Sarah Ventre is a producer for KJZZ. This story is published as part of a collaboration between KJZZ and The Arizona Republic.
The small city of Hildale, Utah, is just across the state line from Colorado City, Arizona, and together, the two towns make up the community called Short Creek.
Short Creek is most known for being the home of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) — an extremely strict and insular church that believes in the practice of plural marriage, or polygamy. In recent years, many followers have left or been kicked out of the church, which drastically impacts life in the community.
The FLDS church has dominated the politics of Short Creek since its inception, until now. In Hildale’s first municipal election since the twin cities of Hildale and Colorado City were found guilty of religious discrimination in a lawsuit by the Justice Department last year, three city council seats and the mayoral seat were up for election.
Twenty-four hours before the polls closed, mayoral candidate Donia Jessop was busy making burgers, wraps and salads, while her husband Joe worked the drive-thru at their new fast food restaurant and convenience store, The Hub.
Jessop’s mayoral campaign was historic. Not only is she a woman, but she is also an ex-church member, or in FLDS terminology, an apostate.
According to church doctrine, leaving the faith means losing your salvation. It also means being shunned by your family and your community.
Despite all of that, Jessop, and a lot of others who left the church, either stayed or moved back to town. Many of those people are now working to change the community from within.
“For the world to see that we are truly making a change in Hildale, and that Hildale is not the same place it used to be — to have a woman as mayor is a big statement,” Jessop said.
READ THE FULL REPORT: Short Creek Beyond FLDS
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