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FLDS meet with pro-polygamy group

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The Fundamentalist LDS Church is beginning a dialogue with members of Utah's leading pro-polygamy group.

In return, members of the group Principle Voices have traveled to Texas to offer support for the families involved in the massive custody battle over the children of the YFZ Ranch.

"I know what position they're in right now. They just need to know that they're not alone and we're here to help them," said Heidi Foster, a member of the Davis County Cooperative Society.

She spoke to the Deseret News from outside the Schleicher County Courthouse in Eldorado, where members of the FLDS Church were testifying before a grand jury investigating crimes within the polygamous sect. Foster was involved in a high-profile custody battle with the state of Utah over children she has with polygamist John Daniel Kingston.

"They need to know their support system is bigger than them," she said.

Members of Principle Voices have been invited onto the YFZ Ranch to meet with FLDS members. After pushing for months, the FLDS Church has finally begun a dialogue with Principle Voices. They met with FLDS member Willie Jessop and attorney Rod Parker recently in West Jordan.

"I would say it was very productive. It was a good first step, I think," Principle Voices director Mary Batchelor said Wednesday. "I think we're still in the early stages of getting to know each other. We're still offering help, but we're excited at the possibilities."

The FLDS have not definitively said if they would join a coalition of polygamous groups that Principle Voices has formed.

"But they're opening the door a little bit," said Anne Wilde, one of the group's founders. "They're interested in what we're doing. They're at least talking."

Principle Voices has been a leading advocate for polygamous groups and an active participant in the Utah Attorney General's Safety Net Committee, a collection of social service workers, government agencies, activists and polygamists working together to provide help to abuse victims in closed societies.

"Our motto is, 'Do nothing about us, without us,'" said Batchelor. "It has to be applicable for everybody. There may be things we don't understand and don't agree with. We don't share all the same practices. The important thing is we have a voice and we all educate each other."

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com