From left: FLDS leaders Roy Steed, David Allred and Ernie Jessop gather for a meeting with Eldorado officials. Sheriff David Doran, who is watching the group closely, has built a relationship with its leaders, visiting the ranch nearly a dozen times.
The Eldorado Success
Residents of the rural West Texas town of Eldorado are concerned by the arrival of a polygamist sect known as the FLDS, or Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members derive their polygamous theology from the teachings of early Mormon leaders, but Mormons abandoned polygamy long ago.
Prophet of the FLDS
The FLDS is led by Warren Jeffs, who succeeded his father as prophet in 2002. Jeffs is said to keep a tight grip on the polygamous community, using wives as rewards for loyalty among followers. Read more about Jeffs:
The home base of the FLDS is in the sister cities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah. But now, Utah and Arizona authorities are cracking down on the towns, probing allegations of sex crimes against minors, domestic violence, welfare fraud and tax evasion.
Last March, FLDS leaders arrived in Eldorado to purchase 2,000 acres just outside of town. When the FLDS men first came, they pretended to be businessmen and said they were building a hunting retreat for corporate clients. FLDS leaders have since admitted that they are building a new settlement for their religious sect. The sprawling ranch is complete with an imposing white temple that dominates the horizon around Eldorado.
Nobody knows how many people are living there now; the oft-stated estimate of 200 is just a guess.
Eldorado locals were already distrustful of the group after its initial lie about its intentions in settling there. Many are disturbed by the group's secretiveness and disgusted by its practice of polygamy and sexual involvement with young teenage girls. There is also a concern that someday, the FLDS might try to get involved in Eldorado politics, running its own candidates for sheriff and mayor.
But others in Eldorado are conflicted, caught between their morals and powerful West Texas beliefs about civil liberties. Some believe that as long as FLDS members aren't breaking the law, the group should be left alone — that what they do on their land is their business.
Insurance adjuster John Cartwright wrote "Plural Girl Blues," an irreverent song about Eldorado's polygamous neighbors that's become famous in town.
Wade Goodwyn, NPR
Wade Goodwyn, NPR
Hear Cartwright Perform 'Plural Girl Blues'
In his book Under the Banner of Heaven, author Jon Krakauer examined the history of fundamentalist splinter groups that are not Mormon but derive their theology from Mormon teachings. The excerpt linked to below describes the history of the polygamous FLDS community of Colorado City, Ariz., formerly known as Short Creek: