SALT LAKE CITY -- The first temple of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appears to be nearing completion in Texas, according to a local sheriff.
"We believe it's done," Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said. "We don't know about the interior, but the exterior looks definitely done. They've got sod down, they've got the fence out, they've got metal railing on the stairs."
The FLDS temple stands on the church's compound near Eldorado, Texas, about 145 miles southwest of Abilene. The polygamous sect remains silent on the project or its progress.
"They're not making a lot of comments on it," Doran told the Deseret Morning News. "They said, 'Yeah, the structure's completed on the exterior,' but they didn't elaborate."
News of the FLDS temple's completion has reached some in the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
"About half the people who live here still don't even know about it," former FLDS member Ross Chatwin said. "Warren (Jeffs) was very upset when the apostates (FLDS members who have been excommunicated) found out about it."
Anti-polygamy activists revealed the existence of the Texas ranch back in 2004. Originally, the Schleicher County sheriff was told the YFZ Ranch was a hunting retreat. "Ranch" officials soon recanted and YFZ, it was revealed, stood for "Yearning for Zion."
Since then, homes, buildings, a meeting house, gardens, a rock quarry and a grain silo have been built. Reportedly, one of the largest homes on the compound belongs to Jeffs, the group's fugitive leader.
Police in Utah, Arizona and Texas continue to watch the FLDS church's activities in Eldorado with interest. Last week, Doran flew to Utah, where he met with Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith in St. George. The two sheriffs update each other on FLDS activities in their respective states.
The FBI recently announced a $50,000 reward for Jeffs's arrest, adding to the $10,000 bounty already offered by the Utah and Arizona attorneys general.
Jeffs was charged in Mohave County, Ariz., with sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He is accused of arranging child-bride marriages. Federal authorities charged him with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, and he has been added to the FBI's Most Wanted List.
The mainline Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints church disavowed polygamy in 1890 as a condition for Utah's statehood and excommunicates members who practice or preach it. An estimated 30,000 polygamists whose beliefs are rooted in Mormonism live in Utah and parts of the southwest, Mexico and Canada.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A1.