While serving as prophet of the FLDS Church, Warren Jeffs was arrested and is currently serving time in a Texas prison for a conviction of being an accomplice to rape of underage women who were married polygamously. Lindsay Hansen Park has some strong words and pins some of the blame for the LDS Church turning its back on the FLDS community, making it possible for Warren Jeffs to attain power in the FLDS community. Is that a fair charge?
Lindsay: Here’s my indictment of the LDS people in the LDS Church. We are responsible for men like Warren Jeffs, I think we are complicit, at the very least and at the very worst, responsible for men like that. Because what we did is we allowed something to be so marginalized and to turn the other way because we didn’t want to see how it reflected on us. We can’t make the church look bad. We’ve got to protect the integrity of the church. So we’re going to ignore what’s happening down there. We’re going to make it illegal. So Warren Jeffs can say, you know what? You’re being molested by your father or your brother. You can’t report it to police, because if you do, your whole family’s going to go to jail. We can’t trust any outsiders because even the LDS are out to get us.
GT: I’m going to push back a little bit on that. I mean, if Warren Jeffs is a bad guy, okay, he’s a bad guy. Don’t we believe in being punished for our own sins? How do you try to justify that the LDS Church is responsible for that? Because, yeah, I mean, tying this back to the policy, part of the justification was, well, the polygamists, basically say, “Well go join the LDS Church. Go on a mission. Get married in the temple and then come back to us and we’ll teach you the higher law.” So, I mean, I don’t like this policy. I don’t like it. But I can understand. If that’s what the polygamists are saying, “Oh, go join the LDS Church and then come back to us.” I can understand why the church would be would have a problem with that.
Lindsay: Of course.
GT: So how do we then say, “Well, okay, now the LDS Church is responsible for Warren Jeffs corruption?”
Lindsay: The FLDS is different. They’re not taking converts. Warren Jeffs has cut it off. You have to understand. First of all, Rulon Jeffs, who shaped Warren Jeffs, was completely shaped by LDS culture, theology and doctrine. He planned his whole church and organizational structure as a reaction to LDS treatment of him personally and systemically. So there’s a whole history here.
GT: So he had his own trauma. You’re saying that Warren grew up LDS? Is that what you’re saying?
Lindsay: No, Rulon, his father did.
GT: Rulon grew up and so that trauma that Rulon then transferred to Warren…
Lindsay: That’s too simplistic, but that’s part of it, too. Here’s what it is. Warren Jeffs has committed horrific acts. Horrific. I’ve had to get therapy for some of the work that I’ve had to do. I did not anticipate being involved with some of the most heinous interpretations of Mormonism. I mean, this guy has twisted, what I think is–my personal opinion is…
GT: If these are heinous interpretations, how can you then say that this is legitimate theology? How can you say…
Lindsay: Who gets to decide what’s legitimate theology and what’s not? If Mormonism is open to interpretation, we have no process or canonized [system.] LDS people can’t even decide if the Proclamation [on the Family], even their own apostles [can’t decide] if it’s just a suggestion, if it’s a revelation, if it’s a policy. There is no process for this. So that’s part of it. But here’s the thing, I get it. Warren Jeffs has done bad things. He makes us uncomfortable. But our response to the FLDS people, empowered men like him. Warren Jeffs couldn’t even get a conviction in Utah.
Lindsay: That’s how [bad it is.] With all the evidence that they had, they had a tape of him raping a 12-year-old girl in his car. They had that evidence. They couldn’t even bust them in Utah, because we don’t want to look at that.
GT: We don’t want the bad news media.
Lindsay: We have such collective shame about polygamy. We will do whatever we can to turn a blind eye. I cannot tell you. I get I get super fired up about this because there are so many victims of really heinous things in fundamentalism. They can’t get police to take them seriously, because the topic alone, once they know they’re polygamists makes people so uncomfortable, so uncomfortable. So, it just allows men like Warren Jeffs to be like, that’s right. They’re not they’re going to stay away from us. We’re so isolated. I can do whatever I want, and he did. Even still, it’s so interesting. As the town has been changing, I’ve been witness to this. I’ve been up close and personal, seeing this town reclaim themselves, try to get healthy. The LDS Church has been helping now, for the first time. They’re giving aid. There’s a food desert in Colorado City. There’s poverty. It’s like a developing country there. Now the Church has stepped up. Do you think they want people to know about it? Absolutely not. They want it quiet. They wanted it quiet for a long time. I’m just like, “Why? Why do we need to be quiet about it?” Now they’ve [LDS Church] bought property in the town. There’s a huge land grab. I’m resentful about it. Because I’m like, “Oh, all of a sudden now that it’s sort of, it’s like, cool to go down there. Now we can like show that we have a presence.”
Lindsay: That’s kind of petty and reductive. There’s a mission president down there. That area was part of his mission and he got really invested and he’s done a lot of good work. So I don’t want to denigrate what he has done. But I’m talking about collective attitudes. My attitude where I thought I was better than them, where Mormons still think that they’re better. “Oh, we’re not polygamists. We don’t do that. That’s something that they do.” That attitude empowered Warren Jeffs. I think we are complicit in that. We allowed a man like that to do those things to those people. And because of the stories that we inherited from our grandfathers and their grandfathers about who was right, whose priesthood was right, which practice is right. It’s allowed him to just go crazy with sickness.
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