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San Angelo, Texas • Invoking revelations from God, Warren Jeffs instructed 12 of his plural wives on group sex, becoming comfortable nude and how they should care for their body hair in what he called a "training," according to an audio recording played in court Tuesday.
The wives all undressed and put on white robes as Jeffs began to speak in the December 2004 recording, Texas Ranger Nick Hanna testified. One wife in the group, prosecutors say, was a 14-year-old girl whose parents brought her to be married to Jeffs. The ages of the other wives were not specified.
The 55-year-old Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints leader is on trial for sexual assault in that union and another alleged plural marriage to a 12-year-old girl.
As prosecutors prepared to play the recording in court, Jeffs objected almost constantly and at one point, it appeared he would not be in the courtroom when it was played. Walther ordered the jury out of the courtroom three times, finally telling Jeffs: "This is not a matter where you can manipulate this court."
As the approximately 90-minute tape played, Jeffs continued to object softly, once speaking for 17 minutes over the sound of his own recorded voice.
"You have to know how to be excited sexually and to be excited to administer that comfort and strength," Jeffs is heard on the recording. "And you have to be able to assist each other. No one sits around, everyone assists each other."
In contrast to his measured monotone in court, the Jeffs on the tape occasionally laughs, and at one point sings. The recording was apparently made by Jeffs to teach other future plural wives how to be "heavenly comfort wives."
He is heard telling the females they must cooperate with their sister wives in many ways, including in sex. He seems to be trying to put them at ease, saying that although they were rightly taught to cover themselves growing up in the conservative FLDS, they should become "so natural as clothed as unclothed," now that they are his wives. About 40 minutes into the recording, Jeffs says an amen. Then he's heard saying, "OK, six ladies. I wish I had a seventh."
A few minutes later, the sound of a zipper is heard and Jeffs tells the females with him to change into the white robes. He also gives instructions to keep their briefs on if they are menstruating and how to tie the robes.
"O.K. ladies. Smile! Are you cold?" he said. "You must realize that when you got married, you gave yourself to your husband, mind and body. You know of this, but you still haven't fulfilled it yet."
Some of his language is vague and filled with spiritual references, but he repeatedly says that obedience is needed in order for the wives to reach heaven. He often quotes from revelations, purportedly from God, and promises "holy gifts" for women who obey him.
"The fullness of the law of Sarah is for quorums of wives to be with me to be a comfort," Jeffs is heard saying. "Yes, even physically, for I need more than one wife to be with me at a time."
Jeffs said he had been "appointed" and permitted to engage in sexual behavior not allowed to other FLDS men. He also warned his wives not to talk to other people about what happens in their "higher order."
"If another man, not appointed, were to do this, they would lose priesthood," he said.
"The world's sexual relations are a fulfillment of selfish pleasure … you help me," he said. He instructs the women to shower before they come around him. At one point, a wife stands up and teaches the others how to shave their underarm hair, and Jeffs instructs them how to maintain their pubic hair.
As they leave, he tells the group: "You don't know how the men are out there in the world,"
A female voice answers: "We're so glad we don't know."
It was one of three audio recordings prosecutors played Tuesday to establish Jeffs' alleged relationship with the older child victim. All three tapes were seized in a massive 2008 raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
Another recording was of a lesson Jeffs gave while riding in a car. And in the third tape Jeffs calls to check on another "quorum" of 12 women, again telling the females to cooperate, though not mentioning sex. Hanna testified that Jeffs could be heard calling his older alleged victim by name.
There is no indication Jeffs is having sex on any of the recordings. Prosecutors have not yet entered into evidence an audio tape they say is Jeffs sexually assaulting the 12-year-old girl.
Reading from "priesthood records," which include Jeffs' personal journals and dictations, Hanna quoted Jeffs referring to the girl's parents: "I informed them about their daughter [name omitted] belonging to me ... they went and got her." The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not name alleged victims of sexual assault.
In another journal entry, Jeffs writes about three girls, including the 14-year-old, saying: "They are pure and innocent and willing to obey."
Prosecutors also displayed FLDS priesthood records showing the older girl was in Texas on the dates she could have conceived a child with Jeffs when she was 15. A DNA expert testified Monday there is better than a 99 percent probability Jeffs is the father of her child, born in 2005.
Despite the FLDS marriage records, an expert on Texas family law testified Jeffs was not legally married to either girl, "under any stretch of the imagination."
As he has for days, Jeffs who is acting as his own attorney after firing his high-profile defense team made numerous objections citing religious grounds, invasion of privacy, breaking a sacred trust and accusing the court of persecuting him and his followers.
Jeffs launched a flurry of objections when Hanna began reading dictations from Jeffs regarding property that would later become the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado.
"The court is allowing open use of the Lord's name for religious deceit," Jeffs said at one point before Walther stopped proceedings, ordered the jury out of the courtroom and called a recess.
On Monday, prosecutors submitted dozens of pictures of both alleged victims, including a photograph of the older girl holding a baby in her arms, while pregnant, and posing with a portrait of Jeffs along with another pregnant sister wife. In other photos, Jeffs is shown cuddling and kissing the alleged 12-year-old victim.
Jeffs is charged with one count each of sexual abuse of a child and aggravated sexual abuse of a child.
If found guilty, Jeffs will be sentenced by the same Texas jury in a proceeding where prosecutors may present evidence of hundreds of other so-called bad acts, including at least 10 other underage marriages to Jeffs that authorities have introduced in other courts. The penalty imposed could be up to life in prison.
Also Tuesday, Walther announced that a regional judge had not only denied Jeffs' Monday motion to remove her from the case which contained biblical threats but also ordered Jeffs to reimburse the state of Texas for the cost of defending his recusal motion.
Court recessed at 9:13 p.m. local time Tuesday with the prosecution still not yet finished presenting its case.