Fund aids former members of polygamous sect

Associated Press/October 16, 2007

Salt Lake City -- A fund for young people cast out of a southern Utah polygamous sect has helped about a dozen since it was created two months ago.

So far, $6,600 has been spent on school tuition, books, a desk, appliances, utilities and car insurance. A woman who was a possible witness in a criminal trial against sect leader Warren Jeffs received clothing.

It's "just ramping up," attorney Roger Hoole said. "We're interested in helping more people."

The $250,000 Lost Boys Fund was part of a settlement of lawsuits filed by seven young men against the United Effort Plan Trust, the financial arm of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Six claimed they were cast out of the church by Jeffs, the FLDS president. The seventh man claimed he was sexually abused.

Neither the church nor Jeffs responded to the lawsuits, and the claims were never proved in court. But the trust, now controlled by a court-appointed accountant, approved the settlement.

The seven men were awarded land, and the fund was established to help young people cut off from the FLDS community.

Many more say they left or were kicked out because of conflicts over strict FLDS rules and religious doctrine.

Hoole said there are two pending requests from young adults who are in college and want advanced degrees in law or medicine.

"We don't want to disburse this for things that aren't real needs, and we want to emphasize education," he said.

Shannon Price, who helps oversee the fund, said the number of young people seeking help will grow.

"The first set of children are beginning to figure out they want to make something of their lives," said Price, director of the Diversity Foundation.

Jeffs, 51, is in the Washington County jail awaiting his sentencing for rape as an accomplice in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old follower and her 19-year-old cousin.

He'll learn his punishment Nov. 20.

The victim in that case is suing the FLDS trust for $1 million. She said she wants to help other teen brides who leave the FLDS faith.

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