Jon Krakauer watches ceremony from overhead
Jon Krakauer came to Eldorado last weekend, not to celebrate the new year, but to be nearby the YFZ Ranch where Prophet Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ are said to be building a temple. Of particular interest to Krakauer was a recent spate of rumors that Jeffs was predicting the end the world and that he had ordered his followers in Utah, Arizona and Canada to stay in their homes throughout the weekend.
Krakauer, who wrote the best-selling book Under the Banner of Heaven, a Story of Violent Faith, has long been a vocal critic of Warren Jeffs. He has followed developments at the YFZ Ranch since the story broke here last March, maintaining close contact with Sheriff David Doran and Success editor Randy Mankin.
Krakauer arrived in Eldorado last Friday evening and spent part of the evening monitoring traffic in and out of the YFZ Ranch gate. The following day, he flew over the YFZ where he managed to witness and photograph what he believes was a dedication ceremony at the temple site on New Year’s Day.
Krakauer snapped a series of photos that clearly show a group of people gathered at the east end of the temple foundation. In the first photo the group is arrayed in a semi-circle, facing an individual who Krakauer belives to be Warren Jeffs. As the plane approached the site the people gathered around the individual in a tight huddle.
“I think they heard the plane and huddled around Warren to protect him,” Krakauer said.
A magnified, but very grainy, version of the first photo (See photo above) seems to bear out Krakauer’s theory. A lone figure, taller than the rest the group appears be facing a group of about fifty people, who quickly gather around in subsequent photos.
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Krakauer says he was once skeptical that the YFZ Ranch would ever be home to more than a handful of the FLDS faithful. Now, he says he is convinced that Warren Jeffs is building a new town in Schleicher County and that he is planning to move many of his followers here.
“Schleicher County is clearly the new world headquarters of Warren Jeffs’ enterprises,” Krakauer told the Success. ” After seeing Warren himself conducting what appeared to be a consecration of the temple foundation on January 1, and considering the incredible pace of new construction on the YFZ property, there can no longer be any doubt.”
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a sect of Mormonism. Mormonism in turn is a cult of Christianity.
The FLDS is also considered to be a cult of Christianity. Sociologically,the group is a high-control cult.
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Other FLDS-watchers agree with Krakauer’s assessment. Richard Holm, a Utah businessman and former member of the FLDS Church says he has no doubts that the first photo shows Warren Jeffs addressing his followers.
“It all matches up,” Holm said. “His height — the way he is dressed — they way they all gather around him in order to shield him from the plane.”
Interest in the temple site grew this week as word leaked out of Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT that Jeffs had prophesied the end of the world would coincide with the new year and with the laying of temple cornerstone. His followers in the twin-cities, as well as those in Bountiful, British Columbia, were reportedly told to stay in their homes and stay in prayer throughout the weekend.
Krakauer says he now believes Jeffs wanted his followers praying for the consecration of the Schleicher County temple.
Interestingly, on Thursday of last week, Schleicher County Appraisal District personnel visited the YFZ Ranch where they were allowed to measure several new buildings, but were denied access to the temple site. Chief Appraiser Scott Sutton, his secretary, Janie Mitchell and appraisal district President Phil McCormick were accompanied to the ranch by Sheriff David Doran. They were permitted to document a number of newly completed buildings, including a large meeting hall and a large apartment style building, each with more than 28,000 square feet.
“Those are rough numbers,” Sutton told the Success. He said it will take several weeks to convert his measurements into drawings and noted that none of the new buildings will be taxed until the next tax year.
While the group was on the ranch, gates leading to the temple site were closed and pickup trucks containing two men each were backed up to the gates. “It was clear to me that they didn’t want us in there,” Sutton said. “We didn’t push it.”
While Sutton may not have been able to measure the temple foundation, Krakauer’s photos give some insight into the size of the structure. Using a Ford Excursion SUV that was parked nearby as a reference, the width of the foundation very closely approximates the 88 ft. width of the Latter-Day Saint Temple at Nauvoo, IL. The Nauvoo temple is said to be a favorite of Warren Jeffs.
By comparison, the sanctuary of First Baptist Church in Eldorado is 52 feet wide, according to Rev. Andy Anderson who enlisted the help of FBC youth minister Silas Politte in measuring the building. Anderson noted that it is 125 ft. from the pillars in front of FBC to the back of the church’s Fellowship Hall, some 3 feet shy of the length of the temple at Nauvoo.
If the building being planned at the YFZ follows the Nauvoo plans, it’s walls will stand 60 ft. high topped by a domed tower soaring 165 ft above the ground.
Other photos taken earlier in the week reveal a large number of stone blocks stored in a crescent-shaped area adjacent to the temple and nearby a large stone cutting mill. Many of the stones are covered with tarpaulins but several are visible. It is unclear if all the stone is being quarried on the YFZ Ranch. Jon Krakauer reports following a truck load of shaped stone on County Road 300. He said the truck entered the gate to the YFZ.
Krakauer says he expects there will be increased traffic through the YFZ gate. “More and more of Warren’s most committed followers will certainly be moving to Texas in the months to come,” Krakauer said. ” From here on out, it also seems likely that Warren will be spending most—maybe even all—of his time on the YFZ ranch.”
“For over a year now, law enforcement authorities in Utah, Arizona, and British Columbia have been slowly but surely been collecting criminal evidence against the prophet,” Krakauer continued. “I don’t know whether it will happen in a week or in a month or in six months, but I am confident that a felony warrant will soon be issued for Warren’s arrest, which is going to make him afraid to venture beyond the YFZ gates. It also means, for better or worse, that Eldorado is going to be ground zero in the effort to bring Warren to justice.”
Wendy Cooper, an attorney representing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality told the Success this week that she is not yet prepared to file a motion with TCEQ Chief Clerk LaDonna Castanuela regarding environmental violations at the YFZ Ranch. Cooper said that she will be reviewing the case in the next few weeks and expects to be filing a complaint, along with recommended fines, in the next few weeks.
Locally, complaints from neighboring ranchers about dust and runoff from the YFZ have made it to the TCEQ offices in San Angelo. No word whether those complaints are being investigated.
Residents in Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT (Short Creek) are reportedly concerned that their homes, built on land owned by the United Effort Plan Trust, are in jeopardy now that the UEP, the FLDS Church and Prophet Warren Jeffs have fired their attorneys and are no longer mounting a defense in lawsuits brought against them by Brent Jeffs and a group of young men known as the ‘Lost Boys.’
A press release issued by the law firm of Hoole & King, which represents Brent Jeffs and the Lost Boys, states that their clients brought the lawsuits in order to preserve the UEP Trust and to “stop the improper sale of its assets.”
The statement continues saying, “We want to ensure that families are secure in their own homes and can preserve their property interests. We also hope to make it possible for all people living on UEP Trust land to understand the choices becoming open to them so that they can freely make decisions regarding their futures, homes and families.”
Hoole & King plan to hold a meeting in Short Creek or St. George, UT in February and meet with concerned residents of Short Creek.
New end-of-world date
If you are reading this, then the latest end-of-the-world prediction associated with FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs has come and gone. Journalists in Canada contacted the Success on Tuesday to say that FLDS faithful in Bountiful, BC reported hearing from their leaders that the apocalyptic end of time previously expected on Jan. 1st was actually going to occur on Jan. 5th, a prediction confirmed by two contacts in Short Creek.