On the EDge: Judgment does not spell the end of FLDS

This composite image includes a July 2012 photo taken in Hildale and a cropped 2001 photo of Allen Steed and his then 14-year-old cousin Elissa Wall upon their marriage in a ceremony presided over by Warren Jeffs, self-declared prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Utah's 3rd District Judge Keith Kelly awarded Wall $16 million in her suit against Jeffs, the FLDS church and related parties Sept. 5, 2017. HIldale, Utah, 2012 and 2001 | Hildale photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, Steed-Wall photo courtesy of Fox13Now.com, St. George News

OPINION — Utah’s 3rd District Court Judge Keith Kelly was appalled when he handed down his $16 million award to a woman who was forced by Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints prophet Warren Jeffs to marry her cousin at the age of 14.

Read more: Judge orders Warren Jeffs to pay $16 million to former FLDS child bride

This is the front cover art for the book Stolen Innocence written by Elissa Wall.

Kelly said the conduct of Jeffs and the FLDS church “was so extreme that it went beyond all possible bound of decency and is regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

It upped the total awarded to Elissa Wall, who last year agreed to a $2.75-million settlement with the group’s communal property trust arm, to $16.75 million.

How much of that Wall will receive is anybody’s guess.

You see, because this cult headquartered along the Utah-Arizona state line is considered to be a church and churches can do just about anything they choose with their money, that cash could be difficult to piece together.

It’s tax-free.

It comes in, for the most part, in cash, which means even if the church did have to report income on an IRS filing, copious amounts could be hidden.

Rest assured, Jeffs and his partners in this hoodoo cult, have hidden their money. It’s in numerous bank accounts, property investments and acquisitions, cash hordes and just about anywhere you can hide money.

Considering the complexities and number of money managers who are expert at off-shoring cash, the likelihood of vast amounts being tucked away in foreign banks is also very high.

Wall was lucky that the settlement she agreed to last year was with the United Effort Plan Trust, the fiduciary arm of the FLDS church. The UEP was taken over by the state a decade ago so at least she should be able to count on that money.

Read more: On the EDge: Straightening out the UEP mess? Hardly

But the recent award?

It’s a crapshoot.

Jeffs and the church didn’t show up to defend themselves in Kelly’s courtroom.

They didn’t hire attorneys to represent them.

They simply did not care.

And, that is an indication that while $16 million may seem like a windfall to the rest of us, but to Jeffs … tucked securely away in a Texas prison after being convicted of aggravated sexual abuse for marrying two underage girls, it as a drop in the bucket.

Just ask Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggert, Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen.

Then, do the math.

Osteen is a televangelist based in Houston.

His sermons are seen by more than 20 million viewers monthly through a network that spans more than 100 countries.

Want more?

Well, you can tune into Sirius XM Radio and catch his “inspirational” raps any time of day or night.

Still want more?

Well, you can buy one of his books – seven have made The New York Times bestseller list.

And, if you really want a megadose of his brand of preaching, you could hotfoot it to Houston and drop by the former Compaq Center, an arena where the Houston Rockets NBA team once played. It’s current capacity is 16,800. Each week 52,000 churchgoers cram into it to hear the gospel according to Osteen who, by the way, owns the place.

Now, figure if each person drops $10 into the collection plate. That’s more than $500,000 a week in donations, not including the soaking his television and Sirius XM followers undergo each week.

And, it is all tax-free money.

The FLDS has been in business for more than 100 years. Jeffs and his clan have been defrauding the government of welfare benefits for at least half that long. They have a scam set up along the lines of organized crime, shifting money through a spider web of businesses and organizations – some legit, others perhaps not so legit – making it nearly impossible to follow this tangled money trail.

It flows in, of course, as a result of people fearful for their eternal salvation.

These Svengali-like shamans are the reason why so many people resistant to the con now claim that they are spiritual rather than religious in their beliefs.

To make matters worse, last May, an executive order lifted the ban on nonprofit organizations and churches that once forbade them from using donations to fund political endorsements.

Of course, we can point to repeated violations of the old law by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Catholic Church and hucksters like Falwell, Swaggert, Robertson and their ilk.

The IRS just looks the other way.

But, then, it’s understandable because of the influence these people have.

Osteen, Falwell, Swaggert, Robertson and the others have long been courted by politicians – from Nancy Pelosi to Donald Trump – because of the depths of their pockets and influence over their followers. Whether it is the hard right or hard left, they go after that religious vote with gusto, even  those politicians with shallow religious roots.

So it is easy to see why Wall will most definitely have a difficult time in collecting on her latest award. The most practical form of payment would be in handing over property seized by the government for unpaid taxes, which would still leave a fortune laying around in secret caches.

Meanwhile, this judgment will have little, if any, impact on the FLDS church.

You just can’t turn off religious fervor, even misguided religious fervor such as this where pedophilia, fraud and the denigration of women’s rights is a part of the culture.

They may move around a bit, as it appears some of the hardcore FLDS followers are already doing, but this doesn’t spell the end of the church.

If the future of the church was tied to the rule of law, it would have folded when Jeffs was sentenced to life-plus in Texas.

But, as we have seen, that hasn’t happened and it is highly unlikely it will happen in the foreseeable future. There’s just too much money on the table for anybody to fold up their tent and walk away.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • DRT September 12, 2017 at 9:13 am

    Ed, you mentioned FLDS being like organized crime. Fact is, that it IS organized crime. There is little difference between FLDS and Mafia. Except FLDS is claiming to be a “religion,” and the law lets them get away with it. Imagine what it would be like today, if the Mafia decided to claim that they are an offshoot of the Roman Catholic Church.
    Yes, the Mafia is still around. They’ve become more sophisticated in their crimes, but they are still there, and doing very well. The media just hasn’t gotten around to making them the “cause of the day,” and a lot of folks don’t realize they are still operating.

  • Craig September 12, 2017 at 9:45 am

    Interesting. I suspect all youvsay is true, but some data backing it would be nice because there are hints of bias in the essay.

  • nutherlook September 12, 2017 at 9:51 am

    To the writer of this piece of feces, you may consider you have freedom of speech to express your opinions regardless of slander and misrepresentation, but you have no idea how foolish you sound because you don’t even know what you are talking about. If you knew as I do the dishonesty of Elyssa Wall and the murky depths to which she has descended in order to accomplish her “success”, you might think twice to present such BS to the public.

    • Chris September 12, 2017 at 8:14 pm

      it seems we have a Short Creek apologist among us. Whatever “murky depths” you thing Elyssa Wall has descended to, it certainly pales in comparison to those reached by that convicted pedophile and all around monstrous pervert, Warren Jeffs.

  • Curtis September 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

    I am aware of the LDS endorsing ballot propositions in California. Any other examples of The Church making other political endorsements ? Have they ever endorsed a candidate ??

  • Kilroywashere September 12, 2017 at 11:54 am

    It’s not about the $. It is about justice. Sure, FLDS will skirt by, but in the end, the truth has been laid bare for all to see. When children are imprinted and for use of a better word, brainwashed from an early age, there is not a whole lot you can do. Some may break out of their conditioning, but the vast majority simply can’t. They are helpless in that regards. Their consensus reality has nowhere to go but back to their original programming. The $ reward in this case is symbolic of a young gal that stood up against religious pseudo-slavery and broke out of a literal concentration camp of the mind. If she can do it, so can others. I judge religion by the fruit of their actions and overall behavior. The truth cannot be denied. As seen in a previous comment above regarding the victim, there is no atonement or empathy. This is the FLDS legacy, and even childhood programming cannot hide it over time. In the end they will be their own judge and jury. The rest of the world KNOWS. We are all human beings with individual belief systems. I am sure some FLDS folk are content with their religious beliefs and practices, but my guess, many are lost and just have nowhere else to go. That is the sad part, along with abusing women and children within the construct of a religious organization. BUT what one particular religion considers abusive and taboo, another may see it as a norm – just consider rural Islamic practices in the Middle East etc. The JUDGEMENT is a legal one. From the standpoint of spirituality, there is no judgement except the law of Karma, but that is just my particular belief system. So disregard it if you like. This is all just opinion, the truth is in our hearts. If it bothers you please ignore it.

  • NickDanger September 12, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Glad to see Ed has finally given up on his mission to convince the white people in this “Whitopia” that there’s something wrong with them. I think I can actually agree with much of what he says here.

    Thing is, though, calling out one religion is a slippery, slidey, slopey slope. The slipperiest. Because when the Constitution was framed, religion was THE MOST IMPORTANT THING to most people. Fleeing religious persecution and finding a place where it was safe to practice their own religion was the reason so many crossed the Atlantic in the first place. The Constitution leaves no gray area regarding freedom of religion. That’s why you’ve got Pastafarians living right here in St. George and getting their driver’s license picture taken with a colander on their head.

    Times have changed. The First Amendment has not. Most people are not so religious anymore. Even those who are “religious” are basically just going through the motions in my experience.

    I’m sure most Mormons realize that theirs is the only religion in the USA to have ever changed its doctrine for political reasons. Statehood was just too big a prize to be a stickler over something as silly as God’s commands. Really it was just more of a guideline anyway, right?

    But here we are nearly 130 years down the road, and still contending with the fallout. You simply cannot overcome men’s willingness to believe what they are told by other mortal men with more intelligence and charisma than they possess.

    To be frank, I can debunk all of Mormonism, completely, in 7 words: God does not speak King James English.

    He spoke to the Hebrews in Hebrew. He spoke to the Greeks in Greek. He did not speak to Joseph Smith in a long-dead language used exclusively by the British nobility of the late 16th and early 17th century.

    But you know, that’s not going to stop anyone from being a Mormon. They’ve got an answer for that. It’s a stupid answer, but it’s an answer, and it satisfies their need to continue following their religion in the face of hard evidence that it’s just an elaborate con staged by an amazing megalomaniac. That’s the power of religion, it cannot be addressed by common sense or reason.

    I say let freedom of religion reign. Jesus was pleased when the widow put everything she had into the offering tray. So I can’t imagine he’s not also pleased with those who give to these various ministries today, whether they be manned by hucksters or sincere men of God. How’s a poor widow to tell the difference? And what’s money to God? Nothing. It’s the sacrifice that counts.

    As for the FLDS, I don’t see them as being different from any other Mormons, except they at least showed enough character not to change their beliefs to meet government demands. Now they’re paying a price for that. And the big marble just keeps spinning.

    • comments September 12, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      i still have a soft spot for religions and i understand why folks cling to them. Mormonism though, in my experience, is probably the most “shallow and hollow” religion i’ve experienced. It just lacks substance. its just empty. it ends up being a bunch of fluff. It’s prob b/c it lacks much history and is still considered a “new religion”, at least part of it. I don’t have the stomach for any religions anymore.

  • Kilroywashere September 12, 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Not Mormon, but God speaks , hears, and knows all languages, And if you are an atheist then perhaps the universe has an akashic type record of all information at the quantum level. Religion is not an excuse for bad reprehensible behavior. YOU ARE FREE TO PRACTICE ANY RELIGION IN THIS COUNTRY – Nick Danger, well said but intrinsically wrong. Human blood sacrifices are not allowed under current law. Although until the last 2000 years it was the norm all over the planet. FLDS has a right to their beliefs etc, but they must respect the laws of the land just like all of us. And no , you cannot debunk a religion in 5 words or less. You don’t know like the rest of us. However you did covey your point in an elegant manner, but it is more a commentary on your own religious perceptions then the article itself. You are simply attacking others belief systems, which gets old around these parts, as you are just another belief system out there amongst gillions. Tis all belief, but it is what you do with that belief that counts. That is the point.

    • comments September 12, 2017 at 7:32 pm

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Ed Kociela releases a column one of these day titled “everything wrong with white people” or “how white people ruined the world” or some such thing. How’s that trip to the congo coming along, Ed Kociela?

  • NickDanger September 12, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Well Kilroy, I’m not an atheist. And if my (occasional) “attacking” of the Mormon belief system pushes a Mormon or two back into the fold of reality, I don’t mind. God doesn’t demand that we be stupid.

    But I love Mormons. Nicest people I’ve ever met. Great community they’ve built here. And I’m not particularly looking to have THAT debate with anyone.

    But I will throw a jab now and then.

    Good point about human sacrifice. Taken.

  • riccie September 12, 2017 at 10:50 pm


    Please share with all of us about your facts of ms Wall. Expose her to the rest of us with your knowledge. What are all of the “dishonest” traits she has and has spread? Do not hide this from the world. If she is really deceptive bring it to light so we all may know. If you do not reply then we all will know you have no facts and are also in the “Murky depths” and are trapped in your own unfounded beliefs.

    • Real Life September 13, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Somebody here just doesn’t think pedophelia is such a bad thing.

  • Ex FLDs Guy September 15, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Um… Ya they got a lot of stuff wrong. “16 million is a drop in the bucket for Jeffs” and then it goes on to talk about how some random unconnected dude has and gets so much money…. This article was a little hard to read as it jumped around and had little to do with the real story. The FLDS were having major financial problems at the time a left a few years ago and my brother left the FLDS only months ago tells me it has only gotten worse. One of the reasons she will never see the money is because it does not exist and what little money the church does have will be wasted by the leaders.

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