HILDALE, Washington County — Rumors are flying about a new edict that sources say was issued from a Texas prison by polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs.
He has reportedly chosen 15 men to father all future children born to faithful members of his church.
Reports of Jeffs' new rules are second and third hand and remain unconfirmed by leaders of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. The reports are coming from outside sources who, in the past, have generally provided reliable information on the inner-workings of the FLDS Church. They acknowledge, however, that they have received only sketchy, unverified accounts.
Former FLDS member Isaac Wyler said he heard that the new rules were explained to lower ranking church members at a Sunday meeting two weeks ago. "They said there had been 15 men delegated or designated by God to sire the new, special children," Wyler said.
If the reports are true, it's one of the most bizarre twists yet as Jeffs attempts to maintain control over nearly 10,000 followers, most of whom live in the twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
Late last year, Jeffs reportedly instructed his followers that sex was forbidden, even between married people, at least temporarily. That's because existing marriages in the group were considered invalid and needed to be re-solemnized by Jeffs himself.
Jeffs, however, is serving a life prison sentence in Texas for child sexual assault stemming from two young followers he took as brides. He won't be eligible for parole until he is at least 100 years old.
Now the faithful are apparently being asked to accept the resumption of sex, but only by a select few.
Private investigator Sam Brower, who wrote a best-selling book called "Prophet's Prey," said relatives of faithful members also told him about the 15-men edict. "These men are now breeding stock, essentially," Brower said, "and it's their assignment to breed with the women in town."
The new practices seem to reflect a sharp push toward hard work and rigid social rules in the group.
Last year, Jeffs banned most toys and recreational equipment. In Hildale and Colorado City, there are vivid reminders of that strict policy. Church leaders blockaded one set of basketball courts with huge bales of cardboard. At another court, they blocked it with fences and took down the basketball hoops.
"They did that because Warren doesn't want people playing ball any more, of any kind," said Wyler, who still lives in the community even though he left Jeffs' church several years ago.
According to the second- and third-hand reports circulating among outside critics, most men in the group will remain under the no-sex ban. Their wives, though, will be made available to the 15 chosen men.
Brower said husbands will become "caretakers" for their families, earning a living for their wives and for children fathered by others.
"The sex act itself is going to be a priesthood ordinance," Brower explained, "which is witnessed and carried out by these 15 men."
According to Brower's sources, FLDS members were told during the meeting two weeks ago that if they had any reservations about the new edict, they should leave the meeting and await further discussion. At least 200 reportedly got up and left, Brower said. He doesn't believe that means they all intend to leave the group. Brower believes church leaders plan to hold individual counseling sessions with those members who have reservations about the new arrangements.
Wyler said he remains baffled by the loyalty of Jeffs' followers. "I've still got brothers and sisters that are caught up in this thing," Wyler said. "And they're buying this stuff. I can't imagine how, but they are."
Efforts to reach church leaders were unsuccessful. Calls were not returned by Rod Parker, a long-time attorney for the FLDS Church, nor by Nathan Jessop who is listed in recent FLDS documents as the church's designated contact.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company