Beginning with the death of Rulon Jeffs in 2002 the largest polygamist group in America called the “Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (FLDS) began its decline.

The FLDS had reached its zenith of power and privileges under Rulon Jeffs; it was regarded as almost a virtual kingdom within the states of Utah and Arizona and seemed to be untouchable.Jeffs who ruled over as many as 12,000 members ran the twin state border communities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona. He controlled vast property holdings through a trust, local government, schools, police, not to mention his own family of 19 to 75 wives and dozens of children.Warren Jeffs wanted fugitive

The Canadian polygamist community of Bountiful in British Columbia was a loyal FLDS satellite governed by Winston Blackmore, one of Jeffs’ obedient lieutenants. But when Jeffs died at 92 or 93 Blackmore’s loyalty did not transfer automatically to his leader’s son and heir apparent Warren Jeffs.

Warren Jeffs, though declared “prophet” and undeclared king of the religious empire, proved to be something of a bungler and unable to hold it together. The FLDS beset by both criminal and civil proceedings and also internal wrangling is now crumbling and falling apart.

Another very prominent polygamist family the Kingstons held sway over a 1,500-member sect with an estimated worth of $150 million in business assets. Their empire exists within Salt Lake County and in other parts of Utah and Nevada. But it would be a runaway 16-year-old girl that would begin to unravel this polygamist kingdom. A minor child that escaped after a brutal beating for refusing to marry her 32-year-old uncle and become his 15th wife. For the first time the secrecy surrounding the Kingston clan and its hierarchy fell away as it was scrutinized in open court.

The most prevalent theme of public disgust with polygamy seems to be the treatment of minor children such as the Kingston teenager who testified that her father “belt whipped” her “28 lashes across her back and thighs” until she bled and lost consciousness.

The courts have refused to consider that the Kingstons or the Jeffs were somehow above the law because of their religious beliefs. And court rulings instead have made it clear that they may believe whatever they want, but not do anything they wish in the name of those beliefs.

A warrant was eventually issued for the arrest of Warren Jeffs on sexual misconduct charges. Now the 49-year-old heir to his father’s kingdom is a fugitive.

The Mormon Church (LDS) in Utah, which pretty much has veto power over whatever goes on in that state, apparently has had enough of the polygamists. LDS leaders have seemingly decided to do some housecleaning regarding something like a crazy uncle in their attic.

Once upon a time the LDS essentially mandated polygamy. Its founder Joseph Smith was a notorious polygamist as was his successor Brigham Young who brought the new religion to Utah. But in 1890 in preparation for statehood and to avoid federal intervention the LDS gave up that practice through what is called the “Woodruff Manifesto” issued by its then president and declared “prophet” Wilford Woodruff.

Nevertheless there were those diehards that would not let go of polygamy and they persisted, often isolating themselves in Utah, Arizona, Montana, Canada and Mexico.

Recent events appear to be leading to the demise of the two largest, richest and most well organized polygamist groups in America. Almost certainly the FLDS will eventually collapse and the Kingston clan has been badly bruised by its legal troubles.

Rather than continuing to exist in relative secrecy North America’s polygamists now live largely in a fishbowl watched by the media and frequently spotlighted. HBO is even running a dramatic series called “Big Love” about a fictional polygamist family living in Salt Lake City.

Temple within polygamist stronghold in TexasWarren Jeffs in an apparent futile effort to hold onto whatever he can has built his own compound with a huge temple as its centerpiece in West Texas. The 1,700-acre “retreat” is called the “YFZ Ranch,” which stands for “Yearning for Zion,” near the town of Eldorado. This may be the last stronghold of the once mighty Jeffs clan and it includes group housing, farming, and an array of machinery and work projects.

The edifice built within the YFZ is impressive and it is the first-ever temple built by the FLDS.

However, it is likely to also be its last.

The YFZ property itself may not exist long either as a holding controlled by Warren Jeffs.

“They’re going to lose the whole thing,” says former FLDS member Ross Chatwin. “It was built upon money that didn’t belong to Warren. It was built on the backs of the UEP (United Effort Plan, the FLDS financial trust) itself, the people that built it,” he told the Desert News.

So it seems that the temple built by Jeffs is likely to eventually become a peculiar ruin and historical anachronism, connected to another time.

There is a $50,000 reward now being offered by the FBI for information leading to the arrest of Warren Jeffs.

The residents of the tiny town of Eldorado worry that another Waco might be in the making, the 1993 standoff at the cult compound of the Branch Davidians led by another would-be “prophet” David Koresh that ended in tragedy.

More than one hundred years after the Woodruff Manifesto the organized practice of polygamy and its primary strongholds seem to be falling apart and their era may have finally ended at the beginning of the 21st Century.


only 1 comment untill now

  1. Tell the Truth @ 2006-02-02 12:49

    Associating all polygamists with handful of real criminals who are polygamists is a cult-tactic itself.

    While any polygamist who uses the Book of Mormon is correctly identified as a “Mormon polygamist,” NOT ALL polygamists are “Mormon polygamists.” (This clarification is not about the semantic issue of “mainstream LDS” ex-communicating “Mormon polygamists” either.)

    Please see:
    Polygamy does not equal Mormon Polygamy

    For example, there are other forms of polygamy that are applied completely differently. One example is the growing movement called “Christian polygamy.” It is a benevolent consenting-adult model of polygamy, that shares none of the criminal aspects related to the few “Mormon polygamist” groups.

    Please see:
    Christian Polygamy is NOT Mormon Polygamy

    Christian polygamists have been interviewed and identified as conservative “evangelical Christians” on Pat Robertson’s “700 Cub” TV news program.

    Please see:
    700 Club airs its First Report on Christian Polygamy Movement

    Such other consenting-adult polygamists have been declaring their opposition to the abuses of those criminals in specific “Mormon polygamy” groups.

    Pro-Polygamists Distrust Tom Green’s ‘Apology’
    “Believing that Green is a pathological liar, polygamy supporters have a way to prove whether he is really sorry of if he is just lying yet again.”

    NBC’s Dateline commits slander, say pro-polygamists
    “NBC’s Dateline associates individual Mormon polygamist criminals as representing all in ‘the polygamous lifestyle.'”

    ABC’s PrimeTime commits slander, say pro-polygamists
    “ABC’s PrimeTime slanderously misrepresents one woman’s heartbreaking suffering, caused by tragic application and abuse, as if representative of all other forms of polygamy anywhere else.”

    So, the report here in misrepresents the facts about “all polygamists.” Rather, it should always specify “Mormon polygamists” when referring to that particular model of polygamy. It should never lump all polygamists in general with specific forms such as “Mormon polygamists.” Additionally, it should further specify the differences of specific brands of “Mormon polygamy” as well, when speaking about “Mormon polygamists.”

    To not set such clarification is to be guilty of using cult tactics too, by deliberately misleading readers with false information. It is good to oppose cults. But to use their same tactics of telling falsehoods to misrepresent the facts is to be no different than the cults being reported.

    Hopefully, with this new information, will insist that it only tell the truth correctly and with proper clarification in future reports about polygamy.