Pringle a stepping stone to Texas ranch, former sect member says

Rapid City Journal/April 19, 2008

A former member of a polygamous sect said he believes some members who previously lived at a compound near Pringle had moved to the polygamous compound at Eldorado, Texas, which was raided by law enforcement authorities earlier this month.

Isaac Wyler still lives in Colorado City, Ariz., which, along with Hildale, Utah, just across the border, are headquarters for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon splinter group that is spurned by the mainline Mormon Church.

Wyler, a former longtime member of the FLDS, was ex-communicated in 2004 by FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, who was convicted last year in Utah of rape as an accessory. Jeffs is in jail in Arizona facing similar charges there.

Wyler said FLDS members had to prove themselves worthy of going to the Yearning For Zion compound at Eldorado by first living at other compounds such as the Pringle community.

"Some of those compounds were stepping stones to get to Texas," Wyler said in a phone interview this week.

Land for the Pringle compound was purchased in 2003 by the same man who handled the purchase of the Texas property, according to The Success newspaper of Eldorado.

Wyler said he also believes that William E. Jessop, whom Jeffs temporarily named to replace him as prophet of the FLDS, also is living at Pringle.

Jeffs, while jailed and awaiting trial in Utah last year, told followers and family members that he had molested his daughter and sister, that he wasn't the real prophet, and that Jessop was the prophet, Wyler said.

But a couple of weeks later, Jeffs took it all back, saying his admission and transfer of power was only a test.

A blog item this week on The Salt Lake City Tribune, which covers the FLDS, says no one knows the whereabouts of Jessop but he may be in hiding.

Wyler said he was at a meeting of FLDS leaders in the '90s at which Jeffs' father, Rulon Jeffs, then the church leader, urged the church to take a proposed deal from the state to abandon under-age marriages in exchange for amnesty for any past crimes involving under-age marriages.

Warren Jeffs, who soon took control of the sect, even before his father died, rejected the deal and defiantly went on a spree of performing under-age marriages, Wyler said.

Wyler said rape follows naturally in some cases where girls as young as 13 or 14 are married to older men. "I know of cases in this town where underage girls were married to a guy and she didn't want to do anything and he forced himself on her. It's not always that way. But that's going to happen anyplace you have underage marriages," said Wyler.

Wyler said that while he was in the church, he was bothered most by the underage marriages and, even worse, underage marriages by men to their stepdaughters.

Wyler said there are occasions when an FLDS man marries a woman who already has small children, raises them up to age 13 or 14 and then marries them. "They grow up calling this man dad and then have to have sex with him," Wyler said.

Wyler said he never was told why he was excommunicated from the church, but he doesn't regret it. "It was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Wyler had only one wife when he was an FLDS member and she divorced him after he challenged Jeffs' teachings.

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