U polygamy activist concerned for Warren Jeffs’ followers

Warren Jeffs’ arrest Tuesday morning is giving U student and polygamy-activist Mary Batchelor hope that the situation can lead to an improved understanding of the polygamist community.

Jeffs had been on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list since May, with a $100,000 reward offered for information leading to his capture. He is wanted in Utah and Arizona on charges of arranging two marriages between underage girls and older men. The charges include two counts of rape as an accomplice in Utah, with each count punishable for up to life in prison.

Batchelor, a senior in speech communication and executive director of Principle Voices of Polygamy, said she is sympathetic to Jeffs’ followers-members of The Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the FLDS church.

“They believe this man is a prophet of God,” Batchelor said.

PVP’s Web site says it “is committed to education, empowerment and service of individuals and families in the Fundamentalist Mormon culture.”

Batchelor said she is hopeful the arrest will serve as a chance for Jeffs’ followers to re-examine their beliefs and that PVP is willing to work with the FLDS community.

Anne Wilde, PVP community relations director, said she thinks Jeffs is guilty on many charges, but hopes he receives a fair trial.

FLDS church dissidents have said that marriages of underage girls, some as young as 13, were rare before Jeffs became leader of the group, but now underage marriages have risen into the hundreds.

A Nevada Highway Patrol trooper arrested Jeffs without incident, and no weapons were found when he and two others were pulled over for a traffic stop late Monday and taken into custody, FBI agent Steven Martinez said.

Warren Jeffs