The behavior around Warren Jeffs's stronghold in Texas and among his remaining followers has been increasingly strange -- a no sex edict for most, numerous excommunications, a tower built and then demolished... Now come reports that people are relocating and concern is that it is tied to end of the world prophecies from the incarcerated leader. To my mind, the assembled reports indicate that FLDS is falling apart. Jeffs has lost control of his circumstances and is tightening his grip on those he still deems to be faithful. If there was ever a reason to fear a Jim Jones type incident, now is when I'd really start to worry.
Jeffs is being painted as a martyr and the loyalty of his followers is being called into question. At least that is the way I'd read the flyer that turned up in a school near the Utah, Arizona border. The flyer (above) asks of members, what are you doing about Jeffs's imprisonment? Observes Lindsay Whitehurst of the Salt Lake Tribune:
It reflects what people have been telling me about the message from FLDS leaders: Warren Jeffs is a martyr. He could be free if only the people's faith was strong enough.
. . .
That mind-set that turns any questions about Jeffs back on the doubter, and helps to turn people against each other.
What we're seeing now is a cult purge, as a rapidly decompensating Jeffs projects his shadow onto anyone he can blame for his self-destruction. The truly frightening question is what will he demand of his followers next as proof of their loyalty?
One of the key indicators that FLDS is in a fairly rapid decline is that it appears to be losing its financial footing. And it owes Willie Jessop $30M. Jessop, the former FLDS spokesman who fell out with the sect and became a very public critic, sued Jeffs and two other church leaders for breaking into his business. Similar attempts to intimidate apostates have included things like the recent torture killing of a kitten left on one Isaac Wyler's property. But the most alarming thing about Jessop winning the suit is that it was a default judgment. They never even mounted a defense. And they're continuing to ignore the problem, which may make it a tad difficult for Jessop to collect.
Things are a little different when the defendants are the secretive leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They’ve thus far ignored the suit, prompting a 5th District Court judge to grant Jessop the default judgment.
"Our belief is the leadership is moving assets around," James said Tuesday. In addition to the Warren Jeffs judgment entered July 26, Jessop has also won default judgments Jeffs’ brother Lyle Jeffs, who has been considered a leader in the sect’s border town home base of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah; and John Wayman, a top aide to Warren Jeffs thought to have succeeded Lyle Jeffs in leadership. They share legal responsibility for the $30 million judgment.
It's fairly clear that they don't think the law applies to them but they have to know on some level that the walls are closing in. And that's exactly how they're acting. They're constricting, consolidating, and withdrawing ever more from outside world. They recently stopped paying legal fees for two Colorado City officials charged with misuse of public funds, and left them to file as indigent. They may also be relocating their communities.
Last month members at the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas demolished a tower days after completing it. When I read about this at the time, about all I could say was, huh. Although I was rather struck by the Babel Tower imagery. But with other signs of relocation, I'm wondering now if the tower -- which to my eye is very obviously a watchtower -- was built because they thought they'd have to defend their position but have been directed to quit the area instead.
The Eldorado Success reported Wednesday a noticeable decrease in activity at the “Yearning For Zion” Ranch and other FLDS properties in the area. The newspaper reported liens have been filed against FLDS members for unpaid bills, and construction has picked up at other properties, including South Dakota and Colorado.
“It seems like there’s been kind of a gradual exodus from Texas,” said Sam Brower, author of “Prophet’s Prey” and a private investigator who works for lawyers suing the FLDS Church.
“They truly believe, and Warren has been telling them, that the end of the world is coming,” he told FOX 13. “And I believe that they’re preparing for that.”
The whole thing reeks of escalating paranoia. Jeffs is acting like a cornered rat and there's no telling what could happen next.