Life After Warren Jeffs: How Former FLDS Members Are Moving Forward

Season 5 Episode 416
Aired on 03/22/2015 | CC
In March 2009, Oprah traveled to Eldorado, Texas, and received unprecedented access to the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch, a polygamist community that was home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The previous year, this breakaway fundamentalist Mormon sect made headlines when armed authorities performed a raid after receiving reports of young girls being forced into marriage with adult men.

At that time, Willie Jessop was Oprah's guide, an FLDS spokesman and a staunch supporter of Warren Jeffs, the ranch's leader. Now, six years later, Willie publicly condemns Jeffs, a convicted sex offender who is serving life in prison.

Following Jeffs' conviction, many current and former FLDS members, including Willie, resettled in Hildale, Utah, home to Mormon fundamentalists since the early 1900s. Now, Willie says he's trying to help the families who once followed Jeffs so that they can move forward.

"I went to the county, and I said to them, 'You've got two choices: You can either add onto the prison, because this society will end up in prison with no education and no ability to sustain itself, or you can help me open a school,'" Willie says. "We haven't had a public school since Warren shut it down in 2002."

In the fall of 2014, a public school opened for the first time in 12 years. "This school was used by Warren Jeffs, and it was under his direct administration, and for the first time, it's been taken out from underneath the control of Warren Jeffs, and it's now been put in the hands of the public," Willie says.

In the above video, Willie shares how "life after Jeffs" is different for children in the community. Plus, Willie opens up about his shifting faith.

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