“It’s a great leap, a revolution,” Donia Jessup declared last November when she was elected the first female Mayor of Hildale, Utah, population 2,276, a city known for polygamy, where women were compelled to wear pioneer dresses. Jessup’s victory was a milestone not only because of her gender but because it marked the first time in 100 years that non members of the Fundmentalist Church of Latter Day Saints had been elected to office in Hildale. However, Jessup may have spoken too soon because last week 11 city employees resigned, citing religious objections to working for a woman. St. George News:
Eleven city employees in Hildale have resigned, including one who wrote that his religious beliefs prohibit him from “following a woman, and from serving on a board with apostates,” said Mayor Donia Jessop, one of four nonmembers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints elected to office last November.
“It’s easier to cope with this because it’s not personal, they are just following what they believe,” she said.
There has been no interruption in city services, the mayor said, which she attributed to the “graciousness of the employees who are already gone, but who made sure we had systems in place and someone to run them before they left, which they didn’t have to do.”
The fact that ultra patriarchal Hildale elected a female Mayor and defeated a polygamist sect attracted the attention of the world press last year. The Guardian:
Hildale became the FLDS’s [Fundamentalist Church Of Latter Day Saints] isolated enclave, on the remote Utah-Arizona border, after the group broke away from the mainstream Mormon church following that religion’s banning polygamy as a central tenet in the late 19th century.
The FLDS is led by the so-called prophet Warren Jeffs even though he is serving life in a Texas prison for taking child brides.
Hildale had 365 registered voters. Jessop won the election fair and square. Warren Jeffs is still considered a prophet by many in the town and clearly the fundamentalist teachings are dying hard right now, but Mayor Jessop intends to continue moving forward.