Lifetime TV movie review: Outlaw Prophet

outlaw prophet

FLDS is the bizarre offshoot of the Mormon Church or Church of Latter Day Saints. Like any fundamentalist or extremist group, it takes Mormonism to the most extreme with strict principles as the most intense religious sects tend to do. They have isolated themselves on a compound far away from most of society where they can live within their own rules for the most part. Until they really slip up or do something truly illegal.

Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs is the true story of the fundamentalist Mormon leader who spent more than a year on the FBI’s “10 Most Wanted List” for unlawful flight on charges related to his alleged arrangement of illegal marriages involving underage girls. When his father died Warren Jeffs became the new FLDS Prophet, convincing himself and others that he was meant to lead the group in any and every manner he chose. Jeffs [remarkably played by Tony Goldwyn] quickly implemented new rules. He married several of his father’s wives. He forced girls to marry against their will as soon as they got their periods. He told followers: “I will be the voice of god. Anyone who won’t hear it, I will cast them out.”

Due to the insular setting and male-to-female ratio, there’s inbreeding, disease, abuse and disgusting, dangerous, unimaginable situations. Warren Jeffs has 25 siblings. They take plural wives. Men marry child brides. There’s very little education, especially for women. Only the highest leaders live relatively well. Unnecessary men get expelled from the compound.

These girls/ wives are so young. It’s so wrong and upsetting. And Jeffs is uber disturbing. He’s intensely watching this girl Elissa Wall [Joey King] and says to her: “Your mother tells me you’re getting your monthly visitor. That means you’re ready.” Cut to a few days later and she’s bawling because she doesn’t want to get married. She’s ripped from the house by Jeffs and forced to marry. Later the husband tells Jeffs she’s not having sex with him. Jeffs stresses that he’s a man and basically should use force with her.

At another point, first wife Janine [Molly Parker] examines some women to be married. Rebecca had been married to Warren ‘s father and says she won’t marry Jeffs. Says it’s against their religion. Jeffs locks her in her room for the disobedience. Sometime later Janine lets Rebecca out to escape.

He’s extreme. Bans all media, dancing, music and sports. He has men take all the dogs out of the compound. Apparently dogs are evil or dirty. They put them in a pit and shoot them. Horrific. He excommunicates a bunch of men who begin questioning what he’s doing. There are cringe-worthy sex scenes. Jeffs has sex with one young wife while three others wait naked on bed. At another point the wives hold another wife down so that Jeffs can rape her. Repulsive.

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Tony Goldwyn [most familiar as President Grant on Scandal] sinks into this role and exudes evil in every scene. He’s convincingly disquieting as Warren Jeffs. He impressively plays up the peculiar sex scenes, the power-play moments and delirious prophet revelations.

When the compound’s finally raided and Jeffs becomes a fugitive with one of his favorite wives in tow. The movie’s based on the book When Men Become Gods by New York Times bestselling author Stephen Singular. Elissa Walls [who later wrote a memoir about her experience in the sect] and another agree to testify against Jeffs and he’s imprisoned for life. However he never loses control of his church. He remains the Prophet and he still leads and rules his “followers” from prison. While you’ve read the news stories, it’s worth watching this Lifetime dramatization. Adds color and reality to it all.

Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs airs Saturday, June 28 at 9pm ET/PT on Lifetime.

Immediately following the movie’s world premiere, Lifetime will air the hour-long documentary Beyond the Headlines: Warren Jeffs, at 10pm ET/PT.

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