A conflict among polygamists in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints grew more heated over the weekend, when the faith’s prophet excommunicated at least a dozen men, including the longtime mayor of Colorado City, Ariz., and ordered them to leave the community on the Utah state line without their wives and children.
Rodney Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney who has represented FLDS members, said he had been informed of Saturday’s purge, saying “adjustments were made” regarding the standing within the church of some members.
Parker also heard that Mayor Dan Barlow of Colorado City, Ariz., had turned in his resignation to the City Council on Sunday. The resignation ends his nearly 20-year run as mayor. Parker did not know if the resignation was related to Saturday’s action.
Paul Murphy, spokesman for Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, also said authorities were monitoring the aftermath of a decision by sect prophet Warren Jeffs to inform Barlow and others at a ward meeting Saturday that they no longer were members of the FLDS Church and had to leave.
Murphy said his office’s primary concern was to protect the civil rights of everyone in the community. “We will do everything in our power to see that they have full access to what they need,” Murphy said Sunday.
Residents who need immediate help were being urged to contact the Washington County Sheriffs Office, which provides law enforcement in the area, Murphy said.
Few details were available Sunday on the situation in the 6,000-member community of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, where most residents practice polygamy.
The sect is an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially condemns plural marriage.
Washington County law enforcement officials could not be reached Sunday for comment.
A dispatcher for the Mohave County, Ariz., Sheriffs Office said deputies were in the area, but had no further information.
The excommunications came after months of rumors about escalating conflict pitting Jeffs and his allies against Barlow and his supporters.
An FLDS Church trust owns much of the land in Colorado City and ousted residents in the past have waged lengthy court battles over reimbursement for their homes.
Benjamin Bistline, a former resident of Colorado City who has written a self-published history of the community where he grew up, said he believes that Barlow will refuse to do anything that Jeffs tells him to do.
Bistline, who was never a polygamist and has since left the community, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Jeffs, who became prophet after the death of Rulon T. Jeffs in 2002, eventually left for another polygamous community in Mexico or Canada.
Many of Barlow’s relatives hold prominent positions in Colorado City.
Murphy said that in addition to protecting the rights of residents in the polygamous communities, the Attorney General’s Office will continue to coordinate efforts to provide social services there. The office has been working to help plural wives and their children who want to leave the polygamous life as well as those who wish to remain.
In September, Shurtleff and Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard toured the polygamous community of Centennial Park, Ariz., and discussed the needs of the residents, who have a separate ward from the FLDS Church.
Murphy said Sunday his office wanted to hold a similar meeting with the FLDS ward in Colorado City and Hildale, but the offer was declined. “At that time they weren’t interested in talking to us,” Murphy said, adding that efforts to help the residents will continue.