On the EDge: Change in Short Creek does not mean change in FLDS culture

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OPINION — The wages of sin are being used as a barometer of cultural change in the community of Short Creek, that place along the Utah-Arizona state line where Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, are linked forever with polygamous fundamentalist Mormon believers.

A Hildale store is now selling beer. Across the state line in Arizona, new businesses include a new bar and vape shop.

It’s being hailed by many as signaling significant change in the little fundamentalist enclave settled in 1913 when a group calling itself the Council of Friends bolted from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to practice their fundamentalist Mormon beliefs, including plural marriage, which the mainstream church abandoned in 1890.

Time, in some respects, stood still in the little community controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Women of the FLDS faith still wear the prairie-style dresses and the many church-owned businesses operate on a communal basis with the bulk of cash going to the church.

Televisions, newspapers, magazines and other ties with modern culture were banned by Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the FLDS church who is serving a life-plus sentence in prison for child sexual abuses that occurred at his Yearning for Zion community in Eldorado, Texas, where he intended to relocate his FLDS headquarters 15 years ago. Even in his absence, Jeffs has maintained a death grip on his followers and their community.

If the new businesses represent anything, they represent a slap in the face to Jeffs and his iron-fisted dominance. In other parts of Utah, the addition of a bar and a vape shop would not be pointed to as a sign of progress. In fact, they would, in all probability, face considerable opposition. In other parts of Arizona the new establishments would be just a couple of new places to spend money.

For a decade, as the various legal cases against the FLDS church and its leaders have trudged through the court system, Short Creek has been in turmoil.

Carpetbaggers have arrived promising new life, new opportunity, new freedoms.

Church-owned properties have been in legal limbo, with a number of FLDS faithful put out of homes they never paid a dime for but lived in for decades.

Church members began a slow exodus, some moving to small communities in northern Utah, others heading for rural outposts in Pringle, South Dakota; Minot, North Dakota; and Mancos, Colorado. Some have joined another polygamous settlement in Bountiful, British Columbia, in western Canada, where an FLDS group has taken up residence in a rural community.

So while church membership has dwindled in Short Creek, it hasn’t diminished the number of FLDS followers. They’ve simply moved away.

And that is where the real changes are occurring in Short Creek.

I fully expect that before long, somebody will figure out how to best monetize the small community. It could become a tourist destination as a gateway to the Grand Canyon, it could become an industrial site bringing small manufacturing jobs to Short Creek. There is always high potential for areas where the land is cheap, the vistas are beautiful and the expectations are few.

There are some who have steadfastly refused to go, however, and remain in Short Creek, ever-resistant to change.

When a non-FLDS woman was elected mayor the entire town council resigned in protest. They didn’t like the idea of a gentile being elected and certainly did not want to answer to a woman, even if she is a former FLDS member.

Despite changes, Short Creek remains an island of abject poverty in a state notorious for large families and small pay.

While many point to a new bar, new vape shop and new mayor as signs of progress in Short Creek, the stark reminder of the church’s influence and stranglehold on its followers comes in the fact that a local food bank has had to go underground to provide services to hungry FLDS families.

Because the church forbids interaction with the food bank, secret pickup locations and delivery systems are employed to feed the hungry FLDS women and children.

The seeds of Mormon fundamentalism were deeply sewn in Short Creek, which is why despite the fact that you may drop in at the vape shop for some smoke, attend the town council meeting over which a woman presides, then hit the local brew pub for a pizza and beer after the meeting, the FLDS influence on the community still holds strong.

When it comes to cultural changes based on religion, things move at glacial speed.

Look at how it has taken the Catholic Church millennia to move the needle, which is why it just now has voiced opposition to capital punishment.

Look at how religion impacts the drinking laws of not only Utah, but other states and communities with odd liquor laws.

Look at how the LDS church continues to insert its muscle into such socio-political issues as gay marriage, the Equal Rights Amendment and the current ballot measure to legalize medicinal use of cannabis in Utah.

The underlying culture of Short Creek is based on FLDS church doctrine and that includes plural marriage, which, in practice, has included spiritual marriages between underage girls and older men.

The FLDS culture fosters distrust in governments and their agents – local, state and federal – to the point of committing fraud to support the community.

FLDS believers have been taught, from cradle to grave, that their only salvation is to follow the prophet and adhere to the tenets of the church. Such is life lived under the Sword of Damocles. But, the indoctrination has resulted in a core of true believers who would willingly go to the mat for Jeffs and his teachings, no matter the legal judgments against him, whether criminal or civil.

There’s nothing wrong with a new bar and vape shop coming to the Short Creek community. And, it shows a bit of wisdom and foresight that the owners of these establishments placed them in Colorado City. Arizona permitting laws are not as restrictive as Utah’s.

But, it is a bit premature to declare that change has come.

By the FLDS simply taking their closed society elsewhere to practice their beliefs in another, under-the-radar location, makes them somebody else’s problem, a convenient solution for Utah.

But, it does nothing to change the FLDS culture.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • Mild Winters August 14, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Gross immorality in every form, fraud against the welfare system, dishonesty at every level, theft of neighbor’s belongings, shady business dealings beyond description…
    These and other abhorrent, undesirable behaviors are found wherever persons living the FLDS lifestyle are found. Fact… They’re now moving throughout southern Utah and it makes me sick.

  • comments August 14, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Well Ed, what do you propose ought to be done about it all?

  • really August 14, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    Looks like Ed has combined twenty or so other St.George News articles and claimed them as his own. How about you talk about something that you know. Maybe something like how much you hate everyone that does not agree with your liberal views or your rampant slander towards OUR President.

    • Real Life August 14, 2018 at 11:04 pm

      Well, he happens to be right about this one. Liberal or consetvative, what the FLDS does to children is inexcusable. Unless you are one of them, are you? If so, your pedophile cult is going down, FINALLY.

    • bikeandfish August 15, 2018 at 11:07 am

      Its only slander if its not true. I disagree with much of Ed’s content and tone but Trump has provided plenty of evidence of the truth regarding his behavior.

  • Utahguns August 14, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    “Change in Short Creek does not mean change in FLDS culture”….. Really Ed? Tell us something we don’t know….

    If you want to breathe new life into your “plygs” and “plygs2” books, you should re-introduce your books to include the Kingston Group in the Salt Lake City area. Get some reinforcements from the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists to bolster your assets and come out like “a Winged Hell’s Fury”
    Here’s a monsterous size cult (about 22,000 members) that have become a focus of the TV show “Escaping Polygamy”. (“Escaping Polygamy” also has a Facebook page)
    This cult makes the mafia look like boy scouts. The reason the TV show is successful is because they document and film the complete and

    outrageous treatment that goes on and how the pain and abuse (sometimes physical) and mental torment of men and women who wish to leave the cult…. occur on a daily basis.
    Although they worship that ever famous child molester, Warren Jeffs, their practices mimic those of Jim Jones (of Jonestown fame).

    They’re taught from early childhood to “Bleed the Beast” ie: shoplift, steal, commit fraud, file fraudulent food stamp claims, and at home, take advantage of their high surrounding walls and covered windows to commit sex acts with young women and boys. Practically every older male member is a mentally disturbed pedophile.
    I’m definitely grateful to live in this state (and I’m “Jack Catholic”) But, I’m completely outraged at the lack of law enforcement intervention and especially the “piousness” of the LDS Church who turn their heads away from this disgusting and continuing behavior of child abuse.

    Because the church forbids interaction with the food bank, secret pickup locations and delivery systems are employed to feed the hungry FLDS women and children. This also holds true with the free lunch programs up there put on by the Washington School District, where FLDS children aren’t allowed to take part in the free lunch programs during the summer. “”IF Warren Jeffs can’t have milk or corn in prison, his followers aren’t allowed to have it either.””

    “Freedom of speech’ needs to be looked and sometimes thrown out in the context of crimes committed by the FLDS cults.
    These are really bad people……………..

    • comments August 15, 2018 at 10:06 am

      Yep, there’ll be these mormon-offshoot pedophile cults raping kids until the big daddy cult LDS church stops enabling it and steps up to the plate to address the issue head-on. And all the LDS sheep with their attitude of “it’s not our problem they are different from us” doesn’t help matters. That’s how these pedophile mormon cults have been able to operate continually, because the good LDS people of UT seem to think the best bet is to just ignore the problem and “let those people do their thing”. Plus, so many LDS bigwigs being secret closeted polygamists doesn’t help matters either.

  • Carpe Diem August 15, 2018 at 8:21 am

    Well, Warren’s adventure into Texas has had the effect of a bowling ball smashing them. A dozen in prison, Warren for life, FLDS systemic pedophilia exposed, and the loss of the +- $100 million YFZ Ranch and Temple – confiscated. Any FLDS sheeple worth their salt can see the handwriting on the wall. FAKE FAKE FAKE.
    Yeah, there are still adherents though but they’ve lost home base, two of them. It’s been a good thing, watching them lose one lawsuit after another, and now getting bounced out of the crick due to their simple minded hard headedness. There will be more reckoning.

    • Utahguns August 15, 2018 at 9:40 am

      Texas has demonstrated that they will not put up with cults.
      Why doesn’t Utah do the same?
      ….I think we all know the answer.

  • youcandoit August 15, 2018 at 9:36 am

    I don’t understand why Utah has allowed these monsters to marry underage girls to their sick old Yucky uncles. At least Texas went after them. I watched the show Escaping Polygamy I had no idea that was going on. I feel bad for the children they are brainwashed. So sad

  • DRT August 15, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Way too many of the people in power have very recent FLDS roots. They aren’t into prosecuting their own family, no matter how distant the relationship is.

  • bikeandfish August 15, 2018 at 11:11 am

    I think many of us are watching and waiting to see how Utah handles the displacement of major FLDS families finding residence in our own communities. Utah can only stall so long before the FLDS try rebuilding and restructuring.

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