HILDALE, Utah and COLORADO CITY, Arizona (ABC 4 News) - Talks are underway in Colorado City, Arizona about who should control the more than $100 million in assets built up by the Fundamentalists Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It's called the United Effort Plan, otherwise known at the UEP, was launched 70 years ago to unite the sects wealth.
FLDS Leader Warren Jeffs was in control of the UEP, until 2005 when Utah State courts took ownership of the assets to protect its beneficiaries. Jeffs fired all of his attorneys and he was unable to defend the multiple lawsuits filed against the trust. There are 27 suits filed against the trust now.
Attorneys General for Utah and Arizona held a public meeting Nov,. 30 to discuss the future of the trust. Everyone with a stake in the money and/or assets was invited to the meeting, but not one of Jeff's faithful followers were in attendance. He threatened to punish them, according to William Jessop who is a former leader and spokesman for the FLDS Church. Jessop said Jeffs threatened to break up the family of any man or woman who attended the meeting.
The fate of this polygamist community is uncertain. It sits on the Utah Arizona boarder about 40 miles east of St. George. Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona are one FLDS community.
Almost all of the 8,000 people who call the rural area home believe Jeffs speaks the mind and will of God and this is where things get tricky.
Their prophet is serving a life plus 20 year sentence in prison for having sex with multiple underage girls.
With Jeffs out of the picture, the UEP he once controlled is now in control of the State of Utah. Attorneys General for Utah and Arizona want to give the power back to the community where it belongs, but no one from the FLDS community is willing to discuss the issue with the state leaders. Jeffs is instructing his followers not to cooperate. Even the Mayor and city council members failed to show up at the important meeting.
The options presented by the state leaders to give the trust back to the FLDS include: 1) Nominating a new board of trustees. 2) Dissolving the trust and distributing the assets, this option had the most support from the mostly apostate FLDS who attended the meeting. 3) Dissolving the trust and liquidating the assets. 4) Negotiate a new arrangement.
Information from the meeting will be provided to Third District Judge Denise Lindberg in Utah who will ultimately determine the fate of the trust.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff was adamant in telling the audience, Warren Jeffs is a child rapist. He pleaded for those at the meeting
to encourage other FLDS members to come to this conclusion so that they can be free from his oppressive and harmful leadership.
There is no deadline set for a final decision.
The process will likely take several months and possibly years because of the 27 current lawsuits against the trust and because FLDS faithful
refuse to cooperate with this process.
Both attorneys general said the FLDS will likely lose everything if they don't come forward to claim what is rightfully theirs.
Shurtleff is asking FLDS faithful to contact his office with ideas for the trust. He says the only way to help the women and children of this community is to free them from Jeffs leadership.