COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — A huge group of men and boys of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have been working to build a block wall around the Leroy S. Johnson Meeting House in Colorado City since Wednesday night.
Isaac Wyler, a consultant with the United Effort Plan trust, said he first heard about work on the wall at midnight, and has since seen what must be hundreds of people working on it.
They had to tear out a wall that was already there, Wyler said, to put up a new one that will be, presumably, taller.
There seem to be a few reasons why the church might want to put the building up.
While Wyler thinks they are acting in response to a Freedom Party slated for Independence Day, ex-FLDS member and Warren Jeffs’ former bodyguard Willie Jessop might have a more certain answer.
He met with FLDS leaders last week, he said, informing them that he has petitioned the court to foreclose that building to satisfy a judgment he has filed against them.
His plan, he said, is to return the building to the community.
“We believe the church should be used for its original intent,” he said.
That intent, Jessop said, is that the building serves as an activity center for the community. In fact, Jessop said, the building was originally the “Leroy S. Johnson activity center.”
“Not something that was used explicitly by Warren Jeffs and his brothers for their perverted purposes,” he said.
The church is now walling it up as a statement that they plan to keep it, Jessop said, but he does expect that it will hold up in court.
Following his excommunication from the FLDS church in 2011, Jessop’s company, R&W Excavating, was nearly ruined because of his dissent with the church.
He filed and won a $30 million judgment against church leaders in 2012 for loss of assets.
Wyler, however, said he believes the church is acting “paranoid” because of the possible 2,000 or 3,000 people who are planning on attending a UEP-hosted Freedom Party. He said:
They didn’t care if two or three hundred people showed up, and now two or three thousand people are showing up and all of the sudden, they’re out there building this monstrous fortress wall? … I can’t see how there’s not a connection there.
Since they started setting up for the party, a person or a group of people have vandalized items for the party on multiple occasions, including a train they had brought in for the event.
He suspects someone from the FLDS is to blame, Wyler said, and plans to press charges if they can catch anyone.
The building used to be UEP property, Wyler said, when the UEP trust was controlled by Warren Jeffs, who authorized the building to be passed to the FLDS church.