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Ervil LeBaron 

Priesthood Expounded 

In the months following its organization in mid-1955, the three members of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times sought converts, primarily among other Mormon fundamentalist groups.  Having no success and later losing the participation of Ross, the remaining two brothers, Joel and Floren, returned to Colonia LeBaron in early 1956.  Soon they added two additional followers from their own family, Alma and Ervil LeBaron. Their mother Maude became the fifth baptized convert.[1]

Several months later Ervil LeBaron, with some input from his brother Joel, published a pamphlet entitled Priesthood Expounded, which provided many details regarding the LeBaron’s claims to legitimate priesthood authority.  In the very first few paragraphs, Ervil explained how his insights were superior to the doctrines previously taught by Church leaders:[2]  “If we LeBaron brothers are so fortunate as to be able to explain these things correctly, in this time of confusion and turmoil, when all others of our time have utterly failed to do it, then let every man and woman sit in silence and put their hands on their mouths, recognize where the authority is, and cease to speak evil of the servants of God.”[3]

Beginning with Joseph Smith’s comment that there “There are three grand orders of priesthood”[4] Ervil gave detailed scriptural support to ideas that previously had never been taught in any corner of Mormondom:

 

 The Three Grand Heads of the Priesthood

According to LeBaron Doctrine

 

 

Order

 

Priesthood[5]

 

Presiding Office

 

Described Authority

 

Line of authority

 

First

 

Melchizedek

 

Right of the Firstborn[6]

 

"to preside over all things pertaining [to the Kingdon of God] and to properly coordinate all the different organizations of the priesthood that the people might be prepared to enter the terrestrial state"[7]

 

Abraham to Moses to Christ to John the Revelator to Joseph Smith[8] to Benjamin F. Johnson to A. Dayer LeBaron to Ben/Ross/Joel LeBaron

 

Second

 

Patriarchal

(Priesthood of Aaron)[9]

 

Presiding Patriarch

 

"holds the keys of all the spiritual blessings, the work for the dead, etc., and holds all the keys pertaining to the apostleship and the fulness of the Melchizedek  priesthood"[10]

"to preside over the administration of the spiritual duties of blessings to the whole Church"[11]

 

Aaron to John the Baptist to Hyrum Smith to Uncle John Smith to John Smith to Joseph F. Smith

 

Third

 

Levitical

 

Presiding Bishop

 

"Keys of temporal blessings"[12]

 

Newel K. Whitney

 

 

 

 

 

Church President

 

 

 

Joshua - Peter[13] - Brigham Young

         The elaborate discussions found in Priesthood Expounded may cause readers to struggle as they strive to follow the reasoning set forth by Ervil LeBaron.  He taught unique ideas, like Brigham Young did not hold the same authority as Joseph Smith[14] and “Brigham Young was the modern Joshua, not the modern Moses...”[15]  At one point in the text Ervil states:  “Thus we see that Joshua was under Eleazar in spiritual things, yet over him in political government.  He was also over the presiding Bishop in the political field yet under him in temporal concerns” (italics added).[16]  Many other circuitous explanations are employed. 

Undoubtedly Latter-day Saints readers would give Ervil LeBaron high marks for creativity as he described his religious beliefs, noting that the scriptures he cited do not naturally support the elaborate interpretations he provides.  Accordingly, they generally conclude from reading Priesthood Expounded, that the priesthood organization there propounded bears little resemblance to the priesthood hierarchy as described in the Doctrine and Covenants.  Neither is it “orderly,”[17] nor does it seem to follow an easily recognized “pattern” as promised in LDS scripture.[18] 

Many converts joined largely due to the convincing power of Priesthood Expounded, the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times expanded throughout the first decade of its existence.  Its leader, Joel LeBaron was described as “kind,” “meek,” “gentle,” “humble,” and Christlike.[19]

In contrast, Ervil manifested glaring narcissistic traits that would explode uncontrollably in the years to come.[20]  Around 1960, Claude Bronson gave this assessment, “I don’t think there’s anybody that I know of who is any slicker than Ervil in hiding behind someone else, and reaching in and getting a handful of honey once in a while, and still look guiltless to the outside world.  He’s very very crafty.” [21]  Another supporter recalled:  “[Ervil] stated, after a lengthy revelation about the future of the gospel, that one of his operating principles was: ‘You can lie, cheat and steal in the name of God and it is all right.’“[22]

By 1962 Ervil was the number two man in the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times.  He then introduced the doctrine of the “Civil Law,” which stated that some principles of the church could be reestablished with force, even deadly force.  Joel apparently supported the Civil Law as something that could be utilized in the future, while Ervil was willing to use it immediately to accomplish his own goals.

In 1967 Ervil LeBaron taught members of the Firstborn Church that he, not Joel, was the head of a “celestial administration.”  When Joel caught wind of the teachings, he gathered eighteen of the “general authorities” of his church and denounced and discredited Ervil’s teachings.  Further disagreements ensued and by the summer of 1970, Ervil proclaimed: “I know as sure as the Lord lives that my program is the only one that will put over the kingdom.  And I also know that there are men in leading positions in this work who oppose me...  And I tell you that blood will have to run to settle our differences.”[23]  In response, Joel released Ervil from his position as Presiding Patriarch, causing Ervil to weep like a child. 

The Church of the Lamb of God

Despite his initial subdued response, as the months went by Ervil’s opposition to Joel hardened.  In mid-May 1971, Ervil received a revelation telling him to start his own church and the “Church of the Lamb of God” was organized.[24]  Subsequently he and Dan Jordan were excommunicated from Joel’s church.  The family matriarch, Maud LeBaron wrote a letter to Ervil stating: “Your father came to my bedside last week and asked me to help remove the sorrowful condition,” but even her intervention was ineffective is stemming the tide of Ervil’s darkening intentions.[25]  Rulon C. Allred summed up his perspective in 1976 saying: “They have formed the Church of the Firstborn, the Church of the Lamb of God and other divisions among these people, each brother seeking to be greater, more vaulted up, than his own brother or the Priesthood that once presided over them.”[26] 

 

Church

 

Leader

 

Date Organized

 

The Church of the Firstborn

of the Fullness of Times

 

Joel LeBaron*

 

21 September 1955

 

The Church of the Firstborn

 

Ross W. LeBaron

 

1 December 1955

 

The Church of the Lamb of God

 

Ervil LeBaron

 

20 May 1971

* Initially presided over by Ross LeBaron.  At Joel’s death, Verlan LeBaron became the new leader.

By August of 1972, Ervil was teaching: “I am the one mighty and strong”[27] and at six foot four inches, 240 pounds, Ervil cast a dominant shadow.[28]  Openly declaring,  “Verlan and Joel will be put to death,”[29] his words would prove to be prophetic because on the 20th of the month, Joel was attacked and shot in the head, presumably by Dan Jordan.  His brother Verlan took control of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times and became target number one for Ervil and his followers in the Church of the Lamb of God.

Mexican officials sought Ervil as a suspect in the killing.  To the surprise of the Ensenada police, he surrendered on 13 December 1972.  With Ervil incarcerated in a Mexican jail, a trial was held wherein he was found guilty 8 November 1973.  However, after serving only one day of the actual sentence, higher judges overturned the verdict and Ervil walked free.  Rumors flew that an $80,000 bribe had been accepted, money obtained from the wealthy Kingstons[30] or from the sale of Utah land owned by a member of the Church of the Lamb of God.[31]  His formal release occurred after fourteen months of confinement.[32]

Once freed, an early item on Ervil’s agenda required him to meet with members of the other polygamist groups.  He arranged interviews with leaders of the Allred group, the Kingston clan, and the Colorado City fundamentalists.[33]  All were commanded to tithe to Ervil, ten percent of their income to be turned over to the Church of the Lamb of God.[34]  Ervil had meetings with Merlin Kingston and issued several threats.  Reportedly LeBaron ordered an armed confrontation at the Huntington mine, owned by the Kingstons.  However, the Kingstons were more organized and less intimidated than other fundamentalists.  Anticipating Ervil’s actions: “people were on the mountainside with rifles and scopes” prompting the Lambs of God to reconsider.[35] 

In the months after his release from the Mexican prison, Ervil’s talk centered more on the “Law of the .38,” of sending opponents a “one way ticket to hell” or exposing betrayers to “hot lead and cold steel.”[36]  On the evening of 26 December 1974 a band of “Lambs of God” descended on a settlement of members of Verlan’s Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times at Los Molinos, located about a hundred miles south of Ensenada.  In pseudo-military fashion, they firebombed the homes and openly targeted members of the opposing church who came to view the destruction.  Ervil predicted that Verlan would then be killed, but he wasn’t even in Mexico at the time.  In less than twenty minutes, two men were dead, thirteen wounded and seven buildings destroyed.[37]  During the next two and a half years, more than a half dozen “traitors” to Ervil’s church would be killed with several others narrowly escaping mortal punishment from Ervil’s “Lambs.”[38]

Ervil’s prophetic gifts assured that cataclysmic events would occur by 3 May 1977 because three and a half years earlier he had prophesied that by that date, either Mormondom or the Church of the Firstborn would be “totally obliterated.”[39]  As the final weeks to the deadline approached, the destruction of the LDS Church seemed unlikely so Ervil upscaled his plans for the demise of Verlan’s church organization.  Ever since Joel’s death, Ervil’s band had strict orders to kill Verlan whenever and wherever he might be found.  His ability to allude his assassins enraged Ervil who concocted a new plan, telling his followers that in May a funeral would be held that Verlan would attend.  There he would be shot dead and then the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times would acquiesce to Ervil’s leadership.

Whose funeral would Verlan be attending?  Ervil gave the answer: “Rulon Allred.  Allred was a false prophet who had defied repeated warning to stop holding himself up to idol worship, and to fall in with God’s chosen: the Lambs of God.”[40]  Ervil stated that the murder should be performed by the group’s two prettiest women.  On the selected day (May 10th), Rena Chynoweth and Ramona Marston entered Allred’s medical office and shot him to death.[41]  Verlan LeBaron did indeed attend the funeral several days later, one of 2600 mourners in the congregation.  But the hit team sent to gun him down declined to make the attempt in light of the overwhelming media and police presence.

In time Ervil was brought to justice.  Then surprisingly on 15 August 1981 he was found dead of a heart attack while incarcerated in the Utah State prison, but his killing did not stop.  Plural wife Rena Chynoweth penned in 1990:  “Between 1972 and 1988, twenty to twenty-five people have been killed or simply ‘disappeared,’ either on [Ervil LeBaron’s] direct command or under orders he left before he died.”[42]


[1]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood,  58.

[2]    .  Another LeBaron apologist, Fred C. Collier commented: “Brigham [Young] did not always fully explain himself...  Sometimes Brigham was a little tricky” (“Apostolic Succession,” 2).

[3]    .  Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 1:6.  Divided into Section and Verse by Thomas J. Liddiard March 1988.

[4]    .  TPJS 322.

[5] Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 2:42.

[6]  Ibid., 8:17, 19.

[7]  Ibid., 16:13.

[8]  Ibid., 8:1-49.

[9]  Ibid., 2:27.

[10]  Ibid., 4:36.

[11]  Ibid., 16:14.

[12]  Ibid., 5:11. 

[13]  Ibid., 14:15.

[14]    .  Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 5:28-29.  Contrast Fred C. Collier who wrote: “Of course President Young held the Fulness of the Patriarchal Priesthood and the Keys thereof; and of course he was also an Apostle.”  (“Apostolic Succession,” 19.)

[15]    .  Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 5:22, 25, 27.

[16]    .  Ibid., 5:23.

[17]    .  See D&C 132:8.

[18]    .  See D&C 52:14.  See also the pattern for the priesthood leadership as delineated in D&C 20 and 107.

[19]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 106.  However, Rena Chynoweth remember that on one occasion he threated Ervil saying, “And if you don’t stop this, I’ll kill you_”  (Chynowethh, Blood Covenant, 66).

[20]    .  Narcissistic traits include a need for admiration, lack of empathy for others and a profound sense of entitlement, which Ervil manifested.  See Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 82, 91, 104-05.

[21]    .  Interview with Claude Bronson, Jean Bronson LeBaron, Marden Spencer, Linda Allred et al. about 1960.

[22]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 114.

[23]    .  Ibid., 124.

[24]    .  Ibid., 131-32.

[25]    .  Ibid., 132.

[26]    .  Rulon C. Allred, Treasures of Knowledge, 2:247.

[27]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 138. 

[28]    .  Chynoweth, Blood Covenant, 11.

[29]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 138.

[30]    .  Solomon, Growing Up in Polygamy, 277.

[31]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 148.

[32]    .  Ibid., 151.

[33]    .  Chynoweth, Blood Covenant, 199.

[34]    .  Solomon, Growing Up in Polygamy, 279.

[35]    .  Bradless and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 178.

[36]    .  Ibid., 155.

[37]    .  Ibid., 161-64.

[38]    .  Robert Simons - 1975, Dean Grover Vest - 1975, Rulon C. Allred - 1977, Rebecca Chynoweth - 1977, Gamaliel Rios - 1983, Raul Rios - 1983, Leo Evoniuk - 1987, Ed Marston - 1988, Duane Chynoweth - 1988, Mark Chynoweth, - 1988, (Chynoweth, Blood Covenant, x-xi.)

[39]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 231.

[40]    .  Ibid., 233.

[41]    .  Chynoweth, Blood Covenant, 206-08.

[42]    .  Ibid., 5.