SALT LAKE CITY — Utah commerce officials issued a partial ruling Thursday in the dispute over control of Warren Jeffs' Utah-based polygamous church.
The Division of Corporations said Jeffs will remain president of the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, the legal entity that holds the business and property assets of the Fundamentalist LDS Church.
But the agency made no decision on who is considered the head of the Corporation of the President, a separate entity embodied by the faith's religious leader, who is considered a prophet.
Jeffs has held both offices since 2002, but in March church Bishop William E. Jessop filed papers with the state agency seeking to take over the church from the jailed Jeffs.
Commerce officials said they will never determine who is president of the church but still must determine who has the authority to make changes to the principals for either church corporation.
State officials say letters have been sent to Jeffs and Jessop asking them to resolve the matter by obtaining a court order or jointly submitting a signed and notarized document stating an agreement.
The state officials set an Aug. 3 deadline for receiving the information.
Church attorney Rod Parker, who represents the church in civil matters, declined to comment and said he had not been directly involved with the leadership dispute.
Jessop's primary concern is a resolution that reflects the will of the FLDS people, numbering some 10,000, said his attorney Mark Thomas.
"Ultimately we would hope there would be an agreement acknowledging William E. Jessop as the rightful president of both" corporations, said Thomas, who is considering taking the issue to court.
Both sides have already filed numerous documents with the state seeking to legitimize their right to control the church.
Jessop, 41, claims he was ordained to the post by the church's previous prophet, Warren Jeffs' father Rulon Jeffs.
Warren Jeffs, 55, has maintained since 2002 that he was called by his father to lead the church. Affidavits from other church leaders filed over the past five weeks also claim at least 4,000 church members have sworn their allegiance to Jeffs.
Commerce officials say Jessop failed to prove he was authorized to make changes to the Corporation of the Presiding Bishop, so the office defaulted to Jeffs, who was listed on state documents since February.
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