How the FLDS used to celebrate Valentine’s Day
Published: February 14, 2013 09:52AM
Updated: February 14, 2013 09:57AM
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Ezra Draper and his wife LeighAnn Wyler Draper in July 2010. Photo courtesy Ezra Draper.

For many of us Americans, today is a day to snuggle a little closer with the one you love.

But not much of that is going on among the FLDS in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., these days. The leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Warren Jeffs, is prohibiting marriages — among other things.

It didn’t used to be that way. While the FLDS never celebrated the day as heartily as the rest of us, they used to at least recognize it, said Ezra Draper, 40.

Draper was raised among the FLDS in Salt Lake County, then moved to Short Creek — the traditional name for Hildale and Colorado City — after marrying a girl from there.

Draper says his wife, LeighAnn Wyler Draper (and, yes, that’s his only wife) recalls teachers at the school hanging decorations and giving the students treats. The students made valentines in class, but they weren’t suppose to give them to other children. Instead, Draper said, the valentines were suppose to go to their parents, grandparents or other married adults in the community.

In the decades before Jeffs rose to power, the FLDS in Short Creek would have monthly church socials that included a dance. A pianist and sometimes a violinist would play the music.

“You showed up with your wives,” Draper said. “They just kind of didn’t let you forget about it.”

When the church social would fall on the same weekend as Valentine’s Day, it would be an extra, special event, Draper said. The bishop in those days, Fred Jessop, would announce certain dances were for couples or married people.

Draper said he and the other men with just one wife would watch which wife with whom the polygamist men were dancing.

“We’d kind of giggle who they were dancing with and who they weren’t dancing with,” Draper said. “Sometimes it was pretty obvious who the favorite wife wasn’t.”

Draper said sometimes Jessop would call for the schottische. But instead of two couples dancing it, a man with three of his wives would dance.

“It was a much simpler time,” Draper said. “There was no indication at all Warren Jeffs would ever be a man of impact.”

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle