Mormon Church officially abandoned polygamy at the turn of the century, there were those who would not accept this mandate and continued adding wives to their families. Today the practice of polygamy is continued by groups that are not associated with the LDS church. They are known as Mormon fundamentalists.
The Manifesto had been given to the Church in 1890 by Church President Wilfred Woodruff. This Manifesto advised members not to enter into illegal marriages. Interestingly, in 1890 the Supreme Court ruled that the government could indeed seize church property, including temples if the Church did not stop the practice of polygamy. This was brought about due to the Edmund Tucker Act of 1887 that dis-incorporated the LDS Church. This act and the threat of Utah being banned from becoming a State of the Union, backed the Mormon Church into a corner. The Manifesto was not very clear to some already in plural marriages. Despite the church’s “advice” not to do it, some did continue to enter into polygamy. This continued until the threat of excommunication surfaced in 1904. In 1904 Church President Joseph F Smith issued a decree stating that anyone caught entering or performing a plural marriage would be subject to excommunication. Since that time the Mormon Church has not practiced polygamy.
Polygamy continued with the excommunicates gathering in and around Short Creek, on the Utah Arizona border. In 1930, Lorin Wooley revealed an alleged revelation given in 1886 to Church President John Taylor. Lorin said a group was organized and set apart to carry forth the Practice of polygamy. It did not matter that there were not any living witnesses to the revelation, as the alleged witnesses had all passed on. The people were looking for any substantiation that polygamy was approved of God and that God would set someone apart to lead them. Lorin Wooley having been the only survivor of the alleged group, picked several men and set them apart with the same authority that he felt that he had. After Wooley died, John Barlow took over the leadership of the group and after Barlow died Joseph Musser became the leader. During Musser’s administration disputes arose due to the question of leadership. Who is the proper High Priest Apostle to lead the group? This eventually caused a split in the fundamentalist organization.
One of the polygamous groups that came out of the split in the fundamentalist group is theKingston Clan. When Musser died, John Ortell Kingston claimed that he had revelations that he was to lead the fundamentalist group. The majority of the people in Short Creek did not follow Kingston and he took his followers to an area near Bountiful Utah. The one thing that separates this group from the others is the tenant of incest. The late John Ortell Kingston had a dilapidated dairy farm at the end of Redwood Rd in Woods Cross, Utah. Kingston, a self-anointed leader of this group, fancied himself as a geneticist. In breeding stock, he looked for high milk production. He also experimented in breeding his cattle, and then turned to his children. Incest draws the members inward and keeps followers from mixing with others outside the group. The Kingston’s own businesses and a co-op, live in Kingston homes and attend Kingston churches. Many of the wives live in run-down shacks, dilapidated apartments and trailers at a coal yard, near the dairy farm . This is surprising due the wealth of the Kingston family. Incest is the fate of many teen-age girls who are married off to a few, powerful prominent males. Because of incest many of the children have birth defects. There are around 1200 members in the Kingston clan. The clan has created a religious organization called the Latter-day Church of Christ and is currently led by Paul E Kingston.
Another polygamous group that split off from the original Fundamentalists is theApostolic United Brethren which is headquartered in Bluffdale Utah. There are between 8000 and 10,000 members with communities in Montana, Idaho, Mexico, and other areas. Members tend to integrate into surrounding communities more so than other groups. This can be attributed to former leader, Rulon Allred. He desired to have a normal relationship with the legal authorities and wanted to be disassociated with the groups that married children, practiced incest and other illegal acts. However they do practice polygamy, They claim to be associated with the Mormon Church spiritually but not physically. They accept the LDS Church as Christ’s Church, but views it as “out of order” just as the Israelites were out of order at the time of Christ. They believe the Mormon Church has made unacceptable changes to doctrines and ordinances, but will eventually be restored to its proper order. They also believe that the LDS temples will eventually be opened to them. They did build an endowment house, after the Church changed it’s policy to accept blacks into the Mormon Priesthood in 1985. There key beliefs are plural marriage, the United Order, the Adam-God doctrine and what is commonly called the “1886 meeting.” There are other differences which can be viewed on other internet sites. The LDS Church does not confirm or agree that they have any relationship with the AUB. The group is currently led by Lynn A Thompson. This group is called the Apostolic United Brethren.
The FLDS Church is the largest group of fundamentalists with their headquarters being in Colorado City on the Utah Arizona border. Warren Jeffs is the leader or Prophet of this group and he presently resides in Prison for being involved in child marriages and rape. Joseph Musser succeeded the first leader of the Fundamentalists who was John Y Barlow. During Musser’s leadership he appointed his naturalpathic physician, Rulon Allred to the position of High Priest Apostle. The other members of the council were upset feeling that Allred used his position of Musser’s physician to influence Musser to make the calling. Musser then appointed Allred to be his successor. Allred was not accepted as his successor in the Short Creek Community. This led to a schism, with many followers breaking off and joining Allred. The core group in the Short Creek area instead followed Charles Zitting as its leader. This group came to be known as the FLDS Church. Zitting died in 1954 and was succeeded by LeRoy Johnson. Johnson died in 1986 and was succeeded by Rulon Jeffs, the father of Warren Jeffs. It is presumed that Warren Jeffs is leading this group from prison. There are several men having been alleged to lead the group. Lyle Jeffs is the designated future succesor. William E Jensen is a claimant to the succession. Merril Jessop is the de facto leader and Wendell L Nielsen is the President of the church’s corporate entity. There are over 10,000 members in this group.
This group has built a compound and a temple in El Dorado, Texas. They also recently built a compound in Pringle, So Dakota. This group is best known for alleged child abuse by forcing girls 12 to 16 into marriage with the older men in the community. Many of these men are old enough to be grandfathers and some are even their step fathers. They are also known for dropping their boys off in the dessert to rid the community of competition for the young girls. These boys have little education and are unfamiliar with the ways of the world. Many end up on drugs and in prostitution.
A fourth group is the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ or the TLC organized by James Harmston and headquartered in Manti, Utah. The TLC is a splinter group that began in 1991 when a group of people who were interested in finding the deeper meaning to the LDS religion attended a gospel study led by James Harmston. In the meetings they discussed church doctrine and changes to the doctrine. After organizing in 1994, Harmston taught that he was the reincarnation of Joseph Smith. Besides the doctrine of plural marriage the TLC teaches “mutiple mortal probations.” This is a form of reincarnation limited in scope to one’s own gender and species. In 1999 missionary efforts were stopped in the anticipation of the near Second Coming of Christ. Harmston also predicted the end of time and the date Jesus would reappear, which of course never happened. There were allegedly 300 to 500 members of this group in 1999. Harmston died of a heart attack in 2013. Today, after the death of Harmston, little information is available about the TLC. An internet letter says the group is still functioning, but nothing is said about any leadership or the goings on in the church. Another internet letter says the church is no longer functioning.
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