Poll: Utahns don't trust promises of FLDS parents

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John Hollenhorst reporting The story of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) Texas climaxed last week when hundreds of children were sent back to their parents. But many Utahns are skeptical of promises made by the FLDS parents.

A new KSL poll reveals even more skepticism about their church's pledge to abolish underage marriage. Now, an old sermon by FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs may add fuel to that skepticism.

The tapes are among hundreds of sermons Jeffs recorded years ago. According to former members, his devoted followers play those tapes over and over in their homes. In one sermon he justifies false promises to authorities.

In one sermon Jeffs taught, "A family can only be a family by appointment of the prophets. You can only get married and be a priesthood family if he says who you should marry."

To get their children back, FLDS parents agreed to follow various court orders, and the church made a promise to the public: "The church commits that it will not preside over any marriage of any woman under the age of legal consent," FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop said.

Utahns are highly skeptical. Almost half believe the FLDS will probably or definitely not follow the court orders. Only one-third believe they will. Almost three-fourths are skeptical of the promise to halt underage marriage, and only 2 percent believe the FLDS definitely will give it up.

The Attorney General's office says it doesn't know what to make of the pledge.

Years ago, Jeffs recorded a sermon about a similar promise by former FLDS leader John Y. Barlow. Barlow was released from prison after signing a pledge to give up plural marriage. But he broke the promise as soon as he was released. "He agreed with his enemies while they had a hold of him so he could get out of their hands. But he didn't obey them. He obeyed the Lord," Jeffs taught.

Jeffs' old sermon justified Barlow's false promise with scripture and as dishonesty authorized by God. "But whatever the Lord commands is right, and the Lord told him to sign that paper," Jeffs said.

It's unclear if Jeffs still calls the shots at the ranch. He renounced his status as prophet after he was jailed in Utah. But just a couple of weeks ago, one of the Texas FLDS moms testified that she still revered him as a prophet and considered him to be "perfect."

In one important respect, Utahns are on the same side as FLDS leaders. Our poll showed that almost three-fourths believe the Texas Supreme Court was right to return the children, but Utahns overwhelmingly support a continued investigation; 88 percent definitely or probably agree the probe should go on.

E-mail: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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