"OK, Six ladies. I wish I had a seventh."
Warren Jeffs (from tape recording presented as court evidence.)
Warren Jeffs is currently on trial in San Angelo, Texas, for the alleged rape of a 12-year-old and a 15-year-old.
Jeffs, now 55, was 49 and 50 when the alleged assaults occurred.
The tapes (they are audio only) were part of the massive haul of evidence removed from the Yearning for Zion ranch during the controversial 2008 Child Protective Services raid on the compound. They were found in a hidden room in the temple.
They appear to be intended for the "training" of Jeffs' newest wives, primarily in the "ordinance of heavenly comfort," or sex. Some sessions appear to involve several wives at once, according to this report in the Salt Lake Tribune:
"The fullness of the law of Sarah is for quorums of wives to be with me to be a comfort," Jeffs is heard saying. "Yes, even physically, for I need more than one wife to be with me at a time."
Jeffs said he had been "appointed" and permitted to engage in sexual behavior not allowed to other FLDS men. He also warned his wives not to talk to other people about what happens in their "higher order."
"If another man, not appointed, were to do this, they would lose priesthood," he said.
One 90-minute tape played to the jury included the sound of a zipper and verbal instructions to the wives to change into white robes. Jeffs refers to the women as "heavenly comfort wives" and tells them to become comfortable with their nudity and actively pursue sexual satisfaction:
"You have to know how to be excited sexually and to be excited to administer that comfort and strength," Jeffs is heard on the recording. "And you have to be able to assist each other. No one sits around, everyone assists each other."
There is no audible evidence of sexual intercourse taking place on that tape.
Some of the "instruction" offered to the girls is oddly parental in tone: how to care for their pubic hair, shave under their arms and shower in preparation for sexual contact.
Many of the tapes presented in court were later transcribed and kept among official church records. FLDs members believe that "celestial" or plural message is required to achieve "exaltation" and enter heaven.
Excerpts from Jeffs' journals were also presented in court. The Deseret News reports on an excerpt mentioning the older alleged victim by name (she was 14 years old at the time):
An excerpt from hundreds of pages of Jeffs' personal journals said the child was "pure and innocent and willing to obey" and that he summoned her parents and "informed them of their girl belonging to me."
After one training session for multiple wives, Jeffs' wrote that he had told the women they were:
"honorable vessels, property of your husband's kingdom and the Kingdom of God on Earth."
He also promises them that "they will feel the all-consuming fire of heaven, and by giving comfort to their husband, they will be touching God," according to the Deseret News report.
(In all fairness, this last sentiment is similar to beliefs taught in some other conservative faiths.)
If there was one tape that could be Jeffs' final undoing, it will probably be the final one presented.
That tape is an audio record of Jeffs actually having sex with the 12-year-old girl. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that jurors gasped and covered their mouths as they listened:
Jeffs is heard panting throughout the 21-minute tape recording.
And while it was difficult to hear portions due to background noise, a girl’s voice occasionally can be heard and Jeffs twice refers to the alleged victim by name.
The girl is not heard resisting, and there are no overt references to sex.
Just before tape ends, Jeffs is heard saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."
And girl’s voice is heard saying, "Amen."
Earlier in the trial, prosecutors presented DNA evidence that Jeffs had fathered a child with the 15-year-old.
In court, Jeffs has repeatedly tried to cast the trial as a legal assault on religious freedom and polygamy. Prosecutors have reminded both Jeffs and the jury that the charges concern only Jeffs' alleged criminal behavior in committing the alleged assaults.
(The image at the top of this post was found among other photographs siezed from the YFZ ranch. The girl pictured is not necessarily one of the 2 victims.)