Man drives from Utah to watch auction

Jason Ferguson

For Mike Manning, the 606-mile journey from Salt Lake City, Utah to Custer was a small price to pay to see the demise of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) in South Dakota.
And, that demise makes the drive back even sweeter.
“I can drive back to Salt Lake City rejoicing,” Manning said after the FLDS compound in southwest Custer County was sold to three former FLDS members at auction last Thursday.
Manning is part of a ministry called Great Commission Utah, which helps people leave the FLDS and also helps those same people to readjust to society once they are out of the sect.
“The people who were locked up there, and I say locked up because they were, once they come out that’s all they’ve known all their life, so they need help to adjust to society,” Manning said.
Manning, a retired pastor, has lived in Salt Lake City for the last 20 years, and said he is friends with Andrew Chatwin, who along with Patrick Pipkin and Seth Claude Cooke successfully bid $750,000 for the property against a $1.7 million judgment they are still owed after they won a lawsuit against the FLDS for civil rights abuses.
“Andrew has been severely hurt by the FLDS, as so  many men have. Their wives were taken away from them, their children were taken away from them,” Manning said. “That’s why I’m here. I’m praising God for what happened.”
Manning said several years ago, then-Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler invited him to a meeting of top law enforcement officers who questioned him for hours about what the FLDS was really like. He also points out the bullet the state dodged from having to potentially raid the compound like the YFZ ranch in Texas. Manning said the state of Texas racked up $43 million in legal fees after hauling over 400 children out of the compound.
“Texas can afford the $43 million. For South Dakota, $43 million would create major problems,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everybody and closes that chapter.
“It’s the closing of a chapter of one of the most evil cults in the history of the U.S. The cult continues, but at least it’s out of South Dakota. For me, that’s a reason to celebrate.”

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