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‘From curiosity to alarm’: Neighbors of polygamist group leader voice concerns

Grand Marais, MN — Worries continue to heighten along the North Shore, as a known polygamist with ties to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has relocated to the area.

Seth Jeffs, leader of the religious group, was recently served with a lawsuit in Bloomington, Minnesota after allegedly participating in the sexual abuse of a young girl while in Utah.

He recently purchased 40 acres of land in an area west of Grand Marais, and months later, neighbors are still on edge.

“Our sense was that the one thing we could do is bring awareness to this so that people could be educated,” Cook County Resident Jeremy Hanson said.

A forum on the matter was held on Saturday.

Those in attendance say their concerns are not based off religious perspective. Rather, they say they stem from Seth Jeffs’ history of criminal activity.

“We wanted to do it in a way that would protect our own rights without trampling on the rights of members of the FLDS,” Hanson said.

Jeffs has reportedly been living in Cook County since August of last year.

“I think that the first reaction from people is natural. It’s curiosity,” Hanson said. “And then when you study the past of the FLDS — particularly its leaders — it moves from curiosity to alarm.”

It’s a move that has caused for some unsettled neighbors in the Grand Marais area.

“Moving from curiosity and awareness to alarm, and then sort of to just professional disciplined action,” Hanson said.

On Saturday, community members were able ask officials questions and hear from two people considered to be experts on the FLDS group, Tonia Tewell and Sam Brower.

“We want to handle this in a way 10 years from now, we look back on it and we’re proud of the work we did,” Hanson said. “It makes us a stronger community.”

Those involved say it’s step in the right direction to feeling at ease, as they plan out how to take action moving forward.

“When faced with opportunities to do something that constructively leads to the right conclusion, we can’t let it slip through our fingers,” Hanson said. “What that is exactly, I don’t know yet, but I’m confident it’ll come.”


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Gamiel Hall

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