A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch—Part 2 of 3

By November 21, 2017

See Part I of this series on the YZR by Craig Foster, Newel Bringhurst, and Brian Hales HERE

A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch—Part 2 of 3

Our next stop brought us to the homes of Warren Jeffs, one he had lived in and one built for him after his incarceration.

The office and entrance of Jeffs’ older home were unimpressive. The house was filled with bedrooms and two kitchens. Around forty-five of Jeffs’ estimated eighty-plus wives lived in the house.[1]

In the corner of the building opposite of Jeffs’ office we discovered a sub-apartment area with his spacious bedroom. Within its confines was a narrow stairway providing either a quick escape option or clandestine access by persons entering the house by a relatively unknown back door on the lower level.

 

Jeffs newer house was more of a very large dormitory and was built in response to a challenge he issued from prison. He promised in the name of the Lord that if the structure was completed within a specific time, he would be miraculously freed from jail and would be able to return and live in the new home. This was similar to what he promised Short Creek residents, that if they finished a three-home walled complex in Hildale before New Year’s day 2012, he would be miraculously be freed from prison and would be able to return and live there. A former FLDS member in Short Creek told how the men on the complex there worked around the clock to the point of exhaustion in order to finish the houses by the assigned date. Jeffs came up with an excuse to why the prison walls had not come crumbling down and, of course, it had been the members’ fault.[2]

This three level structure had perhaps 50 bedrooms, each with a bathroom and closet apparently designed for plural wives. In one corner of the H-shaped structure were two levels partitioned as a sort of apartment. There were six rooms for plural spouses besides a much larger bedroom. Behind a set of shelves in the adjoining closet was a hidden safe.

Around the corner from this master bedroom was a special room with mood lighting and a dome ceiling. A raised area in the center and Jeffs’ documented behaviors spawned speculations it was a special room for consummating marriages and holding celestial comfort sessions with his “heavenly comfort wives.”[3]

 

We visited other houses and noticed another hidden room.

We visited the schoolroom where Texas authorities first conducted interviews and took DNA samples. Our Ranger escort commented that he did not have pleasant memories of the school. When asked why they had selected the school he explained they had been directed there by FLDS leaders so they really had no choice. Part of the unpleasant memories was how uncooperative ranch residents tried to move underage brides and other children from one house to another as they were being searched. The young wives often tried to mislead officers about themselves and officers felt overwhelmed by the number of people they had to deal with. They had entered the ranch assuming there were about 400 people and eventually found out there were around 1,200. Almost the number of residents in nearby El Dorado.

In the school building and in homes we found evidences of constant teaching. The headboard of the bed of one of Jeffs’ wives has a variation of the phrase both Rulon Jeffs and his son, Warren, often used, “keep sweet.” The headboard encouraged this wife to “keep sweeter and sweeter.” There were also other words of encouragement and reminder.

The temple annex was more of an office building with offices on the second floor.

Just a week before the April 2008 raid by Texas law enforcement, hundreds of boxes containing marriage records had been transferred, probably from Colorado City, Arizona, to be stored in a secure vault of the Temple Annex.

Due to time constraints (from the three-day expiration of the search warrant), instead of breaking into the safe, they tunneled through the wall seen behind the Ranger. It has since been repaired.

Also there were a couple of levels of the annex dedicated for use as a printing establishment for FLDS books and other publications. The Ranger explained that, tellingly, as they entered the temple annex, they found men shredding documents and others did their best to hide documents but did a poor job of it and ended up only calling attention to themselves and their efforts to hide documents.

 

Our most intriguing stop was at the FLDS Temple, which is covered in part 3 of “A Visit to the Yearning for Zion Ranch.”

For more information regarding Rulon and Warren Jeffs, the FLDS and the beginnings of Mormon Fundamentalism, see Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster, eds., The Persistence of Polygamy: Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy from 1890 to the Present (Independence, Missouri: John Whitmer Books, 2015). See also Brian C. Hales, Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto, Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2006.

 

[1] Craig L. Foster, “Plural Wives of the Mormon Fundamentalist Leaders,” in Newell G. Bringhurst and Craig L. Foster, eds., The Persistence of Polygamy: Fundamentalist Mormon Polygamy from 1890 to the present (Independence, Missouri: John Whitmer Books, 2015), 501-502. While approximately eighty-four wives are identified, it has been estimated that Jeffs may have had over one hundred wives.

[2] Craig L. Foster, “Proclamations and Prophecies from a Prison Cell: How Warren Jeffs Continues to Control the FLDS,” 2015 Annual Utah State History Conference, copy in authors’ possession.

[3] Lindsay Whitehurst And Nate Carlisle, “Jeffs tells girls to cooperate with sister wives, including in sex, tape reveals,” The Salt Lake Tribune, August 3, 2011, http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=52310537&itype=CMSID, accessed October 30, 2017.

 

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. […] See Part I here and Part II here. […]

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