Warren’s Been Convicted

I’ve struggled with how to respond to the conviction of Warren Jeffs. All of the things I want to say I believe will anger my LDS audience (which further angers me). So I think I will leave it at this:

I’m glad justice was done.

Leave your thoughts on the conviction below.

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31 thoughts on “Warren’s Been Convicted

  1. I don’t think the evidence was sufficient enough to convict him. That said, I think the evidence for the 8 counts against him in Arizona is more than sufficient.

  2. I think it was inevitable that Jeffs would be convicted, because of the nature of the case. Of course this all brings back memories of my in depth study into Mormon history, Joseph’s many young brides, the accusation of bigotry by the accused, the persecution complex, etc., etc.. History is repeating itself, and it’s very likely to repeat itself once again (Jeffs becoming some kind of religious hero like Smith did when going to jail and facing such “persecution” from the accusers).

    That being said, I think the outcome of the case is unjust. I believe that ALL rapists should get life in prison, but that isn’t the case…they might get a few years, a slap on the wrist, or whatever, but NEVER life in prison. So why should Jeff’s who was only an accomplice be sentenced to life in prison? It’s because it is a high profile case, and likely because of where the trial was — UTAH!. Utah is to the FLDS as Missouri was to the original LDS. Granted, there is plenty more evidence in AZ to give the guy a very just life sentence (as Christopher pointed out), but I think the people in Utah (mainly those who are members of you-know-where) are trying to prove a point, and this unbalanced treatment is unjust, in my opinion. Little do most of those jurors know that Jeff’s behavior very closely parallels the behavior of their beloved prophet.

  3. So here’s my issue. What’s worse? Forcing a 14 year old girl to marry a 19 year old man OR forcing a 14 year old girl to marry a 39 year old man? The justification for both is “because God said so”. If you justify either action you’re saying God’s cool with underage girls getting forced into marriage.

    As far as I can tell Warren was just following the prophetic model Joseph Smith set up. If you don’t like what Warren has done, why would you like that Joseph did it?

  4. I do think Jeffs represents a danger, however removing him will not really change the situation.

    Here is my off the wall opinion, if Jeffs is prosecuted, what is happening to the pimps, men who have extra-marital affairs, etc… other men who do the same things without calling it a religion. Those who are also guilty should also face similar punishment.

    I do NOT agree with polygamy and the way it is currently practiced among the FLDS.

  5. I do NOT agree with polygamy and the way it is currently practiced among the FLDS.

    Honest question. How is it substantially different than how it was practiced by Joseph Smith and Brigham Young?

  6. I thinkit’s a perfectly legitimate question. To me, there’s no difference at all, without whitewashing Joseph Smith and Brigham Young beyond recognition.

    Or, unless you really think that the same act can be holy and good or rank evil based on simply whether God really said to do it or not. And in that case, the only thing vindicating JS & BY is whether the Holy Ghost told you it’s True. And that’s a pretty flimsy distinction, especially from the outside looking in.

  7. yes, and saying “because God ordained it” is just telling me how the justification is different. But I want to know how the every day practical lifestyle is any different.

  8. Tim,

    Perhaps the practical lifestyle isn’t different, but ‘because God ordained it’ is what people go on. When I was Mormon, I would have said that I don’t understand why God would say that’s okay. But I trusted that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were prophets and doing the right thing.

    And Mormons DO believe that an act can be holy or evil depending on if God says so–Nephi killed Laban… but that was an act of faith and humility, not an act of murder, right?

    Oh, and if you ask Kullervo, he’ll tell you (or he used to) that God is wholly unconcerned with good and evil.

  9. Oh, and if you ask Kullervo, he’ll tell you (or he used to) that God is wholly unconcerned with good and evil.

    To put that into context, at one point I did maintain that it appeared to me that God was much more concerned with questions of obedience versus disobedience as opposed to the good versus evil.

    In other words, the scriptures and God didn’t seem particularly preoccupied with deciding on what is good and what is evil, the nature of good and evil, but instead with righteousness which means obedience.

    But that was a definitely Mormon me talking (and the context was the entirety of Mormon scripture, which tends to be very obedience-oriented), and I haven’t gone back and seriously reevaluated it. Nevertheless my intuition still tells me that the Bible, and the God of the Bible, aren’t particularly concerned with whether we understand and seek after difficult-to-pin-down philosophical abstractions like “good” and “evil” but with whether or not we do His will.

  10. “What’s worse? Forcing a 14 year old girl to marry a 19 year old man OR forcing a 14 year old girl to marry a 39 year old man? The justification for both is “because God said so”. If you justify either action you’re saying God’s cool with underage girls getting forced into marriage.”

    I wouldn’t venture a guess on whether God was OK with Joseph marrying a 14 year old or not. But this is not really a fair comparison either Tim. Warren is a product of 20th century culture. Joseph was a product of 19th century culture.

    Sure 14 years was young to get married even in 1830. But it wasn’t unheard of, nor did it carry the same stigma it does today. Women simply got married at a younger age in those days and it was actually fairly common for them to marry guys twenty years older than they. A lot of highly respected historical figures from the time period had “child wives” or wives 20 or even 30 years younger than they. This just wasn’t the shocker back then that it is today. Back then, the shocker was that Joseph Smith was married to over 30 woman. No one cared what age they were.

    By age 10, a typical rural girl was fully capable of maintaining a full household with cooking, cleaning, tending farm animals, and a host of other skills. They were tough girls. Buy the time she was 16, she was good marriage material. Probably a hangover from the days when childbirth was such a risky proposition and child fatality rates were so high, that you wanted to start a girl young to have the best chance of having a lot of kids who actually lived to an age where they could provide extra farm labor and income for the family. In medieval times, a girl was considered marriageable at age 13 and was typically married off to whatever guy would have her. If he was an older guy, so much the better. That probably meant he was rich enough to provide for her.

    Rough life back then. And yes, there is something brutal about it all. But it’s hardly Joseph Smith’s fault he was born in the time period he was.

    If you are going to judge the man, do it on 19th century standards, not 21st century standards.

    This has nothing to do with whether Joseph was right or wrong. It’s just a matter of responsible history.

  11. If you are going to judge the man, do it on 19th century standards, not 21st century standards.

    A couple problems with this.

    First, Mormons often say “people got married that young all the time back then,” but saying it a lot doesn’t make it true. Provide references or actual facts, please. If you want to invoke 19th-century standards, invoke real ones, not Mormon revisionism.

    Second, doesn’t Mormonism teach that God’s standards eternal and unchanging? Does cultural (in)appropriateness really make the difference between good and evil? Come on.

  12. Re-read the comment. Note I didn’t say they did it “a lot.” I said it wasn’t unheard of and certainly wasn’t the big shocker it is for people today. My point that comparing Smith to Jeffs is not useful or historically aware still stands.

  13. Let’s try again.

    What do you make of the God of the Old Testament ordering the Israelites to conduct genocides in the land of Canaan under Joshua and later Israelite kings? Should they too be judged under the UN Geneva Conventions? Or does a bit of historical perspective help?

  14. I’m with you. Let’s compare Joseph to 19th Century standards and Warren to 21st Century standards. 14:19 and 14:39. That’s a 10 year decrease for each Century. I think they are comparable.

    Smith’s polygamous actions were so shocking and out of the ordinary they got him killed by a mob. The anger toward Jeffs is no where near that hot.

  15. “…that you wanted to start a girl young… ”

    Because women’s only use is providing children? So that you ‘start’ them?

    I’m sure you didn’t mean it like that, but I found that wording to be highly offensive and inflammatory.

  16. What do you make of the God of the Old Testament ordering the Israelites to conduct genocides in the land of Canaan under Joshua and later Israelite kings? Should they too be judged under the UN Geneva Conventions? Or does a bit of historical perspective help?

    Yeah, even laying the framework for analyzing this question is so far beyond the scope of this conversation, it’s not worth it. In any case, your point is not well made.

    I know enough about international law and the Geneva Convention to distinguish your point into irrelevance. And you’re a lawyer, so you should too. At the very least, comparing an international treaty between nations to a social norm/more is an extremely weak analogy.

    Furthermore, at the risk of treading on very thin ice, I have had recent conversations with Orthodox Jews who most assuredly believe that there is such a thing as justifiable genocide.

    Finally, I actually think it more appropriate to ask you to tell me what you “make of the God of the Old Testament ordering the Israelites to conduct genocides in the land of Canaan under Joshua and later Israelite kings.” Historical and cultural perspective should have nothing to do with it- we’re talking about a command from God, no?

    I mean, either God ordered it or he didn’t. If he didn’t, then your point falls apart because God didn’t order it anyway, so it wasn’t justifiable back then either. If he did, then the Geneva Convention (not to mention social mores) wouldn’t mean a damn, because they’re stacked up against a command from God.

    Joseph Smith said God ordered him to marry a 14-year old girl. Warren Jeffs said God ordered him to marry a 14-year old girl. What’s the difference? What makes the one evil and the other good? Social mores? Surely as a Mormon you can’t believe that morality is that relative. Would you really try to argue that God’s condemnation hangs on whether we obey society’s expectations?

    Barring that, the only difference between the two is your claim that God commanded the one but not the other. And that’s not really a very eternal standard either… In any case, it doesn’t give you much room to condemn.

  17. My only point is that Joseph Smith needs to be viewed in light of his own people and his own time. Not just ours, or even primarily ours.

  18. What are you suggesting Kullervo? That God force Joseph Smith (and all His other prophets) to behave just to avoid insinuations of inconsistency? Part of living in the world means dealing with human agency. That rule isn’t suspended just because a guy has the title of “prophet.” God works with the material He has. If the material happens to be 19th century material, then that’s what He’ll work with.

  19. Back to young marriages, She was not mormon, neither was he. It did happen, especially when there was an improved social status, or the family was poor. Looking back in my own family history I found many examples of girls begin married at young ages. Many of the women died young from childbirth and other health issues.

    Polygamy is currently practiced among the Islamic peoples, but they are limited to 4 wives.

  20. What are you suggesting Kullervo? That God force Joseph Smith (and all His other prophets) to behave just to avoid insinuations of inconsistency? Part of living in the world means dealing with human agency. That rule isn’t suspended just because a guy has the title of “prophet.” God works with the material He has. If the material happens to be 19th century material, then that’s what He’ll work with.

    I’m saying that there is exactly zero significant difference between Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith.

    We’re not talking about Joseph Smith’s penchant for fistfighting or any one of a number of acceptably human failures. Nobody but Jesus was perfect.

    We’re taking about this:

    1. Joseph Smith married many women, including 14-year-old girls, because he claimed God told him to.
    2. Warren Jeffs married many women, including 14-year-old girls, because he claimed God told him to.

    To call one good and the other evil is absolutely preposterous. The only basis for distinguishing the two in an eternal sense is to claim that God in fact commanded JS and did not in fact command WJ. But that’s completely unverifiable.

    Invoking “contemporary standards” only obscures the issues. Surely you as a Mormon do not believe that good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, sin and salvation, are distinguished by contemporary ideas about what is right or wrong. That kind of eternal ratification of changing human morality would be the product of a changeable God, the existence of which Mormonism explicitly denies.

    I’m not sure i even understand your point, Seth, unless you’re saying that Joseph Smith was not commanded to marry Helen Mar Kimball, et al. But in that case he was exactly the same as Warren Jeffs even from a Mormon perspective. The fact that you’ve given true prophecy in the past doesn’t somehow exonerate you from being a false prophet in the present.

    And clearly what Joseph Smith was doing was not acceptable even by the standards of his own time, since a mob killed him for it!

    My point is that anyone who claims that Joseph Smith was a holy man of God but Warren Jeffs is an evil criminal–when they did the same thing–is treading on some pretty flimsy ground. Especially when we’re talking about it in an eternal “in God’s eyes” sense, where contemporary standards should be irrelevant.

  21. It seems to me that we are talking about two things as if they were one. We seem to be discussing the relative or absolute similarities between WJ and JS marrying 14 year old girls (but not so much of the practice of polygamy in general). But I hear Tim and Kullervo mention that JS was killed because of this, but he was not. It was polygamy that was so outrageous to the people at the time, so much that they killed him for it (as well as other reasons). It was not simply because he married a 14 year old girl, which as others have pointed out was, though not common, certainly not the shocker it is to us today.

    So there are 2 issues in comparing the practice of polygamy by the respective men.

    1) How does the practice of poygamy itself jive with the social/moral norms of the day in which they take place, and

    2) How does the practice of marrying 14 y/o girls jive in the same context.

    This is, of course, saying nothing about to what degree or if at all the practice was ordered/condoned by God. I don’t have the time to delve too deeply, but I just wanted to make this observation.

  22. I lied, I will say a little in response to kullervo

    “Especially when we’re talking about it in an eternal “in God’s eyes” sense, where contemporary standards should be irrelevant.”

    I don’t agree. I think contemporary standards are very relevant. This is not to say that God changes his eternal standards based current earthly moral determinations. For example, if God holds homosexuality to be sinfull because it goes against his plan for us and our families (debate for another time, I suppose), this will not be changed just because society becomes more comfortable with the practice.

    But viewing the issue of polygamy through a similar lense, if in God’s absolute morality, polygamy is acceptable (again, I don’t mean to start a discussion of whether or not it is, though from an LDS perspective this would certainly be the case), it is certainly within His right to command it to take place or not, regardless of the social context. However, if He, in His infinite wisdom, deems it inappropriate at any given time, it then becomes a matter of obedience whether we practice it or not. If it is forbidden, regardless of whether it is eternally “moral” in His eye’s, it becomes sinfull to disobey (i.e. to practice it anyway).

    So in this regard, the practice of polygamy by WJ and JS are inherently different (at least based on the assumption that it was sanctioned/commanded by God in the case of JS and not in the case of WJ), because the one would be in compliance to the law of obedience to God, the other not. We can see of evidence of this principle (that of obedience to God’s command and will being of utmost importance, not the universal or absolute moral value of the act itself (though one could argue that they are the same thing)) in the Law of Moses. Many things that we would consider trivial in our day were outright sinfull in the Israelite days of old, simply by virtue of the fact that they were commanded. Were they inherently or universally sinfull by nature (the act, not the acter)? I hope not, otherwise we would all be guilty today. But the Law of Moses is fulfilled in Christ, and it is no longer sinfull to commit the acts previously forbidden under the law.

    My point is that though God does have a “moral code”, or to put it another way, some acts do have inherent rightness or wrongness, this doesn’t mean that some acts that are wrong now will be wrong tomorrow, or that something that is right today will still be right tomorrow. The important thing is to know God’s will for us and to act accordingly, whatever that may be.

  23. I’m not disagreeing with your understanding of God’s commandments. I’m saying if the only difference between WJ and JS is that Mormons claim that JS was acting under God’s command, then it’s an extremely flimsy difference, and Mormons shouldn’t be surprised when non-Mormons (who don’t believe that JS was so authorized) see the two as identical and reject Mormon argument to the contrary. For a non-Mormon to accept the difference would be to concede that JS was God’s prophet..

  24. I suppose I ought to throw in another concept to the mix.

    Some have suggested that Joseph’s marriage to Helen Mar Kimball was a “dynastic marriage.” The idea being that the marriage was more to solidify spiritual ties between prominent and faithful families in the Mormon community. There was a definite feeling in the old Church that you held greater standing in the Church if you descended from “faithful lineage.” Marriage to the prophet would have been considered a huge boost in prestige for the Kimball family under this thinking.

    There does seem to be some evidence for this. There are numerous references by Church leaders to a woman gaining prestige and blessings in the eyes of heaven by virtue of having hitched her wagon to a spiritual giant in the community. On a personal level, my great grandmother told us it was common practice in her corner of rural Utah at the turn of the century when a girl died before marriageable age, to posthumously marry her to the local bishop. LDS took this “believing blood” stuff seriously back then.

    Some have suggested that Kimball’s marriage was purely a dynastic matter and there wasn’t even any sex involved. We have no evidence that the relationship was anything but platonic and Helen Mar Kimball herself never said anything about it.

    I think that’s interesting, but certainly not convincing.

    As for what I think about polygamy…

    Joseph Smith was a great man, but he could be very disorganized, overly idealistic and lacking in practicality on occasion.

    My own personal feeling is that God merely commanded Joseph to take additional wives (how many, I don’t know) and left it to Joseph how it would be implemented. I’m open to the possibility that Joseph simply made a hash of things in how he implemented things, and it was left to the far more practical and hard-nosed Brigham Young to make the idealistic principle work in actual practice (there was far less apparent nonsense in Brigham’s house than in Joseph’s as far as I can tell).

    But then again, we have the example of Jacob and the mess with his two wives Rachael and Leah to remind us that you don’t necessarily have to be a good husband, or a good father, to be a prophet. Nor do you have to run an orderly household.

    God gives us leeway to mess up in life. I imagine he did the same with Joseph Smith. Some on the Mormon blogging community have suggested that the later Joseph Smith was a “fallen prophet” (like Jonah, or that guy in the Old Testament with the talking donkey). Some have irreverently even hinted that maybe God allowed Joseph to be killed off when he was because he was leading the Church “too far afield.”

    I think that’s entirely unwarranted speculation and more than a touch of “making light of sacred things.” But I also have little doubt that Joseph did mess up on occasion, and sometimes rather spectacularly. The man was an idealist. But idealists, inspiring as they are, don’t always make the best people to implement things in practice. The phrase “rough stone rolling” really does apply to Joseph Smith. He was a rough-edged personality plummeting through history at breakneck speed and causing a fair amount of damage in the process. But all the while, his rough edges were being chipped and worn away and the hand that set him in motion was indeed God’s.

  25. The problem with the “dynamic marriage to Helen” theory is that Joseph first approached her mother who was already married. Helen’s mother turned down the proposal. If it was just about aligning the family to the prophet, it shouldn’t have been a problem, and Joseph wouldn’t have had to move on to a 14 year old.

  26. The deciding factor of whether its wrong to marry a 14 year old girl is not necessarily whether Joseph smith did it or warren jeffs did it. But rather its whether the girl wanted it or not.

    If Elisa wall wanted to get married then warren would never have been tried. The thing that makes it bad is that she asked not to be married but he did it any ways, hence the wrong is done.

  27. There’s also a question of whether someone that young is really capable of acting in her own best interests.

    For instance, I doubt any would argue that a six year old was even capable of giving real informed consent to such a thing.

    So it becomes a question of where you draw the line. For me, fourteen is awfully young. In the 1800s, to be honest, it wasn’t half so young as it is today. Those farm kids lived hard lives and typically grew up long before our kids today. That said, I still think its a young age in any era.

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