The Fundamentalist LDS Church’s United Effort Plan Trust is destined to never be the same again.
A judge in Salt Lake City’s 3rd District Court signed an order late Wednesday, reforming the $110 million dollar trust.
“Oh fantastic! Fantastic!” ex-FLDS member Carolyn Jessop said when informed of the decision by the Deseret Morning News on Thursday. “It’s very exciting, we’re definitely moving forward.”
Lawyers said religion has been “carved out” and people within the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz., will eventually have the chance to own property for the first time in the UEP’s history.
The UEP Trust controls homes, businesses and land within the towns. It was part of a “united order” that the FLDS Church created. In 2005, Judge Denise Lindberg took control of the UEP Trust amid allegations that FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs and other top church leaders were fleecing it. She appointed certified public accountant Bruce Wisan to act as the court-appointed special fiduciary, managing the trust.
Jeffs, who was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, was arrested in August and is currently in the Purgatory Jail facing charges of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He is accused of forcing a teenage girl into a child-bride marriage with an older man.
The UEP’s reformation plan would ultimately privatize property in Hildale, Colorado City and the FLDS Church’s Canadian enclave in Bountiful, British Columbia. It would also create a number of “spendthrift” trusts that place the UEP’s assets in the control of a trustee, until the recipients are deemed able to control the money or property themselves.
Independent of religious doctrine, the new UEP Trust would not inquire about whether anyone living on its land is practicing polygamy. That way, the UEP is not seen as advocating any illegal activity.
Wisan said the UEP Trust will not change overnight, but transition slowly. Over the course of months or years, the fiduciary’s role will change and a board of advisors for the UEP will eventually become its board of trustees.
“At this point in time, everything will stay status quo,” he said. “Nothing changes from yesterday to today.”
However, concern remains that FLDS faithful will continue to resist any changes. Jeffs has issued an edict to his followers, telling them to “say nothing, do nothing, sign nothing” when it comes to UEP Trust reforms.
A new edict reportedly issued by Jeffs recently could also hurt reformation efforts.
“Do not sign your name to any document for property that has already been consecrated to God,” Jeffs is reported to have said to his followers recently.
Wisan remains optimistic. He said he will inform people he has contact with inside the closed-off FLDS community, but he does not expect to get any reaction.
“I’m hopeful that the influence that Warren has on the community will wane and I believe that the reform trust document will benefit a lot of people in the long run,” Wisan told the Deseret Morning News on Thursday.