The notorious polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs’ “Big House” has been re-purposed into a treatment facility for addiction and recovery known now as the Short Creek Dream Center.
It’s the latest of Jeffs’ network of properties that’s been redistributed by the state of Utah, which controls a trust managing properties formerly owned by his cult, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), according to the Associated Press. The trust gives former FLDS members the first right of refusal to buy the properties as discounted prices.
With Jeffs in jail since 2006 and now serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting multiple children, FLDS has been gradually disintegrating. Its weakening influence is partly reflected in the redistribution of the cult’s portfolio of properties in Arizona, particularly the Short Creek mansion. The 44-bedroom building was a residence of Jeffs and still bears signs of his time there, including hidden rooms and commandments etched into a fireplace among others.
It’s new ownership by a partnership between Jeff’s 65th wife who has since left FLDS, Briell Decker, and a Los Angeles-based Evangelical missionary called Dream Center represents the lessening influence of FLDS on the town of Short Creek, which it formerly controlled owning nearly all the land in the town when the cult was operating at its peak, according to Rolling Stone. As the magazine reported, after Jeffs refused to respond to a 2004 lawsuit against the Short Creek trust’s eviction of former FLDS members whom Jeffs excommunicated from the cult, the state won control of the entity and rededicated it to serving any member who had contributed to FLDS, which has since led to former church members returning to the town.
Decker and Dream Center are now leasing the mansion property for one year with the option to purchase it. Decker was initially offered a discounted price of $600,000 to buy the house, but she chose to set up the partnership with Dream Center as she couldn’t afford it alone.
The new facility will be a home for former FLDS members, women and people who need a sober-living environment, and also operate as a community center.
“I wanted it to benefit other people,” Decker told AP. “I wanted people leaving the religion to have somewhere to land.”
Other homes previously owned by FLDS have been converted into bed-and-breakfasts. [NYP] — Erin Hudson