As many as a thousand people may have been exiled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints under an edict by imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.
From his prison cell in Texas, Jeffs reportedly set a New Year’s deadline for his faithful followers to be re-baptized into the faith or face excommunication. Over the weekend, hundreds of vehicles were seen parked at a meeting hall as well as schools in the community. Ex-members of the church and observers said it appeared it was where they learned if they remained in the church or were exiled.
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“What’s happened is Warren Jeffs has divided the community into at least two different groups, probably three,” said private investigator Sam Brower, who works for attorneys suing the FLDS Church. He photographed hundreds of people going into the meetings.
The majority remained in the FLDS Church, ex-member Isaac Wyler told FOX 13. Another group, believed to be comprised of nearly 1,000 individuals were told they must atone by “yearning for Zion,” but were not allowed to attend church services.
“They were told to repent,” Wyler said, adding that they could still tithe to the church.
Others were excommunicated from the church entirely. Brower said that in some cases, entire families were split apart.
“I talked to one guy that was kicked out,” he said. “The church officials showed up at his door at three o’clock in the morning, removed his wife and ten children. To say it was heartbreaking was an understatement.”