‘We were brainwashed’: Son of cult leader describes life


(NewsNation) — Very few people know what it’s like to grow up in a family where their father is considered a prophet.

Wendell Jeffson, the son of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leader Warren Jeffs, grew up under those exact circumstances.

His story is laid out in a new docuseries called “Preaching Evil: A Wife on the Run with Warren Jeffs” and it’s streaming now on Peacock.

Jeffson joined NewsNation’s “Banfield” to explain further what it was like having a cult leader for a father.

Below is a full transcript of the interview, edited for grammar and clarity

Banfield: What can you tell me tonight? About life on the inside in Warren Jeffs family?

Jeffson: First, I would just say, you know, you can’t really see the other side with your blindfold on. We didn’t we didn’t know we were blindfolded, I guess. We grew up so secluded from the outside world that we didn’t know any different. I can’t say I lived a miserable life because I didn’t know what the outside world was like. I grew up on a compound in Texas where there was nothing but the wildlife around us. We had no internet, no movies, music. We literally worked in the garden. Our whole focus was around Warren Jeff and the religion that he was trying to build, and the cult that he was creating.

Banfield: He was with dozens of wives, and some of them were just children, which would mean that your stepmoms were 12 years old. Did you ever functionally process that? Did it ever come up in your mind that something’s weird here?

Jeffson: Absolutely. I was actually 5 years old when he was arrested, when Warren Jeffs went to jail. So he didn’t marry any more young wives, when I was really old enough to comprehend how young they actually were coming into the family. And so I saw them at a very young age, and I saw his age difference. And I had questions about that. But whether it was right or wrong, that age of 4 or5 years old, I didn’t really know any better.

Now it’s another story once I got older, and I, like, understood how young these girls were that I really began to question what his intentions were. And if everything that he had taught us was as right as he had said it was.

Banfield: What about your mom? Did she ever seem out of sorts? Or how does she feel now about knowing that he was a pedophile, a rapist, a child rapist?

Jeffson: Yeah, so I have to give it to my mom. She’s one of the strongest people that I know. She was obviously assigned into an arranged marriage, as all marriages in the FLDS were. They’re all arranged marriages. She didn’t really have a choice in where she went, or who she was assigned to. So going into that family, she saw that there was a lot of wrong going on inside the family. And I think from a very early stage, she was trying to strategically leave without losing her children. And I think us as her kids, we were the main thing, keeping her there with her just saying ‘I’m out. I’m leaving,’ because she wanted to take us with her. But she didn’t agree with it at all.

Banfield: I remember covering the story when the the Texas Ranch was raided by the Feds, and I think 500 children were led out and put on two buses, and we were never able to talk to anybody about it, certainly not the children. And here you are. Do you remember that day?

Jeffson: Absolutely. It’s something that I definitely can never forget. And I do want to preface that with saying that we were brainwashed in the FLDS as an entire family as an entire religion or cult. We were brainwashed. And we believe that everybody outside of our community was there to kill us. They wanted to hurt us, and they had only bad intentions.

So when we had these Texas Rangers come in, obviously responding to the calls that they had been receiving of sexual abuse … we didn’t know that. They come in, as a 7-year-old kid, I see people with guns, and it just kind of confirmed everything that we had been taught growing up — that they were there to hurt us or to kill us.

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