FLDS appear to be staying put in border towns

Deseret News, Utah/April 14, 2008

In what appears to be fallout from the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's Texas compound, residents in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., are now signing deals to stay in their homes.

FLDS faithful seemed to be headed for a showdown with the special fiduciary of the court-controlled United Effort Plan Trust, the polygamous sect's property holdings arm. Bruce Wisan had threatened residents with eviction if they didn't sign an occupancy agreement and pay a $100-a-month assessment for infrastructure improvements to the towns.

"I received word that there are going to be some changes and that I'd be receiving lots of occupancy agreements and checks," Wisan said Monday.

Over the weekend, he received 54 occupancy agreements and checks. More are coming in.

"What's going on in Texas I'm sure had an impact," Wisan told the Deseret News.

Until now, FLDS leadership appeared to have drawn a line in the sand. In a February court hearing, Wisan said it was possible that the faithful would leave Hildale and Colorado City rather than comply with his demands for occupancy agreements and assessments. Wisan has threatened to have anyone who refused evicted. He told the Deseret News at the time he couldn't back down or he'd lose credibility.

Isaac Wyler, an ex-FLDS member who works for the UEP Trust, served notices last week on three homes - one at FLDS leader Warren Jeffs' compound in Hildale, one at the home of another FLDS leader and another at a prominent resident's home. The notices said they had until April 25 to sign the deals, cut the checks or face eviction.

Then, the occupancy agreements started being signed by FLDS members.

"If you're in business you can say your policy changed. If you're in the FLDS, you can say it's a new revelation," Wyler said Monday.

Wisan is pushing the assessments and occupancy agreements to stabilize the UEP's cash flow situation and housing in the border towns. The UEP Trust controls homes, businesses and property in the FLDS towns of Hildale, Colorado City, and an enclave in Canada. As part of the court-ordered reforms, the once-communal UEP is being subdivided to pave the way for private property ownership.

The UEP is based on the early-Mormon concept of a "united order," where everything is put into a common pot and doled out according to wants and needs. In 2005, a judge in Salt Lake City's 3rd District Court took control of the trust, amid allegations that Jeffs and other top FLDS leaders had mismanaged it.

Many FLDS faithful have refused to cooperate with the UEP reforms because of an edict from Jeffs. Others feared that if they cooperated, they would have their families stripped from them and be cast out of the FLDS Church.

Even ex-FLDS members have balked at paying the assessments, saying Wisan's tactics were heavy-handed. They showed up at a February court hearing to complain about it.

Wisan said he wishes he didn't have to force the reform efforts.

"I feel badly that the only progress we seem to make is when I have a four-by-four in my hand," he said. "This might be the beginning of a change ... Maybe the trust can work with FLDS leadership and try to work through issues in a professional and expeditious manner and not have quite the animosity that's existed in the past."

Wyler said the Texas raid has put people on edge in Hildale and Colorado City.

"Some people are convinced there's a raid coming," he said. "Others are just as calm as a summer's morning. Those who have committed sins, they're probably worried they might have found something down there."

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