Jan 15, 2016

Polygamist leader's nieces say they prayed, cooked, cleaned at his compound

The Salt Lake Tribune
January 4, 2016

Polygamy » Residents of “The Jeffs Block” were instructed to follow strict rules or face eviction.

Hildale • At Lyle Jeffs' home, the day began at 5:30 a.m.

That's when he would lead a scripture lesson for the 60 or so people living in his compound here. There would be another scripture lesson at 7 p.m., though Lyle typically didn't attend that.

In between, say sisters Kate Musser and May Jeffs, there was work. Kate taught school subjects to little boys even though her education stopped in the seventh grade. Both sisters sewed. They cooked. They cleaned.

That last task they were supposed to do only with their right hand.

"You couldn't do anything without talking to [Lyle] first," May said.

In separate interviews with The Salt Lake Tribune, Kate, now 20, and May, 18, described what life was like living with Lyle. He is the bishop of Short Creek — the collective name for Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz. — and the full brother of imprisoned Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints President Warren Jeffs.

Lyle Jeffs did not respond to multiple interview requests. He values his privacy.

He lives in what the FLDS call "The Jeffs Block," or just "The Block." It's an entire block of Hildale surrounded by 10-foot walls. Everyone there was instructed to call him "Father."

Lyle's house, referred to as "The Big House," sits in the northeast corner. The house is in the shape of an asymmetrical heptagon with a courtyard in the center. It's two stories and, according to measurements from the county assessor's office, it is nine or 10 times the size of the average American home. Anyone in Lyle's family who is in the United Order, the elite subset of the FLDS, can live there.

Normal-size houses also sit on the block. Some houses, the sisters and other Jeffs family say, were for some of Lyle's then-nine wives — the ones who have not qualified for the United Order. Another house was for some women and children who are not related to Lyle but for whom he assumed the responsibility as caretaker — because their husbands and fathers were serving missions for the church, had been evicted from the faith, or were in prison.

Kate and May are Lyle's nieces. They, their mother and three other sisters went to live on The Jeffs Block in 2012 after Lyle evicted their father from the FLDS. Lyle claimed their father committed a sin before he was married, May said, though Lyle never described the transgression.

Big House, small meals • When they arrived, Lyle told them the bishop's family had to be an example. Lyle observed dietary restrictions and, apparently, the ban Warren placed on sex between spouses in 2011. Kate says Lyle slept alone in a large bedroom; none of his wives had any newborns.

Block residents ate meals at The Big House, with women and young children in an upstairs dining room and older boys and men eating in a downstairs kitchen. Kate, who was a cook in the house, said the meals were modest. Tacos or tilapia with rice were common for lunch or supper.

Lyle never ate with the family, Kate said. Instead, she was instructed to cook him special meals, which she delivered to him at his offices in Short Creek.

The meals were nicer than those served on The Jeffs Block — steak, shrimp, salmon. FLDS rarely eat dessert, but Kate said she baked Lyle lemon chiffon cakes, caramel apple cakes and cakes with Pero substituted for cocoa. Chocolate was banned.

"There wasn't a day when I wasn't in the kitchen," Kate said.

Followers outside the block, meanwhile, were waiting in lines at the bishop's storehouse for groceries, Kate and May said. Charity workers in Short Creek often describe the towns as being in crisis, with FLDS going hungry and living in deteriorating homes without utilities.


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