AP

Polygamous Group Lets Go Of Sprawling Arizona Worship Center

Dec 11, 2018, 7:35 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) — A polygamous group based on the Utah-Arizona border is letting go of the sprawling building where its members worshiped, in the latest sign that the sect run by imprisoned leader Warren Jeffs is crumbling and losing control of the community it ruled for a century.

The group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, now has nowhere to gather for worship services after the nearly 53,000 square-foot (4,900 square-meter) building was taken over last week as part of government-ordered evictions that have taken away about 200 homes and buildings from members who refuse to pay property taxes and $100-a-month occupancy fees.

The meetinghouse with capacity for several thousand people is valued at $2.8 million and sits on about 7 acres (2.8 hectares) in the remote red rock community, on the Arizona side of the border.

The building has a stage, a church-like setup for services and classrooms for religious education but has not been used for at least six months, Jeff Barlow said Monday. He is the executive director of a government-appointed organization that oversees a former church trust that has properties in the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona.
The FLDS doesn’t have a spokesperson to comment about the development.

The sect is experiencing a major leadership void with Warren Jeffs serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides and his brother Lyle Jeffs serving nearly a five-year sentence for his role in carrying out an elaborate food stamp fraud scheme and for escaping home confinement while awaiting trial.
Members have said they have been worshipping at home on their own.

The lack of local leaders meant nobody stepped up to take responsibility for the building when Barlow’s organization warned an eviction was imminent, said Christine Katas, who lives in the community and serves as an intermediary between Barlow’s organization and the FLDS. Rank-and-file members don’t believe they have the authority to do so, she said.

“It’s very sad for the FLDS. I’ve seen people cry over it,” Katas said. “Both sides are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Everybody wishes there was a different outcome.”

The evictions have led many FLDS members to take refuge in trailers around town or move away, while former members have purchased the homes and buildings and moved back. Group members don’t believe they should have to pay for what belonged to a communal church trust that the state of Utah took over more than a decade ago amid mismanagement.

The evictions are part of the shifting demographics in the sister cities of about 7,700 people. Non-sect members last year won control of the mayor’s office and town council in Hildale, Utah and nearly did the same in municipal elections in Colorado City.

The town government and police are being watched closely by court-appointed monitors after a jury found past town and police leaders guilty of civil rights violations. Sprawling homes that used to belong to Warren Jeffs have been converted into beds and breakfast and sober living centers.

Members of the group still consider their leader and prophet to be Warren Jeffs, even though he has been in jail in Utah or Texas continually since 2006.

Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church abandoned the practice in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it.

The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the eviction of the meetinghouse.

Barlow said the board of the organization he runs, called the United Effort Plan (UEP) Trust, will meet on Jan. 5 in a public meeting to discuss what to do with the building, constructed in 1986, Barlow said. One possibility is converting it to a civic center, though that would likely require seeking grant funds, he said. The UEP board will make the final decision.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

Georgia Democratic Senate candidate U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) answers questions from the med...
BILL BARROW and JEFF AMY, Associated Press

Democratic Sen. Warnock wins Georgia runoff against Walker

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff election in Georgia.
23 hours ago
District of Columbia Police Chief Robert Contee looks on as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passe...
MARY CLARE JALONICK, FARNOUSH AMIRI and LISA MASCARO, Associated Press

Jan. 6 ‘heroes’ honored for defending Capitol from Trump mob

Top House and Senate leaders have bestowed Congress' highest honor on law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
23 hours ago
Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at Legacy Sports USA on October 09, 2...
MICHAEL R. SISAK Associated Press

Trump Organization convicted in executive tax dodge scheme

Donald Trump’s company was convicted of tax fraud on Tuesday in a case brought by the Manhattan District Attorney.
23 hours ago
LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 29: In this photo illustration, three screens display the splash page for...
Associated Press

Facebook parent Meta threatens to remove news from platform

Facebook parent Meta Platforms says it will be forced to consider removing news content from its platform if Congress passes legislation that could require social media companies to pay news outlets.
23 hours ago
(File) Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thom...
JESSICA GRESKO and MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

Justices spar in latest clash of religion and gay rights

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is sounding sympathetic to a Christian graphic artist who objects to designing wedding websites for gay couples.
23 hours ago
People visit a makeshift memorial near the Club Q nightclub on November 22, 2022 in Colorado Spring...
Colleen Slevin, Associated Press

Colorado gay club shooting suspect charged with hate crimes

The suspect accused of entering a Colorado Springs gay nightclub and killing five people and wounding 17 others was formally charged with hate crimes as well as murder.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 reasons you may want to consider apartment life over owning a home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Take this quiz before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t let a ransomware attack get you down | Protect your workplace today with cyber insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Hand turning a thermostat knob to increase savings by decreasing energy consumption. Composite imag...
Lighting Design

5 Lighting Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

Advances in lighting technology make it easier to use smart features to cut costs. Read for tips to save energy by using different lighting strategies in your home.
Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Polygamous Group Lets Go Of Sprawling Arizona Worship Center