Daughter of Warren Jeffs says she ‘always knew’ she would leave FLDS

Jaska Jeffs has no desire to see her father.
“No way,” she said. “Absolutely not.”
Jaska is trying to distance herself from her past, a past that includes her father, infamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) leader Warren Jeffs, who is serving life in prison for a variety of sex crimes against children.
She hasn’t spoken to her father since she was 11 years old, and has no plans to do so.
In her 19 years in the FLDS, she had no idea what her father was accused of, or why he was in prison. She didn’t learn the reality of the situation until she walked away.
“Now it makes me really upset because we were lied to,” she said.
Her attempt to distance herself from her past FLDS life includes a name change. Born Naomie Jeffs, the now 20-year-old Jaska is a college student at Dixie State who is pursuing a physical therapy career and wants to travel with her sibilings, as 19 of her 54 biological siblings who have left the FLDS.
“It’s just fun to live a normal life,” she said.
Needless to say, that wasn’t always the case.
As a small child, Jaska spent time at a Colorado FLDS compound before being sent to the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. She lived at the ranch until April 2008, when a prank phone call led to the federal government raiding the ranch and scooping the children up and whisking them away to the local civic center.
Jaska was 6 at the time and doesn’t remember much, but does remember how frightened she was, having never dealt with outsiders before, save for government employees who had to come onto the land to measure buildings, do inspections, etc.
Even then, she said, the children were told to hide from those strangers.
Jaska’s mother, Monica, was not present at the ranch when it was raided, as she was visiting Warren Jeffs in prison. She was not allowed to visit them at shelters since she was not on the property when the raid occurred.
Jaska said the children were kept at the civic center for about a week and it was around two months before the children were returned to their parents. The children eventually returned to the YFZ ranch, and Jaska ended up at the Custer County compound in 2012.
Jaska recalls a happy childhood, albeit one that was far from typical. When most children were running around and playing—just being children—she and her siblings were tending to the garden, praying and spending three hours washing dishes while the school-aged children went to school. That was when she was 4, she said.
“I hated it,” she said of dish duty.
The children were kept busy, she said, but they were also segregated according to their age. Not only that, they didn’t get to spend much time, if any, with their mothers. Instead, she said, the children gathered with another mother who served as a caretaker of sorts for that age group.
In fact, Jaska didn’t see her mother for a six-year stretch—from the time she was 10 until she was 16—because her mother was “sent away.”
Being sent away is hard to explain, Jaska says, and says she herself was sent away many times. Essentially, being sent away meant the person was doing something wrong in the eyes of Warren Jeffs, which meant they were somewhat excluded from the FLDS by being sent to a separate FLDS-controlled locations until they did what was required to be welcomed back.
“Pretty much nothing,” Jaska says when asked what it took to get sent away. “You can try as hard as you can and still be sent away.”
Initially, Jaska said she was determined to be a better person whenever she was sent away, but eventually found herself caring less and less about being in the church’s good graces.
When she was around 10 years old, days consisted of getting up at 5 a.m. (“If you were up after five, you were late,” she recalls), getting ready for the day and gathering with family for prayer. That was followed by breakfast, and school started at 7:30 a.m. School generally ended around 3 p.m., and from there the children went to work helping the adults with cooking, cleaning or whatever chores needed finished.
“We didn’t have toys or dolls or anything like that,” she said, lamenting that the children of the FLDS never got a chance to actually be children.
Jaska said she isn’t sure how many people were at the Custer County compound during its peak time, which was before she arrived at the compound. The compound had a variety of “leaders,” including Seth Jeffs, and the children were constantly told of the evils of the outside world.
“Before the raid (at the YFZ Ranch) I didn’t know there was an outside world,” she said. “I felt we were about the only people in the world. I don’t know why I thought that, but I did.”
The raid seemed to reenforce the belief the outside world was bad, and Jaska said following the raid she was afraid of outside people, particularly law enforcement.
Ironically, it would be a law enforcement officer who would later become her biggest confidant and ally.
When she was sent away as a teenager she was required to get a job in the “real world,” as those sent away to Fargo, N.D., did not live on a compound, but rather, lived in homes they rented.
As she began to work her job outside the confines of the FLDS, she slowly started to realize the outside world wasn’t so bad.
Although she said she “always knew” she would some day leave the church, it was around the age of 15 when she and a sister would openly discuss leaving the FLDS with each other.
The last time she was accepted back into the church after being sent away she went back to Custer, which by that time was mostly women of her family. They were much more visible in public, because there were no men to take them places.
Toward the end, she said, while there were men in charge of the land she lived on, the men weren’t in charge of the lives of the women.
“We wouldn’t let them be,” she said.
When the Custer County compound was sold at auction in February 2021, it meant those still on the compound, including Jaska, had to vacate. As they battled the new owners to get property off the compound, they first met Custer County Sheriff Marty Mechaley, who worked with them to get their property off the land.
The girls appreciated what Mechaley had done for them, and kept in touch with them. Before long the girls were sneaking away from North Dakota to travel to Custer County to visit Mechaley and his wife, Jen. They would have so much fun, she said, it was hard to go back to their FLDS lives.
While with the Mechaleys, they reveled in doing things the average teenager takes for granted. They loved to watch movies. Riding on the Mechaleys’ ATVs for hours was a blast. Jen taught them how to put on makeup.
“We didn’t get to have stuff like that,” Jaska said.
Jaska admits the girls, the epitome of sheltered, didn’t know how to act around the Mechaleys at first.
“I think I still don’t know how to act (in public),” Jaska said with a laugh.
She has no doubt the girls “acted weird” around the Mechaleys, but they loved how accepting the Mechaleys were of them—weirdness and naivety and all. In fact, she said, that was her favorite part of the visits. The girls didn’t have to be perfect and didn’t have constant stress.
“We could just be ourselves,” she said. “They were the first people I felt actually cared about us and wanted to help us. They were the first ones we actually talked to.”
She hasn’t been to Custer since she moved to Idaho, and then Utah, to begin her college career. It’s on her to-do list, though, along with the aforementioned traveling.
A visit to Palestine, Texas, where her father is incarcerated, is not in the offing, however. She has severed ties with her father, she said, adding he still controls the FLDS from the confines of a prison cell. She does still talk to her mother, however.
A popular misconception of the FLDS, Jaska said, is that people are held against their will. People are free to leave at anytime, she said, but they are so brainwashed by the church that doing so isn’t even a thought by many—if not the majority—of Warren’s followers.
“We felt like we couldn’t be different. People don’t understand why it’s so hard to leave,” she said. “You can leave. You just have to get into the mindset you don’t care what is said about you.”
Growing up, she said, questioning what was going on in the FLDS was the “worst thing you could do.”
“I never wanted to question it until it just got weird enough I was like, ‘I’m done,’” she said.
And, she said, the FLDS wasn’t all bad. She and her family had many good times, she said, while learning a variety of skills many children don’t know, such as cooking, gardening, canning and making clothing.
“I’m not saying (FLDS) is bad. I think the control they have is bad,” she said. “It hurt a lot of people and it will take a long time to come back from that.”
Jaska knows the FLDS compound in Custer County is for sale, which she said makes her a little mad, as she is not a fan of the former FLDS members who purchased the property.
Whatever happens there, she said, she would like to see something different and positive end up on the property.
But like her given birth name, her FLDS life and her father, the former Custer County FLDS is a part of her past, and what becomes of the property isn’t really something she concerns herself with.
“I don’t really care,” she said.

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