The FLDS are experiencing mass evictions at the hand of a state entity, yet the harm to the FLDS is invisible. Lawmakers are not passing policies to protect or assist them, and cries for help to the governors have gone unheard. There are no protests, no gathering of activists, no calls for justice. Politically speaking, it is not popular to have compassion on an unpopular and marginalized group, even if their human rights are being violated. People forget these are American citizens who are being traumatized.
“As evictions are a traumatic experience for those being evicted and involve high costs, preventing evictions is vital and should be part of local and national policy.”
(Holl, et al., 2016). Interventions to prevent tenant evictions: A systematic review. Health & Social Care in the Community, 24(5), 532-546. doi:10.1111/hsc.12257
When it comes to the FLDS in Short Creek, rather than preventing evictions, the local and state policy seems to be to force evictions no matter how hard they tried to fight back using the justice system.
Now, they have no fight in them left, they are being driven out of the sacred land of their grandfathers, and the new public narrative is celebrating “how the town is changing.” And it is. But there’s another side of the story as well regarding harm to the invisible people, and it’s not pretty.
In an effort to live the Mormon “law of consecration” where people “have all things in common,” the FLDS leaders in 1942 formed a trust called “The United Effort Plan.” The faithful members, grandparents and ancestors of the community, made tremendous personal sacrifices and donated personal property, sometimes hundreds of acres, to the trust. The trust, run by leaders and members of the FLDS church, owned almost all of the property in the Short Creek area.
LAW OF CONSECRATION – A FOUNDATIONAL MORMON BELIEF CONSECRATION –To dedicate, to make holy, or to become righteous. The law of consecration is a divine principle whereby men and women voluntarily dedicate their time, talents, and material wealth to the establishment and building up of God’s kingdom. Here are some scriptures:
- All that believed had all things common, Acts 2:44–45.
In 2005, the trust was sued by former members who had been harmed. No one from the UEP defended the trust from the lawsuit, so the state of Utah stepped in to take over the FLDS trust because the fiduciaries were mismanaging it. Had the state not done this, the FLDS would have lost all their homes, businesses, and land to those who sued them.
The original purpose of the takeover, according to Mark Schurtleff, was to “protect the assets for the FLDS people.”
“I stepped in because I wanted to protect — to protect! — the FLDS people and their assets and their rights,” he said. “And I feel very bad and sad that the FLDS people are still not being protected.” SOURCE
In 2008, the church members signed occupancy agreements with the new UEP, and began paying $100 a month to stay in their homes. Bruce Wisan, the state-appointed fiduciary over the UEP trust, led members to believe that if they did this, they would ultimately be able to get the deeds to their homes.
At a certain point, the FLDS leadership came to believe that they had been misled, and that the $100 a month was being used for legal fees to further harm them. Bruce Wisan was deemed adversarial and an enemy to the church. The church has a religious mandate not to do business with “apostates or enemies.” The prophet Warren Jeffs directed that they could no longer cooperate with the UEP Trust, and if they did, they would be deemed apostates. In other words, it would be a violation of their religious beliefs if they signed occupancy agreements with the trust, and they would lose their eternal salvation if they did so.
The UEP Trust is now run by an ex-FLDS individual. FLDS refer to these as “apostates.” All the members of the board are also considered “apostates.” This makes it impossible for the FLDS to sign an occupancy agreement. As a result, even if they built the home debt-free, lived in it for 15 years and paid the taxes, they are still being evicted.
Why? Because they would rather lose the homes they love than lose their souls. The home above had historical and cultural value. It belonged to one of their beloved prophets, Leroy Johnson, or Uncle Roy. The lady in the walker had been there just a year. Since the home was only one story, it became a home for the elderly and handicapped who had difficulty getting around.
The elderly lady in the green was displaced during the 1953 raid as well.
Evictions are traumatic, but they are not generally the kinds of stories that the public has sympathy for. These “stories on the margin” are often not divulged, and lack an audience, because Americans are concerned with economic advancement and react negatively to ‘‘accounts of bankruptcy, financial collapse, or cases of people gradually, but perceptibly declining in their material standards’’ (Cottle, 1990, p. 108). As such, the feelings of mourning and grief over the loss of a home can be considered disenfranchised grief. In disenfranchised grief, individuals do not have a socially recognized right, role, or the competence to mourn (Doka, 2002). The loss of a family home (since there is no acceptable way to grieve), fits this description.
The loss of home fits within the category of a ‘‘story on the margin’’ as it is stigmatic and remains culturally unwelcome and generally untold. Further, the sorrow and grief over that loss can be considered disenfranchised grief, because the privilege and ability to mourn are not culturally recognized in such situations. Over the intervening years, given the inability to grieve properly about the loss of their homes, many families opt for silence. And while the FLDS are in a crisis, it must be remembered that those who were excommunicated by the FLDS church (exFLDS) were also sent away, stripped of their homes and hometown. While the state allegedly intervened to protect all the beneficiaries of the trust, only those who have left the church are receiving the benefits.
Houses are insignificant buildings. Homes are not. The difference is apparent in our common lexicon. A house is an object. Home encompasses and symbolizes the family relationships and life courses enacted within those spaces. As such it is the place of nurture, stability, and shelter (Jones, 1995). A home, subjectively defined and invested with care, is mine and ours. Each story represents the loss, not of a house, but our home, including the loss of place, relationships, trust, and dreams. In the case of the FLDS, the homes have even more significance because the very property is considered sacred.
What could be done? If the trust were comprised 100% of outsiders and had both exFLDS and FLDS as advisors, the FLDS would work with the UEP Trust and be able to keep their homes without being forced to violate their religion.
Or – if the trust modified the occupancy agreements to allow for someone who was not an actual occupant to sign the agreements in their behalf, the FLDS would also be able to stay in their homes without violating their religion. These are relatively easy fixes.
They say the FLDS are just being obstinate. Maybe they were in the past? But now, I see it the other way around.
Anyway, to read an objective analysis on the unconstitutionality of the legal decision for the State of Utah to take over the trust by law professor from the University of Iowa Law School, click the link below.
Judge Benson made a decision on the merits
Judge: State’s control of FLDS trust unconstitutional
SALT LAKE CITY — In a monumental ruling that could overturn five years of work done by a state-appointed team charged with managing the funds of a Utah-based polygamous sect, a federal judge ruled Thursday that the seizure of the sect’s assets was unconstitutional and a “virtual takeover.”
“Virtually from its first step after it decided to reform the trust, the state court was in forbidden territory,” U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson wrote in the ruling. “It not only had no authority to determine the ‘just wants and needs’ of the members of the FLDS Church, but it had no authority to interpret or reform the trust at all.”
Benson writes that the state’s involvement constituted becoming “entangled with religion” and amounted to efforts to “disestablish” the sect.
“The resulting intrusion into the everyday life of the FLDS Church and its members fostered not only ‘excessive government entanglement with religion,’ but was a virtual takeover by the state,” he wrote. READ MORE
“A decision on the merits is a decision based on evidence rather than on technical or procedural grounds. It is an ultimate decision rendered by a court in an action that concludes the status of legal rights contested in a controversy.”
The federal ruling was overturned by a technicality: statute of limitations, or laches
A decision on the merits is generally considered to be stronger than a decision based on a technicality. This is why I believe the law sides with FLDS on the eviction issue. Am I missing something? Even if the church did wait to long to respond, the court already declared the head of the church an irresponsible fiduciary – which is why the state took over the trust to protect the assets of the FLDS people. Why, then, was laches allowed to prevail when the court already determined that the leader of the original trust was an unfit fiduciary?
Today (3/31/17) I was told that all the remaining homes in Hildale in which the FLDS live have received eviction notices.
BOILING IT DOWN – POINTS EVERYONE FORGETS
1. The FLDS have a religious mandate not to make deals with apostates or enemies.
2. The FLDS consider mingling, going into business with, or making deals with former members (apostates) to be a violation of their religion.
3. All of the ex-FLDS know this. They used to abide by this.
4. When Bruce Wisan held a meeting to determine the distribution of the trust properties, since the ex-FLDS were attending, not a single FLDS member showed up. The ex-FLDS members knew that no FLDS would attend. They couldn’t.
5. The decision to make a new trust full of ex-FLDS passed unanimously because there was no FLDS representation.
6. The ex-FLDS knew that the active FLDS, also beneficiaries of the trust, would never be on a board with them.
7. Many ex-FLDS are very wounded, if not traumatized, by their experiences and judgments while in the church. Rightfully so.
8. The board of trustees to determine evictions is made up 100% of exFLDS.
9. The members of the board are supposed to be neutral. Evidence on facebook, on a recent podcast, and recent activities in this community reveals the lack of neutrality in board members.
10. Every member of the UEP board knows that for the FLDS to sign an occupancy agreement would be a violation of their religion. (The fact that some signed occupancy agreements in the past is irrelevant, because it was not clear at that time that the UEP fiduciary would become “an enemy.” At that time, they were led to believe Bruce Wisan was going to work with them to give them the deeds to their homes. This later changed, and the FLDS began to believe that the $100 fee they were being assessed to pay Bruce Wisan etc. was paying for “an enemy” to have the money to continue suing them. (Besides, with prophets, modern day revelation can change rules in the present. Presently, the FLDS have been told they would be considered apostates if they sign the occupancy agreement.) This means the FLDS would face serious psychological and spiritual harm, not to mention damnation.
I wonder how many LDS members who have a temple recommend would violate their temple covenants or reveal their temple names (a violation of their religious beliefs) in order to stay living in their homes?
I am confident the answer will be ZERO.
If temple-worthy LDS do not reveal their temple names, would it be constitutional for a state-owned trust to then deprive the LDS of their housing and real property?
Although ex-FLDS member Jeff Barlow, executive director of the UEP, goes on the record saying, “We’ve made it as easy as possible for them to stay,” or “they are just being obstinate,” I wonder if he would write down his temple name for me to publish in this blog? When he refuses (which he will because he will live his religion – which I also respect), then perhaps the public will understand why the FLDS will not sign an occupancy agreement.
Let’s consider the Hutterites in South Dakota, who also practice communal living.
“The religion of the Hutterites is unique in that they believe in community of goods, in which all material goods are held in common. This idea is gleaned from several biblical sources.” SOURCE
They are not required to relinquish communal properties to those who leave.
Even if the leader of one of the colonies were to be convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a serious crime, it would not mean that the members should be deprived of their homes, land, businesses and sacred buildings as a consequence for believing in him.
2005-11-14 Judge Lindberg wrote:
Input from the religious hierarchy of the FLDS Church or past members of “The Priesthood Work” may inform the judgment of trustees in addressing the “just wants and needs”of beneficiaries.
2011-02-24 Memo Decision & Order Giving UEP back to FLDS (Judge Benson –This was later overturned on a technicality)
Photos by Tolga Katas – except for the Hutterite photos.