The Road to Eldorado: Expelled from the FLDS

The Road to Eldorado: Expelled from the FLDS

Southwest Texas Live/May 12, 2008

Richard Holm lived in a Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community in Colorado City, Arizona, before the Eldorado compound was built in Texas. But in late 2003, Warren Jeffs, now serving jail time for being an accomplice to rape for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old, took away Holms family in the span of a few days. His story shows the plight of men connected to the FLDS.

I guess I was excommunicated, Holm says. I had been gone on a trip with my wife; I had two wives at the time, both sisters. I had kids with just one of them, the younger one was not able to have kids; I married one when she was 20 and the second at 22. My wife Lorena is the one I had seven kids with at that time.

In November of 03, we had gone on a trip to Idaho and got home to Colorado City, Arizona, where I was born and raised; right after getting home, my wife got a call from her dad, Truman Barlow, telling him to see her because our holy prophet had told him that if our daughters stayed with me theyd go down with the wicked. I had heard rumors that Warren was just going to kick me out.

Well, when she got that call to go over to her dads, she asked her dad, what about Richard and he said, I guess he can come too. He and I had been good friends; we traveled, did a lot of things together, for the previous 15 or 18 years, had a lot of involvement. So we all three [Holm and his two wives] went over to Trumans, on a Sunday night, and he says, I dont know whats going on or whats behind this, but we gotta comply. This is what Uncle Warrenthats what they called himsaid. And so as soon as I heard that, I dialed Warren Jeffs, called his number to see what he was thinking; his brother Nephi answered the phone; he tried to get Warren on the phone, but he wouldnt talk, he was too busy. He said if I called back later hed talk to me. It took me two days of calling every hour or two, but he finally answered the phone. When he answered the phone I said, why are you doing this to me And he said, I dont know, thats what the Lord told me just this morning.

He said, You need to remove yourself and repent from a distance. You can continue to take care of your family, provide for them, but do it through Uncle Fred [Jessop, a church elder]. He said if I complied, wed work our way through this.

I had no doubt in my feelings that my family belonged together, thought there was just some confusion on Warrens part. So I just talked with my family and said wed work our way through it, that wed stand up to it no matter what. So I went to the hotel, came back the next day to talk to my family, and my wife said, Father said he was told by Uncle Warren that youre only to talk to us through him, no direct contact. And from then on it was just like the iron curtain went up. I tried to get her to talk, and she just wouldnt, and it went on like thatI wrote letters, called for Warren, dozens of times to try to work it out, see what was going on, and he didnt respond.

Finally, six weeks later, I got a call from my younger brother who said he had to talk to me. So I met him out at a coffee shop, and after a while of sitting, I started to leave, and he jumped up and said, Would you ride with me and talk And I said okay. So we went for a drive, and after 60 seconds of saying nothing, he says, Dear brother Richard, uncle Warren gave me the responsibility of your family yesterday, and I said, What are you talking about Are you married to my wives Thats just sick! He had already had two wives, one of which was another sister of my original two. Jeffs had performed a marriage the day before. And that was just so overwhelming to me, I couldnt stand it, so I went on a drive, thought about things, and thought, I am going to see my kids. I am going to do whatever it takes to have 50/50 custody. In the course of that I realized that Warren was a devious, lying son of a bitch. And I said what I felt.

Almost four years have passed since Holm was awarded 50/50 custody of his children by a judge in Kingman, Arizona, 250 miles away from the FLDS communities in Hildale, Utah, or Colorado City, Arizona. On the state line, Hildale is the compound. Each has their own city councils, made up entirely of FLDS people loyal to Warren, Holm says. But now, its getting to be more and more people that are not loyal to warren; some other private landowners and other free-thinking people, and people of other religious persuasions.

Im not FLDS anymore, Im so thankful to be out of that damn garbage, Holm says. It went from a fairly decent religious persuasion, yes, believing in plural marriage; my father had 10 or 11 wives when he died in 72; but he had a large family, and we had a nice time growing up, things were fairly decent until the Jeffs people got into leadership positions, Warren being a wolf in sheeps clothing.

Warren was taking more and more control and interfering in peoples lives. And it happened gradually at first starting years ago; he must have had something on his dad, Rulon Jeffs, to let Warren start having control; and thats when Warren got into the drivers seat of the church, where he got to be designated as spokesman for his dad, who was then incapacitated.

So under that condition Warren started getting more and more aggressive on requiring things of the people and blaming it on his dad, saying the holy prophet wanted this and the holy prophet said that, so he was able to hide behind the smokescreen for some of these exotic, strange requirements. He was conducting church meetings, preaching, calling for contributions, things that were creeping up on the people and being more intrusive by the week. There were more and more requirements until it just became a tyrannical dictatorshiphe called it a benevolent dictatorship, building up Zion . . . but religion of force is religion of evil and of the devil.

Well, after quite a bit of talk leading up to it, he started ripping families apartthere were one or two or three family separations. After his dad died he raped and pillaged, ripping families apart; his dad died in Sept. of 02; it took him three months before Warren made the claim that he was to be his dads successor; he was the new prophet; he called on two of his fathers younger wives and one of his brothers to say his father wanted him to be successor. Warren all the time was saying God was going to require more and more of the people. In the different church meetings he would talk more of sexual relations between husbands and wives, when and when not toit would get so graphic it would be embarrassing.

He was going to come up with a pure people that were worthy to meet the savior when he came, which was any day then.

News coverage has labeled the FLDS Eldorado Compound as the holy land where Jeffs most apprised and ardent followers from the Utah and Arizona communities went to live. But Jeffs would excommunicate men he didnt like, or reassign their wives and children to other men. Holm says he wasnt the only one.

There were roughly 300 families that were ripped apart by warren and his cohortstheres quite a bit behind that, Holm says. Warren is a very jealous characterhe never said why he did it [excommunicated men], and I was left to just guess as most of the men, but in his jealousy and anger, he was just being vindictive and kicking people out for some jealousy or past supposed sin or some disagreement. There wasnt any clear-cut picture of it. If you displeased the prophet, you lost the priesthood and would be kicked out.

Lyle Jeffs, Merril Jessop, William TempsonWarren has a group of henchmen loyal to him, and hes rewarded them with other mens wives. A large number of those families in Texas [San Angelo] are those that have been ripped apart from other men and reassigned, and kids are taught when that happens, that the new daddy is their priesthood father; and because their real father lost priesthood hes a wicked man and will have nothing to do with them again. So many of those kids over there are victims of that kind of trauma. And because of that, many of them are confused and dont know who to call. And I know from my own experience that the love and attraction, and need for association of our kids as a man, I just couldnt live without association of our kids. And I would fight to the death any person that tried to do what Warren did.

Holm says other fathers have fought for custody after excommunication or reassignment, but few have obtained 50/50 custody.

Theres only two or three others I know of, and they didnt have to fight as much as I did, because I was one of the first ones, he says. There got to be a pattern after that, and anyone that wanted to spend time with their family could get visiting rights and have a level of visitingI dont know of any that got 50/50 custody, they only see them a few hours at a time on weekends. But the vast majority of people, the men who were kicked out, are still trying to get back in.

Holm says the practice of underage marriages was at least accelerated under Warren Jeffs.

It was going on, and Warren insisted on more and more of it as he claimed to be this benevolent dictator; God told him to do this and that and the other, and he said theres no authority that could interfere with the Lords prophet that would tell him what to do when he arranges families. I dont know the level of underage marriages, how many or how often, but I know that he was doing it. And I put out the word when I got the custody of my kids that if anything like that would happen to my kids, Id find him and wouldnt tolerate it.

Holm thinks some Eldorado women and children will pull away from the FLDS now that the state has removed them.

I think a few will pull away, Holm says. A lot of them, if they could speak whats in their heart and not worry about repercussions, theyd say that a lot of what Warren was asking them to do was wrong, but because he had the ability to punish themas in Colorado City and Hildale, he was in charge of the land until courts threw lawsuits at him and took that awayI think the people desire more people and desire a greater level of decency than they have by living in that dictatorship. But I think its going to take time and probation and monitoring and all kinds of things to insure that the kids and people dont get back into that abusive situation. And I trust and respect that the authorities have the means and patterns and professional ability to figure that out; Im glad I dont have to figure it out.

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