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 Brethrenwhich 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.
If you have any additional information you would like to share, please advise.
After the Church abandoned the Practice of Polygamy there were those members who would not accept the Manifesto and continued practicing polygamy or plural marriage. When Joseph Smith introduced the principal a great deal of resistance and opposition was encountered from those to whom this revolutionary doctrine was taught. Most, if not all, who first entered the system did so reluctantly and after a great deal of soul-searching. Ironically, when the practice of polygamy was officially discontinued in 1890, many who had taken plural wives found for them the discontinuance was as bitter as the commencement had been for their forerunners. Polygamy died a hard death in the Church. It was several years before absolute civil or ecclesiastic enforcement could be seriously attempted. There were some who could never accept the change but continued living plural marriage in spite of the Church.
Available information indicates the beginning of the organized group now known as the Fundamentalists began in 1929. Lorin C Wooley alleges that on September 22, 1886 that he and five associates laid the foundation for this work by relating an account of meetings and activities alleged to have been conducted by President John Taylor. There was an alleged revelation given to Church President John Taylor indicating that one day a document similar to the manifesto would be given to the Church and would be followed by much apostasy and discord.
According to Wooley he and five other men were set apart and ordained to see that no year passed without children being born in plural marriage. They were also given authority to ordain others so that the work would never cease. By 1929, when Wooley first made public his claims, he was the only survivor of these six men. Not one of the other five remained to corroborate or refute his story. Among the believers Wooley ordained several to the same office he claimed for himself. These included Leslie Broadbent, John Y Barlow and Joseph Musser. After Wooley died he was succeeded by Broadbent the senior member of the High Priest Apostles, for which they called themselves. After Broadbent’s death he was succeeded by Barlow. At that time, Eldon Kingston claimed to be Broadbents successor. Kingston claimed to have received visions and revelations and declared himself as the successor to Broadbent. Kingston was not accepted by the Fundamentalists generally, and went into the mountains east of Bountiful with his followers to fast and pray for the restoration of the Priesthood. He claimed that the Priesthood had been lost by the Fundamentalists for not following him.
John Y Barlow died in 1945 and was succeeded by Joseph W Musser. Musser was in ill health, and as a result friction developed, especially when Musser ordained Rulon Allred, a natual[pathic doctor, as a High Priest Apostle. There had been some ill feelings between Allred and other members of the council, charging Allred with having taken advantage of Musser, as he cared for Musser during his illness. This friction increased as Musser called Allred as a counselor. As a result, the council eventually split, with Musser and Allred leading one group and most of the council and followers remaining in the original group. When Musser died, Allred took over leadership of one group and LeRoy Johnson became the leader of the larger group in Short Creek or Colorado City as it is now called The main difference between these two groups is the authority, The larger group or FLDS have stricter control. The boys allegiance is to their priesthood leaders and not their fathers and planned marriages are replacing courtship.
The FLDS are presently headquartered in Colorado City [Short Creek} and are led by Warren Jeffs, who is serving a life sentence for marrying and giving in marriage young girls 12 to 16 years of age. The AUB or Apostolic United Brethren is headquartered in Bluffdale Utah just outside of Salt Lake City. Lynn A Thompson currently leads this group. Another group called The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ is headquartered in Manti Utah and is led by James Harmston. Harmston has since passed away.
These are the main polygamous groups in Utah. There are other groups that are smaller that do entertain polygamy. In the FLDS group, my biggest concern is child abuse in the forcing of marriage on young girls and robbing them of their youth and innocence. Also, many young boys are evicted from the colonies, so their fathers will not have competition for the young girls. The boys with little experience or knowledge of the outside world are forced to fend for themselves and thus are exposed to drugs and prostitution. In the next article, I will try and differentiate between the main groups. If you have any comments or opposing feelings I would like to hear from you.
BUY OR REVIEW AWARD WINNING BOOK ON POLYGAMY HERE.
MORMON POLYGAMY DIES OFFICIALLY IN 1904, HOW IT BEGAN & ENDED
Mormon polygamy officially ended in 1904. I do not speak for the Mormon Church and these views are my understanding of why the Practice was abandoned. The private practice of Mormon polygamyoriginated with the Prophet or founder of the Church, Joseph Smith. In the 1830’s Joseph claimed a revelation from God restoring the practice of polygamy. His wife Emma would not accept the revelation. It is probably for this reason that Joseph did not live with any of his alleged plural wives, but had these wives sealed to him as spiritual wives to be with him in Eternity. It is questionable as to whether he had any relations with these spiritual wives. One of the wives did tell her daughter she was a child of Joseph Smith, but whether she meant she was a spiritual child [sealed to Joseph and the mother] or a physical child fathered by Joseph, the report is silent. Other than this allegation, it does not appear that he had any children from these spiritual marriages.
Because the Practice was generally abhorred by the early members of the Church, the practice was private and involved only a few of the leaders in the Church. Also with the word getting out to some non Mormons, persecution began to be leveled against Smith and others. Many believe that this is one of the reasons that the Prophet was eventually murdered while in the Carthage jail. Although the Practice became more acceptable among the members as time went on, it was not until after the Saints arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1852 that Brigham Young acknowledged publicly the practice of plural marriage or polygamy. It is alleged that only 20 to 30% of the members practiced polygamy.
When allegedly God condoned this practice why would he later revoke this practice? There are those who say the Practice served its purpose by providing homes and support for woman whose husbands died due to hardships while crossing the frozen plains in the dread of winter. These men had to push handcarts across the frozen plains and many times gave their food and clothing to their wives and children rather than let them starve or freeze to death. Many say the Practice gave growth to the infant Church and gave it a solid foundation. Others say that the Practice was stopped so Utah could attain statehood. While these reasons may each have some validity, the Church was faced with its immanent destruction due to the persecution from the Government and enemy’s about. The Mormon leaders were given little choice if they did not abandon polygamy, fearing federal confiscation of its sacred temples and property.
The Church leaders were concerned with the increasing persecution coming from the Government. As a result in 1890 , the President of the Church Wilfred Woodruff, claimed he received a vision showing what would happen to the Church if the Practice was not ended.
As a result of the purported revelation, the Manifesto was drawn up and given to the membership of the Church. This stopped the practice of a man marrying more than one woman. There were those who would not accept the Manifesto and they continued with the Practice. In or around 1904 the Church began excommunicating members who would not accept the Manifesto and continued marrying additional wives. These excommunicated members started the splinter groups of which the FLDS Church is the largest group with headquarters in Colorado City, on the border of Utah and Arizona. Warren Jeffs, who is currently in Prison for marrying child brides, is the leader of this group. The second largest group headed by the Allreds is called the Apostolic United Brethren and its headquarters is located in Bluffdale, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.
On its web site the Church states that “the standard doctrine of the Church is monogamy” and that polygamy was a temporary exception to the rule. In the Book of Mormon Jacob 2, verse 27 the Lord tells the people they are to have only one wife and concubines none, and then in verse 30, the Lord tells them “For if I will raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall harken unto these things,”
In the next blog I will give more information on the splinter groups, on there organization and beliefs. If you have any questions or opposing views I would like to hear from you.
BUY OR REVIEW AWARD WINNING BOOK ON POLYGAMY HERE.