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Audio recordings of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs giving sexual training to underage plural wives helped convince a Texas jury to convict Jeffs of child rape last week.
For juror Mary Harris, hearing the voices of the girls on several recordings played by prosecutors was the most striking piece of evidence.
"They sounded like they were 5 or 6," she said.
The recordings were among boxes of evidence prosecutors submitted at trial, much of which is now being released since jurors ordered the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints prophet to serve life in prison Tuesday. The Salt Lake Tribuneis releasing selected audio portions online which do not include any sexual assault in progress.
During three-hours of training, about half of which was played for jurors, Jeffs makes biblical references to what he calls the "Law of Sarah" and the taking of multiple wives. He tells the wives their duties as plural wives are a commandment of God and a requirement of the everlasting covenant with the Lord, saying if they reject this that they will be banished from heaven.
He tells them the Lord has told him he must have "quorums of wives" and that they may be with him sexually more than one at a time.
The wives can be heard undressing and putting on white robes as Jeffs began to speak in a December 2004 recording, Texas Ranger Nick Hanna testified.
Jurors convicted the 55-year-old Jeffs of sexual assault for fathering a child with one of the wives on the audio recording, who was then 14. Jurors also found him guilty of aggravated sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl he took as a wife.
Jeffs reads a revelation in which he tells the girls God says the wives of the prophet are in good standing with the Lord so long as they remain "humble, submissive, pure and loyal" to God and Jeffs. He ends the reading with an "amen," to which a chorus of faint female voices responds "amen."
A few minutes later, the sound of zippers is heard as 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.
According to Jeffs, God was ready to strike his people, but ordered Jeffs to atone for their sins. These "atonement sessions," he said, "bring me right close to death." But rather than bringing in medical personnel who "would destroy me," Jeffs' wives are told they have the power of the holy spirit to "revive" him with their touch.
"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."
Later in the recording, Jeffs says not all sex will happen during the atonement sessions. "The Lord showed me I don't always have to be that close to death for my ladies to be with me," he says.
As they leave the three-hour session, 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."
The recording, and another prosecutors said was of Jeffs having sex with the 12-year-old, was one of several played during the guilt phase of the trial. Several more recordings were played during the sentencing phase, including what prosecutors have said is Jeffs having sex in the baptismal font in the temple at the FLDS Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
Prosecutors also showed evidence that Jeffs has 78 plural wives, including 12 girls married at age 16 and another 12 who were 15 or younger. Audio excerpts from Warren Jeffs' sexual training sessions
1 • Jeffs tells his wives that the "fullness of the Law of Sarah is for quorums of wives to be with me, physically, and more than one at a time."
2 • Jeffs reads a revelation he received while in a prayer circle with eight unclothed wives, in which God tells Jeffs' wives that his "smile shall continue to shine upon you" as they obey him. It goes on to say they stand approved before God at that time, and will be so long as they continue to be "humble, submissive, pure and loyal unto me and unto thee, my servant." He ends the reading with an "amen," and the group of female voices responds with a soft "amen."
3 • Jeffs says the Lord was ready to scourge and strike his people for rejecting him, and required Jeffs to come and atone for the people. "The atonements have come to such severity, that I'm taken right close to death," he tells the wives. After these atonement sessions, "My ladies, in their right moment are called, to assist me through their tenderness. And [in] their wifely, womanly ways, are able to revive me. I am not to go into the hands of the medical people, or they would destroy me. The Lord has appointed that my wives, who are filled with the holy ghost, can help revive me." He tells them he can use his "ladies" as quorums to do this work. He reassures them that "celestial morals" dictate that sex is the way they complete this holy work. "You have to know how to be excited sexually, and to be exciting, to administer that comfort and strength. You have to be able to assist each other. No one just stands around. Everyone assists. And you have to be prepared, to be trained, to do this." He says if he's in a "heavenly session" and calls for a wife, they will touch his hand or head or foot and the Lord will tell him whether their spirit is ready. If they do not believe, or have selfish feelings or fears, they would drive the Lord away. Those who Jeffs feels are not ready for sex at that time will be told to leave. "The work the Lord has me to do is too important to allow emotional wives be with me."
4 • He tells his wives how he expects them to groom their underarms and pubic hair, and says they must always come to him showered. This training is to break down their "false traditions," but they may not discuss it. No other man can do this or the women themselves without it being ordered by the Lord. To do so would mean they could lose their place in heaven, Jeffs tells them. "You have to pray harder than ever to abide the fullness of the Law of Sarah," he tells them, saying the highest order in heaven belongs to husbands and wives who are together. He goes on to say while the wives must remain fully clothed around others, when with him they "must be as comfortable undressed as dressed."
5 • Jeffs tells his wives he does all of this because all he's interested in is becoming more spiritual. He then goes on to say not all sex will happen during the atonement sessions. "The Lord showed me I don't always have to be that close to death for my ladies to be with me," he says.
6 • At the end of the training, Jeffs tells the wives, "You ladies just don't know how men out in the world are." A female voice replies, "We're so glad we don't know."