Polygamous Cult Loses Grip On Town In Latest Election

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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A radical, polygamous offshoot of Mormonism lost majority power in city council and mayoral elections for the first time in a small Utah town Tuesday.

Three incumbent city council members of Hildale, Utah, all loyal to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), reportedly lost to non-sect candidates Tuesday night, with non-sect mayoral candidate Donia Jessop snatching an unofficial majority of votes away from the incumbent Mayor Philip Barlow, who is loyal to the sect. The town has until Nov. 15 to count all the ballots, according to The Guardian.

The victory of the non-sect members marks the first time in over 100 years the fundamentalist lost majority political authority over Hildale.

“It’s a great leap, a revolution,” Jessop told The Guardian.

The elections were part of a complete municipal overhaul  and was court ordered in response to 2016 findings that the FLDS-led governments of Hildale and nearby Colorado, Ariz. discriminated against citizens who were not affiliated with the polygamous sect. Non-FLDS citizens of Hildale worried the elections would not be fairly run and that Jessop would have to fight corrupt attempts from the incumbent government to maintain the sect’s grip on the town.

As of Wednesday morning, however, Jessop had majority of the votes in the mayoral race and was confident she would be confirmed as mayor once postal ballots had been counted.

The FLDS are led by Warren Jeffs, whom the sect considers a prophet, and his brother Lyle Jeffs, who was captured by authorities in June after running from the FBI for a year. Authorities convicted both Jeffs on accounts of polygamy and child marriages, and while they no longer lead the FLDS from within the sect-run communities, members of the sect carry on the tradition of arranging marriages for daughters, demanding complete subservience from women and forcing the ladies to wear 19th century pioneer dresses.

“In Hildale it’s very ingrained. It’s bothersome. I stand my ground and tell men that they don’t have that right,” Jessop told The Guardian.

Jessop expected a hefty victory over Barlow, but did not underestimate the influence of the FLDS’ patriarchal traditions.

“But a lot of ex-FLDS men who said they would vote for me didn’t; they voted for the man. The entire state of Utah is very patriarchal,” Jessop said.

Barlow denied allegations that the FLDS manipulated the town’s political system to ensure the election of FLDS leadership over the years, but did not seem ruffled in the least over Jessop’s victory.

“It’s just another day in America,” Barlow said.

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