Butte County Questions Letters from Imprisoned Leader

Belle Fourche Community
January 8, 2012

BELLE FOURCHE - Butte County officials have no idea why they have been receiving letters and boxes of books from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its imprisoned spiritual leader Warren S. Jeffs.

The latest was opened for the Jan. 3 county commission meeting. It included a warning, "Cincinnati shall soon be a destroyed city."

It's the fourth set of letters sent to the Butte County Commission, Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere and Butte County Auditor Elaine Jensen.

"There's no cover letter, no nothing," Jensen said. "But it's our names and they've done well on their research."

Custer County had been receiving similar letters claiming to contain revelations from Jeffs, 56, who is currently in Texas serving a life sentence plus 20 years at an East Texas prison for the sexual assault of two of his underage brides.

The United Order of South Dakota that is affiliated with Jeffs owns 140 acres of land in Custer County. The reclusive community of an estimated 200 people is in the process of building new agricultural buildings.

That may explain why Custer County receives similar letters, but not Butte County.

Jensen said local officials have no records that the church has any presence in the county.

"It's really nice of them to send it," Butte County Assistant State's Attorney Tim Vander Heide told Jensen and commissioners.

"We don't have to read it," he said.

Jensen asked whether there is a way for the county to stop receiving the letters.

Vander Heide said he believes it best to check the mail regardless.

"The problem is, you don't know what they're sending you," he said.

Jensen said she gave the first set of letters to county commissioners.

"I don't want to withhold things addressed to them," Jensen said.

The latest letters and boxes of material came from Jeffs' church patriarch Vaughan Taylor and bishop John Barlow with an Arizona address for purchasing additional copies of the letters and other material.

Jensen said the second time she held the messages in her office.

"The third time I brought it to the sheriff's attention," she said.

The fourth set included a box of paperback sets of Jeffs' proclamations. She opened the letter and box during the commissioners' meeting.

The envelope held a three-page letter to Butte County dated Dec. 15, 2011.

It is headlined, "Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ Given to President Warren S. Jeffs."

In it, Jeffs calls for his own release from prison and recognition of his "keyholding power of authority on earth." The letter demands an end of abortion and homosexual relationships and other "corrupt ways."

Otherwise, he said there would be earthquakes, storms, pestilence, windstorms and invasion by two foreign powers in the aftermath of famine and mob rule.

An Associated Press news report from Jan. 4 said that Texas prison officials had suspended indefinitely the phone privileges of the convicted polygamist sect leader. They were investigating whether he violated prison telephone rules on Christmas Day.

Officials believed the calls made to two approved people on Jeffs' phone list were broadcast on a speakerphone to his congregation, a violation of the prison phone rules.

Jeffs is being held in protective custody, meaning he's isolated from other inmates, at the Powledge Unit prison near Palestine, about 140 miles north of Houston.

As of Dec. 29, news reports of increased activity at the main FLDS community on the border of Arizona and Utah suggested that Jeffs had been preparing his flock for major changes.

His Dec. 15 letter to Butte County warned that everyone should be putting up food and fuel supplies against major national disruption.

Rapid City Journal staff writer Mary Garrigan contributed to this story.


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