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 Owen Allred

Murdered in 1977 by followers of Ervil LeBaron, Rulon Allred’s funeral attendance was the greatest ever recorded in the state of Utah up to that time.[1]  Subsequently, his brother Owen assumed the leadership role within the Apostolic United Brethren.  “I have felt from the beginning,” shared Owen Allred in 2002, “Even when Joseph W. Musser called me to the apostleship, that I was not qualified for this holy calling.  But since Rulon placed this responsibility upon my head, I have done the very best I can.”[2]

A year after Rulon Allred’s death, Spencer W. Kimball, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that the priesthood could be conferred on all worthy males.  This pronouncement allowed men of African ancestry to receive priesthood ordinations, reversing a policy begun in the 1840s regarding African-Americans.[3]  In response, Owen Allred and the AUB took out a full page ad in the Salt Lake Tribune providing quotations from Brigham Young (none from Joseph Smith), stating that blacks (African-Americans) were not entitled to the priesthood here on earth.

While Mormon fundamentalists do not send out missionaries to baptize new members of the Church, they are known to sometimes teach Church members and rebaptize them into the AUB organization.  Statistics show that during the decade after the 1978 pronouncement (regarding African-Americans and the priesthood), convert baptisms into the AUB doubled and the number of plural marriages performed more than tripled.

With the change in policy regarding priesthood ordinations, African-American Church members were eligible to attend LDS temples, which caused the Allreds to conclude that all LDS-built temples were desecrated.  Shortly thereafter, Owen Allred received a written revelation telling him that he and his followers were authorized to administer their own endowments.[4]  Within three years an endowment house was constructed at the Bluffdale complex and then in March, 1983 a temple was completed in Ozumba, Mexico.  Rumors exist that copies of some of the ordinances were obtained by purchase from apostates and LeBaron fundamentalists.[5]

Since 1981, temple work for the dead has been performed in limited numbers by AUB members.  However, disagreements arose as some of the prominent leaders, including members of the Priesthood Council, sought to seal living fundamentalists to them through the “law of adoption,” rather than sealing individuals to their own parents and children.[6]  Council members John Ray and Joseph B. Thompson along with Ted Jessop sought to seal marriages without the authorization of Owen Allred, creating other problems. 

Fluctuation in Membership and Changes in Leadership 

AUB leaders learned in the mid-1980s that a group of Church members living in Bristol, England, about 200 miles west of London, had interest in both plural marriage and fundamentalist beliefs.  Priesthood Council members Joseph Thompson, William Baird, and David Watson, accompanied by Marianne Watson, were dispatched to proselytize the English investigators.  Over the space of several years, more than eighty joined the AUB with some of them instructed to migrate prior to the end of 1997 when some catastrophic event was going to occur.[7]  They were also told that in Utah, the construction project then moving forward on the interstate fifteen freeway (I-15) would never be finished, nor would the 2002 Olympic games ever be realized.  Of the eighty or so members who left England to join the AUB, today over half have left the group with a few rejoining the LDS Church.

Within the Priesthood Council over the past decade, several members were accused of child molestation causing the release of Joseph Thompson in 1994 (Thompson was the last Council member called in 1952 by Joseph Musser), George Maycock in 1998, and Shevroll  Palacios in 2002.  Some of these men left the AUB drawing away their own group of followers.[8]

In a surprising move in 2001, Owen Allred spoke publically regarding accusations that polygamist in Utah were guilty of promoting marriages of underage teenagers.  In an article published in February of that year, Allred wrote: “We are not opposed to laws preventing parents or anyone else using force or intimidation to get a girl to marry against her will before she is of the age of eighteen.”[9]  His clear stance was applauded by government officials and law enforcement agencies.

On occasion, Owen Allred provided his followers with detailed instructions regarding their polygamous marriage relationships: “The minute a man turns over the finances to his wife and lets her handle the checking account, lets her keep track of the bookkeeping, he is lamed... No woman should ever handle the finances in a celestial family.  This must be solely the responsibility of the man, the head of the family...  Never discuss private problems between him and a wife with another wife...  Don’t accuse a wife of not loving you, and a wife must never tell her husband that he doesn’t love her...   A man cannot allow privileges to one wife that he does not allow to the other wives...”[10] 

Accusations of Money Laundering and Deception 

In the late 1980s a woman named Virginia Hill had accumulated 1.5 million dollars in cash through dubious means and gave it to dissident Allred Group member, John Shugart, for safe keeping.  Shugart convinced Virginia that she should spend the money on real estate, specifically, the DI Ranch located outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Virginia authorized Shugart to make the purchase, but the buyer would not accept cash.  Reportedly Shugart recruited the expertise of fellow AUB member John C. Putvin who offered to negotiate the deal for $40,000 and also invited devout AUB fundamentalist, Dennis Mathews, to specifically deal with the money and the purchase.

At one point, the bundles of bills were placed in a banana box, causing the whole ordeal to be referred to as “bananagate” by some closely associated with the transactions.  According to John Llewellyn, a private investigator, Putvin proposed to “invest the money in short term, [and then] reclaim it with interest in a negotiable form,” which would be acceptable to the seller of the DI Ranch.  “Shugart and Virginia agreed to Putvin’s plan, providing Dennis Matthews, whom Shugart trusted implicitly, kept track of the money, where it went, names, account numbers, etc.”[11]

Putvin and Matthews took possession of the cash and visited Owen Allred, telling him the money was a “donation with no strings attached” to John Shugart from a woman who wanted to use it to buy the DI Ranch.[12]  Since there were no contracts, Putvin suggested they buy the Ranch, but put it in Dennis Matthews’ name.  According to Llewellyn, Allred said, “Get title to the DI [Ranch] and tell no one.”[13]  However, immediately after inspecting the DI Ranch, Putvin, Matthews and Allred decided not to purchase the DI, but instead determined to buy a different piece of property, the Granite Ranch, which the AUB already partially owned.  “On November 20, 1989, Owen A. Allred and his son Glen Allred negotiated with Moench Investment Company, LTD, the seller of the Granite [Ranch], and paid off the unpaid balance” of $500,000 using AUB funds.[14]  Llewellyn believes that the $500,000 was then reimbursed to the AUB from Viriginia’s money.[15]   In addition, $30,000 of Hill’s money was funneled into the lumber business owned by Priesthood Council member, Lamoine Jensen.

In the meantime Shugart and Virginia Hill attempted to contact Matthews regarding their investment in the DI Ranch.  “Finally they caught Matthews at his office in South Salt Lake.  Matthews told them that Putvin ran off with ‘every red cent’ and he had no idea where Putvin could be found.”[16]  On 10 March 1990, Virgina and Shugart met at the home of Owen A. Allred, asking for his help in finding Putvin and her money.   Llewellyn wrote: “Up to this point Owen had been under the impression that Virginia had donated the money to Shugart.  Knowing the truth, he could have taken steps to have the money returned to Virgina, but he chose to deny any knowledge of the money, nor did he know the whereabouts of John Putvin.  Owen assured her that neither he nor Dennis Matthews had anything to do with the loss of her money.”[17]

Ultimately, Virginia Hill sued Owen Allred, Lamoine Jenson, Dennis Matthews, and John Putvin.   In The Salt Lake Tribune, 6 March 2003, the headline read: “Polygamist Lose in Court.”  The judge found “clear and convincing evidence” that “the defendants engaged in a series of misrepresentations which served to mislead and prevent Hill from recovering her money.”[18]  Owen Allred and Lamoine Jensen were liable for the return of the $30,000, money determined to have been “laundered” illegally.  Also found to have benefitted from Hill’s money, the AUB Church was ordered to repay $250,000.  (With 10% interest per annum the sum approached $830,000.)  Dennis Matthews and John Putvin were liable for the remainder.  No punitive damages were assigned due to Virginia Hill’s inability to show that she came in possession of the 1.5 million dollars legally. 


[1]    .  Quinn, “Plural Marriage,” 1998, 15.

[2]  “Issue of Priesthood Authority,” typescript, 1.

[3]  See discussion at http://www.mormonfundamentalism.com/Blacks.html.

[4]  Owen Allred recalled in 2002:  “It was finally revealed to us from the Lord that we had instruction and permission to give certain ordinances outside of the church and the temples controlled by the church.”  (“Issue of Priesthood,” 3.)

[5]  Reportedly portions of the endowment were purchased from David John Burger, author of several temple-oriented publications including The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship (see also “Fullness of the Priesthood,” 10-44).  Regarding a written copy of some temple ordinances, Robert C. Black reported: “Owen [Allred] got it from Fred Collier. He tried to get it from me, but I would not. He told me that he would give me anything that I desired (money) for a copy. I still would not. He told me that Rulon and company knew about it in the twenties but had lost track of it. I know for a fact that Rulon, Joe Thompson, John Ray, and Owen had never had it... It was Joe Thompson that convinced me to at least show Owen what I had. When I asked Joe why they did not have it, he told me that during the twenties and thirties they were waiting for the return of Joseph Smith to perform these ordinances. Eventually, everyone died who had them, and it was lost.  This all took place July 1978, (From my journal).”  (Personal communication 29 August 2004.)

[6]  Throughout most of the nineteenth century it was common to seal a living person to a prominent Church leader through the “law of adoption.”  However, in 1896 “President Woodruff announced by revelation that LDS family groups no longer needed to be sealed to prominent priesthood leaders by adoption, but that they should be sealed by lineage as far back in time as possible.”  (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 2:628.)  Members of the AUB were apparently undecided upon which sealing method was most appropriate.

[7]  Personal communication with a polygamist who was formerly a member of the AUB who wishes to remain anonymous.

[8]  Personal communication with a former monogamist  member of the AUB who wishes to remain anonymous.

[9]  Salt Lake Tribune, 25 February 2001.

[10]  “Rules for Plural Marriage”

[11]  Llewellyn, Polygamy Under Attack, 53.

[12]  See Llewellyn’s website: http://www.polygamybooks.com/author.htm where other details of this event and the subsequent lawsuit can be found.

[13]  Llewellyn, Polygamy Under Attack, 54.

[14]  Ibid. 55.

[15]  John Llewellyn further explained: “They took money out of AUB to pay off the [Granite] ranch.... the money they intended to launder [of Virginia Hill’s] into AUB, $500,000.00, was going to be used to offset the money from AUB that paid off the [Granite] ranch.  We have the documentation to show the laundering attempt.  It is part of the court record, (2) assignment of trust deeds.  The money was to go from John Putvin, (Last Resort Enterprises, Inc.), to Jim Sandmire, to J.LaMoine Jenson, to AUB... the laundered money was going to be used to replace the money in AUB that paid off the ranch.  And that it was Virginia’s money that induced them to pay off the ranch.”  (Person communication 1 September 2004.)

[16]   Llewellyn, Polygamy Under Attack, 55.

[17]  Ibid., 56; italics in original.  Llewellyn further reported: “In all probability the money was in [his wife’s] closet, not fifteen feet away, when Virginia asked Owen for help” (ibid.).

[18]  Llewellyn, “Law Suit Against Owen Allred,” http://www.polygamybooks.com/lawaubruling.htm.