Tolerance: Residents won’t roll out the red carpet, but they won’t set up roadblocks either
MANCOS, Colo. – Most residents of this small southwestern Colorado community were more concerned with finding a bargain at the local VFW yard sale Saturday than with news that a representative of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has purchased property nearby.
Most were unaware that David Allred, a Utah man with strong ties to the polygamous FLDS church, based on the Utah-Arizona border, bought 60 acres in a secluded, wooded area north of town. He reportedly told authorities the land would be used as a hunting retreat.
At about the same time last year, Allred purchased a 1,691-acre ranch near Eldorado, Texas, also saying it would be a hunting retreat. Later, FLDS officials told Texas authorities that the ranch would be used as a retreat for church members.
“I would wonder why they bought here,” said Mancos resident Janet Reider during lunch at the Absolute Bakery. “But this community is very diverse. There’s a lot of different cultures and backgrounds here. It would probably be a good place to get away, but I’m not sure how people will react.”
A polygamous enclave would not be welcomed with open arms, but if Warren Jeffs’ FLDS church does establish a retreat on 60 acres of land northeast of town, Mancos valley residents would most likely leave them alone unless problems arise, saidTom Vaughan, editor of the Mancos Times, the town’s weekly newspaper.
“This is a fairly tolerant community. Diverse and accepting,” Vaughan said. “But if people disturb the public order, then that’s what’s going to matter.”
And the town of Mancos does not want to gain notoriety as the site of a polygamous compound, he said.
“We would rather have the attention for having Luther Elliss, one of our local boys, on the Denver Broncos than have this awkward thing happen,” he said. “We don’t want this kind of attention.”
An FLDS presence nearby is unlikely to raise concerns among the 250 members of the Mancos ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Curtis Hennrich, first counselor in the Mancos bishopric. The Mancos area was originally settled by LDS pioneers, he said.
“This community is very open to alternate lifestyles, so I can understand why a polygamist group might want to come here,” Hennrich said. “I don’t think it will really upset folks. We’re willing to accept them even though we don’t agree with what they’re doing and saying. They have the right to believe what they believe as long as they don’t try to force it on anyone else.”
“It’s not within our jurisdiction to question people like this, whatever they are,” said Montezuma County Commissioner Kelly Wilson. “We’re a very friendly county.As long as they mind their own business.”
But Wilson and Commissioner Kent Lindsay said they will consult with the county’s legal representatives, and will discuss the issue with social service agency representatives and constituents. They also plan to research the FLDS church, paying close attention to three lawsuits filed in Utah’s 3rd District Court against the church and its leader Warren Jeffs. One lawsuit alleges that Jeffs and others sexually molested a boy, another asserts that the FLDS systematically ousts male adolescents and young men, and the third alleges that a member was illegally fired from his job because he no longer adhered to the faith.
“I’d like to keep an eye on it, and see whatour legal status is,” Lindsay said. “I’ll definitely be getting out into the community to see what concerns people have.”