Polygamist Leader Warren Jeffs Dissolves Marriages While in Jail
Jeffs, 54, was convicted by a southern Utah jury in 2007 of two counts of first-degree felony rape as an accomplice.
Warren Jeffs is shown in his booking photo.
Now imprisoned polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has announced that all the marriages of his followers are voided. That means couples can't have sex until Jeffs gets out and reseals the vows.
A long-time follower of Jeff says he has been ex-communicated after admitting to having sex with his wife -- a violation of Jeff's order, apparently issued from behind bars.
The church member of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The report follows news that Texas officials are investigating whether Jeffs violated his prison phone privileges by calling his congregation with orders, according to CNN affiliate KSL-TV in Salt Lake City.
Jeffs, leader of the 10,000-member church, is serving a life-plus-20-year term in Texas for sexual assault. He was convicted in early August of the aggravated sexual assaults of a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl that Jeffs claimed were his "spiritual wives."
The television station, citing critics and observers, reported Friday that Jeffs has acted through his brother, Lyle, and at other times spoken directly to his congregation over the phone from prison.
He recently banned followers from using bicycles, ATVs, trampolines and children's toys, the station reported.
"Right now, they have all been told that they are not to live as husband and wife," Joni Holm, who has many relatives in the church, told the station.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a breakaway Mormon sect that openly practices polygamy in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, as well as on its Yearning For Zion ranch near Eldorado, Texas.
The mainstream Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
Holm told the station that her brother left the church three weeks ago because of the sex ban. She said he had been a follower of the church for 39 years.
"They're leaving," Holm said. "Groups of them are coming out. We're getting families that are coming out now. It's only going to get worse."
Many members have disavowed Jeffs over his criminal convictions, while others are defending him and casting his conviction on sexual assault charges as an act of persecution.
The follower who spoke to CNN said he does not practice polygamy. He added that although he was expelled from the church, his wife has decided to stay with him.
His family, he says, is very concerned about the ramifications of her decision.
If members have sex, any resulting children will be considered "sons of perdition," Holm said she was told. The parents will also be excommunicated, she said.