"COLORADO CITY - 19TH CENTURY MORMONISM REVISTITED?" Colorado City by mtncorg
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Joseph Smith revealed the practice of polygamy as a tenet of the Mormon faith slowly, mainly during the Nauvoo period of the early 1840’s. He spread the practice among the upper leadership of the Church, but never went so far as to publicly proclaim the practice. Following his murder in Illinois, the largest group of Mormons coalesced under the leadership of Brigham Young and came out west to Utah. Young faithfully ascribed to the teaching of Smith and polygamy spread out farther. He went so far as to announce polygamy as a part of Church faith once the Mormons were set up behind the vale in Utah. Polygamy did not set well at all with the rest of the US - John Fremont ran on the first GOP ticket in 1856 against the twin relics of barbarism - polygamy and slavery. But the federal government had to fight the Civil War first before getting back to dealing with Mormon polygamists. The federal government used a couple acts which allowed them to disenfranchise and seize Church properties in response to polygamist teachings. Those husbands who were polygamists were given jail sentences. Church leadership was literally driven underground until 1890 when Wilford Woodruff, then president of the Mormon Church, announced an end of polygamy. The declaration did not end plural marriages already in place and, in fact, polygamy went on for some time until Church authorities in the 20th Century got harder nosed about those who went against their wishes for an end to polygamy.
During the later 19th Century, communities banded together to hide polygamists in their midst from federal authorities. Polygamist colonies were also started in Chihuahua, Mexico and southern Canada - Canadian polygamists are alive and well in the southeastern BC community of Bountiful, today.
Here along the Hurricane fault line, the town of Short Creek was founded along the Utah/Arizona border in 1913, becoming a local stronghold for would-be keepers of the polygamist torch. Eventually, the polygamists were excommunicated from the main Mormon church in Salt Lake for not toeing the line and they formed the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - the FLDS. It should be noted that the FLDS is not the only polygamist group that has splinter off the main Church body, but it has certainly been one of the most noticeable.
For a long time, isolation was the polygamists’ best defense, but welfare fraud led Arizona authorities - with the blessing of the Mormon authorities in Salt Lake - to raid the community, jailing many of the men. Ugly publicity resulted from the raid, however, as the rest of the nation saw children being rent from their parents. Little resulted from the raids and the men were released. The governor of Arizona was voted out of office. The government decided that a course of ‘don’t look’ was the best course for affairs to take in the short run. The FLDS changed the name of Short Creek to Colorado City in Arizona and Hilldale in Utah shortly afterwards to further help people to forget Short Creek.
As your drive around the homes of Colorado City, you quickly become aware that these houses are the size of small apartment complexes - large in order to hold all of the wives and children under one roof - a tenet of the FLDS Church is that for a man to attain heaven, he must have at least three wives in this life. The FLDS church is a huge obvious affair on the edge of town, but there is no sign in front that might attract unwanted attention. Most children are home-schooled. There is a local branch of the Mohave Community College here. It would be very interesting to hear some iof the stories told here.
Colorado City is not a tourist town - it is set off the highway by purpose. There are about 7000 people living in both Colorado City and Hilldale. For more information about the polygamist movement here and elsewhere, read Jon Krakauer’s fine book, ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’. also check out polygamy groups
An interesting side note is a recent FLDS move to buy property in Eldora, Texas - west-central region - where a replica of the Nauvoo Temple has been erected on the YFZ Ranch - the Yearning for Zion Ranch. The FLDS leader, Warren Jeffs, is currently serving concurrent five year prison terms for sexual misconduct and is facing additional charges in Arizona. He was caught after a long manhunt by the FBI.
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