Polygamous town to take small step into modern society

Associated Press/November 25, 2015

Salt Lake City -- A public library is set to open next year in a polygamous town on the Utah-Arizona border that hasn't had one for decades due to controlling sect leaders who try to limit followers' exposure to the outside world.

The library is expected to open in March 2016, said Washington County Library System director Joel Tucker, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. The plan is to put the library between the public school and town hall in Hildale, Utah.

The community is dominated by a polygamous sect led by jailed leader Warren Jeffs. He and other sect leaders try to limit members' exposure to the outside world by prohibiting Internet and books.

"We recognize that it's an underserved part of Utah," Tucker said, "and we want to give them the same opportunities that everyone else gets."

The community used to have a library on the Arizona side of the town in Colorado City, but it was shuttered in the late 1990s when Jeffs took over the sect, said former sect member Isaac Wyler.

The opening of this new library would mark another small step forward for those in the town eager to embrace efforts by outsiders and government officials to pull the town into modern society.

It has been nearly five years since Jeffs was sentenced to life for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides, and the town is now split between his loyalists who still believe Jeffs is a victim of religious persecution and those who have left or been kicked out.

The majority of the 7,700 residents in the sister towns of Hildale and Colorado City belong to the sect. Hundreds of others have ties to FLDS members, though they are no longer followers.

But Jeffs' flock of followers still outnumber the others and they dominate leadership positions in city government.

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