More-Bizarre-Than-Usual FLDS Update

"Prophet" sued again; and West Texas crematorium rumors

A woman identified in Utah state court filings as "M.J." is suing fugitive "prophet" Warren Jeffs, the leader of the breakaway sect of polygamist Mormons known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS. According to The Salt Lake (City) Tribune, M.J. alleges that she was forced into a "spiritual marriage" with a much older man (identified only as "S.J.") and was then "commanded" to have sex with him and to "produce" children. The forced marriage and sex have been "physically painful and emotionally devastating" to M.J., according to the lawsuit, in which she is reportedly seeking unspecified monetary damages. This latest suit is the fourth civil action filed in Utah against Jeffs and the FLDS. Jeffs is still on the lam, dodging arrest on three criminal counts related to his arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old and an older, married man. Arizona officials have placed a $10,000 reward on the prophet's head; but he has thus far sidestepped capture.

Meanwhile, rumors continue to fly around the West Texas town of Eldorado, where the FLDS has been building its first walled compound, known as the Yearning for Zion ranch, where members can, theoretically, avoid the increased scrutiny of law enforcers who have become a regular presence in the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, where the FLDS has been headquartered for nearly a century. (For more on Eldorado, see "Meet the New Neighbors," July 29.) Chief among the rumors is the suggestion that, pursuant to Jeffs' wishes, the FLDS may be installing a crematorium on YFZ property to dispose of the bodies of members who have been killed as part of the church's "blood atonement" doctrine – which, among other things, says that members who commit certain sins – like, say, adultery – must be killed and cremated in order to ensure they'll be accepted into heaven.

Former FLDS member Robert Richter, who left the church in April, last month told the Phoenix New Times that while working for the Colorado City electric utility company (and on the taxpayer time clock) he was actually instructed to work on a series of "secret" projects for the FLDS. Specifically, Richter said he was told to build a high temperature thermostat – one that would register up to 2,700 degrees, says Randy Mankin, editor and publisher of The Eldorado Success, hot enough to destroy DNA material – and to refurbish two 500-kilowatt diesel-powered electric generators, which were then made to look broken and were sold at a city utility auction to FLDS members in Eldorado. (Reportedly, Richter was able to identify the two generators, covered by tarps, from aerial photographs taken of the YFZ ranch.)

Mankin said that FLDS representatives told Schleicher Co. Sheriff David Doran that they're using the thermostat in a powder coat painting facility on the ranch and, alternatively, that the thermostat was being used in their attempt to bake limestone to make concrete. While Mankin says he doesn't have any hard evidence that the sect is building a crematorium, he doesn't buy the FLDS explanations either: powder coating doesn't require such high heat, and impurities in local limestone render it nearly useless as concrete. "This is just one of the angles of this story that is so bizarre that people roll their eyes and say it's all hype," says Mankin. "But I don't know. Is it true or not?" Civil Rights

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