In an interview with Oxygen’s “Abuse of Power,” former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) member and child bride Elissa Wall detailed what it was like growing up under the rule of prophet Warren Jeffs. Wall was born in 1986 to a polygamous family and lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. Now 31, Wall recalled having a happy childhood with her 24 siblings, telling producers, “The FLDS were really good about creating a community environment. We were God’s chosen people.”
As she got older, however, Wall began to see a darker side of her faith. When she was 13, Wall said FLDS went from being “a community to being about Warren.” In his role as prophet, Warren Jeffs had complete control over his followers, and he began implementing harsher rules and inflicting stricter punishments on those who disobeyed the Church.
Wall said that during this time, her father came under particular scrutiny: “He had to have a perfect family, or he was not going to be given a kingdom in heaven. The pressure to have submissive, pure wives, the pressure to have completely obedient children — it was all a tally as to see how good he was.”
When Wall’s father got into a physical altercation with one of her older brothers, Jeffs used it as “an opportunity” to deem her father “unworthy.” He was swifty kicked out of their Salt Lake City community, and Jeffs moved Wall and her family down south to Short Creek, where they were “reassigned” to bishop Fred Jessop. It was in Short Creek that 14-year-old Wall learned she would be married off to her adult first cousin Allen Steed.
“We’re at this family gathering, and there was a seat that was empty next to me. And because of our belief system that girls and boys do not intermingle, we don’t sit next to one another,” Wall told “Abuse of Power.” “Then, all of a sudden Allen — my cousin — he came over and he sat right next to me. Because he sat next to me, I knew that was my message I was to marry my adult first cousin Allen. And everything in me just recoiled.”
Wall pleaded with Warren Jeffs and his father, former FLDS president Rulon Jeffs, to be allowed to wait until she was 16 to get married. Warren denied Wall’s request to delay the wedding and commanded that she marry Steed.
“I knew that I had done everything that I could to change my reality, and Warren had crushed all of it,” said Wall. Barely a teenager, Wall was forced to marry her cousin just two days later.
Throughout their relationship, Wall said she and Steed “collided [...] a lot.”
“I had a very hard time being submissive to him, and we would often get into some heated arguments because he wanted me to do something and I resisted. And specifically when it came to the bedroom,” said Wall.
When news of Wall’s “disobedience” to Steed and the Church made its way to the FLDS leaders, she and her husband were called to meet with Jeffs. Wall said she gave Jeffs “extreme detail” about what was happening in their marriage, but he ultimately sided with her husband.
Wall explained, “[Jeffs] looked at me and very coldly told me I needed to submit mind, body and soul to my husband because he was my pathway to heaven.”
To learn more about Warren Jeffs, tune in to “Abuse of Power” on Saturday, May 19 at 7/6c.