Boise City, Oklahoma -- A group of fundamentalist Mormons is now calling Boise City home and this has some residents concerned about their new neighbors.
Hundreds of Boise City residents gathered Tuesday night to learn about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. The organization, known for the practice of polygamy, is not affiliated with the mainstream Mormon church. They broke away from the church more than a hundred years ago when Mormon leaders outlawed polygamy.
Some called the meeting a witch hunt, some called it an informative presentation, but regardless it was a full house of residents looking for answers.
"There's been a lot of stuff going on in this community that I don't like," said Cimarron County Sheriff Leon Apple at the start of the meeting. "It's dividing the community and I don't like that. We are one community. We need stick together."
Two residents flew in Mojave County Attorney's Office Prosecutor Gary Engels and private investigator Sam Brower who have been researching the FLDS organization for more than ten years. Both were instrumental in putting Warren Jeffs, the leader and self-proclaimed prophet of the organization, behind bars for child sexual assault after the 2008 compound raid in Eldorado, Texas. Their presentation consisted of FLDS history and the legal issues that have ensued from their practices.
"The thing that drives me is child abuse," explained Sam Brower. "And that's what the FLDS are famous for. That's what all their leaders are in prison for. And as long as there's not a resolution to that, I'll keep on investigating."
In a letter to the local newspaper, an FLDS brother said they chose Boise City because of the inexpensive cost of living and the potential for the community to benefit from their construction skills. "It really doesn't take a rocket scientist to see there is a need for the trades we collectively have to offer," said Brother George Barlow in the letter. "We have been treated so good by so many kind people. Why should we go anywhere else? Perhaps when this town is all fixed up and our services are no longer needed we may have to branch out to other communities for employment."
While their motives seem harmless, some parents are worried their children are at risk. A newspaper publisher from Eldorado also attended the meeting and sympathized with the town. "What we were facing ten years ago, is very much what you're facing tonight. A lot of concern as to what the future holds, are they going to be after our kids? We didn't see any of that. But we also never experienced someone building a town right outside our town. And the things that happened there were deplorable," said The Eldorado Success publisher Randy Mankin.
The FLDS members did not attend the meeting, which could put in question whether residents heard both sides of the issue.
"I wanted to hear both sides of the story as far as what's going on in the community with the newcomers coming into town," said resident Paul Toon. "I believe both sides were presented. But that's something most people are going to have to work out for themselves."
Sheriff Apple said no reports have been filed against the FLDS members residing in town, but said his department is ready in case it becomes an issue. He called the meeting a success and said he thought it would help ease some of the ongoing tension within the divided community.
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