Is Warren Jeffs's polygamist flock abandoning the Yearning for Zion Ranch? Recent reporting indicates that things have gotten less lively on and around the ranch, located just outside of Eldorado.
Randy Mankin, publisher of the Eldorado Success , told the TM Daily Post said there has "noticeable decrease in activity" recently. "You used to see men on the road, but it's getting where you almost don't see anybody now," he said.
A story about the YFZ ranch ran in Thursday's issue of the Success:
Persons familiar with FLDS activity in Texas tell the SUCCESS that numbers of church members are pulling up stakes and moving away from the Lone Star State.
It is unclear if the migration away from Texas is intended to be permanent or temporary due to work at other compounds.
Construction has ticked up at other Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints settlements in Pringle, South Dakota, and Manos, Colorado, the Success reported.
"It seems like there's been kind of a gradual exodus from Texas," Sam Brower, a private investigator who wrote a book about the sect, told Ben Winslow, who covered the story for Salt Lake City's Fox affiliate. "They truly believe, and Warren has been telling them, that the end of the world is coming. And I believe they're preparing for that."
Other property owned by FLDS men in Eldorado area has been put on the market. Commenters on FLDS Texas , a blog devoted to chronicling the group's every move in meticulous detail, pointed out that a house owned by church elder Rulon Jessop has been put on the market. The five-bedroom, three-bath home in Christoval, north of Eldorado, is listed at $199,900. For that price, they'll even throw in a chicken coop (the "chickens stay," the listing says.)
Texas has not proved to be a particularly friendly place for the FLDS faithful, with the 2008 raid on the 1,700-acre ranch and the subsequent successful prosecutions of twelve men from the sect for crimes related to underage marriage and bigamy. Warren Jeffs , who received a life sentence for sexual assault of a child, now spends his days writing proclamations from his jail cell in Palestine.
Jeffs, who purportedly believes the prison walls will crumble for him, has directed his followers to pray for his release. (A curious and creepy flier with Jeffs's pictures and the words "Where is the faith to set me free? How much longer will it take to have a clean prepared people that will obey Father's commandments? I have been in prison for ____ days. What are you doing about it?" recently surfaced in Colorado City, Arizona.)
"What we hear is that—Warren doesn't talk to me—but he thinks the prison walls are going to crumble and he's going to walk out a free man. And then, the leaders of the world are going to gather here and see him speak," Mankin said. (It is rumored that the large stadium recently built on the ranch would be the venue for that gathering.) If that happens "we're going to need a Starbucks," he joked.
Mankin said there has not been much buzz about the ranch among the townspeople of Eldorado lately.
"Out here, everybody's living their own lives. The concern is about the drought and the football season, which starts next week," Mankin said. The FLDS are "a shadow that is off to the side that people pay attention to when something is going on." But, he added "when we write something about it and its in the paper, we sell a lot of papers."