Nisha Rathode (Editor)

Merril Jessop

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Merril Jessop

Warren Jeffs

Merril Jessop smiling while his six wives are beside him at the dining table and he is wearing white long sleeves and a black necktie

Full Name
Frederick Merril Jessop

December 27, 1935 (age 88) Salt Lake City, Utah, United States (

54 total10 children by Foneta Cook16 children by Ruth Steed14 children by Barbara Steed8 children by Carolyn Blackmore1 child by Tammy Barlow5 children by Cathleen Barlow

Richard Seth Jessop and Ida Johnson

Carolyn Jessop (m. 1986–2003)

Ervil LeBaron, Alex Joseph, Joel LeBaron

Merril jessop 1953 short creek raid carolyn jessop s husband

Merril Jessop (born December 27, 1935) is the son of Richard Seth Jessop and Ida Johnson. He was believed to be the de facto leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church) after its former leader, Warren Jeffs, resigned when he was convicted as an accomplice to rape in 2007, until his removal by Jeffs in February 2011. Jessop was also head of the YFZ Ranch.

Merril Jessop wearing beige long sleeves

Jessop has been a lifelong member of the church, as his father and grandfathers were former high-ranking FLDS officials. Jessop is connected by a nebulous series of marriages to the Jeffs family; several of Jessop's daughters and at least one of his wives were previously the plural wives of Rulon Jeffs while at least eleven of Jessop's daughters and two of his granddaughters became plural wives to Warren Jeffs, several of them while they were underage. One of his daughters, Merrianne, was married to Jeffs three weeks after her twelfth birthday, while another, Naomie, was one of Jeffs' favorite wives and was with him at the time of his capture by police.

Merril Jessop smiling with his six wives, from left, Cathleen, Ruth, Foneta, Tammy, Barbara, and Carolyn

While he was imprisoned, Warren Jeffs reportedly designated William E. Jessop as the rightful successor to the FLDS Church presidency. However, William Jessop remained at official church headquarters in Hildale, Utah. News reports suggested a possible shift of the church's headquarters to Eldorado, Texas, where a temple has been built by FLDS Church members at the YFZ Ranch. As the bishop of the church at YFZ, it appeared that Merril Jessop was the de facto president and the most powerful person in the FLDS Church, until February 2011.

Merril Jessop standing beside the coffin of his first wife, Foneta. His other wives are standing in a row behind him.

One of Jessop's former wives, Carolyn Jessop, wrote a memoir in 2007 about their 17-year marriage, which had begun when she was 18 and he was 50. The book includes dozens of allegations of spousal and child abuse, both emotional and physical. Carolyn Jessop left the FLDS Church in 2003 and, after a custody battle with Merril Jessop, won full custody of their 8 children. She is the second woman to leave an FLDS community and gain full custody of all her children, although her eldest daughter Betty decided, after turning 18, to return to her father at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas. Betty Jessop vehemently denies her mother's accusations. In 2009 Carolyn Jessop also won a child-support judgment against Merril Jessop in the approximate amount of $148,000 for support he failed to provide his children from 2003-2009. As of February 2010, Merril Jessop had still not paid any of the child support he owed. According to Carolyn's attorney, Natalie Malonis, he can be jailed for contempt for this failure.

Merril Jessop smiling with his wife and three children while he is wearing a black coat, white long sleeves, and black striped necktie

According to his former wife's memoir, Jessop is the father of more than 50 biological children, all by his first six wives. His senior wife Faunita, mother of 10 of Jessop's children, suffered from mental illness; she was literally abandoned by the roadside when the group moved to Texas, and she became a ward of one of her grandchildren who was living in the mainstream-Mormon community. Jessop is believed to have taken many more wives since Carolyn's departure. According to his ex-wife's book, Jessop has nebulous business interests that include construction and hotels and has suffered from major heart problems in recent years.

Children of Merril Jessop and Barbara Jessop. On the back row, they are wearing a black coat, white long sleeves, and necktie while on the front row, they are wearing a colorful dress

In a National Geographic article published in February 2010, Jessop both praised and discussed his troubled relationship with Faunita (spelled 'Foneta' in the article). Over 5,000 people were in attendance at Faunita Jessop's funeral. "My hand is a bit sore today," Merril was quoted as saying at the end of the funeral after greeting all those who came.


Merril Jessop Wikipedia