Last year at this time, self-described prophet Warren Jeffs was predicting the end of the world. According to eight revelations he issued from a jail cell at the beginning of December 2011, divine vengeance was slated to fall upon a nation “fully ripening in iniquity.” Earthquakes were to rock Arizona, and “melting fire” was supposed to roll out across Idaho.
This year? Jeffs is predicting the same demise, only this time compliments of the geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Once they blow their tops, it’s the end for all humankind.
“By December 23rd, [the world is] going to have ended,” former FLDS member Isaac Wyler, who has seen the revelation, told KUTV in Salt Lake City. Jeffs told his followers to prepare grey or blue backpacks, of a certain size, and pack them with essentials to be ready to go when God calls them, Wyler said.
Jeffs, 56, is the imprisoned head of a sizeable Mormon breakaway polygamous sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). He became a fugitive in 2005, after he was charged with conspiracy to commit rape for arranging a marriage between an unwilling 14-year-old girl and her 17-year-old cousin, and then pressuring the girl to have sex with the young man. He was arrested more than a year later, and convicted of two rape conspiracy charges, drawing two terms of five years to life in prison.
Then, in a separate trial last year, he was convicted of raping his 12-year-old “spiritual bride,” as well as sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl. Evidence of those attacks turned up in 2008, when Texas authorities raided an FLDS compound in the town of El Dorado, and included a document in which the supposed prophet of God wrote, “If the world knew what I was doing, they would hang me from the highest tree.” He was sentenced to two life terms in that case.
While his sentence means he will never be released from prison, Jeffs has not let his influence on his followers in Texas, nor in an area along Arizona’s border with Utah known as Short Creek, diminish. He has delivered countless disruptive prophecies and revelations. He has banished dance, play for children, even required every FLDS church member to take a full accounting of every item in their homes. The reasons why are unknown.
But all that aside, the end of the year still seems to bring surprises.
“December is a pretty big month for Warren. He routinely has some kind of end-of-the-world judgment type thing going on,” said Sam Brower, a private investigator whose research into Jeffs and the FLDS was detailed in the book Prophet’s Prey. “It’s his way of keeping his people stirred up and paranoid and scared, and that fear is how he maintains control of them.”
There is something peculiar about Jeffs’ end-of-the-world proclamation this year, though, especially when many professional doomsday watchers have been focused on the end of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012 — Friday — as the end of the world. Jeffs’ date this year is two days later. (Apparently Jeffs doesn’t disagree with the Mayans. They just got the date wrong.)
The prophecy this year also comes as the FLDS experiences continued legal problems. The Justice Department is suing the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. –– the towns that make up Short Creek –– for discriminating against non-FLDS members, and a recent court ruling has cleared the way for Utah to determine the future of church’s immense property trust, known as the United Effort Plan.
Wyler, the former FLDS member, worries that with those events as a backdrop, Jeffs’ prophecy this year is particularly worrisome, especially if it passes and he blames his followers for a lack of faith.
“There’s always that fear that Warren would see how far he could take them,” Wyler said. He added ominously, “I’ve got a brother-in-law who once told my sister, ‘If the prophet told me to, I’d slit your throat without even thinking about it.’”