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 The Kingstons

Davis County Cooperative Society

The Latter Day Church of Christ 

In the early 1920s Charles W. Kingston listened to Lorin Woolley, Joseph Musser, and other fundamentalists.  Initially he was sympathetic to their specific views, but by 1935, he split away, having embraced his son’s claim (Charles “Elden” Kingston) that he had been set apart as J. Leslie Broadbent’s “Second Elder.”  Since that time, the group has been lead by a form of a Priesthood Council consistent with the Woolley/Broadbent teachings.  However, that Council reportedly functions primarily as a rubber stamp for Senior Member’s decisions.[1]

Elden Kingston described how after seeking divine guidance in a cave in northern Davis County, an angel visited him, commissioning him to direct the formation of a united order organization in the Bountiful, Utah area (just north of Salt Lake City).  They also sent missionaries to other fundamentalist factions including those lead by Barlow and Musser.  Musser allowed the missionaries to speak in one of their meetings, but was not impressed with their message.[2]

In response to the revelation he received, Elden Kingston established the Davis County Cooperative Society in 1941.  Their articles of incorporation state their purpose: “To establish the long-looked-for ideal condition known as the Golden Rule ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’  To abolish war and bloodshed of all kinds...  To bring about the condition so that all incorporators are self-sustaining by means of their own labors which labors are performed in perfect harmony with all other incorporators.  To establish peace, good-will, and brotherly love between all men as well as all incorporators.  To obtain, operate, and own lands, homes, factories, equipment, machinery of production and raw materials; all for the purpose of producing the every day necessities and comforts of life for the incorporators...  The corporation shall produce goods and services to be used by members, and to be exchanged with and sold to other cooperatives and the public for other goods, services, or cash.”[3]

In a four hour 1940 New Year’s Day meeting, Elden described the hierarchy of the Co-op and the discipline that would be required of all participants.  He considered the message he delivered that day to comprise “the greatest responsibility that has ever been put on men and women in the flesh.”[4]  Elden explained that the members and leaders in the group would be designated by numbers: “Brother #1,” “Brother #2,” “Brother #3,” etc.  Elden, as the leader, was considered “Brother #1.”  Regarding that order: “Every individual... no matter what authority, standing or station he is in, is responsible to the one above him in exactly the same way as if that individual was the Savior himself...  We must look at the one above us in the same light as we look at the Savior.  In other words, the Savior’s blood is there, we are PART OF HIM.”[5]

Regarding priesthood keys, Elden Kingston taught: “Now brothers and sisters; what about this authority, or all these keys which govern the actions of all of us connected with this law, THE LAW OF SATISFACTION: The Law which stands up in the center and all others are hinged around it?  All other things, all other connections to this Law are regulated by the keys of power...  I have those keys of power, you are bound to me just the same as if I was the HIGHEST GOD IN THE HEAVENS, and you, if you can walk straight, will work with me that way.”[6]  Concerning God, Elden instructed: “No matter how high a God is above us, HE CAN’T GET SO HE CAN’T FALL...  THERE IS NO GOD OR BEING ANY PLACE WHO CAN’T STEP OUT OF HIS PATH AND BE PUT OUT OF EXISTENCE IN THE TWINKLING OF AN EYE” (emphasis in original).[7]

In the early days, Kingston and his followers “designed and wore unique outer garments, the wearing of which led other people to refer to them as ‘blue-coats.’  Men and boys wore a blue, coverall-type suit tied with strings, while women and girls wore plain blue dresses.  As a symbol of their renunciation of worldly goods, the outer clothing contained no pockets in which possession could be carried, although later an inside pocket was provided for sanitary measure of carrying a handkerchief.  All went bareheaded and barefoot.”[8]  Over the past decades they have maintained extreme secrecy while developing an extensive cooperative system with assets now valued over 150 million dollars.[9]  Financial holdings include a 300-acre dairy farm in Davis County and a 1000 acre farm in Idaho, a cattle ranch and coal mine in Emery County, a discount store and the United Bank.[10]

While most Mormon fundamentalists do not consider the Word of Wisdom (D&C 89) to be a commandment, the Kingstons expanded its directives by implementing an even more strict interpretation.  They would design specific foods (such as squash or radishes) as the primary food for consumption on any given day.[11]

The Kingston group stopped proselytizing new converts when the cooperative became successful, today performing no missionary work of any kind.  Even Kingston children must prove themselves worthy of the higher benefits available to the leaders of the Cooperative before receiving them.

  Elden, who believed himself to be of a special lineage connecting directly to the Savior, taught in 1947:  “With my divine birthright, I have unlimited health, knowledge, intelligence, sympathy, tolerance, realization, ambition, courage, patience, vitality, forgiveness, perseverance, energy, obedience, joy, satisfaction, cleanliness, beauty, confidence, determination and independence, which cause my personality to penetrate and influence all of God’s creations...  All is a result of my continued fasting, rejoicing and prayer...”[12]

Upon the death of Elden Kingston in 1948, his brother Merlin Kingston was listed as the formal head of the organization.  However, another brother, John “Ortell” Kingston,  made most of the day-to-day leadership decisions and was soon revered as God’s prophet and presiding priesthood leader on earth by Kingston followers.  During the 1940s, Ortell worked on a dairy farm owned by the Co-op where he reportedly developed theories on genetics, theories he later decided could be used to purify his own family pedigree.[13]  Believing that he was also a direct literal descendant of Jesus Christ, he implemented practices to perfect his own bloodline.  Marriages of close relatives were permitted and sometimes encouraged, marriages the State of Utah would later label as incestuous.[14]

Ironically, it appears that the plural wives of the wealthy Kingston leaders are sometimes found living in almost inhumane conditions.  Small rundown clapboard houses, with pealing paint and broken windows have often greeted recent brides as they were introduced to their new “homes.”  One former member named “Connie” recalled:  “The men in the Kingston group do little or nothing to support their many wives and children.  Often women turn to welfare as ‘single’ mothers.”[15]  Sometimes their plight would compel them to go “gardening,” scrounging through garbage cans to help provide food for themselves and their children.[16]  In 1983 the State of Utah sued Ortell Kingston for welfare subsidies his alleged wives had received.  While admitting no wrongdoing, Ortell paid the state $250,000 and the case was dropped.

J. Ortell Kingston died in 1987 having accumulated at least twenty-five wives and dozens of children. His seven sons from his first wife comprised most of the members of the highest echelon of leadership within the financial conglomerate as well as the primary focus of plural marriage activity within the group. Claiming to come from genetically superior ancestry, they have advantage over almost any outsider.  Convincing teenage women, sometimes as young as fourteen, to join their bloodline as part of the polygamous family was often easy.  It is reported that lesser members of the Cooperative receive varying levels of monetary assistance, based upon their contributions and devotion, but are not eligible for additional wives.

 

 

Upon Ortell’s death, leadership passed to his son Paul Elden Kingston.  Paul continued to follow his father’s ideas regarding intra-family marriages.  Daughters of men in the Co-op would be married off at young ages.  LuAnn Kingston, a former member of the clan shared: “The joke used to be that if you weren’t married by 17, you were an old maid...  Some want to be married. Some had to be. Girls are always trying to please. All they know is how to do what they’ve been told.”[17]

Jason Ortell Kingston, another of John Ortell Kingston’s sons, married his half-sister, Andrea Johnson who became pregnant in 1992.  It appears that she suffered from preeclapmsia (toxemia), which progressed to full life-threatening eclampsia before she was brought in for medical care.[18]  A C-section was performed to save the baby, but Johnson died.  State officials believed that obstetrical care was withheld because of the fear that the incestuous relationship would be discovered.[19] 

More recently, 15 year old Mary Ann Kingston was forced by her father, John Daniel Kingston, to marry her uncle, David Ortell Kingston.  Escaping the marriage by running away, she was apprehended by her father who beat her.  He pled “no contest” to the charge of child abuse and served seven months in jail.  David Kingston was convicted of incest and unlawful sexual conduct, landing a four year prison term.[20]  Mary Ann would later file a $110 million lawsuit against members of the Kingston clan with allegations of intentional sexual abuse of a child and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Another scandal touching the Kingstons involved Jeremy Ortell Kingston who was convicted for his incestuous marriage to his aunt-cousin LuAnn Kingston.  This came to light as LuAnn tried to leave the clan with her children.

 

In 2003 it was estimated that the Kingston fundamentalists included 1200 to 2000 members.[21]


[1]    .  Quinn, “Plural Marriage,” 1998, 19.

[2]    .  Musser Journals, 1 August 1935.

[3]    .  Articles of Incorporation of the Davis County Cooperative Society, 7 February 1941.  In Shields, Divergent Paths, 134-35.

[4]    .  Charles Elden Kingston discourse, “1940 New Years Meeting, 8:40 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.” 1, 8.

[5]    .  Ibid., 8, 10.  (Emphasis in original.) 

[6]    .  Ibid., 11.  (Emphasis in original.)

[7]    .  Ibid., 17.  (Emphasis in original.)

[8]    .  Wright, “Origins and Development,” 59.

[9]    .  Quinn, “Plural Marriage,” 1998, 18-21.  His source for his information came from a private interview with a “Jane Doe Kingston,” a member of the clan (page 19, fn. 56).

[10]  Moore-Emmet, God’s Brothel, 85.

[11]    .  Quinn, “Plural Marriage,” 1998, 19; Moore-Emmet, God’s Brothel, 66.

[12]    .  Charles Elden Kingston, “Perfecting Meditations,” mimeographed sheet, 1947.

[13]    .  Tracy, Secret Story, 88-92.

[14]  Moore-Emmett, God’s Brothel, 67, 145.

[15] Ibid., 144.

[16]    .  Gardening was also practiced by other fundamentalists.  See Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 205.

[17]    .  Michael Janofsky, “Young Brides Stir New Outcry on Utah Polygamy,” New York Times, 27 February 2003.

[18]  Moore-Emmett, God’s Brothel, 150.

[19]    .  Tracy, Secret Story, 3-6.

[20]    .  Ibid., 8-15.

[21]    .  Krakauer, Under the Banner of Heaven, 18.