Boxes of books feared burned in FLDS town recovered in Cedar City

Desert News/April 20, 2011

Cedar City - A large number of books feared burned in a southern Utah polygamous town were recovered from a Deseret Industries in Cedar City Tuesday.

Elaine Tyler, who was one of the major gatherers of the books that were donated for a community library, said 10 pallets full of books were recovered.

"I don't know how much that accounts for," she said.

The books were being stored at an old schoolhouse in the polygamous twin border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. — both enclaves of the Fundamental LDS Church. Over the weekend, a bonfire was set and area residents said it was apparent that books were among the ashes. The schoolhouse had been locked and boarded, leading many to believe all the donated books had been burned.

Isaac Wyler, a Colorado City resident, said a first-hand witness told him there "wasn't a book left in (the schoolhouse)," further leading Wyler and Tyler to believe thousands of books had been destroyed.

"I've seen the pile of ashes and there are books in there for sure," Wyler said. "One book was four inches thick and there were tons of books like that."

It is believed that some members of the community don't want a library and resent efforts being taken by a state-run management team to sell the schoolhouse for that purpose.

"They don't want any outside influence," Wyler said. "I personally don't think they looked at any of the books."

Tyler, who estimated that upwards of $15,000 in books were missing from the schoolhouse, said she had already called Barnes and Noble Booksellers to report that the books had been removed and was told they were committed to donating again.

Tyler said Stefanie Colgrove, the woman who had the idea for the library, was able to confirm those found at the Deseret Industries are the same books missing from the schoolhouse.

"It's good news just to save some of these books," Tyler said. "We know they burned some, but at least they didn't get all of them."

Chad Campbell, who manages the Deseret Industries in Cedar City, said a police detective came by and checked the books with a librarian, who verified that her name was on some of the boxes the books were found in. He said there are between eight and 10 pallets of books and that the pallets hold approximately four boxes stacked almost 4 feet high.

"It was a lot of books," he said. "It took us about a half hour to unload the big van trailer they came in. We've been told to let them sit, so we're letting them sit."

Bill Medvecky, a Florida resident who said he donated books for the community library, said he was at first surprised to hear books had been burned. When he called various FLDS friends to ask why, he said they told him the community was receiving unsolicited packages without a return address, causing them concern. He said a decision was made to destroy the books.

Medvecky said those in the FLDS faith he spoke with were also wary of any books being brought in from the "outside."

"It was not their property, but they didn't want it in the community," he said.

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