Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Persecution of Warren

I've been watching news reports on the manhunt for FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs. Jeffs currently holds the top position on the FBI's Most Wanted. It seems strange that Jeffs would make the top of the FBI most wanted. Jeffs crimes are relatively minor. All he has done is pimp a few teenage girls, commit some fraud here and there, and he's engaged in one or two statutory rapes.

It looks like Jeffs' list of crimes is shorter than the first LDS prophet Joseph Smith.

The persecution of both Warren Jeffs and Joseph Smith are similar. Basically, people who escaped from the cult got gentiles riled up. (gentiles means everyone who is not Mormon). The gentiles then end up doing the dirty work of chasing down the cult leader. Smith was shot by someone in a crowd. I suspect that the assassin was an exmormon or a victim of one of Joseph Smith's many frauds.

We really are seeing a repeat of Joseph Smith's martyrdom. Since the persecution of Smith is central to local (Utah) myths. I can't help but wonder if the manhunt for Jeffs will end up in state lore as an unjust persecution of Mormons.

The other interesting thing about this case is the twin towns of Colorado City and Hilldale Utah. In both cases it is clear that the cult leader is intentionally isolating the followers so that the cult leader can have greater influence on the followers.

Which brings me back to the second part of Utah lore. The LDS Church invests millions each year in a massiv PR campaign that talks about how Mormons fled the US (Illinois in particular) to Utah. This always puzzles me because Illinois is one of the most tolerant areas in the world.

The FLDS clan is just about the size of the Mormon group that migrated. I can't help but wonder if perhaps the great emigration from Illinois was more of an effort to isolate adherents than it was an act of fleeing religious persecution.

Personally, I think Jeffs should be hunted down for his sexual crimes. The fact that a pimp claims to be a prophet throws the whole affair into the irrational world of myths. Jeffs will probably not be elevated into a myth because the primary LDS church is better at creating and controlling myths than the FLDS. However, Jeffs actual life is more in keeping with the precedents of Brigham Young and Joseph. Who knows how the myths will turn.

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