The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Racist Cult Leader Warren Jeffs Convicted of Raping Child Brides

By Hatewatch Staff on August 5, 2011 - 2:30 pm, Posted in Anti-Black, Anti-LGBT

After years of state and federal investigations, it took a Texas jury a mere 3½ hours to convict racist cult leader Warren Jeffs on charges of sexually assaulting two child brides, aged 12 and 15. He is already imprisoned for an earlier conviction.

Jeffs presided over a religious empire as both president and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a Mormon breakaway sect over which he gained control when his father died in 2002.

While Jeffs is best known for marrying underage girls and arranging child marriages to older men in the sect, he also preached a virulent racism as well as hatred toward LGBT people. He taught his estimated 10,000 followers, for example, that “the black race is the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth.” He described homosexuality as “the worst act you can do next to murder.”

A federal investigation into the sect and its compounds in Utah, Arizona, Texas and Canada led to Jeffs’ indictment and inclusion on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. After nearly two years on the run, he was arrested during a routine traffic stop in late 2006.  In 2007, he was convicted of two counts of rape as an accomplice based on his role in arranging the marriage of an unwilling 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001.  He was sentenced to two consecutive terms of five years to life.

Jeffs and the FLDS came to even greater national attention after the raid of the sect’s 1,691-acre compound in rural Eldorado, Texas, in 2008. The raid was triggered by a phone call, purportedly from a teenage girl in the compound who claimed she was being physically and sexually abused by her 50-year-old husband. That call turned out to be a hoax. Authorities initially took custody of about 460 children from the Yearning for Zion ranch. Dozens of underage teenage girls taken from the ranch either had children or were pregnant. The raid opened a window into the sect’s practice of polygamy, its sexual abuse of children and its bizarre lifestyle and beliefs. The lasting image, broadcast for days on national TV, was of women and girls wearing old-fashioned prairie dresses.

The Intelligence Report revealed as early as 2005 the seedier details of FLDS practices and doctrine. In 1890, the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) disavowed “plural marriage” (that is, polygamy) in order to gain statehood for Utah, although the church had long considered the practice necessary for salvation. The change in doctrine created a rift among its more traditionalist members and led to the creation of several splinter groups, including the FLDS. The FLDS further distanced itself from mainstream Mormonism when the mainstream LDS abandoned its prohibition against black men joining their lay priesthood.

When the raid took place in 2008, Jeffs reportedly had nearly 78 wives, 24 of whom were under the age of 17.

Jeffs ruled his sect with an iron fist, eliminating all traces of dissent. As reported in 2005, Jeffs excommunicated nearly 300 men for opposing his dictates, for refusing to take part in child marriages he arranged, or for being too much competition for wives to the older, more senior members. When families were cast out, they were considered apostates, unable to communicate with anyone inside the church, including family members, and were believed to be prevented from achieving salvation.

In his most recent trial, Jeffs served as his own lawyer. In his closing argument, he stood silently before the  jury for 24 minutes before saying, “I am at peace,” and then standing silently again for two minutes before taking his seat.

The penalty phase of the trial began with Jeffs saying, “I am God. Send me thy word. Cease. Hear my warning as a full awakening.” He faces a maximum of 119 years in prison.

Deity or not, Jeffs will likely never see the outside world or his compound again. A former FLDS member has said that Jeffs’ brother will likely succeed him.

  • Michael

    How come is it that women are sooo smart that they can do ANYTHING, vote, be in the government etc. according to the liberals;—and yet these same people are willing to believe that these same women cannot think for themselves enough to be permitted to belong to such a religion as this, but must be rescued for their own good?

  • Jonas Rand

    Mormonism (LDS) is a cult. I did not know that they practiced segregationist baptism (or baptism at all), but I did know they were racial separatists. The fact that they wear “magic undergarment” alone convinced me to avoid it and the racial separatism is just more craziness heaped on top. Add to that Joseph Smith, finding Jesus whilst hiking in the New York woods, and being “drawn” spiritually to Utah (Deseret) is just icing on the cake.

    Warren Jeffs (FLDS) also ran a cult. It was more strange, abusive, and dangerous than the LDS. Also, while the LDS allows any person of any background to join, the FLDS openly excluded Blacks from joining. Jeffs also raped children born into the cult, who were then forced into marriage (though they were “spiritual”, and not legally recognized, forcing them to be total dependents on the leader). It is separate from the LDS church, which is more mainstream, though richer and thus more greed-focused

    Did anyone pay attention to my question above?

  • skinnyminny

    You are correct! Beck is a Mormon.
    Yes they do have to give a certain percent of what they earn. But, again, the missionaries are a ‘cash cow,’ for them. The marjority of the places the missionaries reside at are owned by the church or church members. The missionaries have to pay rent, and most of the time there is a total of 4-10 of these kids living in one apartment/house. All of this money have to be paid up front, so, if they don’t come up with the total amount they need for rent/food/travel (which is away from their legal residence, mostly out of the country)…they cannot go on their missions, so you’re talking thousands of dollars.

    BTW, try asking a person of color about getting baptized, more than likely they will tell you that people of color are baptized without any of the white mormons baptized during the same ceremony.

  • ruben

    isn’t glenn beck also a mormon?……i believe he is,and look or hear all that racist ranting that he spews all the time… is just too frequent and coincidental by many white members of the mormon faith to just brush it off as ” oh its just a few of us and we don’t condone it”…. and as far as the polynesian and other people of color that are members are concerned i agree with skinnyminny….i think that they tolerate them only for the MONEY!!….don’t mormons have to give a certain percent of what they earn to the church.

  • skinnyminny

    Shadow Wolf,
    I used to attend services at the Mormon church, I have family members that are ‘Mormons.’ All of them are very racists. Mormons do not condone their members listening to certain music, looking at certain movies…If you get married, only certain members can get married in the temple…there are a lot of things that go on there, from choosing who can even date who, and if a member even think of having sex with someone they can be kicked out of the church.

    On the flip side, they do have some very bright (intelligent/educated), and wealty people there, but what goes on there some of the people have nervous breakdowns/some are so curious about society that they end up committing some vicious crimes. Some of these members are very concerned with being ex-communicated…as far as I’m concerned, this religion is very structured, you even have people that will spy on you and report back to the church leaders what you do in your personal life that could affect your standing in the church.

    I do know about the programs in Utah. But again, I think this is for monetary/business reasons.

  • Shadow Wolf

    I should also point out that “The Utah Compact” calls for more humane immigration reform, the Mormon Church itself, distances their position from such extremist approach, like those of Russell Pearce and the Tea Pottier movement. So I don’t see how this can be “racist” towards Hispanic immigrants. If one were to compare the two states: Arizona from Utah. One can easily say Arizona is far more rabid than Utah. In fact, in Utah, they have implemented a guest workers program in that state. Something that we don’t see or will never see in Arizona. Instead we have the atrocious S.B. 1070 combined with other hard right legistlations on the way. Although, being against illegal immigration myself and having lived in both states. I’d say that Arizona has been the breeding grounds for hatemongers.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Skinny M.

    I think you are talking about the FLDS.
    I wouldn’t exactly say that the mainstream Mormon faith is a racist Church in general. This is precisely due to the fact that the Church is a worldwide foundation. They are found in just about every country including in Africa, Japan, all over South America, and Mexico. When I lived in Utah, I have also noticed a large number of Pacific Islanders were dedicated members of the Mormon faith. I have personally been confronted by Polynesian missionaries. Not once did I hear racist tones. They based their beliefs upon Jesus Christ, along with family values, it is the main topic of discussion by members of that Church.

    However, the FLDS and other sub-sects like it, do not share the same views as its mainstream counterpart.

    As far as neo-Nazi associator Russell Pearce is concerned. I have read a number of Mormons who strongly denounce his views and harsh stance on the local Hispanic populace, regardless of their status quo. This is why they created a group that is currently responsible for the recall of Russell Pearce. Today the Judge is hearing the lawsuit on this recall matter at hand. I doubt the Judge will rule in his favor. Because every person who signed the petition are valid according the Sec. of State’s office. Also, the Mormon Church has enacted what’s called “The Utah Compact”, this deals with the immigration debacle. It states the Mormon’s position on the immigration issue. And that document clashes and contradicts everything that Pearce stands for. You can say that Pearce is more of an outcast. His opponent in the upcoming recall election is also a Mormon, his name is Jerry Lewis. I have read good things about him, and I can say I prefer Lewis over Pearce on any given time. Personally, I hope he wins that recall election.

  • skinnyminny

    this group is extremely racist. Personally, I think that is why Willard Romney loves to really put down the prez – but, try to make it appear as if he (Willard) is actually making presidential campaign speeches.

    I know they don’t like black people. That is why I believe they are out their trying to make black people think they are not racist, but their real intention is to get the money blacks are giving to churches. This is a big scam. And Ruben, you know as well as I do, these members have very expensive real estate/ranches/private estates – but again, all of the pregnant girls/women are getting big, huge entitlement benefits from public welfare programs – I mention this because welfare programs specifically asks if you have family to take care of you/where is the father of your children and can he financially support the children, do you have something of value to sell…now, for the single mothers in society (meaning not on a compound) sometimes the father ends up in prison or other reasons why their isn’t a father there – anyway, these women were ridiculed and threatened by society to have their tubes tied, to give an example about the outrage of single parents, this is probably a bad example, but look at how some people treated ‘octomom.’ Now, again, this is probably a bad example, but, there is no outrage towards what this group is doing – and why not, no young girl should have to go through the pain of giving birth. There have been women who have died while giving birth because of the pain.
    Oh, and Pearce is a Mormon. Generally, for example, Mormons try to act as if they like Latinos, at least in states others than Arizona. There is a sect that is in Mexico, they moved there decades/centuries ago around the time when the dispute was over polygamy.

  • ruben

    to skinnyminny……a few years back i had two mormon co workers and sometimes during our lunch break they would talk to us about their religion….and all i could say was that their religion came across as very racist and strange…..they would tell us that black people were evil because they were the descendants of cain and therefore cursed….they would also wear some kind of garments underneath their clothes that was supposed to protect them from any type of harm….i think that the mormons do teach racism and separatism…..isn’t russel pearce the bigot who introduced the anti mexican law in arizona a mormon….but i also think that every major religion in the world has there fair share of extremists and crackpots, some more than others……religion is by know means a bad thing……it is the extremist/nut job members that hijack there religions who are bad.

  • Jonas Rand

    I have not been following the Jeffs case coverage in US press. But, when the story originally broke, my family watched TV and I was following it rather closely. What I notice looking back on that was the lack of coverage of Jeffs’ racism. This is a strange omission, but I don’t think it’s purposefully racist and I am not certain whether it is still being ignored. It is not more objectionable when compared to mass rape and forced marriage arrangements, though. That was surely the major story then, and it did no worse a job at exposing the cult as the heinous operation that it is (was?) than it would have been otherwise.

  • Jonas Rand

    Skinnyminny said,

    “Again, if a minority does this, especially a black man, he would be labeled ‘a monster,’ and the media would make it worse by saying it’s the worse crime against humanity in our history.”

    Let’s take this claim empirically. Warren Jeffs was called a “monster” in a headline in the racist Daily Mail, a pitiful excuse for journalism itself. His treatment in the US media was not the least bit flattering or laudatory. The treatment of Jeffs in the press does not seem to be conducted with any reverence for Jeffs or his cult, and nor should it be. You seem to be describing it as though they are tiptoeing around Jeffs more than they would if he were non-white, as though he has some sort of “untouchable” status. I have not been seeing that at all, though granted I have not been following it that much either.

    Apart from the absence of the press treating Jeffs like a “sacred cow”, there was a case almost exactly like this that occurred with a minority. His name was Dr. Malachi Z. York. When this Black supremacist, who thought he was receiving revelations from aliens and could channel angels, was arrested on racketeering and child sexual abuse charges, I had just turned 6 years old (it was on my birthday) and do not even remember it happening at the time. I did not know about it, but you are obviously old enough to have heard something about it. He ran a compound in Putnam County, Georgia called Tama-Re. Was the coverage of that any different? I can’t remember, but this contains a glimpse of what was being reported at the time. None of it is untrue, and none of it seems any more or less negative than what Warren Jeffs’ cult is being characterized as or described as (except the notable absence of “monster”).

    So, if it happened with a minority, would media coverage really be worse?

  • Sheldon L. McCormick

    Jeff, with his leadership abilities, magnetism and ability to influence young people could have produced inspired, disciplined productive people,ready to make their positive marks on American society. But, like many a wolf in sheep’s clothing racist “leaders” before him, he exploited his flock, turned them into human robots and used young girls for sexual morsels, He took their money, valuables, self-worth and dignity for his own selfish, sinister aims, this and more under the guise of religion. He stands a good chance, convicted of raping underaged young ladies, of going to prison for life. Like his other white supremacist/extremist counterparts, by chance, law enforcement efforts and the courage of his victims to speak out against such evil and exploitation did Jeff and his cult ended on the dung heap of history. Justice, once again, prevailed.

  • Jonas Rand

    Skinnyminny, I just don’t see how your above post is intended to argue against polygamy. When is consensual polygamy, with freedom of choice to divorce and no underage spouses, more unethical than monogamy?

  • Jonas Rand

    Chill out, Skinnyminny – I did not condone Jeffs’ abuse, nor his sexist and racist views which he foisted upon his followers, rendered helpless and dependent under his rule. Brainwashing is unacceptable in any form and that is exactly what he and his cult engaged in. Note I did not say “polygamy is morally right all the time”. No forced marriage, polygamous, bigamous, or monogamous, is ethical. Agreed?

    “One comes to mind, Willard Mitt Romney, he keeps trying to disrespect the pres, when he just recently received a ‘mysterious,’ million dollar donation. A couple of years ago, he filed an insurance claim for a million+ claiming that someone broke into his vacation home and stole his wife’s jewelry (the jewelry was just laying out and around) – really? I also ‘think,’ he’s a beneficiary of public entitlements with his ‘Sober Living by the Sea,’ facilities in Orange County Califas most exclusive beach communities – which is for rehabilitation.”

    Assuming this whole paragraph is about Mitt Romney (it just refers to the male pronoun after referencing Romney, which could mean Jeffs too), what does this have to do with polygamy or whether it is ethical? Mitt Romney is a Mormon, but, if I’m not mistaken, a mainstream Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), who no longer practice polygamy. They are not the same as the sectarian breakaway faction of Warren Jeffs. Where I live (Nevada) there are a lot of them and even a larger percentage in Lincoln County, which is right next to Utah.

    Are you saying that Mitt Romney could have received an FLDS donation? Possibly, and I could see how that blatant corruption would be embarrassing enough to want to cover up, but they are his co-religionists. Not saying that it’s right or trying to excuse it, but he is a politician, they do anything to get as much money as they can, and since they are Mormons, it might be hard to resist if you are bereft of ethics like most pols.

    I have no problem whatsoever with single mothers receiving EBT, other than the fact that it is not nearly enough and that the capitalist system (which requires poverty to exist) is inherently unjust. Single mothers and other disadvantaged people rely on the bare minimum, while the rich fatten their pockets and wage class warfare against them. That is an incredibly messed-up situation.

    Thanks for informing me though; I had no idea that the “wives” had to depend on EBT. I can’t understand this though:”they have husbands and live on their (church) compounds it’s okay that they get public entitlements” – do you mean that the “husbands” were getting money from the government when they were already rich?

    I have heard stories of mainstream LDS corruption before, see for example all the results here:

  • skinnyminny

    Shadow Wolf,
    You’re so right! Again, if a minority does this, especially a black man, he would be labeled ‘a monster,’ and the media would make it worse by saying it’s the worse crime against humanity in our history.

    People need to be aware, that this group and the other so-called offshoot Mormon group really are racists, which includes Willard Mitt Romney. It wasn’t until the late 1980s or early 1990s that they even allowed blacks to join – or should I say attend they services. I’m willing to bet this is because of the money they were losing to other religious congregations. A reminder to those seeing those teens out in the community, the young guys with the shirt and tie are on ‘missions.’ These young kids have to pay for these missions, thousands of dollars of their own money, to pay for rent/food/transportation/travel…to me, this is another scam, these kids go out on their ‘missions,’ and they have to pay – a whole new crop coming from Canada, South Pacific (oh, these are the dark skinned) so it looks to me as if they are getting these kids as far away from home as possible. ***just saying, if these kids are paying, why can’t they just get a family to sponsor them like foreign student exchange and go to school, or get a student visa.

    I’m willing to bet, the group takes their passports (much like the human traffickers do), if they have them, otherwise, the very young ones from Canada are probably just slipped through the border.

  • Shadow Wolf

    Albeit, incestuous inbreeding among family members, creates various birth defects. It may never be known, that bedding down with as many as 78 “wives” on any given time, he’s risking the spread of STDs among his “wives”? I don’t think the use of condoms befits with their religious principles.

  • skinnyminny

    Jonas Rand,
    There is a moral issue with consensual polygamy, according to what these ‘religious freaks,’ tell their flock. Remember, ‘one man and one wife,’ they even tell them about the morals of this by rejecting the LGBT community.

    I laugh as you say there is a difference between polygamy…well, when you deal with people like this (Jeffs), I’m willing to bet it is more to it than to convince the women into these types of relationships – i.e. a sense of control by beating them down mentally and making them feel as if no one else will love them, and to be afraid of black men who will probably rape them… Like Jeffs, with this story about, ‘the black race….’ One thing I have noticed is these same people that continues to point the finger at blacks are shady at best. One comes to mind, Willard Mitt Romney, he keeps trying to disrespect the pres, when he just recently received a ‘mysterious,’ million dollar donation. A couple of years ago, he filed an insurance claim for a million+ claiming that someone broke into his vacation home and stole his wife’s jewelry (the jewelry was just laying out and around) – really? I also ‘think,’ he’s a beneficiary of public entitlements with his ‘Sober Living by the Sea,’ facilities in Orange County Califas most exclusive beach communities – which is for rehabilitation.

    But okay, I get it, you agree with and don’t think it’s wrong or against the law for polygamy or bigamy. Oh, I forgot, you’re only in the 9th grade, you see nothing wrong with these type of sexual escapades. I guess you are also unaware of the women involved in this were also receiving big public entitlements, i.e. foodstamps, something you do have a problem with when single poor women need this to feed their kids, but a man like Jeff’s that impregnant these young girls or they have husbands and live on their (church) compounds it’s okay that they get public entitlements – you don’t see this scam?

  • Jonas Rand

    The problem with the FLDS, as well as with “pre arranged marriages” and being forced to wear… anything (a burqa, Victorian dresses, or, as in some American cities, pants worn high on the waist) is lack of consent. Unless you are a fanatical weirdo, there is no moral issue with consensual polygamy. There is a difference between polygamy and being forced into marriage by virtue of having been raped.

    Religious freaks are indeed hypocrites most of the time.

  • skinnyminny

    Oh snap, this is organized crime at best.

    Lol! This is why I am sooo agnostic. These so-called religious groups complain about other countries that have pre-arranged marriages, incest, underage marriages – i.e. a teen marrying a very mature male, complain about women wearing the burqa’s yet, this group, their women dress in clothing from the 19th century! Hot damn, this just doesn’t get any funnier. ROTFLMAO. Wait a minute, these damn hypocrites. LOL!