City Workers In Polygamous Utah Town Walk Out Rather Than Work For Female Mayor

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@ScottSommerdorf / Twitter Utah artist Cat Palmer organized a...
@ScottSommerdorf / Twitter

“It’s a great leap, a revolution,” Donia Jessup declared last November when she was elected the first female Mayor of Hildale, Utah, population 2,276, a city known for polygamy, where women were compelled to wear pioneer dresses.  Jessup’s victory was a milestone not only because of her gender but because it marked the first time in 100 years that non members of the Fundmentalist Church of Latter Day Saints had been elected to office in Hildale. However, Jessup may have spoken too soon because last week 11 city employees resigned, citing religious objections to working for a woman. St. George News:

Eleven city employees in Hildale have resigned, including one who wrote that his religious beliefs prohibit him from “following a woman, and from serving on a board with apostates,” said Mayor Donia Jessop, one of four nonmembers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints elected to office last November.

“It’s easier to cope with this because it’s not personal, they are just following what they believe,” she said.

There has been no interruption in city services, the mayor said, which she attributed to the “graciousness of the employees who are already gone, but who made sure we had systems in place and someone to run them before they left, which they didn’t have to do.”

The fact that ultra patriarchal Hildale elected a female Mayor and defeated a polygamist sect attracted the attention of the world press last year. The Guardian:

Hildale became the FLDS’s [Fundamentalist Church Of Latter Day Saints] isolated enclave, on the remote Utah-Arizona border, after the group broke away from the mainstream Mormon church following that religion’s banning polygamy as a central tenet in the late 19th century.

The FLDS is led by the so-called prophet Warren Jeffs even though he is serving life in a Texas prison for taking child brides.

Since his 2011 conviction, many sect members have left and hundreds of ex-members and some non-members have moved to Hildale, bringing outside businesses, a lone public school and a more mainstream culture.

“The most important thing is that the wider world now understands that Hildale is changing,” said Jessop, who nevertheless lives unofficially but openly as a polygamist. At least one of the three other non-fundamentalist candidates tolerates polygamy, while rejecting the strict theocracy imposed by the FLDS, which dictates that the word of Jeffs is divine law.

Hildale had 365 registered voters. Jessop won the election fair and square. Warren Jeffs is still considered a prophet by many in the town and clearly the fundamentalist teachings are dying hard right now, but Mayor Jessop intends to continue moving forward.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Polygamy might be a good move for me. I think I’ll move there and recruit, I mean woo, some younger husbands to add to my current work-detail. My single husband is having a hard time keeping up with his chores and there must be lots of strong young men who don’t have enough women to pick from because of polygamy. I’ll move in, add six or seven to my harem, call it polyandry, and see if that flies with the church. I don’t see why it shouldn’t.

  2. I say good riddance! Citizens of that town must have wanted/needed a change since they voted her in. More jobs for others that need them. By the way, polygamy is still illegal even for them, so what’s Trump doing about that?

    • This small town in Utah was truly a backwash of Fundamentalist Mormon-ism before the last election. Women were required to wear dresses down to their ankles, all of that. Then they did in fact get it together to vote in not only this Mayor but three other people on the local Board of Supervisors, and that was major progress. None of these candidates were members of the fundamentalist clique run by the local prophet (currently in prison) so this was a major breakthrough, showing that the people of Hildale were setting the past aside and committing to live in the present.

      On top of the wonderful editorials that the Salt Lake Tribune has done lately exposing Orrin Hatch’s hypocrisy, I take this story of Hildale as a sign that Utah is finally getting up to speed.

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