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A fight for control of a polygamous sect intensified Thursday as leaders filed documents to keep jailed leader Warren Jeffs in charge of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Boyd L. Knudson, the registered agent of the church's Corporation of the President, sought to cancel out papers filed Monday seeking to replace Jeffs with church elder William E. Jessop as president and presiding bishop.
Jessop "has filed false documents ... [he] has never been upheld by the church congregation as president," Knudson wrote in Thursday's filing. "Common consent is required by the church."
The filing includes affidavits from four church leaders who said they were part of a February congregation of about 4,000 people who stood and "raise[d] their arms and voices unanimously sustaining President Warren Steed Jeffs as standing in the highest quorum of the church as its president."
Lyle S. Jeffs, bishop of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah; church patriarch Vaughan E. Taylor; and counselors in the bishopric John M. Barlow and Ray M. Barlow signed the affidavits.
Jessop, 41, is a former bishop of Colorado City and Hildale. In January 2007, Jeffs named him as the sect's "true prophet" in taped conversations from a jail cell, but later recanted.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Jessop said his filing was an attempt to "preserve" the church, and the fulfillment of an earlier directive from Jeffs.
Neither filing, however, was signed by Jeffs, who is in jail awaiting trial on sexual assault and bigamy charges in Texas. It was unclear whether he was aware of either.
The state will now place a hold on Jessop's documents and give the two parties 15 to 30 days to resolve the dispute, Utah Department of Commerce spokeswoman Jennifer Bolton said earlier this week.
Jessop will have to prove he was in the right, and if he can't, the case will go to court. If he fails to prove his claim there, control of the church would revert back to the 55-year-old Jeffs.
While imprisoned in Utah, Jeffs ceded control of the corporation to counselor Wendell Nielsen last year, but reclaimed it just over a month ago. Jeffs is said to have excommunicated about 30 men from the church in recent months, including Nielsen and other top leaders.
Number of underage FLDS marriage allegations continues to grow in Canada
Canadian prosecutors filed allegations Thursday of additional underage marriages within a Utah-based polygamous sect.
Based on evidence seized in Texas, the newest affidavit brings the total number of allegations to 31 in a period of 16 years and includes two new underage marriages to sect leader Warren Jeffs.
The unions were allegedly conducted in several places Spokane, Wash., Sandy and Salt Lake City, along with the group's settlements in Hildale; Colorado City, Ariz.; and British Columbia.
The new allegations span a period from 1990 to 2004. The ceremonies were performed by Warren Jeffs and his father Rulon Jeffs, the group's now-deceased previous leader, according to court documents.
The affidavit from Texas Ranger J. Nick Hanna does not specify the girls' ages, but it refers to each as a "child."
Texas authorities executed a massive raid on the sect's Yearning for Zion Ranch, seizing hundreds of boxes of documents in 2008. Defense attorneys have raised doubts about the cache of photos, marriage and birth records seized during the raid..
This marks the fourth affidavit filed in Canada alleging underage marriages within the group. The documents are part of a case weighing whether the country's law banning polygamy is constitutional.