FLDS to sell 1,300 acres

Cortez Journal/November 11, 2004

A polygamous sect on the Utah-Arizona border is selling 1,300 acres of surplus land to finance other purchases in Colorado and Texas.

"It doesn't really fit in well with their community," Rodney Parker, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' attorney, said Tuesday. "They can use that money for these other projects."

An agent for the church, David Allred, purchased a 60-acre parcel of land near Mancos last year. In October, he purchased an adjoining tract as president of the Sherwood Management Group; both properties went for considerably above market value, according to the Montezuma County Assessor's office.

The Jolujo Management Trust, which had sold the second tract to Allred, is not connected to the FLDS Church, its attorney told the Journal.

Allred also bought a 1,691-acre ranch near Eldorado, Texas, a year ago, saying it was for a hunting retreat. A few months later, church leaders acknowledged the ranch was intended as refuge from officials in Utah and Arizona who were pressuring the church over its belief in polygamy.

The Texas compound has since grown to a dozen buildings.

The two Mancos-area parcels each had a few existing buildings, one of which has been remodeled into a four-bedroom, four-bath home, and two structures have been added. At least one of the properties was also ostensibly purchased for a hunting retreat.

The Arizona strip parcel for sale doesn't border the church's base in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where an estimated 10,000 members live. It's listed for $4.6 million.

Allred paid a reported $669,000 for the first Mancos parcel on County Road 39, abutting public land. Because it is zone agricultural land, its estimated market value was approximately $400,000.

He paid even more for the second tract - $725,000 for property with a possible market value of approximately $200,000.

Because these sales were deemed atypical by the assessor's office, they were not expected to impact local property values.

The insular enclave came to national attention early this year when FLDS church leader Warren Jeffs began exiling men, saying they had sinned, and dividing their wives and children among men who were more faithful to his leadership.

Last summer, Jeffs and the church were named in lawsuits alleging he and others sexually molested a boy, were ousting male adolescents and young men, and fired one member from his job because he no longer adhered to the faith. All three lawsuits are pending in Utah state court.

Polygamy is among the teachings of Mormon church founder Joseph Smith. But the practice was abandoned by the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints more than a century ago as the Utah territory sought statehood.

The Utah Constitution bans polygamy and the mainstream Mormon church now excommunicates those who advocate it. Tens of thousands in Utah and more than 30,000 across the West are believed to still practice polygamy.

Many polygamists describe themselves as fundamentalist Mormons, living ultra-religious lives in small, secretive sects.

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