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 "I Have Been Fanatically Religious" Joseph White Musser, Father of the Fundamentalist Movement

 by Brian C. Hales

given at the 1991 Mormon History Association meeting at St. George, Utah

          While writing his autobiographical sketch in 1948,1 Joseph White Musser wrote, "I believed intensely in the mission of Joseph Smith, and were it possible to become fanatical in accepting the decrees of the Almighty, I have been fanatically religious..."2  This assessment accurately describes his life as one of Mormon Fundamentalism's more prominent leaders.3

          Joseph Musser was born March 8, 1872 in Salt Lake City, Utah, the son of A. Milton Musser.  A. Milton Musser served in the Church as a traveling bishop between 1858 and 1876 and was later imprisoned for his obedience to the principle of plural marriage.4  Joseph Musser grew up in a staunch Latter-day Saint home and learned first hand of the blessings associated with authorized plural marriage. 

EDUCATION AND BUSINESS 

          Joseph Musser’s education consisted of a few years in the lower grades, never having attended a high school or university.  He characterized his higher instruction as coming from "the University of Hard Knocks."5  His lack of formal education, however, did not deter him from pursuing employment in fields that required the knowledge of shorthand and accounting.

          Joseph's experiences in business involved him with dozens of companies, serving in a variety of positions:6

Year           Company                      Position

1892          Palantic Mining and Milling Co.       Secretary and Treasurer

1897          Union Light and Power Co.             Assistant Secretary

1900          Utah and California Railroad Secretary and Treasurer

1901-1906 Bank of Heber City                Organizer - Cashier

1901-1906 Smart and Webster Livestock Co. Organizer

1901-1906 Wasatch Real Estate Dev. Co.      Manager

1901-1906 Timpanogas Irrigation System       Secretary

1901-1906 Wallsburg Mercantile Co.               Organizer

1901-1906 Heber Mercantile Co.            Organizer

1901-1906 Duchesne Irrigation Co.                  Organizer

1901-1906 Rocky Point Ditch Co.           Organizer

1901-1906 Pioneer Irrigation Co.            Organizer

1905          with Uintah Indian Reservation       to locate applicants

1906          Inter-Mountain Realty Co.               Manager

1908          Lubra-Oils Manufacturing                lubrication processes

1908          Utah Oil Refining                             lubrication processes

1920          D.H. Gustaveson                             locating "oil lands"

1922          Gustaveson Oil Co.               Manager

1922          Diamond Oil Co.                    Manager

1929          Smoke-Less Fuel                            Board of Directors

 

Unfortunately, these enterprises seldom produced any marketable goods which left them financially insecure.  This insecurity caused Joseph great anxiety at times.  It also made it difficult to support himself and his several polygamous families.7 

          Joseph Musser’s longest involvement with any single venture commenced in 1922 when he began to serve as manager of the Diamond Oil Company.  He was placed in charge of all the drilling enterprises.  Unfortunately the wells never produced a drop of crude despite the expenditure of a great deal of investment income.

          Musser reflected many times in his personal journal concerning the anxiety he felt as he was repeatedly forced to solicit monetary assessments from stockholders to continue to finance the enterprises.  Finally in 1933 Joseph was discharged from his position.  He recorded:

          Arriving at Salt Lake I received the following through the mail, signed Thursday, but not mailed until I left for well, Friday morning: 

          “J.W. Musser, Gen. Mgr. D. Oil. 

          “Dear Sir:

          “The Executive Committee of the Diamond Oil Co. hereby notify you that your services as Manager, also your offices as director and vice-President, will expire on July 1st, 1933.

          “This action is taken in the interests and welfare of the Diamond Oil Co.

                                      “Signed John Shewell, A.O. Crisimon" 

          Was I surprised!  At last they think they have me.  A persistent effort has been made to get me out of the company.  I have given all there is in me to build up and keep from going overboard.  The fight was started by Harold Shewell and Seymore B. Hajen, who were probably assisted by a few disgruntled stockholders who feel I should pay the largest assessment and work for nothing.  Shewell finally let down but Hajen kept up the fight.  The ground on which I am now deposed are two:

          1st that I am a member of an oath bound (by reputation) gang spoken of in the recent articles of the 1st Presidency, and am making a business of marrying girls and inducing others to do like-wise.  And since the Church is against me, I am a hinderance to the progress of the Company.  John Shewell with tears in his eyes said: Joe I didn't believe it to be true, but they make the charge (would not tell who "they" were) [indecipherable] Company from going to pieces.  Herald Shewell said:  I only hope we can bring the well in, and then you can tell them to go where they belong.

          I am charged with a moral and religious crime.  Without hearing or trial of any kind - not even an opportunity to make our explanations, action is taken, - I am deposed!  How like the actions of Lucifer that is!  Satan is behind it all.  And I will go on, while the Company, so far as the efforts of these people are concerned, will go to wreck and ruin.

          The 2nd Charge is that my management has been too expensive and therefore I must be deposed.

          God alone knows my heart and soul.  To him I go for comfort.  (Entry for July 1, 1933.)

His position at Diamond Oil appears to be the last formal employment he engaged in.

          A few months after his discharge, Joseph asked a close friend, Lorin C. Woolley, why his business endeavors had been without success: 

          Friday last I took up with Lorin the question of why since beginning to write my book, I had not been able to succeed along financial lines.  I had not only lost my job, but had failed in every undertaking to date.  He said it is because your services are wanted in the ministry, writing and talking, and the Lord don't [sic] want you mixed up in other things8 that will distract your attention from your real work.  (Entry for September 27, 1933.) 

          From the latter part of 1933 until his death, Joseph Musser existed mostly on donations from his family, followers and the proceeds from his publications which dealt exclusively with fundamentalist topics. 

MUSSER AND THE CHURCH 

          An inquiry into the relationship between Joseph Musser and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveals a series of changes during which Joseph was transformed from a faithful believer into a severe (at times) antagonist.  As the son of a prominent priesthood leader, he grew up believing in the truthfulness of the Church.  In 1892, he was married in the Logan Temple to his first wife and then embarked on a mission to the Southern States in 1895.9  Joseph recounted in his journal that in December of 1899, he and his wife Rose were invited by President Lorenzo Snow to receive their full temple blessings.10  Shortly thereafter, Musser claimed that: 

          [A] messenger came to me from President Snow, stating I had been selected to enter plural marriage and to help keep the principle alive...  The “Manifesto” had been issued, and the word had gone out from Bishops and Stake Presidencies that a definite stop had been put to the practice.  Those assuming to enter the principle would be “handled.”  I was placed in a peculiar situation.  God's Prophet told me to accept the law and keep it alive.  His subordinates said if I did so, they would cut me off [from] the Church.  I could not argue with them and divulge the source of my authority.  (Joseph W. Musser, p. 9.) 

It appears Musser never revealed the identity of the alleged "messenger" who supposedly represented President Lorenzo Snow.  Anyone familiar with President Snow's stand on new Plural Marriages would find this claim difficult to believe.11  Nevertheless, Joseph Musser believed and married two additional wives during the next decade and a fourth wife in the 1930's.

          Musser's support of plural marriage is undoubtedly the reason he was called to appear before members of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1909 to answer questions regarding his beliefs in polygamy.  During that interview, he acknowledged that President Joseph F. Smith held the keys of sealing authority12 but declared that it was possible for the Quorum of the Twelve to be unaware of President Smith's actions concerning new plural marriages.  He likewise asserted that the Quorum of the Twelve had no right to directly administer within the stakes of the Church and that they should only work through the presidents of the stakes.13  Despite the fact that Joseph had taken a plural wife after the 1904 Manifesto,14 he was not disciplined by that council.  Perhaps they were unaware of all of his polygamist activities.  Regardless, he agreed to "harmonize [his] attitude with that of the brethren," though maintained that he "could not promise what [his] future course might be in case new light came to [him] upon the subject."15

          In 1921, Musser was accused of attempting to enter into a plural marriage with a woman named Marion Bringhurst.  The marriage never occurred, but the incident resulted in Joseph's excommunication.16

          Joseph’s formal estrangement from the Church in 1921 did not prompt him to reject it or its leadership immediately.  An entry in his journal a year later recorded: 

   Attended meeting with "Fellow Sufferers" in plural marriage...  Everyone felt under obligation to sustain the present Authorities and patiently await the Lord's pleasure in all things.17  

          Apparently during the ensuing decades, Musser's heart changed considerably.  Ultimately, he found himself on several occasions calling down vengeance from heaven on Church leaders: 

(June 25, 1933) - Asked the Lord to visit his vengeance upon those of the Church leaders who have repudiated the revelations of Joseph Smith... 

(April 8, 1934) - Met with John Y. Israel, Edmund, and I.W. Barlow, J.L. Broadbent and Louis Kelsch, at home of Edmund and joined with the Barlow's in invoking the penalties contained in the 98th Sec. of D&C Verse 41 to 44. 

(November 22, 1934) - Witnessed to God the fourth trespass committed upon the Apostolic order of the Priesthood by church officials, as commanded to do D&C 98:41-48 in accordance with the law of retribution.  The four offenses are: Disfellowshipment from the Church of John W. Woolley, Joseph L. Broadbent and Louis A. Kelsch, the latter action being taken last evening, for upholding the patriarchal order of marriage either in spirit or fact.

          It is now up to the Lord to act, we are relieved from all action, for the Lord said: "thou shalt not forgive him, but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord, and they shall not be blotted out until he repents and reward thee four fold in all  things wherewith he has trespassed against thee;" etc.

          The leaders of the Church have much to answer for.   

          (April 11, 1935) - Learnt through Bro. Petty, that his wife in consultation with John M. Whittaker, learned that the Church had appointed Committees to get evidence on all the brethren so as to pounce upon them when the time comes, and rush them "Over the road."  Let them come, -damn them -- and God will damn them to an eternal destruction, if they persist in their wicked designs.18 

          Despite these forceful criticisms, Musser never entirely discarded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 

          I have faith in the ultimate success of the Mormon Church.  It alone of all institutions in the world, is built on principles of truth, justice and mercy...  And tho [sic] the Church has changed many of its tenets in order to comply with the convenience of men, it will not fall...  (Entry for March 30, 1940; italics added.) 

          In the 1930's, Joseph Musser came to believe that he had become a leader in a special Priesthood Council which actually presided over the Church, while not being a part of it.  Based on that belief, in 1948 Musser wrote the following concerning his excommunication: 

          ...when the Church assumed to cut me off for living one of the laws of God, all that the Officers who participated could do, and did do, as I see it, was to cut themselves off, unless they repent and correct their wrongs. (Joseph W. Musser, p. 12.) 

POLYGAMY 

          Joseph White Musser married and had children by a total of four women.  His first wife, Rose Selms Borquist Musser, married him in 1892 and was the mother of eight children.19  She appears to have supported her husband's initial participation with plural marriage.  Early references to Rose and polygamy in Joseph Musser's journal show: 

          May 30, 1901 - At night had a splendid talk with Rose on the subject of plural marriage.  She is fully converted to the principle and says she believes we will have to practice it before long.  She is trying to prepare herself for the principle. 

          November 17, 1901 - Upon returning home from the [Church] meeting, my wife and I, - Rose volunteered the information that she was prepared to accept the principle of plural marriage, and suggested a young lady as one very well adapted for that condition of life, and requested if consistent with my feelings, I lay my plans accordingly.

          For this testimony given to my wife, I am truly grateful to the Lord, and it shall be my desire through life, weather living in that principle or not, to live worthy of receiving to myself wives and children according to the will of God. 

Notwithstanding Rose Musser's initial cooperation, when the Church totally withdrew its support, so did she.  By the 1920's, she was decidedly positioned against his polygamist activities: 

          March 8, (1922) ... My wife Rose is not friendly with my other families.  She cannot accept Plural Marriages and antagonizes my efforts to live it. 

          August 21, (1922) Learnt that my wives Rose and Mary have both made statements of late reflecting on my integrity and indicating their utter lack of confidence in me, yet they are straining every effort to get money from me for their support.  Their misrepresentations are damaging to as it prevented me from doing business with certain people into whose ears the "rattle" of these women reach.   

          August 5, (1925) ... [Rose] did not want to have Milton [son of wife Ellis] come.  She did not want any of Ellis' children in the home.  That evening when invited to take dinner there, I told her where my son was not welcome I did not have to stay.  She flew in a swedish tantrum and as is the rule went wild.  I gave it up and told her it was the last time I would try to help her.  The children were with me and felt very badly but their mother, actuated by a fiendish jealousy remained adamant.  And so it goes.  As hard as I have strove and worked, I only get blame and [indecipherable] and my humble request was flatly refused.  She has time and again driven me from home, yet I have provided the home the best I could and cared for her; but I give it up.  Not in this life will she modify I fear; but perhaps in eternity she will understand things.  She first turned against my wife Mary until I married Ellis (She earnestly enlisted me to mary Ellis, but now only is friendly with Mary and deathly against Ellis.)  She complains that Ellis has won me away from her. 

After years of separation, she obtained a civil divorce.20

          As mentioned earlier, Joseph Musser took his first plural wife after purportedly receiving instructions to do so from an alleged messenger representing President Lorenzo Snow.  These instructions supposedly were given in late 1899.  After pursuing a courtship with Mary (Mame) Caroline Hill, she consented to become his plural wife.  Musser recorded few of his interactions with plural wives or the women he was courting.  Concerning his first activities with Mary Hill, Musser wrote: 

          December 16, 1901 - Attended M.I. officers meeting at Mill Creek Ward.  After meeting accompanied Bros. Winder and Moss to Bro. Hills where we administered to Guy Hill, who was very sick in bed.  The gift of healing was in the house and Guy felt better immediately after the administration. 

          December 17, 1901 - Attended M.I. at Murry ward accompanied by Mamie Hill

          January 8, 1902 - Visited Guy Hill with Bro. Winder and administered to him. 

          January 12, 1902 - Visited Mamie Hill with wife and baby, and had very pleasant time.  Filled an appointment to Sugar M.I.A. with Mamie Hill.21

          Mary Hill Musser bore six children22 including Joseph Musser's patriarchal heir, Guy Musser.23  Despite her apparent early acceptance of plural marriage, Mary too parted with her husband concerning its continued practice: 

          August 21, (1922) (Mon.) - Learnt that my wives Rose and Mary have both made statements of late reflecting on my integrity and indicating their utter lack of confidence in me, yet they are straining every effort to get money from me for their support.  Their misrepresentations are damaging to as it prevented me from doing business with certain people into whose ears the "rattle" of these women reach. 

          August 27, (1922) - Spent today at Yale writing up records.  Mary and some of the Wright friends came to visit the home.  I took them through, and had a short confidential talk with Mary, by which my heart is made to rejoice, as I believe she still has a spark of love for me and that there is still hope of reclaiming my own at the farm.  Wife Mary listens to so many people in her Stake and to some of the Apostles, denouncing our marriage state that she is being greatly influenced by it.  I pray to the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, that he will give me power to keep the love spark aglow in the hearts of my loved ones until the present clouds of doubt and uncertainty are dissipated and the real truth comes forth. 

          September 1, (1922) - Visited my wife Mary at the Farm.  Found her very positive in her feelings that she should not continue living with me because of the counsel she has had from different monogamic sources.  She says the Lord has taken from her love from me and she does not desire me to visit her in future, but of course should have perfect liberty to see the children and to support them.  I told Mary that I still loved her and that I expected some day to lead her into the Celestial Kingdom of God.  Poor girl.  She is deluded.  Her self righteous brothers, her prattling sister neighbors, her ward officials, some of the apostles, have lost no opportunity in trying to convince her that her life is wrong is plural marriage, and she is wavering.  She cant endure the test.  She looks for the plaudits of the populace.  She said as long as I could go the stand [sic] pray and preach she loved me, but now that I am dropped and am not recognized by the Church authorities, she cant stand it.  She must be with the popular side.  She must feed on recognitions.  She forgets that one of the authorities told her to stand by me.  Poor girl.  She has so many wonderful qualities too and she is a lovely girl.  Heavenly Father take possession of her heart and lead her back to me.  Teach her that trials are meant for a purpose and that they purify and ennoble;  That only those who are purified as by fire will win the great reward; that her husband understands more of the situation than her neighbors and that she should follow him.  

          August 5, (1925)   Mary Sr. is wafted to and fro by every wind of doctrine.  What her brothers think, so does she when she is with them.  When they are away she tries to think with me.  Very unstable.  With the authorities of the Church, - some of them - forever denying modern plural marriage, I am having the "devils own time" holding my family together.  But the struggle is on and as long as God gives me life, I shall hope and struggle and try to be just to all concerned.  I love my beautiful children...24 

          In 1922, she refused to have him live with her on the farm where she was residing.  Mary was diagnosed as having breast cancer in 1929.  By November of 1930, she had passed away.25

          Joseph's third marriage was to Ellis R. Shipp, the daughter of Dr. Ellis Shipp.  Dr. Shipp was the first woman physician in the territory.  Her daughter, Ellis, added five children to the Joseph Musser family.  While Ellis R. Shipp Musser appears to have accepted the principle of plural marriage until the 1930's, she later joined with Musser's other wives terminating any conjugal relationship with her husband and invited him to move out of her home: 

          September 11, (1933) - Matters have not been running smoothly of late.  Quite an antagonistic feeling is aroused in Ellis' mind because of my association with Lorin C. Woolley and companions.  I am wanted to get in harmony with the Church standards, and not oppose their policies and teachings.  

          March 12, (1934) - This completes my move from Yale and from Ellis.  Doubtless she feels a relief in getting me away.  The presence of her children, church opposition, etc. is too great.  She has been a grand and glorious wife, a pure and devoted mother, but she has never been converted to the "fulness of the Gospel," and now, under the severe pressure the opposition has been able to bring to bear, she doesn't feel she can "carry on."  God bless her forever.  Bless her for what she has been to me and may she be preserved to do much good yet.  And may the time come when through a clearer light and a better policy of life, we may again be united, but in a more enduring union. 

          July 19, (1937) - Wife Ellis has requested we maintain a recess, since my plans and work are obnoxious to her views and aims.  She just can't seem to harmonize with my work. 

          April 29, (1941) - Wife Ellis feels it better that I do not visit at her home, as it tends to prejudice Sam's chances for a job with the Government.  I am not considered a good citizen. 

          Ellis Shipp Musser's rejection of the continued practice of plural marriage is significant because during the 1920's she often accompanied her husband as he attended religious meetings with other polygamists.26  She heard men, like Lorin C. Woolley and Daniel Bateman, preach many times and yet she ultimately rejected their testimonies.27

          Less is known about Musser's fourth plural wife, Lucy Kmetzsch Musser.28  Their marriage took place in the 1930's29 after Joseph was positioned as a potential priesthood leader within the fledgling fundamentalist religious organization.  She bore him two children.

          Respecting the frustration that Joseph Musser felt with his first three wives and their eventual rejection of his polygamist views.  He reflected in 1922: 

          ...I am in much the same position, of course on a smaller scale, but the principle is the same, as the Prophet Joseph Smith, when he crossed the river to come west, and escape the fury of the mobcrats, his friends, and especially his wife.  Emma sent word intimating that he was a coward, demanding that he come back and face the music, etc.  He came to his doom.  So my wives instead of standing by me and sustaining me in the fullest extent, are forever depreciating my efforts and ability and causing, by their words and actions, other people to do likewise.  (Joseph Musser Journals,  August 21, 1922.) 

          Fundamentalist prophet Lorin C. Woolley characterized Joseph Musser's polygamous family in very positive terms, despite the many problems mentioned above.  Musser's 1931 account (when he was living as alone): 

          Took Lauren [sic] C. Woolley to home on "I" St. for dinner...

          Said aside from [the] polygamous family of Samuel Woolley of Centerville, (in early days) he considered my family the best regulated family in the Church.  "The Spirit of the Lord is with you."  (Joseph Musser Journals, July 7, 1931.) 

PRIESTHOOD LEADER 

          During the mid-1930's, Joseph Musser spent a great deal of time promoting an organization which he believed was the guardian of the keys of sealing authority upon the earth.  He called the alleged organization the "Priesthood": 

          ...there is a Priesthoodxe "The PRIESTHOOD"  organization greater than that of the Church; and that Priesthood always has, can now and will continue to function aside from and independent of the Church.  (A Priesthood Issue, p. 25.) 

          There are three major organizations, set up in the following order:

          (a) Priesthoodxe "The PRIESTHOOD" ; the higher order of which being God's immediate authority, and to which all other organizations, priesthoods and callings are subordinate.

          (b) The Churchxe "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" ; which is the vehicle used by the Priesthood in its spiritual work, both at home and abroad.

          (c) The Kingdomxe "Council of Fifty" ; having to do with the temporal or civil affairs of the peoples of earth.  (Joseph W. Musser, A Priesthood Issue, N.p. N.d. (1948), pp. 15-16.  See also Truth 17:164.  Joseph W. Musser and J. Leslie Broadbent, Priesthood Items,N.p., 1933, p. 13.  Joseph W. Musser with J. Leslie Broadbent, Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, N.p., 1934, p. 91.) 

          This Priesthood was presided over by a Council of Seven Friends or Priesthood Council.30  Each member of the alleged Council of Friends held the purported priesthood office of HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE.31  Though Musser was not the senior member of that Council of Friends (Priesthood Council), he was clearly the most vocal concerning it.  It is useful to describe the process through which Musser became a member of this alleged priesthood council and organization.

          As mentioned earlier, Joseph Musser retained his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until 1921, when he was excommunicated for attempting to enter into a new polygamous union.  If there was a Priesthood organization existing in 1921, we might have expected Musser to have encountered it and joined with it.  This did not happen.

          For fundamentalists today, this may present something of a problem.  Many wish to believe that their Priesthood organization (which they now belong to) has existed from the time that the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829.  Joseph Musser taught: 

          This Priesthood group began to function with Joseph Smith, its head, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, as early as June, 1829.  (Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, p. 96.)

          First then, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were endowed with the Priesthood - the Aaronic and then the Melchizedek.

          This was all done before the Church was organized.  The Priesthood first functioned in Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and, later in others.  The "Gospel of the Kingdom" was preached, converts were baptized and the "Gift of the Holy Ghost" bestowed, still no church organization, according to the laws of the land, was in existence.  The Priesthood could and did function without the Church.  (A Priesthood Issue p. 5.) 

          However, this is clearly not true.  There is no discussion of such an organization in the scriptures or by any monogamist or polygamist prior to Musser's 1934 expositions.

          It appears that during the latter portion of 1933,32 Musser, with the help of fellow "High Priest Apostle" J. Leslie Broadbent, scanned the historical sources33 at their command to retrospectively identify quotations and episodes which they believed supported the existence of a Priesthood organization.  That Priesthood organization purportedly existed outside of the Church and was presided over by a Council of Friends (Priesthood Council) composed of seven "HIGH PRIEST APOSTLES."34

          Musser's theories about an external Priesthood organization existing since 1829 have been accepted by many modern practitioners of plural marriage.  Nonetheless, much evidence exists to suggest that Joseph Musser was entirely unaware of any such Priesthood organization until 1933 or 1934.  Evidence supporting this conclusion includes: 

          1.      As early as 1922 Musser listened to the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley and recorded pages of his beliefs in his journal.  Woolley is important because in 1934, Musser described him as having been a leader in the alleged Priesthood organization since 1886.  However, throughout all of Woolley's teachings during the 1920's, he never described anything that even remotely resembled the Priesthood ideas introduced by Joseph Musser in 1934. 

          It is also significant that Woolley did not invite Musser or the other men and women he was teaching to join him in a Priesthood organization during his lifetime.  Two examples include Nathaniel Baldwin and Charles F. Zitting.  Baldwin listened to both Lorin C. Woolley and John W. Woolley several times in the 1920's starting in 1921.  Yet there is nothing to indicate he was encouraged to follow a Council of Friends in an external Priesthood organization or that he was taught of the existence of such an entity.  A few references to the Woolleys which Baldwin recorded in his diary:

          August 28, 1921 - Stake Conference day.  Attended Sunday School.  In afternoon a meeting was held under the trees on Brigham Duffin's farm - a meeting of about 15 men and as many women, many of whom have been cut off the Church for practicing the principle of plural marriage and performing the ordinances.  Among the number were John Woolley, Lorin C. Woolley,  Israel Barlow and his son.  A memorable occasion.  Strong testimonies were born concerning the truth of the gospel and especially concerning the principle of plural marriage. 

          September 15, 1921 - At shop.  Working on various items.  In afternoon took Nathan, Clyde Nielson, Seymor Neff, Lester Fisher, and John T. Clark over to visit Lorin C. Woolley and his father at Centerville.  We heard many remarkable testimonies particularly regarding the teaching and practice of polygamy by our Church leaders.  Arrive home at 10:40pm. 

          November 10, 1921 - Brother Clark and I went to Centerville in the evening to visit Brother Woolley.  Tried to fit the father, John Woolley, with an instrument to help his hearing. 

          January 15, 1922 - In afternoon went to a meeting at John Woolley's home in Centerville.  His friends presented him with a fine watch and made many expressions of appreciation of his faithful labors.  He has just past his 90th birthday.  Patriarch Sperry was present.  He and Brother Woolley have both seen the Prophet Joseph Smith and had much experience in the Church.  There were present about 34 people, some important spirits no doubt. 

          March 21, 1922 - Went to Centerville to give and receive a report from Brother L.  Afternoon returning home earned that Brother Woolley was at the home of John Barlow visiting with some other friends.  Called on them and listened to his conversation until about 10:40pm. 

          Notwithstanding multiple opportunities for Baldwin to be taught about a Priesthood organization by the Woolley's, no such teachings are referred to, neither does Baldwin participate in any such group.  Undoubtedly he, with his abundant financial resources, would have been invited to join if any such Priesthood existed.

          Charles F. Zitting encountered the Woolleys sometime prior to 1927.  John Woolley performed two plural marriages for Zitting that year.35  Despite the fact that Zitting believed that the Woolleys both held sealing authority, there is nothing to support the idea that either of the Woolleys, in 1927, taught him about a Priesthood organization existing exterior to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or encouraged him to join the same.  The Priesthood organization described by Musser in 1934 simply did not exist in the 1920's. 

          2.      At the same time that Joseph Musser was spending time learning from Lorin C. Woolley, he also spent many hours with John T. Clark.  John T. Clarkxe "John T. Clark:description"  was a charismatic self-proclaimed prophet who professed to be "One Mighty and Strong" mentioned in D&C 85:7 who was to "set in order the house of God."  Clark also declared himself to be "the most literal descendent of Jesus Christ on earth today" and to carry "indian blood in his veins."36  Joseph Musser wrote in 1922 that he was "deeply impressed with his claims"37 and while Joseph Musser did not espouse all of the teachings of John T. Clark, he later recorded in his journal:  

          To me, John [T. Clark]'s claim's do not ring true in their entirety.  That he has an important work to do, I do not doubt, but that he is chosen to lead the people I do doubt.  And shall continue to doubt, until at least the Lord shall make his mind and will known to me.  (June 10, 1928.)38 

          To demonstrate his support for John T. Clark, Joseph Musser aided him for many hours39 as Clark wrote a book entitled The One Mighty and Strong.40  That book contains nothing about a Council of Friends (Priesthood Council), the office of HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE, or an external Priesthood organization.  It also contradicts Musser's later teachings on the subordinate position of the Church President.  It seems unlikely that Musser would have spent so much time supporting Clark and his ideas during the 1920's if he had then known about the Priesthood organization he detailed in several publications in 1934. 

          3.      Many fundamentalists today believe that Musser was purportedly ordained to the leadership council of the Priesthood (i.e. made a HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE) in 1929 by Lorin C. Woolley.  Musser wrote in 1948: 

          [On May 14, 1929] I was ordained a High Priest Apostle and a Patriarch to all the world, by a High Priest Apostle, and I was instructed to see that never a year passed that children were not born in the covenant of plural marriage...  (Truth 20:28 and Joseph W. Musser p. 11.) 

          However, Musser's actions and beliefs prior to 1934 suggest that the proposed 1929 "ordination" was nothing more than a "blessing."  The actual reference in his personal journal says nothing of any "ordination": 

          Received most wonderful blessing from Bro. Lauren [sic] C. Woolley.  Spent 2 1/2 hours with him listening to his past experiences.  I rejoice greatly in his friendship and the Lord's blessing.

          Vital points to be considered:

          Patriarch, Apostle

          Family ties - Sustain - Sacred

          Great in Kingdom & Church

          Humble, Wise41         (Joseph Musser Journals, May 14, 1929.)

This entry from Musser's personal journal refers only to a blessing being received and nothing of a Council of Friends or "High Priest Apostles."

          An examination of Musser's activities between 1929 and 1934, as reflected in his personal journal, fails to support the idea that he held a formal leadership position in any kind of Priesthood organization during that time.  However, after publishing his priesthood beliefs in 1934, he apparently realized his important alleged priesthood calling.  Beginning in February of that year, Musser's journal contains numerous references to his leadership calling and Priesthood organization, all of which were entirely absent prior to that time. 

          4.      Publications written prior to 1933,42 such as the popular A Leaf in Review by B. Harvey Allredxe "B. Harvey Allred:A Leaf in Review" , contain nothing about a presiding Council of Friends or teachings on an external Priesthood.  In fact, the book teaches that the First Presidency of the Church presides over both priesthoods and that the First Presidency was to be ordained by the Twelve Apostles.43  B. Harvey Allred was also consistent in referring to the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the presiding priesthood authority upon the earth.44  There is no hint of the priesthood doctrine that Musser was to introduce in 1934.45  A second volume, Celestial Marriage? written by J. Leslie Broadbent in 1929 is also devoid of any reference to Musser's priesthood ideas. 

          In December of 1942, Joseph Musser frankly acknowledged:

          Got No. 8 TRUTH in mail this morning.  It contains an editorial on the question of "President of Priesthood", attacking the theory that Prest. Grant holds all the keys.  The fight seems to be simmering down to the question of Priesthood pure and simple.  Is the Church the all in all of organization?  If not, what is?  The Priesthood must rule.

          I have spent the year championing the rights of the Priesthood as against the arbitrary (as I see it) actions and rule of the Church.  The TRUTH magazine has been the medium I have used.  My brethren of the Priesthood Council have stood by me.  If I have missed the mark it has been innocent and entirely unintentional.  I am convicted with the feeling that the Priesthood is one organization and the Church is another, and that Pres. [Heber J.] Grant has jurisdiction in the Church.  If I am wrong I pray the Lord to correct me and to assist me in getting back into the proper channel.  Up to date, however, in all the reasoning power I have, and listening to the voice of the Spirit of the Lord, I am convinced that I am right.46  (Joseph Musser Journals, December 28, 1942.) 

          Perhaps we should also note that there is nothing in the scriptures or the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor or other priesthood leaders to support it.  Neither should it be ascribed to the likes of Lorin C. Woolley.

          Suffice it to say that by 1935, Joseph Musser was comfortable with his position as a "HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE" and second in seniority in a Council of Friends47 that presided over an alleged Priesthood organization comprised of believers in the continued practice of plural marriage.

 

JOSEPH MUSSER THE WRITER 

          Between 1933 and his death in 1954, Musser also gained prominence with men and women practicing plural marriage through his many publications.  Foremost among those was Truth, a monthly periodical which he edited.  It commenced in June of 1935 and continued for 21 years.  In its pages Musser compiled many of the arguments still promoted by fundamentalists today.  Topics included: plural marriage, the Manifesto, an external Priesthood organization, the united order, changes associated with the temple, Adam-God doctrine, "One Mighty and Strong," the gathering of Israel, missionary work without purse or scrip and a host of others.48  Musser's publications include:49 

     1929      Official version of Lorin C. Woolley's 1886 account - not published

     1933      The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage

     1934      Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage

             Priesthood Items

     1935      Truth magazine

             Jenson-Ballard Correspondence

             Sevens-Seventy-Sanhedrin

             Open letter to President Grant

     1936      Open letter to President Roosevelt

     1938      Michael, Our Father and Our God

     1943      The Coming Crisis

     1944      Celestial or Plural Marriage

     1948      The Law of Plural Marriage

             A Priesthood Issue

             The Economic Order of Heaven

             Four Hidden Revelations

             Joseph W. Musser  (autobiography) 

     In addition to his ability to write on religious topics, Joseph Musser was also able to compose beautiful prose.  Writing at the death of his mother-in-law, Dr. Ellis Shipp, he recorded: 

     The day wears on.  Shadows grow longer.  Heat gives way to a softening warmth preluding the chill of even-tide.  This body, once nimble, strong and alert, begins to weaken; steps slow down, the voice reveals a tremor; but there is yet much to do and she must redouble the effort while time ticks on.  Scarred, bleeding and weary of step she nears the summit.  The mountain side is about to be conquered.  The shade of night are drawing close while nature prepared a downy bed and turns her lights dim.  Still trudging on the wary soul moves with steps -- yet with purpose firm and unyielding.

     At the stroke of midnight she reaches the top.  Her steps cease.  Angels attend her.  Folded in the silken shrouds of eternity her weary body succumbs to sleep, while her spirit smilingly travels on.  She has lived a whole day through -- one of God's days -- every hour, minute and second of it.  No task is left unfinished.!  (Joseph W. Musser, p. 45.)

1936 - JOSEPH MUSSER ASKS:

“WHERE ARE THE KEYS OF THE PRIESTHOOD?” 

     A question concerning Joseph Musser's authority to preside over the described Priesthood organization arose in 1936.  For many months prior to November, 1936, John Y. Barlow, Senior Member of the Council of Friends, had been managing the temporal affairs of the believers in Shortcreek, Arizona.  Some dissatisfaction arose with his leadership, but the believers continued to follow him because they believed he held the priesthood keys and was the Lord's Prophet.  On November 8th, several followers approached John Y. Barlow and asked him if he held the priesthood keys which he "answered in the negative": 

     Thursday Lewis [Kelschxe "Lewis Kelsch" ] and I had a personal talk with Bro. John Y. Barlow.  We pointed out our fears that under the present set-up the group could not prosper;  that there seemed a disposition toward a one man rule; that the present arrangement was not in accordance with the spirit of the action of the Priesthood recently taken, whereby it was advised that Bro. Barlow resign from the Management of the affairs of the group and confine his labors more particularly to the spiritual field; that our work was especially along the line of keeping faith in patriarchal marriage alive, and not in the directing of colonizing.  Bro. Barlow was asked if he claimed to hold the keys of Priesthood, which he answered in the negativexe "John Y. Barlow:Admits not holding the Keys of the Priesthood in 1936" , saying, however, that he had dreamed of a personage coming to him and handing him a bunch of keys, and leaving without explanation.  He did not know that that had any special significance.  (Joseph Musser Journals November 8, 1936.) 

     One week later the inquiry was made to Musser who replied:

     That the special mission and labors of the Priesthood group was [sic] to keep plural marriage alive...  Stated the Lord had not revealedxe "Joseph W. Musser:1936, did not know who held the Keys of the Priesthood"  to him [Joseph Musser] who held the Keys to Priesthood, but that Bro. Barlow, by reason of his seniorityxe "John Y. Barlow:\"At the head\" after death of J. Leslie Broadbent"  in ordination presided over the group.  (Joseph Musser Journals, November 13, 1936.) 

An examination of the purported line of succession of the keys of sealing from John Taylor to Joseph Musser identifies other significant problems.50

     From about 1933, Joseph devoted nearly all of his energies to promoting plural marriage.  Besides publishing, he spent a great deal of time visiting and strengthening his fellow fundamentalists all over the United States. 

MUSSER AS A MARTYR 

     Joseph Musser was willing to sacrifice even his own life for his beliefs.  He prophesied that the re-establishment of plural marriage within the Church would "take the best blood of this generation": 

     Tuesday last visited with Morris Kunz and family and enjoyed a spiritual feast with them.  Made the prediction that the principle of Patriarchal Order of Marriage would have to be re-established by the shedding of some of the best blood of this generation as it was established by shedding of blood of Joseph and Hyrum.  Who will be selected by the Lord to be the sacrifice I know not, but my life is on the Altar and if I can be used, I shall praise God for evermore, for his great goodness and mercies toward me and mine.  (Joseph Musser Journals, April 1, 1934.) 

Several times he recorded his desire to be a martyr to his cause.51

     The closest Joseph came to being a martyr to his cause began on March 7, 1944 when he and 44 other suspected fundamentalists were rounded up by FBI agents on the charges associated with their belief in the continued practice of plural marriage.52  Musser apparently was aware of the investigation and wrote in his journal on February 29, 1944:

     The Federal Grand Jury has been in session since 28th investigating our group activities and particularly the Truth magazine and its sponsors.  What they hope to do, according to their open declarations, is to stamp plural marriage out of the state, to stop Truth publication, and to make us like the rest of the people.  We challenge their powers in this respect and shall go on serving our God as we are led by our consciences... Some of us may have to go to prison, but what of that.  We should be willing to bear such a testimony to the nation if that course is the will of the Lord.  We ask, not for lighter burdens, our Father, but for the strength to carry out all burdens that in thy wisdom, are placed upon us. 

     Joseph Musser was confined to prison but was able to regain his freedom after serving only seven months by signing a pledge to "refrain hereafter from advocating, teaching or countenancing the practice of plural marriage or polygamy..."53  This "pledge" has been referred to by some Latter-day Saint writers as the "Fundamentalist Manifesto" and has been the source of criticism for Joseph Musser since he obviously broke the pledge after his release from prison.54  He continued to teach and write in favor of plural marriage until his death in 1954. 

JOSEPH MUSSER PRESIDES OVER A DIVIDED  PRIESTHOOD COUNCIL 

     As referred to earlier, Musser was not the senior member of the Council of Friends prior to 1949.  John Y. Barlow had presided over the Council of Friends and the Priesthood organization since the death of J. Leslie Broadbent in 1935.  Barlow's death in 1949 left Musser as the senior member of the Council.  Since Musser had purportedly been ordained as a Council member by Woolley in 1929, few, in any, followers questioned his seniority.  Soon, however, many would question his leadership and right to preside.

     Three elements contributed to the difficulties which arose with Musser's leadership.  First, in early 1949, he experienced a stroke which left him partially disabled and according to his son Guy, with his memory "partially destroyed."55

     Second, fundamentalist doctrine teaches that the Senior Member of the Council of Friends is God's Prophet and presiding priesthood authority upon the earth.56  However, their literature is rather vague on how a successor to the Senior Member is to be determined.  The doctrine of "Second Elder" dictates that a man so designated becomes the Senior Member of the Council when that position is vacated through death.57  For example, Lorin C. Woolley had chosen J. Leslie Broadbent as his "Second Elder."58  Likewise, it also appears that Broadbent had designated John Y. Barlow as his Second Elder and that Barlow later designated Joseph Musser as his Second Elder in proper order.  Besides being designated as the "Second Elder," these last three men (Broadbent, Barlow and Musser) possessed ordinations which respectfully placed them second in seniority within the Council in their turn.  The issue which had not been clearly described by any fundamentalist prophet was whether a "Second Elder" could be someone other than the person second in seniority within the Priesthood Council.

     Third, in 1950 Musser undertook to deviate from the precedent set by the three former Senior Members (Woolley, Broadbent and Barlow) of the Priesthood Council by attempting to ordain Rulon C. Allred as his "Second Elder" which clearly implied that Allred would be his successor in the leadership of the Priesthood Council after Joseph's death.  By so designating Allred, Musser was seeking to bypass the seniority of all other members of the Priesthood Council.

     A majority of the Priesthood in 1951 felt Musser was out of order in his ordination of Rulon Allred.  Even though the Council was apparently "united in its stand against Brother Allred,"59 exactly how those members of the Council were to proceed was unclear.  Part of the problem with the activities of the Priesthood Council stems from the belief that they are a strict theocracy and not a democracy in any way.  Musser taught: 

     [The] Priesthood is a Theocracy - direction coming direct from God, while the Church is in essence a Democracy - all things being done in it by "common consent" of its members (D&C 26:2).60 

This doctrine allows little more than prayer and direct revelation from heaven61 to settle disputes which might arise within the Priesthood Council (Council of Friends).  As one recalls that the Senior Member of the Council is also God's prophet, resolving disagreements between him and the other members of the Council could rapidly escalate into a leadership crisis, especially if the Senior Member of the "Theocracy" was receiving revelations that contradicted the inspiration of the rest of the Council

     Sometime after January of 1952, Joseph Musser felt he was inspired to bypass the former Priesthood Council and appointed another Council in its stead with Rulon Allred serving as his "Second Elder" (see the  Appendix to this chapter).  Allred became Senior Member of the new Council upon the death of Musser in 1954.  The former Council assumed leadership of the followers in the Colorado City, Arizona area.62 

SUMMARY 

     Joseph White Musser was a intelligent and gifted man.  He participated in the transformation that saw scattered individuals, who were trying to live the principle of plural marriage, evolve into an established Priesthood organization.  Through the pages of his publications, he brought together virtually all of the arguments and doctrines that have become the basis for fundamentalist theology today.  He was also the first man to describe a Priesthood organization, with a Priesthood Council (Council of Friends) and HIGH PRIEST APOSTLES, which allegedly authorizes continued polygamous unions for many today.  

     Some may disagree with the assessment that he was the "father of the fundamentalist movement."63  Nevertheless, many people would agree that few, if any of the other fundamentalist leaders, have influenced that movement as significantly as he did.64

APPENDIX 

      A Chronology of events as recounted by a follower of Rulon C. Allred (see Gems 2:33-42): 

1937    Rulon C. Allred received a commission from Joseph Musser to "perform ordinances" under his direction in Idaho and elsewhere. 

1940    Rulon Allred received special Patriarch blessing "You shall have the power and the gift of a Prophet and a Seer and a Revelator and the Fullness of the Priesthood.  The fullness of the Orders of the Priesthood will come to you and you will have the hands of your Savior laid upon your head." 

1948    John Y. Barlow blessed Rulon and "ordained him a Patriarch, and conferred upon him the sealing power, and said that from hence forth he was authorized to perform sealing and to keep this principle alive in all the world and that he would not have to go to his brethren for direction but could act for himself under the direction of the Spirit of the Lord, that he was subject to no man's authority except this (that is John's). 

1948    Received word from Joseph Musser that he should return from Mexico to Salt Lake City, Utah, because this was where the Lord wanted him.  Rulon Allred had been sent to Mexico by John Y. Barlow without Joseph Musser's knowledge. 

1949    Joseph Musser has a stroke leaving him partially disabled and according to his son Guy, "his memory [was] partially destroyed." 

1949 Dec. Three days before John Y. Barlow's death he called Rulon Allred to help him with shoulder pain.  John Y. Barlow instructs Rulon Allred to "stand in the appointment he [John Y. Barlow] had given him in Mexico." 

1950 May   Joseph Musser gives Brother Bautista the "keys of authority" to "seal the Lamanite Saints in Celestial Marriage for, and only, as long as Joseph lived."  Brother Bautista also set apart as an Apostle and a Patriarch and he stood second to Rulon in authority, appointment. 

1950 Aug.  Rulon Allred requested to answer written correspondence and make decisions for Joseph Musser. 

1950 Sep. Joseph Musser asked Rulon Allred to come see him.  Rulon Allred inquires whether his calling had ceased with John Y. Barlow's death?  Joseph Musser sets Rulon Allred apart as his "First Counselor and to stand at [his] side as Hyrum stood to Joseph and as Leslie stood to Lorin." 

1950 Oct.  Joseph Musser announced to the people that he had chosen a counselor for himself and that man was Rulon Allred. 

1950 Nov.  Discussion concerning how "much the members of the Priesthood Council had violently opposed Rulon's calling and appointment."  As Joseph Musser Counselor, Rulon Allred did not understand him "to be set at the top ahead of the rest of them..." neither Joseph nor Rulon claimed that Rulon was ahead of any of the other members of the Council." 

1950

Dec. 3        Two members of the Council meet with Joseph Musser to persuade him to not call Rulon Allred as his "counselor."  Joseph Musser insists upon having Rulon Allred as a counselor. 

             Later, the Council met and decided that Rulon Allred was not a member of the Council nor an Apostle as Joseph had said.  "Rulon Allred held only a commissioned authority and was an assistant to Joseph, holding this commissioned authority only during the life of Joseph." 

1950

Dec. 7        Joseph Musser tells Rulon Allred about meeting with two of the Council on Dec. 3rd.  Joseph Musser states that Rulon Allred will be sustained as his [Joseph Musser's] "second elder " by the Council or be "broken in pieces."  Rulon Allred asked, "Joseph, when you are gone, will my appointment be terminated?  In the charge which you conferred upon me, I have the keys and authority which you yourself possess."  Joseph Musser answered, "Yes, but you cannot supersede the other brethren in the Council..  You are called as my counselor." 

1950

Dec. 22               Joseph Musser explains to a group of fundamentalists about Rulon's position in relation to him as "Hyrum did to Joseph the Prophet, and as Leslie Broadbent did to Lorin C. Woolley."  "I say I called a First Counselor, a man to be a Second Elder and my right hand man, Brother Rulon C. Allred..." 

1951

May 6         Joseph Musser presents Rulon Allred as a "Patriarch in the High Priesthood."  Only one of the Council sustained the action. 

1951 Dec. A member of the Council was asked if "he believed that Joseph Musser was a Prophet of God and the mouthpiece of God here on the earth?"  The Council member answered yes.  Then he was asked why "he couldn't uphold Joseph [Musser] in the things that he did the" concerning some of his priesthood ordinations including Rulon Allred's.  The Council member responded that he would uphold Joseph Musser if the things he did "were done in order."  "I felt that there was not proof of what the 'order' was, since he and others were going by recollection, and their recollections of what the 'order' was were contradictory, and the fact that they themselves did not follow it consistently made it all very confusing..." 

1952

Jan. 26       Joseph Musser preferred "charges against the Council as a body for insubordination,  high handed procedure, and the violating of their sacred covenants."  Joseph Musser calls two more men as "counselors" along with Rulon Allred.  Joseph Musser threatens to "pass by" the Council because they refused to hearken to his direction." 

             Later a "Special Priesthood Meeting" was held in Sugarhouse, [Salt Lake City], Utah.  Comments made by Guy Musser, son of Joseph Musser and a member of the Council, were introduced.  Guy purportedly stated that Joseph Musser was "incompetent and not able to give any man the Apostleship" and that "all that follow Rulon Allred work under a spurious Priesthood and all his work is done unauthorized."  "My father cannot bypass his whole Council and put someone else ahead."  "The council of the Priesthood is united in its stand against Brother Allred." 

1952

Jan. 31       Joseph Musser was asked, "Did you surrender your authority to the Priesthood Council as a body?"  He answered, "I never bestowed my authority upon the Council.  I could not have done so.  I am responsible to God in these matters as long as I shall live, and even if I had done, they would have to act under my authority as long as I lived, and abide in my decisions." 

Later           Joseph  Musser bypasses the former Council and appoints another in their stead.  "When he did this, he automatically demoted every member of the Council that had opposed him."


1 Joseph White Musser, Joseph W. Musser, 1872-1954, N.p. (available from Pioneer Press), N.d. (1948), p. 25.

2 Ibid., p. 3.

3 Fundamentalists from Colorado City, Arizona, do not presently hold Joseph W. Musser and his teachings in high regard.  However, LeRoy Johnson, who led the group from 1954 until his death in 1986, referred to Musser as a "Prophet" (Leroy S. Johnson, LeRoy Johnson Sermons, Hildale, Utah: Twin City Courier Press, 7 vols., 1984, 3:866) and as "President" many times.  He also acknowledged that Musser constituted a link within their priesthood line (ibid. 3:1153).

4 Andrew Jenson, LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, 4 Vols., Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Co., 1901-1936, 1:381-386.  See also Joseph W. Musser, p. 3.

5 Joseph W. Musser, p. 4.

6 See Joseph W. Musser, pp. 23-25.

7 Joseph wrote that "in 1914 my business assets amounted to some $50,000, according to the bank estimate.  The war came and in six months I was $50,000 in the hole" (Joseph W. Musser, p. 35).  His personal journal reflects many concerns for finances, both personal and for the companies he was serving.

8  It is interesting to contrast Lorin C. Woolley's own actions during the 1920's, a time he was supposedly serving as a High Priest Apostle (according to Musser's 1934 writings).  Lorin Woolley apparently felt it was very appropriate to involve himself in money-making schemes as he eagerly joined with Nathaniel Baldwin as a director in his radio instrument company.

9  Joseph W. Musser p. 31.

10 This entry is not correctly positioned chronologically for reasons that are unclear.  By his own account he attended the temple on November 30, 1899, but the record describing the activities of that day is located after the March 3, 1900 entry.

11 Generally, Musser claimed the "messenger" was sent by President Snow (Joseph W. Musser pp. 9, 32).  However, he also claimed the messenger was sent by "President Smith," not President Snow.  His autobiography reads:

 

   July 7, 1940, at a general meeting on the lawn of Louis A. Kelsch in Mill Creek Ward, I testified before 143 adults to having received the word of the Lord on the marriage question from President John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith, and from other reliable sources.  That I was instructed to enter the order of plural marriage by a messenger from President Smith; that the principle must go ahead and that no power on earth can stop it.  (Joseph W. Musser, pp. 76-77.)

 

   A review of Musser's personal journal for that period contains nothing regarding the proposed "messenger" or Musser's being "selected" to become a polygamist.  The very idea that President Snow would suggest such a thing goes contrary to other actions and statements he made supporting the 1890 Manifesto.  Brigham Young, Jr., quoted President Snow in his journal:

 

   There cannot be a plural marriage solemnized in this church without my consent and I have never given consent for this to be done since President of the Church.  God has removed this privilege from the people and until he restores it, I shall not consent to any man taking a plural wife.  It is just as fair for one as it is for all to go without.  The business is taken out from our hands and we cannot fight the United States.  It is for them and God to settle this question.  We are not in it.  There is no such thing as men taking plural wives and keeping it secret.  It cannot be done.  Has any one of the apostles a right to seal plural wives to men by reason of former concessions made to them by the Presidency?  No, sir, such right must come from me and no man shall be authorized by me to break the law of the Land. (Brigham Young, Jr., Journal, B.Y.U. typescript, pp. 36,37.)

12 The question of when the Keys of Sealing allegedly left the Church elicits inconsistent answers from fundamentalists in general.  Some have taught that they were forfeited with the 1890 Manifesto and that John W. Woolley possessed them after the Church approved the Manifesto.  See Truth 6:21-22, 9:251, 16:79 and Joseph W. Musser p. 14 (see also Truth 8:262, 9:142-144).  Contrast Truth 10:329.  See also Items , pp. 12, 24, 28 and Star of Truth 4:51.  (Compare A Leaf in Review, pp. 40-41 and Robert R. Openshaw,The Notes, Pinesdale, Montana: Bitterroot Publishing Co., 1981, p. 395.)  This is discussed in The Priesthood of Modern Polgyamy, An LDS Perspective chapter five.

13 Joseph W. Musser pp. 62-65.

14 Joseph Musser married Ellis R. Shipp in 1907.  This ceremony was probably performed by Patriarch Judson Tolman. 

15 Joseph W. Musser, p. 64.

16 Joseph Musser Journals, Feb. 23, March 7, 8, 12, 22, 23, 1921.  See also Deseret Evening News, March 23, 1921, "Notice of Excommunication."

17 Joseph Musser Journals, March 19, 1922.

18 Earlier in Musser's life, but after his excommunication in 1921, he was much less critical of the Church Leaders.  The harshness of his condemnation seemed to grow over his years of formal estrangement.  Members of the Church might attribute this to a process described by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

 

   I will give you one of the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom.  It is an eternal principle that has existed with God from all Eternity that that man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly that that man is in the high road to apostasy and if he does not repent will apostatize as God lives.  (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 413.)

19 Joseph W. Musser, p. 31.

20 The divorce probably occurred around 1925.  Joseph Musser later related that his wife Rose "made it clear she did not want a temple or priesthood divorce" (Joseph W. Musser, p. 19).

21 While his journal says nothing about his marriage which allegedly occurred on March 13, 1902 (see "The Life of Mary Caroline Hill Musser" by her daughter Blanche Belcher, N.p., 1952, p. 3 [date is pencilled in the blank space of the copy found at the Utah Historical Society]) a later reference to Mary Hill's father at the time of his demise is interesting:

 

May 9th, 1902 - Received word through mail of death of Guy Hill on the 8th.  He was one of my dearest friends and was prepared to die.  Guy was good, pure and thoroughly a Latter-day Saint.  He sustained the principle of plural marriage in his desires, his prayers and his assistance to others.

22 Musser did not mention in his journal the births of his children born to his plural wives, but the entry for November 13, 1903 states, "Went to Salt Lake to inspect some goods I ordered some time ago.  They arrived on the morning train."  This entry then has the name "MARY" pencilled diagonally through it and appears to be Joseph's handwriting.  Interesting to note that the first child of Mary Caroline Hill Musser and Joseph W. Musser was born on this date named MARY Hill Musser.

23 Joseph W. Musser, p. 32.

24 Notwithstanding these feelings, Mary later attended a couple of meetings with Joseph sponsored by a fellow polygamist, Heber C. Kimball:

 

May 22, (1927) - Attended special meeting with friends at house of Bro. Heber C. Kimball.  Had most excellent time.  Accompanied by wives Mary and Ellis.

 

October 29, (1927) - Attended home meeting at Bro. H.C. Kimball's with wife Mary at night.  Bore my testimony. 

25 Musser recorded concerning her demise:

 

November 9, 1930 - Spent day at farm - Mary passed away at 8:45 P.M. peacefully, after a long season of suffering.  She has lived a good life, has fought a good fight and by reason of the life she adopted, is a candidate for the highest glory.  Her fight has not come from without, but from within.  Those who made life hardest for her were her own kin who should of [sic] helped her.  But she faced life bravely and did what she conceived to be right.  Her children beautiful, strong, and cultured as they are, are a lasting monument to the integrity and deep religions sense of the woman.  She will live forever in the memory of God's faithful children.  She is the only member of a large and prominent family, to receive celestial marriage in its fullness.  Under all the circumstances, she acted her part well.

26See the Joseph Musser Journals, entries for: March 12, April 9, May 3, August 6, 7, 10, 13, October 4, 1922; and May 22, 1927.

27On September 11, 1933 Musser penned: "Matters have not been running smoothly of late.  Quite an antagonistic feeling is aroused in Ellis' mind because of my association with Lorin C. Woolley and companions."

28Sometime in the early 1930's (1932?) several Kmetzsch sisters married leaders in the evolving COUNCIL OF FRIENDS or PRIESTHOOD COUNCIL.  Lucy married Joseph Musser.  Her sister Golda married Lorin C. Woolley.  Sister Anna married J. Leslie Broadbent and Elsie wed Louis Kelsch.

29Truth 20:17.

30Supplement, p. 103, 109.  This council has several other names which  include: The Council of Friends of God, the Quorum of High Priest Apostles, and the Council of the Presidency.  A few of the other proposed titles include: "Presidency of the Priesthood" (A Priesthood Issue, p. 18), "Presidency of the Council of High Priesthood" and "Presidency of the High Priesthood" (Supplement, p. 106), and "Council of the Church before the Presidency of the High Priesthood" (Ibid. p. 107).  Some fundamentalist groups simply refer to it as Priesthood Council  (see LeRoy Johnson Sermons).

31The highest priesthood office, they believe, is that of "High Priest Apostle" which is higher than the Apostleship held by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  See Supplement pp. 99-100 and Truth 4:132-133.  Fundamentalist leaders in later years have largely ignored or denied Musser's teaching of a HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE.  Rulon Allred refrains from ever using the term (see Treasures of Knowledge, 2 vols., Hamilton, Montana: Bitterroot Publishing Company) as does LeRoy S. Johnson (LeRoy S. Johnson Sermons).  Recently, Rulon Jeffs, leader of fundamentalists centered in Colorado City, Arizona, completely denied the existence of the office of HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE (see page 61 of deposition given by Rulon Jeffs, May 23, 1989.  Copy in possession of the authors).

32It is likely that Musser's priesthood ideas were formed in response to a statement by the First Presidencyxe "First Presidency:message of June 17, 1933"  distributed June 17, 1933.  The First Presidency of the Church taught:

 

   The keys of the sealing ordinances rest today solely in President Heber J. Grant, having so passed to him by the ordination prescribed by the Lord, at the hands of those having the authority to pass them, and whose authority has never been taken away by the Lord, nor suspended, nor interfered with by the Church.  President Grant is the only manxe "One anointed and appointed"  on the earth at this time who possess these keys.  He has never authorized any one to perform polygamous or plural marriages; he is not performing such marriages himself...  (James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, 6 Vols., Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1965-1975, 5:315-330, Quoted in Truth 16:292-302.)

 

   This clear claim to the sealing keys by the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed Musser and his followers somewhat on the defensive with respect to the issue of priesthood authority.  If the statement were true, their polygamous marriages "would not be valid, neither of force in the world to come" (D&C 132:18).

33These included books such as the seven volume History of the Church, volumes five through nine of the Historical Record, the Journal of Discourses, issues of Church periodicals like the Times and Seasons, Millennial Star, Messenger and Advocate, Juvenile Instructor and the Deseret News.  See A Priesthood Issue.

34The first reference to an external "PRIESTHOOD" organization in any literature, be it fundamentalist or otherwise, occurred in September of 1933.  Musser's publication entitled The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage  (N.p., 1933) stated on page 78:

 

   The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is simply a vehicle used by the Priesthood for the accomplishment of certain ends, and is, in connection with the Kingdom of God on earth, subject to this body of Priesthood.

35Laura Tree Zitting, The Life of Charles Frederick Zitting, N.p. [available from Pioneer Press] 1988, pp. 33, 61.

36Joseph Musser Journals, May 16, 24, 1922.

37Ibid.

38This reference strongly suggests that Joseph W. Musser was unaware of Lorin C. Woolley's alleged priesthood calling and the 1886 ordinations as late as June of 1928, even though Musser had been listening to the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley's for several years.

39See the Joseph Musser Journals, entries for May 20, 22, 24, July 21, 29, 31, and August 4, 1922.  It is interesting to note that the journal entry for May 20, 1922, reads:

 

   Took typewriter to Kenyon Hotel to assist John T. Clark in preparing a pamphlet on "The One Mighty and Strong" for publication.

 

This entry was handwritten, while previous journal entries were typed.  For days after May 20, the entries continued to be written, not typed, apparently until Musser was able to re-acquire his typewriter.

40John T.Clark, The One Mighty & Strong, N.p., 1922, p. 64.  It has recently been republished by Willard E. Palmer, 835 Garfield Ave., Salt Lake City, Utah, 84105.

41While Musser does include the word Apostle here, there is nothing about his being a full-fledged "HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE" or being called to serve in a Council of Friends or to preside over a Priesthood organization.  Likewise, we note that Musser never was "great in the Church" in any way. 

42B. Harvey Allred, A Leaf In Review, Draper, Utah: (Reprinted) Review and Preview Publishers, 1980.  It was originally written in 1932 with first edition published in 1933.

43A Leaf In Review, p. 48.

44Ibid. pp. 195-196.

45It is interesting to observe that B. Harvey Allred approached the Priesthood Council (Council of Friends) in January of 1934 with a response to the 1933 First Presidency's Message that Heber J. Grant held the keys of sealing.  Musser recorded on January 22: "We did not favor its publication."  Since there was no hint of an external Priesthood organization or a Council of Friends in Allred's first publication, A Leaf In Review, one wonders if Allred's response to the 1933 First Presidency's Message agreed with the doctrine being developed by Musser?  Concerning A Leaf in Review, Lorin C. Woolley is quoted as saying that "Every word of [A Leaf in Review] is scripture."  (Stephen L. and Lynn L. Bishop, Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated, Draper Utah, 1971, pp. 305-306.)

46In this journal entry, Musser acknowledges the conflict between him and the Church as being one of priesthood.  He also frankly ascribes the doctrine of the external priesthood to "all the reasoning power" he possessed and "the voice of the Spirit of the Lord."  Fundamentalists generally would prefer to attribute their priesthood organization to the teachings of the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

47Other alleged leaders in the Council of Friends were Lorin Woolley who died September 18, 1934 and J. Leslie Broadbent who succumbed to pneumonia suddenly March 16, 1935.

48More modern treatises include Ogden Kraut's 95 Theses, Salt Lake City, Utah: Pioneer Press, N.d. and The Fundamentalist Mormon, N.p., presented at the Sunstone Symposium, August, 1989, reprints available from Pioneer Press.

49Truth 20:36.

50See The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, An LDS Perspective.

51Joseph Musser Journals, March 7,  1934 and March 8, 1935 are other examples.

52Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1989, pp. 190-192.

53Joseph W. Musser, p. 15 (pp. 12-15).  Despite his agreeing to the pledge, Musser wrote concerning it that he would "have died there [in prison] rather than renounce my faith" (Ibid.).

54J. Max Anderson, Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact, Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1979, pp. 87-90.  It is interesting to note that not all members of the proposed Priesthood Council (Council of Friends) signed the pledge.  Charles F. Zitting, next in seniority to Joseph W. Musser refused to sign.  His refusal was based upon a "personal revelation" he had received while in prison.  It stated:

 

   Thou art much troubled in finding thyself in opposition to my servants John [Y. Barlow] and Joseph [W. Musser]...  [Y]ou must not waver but stand firm and be unmoved after taking a stand for God.  The enemy have plainly informed you on many occasions that they intend to destroy my works.  They seek the destruction of my faithful ones by pledging them to follow man instead of their God.  Why should my people fear them more than me. (The Life of Charles Frederick Zitting, p. 90.)

55Joseph W. Musser, p. 82.

56Supplement pp. 114-116.

57This idea is derived from the fact that Oliver Cowdery was designated "second elder of the church" by the Lord in D&C 20:3.  Joseph Smith was the "first elder."  Despite the reality that these were strictly church callings, Musser recruited the concept in 1934 and applied to his newly created Priesthood Council (Council of Friends).

58Joseph Musser Journals, September 30, 1934.

59Gems, Gilbert A. Fulton, Jr., Ed. 3 Vols., Salt Lake City, Utah: Gems Publishing Company, 1967, 2:41

60A Priesthood Issue, p. 31.

61On August 9, 1935, Musser reiterated this idea by reviewing in his journal a conflict that had recently occurred:

 

   At the prayer meeting last evening we endeavored to get the brethren back in harmony again.  Two of them, Bros. Brainach and Jentzsh were rebellious and would not recognize the Priesthood except to perform sealings.  The meeting ended by the brethren declaring they would remain away from now on, which we trust is true -- until they repent.  The Priesthood is not taking orders from them, but is answerable to God and He alone.

62Those next in seniority, Charles F. Zitting and LeGrand Woolley, declined the leadership of the Council of Friends because they had not received a confirmation of their callings as High Priest Apostles which required a personal visitation of the Savior and an ordination from Him.

63Fundamentalists in Colorado City believe that through his actions with the Council of Friends and Rulon C. Allred, Joseph Musser was actually the man referred to in D&C 85:8:

 

   While the man, who was called of God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God, shall fall by the shaft of death like a tree that is smitten by the vivid shaft of lightening.

64See Mormon Polygamy, A History p. 190.