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Deadline passes for FLDS leadership legal struggle

Published August 4, 2011 8:29 am

With no challenge from Jessop, control reverts to Jeffs.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A leadership dispute within a polygamous sect appears to have subsided for now as a deadline for contesting the control of the FLDS Church's legal entity passed quietly Wednesday.

With no new filings from challenger William E. Jessop before the Utah Department of Commerce's close of business Wednesday, control of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint's corporation should revert back to Warren Steed Jeffs, said Utah Department of Commerce spokeswoman Jennifer Bolton.

In March, the 41-year-old Jessop, a former high-ranking FLDS bishop, filed papers seeking to replace Jeffs as the corporation's president, a position usually held by the church's prophet.

Jeffs supporters responded with paperwork claiming Jeffs had the unanimous support of 4,000 followers. Jessop, meanwhile, claimed those people are being threatened and intimated into supporting Jeffs. Jessop said he was named prophet of the church in 2007 and presented a series of recorded phone conversations supporting that claim.

The Utah Division of Corporations in May said it could "never determine who is president of the FLDS church" and was merely seeking to establish someone with the authority to make changes to the corporation's principals.

The Division of Corporations gave Jeffs and Jessop until Wednesday to either both sign a document agreeing on a leader or present a court order that determined authority.

Attempts to reach Jessop's attorney were unsuccessful Wednesday.

The 55-year-old Jeffs, meanwhile, remains in jail in Texas as the ninth day of his trial on charges of sexual assault and bigamy stemming from allegations of underage marriages was scheduled to begin Thursday.

Should Jeffs be convicted, it would have "no effect on a filing with the Utah Division of Corporations unless the Division is ordered to do so by a court of law," Bolton said in a statement.

afalk@sltrib.com