Polygamists have service for flash flood victims

27 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Divided polygamous towns unite at memorial for Utah flood victims.

HILDALE, Utah — A survivor so young he stepped on a stool to reach a lectern microphone, remembered his heart “whacking like a jackhammer” in the moments before a flash flood swept he and his family away nearly two weeks ago. Joseph Jessop Jr. spoke Saturday during a rare public memorial service hosted by two often-secretive polygamous towns on the Utah-Arizona border that typically shun outsiders and loathe government interference. The public memorial was a surprise because funerals are typically handled discreetly, with no invitations extended to outsiders, including family of the deceased, if they aren’t members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

It was held in the same lush park surrounded by rich-red rock canyon walls where sisters Josephine Jessop, Naomi Jessop and Della Black are thought to have been on Sept. 14 with their 13 children before driving down the canyon during a flash-flood alert. The neighboring towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., hosted the afternoon memorial service at the top of a canyon road in Maxwell Park where a few hundred people gathered, including Utah Gov.

That was the site, about 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas, where hundreds gathered Saturday to remember those who died. “Anyone who’s helped, I love you,” Sheldon Black Jr. told the crowd. Gary Herbert, representatives from the state’s attorney general office and officials from both Washington and Mohave counties. “Today, the people of Utah mourn with you,” Herbert said, citing passages from the Book of Mormon, adding that circumstances like these can draw people out, allowing them to help when they may have other hesitated to do so. Polygamist Tom Green, who was convicted of bigamy, also attended with some of his family, though a belief in polygamy appears to be his only connection to the Hildale residents killed.

Watson said before the service that it could be a turning point, “one of those opportunities for everybody to realize that everyone matters,” he said. She knew exactly what I needed”; his “little angel,” LaRue, who would throw her arms around his neck and squeeze him; and his “sweet, precious angel,” Melanie. The crowd probably could have filled the 800-plus folding chairs lined up on the park’s huge lawn, though about half the attendees stood on the perimeter. On Saturday, he recalled his 6-year-old son, Tyson Lucas, with his “beautiful, heavenly smile,” wanting to join him to do electrical work, climbing the ladder, using the drill, not wanting to goof off. Hundreds of volunteers from various government agencies and independent groups descended on the town to search a stretch of several miles for any sign of the women and children.

A religious rift in the town has divided families, with those who remain in the sect at odds with former FLDS members who were cast out of the church or left on their own. Jessop said he has counseled his congregation that the flood is an example of how “everything is in Heavenly Father’s hands.” During the service, Utah Gov. Ex-members of the sect or those who don’t follow Jeffs’ church have remained skeptical that the tragedy may unify the town, but the memorial gave them reason for cautious optimism. “It’s good to see you all,” the young Jessop Jr. said to the hundreds gathered, at the outset and end of his brief remarks, perhaps not realizing his simple and genuine greeting illustrated something larger.

Even Don Barlow, 83, the first mayor of Colorado City, Arizona, and among the first exiled from the community by Jeffs spent time after the service mingling with people he hadn’t seen in some time, even learning he and Utah’s Gov.

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