Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The False Prophet: Warren Jeffs

Power Grab

Warren Jeffs, younger
Warren Jeffs, younger

Warren Jeffs' ascension to power was an unexpected surprise to those who knew him. Warren had been a principal of the FLDS-run Alta Academy outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, for 22 years prior to taking over the church. Former students remembered him as being a "goofy, lanky string-bean of a man with thick glasses who often clowned for the camera during school pictures," Mark Shaffer reported for the Arizona Republic.

However, in 1998 Warren's career as a principal came to an abrupt end when his father, Rulon T. Jeffs, 88, then leader of the FLDS, closed the school after having apocalyptic visions that the Salt Lake City area would be destroyed, Shaffer said. As a result, the family moved to Colorado City. At the time of the move, Rulon's health was beginning to decline.

Rulon Jeffs
Rulon Jeffs

Warren was one of around sixty siblings fathered by Rulon, yet he was singled out as a favorite from early on. He began taking on more responsibilities as sect leader as his father grew increasingly ill.  Then in 2002 at age 92, Rulon Jeffs, considered by followers to be an earthly manifestation of God, died as a result of a stroke. He was said to have left behind some seventy wives and ninety children.

Upon his father's death, Warren immediately took over leadership of the FLDS church, claiming that his father "anointed him on his deathbed as the sect's new leader," Shaffer reported. As the newly self-proclaimed prophet, Warren controlled one of the largest polygamists' sects in North America. Under his rule, the FLDS church would experience a drastic shift in ideals that was not welcomed by everyone in the community.

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