We left off in Part One of, “I Won and I Lost,” where I was giving some backstory as to a bit of Mormon Fundamentalist history, and as to what my Mormon Fundamentalist family was doing in 1956 in the small mainstream Mormon town of Hurricane, Utah — a town where Mormon Fundamentalists were an enigma.
That is an understatement: We were a thorn in their sides — a reminder of when many of their ancestors lived polygamy until it was outlawed in the United States in 1862, forcing the LDS Mormon Church to officially discontinue it as a church doctrine in 1890. They did so in a written statement referred to as “The Manifesto,” written by the church’s then presiding Prophet, Wilford Woodruff.
Wilford Woodruff was driven to this decision to prevent the LDS Mormons from being thrown off their land once again. The US government was going to take all their money and property, among other things, if the Mormons did not abide by this law banning polygamy. Furthermore, Utah could not become a state in The Union till they did away with polygamy.
Fast forwarding to 1956, by this time, Mormon fundamentalists in mainstream Mormon eyes were seen as undesirables, apostates, renegades, and lawbreakers. Besides that, “Fundamentalists” or “The FLDS,” et Al., were regularly headlined negatively in the news, embarrassing mainline Mormons struggling to live by the laws of the land as well as live down their past stigma.
This pattern continues today: Mormon Fundamentalists give mainstream Mormons a bad rap among non-Mormon societies who confuse them with the Mormon Fundamentalists.
Now getting back to more of my story’s backstory: Hurricane, Utah and other Mormon towns around it are stopping-off places or even new homes for many refugees from the polygamist townships nearby.
Mormon Fundamentalists who leave or escape polygamy, the FLDS dogma, and the control of Short Creek/Colorado City, Hilldale, Centennial Park, and other polygamist towns nearby, hope to make a new life for themselves and their families “Out in the world” –- in other words, outside these renegade and extremist Mormon Fundamentalist strongholds.
So my family was one of the Mormon Fundamentalist families who fled the secluded and strangulating Mormon fundamentalist Short Creek cult and used nearby Hurricane, Utah as a stopping-off point in 1956.
It was a place to get our bearings after going through our governments’ traumatic two-and-a-half-year *Short Creek Raid of 1953.
When the fiasco was over, the state of Arizona released Daddy from jail parole, along with all the other men who chose to go to jail rather than agree to quit living or believing in polygamy, the most important tenet of their religion.
My father and the rest of the Mormon Fundamentalist men in Short Creek knew that their prophet, Joseph Smith, taught that God gave him a revelation commanding “The Saints”/Mormons to live plural marriage or be damned to Hell for all eternity.”
So they’d be damned (pun intended) if they would be caught dead not having more than one wife and all the kids they could produce through this principle! In other words, they chose jail over Hell — or Hell in this life rather than eternal damnation in the hereafter.
Getting back to my story before I digressed, my parents’ plans were to stay in Hurricane ’till Daddy earned enough money to move us to the new Fundamentalist Mormon group they had joined: The Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times. It was headquartered in *Colonia LeBaron, Chihuahua, Mexico.
Two of my mother’s seven brothers, Uncles Joel and Ervil LeBaron, spawned this new extremist Mormon Fundamentalist sect/cult in 1955. I say they both started it for the following reasons:
My Uncle Joel was the self-proclaimed Prophet, claiming to have gotten “the mantle” of the priesthood from his dying father — who claimed to have gotten it from his grandfather, Benjamin F. Johnson — who, Uncle Joel claimed, got it from his “father,” Joseph Smith before he died!
Joel also claimed to have gotten revelations from God and angels who told him he was the Prophet who held the scepter of power to set the Mormon church *back in order. After that, Uncle Joel decided to set up his own church and his brothers Wesley and Floren helped him register it legally.
But his somewhat intellectual and scholarly, though not well-schooled-brother Ervil, was the one who found most, if not all of the scriptures that would support Joel’s claims to be “The One Mighty and Strong.”
(The coming of such a Prophet is spoken about by Joseph Smith in Mormon Scriptures.) Ervil also scribed the doctrinal pamphlets such as “Priesthood Expounded” and was Joel’s mouthpiece — that is, he did the main missionary work and public speaking that got the cult off the ground and onto the map.
In other words, my Uncle Ervil was the golden goose that made Uncle Joel’s “Church” have any success at all. Ironically enough, he was also the one, later on, to do the most to bring Joel’s church/cult down!*
My mother’s other brothers, as well as her father, Dayer LeBaron, had also each claimed to be The One Mighty and Strong Prophet to prepare the world for the return of Christ. However, none of these other cults made it off the ground!
*(You may use your search engine for more information on this 1953 Short Creek Raid. I won’t be getting into it until later on in my memoir blogs.)
*Colonia LeBaron was founded by my grandfather Alma Dayer LeBaron on land my mother and father left him in 1944 when they returned to the United States to live. You may check Wikipedia and others sites for more history, details, pictures, etc., to do with this topic.
* Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/ LDS Church became “out of order,” according to Mormon fundamentalists when President Wilford Woodruff signed The Manifesto in 1890 to do away with Joseph Smith’s revelation that said the Saints must live polygamy or be damned.
* See: “Prophet of Blood,” by Ben Bradlee and Dale Van Atta, “The 4 o’clock Murders,” by Scott Anderson; and “Cult Insanity,” by Irene Spencer.
Also, check my Website’s Menu for “Media on Extended Family Members and Cults;” and “Media on Some Famous ‘n’ Infamous Relatives.”
Note: This ends “Part Two” of my present blog. See “Part Three” for my continuing five-part saga of “I Won and I Lost.”
Thank you for visiting my Website. I’m looking forward to hearing from you. ~Stephany