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SANDY, Utah (AP) -- More than 50 Lost Boys, who have fled or been kicked out a polygamous community on the Utah-Arizona border, gathered Friday in Sandy to enjoy something most have never had: a real Christmas.
The teens and young adults met at the home of Dan Fischer, also a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"We hope to share the message with them of Christmas and giving," Fischer said. "We wish to show them it can be meaningful to give, to celebrate at this time of the year, to meet with one another and have some good, clean fun."
The Lost Boys -- and a handful of girls -- are from the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., home to the renegade FLDS. FLDS President Warren Jeffs is on the lam, and the community is in flux, partly because of a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Lost Boys that claims they were unjustly run out of their homes.
FLDS faithful adhere to a 19th century version of Mormonism that includes the practice of plural marriage, a tenet that has put them at odds with society and the LDS Church, which abandoned the practice in 1890.
Fischer said Christmas is considered "of the world and the devil" by the FLDS -- a view he hoped to change among the boys.
"Merry Christmas," he told the crowd at his home, adding that he remembered when it was a "little difficult" for him to say the words.
Fischer left the FLDS church about 13 years ago. He has since provided jobs at his dental supply company, Ultradent Inc., and money and connections to others who leave. His work took on a high profile 16 months ago when he asked the public to help the Lost Boys, some of whom were as young at 13 when they left home.
Some were kicked out of their homes because of their behavior; others lost faith in the religion. And some, it is alleged, were driven away to lessen competition for plural wives.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has declined to pursue neglect or abandonment charges against the parents, saying the teens fear that doing so will further damage their relations or cause their families repercussions.
He is resurrecting a bill that would allow teens to be emancipated from their parents and to seek public and private aid on their own.
Dave Bills, coordinator for the Lost Boys project sponsored by Fischer's Diversity Foundation, said he is working with about 23 youths and is in occasional contact with about 30 more.
The cause has drawn about $75,000 in donations, primarily from other dentists, that has helped feed, clothe, house, school and provide psychological counseling for the boys.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)