- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 11, 2004

ELDORADO, Texas — A nephew of the leader of a polygamist group that has relocated to this rural community filed a lawsuit last month saying he was sexually abused by his uncle more than a decade ago in Utah.

The lawsuit is the latest problem for the 200-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway of the Mormon Church led by Warren Jeffs. The church also has been cited by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality for operating an improper wastewater system that serves the 1,600-acre compound.

Last month, church members had to ask the Eldorado City Council to allow them to temporarily tap into the city’s system.

Regarding the abuse charges, Brent Jeffs, 21, says Warren Jeffs and two other uncles associated with the church sexually assaulted him when he was 5 and 6 years old, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. He said his uncles described the acts as ways to make him a man.

Rodney Parker, a Salt Lake City lawyer working for the church, told the Tribune that the charges were false and that the legal action “is part of a continuing effort by enemies of the church to defame it and its institutions.”

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints first ran into a public-relations problem in Texas after officials told Eldorado and county officials about plans for a first-class hunting retreat. Within weeks, aerial photographs of several large buildings on the property proved that story false.

Randy Mankin, 49, publisher of the weekly Eldorado Success, ran photos of the construction in March and revealed the landowners’ identities. Residents were told the site was to be home to Mr. Jeffs, his wives and as many as 200 members of the church.

They called it the YFZ (Yearn for Zion) Ranch.

The church’s religious doctrine, which allows selected members to have multiple wives, upset many residents.

Activists who had battled the sect in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, appeared in Texas to accuse the church leader of fraud and debauchery.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff is planning to prosecute Mr. Jeffs and his followers on polygamy charges. One of his investigators said last week Mr. Jeffs had fathered two children with two 17-year-old girls.

Such charges — along with the group’s original deceptions and lack of knowledge about the breakaway Mormons — make townspeople in this sleepy community of 1,951 uneasy.

“It’s like the devil came to town,” mused one woman who lives near the burgeoning conclave.

Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran has preached calm.

“I haven’t seen them break any laws, so there’s nothing we can do,” the sheriff said.

Eldorado Mayor John Nikolauk, 70, agrees.

“If I thought there was something I could do to make them leave, I would do it,” he said.

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