Thursday, May 28, 2009

FLDS Beliefs 101 - Is Warren Jeffs the "marred servant?"

It appears that Warren Jeffs believes he is the “marred servant” referred to by the ancient Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. During his years in hiding, Warren gave secret training to select wives to assist him in “heavenly sessions” during the night. During these sessions he would experience intense suffering and received supposed dreams and revelations. What is this all about? What explanations are possible for this experience or behavior?

The prophet Isaiah prophesied that in the last days when Zion would return and Israel would be redeemed that a marred servant would come forward. “As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” (Isaiah 52:14) The Book of Mormon explains some more about this servant: “But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.” (3 Nephi 21:10).

Most Christian scholars believe the marred servant is Jesus Christ. Mormon scholars believe there is a dual meaning, referring first to Jesus Christ, but with the Book of Mormon passages included, there is also a symbolic reference to Mormon founder Joseph Smith who was martyred in 1844. However, this subject is debated, and the servant could yet be another person. Some believe it could be John the Revelator returning, who was marred toward the end of his mortal life. Warren Jeffs appears to believe that he is this servant, but he was careful to keep this teaching secret.

During Warren’s travels around the country, while in hiding, at night he would experience “heavenly sessions.” He explained that sometimes he was conscience during these sessions, other times unconscious. During these sessions he would feel the “all consuming fire from heaven.” He would at times experience severe trembling and suffering. Sometimes he would come out of it paralyzed for awhile. At times he would vocally say things during these sessions that would be recorded by one of his wives who was trained. Other times he would remember intense dreams that he believed were from the Lord.

Evidently he needed to have someone assist him during these sessions. He was very careful to only allow a most trusted wife, full of faith and loyalty to him, assist him. This assistance involved "the ordinance of comfort and renewal." Usually it was his young wife Naomi, but Ida also was trained.

He recorded, “I went into session, conscious at times and unconscious at times, with Ida sitting against the wall watching. She was so determined to do this right, she was writing down the times certain things happened, and I would have her report to me every hour or two, and I marveled what the Lord was allowing her to see. The physical twisting and turning and suffering was more than she had seen before and brought her to tears many times, yet in her reports she rejoiced in the Lord and prayed for me to be strengthened and knew I was in the Lord’s hands.” (Priesthood Record, July 2004)

Warren gave some more clues as to what he believed these sessions were when he trained Ida to assist. “I took her into immediate training. I read her about the marred servant out of the Book of 3rd Nephi chapters 20 and 21. I read to her from four revelations, some of them the private revelations about my suffering and blood atonement. I explained with a lot of detail what I went through and how Naomie had learned to conduct herself. . . . I then had her lean toward me and I laid my hands on her head and set her apart on the mission to be a witness and helpmate and strength during the heavenly sessions and in every way and also to be able to endure the presence of God through her faith, calling on her to be more fervent.” (Priesthood Record, July, 2004) It seems clear that Warren believed he received private revelations from the Lord revealing that he would be the marred servant. He therefore believed that he would be go through intense suffering and would be physically marred by his enemies, but he would be healed.

But Warren took this even further. During these heavenly sessions, he believed he was atoning for sins of his followers, similar to the way Jesus atoned for the sins of mankind. He actually believed that if he went through suffering during these “heavenly sessions” that he could make an atonement, allowing his followers to be forgiven for particular short-comings. He referred to this as the "marred servant principle of atoning for the people."

“I retired, and Ida lay to the side of the bed, very determined to do this mission right. And I went through the heavenly sessions through Saturday night into Sunday morning, and in Ida’s reports she said she witnessed greater suffering physically than she had ever witnessed in her life. She has been with me through some heavenly sessions, but they have generally been mild or after the severity is complete. I can see at times, though our experience with her Sunday, that she was in tears watching me go through what I was going through.” (Priesthood Record)

Eventually, Warren told his counselors, Fred Jessop and Wendell Nielson about these sessions and invited them to witness and feel the “all consuming fire from heaven.” “[The Lord] is taking me through a change through these heavenly sessions. . . . The most severe physical shaking I have experienced in a conscious state was Tuesday afternoon when the First Presidency came into my bedroom. Just before they entered the room, I went through the most severe suffering and shaking, asking the Lord to not hold back, but to give these brethren a witness as they desired, that I was in the Lord’s hands.” (Priesthood Record)

Once, Ida fell asleep during the session which angered Warren. “And all through that early Monday morning through the night, Ida just slept. I would go through, I could awake from a heavenly session, with that severity upon me, to wake her up to pray more fervently for me, but she did not do it. And by 5:00 a.m. in the morning I saw it was enough. Even she had failed me and offended the heavenly powers.” Notice the parallel between this experience and the experience of Jesus Christ in the garden when experienced great agony. His disciples also fell asleep when they should have been on watch (see Luke 22). It makes you wonder if Warren believed he was having similar experiences as Jesus Christ. Perhaps to be the marred servant, he needed to have these similar experiences.

Coming out of this session was intense. “When I came conscious I was nearly completely paralyzed, unable to move, and I cried unto the Lord to deliver me and strengthen me and then He took me through the most severe shaking until I was thrown out of the chair onto the floor, and stood up and I was able to move around. He answered my prayers immediately.”
Apparently these sessions at times involved some sort of physical touching by those assisting. Warren describes going into these sessions, having wives rub his feet, hands, head and back, sometimes four at once. In his writings he never implied anything of a sexual nature was part of these sessions.

“The Lord allowed Millie and Ida to come and feel the all-consuming fire of heaven again at the end of the heavenly session as I had them touch my hands and head. I was in an atoning session. And they went through a training and felt the difference of the spirits of the world, compared to the heavenly powers.”

Naomie once left a recorded testimony of one of Warren's heavenly sessions. "The Lord took you into session last night at 12:30. Your boddy started to tremble. I could feel it coming on you for about an hour before that. . . . You body tembled and jolted and jerked. You turned on your right side in your chair. You were in that position for most of the night until about 4:00 this morning." Naomie recorded detailed sleep-talking. For example: "At 4:00 you said, 'Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir . . . The Lord wants them to make sure the footings on the temple are exact before they are poured that they can make sure that their wall are straight.'" Warren also mentioned during this session who should called on temple missions and who should move into different houses. (Priesthood Record, September 8, 2004)

When he trained another wife for these sessions, he would always ask them if they felt the “all-consuming fire of heaven.” If they waivered in their answer, he concluded they lacked faith and were not ready for the training.

With the notes taken down by and his memories of dreams, he would react and make decisions. Frequently they involved decisions to “handle” men who he believed were unfaithful and needed to be removed from their family. Other times he had violent dreams. Evil people in his dreams were usually of the black race, and they were trying to kill him. He also had vivid dreams of people like the Barlows who he believed were traitors seeking his downfall. His dreams were always about wickedness and destruction in the last days. One has to wonder why his dreams seemed to never be centered around love, kindness, and forgiveness. Warren apparently believed the time was past for that. Even doubters who were half-hearted could no longer be tolerated. The time was short. The end was soon.

What can explain these sessions? Several alternatives seem to be possible:
1. They were indeed heavenly sessions from God.
2. They were sessions when he was possessed by evil spirits.
3. They were faked.
4. They were self-induced, perhaps related to a physical ailment.

After reading through many of these sessions, I’ve concluded the answer is likely #4. I appears that Warren sincerely believed that he was going through a heavenly experience. What can explain the trembling, twisting, paralysis, in a conscious or unconscious state?

Self-induced seizures seem to be the answer. This condition is experienced by many people. “Self-induction is a mode of seizure precipitation employed by entirely normal or mentally impaired patients to produce seizures for themselves.” It involves jerking and twisting. “The objective of self-induced seizures is relief of tension and anxiety, and escape from a disturbing situation.” The attacks may be pleasurable.

People who are able to do this, usually bring on this condition through visual stimulation of lights, blinking eyes, flickering, etc. However, others are able to trigger these seizures through somatosensory stimuli (touching). “Typically this it triggered by tapping, rubbing, or prickling part of the body. A localized or regional hypersensitive trigger zone can often be defined.” This could explain why Warren needed assistance and often mentioned rubbing. “Consciousness is preserved at least on the onset.” Self-induced seizures can also be triggered by thinking, usually “by a task requiring a spoken answer to an orally presented arithmetic or spatial problem.”

Does Warren have a physical condition causing this? Consider his aversion toward the color red. (He banned the color red from Short Creek, explaining it was the color of Satan). For those who experience photosensitive epilepsy, “the color red is particularly dangerous due to its longer wavelength that stimulates cones in the retina.” Red flickering is far more likely to cause seizures than other colors.

Also interesting to consider are common characteristics for those with an aversion to red: “A person who has an aversion to red may be over-active, too impulsive, hot-tempered, aggressive and egocentric, or have difficulties with people with such characteristics. It can also symbolize deeply hidden fears and rejection of his own assertiveness.” For those who know Warren, this seems to fit his personality.

Is Warren the “marred servant?” It seems certain that he believes he is. To make this a reality he has had to self-inflict suffering, but also no doubt believes the suffering he is experiencing in prison is all part of this mission.

“The Lord showed me that I would be that sacrifice of blood atonement to earn the glorious appearing of the Lord to the nations of the earth, and that I will be caught up in the cloud when He descends to earth in glory with the faithful saints of all generations.” (Warren Jeffs journal in prison, January 19, 2007)

“[The Lord] showed me that I would be taken and scourged and tortured by the officials of the government, and that I would be unsexed and be beaten and starved to stand as a witness against this generation of their wickedness and abominations; and that I would be taken by my enemies and made to watch my own family ravished and killed before my eyes. They would then put me in prison and hold me there to die. The Lord showed me that I would be healed and renewed by His miraculous power.” (Warren Jeffs journal in prison, January 20, 2007).

One final theory. The bed found in the temple could have been used by Warren for these heavenly sessions, attended by kneeling wives.