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 Rulon Jeffs 

During the year of 1945, John Y. Barlow felt inspired to add two more members to the Priesthood Council, Rulon Jeffs[1] and Guy Musser, expanding the number of members of the Council to nine.  Rulon Jeffs was born in 1909, the son of David W. Jeffs (1873-1953),[2] who began following John Y. Barlow and Joseph Musser in 1938.  When joining with the fundamentalists, Musser told Rulon that his Church baptism was valid and no additional baptism was required.[3]  Taking a plural wife in 1941 caused Rulon’s first wife to divorce him and quickly led to his excommunication from the Church.[4]  He expressed little concern, believing that he was doing what God instructed him to do.  Educated as an accountant, Rulon Jeffs passed the state examination in November of 1942, enabling him to find employment as a CPA.  Establishing a close friendship with members of the Council of Friends, he and Guy Musser were given responsibility on 24 September 1943, for “a banquet for members of the Priesthood Circle” with 31 present.[5]

Leroy Johnson’s death surprised many FLDS members.  He “had told people that he was going to live until Christ’s return at His Second Coming, that he would be here to turn the ‘Keys of Priesthood back to Him.’  He had set the date of this event to be in the year 1998,” but was apparently mistaken.[6]

With Uncle Roy’s passing, Marion Hammon was left as the Senior Member of the Priesthood Council that had been called by John Y. Barlow.  However, due to his dismissal from the Council in 1983 (along with Alma Timpson), Rulon Jeffs alone remained to lead the First Warders and to oversee the UEP.  Immediately Jeffs was revered as the “President of the Priesthood” and “Prophet, seer and revelator” to most of the fundamentalists in Colorado City.[7]  Rulon retained Johnson’s two counselors, Bishop Fred Jessop and Parley Harker,[8] but when asked about the “Priesthood Council” in 1989, Rulon simply replied, “I am it.”[9]  Reportedly, he once referred to the Council as a “seven-headed monster.”[10]

Being responsible for the temporal needs of the members of the UEP, Bishop Fred Jessop encouraged anyone who was eligible to take advantage of government assistance in the form of welfare and the WIC (woman-infant-child) programs.  Reportedly in 2003, “thirty-three percent of the town’s residents receive food stamps B compared to the state average of 4.7 percent” resulting in more than $6 million a year in public funds being funneled into the community of Colorado City, Arizona.[11]  Controversial author Jon Krakaur wrote: “Fundamentalists call defrauding the government ‘bleeding the beast’ and regard it as a virtuous act.”[12]

Leroy Johnson’s taught: “We are not trying to set up another church or to set the Church in order.”[13] However, in response to a disagreement with members of the UEP, the Johnson/Jeffs group (the “First Ward”) officially registered their religious organization, calling themelves “The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (note the lack of a hyphen in Latter-Day and the capitalization of “Day”) or FLDS Church in 1991 with Jeffs as President.[14]

In the early 1990s a law suit was brought against the UEP by members who had left fundamentalism and were subsequently evicted from their homes, which they had built on UEP property.  After several years and millions of dollars in legal fees, the Utah Supreme Court decided: “The UEP could not evict an occupant without reimbursing him for his improvements.  The occupant could not deed or bequeath his interest to a third party.  When the occupant died, the improvement became the property of the UEP.”[15]

During the 1990s, Rulon Jeffs maintained his residency in Salt Lake City on a large estate at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon.  His home, complete with a massive living room capable of accommodating several hundred for Sunday meetings, contained its own baptismal font and “a restaurant style kitchen served the mealtime needs for [his] family.”[16]  There the FLDS Church maintained a youth education facility called the “Alta Academy.”  Jeffs would often fly by small plane directly to Colorado City landing near the city on a modern airstrip that was constructed with government funding. 


Awaiting the Millennium in the Year 2000 

The population of the combined cities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah in 2000 included over 5200 people.[17] The new millennium held special significance for FLDS members due to the prophesies of  Leroy S. Johnson, which indicated that the millennium would begin with the turn of the century.  In 1984 he prophesied: “The redemption of Zion, according to our reckoning, and according to the revelations of God, is to commence in the seventh period of time.  According to our reckoning, that seventh period of time is only about sixteen years off B the year 2000.”[18]  He also predicted:  “We only have until the year 2000 to do this work, and the Prophet Joseph, the one mighty and strong, will take over, and carry this Gospel to the world.”[19]  “As to the year 2000, there will be a period of peace upon this continent for a thousand years.”[20]  “According to our time, the Millennium, the seventh period of time, is to commence about fourteen years from now [2-26-86].”[21]

Writer John Llewellyn penned:  “On three occasions before Rulon Jeffs died, he called a select 2500 from his 10,000 members and instructed them to buy food and clothes and prepare to be lifted up.  A plot of ground had actually been set aside designating the exact place of the gathering and expectant lifting.  Before and after the ‘lifting up’ the faithful would need food and clothes.  The utmost faithful purchased food in loyal anticipation, but the day before each gathering, Rulon called it off with the excuse that the Lord was giving them more time.”[22]

The last of these three occasions occurred on 12 June 1999, a date set by Rulon Jeffs.  “When the day came, the people gathered in the parking lot of the LSJ Meeting house at 6:00 a.m.”  After an opening song and prayer, the group was addressed by one of their leaders.  Then “everyone formed a prayer circle and held hands as a prayer was said.  Forming a procession, they then made their way to Cottonwood Park, a distance of about two blocks, and engaged in a day long celebration.  During the day, people went to the store to buy a supply of groceries to take with them.  However, before the day ended, word came down from the prophet [Rulon Jeffs] that the people lacked the faith for this event to take place.  They were told that another date would be set for it to happen, thus giving them a little more time to repent.”[23] 

Rulon Jeffs Passes On

In 2002 Rulon Jeffs died at age 92 having married at least nineteen women and fathered at least sixty children.  While Rulon’s son Warren had been called as “First Counselor” in the FLDS First Presidency in 1998, no formal replacement for Rulon as “President of Priesthood” had been designated or ordained.  Neither Leroy Johnson nor Rulon Jeffs had called any new members of the Council of Friends (Priesthood Council) during their respective tenures as “senior member” of the Council.  This apparent lapse was based, at least in part, upon the feeling that Rulon Jeffs would never die.  He had told his followers on several occasions that he would live long enough to witness the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and that he would then personally turn his priesthood keys over to the Savior.[24] 

Regardless, Warren Jeffs was soon functioning in all the duties of the FLDS Church President and was later acknowledged as such.[25]  On 5 August 2003, Warren Jeffs was formally ordained Church President by his brother LeRoy Jeffs (whom Warren had just previously ordained Church Patriarch).[26]  Having also inherited his father’s position as President of the UEP, Warren Jeffs wielded complete control both spiritually and temporally in Colorado City. 

[1]    Rulon Jeffs was ordained 20 April 1945. Jeffs, “Deposition 4-5 April 1989,” 19.

[2]    See obituary in Truth 19:94-95 (August 1953).

[3]    Jeffs, “Deposition 4-5 April 1989,” 112.

[4]    Zoellner, “Rulon Jeffs.”

[5]    Musser Journals, 24 September 1943.

[6]    Bistline, Colorado City Polygamists, 154.

[7]    Jeffs, “Deposition 4-5 April 1989,”  15.

[8]   Ibid., 18.

[9]    Ibid., 89.

[10]    Zoellner, “Rulon Jeffs.”

[11]    Jon Krakauer, Under the Banner, 12-13.  In 1993, one Utah State Department of Social Services employee estimated that through her office, “300 polygamous families receive from between $500 and $1600 worth of food stamps each month for families with an average of 15 members.”  She further explained: “The attitude of some polygamists is ‘the government is untrustworthy and corrupt, and I’m above it B but give me those food stamps and free medical care.’“ (Carolyn Campbell, “ Inside Polygamy in the ‘90s,” 102.)  For scriptural commentary see D&C 75:28, 1 Tim. 5:8.

[12]    Krakauer, Under the Banner, 13.  See also Chynoweth, Blood Covenant, 46-47; Melissa Merrill, Polygamist’s Wife, 64; Daynes, More Wives Than One, 210-11.

[13]    “We are not trying to set up another church or to set the Church in order, but we are trying to prepare a people that the Lord can use to set His House in order when the one mighty and strong shall come.”  LSJ Sermons 1:65.

[14]    Quinn, “Plural Marriage,” 1998, 14, fn. 41.  Jeffs taught that the FLDS Church had been known as the “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints... for at least 40 years.”  (“Deposition 4-5 April 1989,” 15.)

[15]    Llewellyn, Polygamy Under Attack, 25.

[16]    Mackert, Sixth of Seven Wives, 266-67.

[17]    One estimate made three years later put the number closer to 9000.  Krakauer, Under the Banner, 10.

[18]    LSJ Sermons 7:337.  See also 7:330, 342, 374, 388, 393 etc.

[19]    Ibid., 7:402.

[20]    Ibid., 7:404.

[21]    Ibid., 7:465.

[22]    Llewellyn, Polygamy Under Attack, 155.

[23]  Bistline, Colorado City Polygamists, 188.

[24]  Bistline, Colorado City Polygamists, 189.  “Uncle Rulon had told us God revealed to him that his body would be renewed.  His 67 mostly young wives, yearning for motherhood, would have children, and that he would live an additional 350 years into the millennium.  He said he would be our last and only living prophet.  That is why he didn’t ordain any more apostles.”  (From an anonymous letter sent 15 January 2004 to residents of Colorado City.  Ibid., 203.)

[25]   “Warren Jeffs New Head of Fundamentalist Church,”  Associated Press/28 November 2002.

[26]  Bistline, Colorado City Polygamists, 195.