POLYGAMY CULTS & THE MORMON CHURCH
Most polygamy cults or groups practicing polygamy in the USA sprang from religion. The early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or more commonly known by its nickname, the Mormon Church, was a springboard for many of the groups. Two of the most difficult periods for the Mormon Church was when the Practice of polygamy began and when the Practice was ended. It was very difficult for the early Mormons to accept the Practice of polygamy as most of the early converts came from Puritan stock that later was labeled by the public as polygamy cults. When Joseph Smith the Prophet and organizer of the Church revealed the purported revelation to the early church leaders, many found it difficult to accept and only after soul-searching prayer were they able to accept the Principal. Joseph’s wife Emma was a dissenter and never fully accepted the revelation on polygamy. The church leaders kept the practice hidden from the public due to its label as polygamy cults and it wasn’t until the Mormon pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 that the Church openly practiced polygamy.
Likewise, it was just as difficult a time period for the early Mormons when the Practice was ended. Because of the persecution coming from other Christian religions and the US Government declaring that if the Practice was not ended the Government would seize the properties owned by the Church, including LDS temples, the President of the Church issued a proclamation to church members to stop taking on additional wives. This happened in 1890 and was known as the Manifesto. He also stated that he had received a revelation from the Lord, showing him what would happen to the Church if the Practice was not ended. Some church leaders continued solemnizing polygamous marriages and were eventually excommunicated. Some members went to Mexico to avoid prosecution for fear of the polygamy cults label. It wasn’t until around 1900 and after a 2nd Manifesto, that the Practice was officially stopped and members practicing polygamy were excommunicated. Some Mormons would not accept the Manifesto declaring the end of Polygamy in the Church and they separated from the Church and formed groups with their own leaders.
Prior to the year 1930, a man named Lorin Wooley came forward and announced that he was present at a meeting at the home of John Wooley along with several other men, and President John Taylor, who was there to discuss a proposal on polygamy. This was in September of 1886. Lorin said sometime after 9 PM he was attracted by a light coming from under President Taylor’s door and he heard 3 voices talking. The next morning President Taylor announced he had been visited by Joseph Smith and the Lord. He was commissioned to place those men that were present under oath to defend the Principal of polygamy with their lives. He then sat down and wrote the revelation he had received on polygamy. Church leaders declared that they had never seen such a signed revelation from President Taylor. Allegedly 5 men were ordained to carry forth the Principal of polygamy and to ordain others to carry on the work. When Loren Wooley came forth with this revelation the others ordained to carry on this work had passed on, so there were no witnesses to this event. Also, none of these men ever mentioned this event while they were living. Fundamentalists claim that Joseph Musser received this same authority from one of these 5 men. Musser said on May 14, 1929, he was ordained a High Priest Apostle by a High Priest Apostle. This was a new office originating from the Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists claim that the Senior High Priest Apostle is the President of the Priesthood. This office of President of the Priesthood is a different office than the President of the Church. The Fundamentalists split the office of the Church President into the President of the Priesthood and the President of the Church. In a way, Fundamentalists say that the Church abandoned polygamy but the Priesthood did not abandon the Practice which justifies their position. The FLDS became known as one of the most extreme polygamy cults.
The present-day Church does not recognize the Fundamentalists as part of the Church and in fact, any members found practicing polygamy are excommunicated and considered apostates. The Mormon Church use to be called a polygamous cult, but with over 16 million members and being the 4th or 5th largest church in the US and the fastest growing Christian church it could hardly be considered a polygamous cult by today’s standards.
Most of the polygamous groups that broke off from the Mormon Church claim their authority to perform polygamous marriages from Lorin Wooley and his successors. The largest of these groups is known as the FLDS Church, headed by Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is presently serving a prison sentence for marrying and giving in marriage underage girls. There are over 10,000 members with the largest group of polygamy cults living in the twin border towns of Colorado City and Centennial Park City on the Utah Arizona border and is known as one of the largest polygamy cults in the country. When Musser passed away there were two men claiming his authority. One was LeRoy Johnson a member of the Council of Seven, the leadership group of the FLDS Church and Rulon C Allred who was Musser’s naturopathic physician and supposedly picked by Musser to follow him. The group split up with Johnson heading the larger group and remaining in Colorado City and the others following Rulon C Allred, with there headquarters in Bluffdale, Utah. The latter group became known as the Apostolic United Brethren Church.
Two other main but lesser groups are the Kingstons in Davis County, Utah, and the LeBarons and Church of the Firstborn.
In my next blog, I will try and give some information on the organization and some of their teachings that differ them from the Mormon Church.