“The people grew so evil, the men started to marry the men and the women married the women. This is the worst evil act you can do, next to murder. It is like murder. Whenever people commit that sin, then the Lord destroys them.”
—Prophet Warren S. Jeffs
Last summer in Las Vegas, I visited an unsavory adult video bookstore. (So much for Las Vegas’ motto: “What happens here, stays here.”) At three in the morning, when getting back into my truck, I was approached by a young hustler. He was very scruffy, about 18 I suppose, and awfully young to be looking like a street person. When I told him I was not interested, he asked me if I was Mormon because of my Utah plates. I said ‘no’ and he sounded disappointed. I asked him if he was from Utah and he said he was from Hildale. Because it was late and I really was not looking for company, I didn’t want to spend much more time talking to him, but now I wish I had. It would only dawn on me later that Hildale is the Utah half of Colorado City, the polygamous community of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
I have some experience with polygamists. In the mid-70s a man by the name of Musser ran a copy print shop in the basement of the Union Building at the University of Utah, near the bowling alley. He was a polygamist with ties to Colorado City. In 1976 he had tried to convert a U of U co-ed to being one of his wives; she even went with him to visit Colorado City. I married this co-ed in 1977 and learned a lot of this secret society from her.
I was not really interested in polygamy. I didn’t really want to be married to one wife, let alone two or more. But over the years I met many who were of that persuasion. I once met some sons of Alex Joseph, founder of the Big Water, Utah polygamous enclave, while enjoying the luxury of the sauna in the U of U locker room. They told me of their life and beliefs while soaking in their own sweat. They were cute enough to make me want to convert, but I didn’t.
In the mid 1980s, after I came out of the closet, I met many more polygamists through my flirtation with the Libertarian Party of Utah. I swear that at one time every delegate to the state convention was either gay, a pothead or polygamous. Talk about strange bedfellows.
A brief sojourn with the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ also had me knowing my first lesbian polygamists. While many predicted that it would be the men who would first form polygamist unions in the church, it was actually the women. This arrangement of four women worked for about a year before they split and partnered off two-by-two.
I am the first to admit that I don’t believe homosexuals need to parrot the actions of heterosexuals and march onto an Ark two by two. I think gay people should be on the forefront of pioneering innovative relationships. But then I am from a hippie generation that believed in communes, open relationships, free love and Joanie Mitchell’s anthem, “We don’t need a piece of paper from the city hall keeping us tied and true.”
But I digress.
There are many, many, many “Restoration Churches” based on the teachings of an early 19th century man who used his charisma to convince people that men could have as many sexual partners as they wished as long as he gave them the authority to do so. This man was Joseph Smith, Jr. No matter what one’s personal feelings are about Smith’s character, it cannot be underemphasized that he was a genius — for good or bad. Many of the good citizens of Utah are here today because their grannies were convinced that God wanted their husbands to spread their seed from pillar to post so that they, too, could become Gods and exalt their wives as baby-making Goddesses.
Eventually, with the full weight of the federal government ready to confiscate all the LDS Church property, church leaders caved and said God really didn’t mean everyone had to be a polygamist to get into heaven after all. Some Mormons objected to this line of thought, so today Utah — well, okay, most of Western North America — contains splinter groups, each with their own prophet interpreting Joseph Smith’s revelation on celestial marriage.
I once knew one of these prophets from the LaBaron group that lived in a trailer park. A gay friend of mine was completely convinced this man had the true keys of the kingdom to seal and bind on earth in the name of God. People were, and often are, killed for less. Think Rulon Allred.
Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah were established by the largest fundamentalist Mormon group in order to avoid lawmen from each state jurisdiction, mainly by adherents of the FLDS Church.
The FLDS sect, like most of its counterparts (except for the Community of Friends, formerly the Reorganized LDS Church, and the Restoration Church of Jesus Christ, formerly the Church of Jesus Christ of All Latter Day Saints), frowns on homosexuality as an impediment to God’s desire to have humans procreate for all time and eternity. Strange, then, that homosexuality and male homosexual prostitution is often a common outcome for many of those ostracized from the FLDS faith.
In 2002, Warren Steed Jeffs claimed to be the Prophet Seer and Revelator and holder of the keys to the kingdom of God, inheriting the title from his father, Rulon Jeffs, after his death earlier that year. The younger Jeffs immediately married many of his father’s young wives (his step-mothers), and began to purge the church of dissenters and its excess male population.
Born in 1956, Jeffs has 56 known children by 40 wives, but court records allege that his sexual appetite goes beyond celestial heterosexuality. In July 2004, Warren Jeffs’ nephew, Brent Jeffs, filed a battery lawsuit, a child molestation lawsuit, a conspiracy lawsuit, a fraud lawsuit, and sodomy lawsuit against the prophet.
In another suit, filed in August 2004 in a Utah state court, more than a dozen young men alleged that Warren Jeffs and other FLDS leaders forced them to leave town to reduce competition for wives in that polygamist society. The suit alleges that Jeffs and the other leaders reduced the male population in the communities by “systematically expelling young males” from Colorado City and Hildale. Estimates of how many young men have been forced out of the communities range from 400 to 1000.
Warren Jeffs, in order to avoid the lawsuits, ordered the transfer of valuable church communal assets of the United Effort Plan, the financial holding company of the church, to FLDS insiders to shield the land and property from possible monetary judgments, according to pleadings filed by lawyers representing Brent Jeffs and the young men expelled from the enclave.
Brent Jeffs, now 21, maintains in his July 2004 suit that his uncle, Warren Jeffs, began to sodomize him when he was 5- and 6-years old. He accuses Warren and two other uncles, Blaine Jeffs and Leslie Jeffs, of raping him repeatedly in the basement of Alta Academy, an FLDS school in Salt Lake City where Warren was then principal. The suit alleges: “On repeated occasions the Jeffs Brothers would enter the basement room where the children were located, find [Brent Jeffs], and instruct him to come to a nearby lavatory. While in the lavatory, the Jeffs Brothers confronted [Brent] and instructed him to remove his clothes. After [Brent] undressed himself, one or more of the three defendants told him that it was God’s will that he submit to them. The Jeffs Brothers would take turns forcing their erect penises into [Brent’s] anus. Warren Jeffs told [Brent] that these sodomizing activities were a way for [Brent] to become ‘a man.’ Warren Jeffs admonished [Brent] that it was God’s will that [Brent] not tell anyone — particularly his parents — about said activities.” In fact, Warren Jeffs said Brent would be cast into hell if he revealed what was going on, the suit contends.
Despite Warren’s admonitions, complaints that Warren and his brothers were raping young boys did reach FLDS leaders, including Warren’s late father, then FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs. The suit says these complaints were ignored, thereby allowing Warren to portray himself to the community as a “chaste” and “honorable” religious leader. According to the suit, Warren Jeffs had been committing assaults on young boys since he was 14 years old. Brent Jeffs, the suit states, decided to break his silence in the aftermath of the January 2002 suicide of his brother, Clayne, who also was sexually assaulted by the three brothers.
Boys who grow up in Colorado City and Hildale are also victimized in other ways, according to lawsuits filed the following month. They have come to be known as the “Lost Boys.” Apparently, since the polygamists have trouble attracting new female recruits to their lifestyle, they have a demographic problem. There are not enough young women around to marry, therefore the men who are richer, more powerful, or with more standing within the church are being placated by Jeffs. To secure wives for these “better” FLDS polygamists, teenage boys are being forced out of the community for offenses such as watching movies, talking to girls and celebrating national holidays. Lawyers for six of the Lost Boys accused Warren Jeffs of conspiracy to purge surplus males from the community.
Many of these “Lost Boys,” some as young as 13, have allegedly been dumped on the side of the road in Arizona and Utah by FLDS leaders and told they will never go to heaven or see their families again.
The L.A. Times featured a story on the Lost Boys, calling them teenagers who are ostracized on trumped-up charges from the culturally-isolated FLDS polygamist sect because they provide competition for wives of older sect members. The Phoenix Republic ran a story back in 1999 on young boys from the FLDS community coming to Phoenix to work as male prostitutes just a few rundown blocks from downtown. In an area known as ‘‘Boys Town’’ near Margaret T. Hance Park, young men, aged 14 to 21, mostly homeless, perform sexual acts in alleys and back seats for as little as $5.
It seems that a lot of male prostitutes in Las Vegas are former members of polygamist communities. This news has made it to media outlets in the Las Vegas area, because with few skills that are marketable in the 21st century, the Lost Boys gravitate toward Las Vegas (the closest metropolitan area), where many devolve into prostitution.
Named as a defendant in these 2004 suits, the Prophet Jeffs did not respond to their allegations. His Salt Lake City attorney, Rodney Parker, withdrew from the cases last December. Jeffs’ failure to defend himself led to his removal as president of the United Effort Plan trust last June. That is when the Utah state court appointed Bruce Wisan as special fiduciary of the trust.
In June 2005, the Mohave County Attorney’s Office of Arizona obtained indictments against Warren Jeffs and seven other Colorado City men on charges of sexual misconduct for marrying underage women to much older men in spiritual but non-legal marriages. Warren Jeffs was stripped from the board that controls more than $100 million of property in Colorado City and neighboring Hildale and has been kept on the run by FBI agents. He has gone underground, last seen in Texas at his reclusive ranch.
Warren Jeffs is a slippery fellow because of the physical similarities among the many men in the Jeffs family. FBI agents in Salt Lake City thought they had Jeffs cornered at the city’s airport, but it turned out to be one of his nephews. Later, a surveillance photo from a Lehi, Utah sporting-goods store appeared to be a dead-ringer for Warren Jeffs. But it turned out to be his brother. However, the arrest of Warren’s brother Seth Jeffs in October marks the biggest break for law enforcement since the FBI placed fundamentalist Mormon prophet Warren Jeffs on its most-wanted list in August.
At three o’clock in the morning Oct. 28, a Colorado citizen telephoned the Pueblo Sheriff’s Office to report a suspected drunk driver traveling in a car straddling two lanes. A deputy responding to the tip spotted the late-model Ford Excursion going slowly through a stop sign and coming almost to a stop on U.S. 50. The deputy thought the driver might be lost and pulled the car over. The two men in the car, Seth Jeffs in the passenger seat and Nathaniel Steed Allred driving, told the deputy conflicting stories about where they were going. Now here comes the weird part. After questioning the occupants, Seth Jeffs and Allred were arrested for misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution and prostitution.
While no account confirms that Seth Jeffs and Allred were having sex while driving, the inferences are clear that they were. While the pair were initially stopped on suspicion of intoxication, Allred quickly told the deputy that Seth Jeffs, his uncle, was the vehicle owner and had paid him $5,000 for “sexual services.” The deputy had probably caught them in the act, which explains why the car was weaving, but why Allred admitted to accepting money for sex is mystifying. However, Colorado City historian Ben Bistline stated, “It’s not like we’re talking the brightest bulbs here,” referring to Jeffs and Allred.
Jeffs and Allred are 31- and 27-years old, respectively. An anonymous FLDS member, after hearing that Nathaniel Allred was accused of prostitution, wrote on an email site, “I knew Nathaniel Allred to be a fine young lad — one to be decent and responsible. It’s hard to imagine that he would wind up in something like that.”
After the pair were taken to jail, the Ford Excursion was impounded in Pueblo, Colorado, where a dog trained to smell narcotics indicated the presence of drugs in the car. The sheriff’s office released the pair with a summons and no drugs were found. What was found excited the sheriff even more. Inside the vehicle, police found $142,000 in cash, seven cell phones and several envelopes containing thousands of dollars of prepaid credit cards and phone cards, as well as a cash-filled donation jar bearing Warren Jeff’s picture with a label that read “Pennies for the Prophet.” It was the same photo used on wanted posters circulated by the FBI.
When the sheriff realized they had just released the brother of a wanted fugitive from jail, they contacted the FBI to assist in the investigation and obtained a warrant to open Warren Jeffs’ personal records. They recovered several hundred letters addressed to Warren from church members “relating to a variety of personal and FLDS matters.”
Several hours after his release, Seth Jeffs telephoned the sheriff’s office regarding the vehicle and its contents. He agreed to return to Pueblo from Castle Rock, Colorado, to discuss the status of the investigation.
When Seth Jeffs arrived at the sheriff’s department to talk about retrieving his car, Jeffs consented to a voluntary interview with the FBI and was subsequently arrested on the federal charge, according to an affidavit filed by Special Agent J. Andrew Stearns. Jeffs admitted to the FBI that he is Warren Jeffs’ younger brother and that he is aware that his brother is a federal fugitive. He claimed, however, to have no knowledge of Warren Jeffs’ whereabouts. Seth also told officers that neither he nor other church members would assist the search because, “It would be stupid to tell anyone where he is because he would get caught.”
Seth Jeffs was arraigned Oct. 31 in U.S. District Court in Denver and charged with concealing his older brother from arrest. The charge could bring a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The local prostitution-related charges still stand.
Seth Jeffs’ lawyer says his client was just taking the items in the car to a bishop of the FLDS church at the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, where members of the church are building a huge, four-story temple.
As for the Lost Boys, legislation billed as a way to help youths evicted from polygamous homes died in a Utah Senate logjam last year. However, on Nov. 9, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told Utah lawmakers that a bill that would allow a judge to emancipate a minor at age 16 is among his top priorities. Shurtleff told of hundreds of young men needing help after being cast out by their polygamous families in the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. “I’ve had kids in my office who have been kicked out of the community on trumped-up charges,” Shurtleff told Utah lawmakers. Rep. Roz McGee, D-Salt Lake City, stated that these youths have no way to finish school, get medical care, or live and work independently without permission from parents, who often refuse it.
While archconservative Gayle Ruzicka said her conservative Eagle Forum group is concerned the bill to emancipate teenagers might allow youths across the state to sever ties with their parents at times when they need parental guidance, the bill passed out of the committee anyway.