Power of polygamous group wanes in tiny town among red rocks

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Power of polygamous group wanes in tiny town among red rocks
Power of polygamous group wanes in tiny town among red rocks

HILDALE, Utah (AP) – A polygamous group that has controlled a remote community on the Utah-Arizona border is slowly losing its grip on power.

For more than a century, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has made its home among the red rocks in tiny Hildale, Utah. But changes are weakening the group’s influence. In elections scheduled for Tuesday, non-sect members could take control of the mayor’s office and town council.

Some former sect members hail the changes as long-overdue progress that will help the community break free from the reign of sect leader Warren Jeffs. He is serving life in prison for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides.

But sect members complaint that the town they built is being destroyed in “a cultural cleansing.”

In this Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 photo, young girls play together in Colorado City, Ariz. The community on the Utah-Arizona border has been home for more than a century to a polygamous sect that is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. The community is undergoing a series of changes as the sect’s control of the town slips away amid government evictions and crackdowns. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo, Donia Jessop holds her mayoral campaign sign outside her store in Colorado City, Ariz. Campaign signs are unusual in a town where elections have long been quietly decided behind the scenes, with hand-picked men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints running unopposed. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo, a boy rides a horse in a community on the Utah-Arizona border that has been home for more than a century to a polygamous sect that is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. The community is undergoing a series of changes as the sect’s control of the town slips away amid government evictions and crackdowns. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo shows the area on the Utah state line in Hildale, Utah. The community on the Utah-Arizona border has been home for more than a century to a polygamous sect that is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. The community is undergoing a series of changes as the sect’s control of the town slips away amid government evictions and crackdowns. The change is hailed as progress by some but considered cultural cleansing by members of the religious group known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo shows Hildale, Utah, sitting at the base of Red Rock Cliff mountains, with its sister city, Colorado City, Ariz., in the foreground. Government-ordered evictions of nearly 150 homes have forced Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints families to seek refuge in trailers around town or in different cities across the West. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo, Jared Nicol plants his campaign sign for city council in Hildale, Utah. The community on the Utah-Arizona border has been home for more than a century to a polygamous sect that is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. Nicol, a member of the mainstream Mormon church, moved to the rural community for a better life for his two children. He’s hoping he can bridge the gap between the two worlds. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 photo, Warren Bistline, left, and Freddy Richter play in the north reservoir in Colorado City, Ariz. The community on the Utah-Arizona border has been home for more than a century to a polygamous sect that is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Friday, Oct. 27, 2017 photo, Norma Richter touches a collection of portraits of prophets of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, including Warren Jeffs, bottom right, on a wall at her home in a community on the Utah-Arizona border. “We still have a faith. We don’t follow a man. We have a very good man as a leader, but we follow a religion,” Richter said. “They have not conquered us. They can take everything but they can’t conquer our spirit.” (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
FILE – This photograph provided by the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office shows Lyle Jeffs. Jeffs ran day-to-day operations for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints until 2016, when he was arrested in a food-stamp fraud case. He fled home confinement while awaiting trial and was captured in South Dakota after a year on the run. He faces up to five years in prison. (Tooele County Sheriffs Office, via AP)
In this Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo, Hildale, Utah Mayor Phillip Barlow, speaks during an interview in front of the city hall, in a community on the Utah-Arizona border that has been home for more than a century to a polygamous sect that is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. Barlow, a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said people are coping with change by “doing what they have to do.” He’s reticent to discuss religion, but says he’s best suited to lead the town because he’s lived in the community his whole life and is focused on making sure the town has good services. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
This Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 photo shows a campaign sign in Hildale, Utah, in a community on the Utah-Arizona border. Campaign signs are unusual in the town where elections have long been quietly decided behind the scenes, with hand-picked men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints running unopposed. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In this Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 photo, from left, Esther Bistline, Angie Bistline, Lydia Ann Richter and Norma Richter gather to pose for photographs in Colorado City, Ariz. The community on the Utah-Arizona border has been home for more than a century to a polygamous sect that is an offshoot of mainstream Mormonism. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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