You may remember our visit to the Branch Davidian complex near Waco, Texas four years ago, or our afternoon with the Church of Scientology in 2015.
There is something about fringe religious groups that draws our attention, so even if it meant backtracking so we wouldn’t have to sneak around in the dark, we found our visit to Colorado City, Arizona one of the most interesting parts of our trip.
You probably remember Warren Jeffs, President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church), a polygamous Mormon denomination. Even after his conviction 2011 of two felony counts of child sexual assault, for which he is currently serving a sentence of life plus twenty years. Jeffs is still considered the spiritual leader of this group.
The drive through Colorado City brought chills to both Ken and myself. We have read several books by women who escaped enslavement by the group over the years and those stories came to life as we traveled down the dirt roads of the town.
A new friend in the nearby town of Hurricane, Utah, explained that we would find many houses surrounded by fences, to keep outsiders away. Indeed, most homes seemed to be surrounded by fences.
Even though the city boasts a population of nearly 5,000, we were pressed to find anyone outside their homes on this late Saturday morning. No kids playing. No neighbors visiting. No one.
A little research confirmed that the city council is still made up of a majority FLDS members. We spotted a U.S. marshal as we drove around town, one of the few moving vehicles we encountered. While we spotted a vape/CBD store, obviously new to the community, other business were few and far between.
It took a while, but we found the church Jeffs built. Eerie is the best word to describe it. Peeking through the windows covered in “No Trespassing” signs brought back memories of lifting ourselves up to look inside the still-used Branch Davidian church building near Waco to see pictures of David Koresh adorning the walls.
Now empty, we learned the community is trying to decide what can be done with the building, valued at $2.3 million.
Many of the FLDS members still living in Colorado City have lost their homes and now live in houses filled with dozens of people or storage bins and trailers scattered throughout town.
More scenes from Colorado City, Arizona: