Some have developed to a skewed view that all FLDS are scheming, evil predators. The vast majority of the FLDS are good, hardworking people who are full of faith. Not all families experience abuse. One former member wrote: “Another good thing I have witnessed is that no matter how few or far between, there are several families I know that have had 'perfect' moments. I am not talking about the ‘smiling to keep sweet even though your heart is breaking,’ but true happiness. Moments where every wife is truly happy and for a little time they are the idealic plural family.”
Life for the FLDS hasn’t always been the way it has been in recent years under Warren Jeffs’ rule. Prior to Warren Jeffs’ reign, things were much different. Before Warren Jeffs banned community events, dances, sports, church meetings, and other activities, the people interacted with each other in kind and neighborly ways.
Holidays were a favorite time in the small rural towns of Hildale/Colorado City (Short Creek) nestled below redrock cliffs. Rulon Jeffs establish a three-day Harvest Fest celebration that was attracted members from as far away as Canada. One person recalled fondly, “How fun was it to go on the hay rides at the Harvest Fest? My friends and I went mostly for the rides and to google over the Canada boys that came down.”
A July 24th celebration was also a grand event. This was “Pioneer Day,” a holiday in Utah to commemorate the arrival of the first pioneers in 1847. “I remember Uncle Fred [Jessop] riding a black stallion at the head of the 24th of July Parade every year. The stallion would be all decked out with tassels and silver, and everyone would cheer. Someone would usually throw candy from one of the floats, and the children would go wild after it.”
“I lived in Salt Lake and I always looked forward to going down south for October Fest, April conference, 4th and 24th of July and any other reason I could find to go down there. I loved to go down to the basketball court and I would play basketball from morning until dark. I would only quit long enough to grab something to eat. Everyone down there was so friendly and I miss those good ole days a lot.”
A former FLDS member wrote this touching memory when life was so different among these people: “Oh, back to the good things about [Short Creek.] I loved the community programs! And the Harvest Fest, and the Park fundraisers, and the 4th and 24th of July, doorbell ditching on Valentines Day, and going for walks on summer evenings, and drives with the family on Sunday evenings, hiking in Water Canyon, baseball in Maxwell Park, homemade everything (yummmmmmmy food!!) talking with the family and any friends came at dinner time, (no TV!). Singing for everything, the dances, taking turns staying up all night to make the sorghum, helping out anyone and everyone on Saturday work projects, oh, and when someone lost a loved one, even if it was a baby or small child, 4000+ people came to the funeral. Oh, and not having to lock my doors at night, and being able to leave my keys in my car!! These things I truly miss! But most of all, I MISS MY FAMILY THAT ARE STILL OUT THERE!! I have tears running down my cheeks, I miss them so much! You know, I just realized....that is what it is! Everyone was family out there.”
Activities included dances, movies, plays, ice skating, and swimming. A dance was held every other Friday night and a movie on alternate Fridays. Fred Jessop would usually stage a play production about every year or so, using the same scripts over and over again. “I looked forward to dances, plays or whatever special entertainment was planned for the weekends before returning to school on Monday mornings.” “Another great thing I miss were the dances and afterward singing ‘Give Me A Home In The Heart Of The Mountains.’ A sweet warm fuzzy memory.”
“When I was a kid, all of the ponds, sumps, and reservoirs would freeze over from about Thanksgiving to the end of February. We were constantly in search of good ice, not all of them had ice thick enough to skate on. When we found good ice, every one with a pair of skates would show up. Someone would build a bonfire using old tires (stunk like hell, but gave good light, just don't stay downwind for too long) and we would skate for hours. When we got home my mom would put us in the tub and run cold water on us to thaw us out. That sure hurt, but it was worth it just to skate all night. During the summer, all of the ponds, sumps, and reservoirs would turn into swimming holes. Water Canyon was the greatest as long as you could make it through the sand spots in the road. We usually had someone's mom's car, and would let the air out of the tires to make it. That water was cold!”
Here’s another fun Saturday activity: “I know this isn't a big thing for city folks, but my dad let my brother and me take the garbage to the dump on Saturdays. That meant we got to drive...and we were only 11 or 12. We used to make a day of it and bring more treasure home than trash dumped.”
At times, a Monday morning devotional was held. “One of my favorite things was the way Monday Morning Meeting used to be. I loved to wake up early in the morning when the sky was still tinged pink above the mountains. The people would gather in a line forming a hollow square, and shake hands with everyone else. And, MJ would say "Good morning everyone!!" to which there was always a rousing reply and then we would sing hymns and listen to the musical numbers.”
“I like to remember the old school days, when Louis Barlow was principal, he got an old war surplus generator and had some of the guys hook it to an old car engine. We actually had electricity at the school! Lou had us dig a well by hand. Someone would be in the hole digging, while others would pull the buckets of dirt up on a rope. We planted grass in the square that was between the three school buildings. I believe that was the first lawn ever planted in short creek! We put up a tall flag pole in the center of the lawn. One evening I was playing around at the school, it was about dusk, Merril and Truman came along and grabbed me ,they jerked my pants off and ran them up the flag pole.”
In days gone by, the many acts of kindness were common place. “I remember Uncle Parley [Harker] distributing spuds around town. I also remember Uncle Fred [Jessop] bringing groceries to the house one time when I was laid up, and couldn't work.” Another act of kindness: “I remember whenever there was a funeral, Uncle Alvin would gather up his boys and go rake the family's yard. People would bring over food and offer support to the family.”
One former member who wasn’t strictly obedient recalled: “I remember ditching 1st period devotional, ditching 7th period study, easily outrunning the nightwatch night after night (later called the godsquad), hiking every mountain around town, falling asleep at the cannery at 3 in the morning on the second day, playing basketball at Holms' and pretending we weren't there to flirt with the girls, patching the holes in my bike tubes every week, having a hundred best friends, riding my minibike down to the gas station and draining all the hoses into the tank, then topping it of with 10 cents, stealing my dad's beer out of the fridge, and kissing the neighbor girl.”
But life radically changed until Warren Jeff’s leadership. In July of 2003, Jeffs got up in front of the people and told them the Lord was displeased with them for building a monument of the 1953 Short Creek raid. He told the people that the blessings of the Priesthood would be removed. There would be no more meetings. He said that Colorado City was cursed.
Under Jeffs, there were no more dances, plays, or movies. Boys and girls could no longer associate together socially. One former FLDS member sadly misses the culture that used to exist “The only culture left is cold as an Alaskan winter. Basketball, Harvest Fest, dances, plays, and now church [meetings] even are all bad, wicked of this world activities that have been crossed of the ‘list’ to do in the FLDS social life.”
With Jeffs is jail, in 2007 many nearby residents decided to hold an Easter celebration at Cottonwood Park in Colorado City. About 700 people attended from all over. “We had the BEST time. They opened up the zoo, made the whole place kid friendly. The egg hunt was great too. Barbeque chicken to die for!! Thank you everyone for helping with the side dishes and the great company.” But….there wasn’t any FLDS followers of Warren Jeffs there, even though they were welcome to attend.