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(Photo credit: Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News)
John Hollenhorst reporting
The FLDS faithful call it their most sacred and holy place, but now there's startling new information about what really went on inside their Texas temple. A court document released Wednesday provides evidence that FLDS men regularly used the temple as a place for sex with underage girls.
Based on what searchers saw with their own eyes and the statements of a confidential informant, last Saturday night's tense encounter at the temple may be seen in a new light. Were FLDS men trying to keep searchers out because the temple is sacred, or was it to protect one of their darkest secrets?
During the police raid last weekend, a confidential informant told a disturbing story to Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran. His claim was so shocking that Doran might not have believed him, except that he's provided reliable information on more than 20 past occasions. The informant was a former member of the FLDS church, which built its temple in Schleicher County three years ago.
The informant told the sheriff that when adult FLDS men marry, "the bride is often under the age of 16 years; and that the temple... contains an area where there is a bed where males over the age of 17 engage in sexual activity with female children under the age of 17."
When searchers went to the huge limestone edifice last Saturday, FLDS members tried to keep them out. Officers ended the tense confrontation by making what they call a "dynamic entry." And one officer found something that partially substantiates the informant's story. According to the affidavit, there were multiple beds in the temple, and one of them had "disturbed bed linens and a strand of hair that appears to be from a female head."
On New Year's Day of 2005, freelance writer Jon Krakuer captured aerial photos of a man believed to be Warren Jeffs delivering a dedicatory prayer on the site of the future temple. If the informant's story is true, the temple's true purpose was something far different than what most outsiders supposed at the time.
In a court hearing Wednesday, FLDS lawyers abandoned their effort to stop the ongoing search, and lawyers revealed that another warrant has been issued, this time a federal warrant, suggesting that the investigation is getting broader or deeper.