Former old-timer from polygamist sect offers an insider's look through books about FLDS

December 16, 2006
By Rick Ross

Ben Bistline, 71, is a self-taught historian and author of two books about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, Arizona, is a roughly written and Colorado City Polygamists: An Inside Look for the Outsider.

As a former member of the FLDS Bistline offers an insider's historical view of the largest polygamist group in North America.

The books offer an overview of the United Effort Plan (UEP) trust that controls the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, the central headquarters of the FLDS. Until May 2005, the polygamist group ran the trust and dictated who could build and live in homes within the communities.

The UEP is now run by a court-appointed fiduciary and is being dismantled.

Bistline was once a plaintiff in lawsuit against the trust.

He moved to the twin town area when he was 18. He married and had 16 children.

Bistline was once a committed polygamist and loyal FLDS member.

"I totally believed I needed to be a polygamist to reach the highest level of heaven," he said.

But after FLDS leaders refused him a second wife he began to have doubts.

"I began to reason things out," Bistline told the Salt Lake Tribune.

It took him 20 years to give up his beliefs and break with the FLDS. He joined the LDS Church 15 years ago.

It wasn't an easy transition for the Bistline. "It was my life, my family, my relatives," he told the Tribune.

The final break came when FLDS leaders evicted his brother from a house controlled by the UEP.

In 1987, Bistline and about 30 other former FLDS members sued the group and eventually won a partial victory.

They were granted the right to stay in their homes or be bought out by the UEP.

Bistline agreed in 2003 to a settlement with the UEP, which included selling him the mobile home he has "real cheap" and moving it to Cane Beds, Arizona, where some of their children live.

None of the 14 living Bistline children are currently members of the FLDS.

Bistline's books provide a who's-who look at the FLDS and put together a picture than has helped officials dealing with the sect better understand it.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff used it to help put together a primer on polygamy.

Shurtleff told the Tribune, "It was one of my first in-depth views [of the FLDS sect] from someone who had been in that community. It was very helpful, very educational."

Bistline said, "I want to try to get the truth out..." Bistline said. Jeffs has "gotten rid of all the old-timers, people who knew what happened, what the history was."

Bistline's books are now published by Agreka Books, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company.

Bistline hopes to be around long enough to see the end of the UEP, but he has a serious heart condition.

"What makes me really feel good is there have been a few people who've come out of there and they told me, 'I had so many questions, and when I read your book it answered all those questions for me,' " Bistline said. "That really makes me feel good, that I could help any of them..."

Note: This report is based upon the article "Self--taught historian offers in-depth views of FLDS" written by Brooke Adams previously published by The Salt Lake Tribune December 15, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Rick Ross.

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