24 candidates for board to oversee polygamous sect’s property trust

bullet A judge in Utah is preparing to select five to seven people for a board that will oversee the redistribution of homes and other property within the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).

Most of the property in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona belong to the United Effort Plan (UEP) — a property trust created in 1942.

FLDS members consider communal living — a principle known as the Law of Consecration and the United Order — an integral part of their religion. The property trust, currently worth an estimated $118 million — was set up to allow followers to followers to share in its assets.

This is a scene from the documentary film, Sons of Perdition. The documentary deals with the so-called ‘Lost Boys’ — young men kicked out of the FLDS by cult leader Warren Jeffs. This segment talks about Warren Jeff’s control over the FLDS community via the United Effort Plan trust.

Utah courts seized control of the trust in 2005 amid allegations by state attorneys that FLDS leader Warren Jeffs and other church leaders had mismanaged its assets.

The state also feared the property trust was put at risk when Jeffs failed to respond to a lawsuit filed in 2004 by six boys who had been kicked out of the church.

Theologically the FLDS is a cult of the Mormon Church — one of dozens of fundamentalist Mormon offshoots. Sociologically it is cult as well.

Warren Jeffs rules his followers, who consider him to be a prophet sent by God, with an iron fist, even while he is behind bars — sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church refers to as “spiritual marriages.”

Ex-FLDS members say Jeffs abused the United Effort Plan by using it as one way to control his followers:

Ever since it was seized the UEP has remained the subject of ongoing legal battles, but the state’s intention has always been to return control of the trust to the community’s members.

The creation a board that will oversee the property trust is an important step.

The Associated Press says, “Third District Court Judge Denise Lindberg will review the applications in search of people who can make decisions independently of any outside influence.”

Board members do not have to be FLDS followers — and in fact Jeffs has forbidden his followers to apply for the position.

There is no set date by which the judge has to make here decision. If she can not find at least five qualified people among the 24 candidates, the application process will start over again.

If and when a board has been formed, its members will have their work cut out for them.

While many of the 7,500 people living in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, still follow Warren Jeffs, hundreds of others have either been kicked out of the FLDS — or have left on their own accord.

Both current and former members feel they have a rightful claim to their homes even while the properties are still part of the trust.

Further complicating the issues is the fact that whenever Jeffs excommunicated married members from his polygamous cult, their wives, children and properties were assigned to other FLDS men.

Judge made mistake on FLDS trust case, Utah Supreme Court says

The Utah Supreme Court says that 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg made an error when she secularized a polygamous church’s property trust.

The United Effort Plan (UEP) property trust was created by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) in 1942 on the concept of a “united order,” allowing followers to share in its assets.

FLDS members consider communal living — a principle known as the ‘Law of Consecration and the United Order’ — an integral part of their religion.

But in 2005, a Utah court seized control of the trust amid allegations by state attorneys that FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs and other sect leaders had mismanaged its assets.

Former FLDS members also said Jeff’s used his control over virtually all property of his followers to rule the church with an iron fist.

This is a scene from the documentary film, Sons of Perdition. The documentary deals with the so-called ‘Lost Boys‘ — young men kicked out of the FLDS by cult leader Warren Jeffs. This segment talks about Warren Jeff’s control over the FLDS community via the United Effort Plan trust.

In addition the State of Utah believed that the fund was at risk when Jeffs’ did not respond to a lawsuit filed by six boys who had been kicked out of the sect.

In October 2006, Judge Lindberg reformed the FLDS trust. At the time, lawyers said religion had been “carved out.”

The Salt Lake Tribune says the Utah Supreme Court ruling issued on Tuesday

explains that the trust had two purposes: advancing the goals of the FLDS religion and providing for the “just wants and needs” of church members.

Lindberg’s approach focused only on the second purpose and reformed the trust according to what the ruling called “secular principles.”

The ruling says the state can’t fundamentally alter the purpose of a trust the way Lindberg did. The ruling describes the purposes of the post-reform trust and the original UEP as “vastly different.”

However, that portion of the ruling may be moot for the FLDS who want to regain control of the trust. FLDS leadership initially ignored the state’s involvement and didn’t raise any legal challenges until, according to the Utah Supreme Court, it was too late.

The FLDS will not benefit from the ruling because it missed the deadline to challenge Judge Lindberg’s decision.

See the Salt Lake Tribune article for the impact of the ruling.

Last February it became clear that the State of Utah is actively seeking for ways to divest itself of the UEP, which had been the subject of ongoing legal battles ever since it was seized.

Court rules Utah keeps control of religious cult’s property trust

United Effort Plan A communal land trust once run by jailed U.S. polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs should not be turned back to leaders of his breakaway Mormon sect because they were too late filing a legal challenge against Utah’s takeover of the assets, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday.

We provide background to the case, as well as an overview of other controversies surrounding the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. [Read more...]

Utah AG ordered to pay for takeover of FLDS sect’s property trust

United Effort Plan The state of Utah must help pay more than $5.5 million in past-due bills owed to an accountant appointed to run the FLDS sect’s United Effort Plan property trust after it was taken over by the state, the Utah Supreme Court decided Friday.

Utah courts seized control of the trust in 2005 amid allegations by state attorneys that the cult’s leaders had mismanaged its assets. [Read more...]