Prior to the year 1890, plural marriages in which one male Mormon married multiple wives was a treasured component of the culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). That year, the fourth president of the Church, Wilford Woodruff, issued a manifesto which suspended the solemnization of Mormon plural marriages for an indefinite interval. This resulted from what Mormons believe was a revelation from God that became known as the "Great Accommodation." Utah was admitted as a state shortly thereafter.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) was formed in 1935 by two polygynist Mormons who had been excommunicated by the LDS. (Polygyny is one variety of polygamy in which one man marries more than one woman.) The group was, and remains, committed to plural marriages as a foundational teaching of their founder Joseph Smith.
There are an estimated 6,000 to 11,000 thousand members of the FLDS in the U.S. The group also has a single colony of about 1,000 members in Canada. Together, they form a significant percentage of the estimated 30,000 Mormon polygynists in Utah, and the estimated 60,000 in the U.S. 2
About the FLDS organization:
The FLDS was founded in 1935 by two ex-LDS Mormons: John Y. Barlow and Joseph White Musser. Barlow subsequently became the group's first leader. Roulon T Jeffs suceeded him. When Roulton Jeffs died in 2002 at the age of 92, his son, Warren Jeffs, (1956 -) took over control. Warren was previously the principal of Alta Academy, a FLDS religious high school which is now closed. 3
The FLDS' U.S. organization is centered in the twin cities of Colorado City, AZ and Hildale, UT.
Wikipedia reports that:
In 2004-MAY, the FLDS announced that a new base for the church would be established at their YFZ (Yearning for Zion) ranch in Schleiser County, TX, about four miles northeast of Eldorado. By 2008, they had erected 35 buildings on the ranch, including a large temple. The state of Texas has no history of widespread polygyny and marriage of child brides as does Utah. This may have contributed to their decision to seize 416 children at the ranch during 2008-APR. 3
A separate colony of about 1,000 FLDS members live in Bountiful, British Columbia, Canada. There has been a high level of inbreeding in that group; almost everyone in that colony are descendents of six men.
Unfortunately there is little precise information about the FLDS available to outsiders. By all accounts, the FLDS is run as a dictatorship under Jeffs and has not given interviews to non-FLDS members. He allegedly even refused a request to meet with Mark Surtleff, the Attorney General of Utah. As a result, most of the information comes from critics of the FLDS or from ex-FLDS members who have left the group. These can be unreliable sources.
Jeffs had allegedly:
After his conviction for sex crimes involving under-aged females, he received two lengthy jail sentences. Wendell Nielsen, 69, is now president of the FLDS and of the corporate entity that handles the faith’s business activity. The status of Jeffs is being kept secret. Some commentators have speculated that he may remain the FLDS prophet. 5
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