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Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Beneath a portrait of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs on the wall, Richard stands in the kitchen of his home on the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, Texas, Saturday. Richard's children were taken from the ranch by Texas officials.

YFZ RANCH, Texas — It's especially quiet for Richard at 6 a.m. these mornings.

Before last week, when law enforcement officers raided his home and took away his wife and seven children, one of his favorite family activities was their morning and evening ritual.

"This is where we used to gather," he said while leading Deseret News reporters and photographers through his home on the secluded ranch near the Fundamentalist LDS Church's massive limestone temple.

"We would read good works and have what we call a sing song and prepare for the day. Then we would go get a good breakfast together," said Richard, who requested only his first name be used.

Without his children there, he says returning home each day has been very difficult.

"I've just about decided to step outside rather than come in here every day and relive this memory again," he said of the day his home was ransacked and his kids along with hundreds of other children were taken away in buses from the ranch.

"When I'd come home and walk through this door, there were several little children sitting here at this table," he said gesturing. "I would sit down with them, have something to eat and have a little child hanging onto my neck and on each side of me.

"Little children love their father and I love them."

Photos of early LDS and FLDS prophets, including Warren Jeffs, sentenced to prison last November for performing a child-bride marriage, line the walls of his home. They are joined by additional signs, like "Keep Sweet Forevermore," "Loyalty to Priesthood is Life," and "Let's go from where we are to where we want to be."

Richard said his wife smuggled a cell phone in her underclothing to the makeshift shelter in San Angelo, where she and their children were taken. She was able to call him the next day.

"She called me in the shower," Richard said. "It was the only place she could be out of view."

Richard recounted the day that agents raided the ranch and removed his children. He pointed to a chair that was still facing a window overlooking the driveway.

"This is where the children were watching, waiting for these people (Texas authorities) that they'd heard so much about that were going to take them away," he said.

All later gathered in the living room in a "peaceful" manner, he said. "We all gathered and we were singing. I told the children to keep singing as I answered the door." Outside were law enforcement officers with guns.

"They said, 'We're here to take all of the children."'

They gave the family a few minutes to gather some belongings and were then loaded into school buses, Richard recalled.

He said he told his children, "Don't be scared, just smile and pray. Heavenly Father will help you through this. We don't understand, but be brave.... Mother cried and so that started a chain reaction."

Richard said he believes the FLDS members are being targeted because their religious is unpopular.

"We're being persecuted. That's the way we feel," he said. "There's a quote from the apostle Paul that I like: 'He who lives godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted for his religion."'

E-mail: nperkins@desnews.com; bwest@desnews.com