Warren Jeffs v. Joseph Smith – Thank God for our Modern Legal System

by parkay on August 5, 2011

in Mormonism - Appearances can be Deceptive, Polygamy

Warren Jeffs was recently convicted under Texas law of sexual assault against two children, girls ages 15 and 12. The age of consent is 17 in Texas where the perpetrator is three or more years older than the victim. In Jeff’s case both victims were considered children under Texas law.[1] Jeffs’ actions were not much different than those of Joseph Smith.

By claiming that the act was ordained of God, in the nineteenth century Joseph Smith was able to induce several young women between the ages of 14 and 17 to have sexual relations with him. Smith’s actions were subsequently condoned by the Mormon religious doctrine of polygamy.

Today, our judicial system protects young people who are too naive to understand the full implications of a sexual relationship with a much older person. These victims are still children and are emotionally vulnerable. They need protection from predators who take advantage of this weakness. Our justice system has (thankfully) evolved to criminalize these sexual crimes against the young and innocent.

When Mormonism’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith was beguiling young women, there was no such system of justice. Instead there were circuit riders, self-appointed judges who would listen to a case for a fee. The criminal justice system had not yet evolved to the point of established local district attorneys or county prosecutors who would prosecute criminals on behalf of the state or the combined interests of the people. In 1843, Smith was mayor of Nauvoo and the prophet of the LDS Church; he was subject to no criminal laws governing statutory rape or sexual assault.

Had Smith committed his crimes today, the local authorities would have had plenty of evidence to investigate him for sexual assault against Sarah Ann Whitney, Fanny Alger, Flora Ann Woodworth, Helen Mar Kimball (whose own father, Heber C. Kimball, offered her up to his buddy as a sacrificial lamb), Nancy Winchester, Lucy Walker and Sara Lawrence.[2] All these young women ranged in age from 14-17 at the time.

The age of consent in all of the United States is age 15 or older. In most states it ranges from 16-18. Here is the current penal code for the State of Illinois, which is where Joseph Smith would be prosecuted if he were to be arrested today.

Sec. 12-13. Criminal Sexual Assault
(a) The accused commits criminal sexual assault if he or she… (4) commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim who was at least 13 years of age but under 18 years of age when the act was committed and the accused was 17 years of age or over and held a position of trust, authority or supervision in relation to the victim. (b) Sentence.
(1) Criminal sexual assault is a Class 1 felony. ..[Emphasis added]

The difference between Jeffs and Smith is not one that pertains to the individual. The only important distinction between these two “prophets of God” is the era in which they lived and committed their crimes. In the nineteenth century our legal system had not yet evolved to address sexual crimes against children. But today things have changed thanks to Texas and the jury that applied its laws, convicting Jeffs as the predator he is.

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[1] Texas Penal Code §22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT.[2] See Richard, S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History, 2nd Ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989) and Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: the Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997). http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org/

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