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For years, Warren Jeffs has openly led his polygamist Mormon sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), in complete defiance of state laws. Now, however, Jeffs has been indicted for two felonies: sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. If convicted, Jeffs could face jail time.
Warren Jeffs is accused of arranging a marriage between a 28-year-old married man and a 16-year-old female minor. According to former members of the FLDS, this is hardly an unusual occurrence. According to attorney Robert Hoole, who represents many victims of Jeffs’ sect, “Not only are [women] usually commanded to marry an older man not of their choosing, but they are often commanded to marry as underage girls with less than one day's notice” Salt Lake Tribune 6/11/2005
Because of abuses such as these, the law enforcement authorities in Utah and Arizona have long kept the FLDS under observation. Allegations of sexual abuse and forced marriage abound, but criminal charges are seldom filed. But this time the authorities feel confident that they have a case they can prosecute.
However, there is a complication: Warren Jeffs has not been seen for over a year. Some believe Jeffs is hiding on an FLDS-owned ranch in Texas, but this remains unconfirmed. Efforts to locate Jeffs and serve him with court papers have so far been unsuccessful, but Arizona authorities are hoping to get Texas to cooperate and arrest the sect leader.
The practice of forcing teenage girls to enter arranged polygamous marriages is not the only oppressive practice of this offshoot of Mormonism. Jeffs also controls the United Effort Plan, a $100,000,000-plus trust fund, that owns the majority of real estate in the FLDS-dominated towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. Because Jeffs essentially owns all the homes in these towns, former members say he can-and does-evict families to punish them.
Another abusive practice is the forced exile of hundreds of teenage boys, some as young as 13. “Jeffs has expelled hundreds of adolescent boys from their FLDS homes … Called the ‘Lost Boys,’ they are not only pushed out, but are considered apostates, damned to Hell, and deprived of any relationship with or support from their families“ Salt Lake Tribune 6/11/2005
The "Lost Boys" are banished for a number of reasons: going to movies, listening to secular music, wearing short-sleeved shirts, watching television, having a girlfriend, etc. The ex-members and state authorities give a different reason, though: reduction of the male population. Because the FLDS teaches that a man must have three wives in order to reach the highest level of exaltation, there is fierce competition over the marriageable women within the sect.
Exiling young men helps solve this problem, but in turn creates deeper issues. When a boy is banished from the community, he may have no contact with his parents, and violation of this rule can result in the parents’ eviction from their FLDS-owned home and excommunicated from the sect. As for the “Lost Boys” themselves, they must find some way to survive in the outside world—a world their poor education and cult indoctrination has left them ill-equipped to understand AP 6/11/05; LA Times 6/13/2005