On August 20, 2003, Warren Jeffs withdrew from the public eye, even from his own people, after he condemned his followers in Short Creek for their sins. No more public church meetings were authorized to be held and no baptisms would be performed for two years. Warren taught that because of their unfaithfulness, the Lord had withdrawn him from the people. “If I had stayed, many of them would have been judged and found unworthy, so instead the Lord withdrew me to give them a little more time to repent.”
For the next year, Warren would spend most of his time at the “lands of refuge” code named by R1 (Mancos, Colorado) and R17 (YFZ, Eldorado, Texas). (See article on the lands of refuge). He would keep in close contact with his most loyal followers and oversee the massive building efforts in YFZ.
At first, his main reason for taking precautions to hide was due to a fear of being killed by those who he had “handled.” He had kicked out of the church over 100 men, and taken away their homes and families. He feared the Barlows the most, who he was convinced were conspiring against him. He also believed that government officials were trying to gather evidence against him.
On July 30, 2004, Warren received word that his nephew, Brent Jeffs was including him in a lawsuit involving sexual abuse. Warren decided that it was time to go into deeper hiding. He recorded, “I can see more clearly why John Taylor went into hiding as the government and the courts would demand he betray the Lord’s trust and also to take his life as they did Joseph Smith, as the world did against Joseph Smith, and the Lord has shown me this, that my enemies don’t just want me to be taken prisoner, but they want me dead. But the Lord has directed that I go into deeper hiding, and continue to gather the faithful, develop the lands of refuge and keep the redemption of Zion mission progressing. I have been instructed of the Lord to have my scribe and helpmate Naomie, get better disguise clothes. And we are working on whatever the Lord directs.” (Priesthood Record, July 30, 2004)
On August 28, 2006, Warren’s hiding came to an end when his car was pulled over on I-15 in Clark County, Nevada. Naomie, (his father’s young wife who Warren married at his death) was still with him to the end, after traveling tens of thousands of miles with him.
Where was he during those years of hiding and what did he do? How did he avoid being detected? Who helped him?
Warren started to spend more time on the move in cars. During his three years in hiding, he visited every one of the lower 48 states of the union. To blend in better, he traveled in disguise. This involved wearing “gentile” clothes, short sleeves and even shorts at times.
In 2004, Warren showed his disguise to his counselors in the First Presidency. “They wanted to see me in my costume, or rather my disguise, that I dress in different clothes as I travel among the gentiles. It weighs upon me to make sure I am not partaking of the spirit of the world, but the Lord has directed that I be careful. They were pleasantly impressed as they saw that I didn’t look like I normally do. But our bodies are covered, we just wear a hat and dress in clothes that don’t draw attention to us.” (Priesthood Record)
In May, 2004, Naomie wore disguise clothes for the first time. “The Lord’s Spirit keeps pressing me to make sure that she and I are disguised when we are among the gentiles. Among our people she wears a dress over those gentile clothes until she gets in the car. I just depend on the Lord to blind the eyes of everyone to not recognize us, and we have been doing some effort of shopping for clothes that will keep us covered. The Lord has warned me to do my part in being careful, as there are people seeking to kill me.” (Priesthood Record, May 4, 2004)
Warren and Naomie would also often visited tanning solons to further help their disguise. “The Lord directed that I go to the sun tanning salon and get sun tanned more evenly on their suntanning beds that have the lights so Naomie and I went and did that in the afternoon.” At times Warren would also have Naomie dye her hair.
Naomie’s devotion to Warren and tireless service was impressive. She was scribe for him on his long dictations and recordings. At night, she would watch by his side as he went into “heavenly sessions” that involved some sort of seizers, trembling and suffering. She had to sit by him for hours praying for him during these sessions. But in July 2004, when she was worried about her mother, Ruth Jessop, who had wanted to leave her marriage with Merril Jessop, Warren became angry with Naomie. He released her from her duties as scribe and sent her back to Short Creek. “’Naomie, you are guilty of having bad feelings, and you have sinned against knowledge.’ She weeping said, ‘I know.’ She acknowledged she let her feelings concerning her mother turn her from the Lord. After sending her away, Warren tried using other wives to assist him, but he missed Naomie terribly and pled with the Lord to let him atone for her. Finally after only a few days, Naomie was allowed to return.
Naomie would carefully manage the recordings and records. Many of these montotone recordings would be sent back to YFZ for instruction and to be safeguarded. “We have sent one of the disk drives holding the sacred record with Patricia back to R17 (YFZ) to be put in the temple. It holds the computer files of my testimony and dictation and Naomie’s testimony up to that point. I carry on my person two other small disk drives containing the sacred record, and thus we put it into our luggage when it is guarded. We keep the computer and record, and disk drives and the books with any revelations printed in it always under guard.” (Priesthood Record)
During his travels during 2004, in disguise he visited sites related to Mormon Church history, including Nauvoo, Illinois, Palmyra and Fayette, New York, and Sharon, Vermont. At each of these places, he felt a closeness to Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith, but he mocked the Mormon Church’s efforts to “commercialize” their religion in seek converts. “I walked through the Sacred Grove with Naomie. We sat on the bench deep in that forest area, away from everyone, and I offered a dedication prayer with my arm to the square and in the authority of the Priesthood. . . . I offered a dedication prayer, being in the place where the Godhead met in the spring of 1820 and yearned for the blessings of God to roll forth now.” (Priesthood Record, June 12, 2004)
The building of the YFZ and its temple took a lot of Warren’s personal attention. “My mind was awakened to the reality that I was on that land of refuge almost constantly from October 12, 2004 to June 12, 2005, only taking a few short trips away. And most of the time I was at R17 (YFZ), the Lord withheld me from the family and the people.” (Priesthood Record, July 28, 2005)
In July, 2005, Warren felt the need to get false identification. “I had sent Ben Johnson with $51,000 to go and get the false identification two weeks ago. “ (Priesthood Record, July 28, 2005) On another occasion, “I told these brethren what their mission was, and handed to John Wayman disks that contained digital pictures of Isaac, myself, and Naomie, and sent John Wayman on the mission to get our false identification. I am yearning unto the Lord to protect him and us in that mission. I told him that I would be traveling to foreign lands, and perhaps he would even be traveling to foreign lands to help us.”
Warren’s long miles traveling by car also involved a mission. “[The Lord] is now sending me on the mission to bind up the law and seal up the testimony against this wicked nation.” Beginning in early 2003 and ending in mid 2005, Warren visited the 48 continental states, stopping at most of the state capitals. He would perform the ordinance of dusting off the feet, declare that “none doeth good here,” raise his arm to the square and leave a curse on the people of the state. “I performed the ordinance, arm to the square with Naomie sitting beside me holding the recorder. I delivered the state of New Hampshire over to the judgments of God and asked the Lord to remove the Spirit of protection from that state, and that the state and people would not be a stronghold against Zion. Always in these ordinances I kick the dust of my feet against them as a witness and testimony on earth, binding the law, sealing up the testimony against this wicked generation.” (Priesthood Record, August 2, 2005)
“As of now, the Lord has had me go to every state of the United States on the main land; forty eight states, in kicking the dust of my feet off as a witness against them, and also through prayer, arms to the square. . . . This work has been done, binding up the law and sealing up the testimony against this nation.” (Priesthood Record, August, 2005)
Later in prison, Warren received a "revelation" on January 18, 2007. Verse 9-12 relate to this mission he accomplished. "I have sent him throughout the nation where the Zion of our God shall be built; and I have caused that he perform the work, in my name and by my power, to bind up the law and seal up the testimony against you; and to witness continually before the heavens against all your corruptions and abobmination. . . . And he has, by my word and authority delivered the nation of the United States of America over to the judgements of Almighty God."
Warren seemed to never tire in riding in the cars for hour after hour. He spent much of his time reading letters from his followers. Once he had all his loyal followers gathered at the places of refuge send him letters of confession. He would spend hours pouring over those letters. His replies would be by phone. When in cell phone coverage, he would spend hours on the phone with leaders and family members. After reading letters he would make phone calls to instruct leaders which men needed to be “handled” and removed from their families. At times he believed he could avoid having his calls traced by having them be transferred by another person. For example, when he wanted to call YFZ, once he had a man travel 40 miles away to receive his call and then transfer it to YFZ.
With the long hours on the road, Warren would even avoid bathroom breaks. “The Lord strengthened me to not have to get out to a restroom or for any other reason, removed the need. Just didn’t have the need to get out of the car. Every time we stopped for Naomie to get out, I was shown I should not get out of the car at the rest stops, and the Lord kept His word that He showed me that He would open the way that we could pass through our enemies and not be seen.” (Priesthood Record, August 27, 2005)
From June 12 – August 27, 2005, they traveled 26,800 miles by car. As Warren spent months on the road he would observe the wickedness of the world both in person and on television. “I obeyed the Lord’s directive and went out in the sunshine for one and a half hours. I witnessed some things on the television what the world delights in, and it was a marvel, shocking – open promotion of prostitution, sowing full nudity and corruption on the television.”
Night after night, Warren would watch violent and sexually provocative movies (R and likely X-rated) with his wives in motel rooms. He claimed that the Lord directed him to do this to see the wicked state of the world. While in New Orleans he went slowly down Bourbon Street, in the French Quarter to observe wickedness and then watched dirty movies on television that night with his wives until 2 a.m.
At one point, Naomie became visibly upset. “She acknowledged that this morning, as she witnessed some things this week, she wanted to just get away from it. I gave her a training. I reviewed the training with the ladies that we must be at perfect peace and keep Zion growing no matter what we witness, and the Lord has a purpose in us witnessing this wicked world, that we will be at peace while He sweeps the wicked off the land through the whirlwind judgment, and also that we will be at peace as Priesthood people are persecuted, driven, and some killed.” (Priesthood Record)
Warren recorded disturbing and callus reactions after viewing news reports about Hurricane Katrina. As the massive hurricane approached New Orleans, Warren recorded, “New Orleans was that wicked city where the Lord sent me three times to witness that place. And each time, by ordinance and prayer, delivered that city over to the judgment of God. . . . I yearned that the Lord would sweep that place clean.” As Warren watched news reports of the destruction and many deaths, he reacted, “The Lord performed a work here. I thank Him for answering prayers and fulfilling His purposes. . . . It is a marvelous experience to witness, and yet it is very small compared to what is about to happen. . . . I ask the Lord to particularly destroy the French Quarter of New Orleans. . . . Praise God from whom all blessing flow.” On that day, Warren was in St. Louis and bought a TV with a DVD player and watched with his wives “immoral videos” late into the night as part of their training. (Priesthood Record, August 30, 2005)
Warren was convinced that his efforts caused this Katrina’s destruction. “[The Lord] specifically had me deliver that city again over to the judgments of God. About the time I left was when this hurricane began to form in the Atlantic Ocean. The Lord sent me on other errands.”
When Warren visited YFZ, he gave instructions to increase the security. Guards had to stay alert, awake and active. More guards were placed around his house and around the perimeter of the property. He would tour the property and identify spots for additional houses to be built. The Lord had told him to build 25 homes. On his visits he would really crack the whip and push the workers to put in longer hours and work harder. He put a stop to those who were wasting money by buying “four hundred dollar boots and bottles of fifty dollar cologne.” (Priesthood Record, September 7, 2005) On these visits Warren would also conduct plural marriage ceremonies.
Warren was in frequent contact with his families who were in places of hiding and refuge. He would call them so he could instruct them by his voice and at other times he would send messages. “I told him to call the men that are watching over the family in the scattered houses in hiding (in Nevada and Colorado) . . . and tell them to read from the book Priesthood Articles and read the article called ‘Prepare for the Day of Visitation.’” (Priesthood Record, August 22, 2005). Warren would also call in frequently to Sunday School meetings at YFZ. Through his letters he obtained information at times that would lead him to believe that some women at YFZ were on the verge of committing adultery. He would then order special lessons to be given to warn his followers that they would be destroyed if they gave into temptation.
On one particular occasion, he received word that a wife had been wavering. He ordered an unusual punishment for this naïve and sheltered young woman. “I told him to take her and she was to walk down the Las Vegas strip where all the casionos are. I named the places she should walk, and that he would drop her off and then pick her up at the other end of the street. I estimate it was a two-mile walk, and that would be Saturday night. I told him that she had to dress as a gentile and she will experience what it is like to be away from the Priesthood. . . . She was a spoiled, protected girl that was not grateful unto the Lord. . . . I called her three times as she walked down among the wicked.” Next he had her locked up in a room at Mandalay Bay. “I told her to watch and go through the channels and look at what the world glories in, in their entertainments and ways and news.” She had to do this for about two hours and then stay in the room alone until morning.
Somehow Warren got in his mind that he needed to learn how to ride motorcycles. “I thank the Lord for this next mission as He is having us travel west and be trained in how to ride the motorcycles. This is a preparation for a future experience.” (Priesthood Record) He took lessons and enjoyed riding in Wyoming.
Warren would receive reports that the authorities were searching for him and that he had been placed on the FBI most-wanted list. It amused him when he heard reports that he had been spotted in Salt Lake City airport or in Florida. That gave him an idea. He ordered Willie Jessop to “travel to Florida and Georgia and put on a diversion for me, for the government would watch him. He would actually look for certain lands, but not buy them. Just part of the diversion so I can go into Short Creek.” (Priesthood Record, August 22, 2005)
Warren made a rare visit to Short creek in August 2005 to perform plural marriages. He did it under strict secrecy and was only there for three hours. He believed that the Lord blinded the eyes of those looking for him.
He knew that authorities were trying to gather information about underage marriages. “I told him about these men that were being brought into trial for marrying so-called underage girls. The ones that were arrested I said, ‘The general council is answer the courts nothing. Do not testify in your own trial. If you testify, you could be found a traitor against God and Priesthood.’” (Priesthood Record, August 25, 2005)
On October 28, 2005, Warren’s brother Seth, was arrested in southern Colorado after a traffic stop. It became obvious that Seth had been harboring a fugitive, Warren. Seth had $142,000 in cash and $7,000 worth of prepaid debit cards. Worst of all, he had many of Warren’s personal records. Seth was probably on a trip from Colorado Springs to YFZ. On a previous occasion, two months earlier, Warren met Seth at the home in Castle Rock, Colorado, to send Seth as a courier to YFZ. “I had Seth take a package of moneys with him. I put on record that he took $130,000 with him. I told him to put $10,000 in the safe at his house for future directives. I told him to take $5,000 out of his safe to give to Jonathan Allred in Albuquerque as he passed through. He took $120,000 to R17 (YFZ).”
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were continually collected from the people in Short Creek and their businesses to fund Warren’s travels, support his families in hiding, and fund the various projects on the lands of refuge. In Warren’s record he never expressed appreciation for the sacrifices made for this money. To him, it was the Lord’s money and Warren could use it however he wished. A budget report for a period showed 1.2 million dollars collected from Short Creek. $700,000 went to YFZ, $40,000 went to R23 in South Dakota, $15,000 went to R1 in Colorado, and $150,000 went to scattered houses of hiding in Nevada and Colorado.
Warren’s days of freedom on the run came to an end one night on I-15 in Nevada, on August 28, 2006. He had been on the FBI’s top 10 Most Wanted List since May. A trooper pulled over his red Cadillac Escalade that had been bought in Colorado. Among the items in the car were: 27 stacks of money, each containing $2,500, two wigs, 14 cell phones, three Ipods, and a picture of Warren with his father Rulon. But the item that Warren worried about most was his Priesthood Record for 2004-2006. He prayed and hoped that these records would not be made public, especially seen by his faithful followers without being prepared. About a quarter of it has been made public.
Warren and Naomie in disguise at the time of his arrest.