Salt Lake City -- Not everyone who lives in Colorado City and Hildale - the twin towns straddling the Utah-Arizona border - are loyal to the now jailed polygamous prophet, Warren Jeffs. There are a few residents who the FLDS consider "apostates".
Some of these apostates resisted Jeffs’ demands that they abandon their homes, their wives and children. He told them to leave and "repent from afar" and they defied him.
Others left, but returned in the last few years after a Utah judge took control of the land and homes away from Jeffs. They believe that in returning, they have reclaimed their piece of a town that they and their parents and grandparents helped build.
But now the apostates say all that has been accomplished is now in jeopardy.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is leading a complicated negotiation with the FLDS and other parties about taking control from the court and returning it to the people of the polygamist towns. It is an admiral goal. It is inevitable. But it could also put total control back in the hands of the FLDS and Jeffs.
The apostates fear a return to the tyranny of the FLDS majority. Jeffs loyalists already run the town governments and police force. If they also regain control of the very land (all of it is owned in common under the umbrella of the United Effort Plan trust), the apostates say they could very well be run out of town.
Brigham Dutson once was obedient to Warren’s father, Rulon Jeffs. Back in the late 1990's, when Rulon asked all FLDS to sell what they had and move to Hildale/Colorado City, Dutson obeyed. He and his family left the Salt Lake Valley and started over. But when Warren took control, the Dutsons reached a point where they could no longer believe or obey. They became apostates. "I feel that it’s going to revert back to the same way that it has been," said Dutson. "As long as this religion is allowed to have unbridled control over its people, they’re going to do what they want."
That includes getting rid of anyone who doesn’t toe the line. Some apostates claim the FLDS people have already stepped up harassment. They say the word around town is that Colorado City and Hildale will be purified of all unbelievers - a religious cleansing. April Dutson said, "Individuals in America should have freedom from that kind of persecution."
On Tuesday, a handful of apostates traveled to Salt Lake and protested on the steps of the capitol. They got Shurtleff’s attention. He strode out into the crowd and tried to reassure them. "We understand their concerns - to be secure in their home, live in a community, have access to facilities," he said. When asked who is representing the apostate minority in negotiations with the FLDS majority, Shurleff answered, "We’re looking out for them - absolutely. That’s why it’s taking so long in the negotiating. Much of our negotiation has been to protect the minority population down there."
Shurleff explained that rules prohibit him from discussing details, but an outline of a possible agreement will be presented Wednesday in a "letter of understanding" during a status hearing with the judge that now oversees the UEP trust.
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