So you’ve decided to found your own Mormon church and you want to create a Nauvoo-style theocracy by taking control of a U.S. county.
Q: What is the most vulnerable county in the United States?
A: Loving County, Texas.
A few years ago when news first broke that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (or FLDS Church) was building a new community with a temple near Eldorado, Texas, people immediately began to speculate that we might see the Nauvoo experience relived before our very eyes. Eldorado is the seat and sole incorporated town in Schleicher County. The entire county had a population of less than 3,000 — some 7,000 persons less than the estimated membership of the FLDS Church.
In the 1840s, some of the old residents of Hancock County, Illinois, feared that Mormons in Nauvoo would outnumber them and seize control of county government. In much the same way, some residents of Eldorado feared that fundamentalist Mormons might eventually constitute a voting majority in their county. Of course, there’s been no evidence that FLDS members have intended anything of the kind — they hadn’t even become involved at all in Schleicher County politics prior to the April 2008 raids. However, with those raids, the state of Texas made its own ill-considered, preemptive strike against the perceived Mormon threat.
Going back, my question was always: If your plan was actually to take over a county, why move to a county like Schleicher that already has 2,935 residents? The answer is you probably wouldn’t because it turns out that western Texas is brimming with much more vacant counties. In fact, just a few counties west of Schleicher is the smallest county in the U.S. by population: Loving County.
Boasting just 67 residents in the 2000 census, Loving County’s rapidly decreasing population is now hovering around 50. (It also has the advantage of straddling the New Mexico border; vicinity to state and national borders has been popular with Mormon settlements since Joseph Smith occasionally would flee Nauvoo across the Mississippi to Iowa Territory.)
If you were starting your own Mormon church today, you would only have to round up three or four dozen adult members committed enough to relocate in order to take control of Loving County politically.
Mike and I recently decided to visit Loving County to scope out the prospects and the opportunities. The county seat (for now) is Mentone, population: 20. We scouted the place out and took a few pictures.
Outside of the metropolis of Mentone, the county is pretty vacant.
I’m always interested in good siting for a community, and at the northwest edge of the county, right on the New Mexico border, there’s a little lake (actually a reservoir on the Pecos River). This will probably serve as the nicest location for your new town (future county seat) and your new temple — it would certainly be the prettiest locale in the county.
Good luck! Just give me a heads up me when you get there, because I have some ideas for how you might want to lay the town out, design your temple, etc.