Jun 21, 2017

On the Edge: A tale of two bishops

Ed Kociela
St George News
June 20, 2017

OPINION – When the law finally caught up with Warren Jeffs, he was riding high in the back of a new Cadillac Escalade with his favorite wife at his side and one of his brothers behind the wheel.

He had four computers, 16 cell phones, three wigs, 12 pairs of sunglasses, was dressed in tourist’s clothes and carrying a wad of $55,000 in cash.

When his brother Lyle Jeffs was picked up by the cops last Wednesday near the Lewis & Clark Marina in Yankton, South Dakota, he was alone and living in a silver Ford F-150 pickup truck. He had just pawned two Leathermen tools for $37 and was several hundred miles from an FLDS compound in Pringle, South Dakota.

When Warren Jeffs was on the run, he had safe houses, deep pockets and a network of true believers willing to risk all to keep him from capture.

Lyle Jeffs?

On the lam for almost a year, Lyle was down on his luck, running out of money and had few options, according to reports.

Thomas Jeffs, Lyle’s oldest child, said it was a grim existence.

“He had nobody. He had nothing. He became a desperate man,” Thomas said of his father during an interview with KUTV.

The former bishop of Short Creek was on his own, cast out from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by his brother Warren shortly after making his escape from house arrest near Salt Lake a year ago.

Lyle Jeffs’ legal woes are legion.

Besides the federal fraud and money laundering charges he faces for food stamp violations and such, he has also been found in default of payments decreed by the courts for his role in the use of unpaid, underage workers assigned to gathering pecans at a local farm.

While it is no surprise that this chapter of the FLDS saga is closed, it does offer a remarkable study in cult mind control, the kind of brainwashing that allows a man who has been sentenced to a life-plus sentence in a Texas prison for unspeakable crimes against young girls to still run a church that has played the system for years and thumbed its nose at the law for even longer.

That it was accomplished in Utah is a prime factor, where the fundamentalist view of Mormonism is still a hush-hush part of the culture; where despite revelations and directives to the contrary, the old ways are still a part of a church that has had conflicting and, at times, contradicting, doctrine over the years.

There is a part of me that was surprised that Lyle Jeffs was found alive because there are still some odd things going on between the various polygamous cults in Utah, and there was something eerie about Lyle’s attorney telling a judge, when appearing in court after Lyle escaped from his ankle monitor and house arrest, that perhaps he was part of “The Rapture.”

Knowing about Lyle’s past, I seriously doubt he would be lifted up with the righteous and, well, if you look around, we still have some fairly decent souls among us who would certainly hold a ticket for a seat on that bus.

There won’t be many tears shed for Lyle Jeffs, at least not from this corner.

From what I have been told, he was no different than his brother in the way he ran the FLDS community.

He was just as ill-spirited in his judgments as Warren, ripping families apart and reassigning wives and children if he was displeased and continuing the fraudulent practices of food stamp and government assistance ripoffs that he and 10 other church members were arrested and charged with in 2016.

The others all got off with a slap on the wrist. None was sentenced to jail time, ordered to have court supervision or required to make restitution.

The court will most assuredly not be so lenient with Lyle Jeffs.

He was always the principal target of the investigation and, his year on the run will surely add other charges that will see him spending time in a federal lockup.

Recently, the FBI issued a statement that they believed Lyle was receiving little support from the FLDS community, that his standing was diminished as a result of a falling out with his brother Warren, who stripped him of his position as bishop of Short Creek.

The reason for the falling out was never revealed, but the word from those close to the community is that Lyle got a little too greedy – there is reportedly a lot of cash lying around – and that he also became too power hungry and may have had some unkind words about his brother Warren.

You don’t dis the prophet and hold onto your standing, not in the FLDS church, which is why most I have talked to have said they believe Lyle was stripped of his authority.

There has been a lot of speculation about what this all means.

Probably not much.

While it is true a number of FLDS families have left the Short Creek area, that does not mean the number of FLDS faithful has diminished.

In fact, now that there are two martyrs in the system, it could solidify long-standing faith and beliefs.

Short Creek, which is home to the twin cities on the state line – Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona – is not the only place where the FLDS has a community. There are several in Colorado, there is the Pringle compound in South Dakota, a few sites in northern Utah and also a couple of communities in western Canada where they could make new homes.

So while the Southern Utah group may seem diminished or changing somewhat, it does not, by any means, indicate the collapse of the FLDS church or its polygamous community.

And, as we have seen, Warren Jeffs will remain in firm control of its destiny.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.


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