“The LeBaron Story” is truly a “Vanity Book” — not only because my uncle Verlan LeBaron paid a publishing company in 1981 (back when self-publishing was not the norm) to publish the book — but also because it’s a revisionistic, apologetic, and biased history of “the Mexico LeBarons;” i.e., my grandparents Maud and Dayer LeBaron and their offspring.
What’s more, though my Aunt Charlotte and Uncle Verlan finished and got the book published, they are largely NOT the main authors of it. Truth is, Uncle Verlan was FAR too busy to write a book — even if he knew how — too busy working, traveling around from country to country visiting his ten wives and fifty-plus kids — and running from his brother Ervil who was out to kill him! Aunt Charlotte was about that busy too!
Fact is, MY mother/Verlan’s older sister Esther LeBaron-McDonald de Spencer (who possessed a BA in Journalism) is the one who birthed and did the groundwork for what is now “The LeBaron Story.” She wrote a large part of this book, then turned her “baby” — her manuscript over to Verlan, along with her journals and notes, telling him he could finish and publish her book — could even have all the proceeds from it!
Did she tell them they could have ALL the credit for it too? I know Mother could be ridiculously magnanimous and philanthropic at times. But was she this magnanimous and philanthropic? Even if it were the case, too bad those who published her “baby” didn’t return ANY of her magnanimity and philanthropy. That is, they gave my mother NOT a bit of thanks nor credit for all the work she put into initiating then writing most of “The LeBaron Story” — her gift to Verlan LeBaron and “God’s work.” Nowhere do you even get a suggestion that anyone other than Verlan and Charlotte had anythong to do with writing this text! How sad!!
Turning her book idea and all her manuscript work over to the new head of “The Church of The First Born of the Fullness of Times was Mother’s loving and conscientious effort to help her brother Verlan look good and thereby better “build up the kingdom of God.” And it was her way of paying tithing to extend and defend “God’s work” because Verlan had taken over for her brother Joel F. LeBaron, “The One Mighty and Strong Prophet,” after Joel was murdered by his brother Ervil!
The work of finishing and compiling Mother’s grandiose book was largely done by my Uncle Verlan’s first wife Charlotte who did not know enough of the LeBaron family history to write it without relying heavily upon Info from my mother Esther LeBaron-McDonald de Spencer’s journals and notes!
Therefore, about two-thirds of “The LeBaron Story” came directly from my dear Mum’s half-completed manuscript, notes, and journal entries. I was around when she was writing part of her family history — the Mexico-LeBaron history. Delusional Mumma was so proud of her heritage she thought it MOST mportant the world know about her “saintly family” — the greatest and most holy family ever born into the world — next to Christ … perhaps — through whom “The One Mighty and Strong Prophet Joel LeBaron” was born. (Does this smell of megalomania?)
Mumma talked much about her writing endeavors — the “LeBaron History” she was birthing. Having read part of her manuscript and journals, I recognize her writing voice and input throughout “The LeBaron Story” that makes up a large part of this book.
Therefore, note the two different writer’s voices in “The LeBaron Story”! Anything with beautifully written structured writing, defined paragraphs, quotes, sources listed at the back of the book, etc., is my mother Esther LeBaron Spencer’s writing voice — part of her contribution. Whereas Aunt Charlotte, Uncle Verlan, et Al’s writing voices are in the chapters where everything is run together and there aren’t structured paragraphs, footnotes, etc.
But, even though Uncle Verlan and Aunt Charlotte used large parts of what Mother wrote, word for word — used her material exactly as she had written it — no editing whatsoever — as I said before, they gave my creative, ambitious, giving Mom not one BIT of credit — not one speck of acknowledgment … let alone so much as a howdy-do-dee or thank-you! It’s tantamount to plagiarism … and shameful how Charlotte and Verlan took ALL the credit for Mama’s talent, initiative, education, writing, and hard work!
But getting back to the body of the book, if you were to take the authors’ word for everything, the Mexico LeBarons are/were “a saintly people with a Godly mission.” Well, I beg to differ: Wishing doesn’t make it so. In other words, wishful thinking, such as self-proclaiming oneself as “The One Mighty and Strong,” and claiming one comes from “A Godly people with a Messianic mission” doesn’t make it true.
Much of the book’s lore takes place in Chihuahua, Mexico. Unfortunately, the authors tell the story in the words of true-believing, fundamentalist-Mormon-LeBaron cult members. In other words, it’s a highly biased history with a missionary purpose.
True to their fanatic religiosity, the book was mainly written to proselytize and promote Uncle Joel LeBaron’s cult: “The Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times.” This presupposes a revision — rewritten history, then; i.e., a white-washing of the LeBarons. Thus, it’s myth in the making.
Nonetheless, I was able to glean a bit of useful information from it. So I’m glad the book was written despite the biased viewpoint because nobody else in the immediate Mexico LeBaron family has written a first-hand history about themselves — and it shows how biased they were, some of what their bias was, and how they used it to portray and supplant themselves as God’s only emissaries of “the truth,” His Work, and His Plan. It’s a bias that supports their grandiose sense-of-entitlement and efforts to achieve power, control, and position in the world. Suffice it to say, despite
Suffice it to say, despite “The LeBaron Story” needing a good Editor’s service, it was quite an endeavor and accomplishment on the part of my not well-educated nor well-read but extremely busy country uncle and his wives. All the while they were compiling Mother’s notes and manuscripts, then finishing this chronology, they were ever laboring under heavy pressures and disadvantages such as raising huge families of children while living in backward, primitive conditions–and running for their life. But book-buyer beware … be wary! That’s all I can say!
I was given a copy of this book many years ago when it first came out in 1981– fourteen years after I escaped the LeBaron cult in 1967. After reading the text, the obvious Messianic preaching and purpose, plus the revisionism, white-washing, and grandiose fabrications throughout the chronicle of “The LeBaron Story” got my gut so badly I was on my way to toss the book in the dumpster when two of Uncle Verlan’s daughters dropped in. They believed their father was a prophet, so were very happy to be gifted with “The LeBaron Story.” And I was very happy to get rid of it.
But thirty-six years later, for purposes of my own understanding and research, I had to re-buy the book! Argh! It’s going for around $45.00 in hardback on Amazon.com now. Wonders never cease to amaze me … so I wonder! Well, to each his own … and read on!
I just discovered a most valuable and wonderful Website, “Zelph on the Shelf: Mormons, Ex-Mormons, and Censorship Culture.” I read part of it. So very much look forward to reading more when I have time.
Although I presently believe we are spiritual beings having a physical experience — in other words, I am no longer a Social-Scientific-Thinker — no longer atheist/ agnostic — Nevertheless, “Zelph on the Shelf,” is, in many ways, right up my alley: It’s loaded with super material and input that is brilliant, thought-provoking, informative, well-written, well-documented, and most intelligently presented.
If you are not familiar with this Website, do check it out at ZelphontheShelf.com.
Thank you, “Zelph on the Shelf” for your excellent Website that is helping recovering Mormons like me find camaraderie, answers, and resolve. Yes, thank you so much for the conscientious, humanistic, all-important work you are doing. I love you! ~ Steph
Caveat…The story you are about to read is true and I never killed anyone unless it was a justifiable homicide.
My name is David M. and I am 57. I was born on December 16, 1952 in Mesa Arizona. I am the eldest of 12 children. I am a Sagittarius and I love adventure. My adventure started when I was five years old after my parents Nephi and Anna Mae took me to live in a colony of ex-Mormons in the state of Chihuahua Mexico called Colonia LeBaron. This colony is a small place that is just south of Galeana Chihuahua Mexico and is and just north of San Buenaventura Chihuahua Mexico. This is a colony where they practice polygamy. (I do not practice it.) During my childhood I did not have time to be a kid because the elders had us all in the fields clearing it so they could plant alfalfa, tomatoes, sugar cane and corn. It was difficult time to say the least. By the time I was 9 years old I was taught how to plow the cleared fields behind a mule team and was out there plowing the rows to be planted. That is the way it was between 9 and 12 years old.
During that time my mother left my dad Nephi and married the second in charge of the church called Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times or as call I call it “The Cult.” His name was Ervil LeBaron (Look him up on Goggle) and he had 9 or 10 wives and many children. He was an evil man with the soul of the devil. Ervil hated me with all his might because I was the eldest son of my mother and not a product of him. This is the only explanation I can come up with because before I started rebelling I was an obedient kid. Well because of his hatred for me through no fault of my own I became rebellious and refused to follow his orders and defied him at every turn. One day when I was 12 years old I flat out refused to do something he ordered me to do so he ended up beating me with his fists and kicked me with his feet to the point I lost consciousness. I remember that before losing consciousness I saw my mother standing at the front door of our house watching what was going on and she walked back into the house.
David’s mother, Anna Mae
When I regained consciousness in the dirt street in front of our house I dragged my bleeding body to a hand cranked well where I drew water and washed the blood from my body. It took me a lot of years to forgive my mother for that but I have since forgiven her.
She was caught up looking at Ervil as a living God because she felt he was a Prophet and felt he could do no wrong. Even though my mother says she does not remember the incident I have still forgiven her and moved on from that. I remember while cleaning up the blood from my body I felt such a burning rage sweep through me. I had such pure hatred pulsing through my heart and soul for Ervil that I decided then and there I was going to kill him even if I had to do it with my bare hands. Ervil was a huge man compared to me but I really did not care at that point.
I remember getting a kerosene lamp (We had no electricity) and going down into the dark basement of the house. I was always scared to go down there but this day I was not scared. I rummaged through the boxes and odds and ends looking for something to use to kill him. I eventually found a rusty single shot 12 gauge shotgun and some old shotgun shells. I remember sneaking the shotgun out of the house then going far away from the house where I tested it to see if it worked. I figured out how to load it and boy did it work. I nearly broke my shoulder firing it. I then hid out where I knew Ervil would come by in his truck and waited and waited until he showed up. While I was waiting, something happened to me that to this day I cannot explain. While waiting with this rage which was building and building, I began to feel an intense heat begin to permeate my body.
It started at my feet and worked its way all the way to the top of my head. The sensation was so real I remember being confused and wondering where the heat was coming from. This heat was of such intensity I can only describe it as if one is too close to a raging bonfire and your flesh feels like it is coming off. I dropped the shotgun on the ground and as soon as I did the intense heat dissipated. I picked up the shotgun and took it to a small manmade lake located nearby and threw it in the lake. I believe there was some Devine intervention that day, which stopped me from becoming a murderer, well that is what I think anyway and I am glad I did not kill Ervil even though he was an evil, evil man. After throwing the shotgun into the lake I returned home where I took a blanket and four loaves of my mother’s homemade wheat bread and with the clothes on my back I walked to the highway and hopped a ride never to return.
From the age of 12 until I was 16 years old I roamed alone throughout Mexico working as a cowboy field hand and construction worker. I spent much of my time living under bridges, bushes the stars and in culverts along the highway. Needless to say I had many adventures. (More to plug in here) I eventually ended up in Tijuana Baja California Mexico during winter time. I only had a blanket to keep warm which did not do very well in that respect but it was better than a stick in the eye. I was freezing and hungry and sick with a nagging strong cough. I found myself on a street in Tijuana where all the prostitutes hang out. I walked up and down the street to talking to several of them individually asking them for some food. All but one yelled at me something to the effect “Lárgate Niño malcriado” which loosely translated means “Get the “F” out of here you miscreant child.” One of the women named Maria took pity on me though and got me something to eat and took me to a pharmacy where she paid for some medicine. I remember the guy gave me a shot in my butt which seemed to eventually cure whatever I had.
She bought me a warm coat and let me live with her down at the Tijuana River where back then people lived in board and tarpaper type shacks. It was a filthy place to live but at least I had a roof over my head. I think they have all been torn down now. I lived with her for about 3 or 4 months and she treated me like her little brother. I walked the streets with her to keep my eye on her so she would not get hurt. I think I was 14 years old then. I then left and continued my way down south never to see her again. I wish I knew where she was so I could find her and thank her for helping me in my time of need. I then ended up in a small community just south of Ensenada called either Ejido or Colonia Chapultepec where Estero Beach is located. I ran into a local kid named Felipe on the beach who rented horses to the American Tourists. I hung out with him during the day and at night I lived under an overturned boat on the beach just outside Estero Beach next to a dilapidated bait shack where I later sold salted anchovies to the tourists. I remember one day while walking along the highway in Maneadero Baja California I stopped to rest in an olive grove next to a ditch. I distinctly remember asking myself if being a homeless person was all I was ever going to amount to.
It was at that point I decided I had to somehow find my way to my grandma’s house in Mesa Arizona. All I knew at that point is that I had a grandmother named Hattie in Mesa Arizona and an Uncle Melvin. I said goodbye to my friend Felipe and headed south. While walking along the highway between Maneadero and Colonia Vicente Guerrero one night I decided to sleep in a culvert under the highway. I was out in the middle of nowhere. I had been walking along the highway picking up cigarette butts people had thrown out of their cars and was smoking them. I went down into the culvert and wrapped myself in my blanket and fell asleep. The next thing I remember is hearing these God awful snarling sounds coming from the area of my feet. I woke up and realized that a large pack of coyotes were in the culvert and in the process of attacking me. They must have thought I was a dead body or something and were going to eat me. I probably smelled pretty ripe at that time. When they started biting my shoes and tearing at my blanket I rose up in such a fright I began screaming at them at the top of my lungs. I picked up anything I could lay my hands on and threw whatever I had in my hand at them.
I ran up to the highway and just kept running with a rock in my hand and looking behind me to make sure they were not coming after me. When daylight came I was going to throw the rock away but realized it was a crystal about the size of a half a pack of cigarettes or a little less. I kept that rock all these years and made a small crystal rock necklace with it which I have to this very day. I continued my journey south and ended up in Colonia Vicente Guerrero where I found a job digging for clams at the beach. It was cold work because I had to go out into the surf waist deep early in the morning and dig them out with a garden type pitch fork and put them into a gunny sack. I worked as a clam digger for a while living in a rusted out car next to the sand dunes and ate clams every day. I then headed south again and got a ride in a pickup truck with a Mexican man who ended up dropping me off in the middle of the desert because he was turning off the main highway and going east up into the mountains. There I was, without food and water in the middle of nowhere during the middle of the day. It had been raining so I looked around in the desert for any pools of water may have collected and the only water I found was that which had collected in some cow hoof prints. Of course I drank it.
I found a rattlesnake by accident which I killed with a rock and skinned and gutted with my bare hands because I did not have a knife. I did have matches though which I used to light the cigarette butts I found discarded along the highway. I found some dry grass and started a little camp fire which I used to cook the snake over the coals. I had done that before with jack rabbits I had killed while roaming throughout Mexico. I then found a Cholla Cactus and an Ocotillo bush. I removed several sections from the cactus and Ocotillo with some rocks and sticks to form a ring on the ground so I could sleep in the middle and keep the snakes away from me. I had a restless sleep that night and the next day I was picked up by another Mexican man in a pickup truck and off I went making it to El Rosario Baja California. I remember coming down into the town from the mesa and being dropped off at Mama Espinoza’s Restaurant. There was one of those old gas pumps in front of the restaurant the type where the gasoline was hand pumped into a glass container on top of the pump. I think I was 15 years old then. Back then there were no paved roads that I recall beyond El Rosario. I remember that I was starving and that Mama Espinoza took me in and gave me food and a warm place to sleep.
She treated me as though I was one of her own children. I told her my name was David Martinez because I was an illegal alien in Mexico and did not want to get in trouble. Back then I was a kid and I think I was not expected to have a Mexican Government ID but just the same I did it to be on the safe side. I worked at the restaurant for a time then I went to work at a ranch called Rancho San Juan de Dios located in the mountains south east of El Rosario where Anita’s husband Heraclio Espinoza owned a small ranch. One of Mama Espinoza’s sons and his wife lived on the ranch at the time. Before her son was at the ranch he worked as an abalone diver and wore a hard hat type diving suit to gather abalone. While I was at the ranch an old man came who was hired to build an adobe house next to a water tank and a small stream. One of my jobs was that of helper and had to haul big adobe bricks to him. The man was an alcoholic. I don’t know how, but he managed to keep everything level and plumb. Whatever he was drinking he always put it in his coffee morning noon and night. At night after work he would drink some more and walk along the lonely dirt road in the hills of the ranch singing and yelling. There was nothing around for miles and miles but cactus, wild animals and cows.
One night the old man took off on one of his walks and I fell asleep. I was suddenly awakened and could hear him yelling very loudly from a long way away. It sounded as though he was injured or something. I went to wake up Mama Espinoza’s son at the main house and found he too was awakened by the yells of the old man. We walked for a long distance down the road in pitch black toward the yelling old man. When we found him he was lying on the ground drunk as a skunk with one of his arms over the neck of a calf and singing to it. We dragged him for what seemed like an eternity back to his bunk where he refused to go to sleep and kept arguing that he wanted to go back and sing to the calf some more. We had to hold him down until he finally passed out. The next morning he denied he did any such thing and was pissed at us for making up the story. I wonder what happened to him. After I returned to the restaurant from Rancho San Juan de Dies, one day a young American Tourist traveling alone stopped to buy gas at Mama Espinoza’s in an old World War II 4X4 ambulance wagon. It was still painted in the military green.
He told me that he was going to cross over the mountains to the other side of Baja California and head over to San Felipe Baja California. I told him I was an American and was trying to get to my grandmother’s house in Mesa Arizona. He offered to give me a ride as far as San Felipe so that day I told Mama Espinoza I had to leave. I thanked her for her kindness and left with American who gave me a ride to San Felipe. I got a job in San Felipe working as a dishwasher at a restaurant on the beach north of town. I slept in a small rat infested trailer while working there. I remember the owner had an old, old Toyota Helix pickup truck that we always had to park on a hill to start it by popping the clutch because the starter would not work. One day I got so sick that I remember dreaming that rats were eating me. The next thing I know is I am waking up in the surf and the pickup truck is parked on the beach. I guess I drove it to the beach and jumped into the surf which must have reduced my fever to some degree. I remember an American tourist couple were walking on the beach and pulled me from the surf. I guess I was out of my mind because the next thing I know I was at the local clinic where they paid for my care. I wish I knew who they were so I could thank them.
I had the Hong Cong Flu or something. One day after I felt better and working at the restaurant a shrimp boat captain came to the restaurant from his fishing boat on a smaller boat which he beached and came into the restaurant to eat. I found out he was out of Guam’s Sonora which was on the other side of Bhatia de California and one step closer in getting to Arizona. After explaining my situation and wanting to get to my grandmother’s house in Arizona I asked if he would give me passage to Guam’s which he said he would. I worked for 2 or 3 weeks on the shrimp boat. I remember that for the first couple of days I was so seasick I was in the fetal position in the living quarters. After that I was ok and got my sea legs. The captain dropped me off in Guam’s where I got work with Circus Vargas feeding the elephant and cleaning up their poop. I remember they had such large poops. While working at the circus I found out there was a warehouse near the Port of Guam’s where semi tractor trailer drivers loaded up to head to Nogales Mexico which borders with Arizona. I asked around for passage to the border until one of the drivers finally consented to give me a ride.
He gave me a pack of Raleigh cigarettes and told me to meet him at the warehouse the next morning before light. I camped out near the warehouse next to some trash cans all night long until he showed up at the warehouse then next morning. The trucker gave me a ride to Nogales Mexico. He drove me all the way to the border and pointed out a line of people walking into the United States and told me “Kid get in the line and when you reach the immigration man tell him you are an American Citizen.” I got in line and continued forward with the rest of the people. At the time I was wearing rags for clothes and had cardboard in my shoes to cover the holes in the soles of my shoes. I also spoke better Spanish than English at the time. Well when I reached the immigration guy I told him I was an American Citizen trying to reach my grandmother’s house in Mesa Arizona. For whatever reason he did not believe me, and neither did any of the other immigration guys. They ended up turning me over to the Mexican Immigration who locked me up in the Nogales Mexico Jail. God was I scared. I was in a big cell with many criminals and with only one toilet to go to the bathroom. I spent the night wide awake and never used the bathroom once.
The following day the Chief of Police had me brought to him and asked me what the hell I was doing in his jail cell. I told him about Colonia LeBaron and my homeless travels throughout Mexico and that I was a 16 year old American Citizen just trying to get to my grandmother’s house in Mesa Arizona. God did he raise the roof at the police station with the people who placed me in the jail cell. The Chief made a telephone call to someone and the next thing I know is two Americans came to interview me at the police station. I told them my story and the names of my grandma and uncle and they said they would try to find them for me. For the next 4 months or so I lived at the police station in a small room where they put a cot so I could have a place to sleep. The policemen bought me some new clothes and new shoes and some of them even took me to their house so I could take a shower. I became the official police shoeshine boy, office cleaner and interpreter until my Uncle Melvin showed up with my American Birth Certificate and took me home to my grandmother’s house in Mesa Arizona.
At the Age of 17 I joined the Marines and went to Boot Camp in San Diego California. God only knows how I passed the test to get into the Marines since I had no real formal education before the little I received when I went to my grandmother’s house. At the age of 19 I married a girl while stationed at Marine Barracks, Naval Ammunition Depot Hawthorne, Nevada. Her name is Donna. We were married for 10 years and had 3 children Katrina, David Jr. and Dana. I now have 6 grandchildren. While in the Marines I was a Military Policeman then went on to become a Criminal Investigator with the Criminal Investigation Division. I was sent to Okinawa Japan where I worked with the drug suppression team. We worked closely with the Japanese Narcotics Control Department, which is the Japanese D.E.A. because the Military personnel would trade military equipment and arms with the Japanese Mafia called the Yakuza in exchange for drugs.
One day our team consisting of Americans and our Japanese counterparts entered into an operation against the Yakuza. One of my responsibilities was to be a lookout on the outer perimeter looking for anyone sneaking up from behind us while the assault team entered the building to take down the Yakuza and any military personnel in the building.
I was located in an open raw sewage ditch we called “Benjo Ditches” which is common in Okinawa. What a stench. I had my .45 Caliber pistol locked and loaded in my right hand with several other loaded magazines at the ready. I had just looked back toward the warehouse from my rear when suddenly the hair on the back of my neck rose up. I whirled around my pistol in hand with my elbow tucked into my side and to my horror there was a Yakuza pointing a shotgun at my head from about 10 feet away. It seemed like everything slowed down at that point.
I remember realizing he was not one of the good guys because he was not wearing the yellow pieces of cloth each of the team members tied around their left and right upper arms. This all must have happened in microseconds because as soon as I turned I pulled the trigger as fast as I could and emptied my magazine into the man and he fell dead. I remember that one of the first things I thought about afterwards was that moment many years back when I was going to shoot Ervil LeBaron with the shotgun and wondered if I had shot him would I have survived this shotgun encounter. To this day I wonder if there was a connection with the two incidents. I later had to go before a Japanese Judge where I was exonerated and the incident declared self defense.
After coming home from Okinawa I divorced my first wife and three years later I married a Marine. We had a son who now works for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department as a Corrections Deputy. My second wife the Marine and I ended up going to the first Gulf War called Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. She was in the desert closer to the enemy in Kuwait than I was. She was near Al-Saffaniyah and I was assigned to the Port of Al-Jubayl and was the Chief of Detectives in charge of seven Criminal Investigators responsible for investigating crimes for 75,000 Marines. My wife was an Electronic Repair Technician. We rarely saw one another. Occasionally I would sneak away from the base and drive the one hundred miles at breakneck speeds in my white Crown Victoria to get there before dark. I wore one of those red and white checkered Saudi Arabian headdresses to blend in with the rest of the Saudi Arabians driving on the road. I would bring her things she could not get out in the desert and only had time to spend an hour or so with her. Before heading back I would have to fuel up at the fuel farm from big bladders of “Mo-Gas” and head back on the dirt road at night with my headlights out because they were in black out conditions.
It was a bitch driving in the desert on the dirt road with my head poked out of the driver window trying to keep on the road and going through military check points in a civilian car hoping they would not shoot at me while trying to get back to the highway. Once on the highway though I drove the 100 miles back to Al-Jubayl at 100 miles an hour or higher in that Ford Crown Victoria. I loved that car. I went to see her only a couple of times during my 9 months in Saudi Arabia. When I returned to the states I retired after 23 years and would only drive a Ford Crown Victoria for years up until recently. Since my retirement I started another career as a Criminal Defense Investigator and I work for a county government in California. I have about eight years left before I can retire and get my second retirement. My wife continued on with her career in the Marines and also did two tours in Iraq before she retired this year after serving 30 years. We have been separated for the past 15 years but still live under the same roof. She lives in her side of the house and me in mine. Life continues on. Let’s see where my next adventure begins.
David’s blog on his trip to see Mama Espinoza will follow in a few days.
Investigative Journalist Scott Anderson, Author ofThe 4 O’clock Murders
Scott Anderson’s “The 4 O’clock Murders,” published in 1993, is a must-read for those interested in a documentary of America’s most bizarre but now apparently defunct crime family. The Doc chronicles the history of this extremist cult initiated in the late 1960s by the sociopathic serial killer, Ervil LeBaron. (He was my uncle, no less.)
The cult was largely made up of Uncle Ervil’s fourteen wives and about sixty children, plus a few other staunch followers and their wives and children. He called his cult organization the “Church of the Lamb of God.” But it was, in reality, anything but lamb-like. Ervil LeBaron’s cult was a fundamentalist Mormon-mafioso syndicated crime family cloaked under the guise of religion.
Anderson’s text is the most up-to-date book on this cult. Thanks to his dedicated and daring work, we have an amazing wealth of information and insight to further our research, awareness, and understanding of “Evil Ervil,” and his avenging angels.
I’ve been told the “Ervilites” no longer exist. But that’s not to say another extreme cult of “avenging angel’s” couldn’t or hasn’t risen from its ashes to take up where the “Ervilites” left off. You are with me in hoping that isn’t the case and never happens.
Recently, I read Scott Anderson’s “The 4 O’clock Murders,” only to have my hair stand on end when I realized how little I had ever really known about this horrifyingly horrific, dangerous, and devious band of outlaws.
I’m not proud to say most of them were my relatives. And that it was all spawned by my charismatic and brilliant, but lunatic Uncle Ervil and his treacherous teachings — that included hearing God regularly tell him to “Killthose sons of bitches!”
But maniacal “Mormon Manson” Ervil couldn’t have succeeded in his reign of terror without the dastardly group of mislead miscreant, autistic-like, demented people who followed his violent, crazy, megalomaniac, and malevolent religious philosophy.
The majority of Uncle Joel LeBaron’s Church of the Firstborn followers couldn’t stomach his brother Ervil LeBaron’s violent, threatening, and far-fetched Philosophy of life. Nor did they want anything to do with his domineering, devious, and deceptive ways.
Ervil’s overbearing, self-centered, presumptuous, pseudo-authoritative sense-of-entitlement was hard for most to take — not to mention his nonstop talk, wayward religious doctrines — and his bad breath.
Uncle Ervil’s priestcraft and manipulations drove some of my peaceful Uncle Joel’s followers into frenzied frustration, rebellion, and disillusionment — such that they left Joel’s cult Uncle Ervil had a large role in helping Joel build.
In other words, most of Uncle Joel LeBaron’s followers (myself included) wouldn’t leave Joel’s sect to join the violent renegade, retrograde cult Ervil LeBaron started. (Ervil initiated it after Joel excommunicated him from the “Church of the First Born,” a Mormon-offshoot cult.)
Therefore, you have to wonder about the adults who did choose to follow Uncle Ervil, hook, line, and sinker/stinker (Pun intended) — and even to murder for him!
In 1967, at age twenty-one, I escaped Uncle Joel LeBaron’s cult — just as Uncle Ervil, his right-hand man, and brother, was beginning to preach his own violent, subversive civil-law and blood-atonement doctrine, along with all its mafioso underpinnings.
A few years after I fled “The Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times,” Uncle Joel, as I mentioned above, finally disfellowshipped his brother Ervil from his “church,” due to, among other things, Ervil’s insurrection, insubordination, aggrandizement, and blood-atonement philosophy.
You must read the following books, “The 4 O’Clock Murders,” “Prophet of Blood,”and my recently-deceased Aunt Irene Koonz LeBaron/Spencer’s book, “Cult Insanity,” to know what I’m talking about — if you aren’t already familiar with the LeBaron-Madmen story.
I wish there were an update of this bloody LeBaron Documentary, “The Four O’clock Murders.”Written over twenty-five years ago, much has taken place among the Ervilites, LeBarons, and Joel’s cult since Scott Anderson went out on a limb, putting his life on the line,to chronicle and publish this incredulous history of a vengeful crime family that makes Manson and his “family” seem tame in comparison.
I’m grateful Anderson scribed this well-written Doc. Without his honesty and dedication, I and the world would never have known the extent to which this bloody, Satanic, and ill-begotten cult was willing to go — although we do have the earlier and equally well-written and researched documentary, “The Prophet of Blood,“ chronicled and published in 1981 by Ben Bradlee, Jr. and Dale Van Atta.
These Documentaries may not always be right-on-the-button. But they’re close enough to “Who’s got the button?” The Authors did well, given the difficulty involved in obtaining information. Even ex-cult members usually don’t talk — especially to outsiders. If bits of Info were circumspect, blame the cult members they interviewed!
That said, “The Prophet of Blood,” is a recommended read. It contains historical data not in “The 4 O’clock Murders.”
Scott Anderson’s Documentary published twelve years later, chronicles updated history of the bloody and loony legacy spawned by the maniacal “prophet,” Ervil LeBaron. It’s a pathetic legacy of a “Prophet out for Profit” … out of his mind.
This Memoir, written around thirty years ago, struck me as the work of an immature apologist and revisionist. Its bias toward Uncle Ervil’s cold-hearted cult hangs like a cobweb over the entire tale authored by none other than my Ex-Aunt, the infamous Rena Chynoweth.
That said, the book is still in the public libraries, et Al, but is sadly in need of a rewrite and update. How do I know? Because yesterday I had the fortunate opportunity to meet one of my Uncle Ervil’s more than fifty children, the brilliant, gifted, and beautiful Gabriella LeBaron, soon to graduate from the ivy league Cornell University. (Update: She has graduated now, I assume!)
She told me how Rena had indeed taken in Uncle Ervil’s kids and raised them, chancing her own life and well-being while she helped them get out of Ervil’s cult and become good law-abiding citizens! Hats off to Rena!
This is a long story I hope Gabriela will eventually write, herself. For it is the story of great love, sacrifice, dedication, and redemption — especially on the part of Rena, her husband, and others who helped her, including the invaluable “nonprofit” group, “Discovery.” **
*(Insert: October 10, 2017: See below for what I just “discovered” online about this “Discovery” Organization/ Business! Then you be the judge. All I know is some of my cousins really vouch for what it did for them. But it’s common to leave one cult only to be taken in by another.)
In her old memoir of over thirty years ago, it seemed Rena bragged about and exploited, at times, the soldier part she played in the sad and sordid tale of her serial-killer husband Ervil’s bloody, violent, and psychotic cult. At the same time, though, she ended her book with these words:
“I was given a ‘second chance.’ Maybe God wants to use me to reach those kids [Uncle Ervil’s children]. Because I’ve been through years of intensive self-deprogramming myself, I feel I can help them through my own experiences because I understand their very complicated background.
“They should also receive extensive professional help, guidance, and a chance to be around people who really care what happens to them. Simply putting the younger children in foster homes and hoping for the best is not the way to handle the situation.
They will only run away and return to the lifestyle they always knew, breaking the law and posing a danger to people’s lives. They should not be allowed to grow to adulthood without being given a chance to learn proper values.
“These last remnants of Ervil LeBaron’s flock are still a risk to the rest of society. They are the last ones who may still feel bound by his blood covenant that has claimed so many innocent lives.
They have grown up around violence and violent teachings, and there is grave danger they will pass these values on to their own children. I want the killing to stop. Only by finding those still out there and getting them the help they need can we stop the bloodshed.
“What John, my mother, and I envision is a ranch –- a place where these young people can live with family who loves them, where they can finally have the chance to go to school and church and be able to receive the counseling and guidance that will help them become assets to society.
There are a few of us who are willing to do anything we can to give them a chance. If God is willing, and with His help, we shall succeed.
“If anyone has information that would help us reach out to the LeBaron children please contact … ” Note: Here Rena gave an address and a phone number where she could be contacted. But the resource was around thirty years old, so was likely not worth my posting here, I felt.
But I also had reservations as to how helpful she would be to Ervil’s remnants, given the tone of her memoir. But as of yesterday, April 5, 2016, I learned that she did indeed do a great service to the remnants of Ervil’s children still left in his cult. In fact, Rena and her cohorts are largely responsible for having brought to an end the devious and divisive cult Ervil LeBaron started!! WOW!!
So I am very impressed, now, with Rena — How she not only remade herself but used her personal awakening to help remake and save other unfortunate cult inductees born and raised in my uncle Ervil’s bizarre and dangerous mafioso group.
When her memoir was published, it sounded to me like she had lots of deprogramming and repentance still left in her wake before she could convince me she was no longer caught up in some of the abusive beliefs of “The Lambs of God” and it’s avenging angels.
So I didn’t see how it would be helpful at all to stick Uncle Ervil’s warped children off on some ranch with her and others like her. Besides, that sounded like just another reclusive cult to me. I felt the best way to civilize warped children was to fully immerse them in a much better environment than the one they came from.
I didn’t think it would be beneficial for a messed up and confused band of cult and ex-cult members to all be living together on some ranch with simply more of their own kind who also grew up in their backward, brainwashed, degenerate, and vengeful cult past.
It seemed to me, to best heal and overcome “damaged human goods,” They would need to mix and mingle with a normal and better example of beings — strong people they could emulate and learn from — not some adults who still likely had a lifetime of healing left ahead of them before they fully emerged from their bloody cult mindset and the harm it left within them in its wake.
And, as an aside, I had also recently seen some of the Lambs of God and The Book OfRevelations “Avenging Angels” literature being passed out in my area! It is scary stuff and told me the cult of Ervilites still had its leaders.
Or perhaps it was a take-off from Uncle Ervil’s cult and possibly indoctrinating at least some of Ervil’s progeny. Or it was a new group, altogether, but using Ervil’s teachings and trying to bring converts into its bloody cult under a new “prophet,” now.
But still, I had said, “I would be very happy if Rena, et Al, did have a hand in ending this malevolent cult. Let’s pray that’s the case.” Well, it is and was the case, according to my uncle Ervil LeBaron’s astute and beautiful daughter Gabriela!
As I said, Gabriela told me it was thanks to Ervil’s ex-wife Rena’s loving and devoted care of her ex-husband Ervil’s kids that she, herself, was brought out of her father’s cult mess she had grown up in.
And Gabriela has since become a new person, on her way to doing wonderful service to help make the world a better place! She’s an author, blogger, poet, artist, academic, leader, and more. I’m expecting great things from her in the future — in keeping with the things she is doing now by getting her college degree, etc.
That said, as per Rena’s old memoir “Blood Covenant,” penned over 30 years ago, it’s still a worthwhile read but desperately needs to be fact-checked! Not all is factual. Also, she makes assumptions about a number of serious things that took place in Ervil’s life, as though she were an authority on the subjects. But her assumptions are based only on uneducated and wishful thinking.
For example, she claims “Ervil had nothing to do with the JFK murder.” What does she really know about this? She wasn’t around Ervil or the cult in 1963. I was. Furthermore, she was only a small kid at that time.
Continuing with my criticisms, important parts of “The Blood Covenant” history were conveniently omitted. She wrote more about her girlish romantic escapades and her “middle class” self than anything — though she and her family hardly did fit the sociological definition of “middle class.” “Lower-lower middle class” or “working-class” was more like it.
The chronicle of her life as Ervil’s wife appeared to be largely an attempt to be in the limelight and cash in on the notoriety of her Ex-husband, Ervil LeBaron, so as to make money and be a star — albeit a notorious one. Maybe we can’t blame her?
So, sadly, we were lucky to get three paragraphs about her cold-blooded murder of Dr. Rulon Allred. And the best apology she could come up with, as to the “Lambs of God” atrocities and murders was, “This did not need to happen.”
Here’s what Scott Anderson had to say: “In 1990, Rena published her autobiography, “The Blood Covenant.” The ghostwritten book is rather bizarre, a rewrite of “Perils of Penelope,” in which Penelope has a gun and knows how to use it.
Interspersed with gratuitous digs at her murdered sister, Lorna, and insistent claims to having been a “victim,” Rena offers long and clinically detailed accounts of her many brushes with oversexed male suitors.
The small matter of Rulon Allred’s murder is dealt with in a few paragraphs. In 1979, the baby-faced, eight-months-pregnant Rena had taken the witness stand to tearfully deny any role in the elderly man’s slaying. In her book, and with all the passion of a financial reporter, she admitted to being the killer.” (Author of “The 4 O’clock Murders”)
Suffice it to say, you may find her book worth a perusal just to see how a member of Ervil LeBaron’s self-appointed murder-for-God cult used to think.
But if you want to get a better handle on the real scary scoop, read from start to finish “The 4 O’clock Murders” by Scott Anderson. And “Prophet of Blood” by Ben Bradlee, Jr. and Dale Van Atta.
Note: These books may be he found at public libraries, bookstores like Amazon.com, and possibly on Kindle.
Note: Some entries in the above documentaries are not always exactly right, but hats off to these Author’s for doing as well as they did with a subject that was often hard to get “the truth” about.
And as an added note, this many years later since those books were published, there has been great change and progress in Uncle Ervil’s children and families: True tales of redemption and of what’s amazingly possible in the human spirit, against all odds.
To get an idea of what I mean, read Uncle Ervil’s daughter’s memoir published in March of 2017, “The Polygamist’s Daughter,” available in bookstores everywhere. You may also go to the “University” of YouTube to see interferes of her, and check her website: AnnaLeBaron.com
You may use your search engine to look up people and topics if you wish more information on anyone or anything I mentioned in this blog. Also check YouTube, Wikipedia, and other sites.
The following is an excellent video Documentary on my Uncle Ervil LeBaron and the LeBaron saga.
** 10/17/ 2017 — Look what I just found online regarding the Discovery training group I mentioned above. It’s well worth reading!:
Howdy, all you straight shooters out there. There is another thread on this site detailing the creepy and controlling tactics of the Discovery Cult operating in the Dallas area, but a new year deserves a new thread.
I just got an email from a contact asking me if I still have Info on Discovery. I do! For those of you who have not read my previous posts, myself and some other straight shooters with family members swindled by D had quite a heated exchange with certain misguided cult-goers. They went on to easier targets no doubt. But my contact assures me that they have simply tried to slip back under the radar.
This group (cult) has an upsidedown view on family values. Put quite simply if your spouse attends Discovery “training” and you chose not to go, the Facilitators or TAs will tell them that you can’t be trusted with details of the training and that if they can’t convince you to attend then you don’t care about them, you will never understand them, and in the end they will have to break ties with you – But not to worry cause their NEW family cares about them and will fill the void where their family and friends once dwelled.
I’ll tell you the basic jist so you don’t have to be subjected to the verbal abuse and physical conditioning; ie, withholding of water, food, bathroom breaks, and personal space.
They will pressure your husband, wife, son, daughter, ect., to give members of the opposite sex “PEE-PEE to PEE-PEE” hugs (their term, not mine) and to not share with their “old” family the way that the facilitators verbally abuse and degrade each member of the group as their turn comes, breaking their spirit and reducing them to tears in a public setting for all to witness. They basically make them feel worthless for the first two days and then make nice and become their best friend on the last day.
The owner of this cult has no formal training in this dispicable form of therapy, nor any training — ANY therapy. This Cult is operated by a lawyer and a gas station owner. It’s all on the web, if you care to investigate.
If you are considering going to Discovery training of if someone you care about is thinking about going – INVESTIGATE! They will break them down and put their own twisted values back into the shell that once was your loved one.
NM4Games- WELL SAID! You hit the nail on the head. You have been fed the same cult crap as the rest of us. I wish I had come here before I went to Discovery. You could have saved me much money and much more trouble.
Looks like you have their number. CREEPS!!! I’m still reeling from my experiance. I have lots of questions and a little insight. I’ll send you a message. Keep up the good work
What made you realize Discovery was a scam? You are lucky to get out with your mind still intact. They are still registered as Discovery Training Ministries LLC with the IRS, although they don’t include that info on their website.
EC, I have read your comments and the other comments by the creeps from Discovery. They are all so completely fooled by the mind games and BS being fed to them by Lowder and his ilk! I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for me 🙂
I wasted a lot of money on that crap and I have more problems now than I did before. Actually, my old problems are probably small compared with the new issues I picked up at Discovery. I am practically broke after completing two “classes.” I was approached about helping to pay for another classmate’s tuition shortly after my first class. I had never seen the mean-spirited money-hungry side of the facilitators until I told them that I could barely afford to go to D2 myself.
They were completely different after they saw that I wasn’t going to sign my life away. I was willing to give everything (spiritually) that I had, but I think the money thing really pissed them off. At D2, they kept making references to selfishness and self-centeredness when I would come around. Now I can see them for what they are. A business! I wish I had seen this thread before I wasted my money. Has anyone ever sued a group like that and recouped their money?
At D2, they kept making references to selfishness and self-centeredness when I would come around. Now, I can see them for what they are. A business! I wish I had seen this thread before I wasted my money. Has anyone ever sued a group like that and recouped their money?
Notmuch4games, good to see you are still in the fight! I too will remain to educate people just how evil Discovery is.
Straightup, it is crazy how the people become total believers. I refused to contribute to D2 (financially), and it looked like my Ex would stop going but low and behold one of her new “family” came forward and paid for the entire weekend, including gas money! They sent her a lot of emails and cards trying to shame her into signing up for the next training. It was all about sending money to Discovery. But she couldn’t see that.
They sent her a lot of emails and cards trying to shame her into signing up for the next training. It was all about sending money to Discovery. But she couldn’t see that.
I am glad you didn’t become one of those zombies!
There is an entity called the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (http://www.tsbep.state.tx.us.html). Here is their mission statement:
“The mission of the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists is to protect the public by ensuring that psychological services are provided to the people of Texas by qualified and competent practitioners who adhere to established professional standards.”
They exist to regulate the practice of psychology in the state of Texas. That also encompasses investigating people or companies practicing psychology without a license. I feel Discovery Training uses methods which could be considered practicing psychology.
A person can file a formal complaint against anyone who they feel is practicing psychology without a license. Maybe if enough people come forward the gas station owner and lawyer might get investigated?
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/03/2008 07:40AM by Enviro_Cop.
I filed some paperwork, but I was advised that the lawyer that helps run this scam had all the language just true enough to not be fraudulent. Discovery works very hard at giving a legitimate, even benevolent appearance to the mental, emotional, and even physical abuse administered at the hands of it’s facilitators. Anyone who has had dealings know that this group is anything but legit. They brainwash their members, alienate them, and then squeeze all of the money they can out of them.
Anyone who has had dealings know that this group is anything but legit. They brainwash their members, alienate them, and then squeeze all of the money they can out of them.
I actually called the “Ewing Ranch” of Dallas fame where D holds it’s abuse siminars and spoke to the site manager. He was quite shocked at my claims about the D cult. He seemed unsure of the validity of my Info, so he gave me his email address and I sent him a condensed version of my file on Lowder and his cult.
I noticed that Discovery’s website now has them meeting at the Dallas Doubletree. Hope I did that! 😉 When I have time, I’ll speak to the GM at Doubletree too. I actually stay at that particular hotel when I’m on that side of town.
Straightup, hang in there. Your mind has had bogus and hairbrained ideas inserted into it by invasive methods. You will slowly start to regain the person who went to the brainwashing siminar. All of the old issues will still be there, but they are YOUR issues and YOU are the only with the solution. There is no GAS STATION OWNER, NO LAWYER, and no magic pill that will solve yours mine or anyone else’s problems. Discovery in Dallas is selling magic beans, and people are still buying the crap. STOP DISCOVERY CULT NOW! Keep your loved ones away from cults (LGAT, Discovery, etc.)
All of the old issues will still be there, but they are YOUR issues and YOU are the only with the solution. There is no GAS STATION OWNER, NO LAWYER, and no magic pill that will solve yours mine or anyone else’s problems. Discovery in Dallas is selling magic beans, and people are still buying the crap. STOP DISCOVERY CULT NOW! Keep your loved ones away from cults (LGAT, Discovery, etc.)
Hope everybody is staying away from Discovery and other cults out there. Just send me a message if anyone has questions about D. I am happy to tell what I know to anyone with an interest. Keep up the fight, guys. Maybe someday the authorities will “discover” what many of us already know: DISCOVERY IS A CULT AND IT DESTROYS FAMILIES FOR MONITARY GAIN. God bless!
I really wish I had seen this forum before last weekend: My friend made me go.
I am definitely a “changed” woman! I’ve never been more depressed in my life. The sickest thing is, I am NOT one to be swayed by this kind of thing. Or at least I never thought I was….but on Sunday, I was all about this damn thing. Telling my friends to go and everything. It took a long, long discussion with one of my more rational friends to realize what had happened. This whole damn thing is sick, and I’m so angry about it. Is there anything we can do to stop it? I feel so used.
I do not know anything of this cult but I do feel like giving some advice: Do not blame yourself. Always stay positive and hang out with that rational friend of yours. I believe that we can learn from ALL things good and bad……I bet this will make you a much stronger person in the long run. Be good to yourself and smile always.
My book review of “It’s Not About the Sex” My Ass: Confessions of an Ex-Mormon Ex-Polygamist Ex-Wife (Kindle Edition)
I don’t usually do book reviews, for lack of time. But this book was so good I listened to it straight through, on Audible — and am listening to it again, for the third time, right now. And also bought the book!
I am an Ex-FLDS, Ex-polygamist wife, Escapee of my Uncle Joel LeBaron’s Mormon fundamentalist cult … and a recovering Mormon. So I found the story, humor, and satire in this superbly-written Memoir extra hilarious. I could well relate to it all firsthand! That’s putting it mildly: I about split in half laughing at these clever writers’ tongue-in-cheek asides and observations of life in polygamy and a Mormon fundamentalist cult!
I am still so rebbed up from this excellent, well-written book I listened to from start to finish, non-stop, that I’m following it up with this review — to help me come down from my high, after the great marathon read/listen!
I want to say it is one of the best books I’ve ever read/listened to — It’s a classic. The narrator, also, couldn’t have been better! I only wish I had words and time to give it the best review any expert writer could give it.
It not only is a true view of what polygamy and Mormon cults are all about but gives some good advice, too, on how to avoid one — or how to get out of one if you find yourself in one.
I have an aunt who, after her husband (my Uncle Ervil LeBaron) died, joined Harmston’s group — the cult Joanne Hanks and her husband had belonged to then left. After many years, now, of being married to Harmston, my aunt unfortunately still believes he’s “The One Mighty and Strong”/a prophet! So kudos to the author and her husband for seeing through Harmston’s cult — before it could “Harm” (pun intended) her and her husband anymore — and for having the wherewithal to finally leave!
A sister of mine says Harmston’s clan is worse and more dangerous than was the cult of the psychotic serial killer “Evil Ervil” — “The Mormon Manson”! I’m still wondering about this. For I have not heard anything in the news, so far, nor in “It’s Not About the Sex” My Ass!” to tell me Harmston is a dangerous psychotic megalomaniac murderer like my uncle Ervil was. Though I read recently that Harmston does preach “blood atonement.”
Perhaps it was safer to not tell all that. But thanks, Joanne Hanks and Steve Cuno, for writing this book! Your words, insight, and humor have helped me in my healing journey. And it will also help and has already helped many others who’ve read or listened to your superbly written top-rate Memoir.
NOTE: The following essay is my Book Review of “The Sound of Gravel,” a Memoir by Ruth Wariner, a first cousin of mine.
(“Wariner” is Ruth’s mother’s maiden name. My Uncle Joel LeBaron was Ruth’s father.)
By Stephany Spencer: In the past year, I’ve read once and listened three times, so far, to Ruth Wariner’s best-selling book/audiobook, “The Sound of Gravel.” It has gotten higher ratings from me with each new read or listen. So I’ve found it pays to read or listen to a book more than once!
With my first read, I deemed the book “Not what I expected.” I grew up much the same way she had, so I had preconceived notions of what it would or should be about. Ruth is my mother’s brother’s daughter and my first cousin. It took going through her Memoir a second time, as an audiobook too, to be able to say:
“You go, cousin Ruth! It’s a well-written Memoir that should be read as well as listened to at least two times by everyone who thinks Mormon cults are ‘Just people exercising their freedom of religion.’ “
This well-scripted book gives you some idea of what “people just exercising their freedom of religion” do to the kids born into these Mormon fundamentalist cults! I should know: I grew up in, then escaped fifty years ago, this same cult Ruth was raised in!
People raised in abusive, traumatizing childhoods often split/revert into themselves when anything goes wrong in their life. I learned from the late Dr. David Viscot that feeling sorry for one’s self is a form of splitting.
Children and adults from abusive backgrounds may often do this pity-potty-party thing in an effort to protect themselves, and to better handle a bad situation. However, it only leads to despondency and depression.
Thanks to Ruth’s Memoir, she’s taught me to replace despondent thoughts with the song/mantra: “Count Your Many Blessings.” I grew up singing this song. But I didn’t realize, till I read and then listened to Ruth’s book for the third time, that this is what I needed to do to keep a good spirit with me.
Singing “Count Your Blessings “reminds me to start adding up all my blessings instead of my cursings. I’ve found it’s the best way — the proactive way to avoid depression, negativity, and feeling sorry for myself in the face of traumatic situations: Aging, for example!
Now, whenever dark clouds threaten to rain on my sunshine, I quickly remember to say or sing: “Count your blessings, name them one by one.” For there is no end to the blessings that have been bestowed upon me in my life, despite all the bad things I’ve had “bestowed upon me,” also — and survived!
I grew up singing the song, “Count Your Many Blessings, “just as my cousin Ruth had. But I had not gotten well the lesson Ruth’s mother, Kathy, taught Ruth when she consistently and quickly alwaysreminded her daughter to “count her blessings” — no matter how bad things were!!
At first, this seemed like a silly thing for Ruth’s mom to incessantly say, in the face of all the mire and dire adversity Ruth and her family constantly lived with. But now I realize Ruth’s mother, Kathy, had learned from her upbringing a good lesson that she passed down to her own children:
Counting one’s blessings chases out helplessness, hopelessness, blame, negativity, depression, and feeling sorry for oneself. It turns the frown upside down into a smile, and supplants downsides with a positive upside attitude and action: The best prescriptions for surviving any bad situation.
Thank you, Ruth, for passing this lesson on down to me — along with many other lessons you have taught that bring others up through the blessing of your outstanding Memoir — your valuable gift to the world. I am looking forward to your next book. Write on!
*Count Your Many Blessings
1- When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Refrain: Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
*Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
[*And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.]
2- Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by
3- When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings money cannot buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
4- So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.
By Johnson Oatman, Jr., 1897
*(This song is in hymn books and online.)
*The following video gives insight into Mormon fundamentalism and how I and Ruth were raised — and what we escaped.
By Stephany Spencer: My Book Review of my cousin Anna LeBaron’s Memoir: “The Polygamist’s Daughter”
Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., I was honored with a complimentary ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of cousin Anna LeBaron’s bravely written book, “The Polygamist’s Daughter,” published March 21, 2017.
Regarding Anna’s Memoir, I was disappointed she didn’t tell us more about her miscreant father, “Evil Ervil,” (the murderous “Mormon Manson”). Also wish she had gone more into the details of her “running away from home.” (I would not have cared if the book were longer!)
As it was, her book said very little about her colorful father. And her “running away” was simply to call her married sister to take her in — a sister within walking distance, no less. Still, I have to give her credit for having had the sense and courage to run away at the tender age of thirteen, no less! For having run away, she might even very well have been killed by the cult she fled!
Even so, in essence, her book was milquetoast for me, in comparison to what was really going on in her family and father’s violent cult that drove her to flee the abusive and corrupt lifestyle. However, I realize she was between a rock and a hard spot when it came to relating this treacherous past.
Furthermore, she was so very young when much of the treachery happened within her family’s cult that she apparently didn’t know much about it — and maybe still doesn’t know that much — and doesn’t want to know that much. But there are a number of good books on the subject. They are just hard for my Uncle Ervil’s children to take in and accept. I do understand that!
I, an old veteran of much of that history, also realize that if she were totally up front, it would possibly compromise her present and future — and her amazing success and redemption in surviving her malevolent past. To give Anna credit, she is such an example of the human spirit and its ability to survive and rise above every adversity handed it.
Her father is my mother’s brother. And was my husband’s buddy/ boyfriend for ten years — so I knew him well … as well as you could know a devious and manipulative man like my Uncle Ervil LeBaron for whom I had felt much love, respect, and reverence till he went off the deep end in his jealous and murderous power-pushing psychopathy.
Presently, I feel mostly pity, shame, and disgust for my dangerous but now-deceased charismatic zealot evil uncle who, though mentally ill, sociopathic and revengeful, nonetheless, had a lot of people convinced he was a prophet.
To better understand that whole scenario, read “Cult Insanity” by Irene Spencer;” “Prophet of Blood,” by Ben Bradlee, Jr. and Dale Van Atta. And “The 4 O’clock Murders,” by Scott Anderson — among other books on this history.
Also, here, on my Website, you might want to read my book reviews of these above books. Plus, listen to YouTube documentaries and interviews on Ervil, the LeBarons, and Mormon fundamentalist polygamists. They give great background and insight into what Anna LeBaron was brought up in. But you won’t find it in her book.
To further understand this whole bizarre LeBaron crime family mafia scene, check Wikipedia and other online Info about Ervil LeBaron, including my Website Menu bar under “Media About my Family, Friends, and Mormon Fundamentalist Cults.” And “Famous ‘n’ Infamous Relatives of Mine.”You could, as well, watch the excellent film, “Prophet of Evil,” starring Brian Dennehy.
Getting back to Anna LeBaron’s Memoir, “The Polygamist’s Daughter,” everyone in the LeBaron Colony in the 1960’s saw how Uncle Ervil went about preaching and “doing missionary work,” totally indifferent toward his nine neglected children he had already born at that time by his first wife, my beautiful but bipolar Mexican peasant Aunt Delfina.
These indigent kids were left to roam the streets, starving, and unkempt — not to mention his fifty or more other deprived, depraved, and abandoned children he bore by his additional thirteen way-out wives he added to his harem as time went on and the LeBaron cult grew and developed — and he and his wives taught their children to be murderers!
So it hurt to the quick to hear, firsthand, in Anna’s Memoir how it felt for her to be so badly neglected and used by her non-empathetic, uncaring, sense-of-entitlement, narcissistic father!
But when I then readhow Ervil’s unloved and abused daughter Lillian died, I grieved for days. She was one of Aunt Delfina’s darling children whom, when Aunt Delfina was depressed and mentally ill, I had helped look out for while I lived near them in the LeBaron Colony in Mexico before I escaped the cult in 1967 at age twenty-one.
Sweet Lillian was only around five or so, then. And I don’t believe Anna had been born yet. But I had lived across the street from her jolly mother with the beautiful singing voice, Aunt Anna Mae Marston/ AKA LeBaron.
Therefore, though I wish Anna had gone more into depth about her very colorful past life, I’m proud of her efforts and the work she put into writing and publishing all that she did of her Life Story. The world benefits by knowing “The unspeakable.”
I’m sure her tragic memories were anything but easy to have to relive in order to put into print. But I get a sense she is protecting her 50+ siblings and other relatives by not revealing more of her early upbringing and beliefs. (There is much meat only she and her siblings could tell an amateur social-psychologist like me. But she kept it from us.)
As for her story, I felt it finally picked up in the latter part where she began to shoot a little from the hip. I especially found it enlightening and helpful when she went into detail about how she overcame a bout of deep depression.
I benefited, also, when she told of her epiphany that gave her a new lease on life — a greater purpose for living. She is presently a Life Coach. And works to help improve the world — just the opposite of what her father did!
Though her father preached that he was “Here to set the house of God in order, to prepare it for the second coming of Christ,” in reality, he did just the opposite of everything he preached and claimed: He was really here “to set the Devil’s house in order” … and prepare the world for a living Hell!
Like her father Ervil, Anna LeBaron is bright, a writer, and a leader.Unlike her father, she exhibits integrity, sanity, empathy, and a loving, giving spirit. So my hat goes off to Anna! She has come a long way, met redemption, made a lot of good choices, and overcome a lot.
I look forward to her next book — but only if she is deep enough and feels safe enough to shoot from the hip — all the way — and “tell all.”
For me, a person that grew up in the LeBaron cult her father helped build, that would be a much more helpful, healing, and insightful sociological study and book — not mishmash but well worth my precious time and money to buy and read.
An afterthought: Possibly, “The Polygamist’s Daughter,” given its book cover and all, was mostly meant for the children’s and “Young Adults” section of the library.
In that case, it didn’t need great depth of insight and information — the likes of which an older informed and astute adult like me (who’s read over one-hundred books about/ written by Mormon fundamentalist cult escapees and authorities) would likely be looking for.
In 2017 I bought and read, on Kindle, “Maud’s Story,” a 2013 self-published “Vanity Press” book written by my Aunt Charlotte LeBaron (My Uncle Verlan LeBaron’s first wife).
It’s a short biography of Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron. that consists mostly of a published collection of letters supposedly written by her* — and some run-together, often hard-to-decipher paragraphs/vignettes “in Maud’s own words.”
It appears, at the time of this book’s writing, Aunt Charlotte still belonged to “The Church of the First Born.” Her“Maud’s Story,” contains a revised version — a rewrite of the history of the Joel-LeBaron-Prophet saga, wherein she turns the tale upside down — and him into a martyred Prophet. Thus, she shows, though not intentionally, how religious myths are made.
As a word of clarification, Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron is my maternal grandmother, of whom I am “the spittin’ image” (I was always told this while growing up). In fact, the above photo of her looks so much like me at that age, I look at it and think it’s me. I can’t tell the difference!
Needless to say, Grandma Maud LeBaron was special to me. So when I saw, on Amazon.com, Aunt Charlotte had published her story, I spent $4.00 … and three hours reading it. Such was its brevity. That includes the manytimes I had to re-read parts, attempting to understand what the heck had been said.Suffice it to say, the book was no bargain. And left me wanting more. It is supposed to be Grandmother LeBaron’s story but many of the tales Grandma used to tell me about her life are not in the book.Nevertheless, nobody else has published anything about my Grandma Maud. So I’m glad Aunt Charlotte wrote as much as she did. “If you don’t like how the story was written, write it yourself,” they say.
Still, I resent she used my Grandmother matriarch Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron’s story to draw in Grandmother’s progeny, relatives, and others, so as to promote her’s (Charlotte’s) and Uncle Joel’s Church of the Firstborn doctrine — a la Charlotte LeBaron’s viewpoint. In that sense, “Maud’s Story” really should be renamed “Charlotte’s Story.”
But to give Aunt Charlotte some credit, though I was disappointed “Maud’s Story” wasn’t imbued with more of Grandmother’s colorful history, she includes in her booklet numerous short vignettes which I’ve coined: “Quotes from Grandma’s Notes.”
Perhaps, to get more of Grandmother’s history, Charlotte expects us to read “The LeBaron Story,” a manuscript largely written by MY mother Esther LeBaron Spencer — though Charlotte helped her husband (my Uncle Verlan LeBaron) compile, finish, and publish Mother’s work. Nonetheless, this book strikes me as an apologists’ story and largely written to preach the Church of the Firstborn doctrine.
Other criticisms I have are: The book’s general flavor is biased and provincial. It appears to me to have been written with an attempt to whitewash and glorify the Alma Dayer and Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron family and to make “The Mexico LeBarons” look like “a Godly family with a saintly mission.”
I find its covert preaching of the Church of the First Born dogma distasteful — especially the revising of its doctrine and history to make it more palatable than it was when my Uncles Ervil and Joel LeBaron first spawned this sect/cult in 1953—a take off from their brother Ross Wesley LeBaron’s cult who had been inspired by his oldest brother Ben LeBaron’s cult.
To be sure, Aunt Charlotte has rewritten history in “The LeBaron Story” and “Maud’s Story” so as to turn Uncle Joel into a Prophet, Saint, and Martyr — And his untimely murder into “A Modern-Day Cain and Abel Story.” But there is a lot more to this dirty tale than meets the eye. So “Charlotte’s Story” is as much myth in the making as it is history.
My final thoughts on “Maud’s Story” are: Grandmother should have given a sermon or two in church if she was as erudite and well-versed in the cult’s dogma as she appears to be in Charlotte’s short biography where Charlotte uses Grandmother Maud to preach Joel’s dogma.
In truth, Grandmother was a musician and homemaker… no Scriptorian! She left the preaching and proselytizing up to leaders in the cult. Preferred to be in the kitchen cooking and feeding people, when she wasn’t teaching piano lessons.
Perhaps Aunt Charlotte doesn’t know it but William Preston Tucker (my husband at the time) and my uncle Ervil LeBaron put their heads together to write a good part of those letters Charlotte says Grandma wrote to Spencer W. Kimball!
I was there at the time. I recall these two leaders of the LeBaron Church/ cult talking about how they could use Grandma Maud as a ploy to get the President of the LDS church to read their [LeBaron cult] literature because she had grown up with Spencer W. Kimball.
They figured he would read a letter from her, though not literature from her sons and their LeBaron dogma. (So they were sneaking up on Pres. Kimball by way of his old friend Maud.)*
Suffice it to say, Aunt Charlotte wasn’t honest about the story of how my Uncle Joel became the self-proclaimed “One Mighty and Strong.” Therefore, I can’t trust anything in her book. I know for sure, for example, Grandmother Maud DID NOT write most of those letters Charlotte credits her with.
You only have to look at Grandma’s “Notes ‘n’ Quotes” Charlotte wrote “in Grandma’s own words” to get a good example of how Grandmother wrote. When you compare “Grandma’s words” to those eruditely-written letters to Spencer W. Kimball, you can easily see they were NOT put together by Grandma LeBaron.
Though I could say more, I’ll close with: Should anyone ever do a reprint of “Maud’s Story,” please get a good Editor to go over it beforehand. Also, do not run Grandmother’s “Notes ‘n’ Quotes” together as if they were one organized piece. They’re not!They are short vignettes and should be separated as such. That way, the reader isn’t hoping to find the rest of the tale/”tail” in the next paragraph, only to find themselves hanging — for a whole new tale has taken up!*”Ghost writing“/ deception was the name of the game when I was sequestered in the LeBaron cult in the 1960s: The sect’s two leading Scriptorians, My Uncle Ervil LeBaron and William Preston Tucker (my former husband) would write the exposé or such. Then publish it with whatever name or signature they thought would most impress and be most likely to convert those receiving the literature or letter.
(Comments transferred from Facebook”:)
Says Moira Blackmore:
I knew Maud, she went out of her busy days by visiting me all alone in Galeana with my 4 baby girls, and when their were shooting guns in my back neighborhood… thank you Steff … I love you, Maud, I love Charlotte as well, years later …