Warren Steed Jeffs. Just saying it aloud elicits a variety of emotions from those who recognize the name of the leader of the largest polygamist sect in the world. Jeffs is currently serving a life sentence behind federal prison bars in Texas while retaining his leadership role as the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) (not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [LDS]). The church is based in the two bordering towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona; government authorities confiscated its property in Texas (including a grandiose temple) in January 2014.
Jeffs eluded federal authorities for a year until he was finally caught in August 2006. In September 2007, he was convicted on two counts of rape as an accomplice and sentenced to ten years to life in Utah State Prison. The Utah Supreme Court overturned the conviction in July, however, by ruling that the jury received incorrect instructions. Jeffs was then extradited to Texas for sexual crimes there. On August 11, 2011, the new jury took less than half an hour to convict the fifty-five-year-old Jeffs for the sexual assault of two teenage girls, ages fifteen and twelve.
While in prison from 2009 to 2013, Jeffs busily wrote down “revelations” that he claims were given to him by Jesus Christ; in early 2013, a hardcover book titled Jesus Christ, Message to All Nations (2012) (hereafter Message to All Nations) was sent at no cost to schools, libraries, and churches all over the western United States. A second edition was printed at the end of 2013 compiling 261 “Section Revelations” into a whopping 968 pages. It too was mailed free of charge. While the church sells the new edition for $25, anyone with a few dollars for postage can buy a used copy on the Internet.
AN APPEAL TO RELEASE THE FLDS PROPHET
The title page to the second edition of Message to All Nations states, “Copyright 2013 by President Warren S. Jeffs, Mouthpiece of God. Jesus Christ, Author.” The revelations are generally ordered chronologically, though this is not always true. If the reader takes this work seriously, it is apparent that Jesus wishes to communicate His will through a living prophet. Section Revelation 102:11–12 of Message to All Nations quotes Christ as saying,
I shall send my Spirit upon all who come unto my authorized agent of key position; unto my holy representative of the order of pure Holy Priesthood power, even my servant Warren Jeffs, on earth. Let all now know he is of my whole power of governing, and able to reveal my will to every governing power on the earth; for I lead him unto my way being revealed to all who come unto me in faith and good works.
Hundreds of references throughout the book respond to the “unlawful” imprisonment of Jeffs. Written on October 7, 2010, Section Revelation 4:18–20 explains, “And cause that my servant should be set free. Cause that his brethren who are in bondage be set free. Let this be as a final warning to the people on this land.” Written on the same day, the next revelation (“A Petition to the President of the United States of America”) states, “To the honorable President of the United States of America now standing as head of this nation:…Cause that my servant who presides over my Church now be delivered by thy hand. Let my servant go, that he may perform his mission to prepare my people for my coming. Cause that the prosecutors now cease their attack upon my servant Warren Jeffs.” In February 2011, more than six hundred mailers were sent out to a number of United States governmental officials, including President Obama as well as every member of Congress and then–Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Written just a few months after he had already been convicted and sentenced in Texas for his crimes, Section Revelation 132:1–5 states how Jeffs was under no obligation to obey governmental authorities:
I, even Jesus Christ, speak to the present judge over court proceedings against my servant Warren Jeffs; I cause him to no longer be of an answering of your unjust and corrupt and unauthorized rulings; as I, the Lord, even Jesus Christ, am above all, and my law is religious and of me, a heavenly power over all creation. Your judging is not based on truth. I cause him to not answer to the court. Let thy rulings against him cease. I shall soon lay a heavy hand on all who fight against my Priesthood and Church, saith the Lord.
JUDGMENT ON CITIES AND NATIONS
Message to All Nations is defined by the many judgments it gives, with the United States being a common recipient. For example, Section Revelation 58:7–9 says,
Thus saith the Lord: The United States of America shall be left without a responsible head—I, the Lord, allowing the government powers to be disrupted in a manner that they will not be able to fulfill any governmental duties. And it shall be such a distress that the people of this nation will arise and try to join in groups for self-protection, mob rule reign in many places, trade stop. There shall be sickness, even that sickness that shall pollute the air and the soil and destroy many souls, because you heed me not and would continue in your murderous and immoral ways to the destruction of your soul.
Section Revelation 63:25 states, “And if you heed me not, you leaders of this nation of the United States of America, you shall feel the chastening hand of a just God; and all my promises and prophecies of judgments upon the gentile nations shall be fulfilled in full measure.”
The names of several dozen U.S. cities are listed as falling under God’s specific judgement, such as Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Albany, New York. Special consequences await these cities, including Austin, Texas, where Jeffs was convicted in the second trial. Section Revelation 59:6 says Austin would be “covered by a great mountain, having become a capital city of oppositions against my Zion,” with verse 9 adding, “I shall cause a scourging to come upon this state where my Land of Holiness is located on the earth, where my house [temple] is built.”
A number of revelations announce judgment on dozens of nations around the world, either for their injustice to that nation’s populace or for the people’s propensity to commit immorality. One common sin mentioned hundreds of times is abortion. For this and other listed perceived atrocities, natural disasters (typically those common to that particular country) are promised as God’s judgment. For example, the country of Nicaragua is told in Section Revelation 52:2–3, “Repent ye, or an earthquake of large size shall come to thy borders and destroy many lives.” Nicaragua has earthquakes between 4.0 and 5.0 magnitude every month, with several 6.0 or greater quakes during a typical year. To claim that Nicaragua will have large earthquakes is like saying that it will snow next year in Syracuse, New York, or get over 100 degrees in Phoenix, Arizona.
Section Revelation 81 was written on May 7, 2011, concerning the country of Libya. Verse 1 says, “Thus saith the Lord Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, who dwells in the heavens and rules over all nations of the earth, to the leader of Libya, even Muammar Qaddafi.” Gaddafi, who originally took control of the African nation via a coup in 1969, is told in verses 3 and 4 to “cease your aggression against thine own peoples” and “Repent ye! Repent ye! is the word of the God who made you, for you shall stand before Him in the day of judgement and receive according to the deeds done in the flesh, for thou art a corrupt and murderous and immoral man, and I, the Lord God, declare it to thee.” Verse 9 adds, “I, the Lord, have declared it—that though you remain in power a short time, I, the Lord God, shall cause thee to be removed from power.”
Gaddafi was killed on October 20, 2011, just five months after this was written. Could this be a fulfilled prophecy? Anyone who kept up with the news in May 2011—as Jeffs obviously did in prison—could have predicted Gaddafi’s eventual demise, as this leader was under intense siege for the final year of his reign. For example, a NATO airstrike killed one of Gaddafi’s sons and three grandsons in Tripoli on April 30, 2011. Just two weeks before this attack, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for Gaddafi to be captured or killed. Thus, it wasn’t a surprise to most observers when Gaddafi was finally captured in September 2011 and killed a month later.
What ought to be considered is that the leaders of these countries never would have been told about the judgments compiled by a man detained in a Texas prison cell! If Jeffs had no realistic access to presidents and kings of these nations, could God really expect these leaders to change their ways in order to avoid the proposed judgments?
THE IMPORTANCE OF PLURAL MARRIAGE
According to Message to All Nations, probably the most harmful atrocity committed by any nation or religious organization is denying the freedom to practice plural marriage. According to FLDS teaching, at least three wives are required for a man to attain “exaltation,” or godhood, in the highest level of heaven. The LDS Church repealed its polygamous ways in 1890, as described in Official Declaration- 1 known as the “Manifesto,” found in the back of the scripture called the Pearl of Great Price. This decision caused a shock wave across the Mormon world at the time; many groups later broke away from the Salt Lake City–based church because of this decision.
Plural marriage is described throughout the book as an eternal principle that never should have been outlawed. In fact, Jesus allegedly claims in Section Revelation 159:27–31 that He was polygamous during His life on this earth. According to Section Revelation 120, the LDS Church’s denial of this practice as well as allowing those of African heritage to receive the priesthood beginning in 1978 caused this religion to be “fully rejected.”
Joseph Smith—whose teachings the FLDS hold sacred— married thirty-four girls and women. Yet this number pales in comparison to Jeffs, who had seventy-eight wives, including most of his stepmothers after his father died in 2002.1 But it wasn’t polygamy, per se, that caused Jeffs to get into trouble with American law; it was taking preadolescent and teenage brides as well as orchestrating the plural marriages of girls and women to other men in the FLDS community. Whereas about a third of Smith’s wives were teens as young as fourteen, a total of twenty-seven wives married by Jeffs were under the age of seventeen. According to LDS researcher Todd Compton, “sexual attraction was an important part of the motivation for Smith’s polygamy”;2 the same could be said for Jeffs as well. This can be deduced merely by reading the dialogues he had with his teenage brides, which he had audio taped and catalogued, thus paving the way for the prosecution’s easy conviction in Texas.3
IMPRISONED BY THEIR OWN FREE WILL
Today Jeffs remains in prison, a place he will undoubtedly stay until he dies. Jeffs argues that he is being unfairly treated and limited in his ability to communicate with those outside prison walls. Writing in the voice of Jesus on September 20, 2013, in the “Appendix Revelation,” he complained in verse 2 that the “enemy holdeth my servant in bondage, not of full freedom to mail all needed correspondence; some letters not of full allowed order to be sent.”
Through it all, Jeffs maintains a firm grip on his people. At the end of 2012, the convicted felon told his followers that the year 2013 would never come to pass.4 The people of Colorado City, Arizona, apparently took this teaching so seriously that the city’s only grocery store temporarily closed in late December 2012 to prepare for the end of the world.
Despite the many prophecies throughout the book warning of apocalyptic disaster, the last verse of the appendix promises that these revelations are not complete, as “in soon time cometh more holy word to all people on world. Amen.”5 Because Jeffs is a convicted felon and has been wrong so many times before, many may wonder why he has retained any followers. Perhaps they have deeply instilled fear of crossing God’s Prophet or perhaps they don’t know any other lifestyle. Whatever the reason, those submitting themselves to Jeffs and the FLDS Church will continue to live under oppression and have their lives continually controlled by a megalomaniac who sits in a prison cell writing supposed revelations that are nothing more than the figments of his own demented imagination.
Eric Johnson works with Mormonism Research Ministry in Utah (www.mrm.org). He has coauthored Mormonism 101 (Baker, 2000) and Answering Mormons’ Questions (Kregel, 2013) and was an associate editor with The Apologetics Study Bible for Students (Holman, 2010).
“Too often in our contemporary culture, theologically informed beliefs are not considered a legitimate claim to knowledge.” — Frank Beckwith