Prior to the 1970s, this concept of absolute obedience to the prophet wasn’t part of the groups’ dogma. The people believed their leaders were men of God and they gave inspired counsel, but they didn’t fear being cast out or being eternally damned if they questioned the leader’s words. As the FLDS shifted to a “one man rule” doctrine, the prophet became the absolute authority figure. (See One Man Rule). Warren Jeffs took this to a new level after he took over leadership under questionable circumstances. He couldn’t tolerate being questioned or criticized. Penalties for doing so eventually became severe. He preached, “Perfect obedience produces perfect faith, which produces perfect people.”
What is the role of the prophet in the FLDS? Let’s take look at Warren Jeffs' teachings on the subject.
- The prophet is God on earth to the people. “Each Prophet stands as God to the people. When he speaks, it is the Lord speaking.” “ When you're in the presence of our prophet, you're in the presence of God.” “The prophet is God with us and God over us. To obey the prophet is to obey God.” (WSJ 12/26/95, 1/4/96, 11/20/95)
- The prophet owns the people. “Man actually belongs to [the] prophet, willing to do what is directed.”
- The prophet is the most powerful person on earth. “We know the man who has the greatest power on earth. At the command of President Jeffs, he can control the weather. He can cause earthquakes to come. He can cause our enemies to be destroyed. He will not do it unless the Lord tells him, and he will not do it unless we are worthy.” (WSJ 1/16/96)
- The prophet decides who can enter heaven. “You only get to heaven through the living prophet in your time. Because of this great power President Jeffs holds, he is everything to us. All your happiness comes through him.” (WSJ 11/20/95)
- The prophet does not make mistakes. “He sets a perfect example and you can feel his spirit if you're praying.” “The one man - the prophet - will never teach you wrong. He will always lead you right.” "The prophet doesn't make mistakes as far as marriages are concerned. . . .If ever a marriage fails, it's not the prophet's fault. It's the people who lived it wrong if their marriage failed." (WSJ 1/4/96, 4/2/96)
- The prophet’s decisions are always fulfilled. “But when. . . the prophet commands, there are angels round about him who will go and do as he commands, as the Lord inspires that man. The heavenly beings around President Jeffs, when he says a prayer and speaks, they go and make sure it happens because the Lord has promised him that when he blesses a person, that person will be blessed if they are obedient.” (WSJ 1/29/96)
- The prophet is in constant communication with God. “The Lord puts something inside the prophet - enough of His spirit so that prophet can talk with Heavenly Father, even while he thinks.” “The Lord speaks in the prophet's mind. His spirit is always there in the prophet's mind). The prophet just thinks a prayer and the Lord's spirit puts the words in his thoughts. He talks with the Lord in that way.” (WSJ 12/26/95)
- The prophet has a special gift of discernment to know who has sinned. “I see many of you go through the line on Sunday, to shake his hand. After meeting, sometimes I've sat with father, and he starts naming a few families. He says, ‘This person or these children have a good look in their eye and I feel a good spirit.’ Others I have heard him say, ‘That family - those children, are dark. They don't have a good spirit, a good feel, a good look in their eye.’ Did you know that's what is happening when you are shaking his hand? He is feeling your spirit. Now, shake his hand and look him in the eye, but if you feel guilty about something, you'll have a hard time doing it, or if you look him in the eye, your spirit will be felt by him, that you've been disobedient.” (WSJ 1/4/96)
- The prophet is the only one who can receive revelation for the people and has the right to rule the people in all areas of their lives. The early FLDS prophets taught their people that they had the right to receive personal revelation from God for their lives. Recent FLDS leaders changed this teaching. Revelation for individual lives only comes through the prophet. He is the one who will reveal whom they should marry. (See Arranged Marriages). He will be the one to determine a person’s occupation in life. Parents can receive inspiration for their family, but revelation will come through the prophet.
“That one man is as God over the people and has the right to rule in all areas of life”
“No father, can go off and make up his own rules. For him to stay a faithful father, he must live the prophet's rules. Nobody can be their own big boss and get to heaven, right up to our Savior, direct. You only get to heaven through the living prophet in your time. Because of this great power President Jeffs holds, he is everything to us.” (WSJ 11/20/95)
“The Lord tells us if we do what He says, He is bound to bless us. . . . How do you know what He says? It is called revelation. The Lord speaks through His prophet. When your parents tell you to do something, they are prayerful. They have inspiration what you should do. . . . For you to be called an obedient person, you must listen to those over you. Every blessing you will ever get in priesthood, you must listen to those over you and do as they direct, not you commanding them.” (WSJ 1/4/96)
An FLDS member explained. “You see, in the FLDS, as a loyal young man, you are to check in with the Prophet and be told what to do and become (profession wise). In the past, the young men could get a building lot and build themselves a house. This gave them something to work towards, a goal, an identity, a place to raise a family. Under Warren, they are to simply turn in all their money over to the Prophet, and they may get a house, or a trailer, or who knows what."
There are a couple important rules to follow in obeying the prophet.
- Do not alter an anyway the prophet’s counsel. “You cannot change what the prophet says and think you're obeying.” (WSJ 1/4/96)
- You must not recommend things to the prophet. If you do, it will be your own ideas, not revelation from the Lord.
- Answers to prayer come through the prophet. You must have a prayer in you heart when you meet with the prophet. “when a person prays, the Lord answers them through the prophet I want you to believe that when you go to President Jeffs with a prayer in your heart, the Lord talks to you, through him. His word is the word of God.” (WSJ 2/5/96)
What are the penalties for not obeying the prophet? Under LeRoy Johnson, the disobedient were cared for and given help. Under Rulon Jeffs the disobedient were tolerated. Under Warren Jeffs the disobedient were kicked out of the Church. Here is what Warren Jeffs taught would happen to those who disobeyed the prophet.
- Death. “We should consider any disobedience to the prophet as though it was death.” “Truly, rebellion against the prophet is death.” “Obey the prophet when he speaks and you'll be blessed. Disobey him and it is death.” (WSJ 12/26/95, 12/21/95)
- You will start acting like a gentile. “If you forget what the prophet says and don't turn to him and don't love him, you will turn to the world - automatically, it will happen.” (See Gentiles). (WSJ 12/21/95)
- You will become an apostate. “An apostate is a person that turns against the prophet. They turn away from him at first then they turn to fight him in the end. People who criticize the prophet will eventually turn against him.” To became an apostate is worse than death. (See Apostates.) (WSJ 4/2/96)
- You will lose your Church membership and lose your family. An FLDS member explained, “A man loses the Priesthood by being morally unclean, or doubting the prophet in the smallest detail. Loyalty to the Prophet has now become more important than anything else, even treating others with love and respect.”
For the FLDS today, everything flows through the prophet. A chain of obedience exists. The man must obey the prophet. The woman must obey the husband as he obeys the prophet. If a woman disobeys her husband, she is disobeying the prophet, and disobeying God. An FLDS member explained: “When it comes to choices you have to choose to do what the prophet wants even if you are sent to prison. The thing here is obedience. We’re obedient to our prophet and in turn our wives and children are obedient to us.”
A former FLDS member explains “THERE IS NO LOVE. The only motivation out there is FEAR. They live in fear of having all that they hold dear removed from them. They live in fear of going to hell because they do not implicitly obey the fiendish dictates of a man in a desperate power struggle, who just can't seem to get enough.”