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Posted: 10:09 PM- A preacher at heart, Robert Dean Foster welcomed friends and strangers alike to the haven he carved in a sandstone slab outside Moab.

Whether expected or happenstance, the visits let Foster share his blunt and colorful perspectives on religion, fundamentalism, polygamy, world turmoil and his 30-year labor at Rockland Ranch.

Foster died Wednesday in Salt Lake City of cancer. He was 83.

When he was 18, Foster joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Day Saints. He served as a bishop, stake mission president and spent 13 years as an LDS seminary teacher. But when he was 46, Foster converted to fundamentalism and eventually created a family that included three plural wives (his first wife divorced him). He never joined any fundamentalist group. The LDS church excommunicated Foster in 1972.

A bigamy conviction in 1974 and apocalyptic fears sent Foster in search of a safe space for his family. He found it near Moab, where he blasted home-sized holes into a massive rock on leased public land.

Foster considered the ranch "another Ark" that would keep his family and friends safe from the world chaos he believed was imminent.

Anne Wilde, a longtime friend, said she was skeptical when he showed her an artist's drawing of his plans for Rockland.

"He was one of the few men I have ever met who had a grandiose plan for something and it actually came true," she said.

Wilde said Foster was an excellent teacher who was "instrumental in converting young people to fundamentalist Mormonism."

Foster is survived by his three wives, Carla, Susan and Karen; 38 children; and 85 grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be held Monday from 6-8 p.m. at Larkin Sunset Gardens Cemetery in Sandy. A funeral service will follow at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Foster, who served in the U.S. Air Force in World War II, will be buried at the Utah State Veterans Cemetery & Memorial Park at Camp Williams in Bluffdale.

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