COLORADO CITY, Ariz. – In a park that skirts the short, dry creek that once gave this community its name, a new monument was set in place Wednesday honoring polygamists who withstood a government effort 53 years ago to quash their way of life.
How long it will last in this stronghold of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is anyone’s guess.
The marker, a rough-hewn slab of rock at the entrance of Cottonwood Park, replaces one destroyed three years ago as ordered by Warren S. Jeffs – and thus snubs the FLDS prophet, whom some say has had far more success in destroying the community and its plural families.
“I just hope it gets some people thinking about a miraculous event that happened in our lives and that fathers [are reminded] their families mean something,” said Winston Blackmore, a Canadian expelled from the faith in 2002 and organizer of the event. Blackmore was regarded as rival of Jeffs.
He also said the marker serves as a reminder of things “robbed from us” since Jeffs took control of the FLDS church in 2002.
Jeffs has cast hundreds of men from the church and given their wives and children to other men. He failed to defend lawsuits filed against the community’s property trust, which led to it being placed under court oversight. He refused to stop underage marriages, prompting government authorities to step up prosecutions for that crime within his sect.
Those decisions are accomplishing what government authorities failed at 53 years ago, Blackmore said.
“We had to have a raid within to put the men in jail, distribute the women and cause the children to lose their identities,” said Blackmore, referencing remarks made in 1953 by then Arizona Gov. Howard Pyle.
About 30 people – all apostates of the FLDS faith, including seven people who lived through the Short Creek Raid – gathered for the ceremony. No FLDS members showed up.
The morning began with a recorded rendition of “America” – the same song residents sang on July 26, 1953, as they awaited arrival of more than 100 Arizona law officers and social workers.
“They treated us like dirt, said Esther Johnson Black, who was 24 and the mother of five children then.
It wasn’t the first raid; others occurred in 1935 and 1944. But its sheer scale – some 39 men, 86 women and 263 children were arrested or taken into state custody – set it apart.
Boastful newspaper headlines in Utah and Arizona claimed that with the action, the “Nest of Polygamists” had been wiped out.
But by year’s end, the men returned home after pledging to give up polygamy and being placed on probation.
Most women and children spent two years in Arizona as wards of the state before returning to what is now Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
“We went back to our old thing,” said Black, who is 77 and now a member of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But the raid was – and still is – seared into the collective memory of fundamentalist Mormons throughout the Intermountain West and Canada, shaping their view of government and of themselves as a persecuted people.
“From then on, people became very camera-shy and looking out for the law and not wanting to come out and expose themselves, and it has been that way for 50 years,” said Ivan Nielsen of Salt Lake City, who attended Wednesday’s ceremony.
Ken Driggs, an Atlanta attorney who has written extensively about the raid, said in a telephone interview that government action today “plays right into the hands of polygamous leaders who say, ‘See? They are doing it again.’ “
Blackmore did just that Wednesday, chiding Arizona for its current prosecution of men he said were only following Jeffs’ orders when they took underage girls as plural wives. Blackmore himself is under scrutiny in Canada for the same thing.
“Arizona, don’t insult us again,” he said. “We were insulted in ’53, don’t insult us again.
“As people who are trying to live the fundamentals of their faith, we have just as much right to struggle through our lives as anyone else,” he said.
With that, Blackmore lost one listener: Mohave County Investigator Gary Engels, who attended to make sure there was no trouble. He left after the comment.
“When he begins comparing what we’re doing to the ’53 raid . . . ” Engels said. “He should be comparing it to the takeover of the community by Warren Jeffs. He’s done more to tear this community apart.”
Jeffs began that destructive course in earnest – and in a fashion that opened the FLDS to public scrutiny like never before – in 2003.
That’s when then Colorado City Mayor Dan Barlow set up a museum and monument memorializing the raid. The act infuriated Jeffs, who characterized it as idol worship. He ordered the monument crushed and scattered in the foothills. Barlow was among 21 men Jeffs cast out of the church six months later. The lawsuits and trust takeover followed.
“It had started to go downhill, but from that moment it went downhill fast,” said Lori Chatwin, who defied Jeffs by staying with her husband Ross after he was ousted from the faith in 2003.
“I don’t have much respect for him because of his interference in the families and breaking them up. That’s wrong as hell,” said Tom Jessop, 75.
Jessop, Chatwin and others who gathered in Cottonwood Park were trying to see the occasion as a new beginning. “To me it is a symbol of hope that we are, maybe, starting to equalize, so we’re not in such a downward spiral,” she said.
Still, no one expects the new monument to survive long, figuring Jeffs will once again have it crushed. Blackmore is giving it a week.
Warren Jeffs FLDS sermon
The following is a lesson given by Warren S. Jeffs in a General Meeting of FLDS members at the LSJ Meetinghouse in Colorado City, Ariz., on July 16, 2000:
Our Prophet’s Call: Leave Apostates Alone, Severely! Steps of Apostasy.
I ask Heavenly Father to strengthen me at this time to deliver the message our prophet has directed we receive this day. I only want to be one with him and do his will, as he has the right to rule and has the key of revelation in behalf of all the earth. And I bear witness of him first today. I know God is with this Prophet and the Lord strengthens every Priesthood bearer as they obey this great Prophet.
The work of all the Prophets of old and the work of the Prophets in this dispensation continues in the person of President Rulon Jeffs. The invitation is to all to come and assist this Prophet in his great work, but to be a help to him, you must be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Today our Prophet is drawing another line of guidance for this people, which he does not want us to cross anymore. There are combining against our Prophet and this work the apostates. They have declared against him. They work against him. And he is now calling upon his people to let the apostates alone, and let there be a separation of this Priesthood people from associations, business and doings with apostates. He is calling upon us to stop helping our enemies fight against us.
An apostate from this is the most dark person on earth. They are a liar from the beginning. They have made covenants to abide the laws of God and have turned traitor to the Priesthood and their own existence and they are led about by their master, Lucifer. They can’t help themselves but fight against the Prophet and all who support him. You cannot go to apostates to receive any evidence of this work.
Their nature is to be a liar. Whatever truths they use, they will insert a lie. And if you are choosing to socialize with apostates, to join with them in any way, you are choosing to get on the devil’s ground. You spend five minutes with an apostate and he or she will present some untruth as an effort against our Prophet, in their mind to justify their position.
He wants us to stop patronizing businesses of the apostates. Stop doing business with them, strengthening their hand by your labors to fight our Prophet. And if they have businesses, do not patronize them. Come away from them. If you are in partnership with apostates, come away from them is the call of our Prophet, for your labors of earning money is strengthening their hand against this Priesthood. We will not be that people the Lord can use as long as we harbor our enemies.
The great challenge among this people is the apostates are our relatives. If a mother has apostate children, her emotions won’t let her give them up and she invites them into the home, thus desecrating that dedicated home. We want to see them and socialize with them and every time we do, we weaken our faith and our ability to stand with the Prophet. This is what our Prophet says about relatives, talking of Jesus:
(From a lesson by Rulon Jeffs given Sept. 19, 1993, in Sandy:)
Matthew 12 46. While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47. Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with thee.
48. But he answered them and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? Who are my relatives? 49. And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said: Behold my mother and my brethren! 50. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Your only real family are the members of this Priesthood who are faithful to our Prophet. Much has been said here today about apostates. We have blood relatives connected with those apostates.
And I wanted this read for the benefit of all those who may be grieving. My mother’s brother, Alma Timpson, is at the head, nominally, of that group of people upon our land in Short Creek. But the Lord has asked they be removed.
He wants us to let them go. Brigham Young [said in the Journal of Discourses 8:199, October 7, 1860, in Salt Lake City]:
Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters are no more to me than are any other persons, unless they embrace this work. Here are my fathers, my mothers, my sisters and my brethren in the kingdom and I have none outside it, neither in any part of the earth nor in all the eternity of the Gods. In this kingdom are my acquaintances, relatives and friends — my soul, my affections, my all.
Our Prophet will lose confidence in any person who continues to harbor apostates, to join with them, and he means business! He wants the [gap] between us and them to be separated wider, so the Lord will know His people and who is with our Prophet and who is not.
Let apostates go. Leave them alone, severely! Where we have public businesses open to the public, our Prophet knows it is hard to tell the difference, and he does not want us to be unkind and rail against them. He wants us to so live in peace within our own being, that the Lord will fight our battles. The enemy is combining. You cannot make an apostate your friend and be a friend of President Jeffs. So if any among this people work in a job for an apostate, he wants you to find a different job. Come away from that darkness.
We live and are surrounded by a Gentile world and in one respect, you could say, they are all apostate, where their forefathers were.
But there is one great difference between a Gentile who has never known this Priesthood or been part of it and an apostate who has turned traitor. They can’t help themselves but be against President Jeffs. I will read Brigham Young’s words, which should be how we think [Journal of Discourses 5:57, July 19, 1857, in Salt Lake City]:
There are a few apostates here and I have understood the whining and sympathy they manifested for our enemies. It makes me think of what I heard from a High Priest’s house, that he did not know a Saint’s face from the Devil’s. It is just with a great many. They would not know the angel Gabriel, if he were to stand here to preach to them, from Lucifer, the Son of the Morning. If Lucifer were to hand out a dollar they would say, ‘You are a gentleman, won’t you call at my house?” “Here is another dollar.” “Oh, call over at my house. I have some daughters. Perhaps you would like to be introduced to them.”
This is what some people do to the apostates. “Oh, I have a free family, call in and get acquainted with my family.”
Do you know, said Brigham Young, that there is no fellowship between Christ and Baal? Or the devil. Do you think that a union has taken place between them? Can you fellowship those who will serve the devil? If you do, you are like them.
That will be the result. I am not talking about an accidental meeting. But when you choose to go socialize and partake of their spirit, you will become like them. We have had so many tragedies of our young people, where even the parents have allowed a compromise, to allow them to run about with apostates. We have these tragedies still happening among us. Don’t assist the devil in destroying your children!
If you do, you are like them and we wish you to go with them, for we do not want you. We wish that all such men and women would apostatize and come out boldly and say, “We are going to hell upon our own road,” and I will say, “Go ahead and may the devil speed you in your journey! Here is a sixpence for you.” But do no go snooping around pretending to be Saints, at the same time be receiving such men into your houses and such spirits into your hearts as many do.
Heber C. Kimball [said in Journal of Discourses, 4:140, on Dec.
21,1856, in Salt Lake City]:
Now suppose that one of our Elders will associate with the ungodly, with apostates, with adulterers, with whoremongers and liars and will tamely sit and hear them damn brother Brigham — or Uncle Rulon — and brother Heber and everything that is pure and holy, without rising up and reproving them. I wish to know if he is not just as bad as the characters that conduct so wickedly? Yes, he is.
And those that will quietly sit and hear such language are partakers of that sin.
Do you want to partake of the sin of fighting against our Prophet by helping them, working for them, strengthening their hand against him? …
I know that many of you associate with and cherish the wicked. What would I give for the friendship of such men and women? Not one farthing, nor for their religion, nor for their presence, nor for their preaching. I wish all such persons would go from this place.
Our Prophet wants the apostates to get discouraged and leave, but first he wants this people to not assist them or help them in fighting our Prophet. Every Priesthood meeting the apostates hear what is taught. The very same day of these meetings, they hear what is said. These handouts we have, they have them. We need to clean this up and keep sacred the teachings we receive, the printouts we have. We need to stop calling them up as some supposed “friends” because they are but relatives and tell them what is happening among this people. We will not be that prepared people until this is corrected.
The great God of the world today in most people’s hearts is money.
The Lord has blessed and prospered this people. The Lord has blessed and prospered this people. We are called to join together as one, build up our Prophet and one another. But our Prophet wants us to stop the trading, the bringing of apostates upon our land, the going on their jobs, the contract work — all of it, where we can choose to do different. For our public businesses, it is open to the public, but where we can control what we do, support our Prophet with all you have and are and let our apostate relatives go.
Here Brigham Young describes the beginning of apostasy and why it is so dangerous to associate with apostates as far as our faith is concerned [Journal of Discourses, 18:215, Aug. 15, 1876 at Logan]:
There are only two churches on the earth, only two parties. God leads the one, the devil the other. As soon as a man hears the Gospel preached and becomes convinced of its truthfulness, he is tempted of the devil, who, whenever there is an opportunity suggests doubt for his reflection.
Apostates are literally tools of the devil. They can’t help themselves, even if they were once nice, once energetic in this work, once industrious. If he entertains these doubting influences, it is not long before what he believed true becomes a matter of conjecture.
Another may receive the Gospel, travel and preach it faithfully, feeling in his heart to exclaim, “Glory to God in the highest!” having no other motive than to do good to his fellow beings. By and by, perhaps he is left to himself and now begins to question himself, saying, “I wonder if I really was right?” This single doubt is perhaps the beginning of his apostasy from the Church.
In the days of Joseph, people were inclined to turn away from the faith and go into apostasy, as much as they do now in proportion to our numbers, and I have sometimes thought more so.
Here is the beginning of apostasy in any person: You allow the devil to suggest to you that I — this is Brigham Young the Prophet — that I am not leading you right and allow that thought to abide in your hearts and I will promise you that it will lead you to apostasy.
Words of President Jeffs [1:67, April 19, 1959, in Salt Lake City]:
. . . One of the first steps toward losing the Spirit of God and getting out of line is to have a complaining spirit, a murmuring spirit. It will lead them to undue criticism of others and especially of those who preside over us and lead us and before long we are launched into the three steps of apostasy: 1. We begin to avoid those to whom we are amenable. Or accountable. A withdrawal is one of the first steps — not going to their meetings, their prayers, not attending their duties.
2. Then we begin to accuse. Or blaming others, where “This is not right” and “That is not right.” And finally, 3. Betrayal and apostasy is complete.
All beginning with that doubt against the Prophet and those who support him. This is not a call to go to battle with arguing, complaining and violence. This is a call of peace, to let the world and the apostates alone and come and build up this work, build up the Priesthood businesses, build up the storehouse above all in our physical doing, built up the United Effort Plan.
And he wants the ungodly and the apostates to leave the Priesthood land.
The way our Prophet is performing this work is the preparation of a people, a pure people who can pray unto the Lord for deliverance and He will fight their battles. Uncle Roy taught us if is a sin to even criticize the apostates. Be kind to everyone, but leave apostates alone. Live your religion. You will not get the Spirit of God criticizing an apostate. You don’t even need to think about them as far as your daily walk is concerned. There is the whole world of good, of Priesthood to live, to think, to do.
Now where we may have children who are leaning away, we must keep working with them until they declare themselves against the Priesthood, and case by case, they are brought before the Prophet and handled.
“The Kingdom of God is such that there have always been numerous apostates,” said Joseph Smith, because the Kingdom of God, the Priesthood, does not allow any sins unrepented of and people will go their way eventually.
But our Prophet’s invitation is to come, be ye filled with the Holy Ghost, become one. But you cannot be one with our Prophet and join with his enemies. Come out of the world, and especially leave apostates alone. Keep sweet through it all, but stand firm for our Prophet.
I bear witness that he is being renewed and strengthened. I yearn for he and Uncle Fred to have restored the youth and vigor needed and that they desire. May we show the Lord and our Prophet we are all the way with him. I rejoice that all that I have said here is already mostly true — most of these people have left the apostates alone.
May we come all the way up to our Prophet’s mark. “Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.” I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
President Rulon T. Jeffs then spoke: That is exactly what I wanted presented here to this people.
Apostates have ingratiated themselves in with their friendly relatives and it is poison! So let us separate ourselves and stand with the true cause of God and the Priesthood. It is all the way or nothing at all. So let us be advised.
It is dangerous to make friends of them. Have nothing whatever to do with them is my solemn advice and counsel to this people today.
There is no halfway house. Come all the way from them and be a complete Latter-day Saint.
So take this counsel that I have asked Brother Warren to deliver to this people today. God bless you. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.