Warren Jeffs has been getting a lot attention lately, and I don't think it's the kind he likes. A recent CNN special focused on two of his adult children, both of whom claim he molested them when they were very young. This weekend Showtime will premiere Prophet's Prey, a documentary about the FLDS leader. Jeffs continues to maintain strict control of his empire from behind prison walls.
The revelations from Becky and Roy Jeffs are harrowing, but not terribly surprising. It's been clear to outside observers, for some time, that Jeffs is an out-of-control sexual predator. All I could think watching this show was that Roy, in particular, needs serious intervention. All other implications aside, these are sex abuse survivors and their wounds are evident.
There is little more that can be done to corral Warren Jeffs. Barring the kind of divine intervention Jeffs is counting on, he will be spending the rest of his days behind bars for his molestation of underage "celestial wives." But, imprisonment has not loosened his grip on the FLDS. He's effectively put them all in prison, making them suffer as he is suffering, on a beans and water diet, and holding them accountable for his incarceration. Like so many cult leaders, Jeffs seems to see his membership as extensions of his own ego.
A while ago, I posted this screenshot of a completely bizarre statement from Teal Bosworth Scott Swan to her "tribe."
For Cameron this comment of teal's evoked a comparison to Hitler's eugenics program. But, my first thought, when I read this quote, was Warren Jeffs. In truth, I suppose control of procreation, and of women's bodies, is a pretty common theme with authoritarian cults and regimes.
As I wrote here, Jeffs decreed several years ago that only a select group of men would be allowed to have sexual congress with the women of their choosing. The images that this horrible scenario evoked in my mind, as it turns out, pale in comparison to the reality.
First obtained by the Salt Lake Tribune, a child custody petition filed in a St. George, Utah, juvenile court by Lyle Jeffs' estranged wife Charlene Jeffs describes a group of followers called "seed bearers." "A seed bearer is an elect man of a worthy bloodline chosen by the Priesthood to impregnate the FLDS woman," according to Charlene Jeffs' petition. Under a new doctrine, "FLDS men are no longer permitted to have children with their multiple wives. That privilege belongs to the seed bearer alone," the petition said. "It is the husband's responsibility to hold the hands of their wives while the seed bearer 'spreads his seed.' In layman terms, the husband is required to sit in the room while the chosen seed bearer, or a couple of them, rape his wife or wives," according to the document.
. . .
[Sam] Brower said he was able to confirm similar reports of "seed bearers" through his own sources. "It's ritualistic procreation," Brower said, "performed on a ritualistic bed-slash-altar." As part of this new system, Warren Jeffs has withheld any relationships between husbands and wives, Brower said. Any touching between spouses outside rituals like these, even a simple handshake, can now be considered adultery in the church.
It might even be worse than Margaret Atwood's dystopian vision in The Handmaid's Tale.
There is something distinctly horrible about the ritualization of rape.
Even as the general public is learning more and more about the sickening cruelty of Warren Jeffs, his membership is becoming more consolidated and controlled.
“They’ll never hear it, first of all,” Brower told The Daily Beast. “I mean, they’re not going to be out watching CNN. They can’t watch TV, they can’t read books, they can’t listen to the radio or they won’t. They’ve been commanded not to and they won’t.”
Brower added that “at best, and this is really rare, they may hear rumors that are presented to them as bitter apostates fighting against God and the prophet.”
While there has been significant attrition since Jeffs's conviction – Brower estimates about 1,000 "apostates" – active membership is about 10,000 strong. They are extremely devoted/brainwashed.
Brower also shared a portion of an email he had obtained, written by an active FLDS member to an ex-FLDS member who had attempted to share news of Jeffs’s past conviction, as an example of the allegiance that the imprisoned religious leader inspires.
“You seem to have devoted your life and efforts to destroy Warren, cataloging all of the news media and statements of the disaffected apostates that would validate your cause,” the email read. “But more importantly, as you try to convince me of the wrongdoings of others, you solidify my testimony that you are an advocate of Satan.”
That seems familiar somehow. Oh, right.