FLDS Ranch in Texas Sees Surge of Activity

Deseret Morning News, Utah/December 23, 2006
By Ben Winslow

Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs may be jailed, but his capture is not halting construction on the polygamous sect’s sprawling Texas ranch.

“This is Warren’s pride and joy right here,” said J.D. Doyle, a pilot who frequently flies over the FLDS ranch just outside Eldorado, Texas. “This thing is not going to stop.”

Doyle provided photographs to the Deseret Morning News that show a new surge of construction surrounding the FLDS Church’s first- ever temple at the YFZ Ranch. It stands for “Yearning for Zion,” after a song Jeffs wrote.

“I think it’s going to be a city unto itself eventually,” Doyle said, adding that he has seen people come and go from the ranch but no significant population boom.

The temple itself is gleaming white, surrounded by a patch of green lawn. Outside the white fence, construction equipment is spread out, as it is used to create new buildings. Doyle said the FLDS members have completed a home, poured the foundations for three more buildings and appear to be building a sugar-cane refinery.

“All the stuff that they’re doing now is commercial stuff. They’re doing something to either make money or for some other reasons,” he said.

Recently, FLDS faithful have been seen working to create fertile farmland by carving out rock underneath 6-inches of soil and replacing it with truckloads of compost. The rock is then used to create roads on the YFZ Ranch.

The ranch has been under the eye of the Schleicher County Sheriff, the Texas Rangers and the FBI since it was first discovered in 2004.

Jeffs, 51, is scheduled to go on trial in April 2007 on charges of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He is accused of forcing a 14-year-old girl into a marriage with her 19-year-old cousin.

Jeffs continues to exercise his authority over his faithful followers, even from jail. A law enforcement source has told the Deseret Morning News that Jeffs has made frequent phone calls to his followers in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., who sing to him, and he gives sermons.

Jeffs’ defense lawyers have called the prosecution of the FLDS leader “religious persecution.”

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