Border towns set on edge by latest move
ST. GEORGE — In a fashion that surprised his critics and followers alike, Warren Jeffs, self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, continued to expel members from the polygamist enclave on the Utah-Arizona border.
In the past two weeks, at least five men — including Dale White, William Knudson, Marce Jessop, Garth Jessop and Jerry Jessop Jr. — were told to leave the church and their homes, often without all of their family members, The Spectrum learned from interviews with half a dozen sources.
The house cleaning, coming after Jeffs publicly purged 21 prominent men — including Colorado City’s mayor of 19 years, Dan Barlow — from the FLDS church on Jan.10, was done by individual house visits by Jeffs’ delegates to avoid another media circus, said the sources, who insist their names not be used for fear of retaliation.
The excommunication, though subtle, has set the tight-knit community on edge. Most of the 10,000 residents in Hildale and Colorado City belong to the FLDS church, and families frequently intermarry.
“It’s unbelievable,” said one source who still belongs to the FLDS church. “It’s unheard of. It’s unreal. It’s amazing.”
Jeffs, he said, sees himself “as God to the people.” The prophet reportedly recorded people’s confessions, making more people scared.
Jeffs is rarely seen in public and never grants media interviews. Rod Parker, the FLDS attorney, didn’t return The Spectrum’s call Monday for comment on the recent excommunications.
Jay Beswick, a child protection advocate in California who has helped women flee polygamous marriages, said Jeffs’ action was prompted by his “Hitler-like routine” and his “insatiable need” for money.
The 47-year-old prophet, who lives in a Hildale compound guarded by an 8-foot brick wall, has asked members to turn in sometimes $500, sometimes $1,000 more on top of tithing. Some members’ property taxes are expected to increase by 25 percent soon, Beswick said. The prophet, he said, was rumored to be building a compound in Mexico.
“He’s being paranoid,” said Beswick, whose death has been rumored among some Colorado City residents. “The way he is going, he’s not going to have the 500 faithful” he planned to have.
Feb. 10, 2004