warren Jeffs was convicted. How is the FLDS church making its money?
There are still several businesses out there. I wrote about one in August called Phaze Concrete that pours concrete all over the country, including a lot of Wal-Mart contracts. There’s other businesses too -- electrical firms. They have a variety of construction firms. A manufacturing firm. They have a lot of little businesses here and there. Also individuals, who may have an honest job somewhere, are supposed to be donating all of their money, just about all of it to the church, in the form of tithing.”
How many wives?
“Well funny you ask, because his divorce from his legal wife was just finalized this month, but it’s believed he still has eight spiritual wives.”
And how many children from those wives?
“Well they think the number is in the low to mid-60s but no one is really sure”
You wrote a story about the ‘Jeffs Block.’ What is the Jeffs Block?
The Jeffs Block is an entire town block in Hildale, Utah with walls around it and it’s a compound, more or less, where Lyle and some of his immediate family and some of the women and children of whom he’s charged with caring for live. There’s approximately 60 people living on that block”
What are the requirements of those living there?
“To live on that block, you need to have some relationship with Lyle, then you also have to be in the United Order or trying to get into the United Order. The United Order is kind of the upper echelon of the FLDS. These are supposed to be the most devout followers. They have to be consecrating all of their income and most of their belongings at all times. They have to pass a monthly interview with Lyle or with another Bishop, where they’re asked a series of questions about whether they still support Warren as the profit, whether they’re following some of their other FLDS rules and basically persuade Lyle once a month that you’re worthy to be in the United Order.
So, what is life like inside the block?
“According to interviews I’ve had with two of Lyle’s nieces, it’s very regimented inside the block. You’re supposed to wake up at 5:30 a.m. for daily scripture lesson led by Lyle. Then your work day begins and if you’re a woman or a teenage girl, you’re cooking and cleaning all day long. You’re expected to sew a garment once a month and that’s either one of those prairie dresses we’ve all come to recognize of the FLDS or one of the long sleeve button up shirts that the men wear.”
“If you do want to leave the block, you have to tell Lyle where you’re going first. And if you want to make any alterations to your living arrangements, you know move to a different house, move to a different bedroom or redecorate or anything like that you have to check with Lyle first. Lyle instructs everyone on the block to call him ‘father’ even if he is not your biological father.”
What is next for Lyle Jeffs? Is he being investigated for any illegal activities?
“I mean the short answer is yes. Just assume anybody in a leadership position in the FLDS is being investigated at all times. But that doesn’t mean that criminal charges are coming anytime soon. This sect has been around a long time and there have been criminal charges against still only a relative handful of men.”
“He’s never been charged with a crime as best we can tell.”
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