Polygamy
The Mormon Enigma
A Chronology of Modern Polygamy
1835The Article on Marriage is published. Among other information, it states, "… we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again." (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 2:247.)
1843The revelation on celestial marriage contained in Section 132 of The Doctrine and Covenants is recorded by Joseph Smith.
1846A large contingent of Mormons are in Winter Quarters on the banks of the Missouri River. They are in the process of being driven out of Nauvoo, Illinois, and migrating to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Although some are living in polygamy, it has not been publicly acknowledged.
1849The petition for the State of Deseret is rejected by Congress.
1850A geographically smaller Territory of Utah is approved with Brigham Young as the Territorial Governor. Young is known to have multiple wives.
1852Brigham Young publicly reveals the revelation on celestial marriage (Section 132 of The Doctrine and Covenants) in a Special Conference of the Elders of the Church. Orson Pratt, an LDS apostle, delivers a public discourse wherein he describes the doctrine as a "great, sublime beautiful and glorious doctrine." Brigham Young in the afternoon session of that conference declared that it was "one of the best doctrines ever proclaimed to any people." (Deseret News — Extra, Great Salt Lake City, U.T., September 14, 1852, pp. 22, 25.)
1853Orson Pratt publishes The Seer in Washington D.C., which contains Joseph Smith's revelation on plural marriage. (Orson Pratt, The Seer, January 1852.)
1856The abolishment of the "Twin Relics of Barbarism, Slavery and Polygamy," is selected as the Republican party's national platform. (Orma Lindord, "The Mormons and the Law: The Polygamy Cases," Utah Law Review, 312.)

The second proposal for Utah's statehood is rejected.

1862The third State of Deseret constitution is written as a bid for statehood. The bid is rejected by Congress, but the State of Deseret continues for eight years after the territorial legislature adjourns.

The first federal law outlawing polygamy, the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Law, is signed by Abraham Lincoln on July 8, 1862.

1866The Wade bill contains provisions to diminish the power of local government, but it does not pass Congress.
1868The proposed Cragin bill includes many features of the Wade bill. It also includes a provision to abolish trial by jury in all cases under the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. The bill is withdrawn in favor of the Cullom bill.
1869The Cullom bill incorporates most of the provisions of the Cragin bill, but declares cohabitation a misdemeanor and includes provisions to deprive plural wives of immunity as witnesses in cases involving their husbands. It also allows the president to send U.S. Army troops into Utah and raise a 25,000 man militia in the territory to enforce the law. The bill does not pass.

The transcontinental railroad is completed at Promontory, Utah, making Utah less isolated.

1870Women in Utah are given the right to vote.
1874The Polland Act nullifies all earlier Supreme Court decisions favorable to the Mormons, creates a new jury selection process primarily aimed at limiting Mormon control over the selection of jurors, strips the territorial attorney and territorial marshal of most of their powers, and restricts the jurisdiction of the probate courts in the Territory of Utah.

George Reynolds, Brigham Young's secretary, volunteers to be the defendant in a test case to determine the constitutionality of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Law.

1875A contingent of more than twenty-two thousand Utah women petition Congress to repeal the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Law.
1877Brigham Young dies in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1878Joseph F. Smith states, "I understand the law of celestial marriage to mean that every man in this Church, who has the ability to obey and practice it in righteousness and will not, shall be damned, I say I understand it to mean this and nothing less, and I testify in the name of Jesus that it does mean that." (Journal of Discourses 1967, 20:31.)
1879Reynolds loses his case testing the constitutionality of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Law and goes to prison for two years. The Morrill Act of 1862 is declared valid.
1882The Edmunds Act is passed. It contains the following provisions: polygamy replaces bigamy as a criminal offense; men who simultaneously marry two or more women will be convicted of polygamy; cohabitation becomes a misdemeanor; polygamy and cohabitation can be charged in the same indictment; jurors are disqualified for having or believing in multiple wives; Utah registration and election offices held by Mormons are vacated and provision made for their replacement; polygamists and those involved in cohabitation are denied the right to vote or hold elective or appointed public office; a Utah Commission is created to oversee future elections and issue certificates to those lawfully elected.
1885Some polygamists move to Mexico and Canada to avoid prosecution.

Idaho's Test Oath Law practically disfranchises all Mormons because of their membership in the LDS Church. It is sustained by the supreme court of the territory four years later. Some LDS Church leaders go into hiding to avoid prosecution.

1886In a disputed revelation, John W. Woolley claims Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ appeared to John Taylor extending the keys to sanction plural marriage to the select group of men then meeting in the home of John W. Woolley (rather than being held exclusively by the president of the LDS Church). Many fundamentalist groups claim this revelation as the basis of their authority to practice polygamy. John W. Woolley became known as the "father of Mormon Fundamentalism."
1887The Edmunds-Tucker Act is passed with the following provisions: a wife can testify against her husband in actions against bigamy, polygamy, or unlawful cohabitation, with some limited exceptions; witnesses can be compelled to appear without a subpoena; prosecution for adultery can be instituted the same way prosecution for other crimes is instituted; every marriage is required to be certified; limitations of jurisdiction on the probate courts are continued; probate judges become presidential appointments; illegitimate children born one year after the passage of the Act cannot inherit; the dower right of the wife to inherit one-third of her deceased husband's assets is reinstated; women are disenfranchised; secret ballots are allowed; the powers of the Utah Commission are reaffirmed; a voter oath in support of the anti-polygamy laws is instituted; control of public education is placed in the hands of federal officials; the Nauvoo Legion is abolished; the LDS Church is disincorporated; the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company is dissolved and the territorial legislature is prohibited from enacting any law that would bring people into the territory for any purpose.

LDS President John Taylor dies in hiding in Kaysville, Utah.

1890The Edmunds-Tucker Bill is sustained by the United States Supreme Court, threatening total disfranchisement of the church. This means the church will be dissolved and its property escheated.

President Wilford Woodruff issues the 1890 Manifesto discontinuing the practice of polygamy. Some members of the LDS Church still persisted in living with plural wives. "Hunting cohabs" becomes lucrative employment for those paid to find offenders.

More polygamist families moved to Canada where a community named "Bountiful" is eventually established.

1896Utah becomes a state.
1898B.H. Roberts is elected to the House of Representatives for the 56th Congress. His qualifications are challenged since he is a polygamist and a Mormon. He is denied his seat. As a result, Utah has no representation in the 56th Congress.
1903Reed Smoot is elected as a U.S. Senator. He is not a polygamist. His qualifications are challenged, but he is provisionally seated during his trial. Due to powerful Republican influence, the negative decision of a committee of nine Republicans and five Democrats is overturned and he is allowed to take his seat.
1904LDS President Joseph F. Smith issues a second "Manifesto" stating that any person solemnizing or entering into plural marriage "will be deemed in transgression against the Church and will be … excommunicated therefrom."
1912Lorin C. Woolley, son of John W. Woolley, gives the first written account of the disputed 1886 visitation by Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ to the then LDS Church President, John Taylor. Woolley later maintains that plural marriage must and will continue.
1913Short Creek (later called Colorado City, Arizona) is settled by a cattle rancher named Jacob Lauritzen. By 1930 polygamists are firmly settled in the desolate area.
1914John W. Woolley is excommunicated from the LDS Church for non compliance with the 1890 Manifesto.
1918John W. Woolley serves as leader of the Fundamentalists until 1928.
1924Lorin C. Woolley is excommunicated for publicizing that LDS Church leaders took multiple wives after the 1890 Manifesto.

Polygamist Alma Dayer LeBaron moves his family to northern Mexico to escape U.S. law enforcement. A farm called "Colonia LeBaron" is established in Galeana, Chihuahua.

1928John W. Woolley dies and is succeeded by Lorin C. Woolley as leader of the Fundamentalists.
1934Lorin C. Woolley dies and is succeeded by J. Leslie Broadbent.
1935The Lee's Ferry polygamists settle in Short Creek after being excommunicated by the LDS Church for refusing to renounce polygamy. J. Leslie Broadbent dies and is succeeded by John Y. Barlow. He begins the polygamist colony at Short Creek on the Arizona-Utah border. He establishes a United Order where members of the clan share resources. Some disagree with Barlow's appointment resulting in Charles W. Kingston and Eldon Kingston creating a splinter group called the Latter Day Church of Christ, or the "Kingston clan."

An unsuccessful raid by the law fails to stamp out the Fundamentalist colony in Short Creek.

1942Pursuant to a Declaration of Trust signed by John Y. Barlow, Leroy S. Johnson, J. Marion Hammon, J.W. Musser, and Rulon T. Jeffs, the United Effort Plan Trust is formed by the Fundamentalists. It comprises and manages real property and improvements situated in Colorado City, Arizona; Hildale, Utah; and Bountiful, British Columbia.
1943The FBI raids Short Creek and fifteen men are sent to the Sugar House penitentiary in Salt Lake City, Utah. Nine win a release by renouncing polygamy. Most return to Short Creek and immediately break their promise. Joseph W. Musser is among them.
1949John Y. Barlow dies and is succeeded by Joseph W. Musser. Musser leads the polygamous community in and around Salt Lake City, Utah, (this group is later called the Apostolic United Brethren) and Legrand Woolley leads the fundamentalist community at Short Creek (this group becomes the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints under the direction of Leroy S. Johnson). Later, a paralytic stroke partially disables Musser and he designates Rulon C. Allred as his successor. This action predicates a schism in the sect. Ultimately, Musser's successor is Charles Zitting.
1950sThe Canadian polygamists and the Fundamentalists in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, exchange young women as wives to strengthen ties between the two groups.
1951Alma Dayer LeBaron dies. He is succeeded by his son, Joel LeBaron, who eventually incorporates the Church of the Firstborn in the Fullness of Times in Salt Lake City, Utah. His younger brother is Ervil LeBaron. The group eventually numbers approximately 30 families in both Utah and a community named Los Molinos on the Baja California Peninsula.
1953Arizona Governor Howard Pyle orders a massive police raid on Short Creek on July 26, 1953. Newsreels portraying children being separated from their parents results in negative publicity for Pyle, ultimately ending his political career. Twenty-three polygamist men are given only one year of probation. The negative publicity ironically helps Short Creek avoid interference from the law for many years.
1954Musser dies and Charles Zitting becomes the presiding elder of the FLDS Church. Four months later Zitting dies and Leroy S. Johnson leads the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The polygamous community splits into three groups when Musser dies: the FLDS Church, which stays in Short Creek; the Apostolic United Brethren, which relocates to Bluffdale, Utah, under the direction of Rulon C. Allred; and the United Latter-day Church, which relocates to Lexington, Nebraska, and later to Layton, Utah.
1961Rulon C. Allred purchases 640 acres of ranch land in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana with the intent of establishing a united order for the Apostolic United Brethren Church (the Allred Group).
1963Hildale, Utah, is officially incorporated.
1963Short Creek officially changes its name to Colorado City, Arizona.
1972Ervil LeBaron splits from his brother Joel and establishes the Church of the Lamb of God in San Diego, California. He orders his brother Joel killed. Leadership of the Baja group passes to Ervil's younger brother, Verlan, whom Ervil unsuccessfully attempts to have killed over the next ten years.
1975Ervil LeBaron orders the death of polygamist Bob Simons. LeBaron and one of his wives, Vonda White, are responsible for many ensuing murders, perhaps even his own daughter, Rebecca.
1977Rulon C. Allred, leader of the Apostolic United Brethren church, is murdered on the orders of Ervil LeBaron, the head of a rival polygamous sect.
1979Ervil LeBaron is apprehended by police in Mexico and extradited to the United States where is he convicted of Rulon C. Allred's death.
1980Ervil LeBaron is sentenced to life in prison for Allred's death. While in prison, he continues to order the murder of his opponents, including some of his wives and children. Approximately 25 people are killed as a result of his machinations.
1981Ervil LeBaron dies in his prison cell. His younger brother Verlan dies in an automobile accident in Mexico City two days after Ervil's body is discovered. Ervil's daughter, Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron, is currently wanted by the FBI.
1983The Allred Group (Apostolic United Brethren) incorporates Pinesdale, Montana, close to Hamilton and Missoula. By 1998 they boast more than 800 persons and 250 families.
1984Leroy S. Johnson dismisses Marion Hammon and Alma Timpson from the Fundamentalist's Priesthood Council. They take many of Johnsons followers with them and eventually establish the town of Centennial Park City, Utah.
1985Colorado City, Arizona, incorporates.
1986FLDS president Leroy S. Johnson dies. He is succeeded by Winston Blackmore as bishop and trustee for the Canadian polygamists and Rulon T. Jeffs. Jeffs, an accountant, eventually sits on the boards of multimillion-dollar corporations, purchases a huge estate in one of Utah's most expensive neighborhoods, fathers more than 60 children, and serves as prophet of the largest polygamist church (FLDS) in North America.
1988Marion Hammon dies. His successor as leader of the polygamists in Centennial, Utah, is Alma Del Timpson. Timpson calls his son, John Timpson, and Frank Naylor as apostles and Ivan Neilsen as a bishop.
1990Naylor and Nielsen and their families leave Centennial Park and move to the Salt Lake Valley where they form their own group, with Naylor as their leader.
1994Birth of the Christian polygamy movement known as Truthbearer.org. The organization has no connection to the LDS Church.
1998Alma Timpson dies. His son John succeeds him as the leader in Centennial Park.
2000Tapestry Against Polygamy is organized. This is "a non-profit organization located in Salt Lake City, Utah, that advocates against the human right[s] violations inherent in polygamy and provides assistance to individuals leaving polygamous cults." (Mission Statement on Tapestry Against Polygamy website, www.Polygamy.org.)
2002Rulon T. Jeffs, FLDS leader, dies in St. George, Utah, of natural causes. His son, Warren Jeffs, proclaims himself prophet and leader of the FLDS Church. Winston Blackmore is dismissed by Jeffs as bishop of the Canada branch of the FLDS Church.
2003Rodney Holm, a member of the FLDS Church, is convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old girl and of one count of bigamy. This is the first legal action against a member of the FLDS Church since the Short Creek raid in 1953.

The FLDS Church purchases "a hunting retreat" four miles northeast of Eldorado, Texas, where they eventually build a temple.

Utah passes a child bigamy bill (HB307). (Child bigamy is marrying a second wife who is less than 18 years-of-age. It is punishable by 1–15 years in prison.)

2004Dan Barlow, the mayor of Colorado City, and approximately 20 other men are excommunicated from the FLDS Church and stripped of their wives and children.

A child bigamy statute is adopted by the state of Arizona.

2005Brent Jeffs files suit accusing Warren Jeffs and two other uncles of sexually assaulting him when he was a child.

Six "lost boys" are cast out of their homes on the Utah-Arizona border to reduce competition for wives. They file suit against the FLDS Church.

The "Status of Women in Canada" study recommends legalizing or decriminalizing polygamy.

British Colombia's Attorney General states that Canada's law criminalizing polygamy won't "stand up" in court tests.

2006The Centennial Park Action Committee is formed in Centennial Park, Arizona, with the goal of decriminalizing polygamy.

Canadian Parliament Briefing Note lists 14 points in favor of legalizing polygamy.

Warren Jeffs is named to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list on charges of sexual misconduct with minors. He is captured on August 28, 2006, on Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas, Nevada.

2007Warren Jeffs remains the leader of the FLDS Church, although he is in the custody of the state of Utah after being convicted of being an accomplice to rape. He appeals his case.

Polygamist Allen Steed is charged with first degree rape, a felony.

2011Warren Jeffs, still imprissoned, sends "revelations" claiming destruction of those who persecute him and FLDS polygamy to, among others, LDS bishops and branch presidents.
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