Concerned citizens will meet in Grand Marais this weekend to discuss the possible arrival of a religious cult leader.
It was reported by KARE 11 in January that Seth Jeffs, the brother of Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) founder Warren Jeffs, has bought a large property in Cook County, Minnesota.
The building permits approved for Seth Jeffs, himself a former FLDS leader and a convict, include one for a 900-ft. driveway and one for a 6,000 sq. ft. building — which is considered, "at least in part, an interior living unit."
This has given rise to concerns that Jeffs may be trying to start a "religious colony" in northeast Minnesota, with the Utah-based FLDS known as a polygamist cult whose practices include the sexual assault of underage girls.
At 9 a.m. Saturday, a town hall style meeting will be held at the Cook County Community Center in Grand Marais, which follows a showing of a documentary about the FLDS on Friday evening.
Speaking at the Saturday town hall will be two visitors from Utah with detailed knowledge of the FLDS sect.
WTIP reports that Tonia Towell, founder of the Holding Out HELP nonprofit that works with those inside Utah's fundamentalist polygamous communities, will speak with locals Saturday morning.
She will be joined by author and private investigator Sam Brower, who has written about and been involved in documentaries concerning Warren Jeffs' cult.
Speaking to the Pioneer Press, businessman Mike Larson, who is helping organize the Friday and Saturday events in Grand Marais, said of Seth Jeffs: "We just want to bring awareness to the community, that there’s a landowner here with his past.
"I trust that he’s trying to make a better life for himself. The evidence doesn’t dictate that."
More about the FLDS
Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for sexually assaulting two girls, aged 12 and 15, that he'd taken on as his wives.
His church, known as FLDS, broke off from mainstream Mormonism in 1898 to continue practicing polygamy. Critics of the church say the sect also forces underage females into marriages with older men — practices that led to the downfall of Jeffs and increased scrutiny of his group.
As for Seth Jeffs, he himself has a history of legal troubles, much of it related to FLDS.
As Patheos notes, he's being sued for allegedly participating in the church's ritual sex abuse, and is said to be in hiding from that lawsuit.
He was also tried over a food stamp abuse scheme that authorities said benefited FLDS.
Since then, he has reportedly been leading a chapter of the church on a compound in South Dakota.