Some polygamists say they're not like Warren Jeffs

ABC4 News, Salt Lake City/April 25, 2007
By Brent Hunsaker

Most of the polygamist families that live in this enclave along the Utah - Arizona border are followers of FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs. But not all.

There are those who have left his church but still practice "the principle." Then there are those who live just across the Highway 59 who have never followed Jeffs and never believed in his version of religion or polygamy. They are called "2nd Warders" and their collection of homes and businesses is called Centennial Park. They say they do not believe in underage marriage. Women are not treated as the property of men. They do not build walls and tall fences around their homes. They greet even strangers pleasantly. In sort, they are different from their Warrenite cousins in Colorado City.

One of these "2nd Warders" is LeAnne Timpson. She is the administrator of the Masada Charter School in Centennial Park. Her students are mostly from their side of the Highway, but a few come from Colorado City. (Warren Jeffs ordered his followers to remove their kids from public school several years ago). The school consistently ranks high in statewide aptitude tests. Timpson herself studied at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. "I am a feminist." She is also a polygamist. Even so, Timpson says, "I am not a criminal. I see what I do as civil disobedience against polygamy laws that ought to be changed."

Timpson believes that all polygamists, especially those along the Utah - Arizona border, are being put in the same category as Jeffs. Timpson now makes herself available to government officials, outside groups and the media to try and show that not all polygamists are alike.

Charise Dutson, another "2nd Warder," has started a new restaurant along the highway with the playful name, "The Merry Wives Cafe." Most of her customers are local. It's is always crowded at lunch. And as the travel season approaches, she's starting to see more "Outsiders." Many are curious. And that's just fine with Dutson. "They're amazed that we're normal people." Often the tourists want to buy souvenirs of their visit to a "real polygamist cafe." "They love our caps," says Dutson. She's thinking of also offering higher priced items such as local quilts.

With her restaurant, Dutson started out to make good food and a little cash. "We have mortgages too," she said. But in the last few months she has also made new friends and dispelled a few old misconceptions. That, she and Timpson believe, is ultimately good for this community where wives share a husband, but do not always share the same values and beliefs.

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