The Life and Teachings of Lorin C. Woolley
by Brian C. Hales
On numerous occasions Lorin Woolley shared with his audiences experiences
which invariably placed him in the presence of immortal beings. The accounts
are plentiful and extraordinary. [Immortal beings are highlighted throughout.]
Woolley is Transported to Mexico
One very popular story Lorin told several times involved his purported
visit to the Yucatan, Mexico in 1932:
Around the Church conference time, some of the believers in the "Fullness"(48) generally gathered together at one of the homes of the saints in order to listen to the Conference. In the Spring of 1932, after some of the saints had gathered together for such an occasion, some of the saints stayed over night at the home where they had congregated.
During the night, one of the saints awoke, as a conversation was taking place in the living room. One of the voices was recognized as Lorin C. Woolley's, who had been staying there during the night. The person, however, did not join those in the living room, thinking it was a private matter. The saint then heard those in the living room walk toward the front door, open it, and go out, closing the door after them.
After they left, she went into the living room and while passing the room where Lorin Woolley had been sleeping, the voice of the Spirit spoke to her telling her to stop and to look toward the room, the door being open. A thing she would never do otherwise, she turned and noticed that only Lorin Woolley's bed was empty. John Y. Barlow was in a deep sleep next to where Lorin Woolley had been sleeping, and all others were in their bed. It was a puzzle then to think of whom Lorin Woolley could have been talking with.
The next day, at the breakfast table, the conversation turned to instances when Lorin Woolley had on various occasions gone to perform important responsibilities of a highly spiritual nature. John Y. Barlow then said that the next time Lorin went, he would go with him and that Lorin would not be able to go without him, for he would stay right close to him. The woman who had witnessed the events of the night, then quickly answered to the effect, "O, I don't know about that." Lorin Woolley then turned to her and said, "What do you know about it?" She then related her experience. Lorin Woolley then explained that he had been talking with one of the three Nephites. He said he knew someone else had awakened, whom he hoped would come out into the living room as a witness of the conversation, and that if she had done so, he would have introduced the visitor...
All were now anxious to learn where Brother Lorin had gone. He then explained that he had been taken by one of the three Nephites to the Yukatan.
This was not the only time, but there were other occasions when he was miraculously taken to the Yucatan and other places...
Lorin Woolley explained that he was taken to a
city of white Nephites, secreted in a jungle area in the Yukatan peninsula.
He explained that when he was first taken there, he found them living the
Fullness of the Gospel, including Plural Marriage. They had a temple and
were very industrious, delightsome and righteous people. (Keys of the
Priesthood Illustrated, pp. 317-318. See also A Leaf in Review
pp. 218-219 and Joseph Musser Journals, July 20, 1935.)
Another account contains additional details:
On April 7th, 1932, according to Lorin Woolley's testimony, he was visited in the night by an angel of the Lord, who conducted him to the southern end of Old Mexico, to a holy city of white Indians, or Nephites, well concealed on a high plateau of a great jungle vastness. He found them with their temple and a quorum of twelve, living the fullness of the gospel to perfection.
Under the direction of this angel, Lorin C. Woolley conferred all the priesthood keys which he held upon the head of their senior chief apostle, -- the mighty and wise prophet, known better in holy writ as the Branch.
Two years later, on Sept. 19, 1934, Lorin C. Woolley
passed away, thereby making the transfer of seniority to this great Branch
Prophet complete. (Norman C. Pierce, 3 1/2 Years, Salt Lake City, Utah,
1963, pp. 77-78.)
And still another which mentions previous visits to the Yucatan:
During the night Lorin C. Woolley was staying at the home of J. Leslie Broadbent, he claims to have been visited by one of the three Nephite apostles and conversed from one half to three quarters of an hour with him, and was conducted by him to a Temple in the Yucatan, South America [sic], that was built shortly after the days of the Savior in mortality. It was about the size and architectural design as the Salt Lake Temple. No ordinance work is being done in it, but apparently three Lamanite Chiefs have charge of it. It is immaculately kept clean, its location is not known by the natives generally. One of the chiefs spoke of having seven wives and another five. It took about two hours from the time Lorin left his home until his return. He was sleeping with John Y. Barlow and during the night was seen to be missing by a member of the household who looked into the room.
While Lorin was there he was introduced to a congregation
of about 300 people, who were awaiting instructions on the Gospel. Some
had become dissatisfied because of the attitude of the brethren here, talking
one thing for white man and another for the Lamanite. Lorin was previously
taken there and introduced to the leader by the Prophet Joseph Smith,
under the direction of the Lord. (Rhea A. Baird, Reminiscences
of John W. and Lorin C. Woolley, N.p., N.d. to 1987, 5 vols., vol.
5, pp. 11-12. See also Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W.
Musser, p. 16 [entry for April 8, 1932].)
Not all listeners agreed in their recollections of Woolley's claims
concerning his alleged trip to the Yucatan. Nathaniel Baldwin wrote the
following in his journal:
In the afternoon I visited I.W. Barlow and asked
him to tell me again about Lorin Woolley's statement about taking certain
keys to the Indians in Mexico. As well as I remember he told me years ago
that at one meeting at Broadbent's house Lorin said that he was taken there
by a relative in a flying machine and that at a later meeting at the same
place, Lorin (evidently reconsidering and seeing there was not time to
go there in a flying machine in the short time he was away) told the story
differently by saying he was taken there by some of the three Nephites.
(Entry for November 13, 1960.)
A Lofty Council Convenes on Lorin's Behalf
Another story commonly related by Lorin Woolley involved the visit of
Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith and John Taylor:
While on a mission in the Indian Territory about
a year and half after death of Pres. John Taylor, he [Lorin C. Woolley]
took very sick and was thought to be dying. He was visited by whom he supposed
to be the Lord, Joseph Smith and John Taylor, and
he was blessed by President Taylor to live and was healed immediately.
These brethren were all resurrected. Later he was introduced to the Savior
by Pres. Taylor, and from then on became a real Apostle, a witness
of Christ. (Joseph Musser Journals - April 9, 1922.)
From another source we read:
While on his mission to the Indian Territory at the age of about thirty, Lorin C. Woolley became seriously sick and his life was despaired of. His missionary companion had no faith in his recovery.
He had been seriously sick for some days. When in this condition four personages came to his room and stood by his bed. He was lying with his head to the north, the foot of the bed being to the south. These personages stood from left to right, from the position he was lying. The first one he did not know: the second was Joseph Smith; the third Brigham Young, an the fourth John Taylor.
Some years pervious, President Young had blessed Brother Woolley and made certain promises to him. (Among other blessings received, he was ordained an Apostle at the age of thirteen.) After that, President John Taylor, having chosen Bro. Woolley for a hazardous undertaking which greatly endangered his life, and which contemplated his coming to Salt Lake and getting a certain man who was an official of the Church out at that time surrounding the house, and giving Bro. Woolley a promise which was, "You shall yet live to become great and mighty in the Church and Kingdom of God."
These four persons were discussing Bro. Woolley's condition. It seemed that his grandfather, Bishop Edwin D. Woolley, wanted him in the spirit world to help perform a certain work, and in anticipation of this want Bro. Woolley was supposed to be on his death-bed. John Taylor and Brigham Young were pleading his cause, saying that certain promises had been made to him, and he was clinging to those promises.
He had previously, by the way, told the Elders who administered to him, but who had no faith in his recovery, that he would recover because he had had certain promises made to him that had not yet been fulfilled. He knew he would get well.
It was this subject that was being discussed between the four personages. Bro. Woolley heard the discussion. The Elders in the room did not hear it, but they felt impressed with what they later described as the presence of angels or heavenly beings.
The argument was, Brother Edwin D. Woolley wants him on the other side and the answer was that we have made certain promises to him that he is clinging to. Finally the question was asked, "Hasn't Bro. Woolley someone else he can use as well as Lorin?" The answer was "Yes, Bert. (Henry Alberta Woolley, a son of Edwin D. Woolley.) He is qualified and can do the work." Finally the personage Bro. Woolley did not know definitely, but who he assumed to be the Lord Jesus Christ, turned to Joseph Smith and told him to take this other man and leave Brother Woolley here.
Joseph Smith then instructed Bro. Taylor along similar lines. John Taylor then went around the brethren over to the head of the bed, and placed his hands on Bro. Woolley, which he felt and asked, "Boss, who is the other party:" and as he looked around while asking the question the three had disappeared, then as he looked in the direction of John Taylor, whose hands had been on his head, he had also disappeared, and that was the end of the vision.
Brother Woolley immediately arose and was healed.
Those who were in the room said that they felt the presence of heavenly
beings and heard Bro. Woolley talk and ask the question, but they did not
hear the voices of heavenly beings. (Items from a Book of Remembrance
of Joseph W. Musser, pp. 10-11.)
These accounts are striking because they claim that Brigham Young, John
Taylor, Joseph Smith and even the Savior convened on Lorin's behalf when
he fell sick in 1889. The impressiveness is increased as we fail to find
any evidence of similar heavenly councils meeting together on behalf of
prophets, such as Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, during their mortal lifetimes
when they were sick or in danger.
Visions of a Resurrected John Taylor
Lorin recalled having seen a resurrected John Taylor on at least three
different occasions. The first was mentioned earlier. The second reference
comes from the journal of Nathaniel Baldwin:
[Brother Woolley] spoke of the resurrection, he
being a witness, having seen and shaken hands with John Taylor two
years after his death. (Nathaniel Baldwin Journals, entry for November
While this purported interaction seems to coincide chronologically with the vision (which included Joseph Smith and the Savior) already mentioned, we must assume this is a separate encounter because he did not "shake hands" with President Taylor in that vision.
Still another account includes the participation of Lorin's father,
John Woolley and John Taylor:
[Lorin C. Woolley] had met the Savior, Brigham Young, John Taylor, since the death of the two latter; also Joseph Smith, and had heard the voice of his father since his death.
Joseph Smith and John Taylor had visited him at his father's home, before his father's death,(49) and after he had been handled,(50) and through the mouth of John Taylor, he was comforted and instructed.
Later when he prayed for light regarding the publishing
of a certain book(51) by one of the Brethren, he was told by
the voice of his father under the direction of Joseph Smith, that
his mission was not to set the Church in order, but to do what he was set
apart to do. The book was not published. (Joseph W. Musser Journals, March
This excerpt refers to the Savior, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Joseph
Smith and "the voice of his father" all being presented to Lorin Woolley.
The timing of the alleged visitations requires this to be a third visitation
of John Taylor.
Visits From His Father, John W. Woolley
Lorin gave other recollections of visits from his deceased father:
Lorin Told us of five separate visits that his
father had made to him in the first 3 1/2 years after his father's
death. About two weeks after his death, John Woolley first visited
Lorin who stated that his father was then resurrected. In the four
subsequent visits over a 3 1/2 year period of time, with each succeeding
visit John Woolley seemed to be about ten years younger than in
the last visit, until in the fifth visit he appeared to be in the "prime
of life," about 45 years of age and much lighter in weight than in his
later years. Lorin said that John looked just as he did in mortality
at that age, as pertains to his physical vitality and body weight. (Items
from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 16; Reminiscences,
Volume 4, First section, p. 4.)
Knowledge of a Resurrected Wilford Woodruff
On April 23, 1930, Joseph Musser recorded an additional teaching of
Lorin C. Woolley which implied personal knowledge of another resurrected
being, Wilford Woodruff:
[Lorin C. Woolley] averred that Brigham Young,
John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and, of course, Joseph Smith,
had been resurrected, and that Joseph Smith, in resurrected form,
had led the people to these mountains in 1847. (Joseph Musser Journals,
April 23, 1930.)
The inclusion of Wilford Woodruff as a resurrected being is surprising.
Modern polygamists are often critical of President Woodruff because he
issued the 1890 Manifesto. Many assert that he lost his keys of sealing
authority because of it. However, Woolley taught that he too had been resurrected
A Vision of a Resurrected Joseph F. Smith
One very interesting reference related by Lorin in 1933 includes a resurrected
Joseph F. Smith (who died in 1918):
Joseph F. Smith was resurrected. Seen in
the Temple within the last two years, and shook hands with certain parties.
(Items from a Book of Remembrance, p. 21; Reminiscences,
vol. 5, p. 40.
This reference is significant because Joseph F. Smith issued the 1904
Manifesto which Woolley did not approve of. Also, the episode purportedly
occurred in the Temple several years after Woolley had been excommunicated.
Clearly Woolley could not have been physically present in the temple then.
Church leaders considered him a prevaricator(52)
and would never have confided in him.
A Customized Recollection for Andrew Kimball
The earliest known record of Woolley's claims to interaction with resurrected
beings was recorded in 1897 by Andrew Kimball in his journal. Andrew Kimball
was Lorin's Mission President while he was serving a mission to the Indian
Priesthood meeting at 10 and instructed the Elders.
Elders Knight and Woolley also spoke. Afternoon meeting at one. Elder Woolley
testified that he knew that the Prophets Joseph, Brigham
and Heber lived for he had seen them as they appeared to Prest.
John Taylor in Bro. John Woolley's house. (Entry for January 25, 1997.)
This account is distinct for 2 reasons. First it shows that Lorin did
not wait until the 1920s to make all of his remarkable claims regarding
his knowledge of resurrected beings.(53)
Second, it is the only account which includes mention of Heber C. Kimball.
Woolley's testimony undoubtedly impressed his Mission President who was
Additional References to the Savior
Lorin's claims to acquaintance with resurrected beings was not limited
to Church leaders. He also asserted intimate knowledge of the Savior:
Lorin Woolley and my father taught me that a resurrected
personage can hide his glory and appear like a mortal. In fact, Lorin plainly
told us that he had seen and talked with the Savior on the temple
grounds at conference time more than once when He came to see for
himself what was happening. (Reminiscences, Volume 4, Second section,
One additional quotation of Lorin Woolley includes his claim to have
seen the Savior laugh:
Lorin C. Woolley said to some friends that the
remark about Jesus never laughing was not true, "For, I have seen
him laugh." (Reminiscences, Vol. 5, p. 34.)
This casual reference to our Savior is quite extraordinary.
Non-LDS Resurrected Beings
On many occasions Lorin C. Woolley made additional statements about
a "Grand Council of the Kingdom." He taught that it contained "honorable
men of the earth"(54) and was organized
in 1843-44.(55) In this regard, Woolley's
"Grand Council of the Kingdom" is similar to the Council of Fifty organized
by Joseph Smith in 1843.(56) Lorin taught
concerning this enigmatic "Grand Council":
The Grand Council of Kingdom of God has been attended
by such men as Boneparte, Gladstone and Disraeli in
order to get their views and purposes of government, and the reasons for
doing certain things. These men had as their ideal the attainment of the
Kingdom of God. (Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser,
p. 15 and Reminiscences vol. 5, p. 36.)
No other polygamist leader, including John Y. Barlow, LeRoy Johnson
or Rulon Allred has elaborated upon a "Grand Council of the Kingdom." Nor
does it appear to be important to any of the larger groups of modern polygamists
who have jettisoned the teaching from their dogmas.
In addition to the ideas presented by Lorin Woolley, he often shared
with his followers other teachings on a variety of topics which deserve
Government and its Leaders
Lorin C. Woolley claimed intimate knowledge of governmental leaders
of the world, including presidents of the United States. He apparently
had great respect for Theodore Roosevelt because he referred to him on
several occasions. Lorin taught that he personally had converted Roosevelt
to the gospel(57) and that the President
was also a polygamist:
T[heodore] R[oosevelt] joined Church, received
endowments shortly after ascending to Presidency after death of McKinley.
(Book of Remembrance of Joseph Musser, p. 45.)
Hoover apparently leans to Catholicism, while
Theodore Roosevelt was a member of the Council of the Kingdom of God, and
entered the Patriarchal Order of Marriage (i.e. polygamy). (Items from
a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser p. 15; Reminiscences.
Concerning president Calvin Coolidge, Woolley taught:
Ex-President Coolidge died suddenly today of heart
failure. He was a member of the Grand Council -- an honorable man -- and
did yeoman service. He held the Priesthood. (Items from a Book of Remembrance
of Joseph W. Musser p. 22. January 5, 1933.)
Regarding a later president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woolley expounded:
Franklin D. Roosevelt is much like his cousin
Theodore. He believes in religious liberty and those who live the Patriarchal
Order of Marriage as a religious rite he claims cannot be interfered with
under the constitution. He has been consulted and promised to do the right
thing if elected. Roosevelt split with Taft over matters pertaining to
the Mormons and the Church and Kingdom of God. (Items from a Book of
Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 23.)
A review of Lorin's life fails to reveal any opportunity for Lorin to
have conversed with U.S. Presidents or to understand their religious beliefs.
Nevertheless, Lorin's teachings concerning them were impressive. Rhea Allred
Lorin C. Woolley was asked in October of 1932,
"Whom would you advise us to vote for?" He replied that he should not tell
people how to vote, that he had promised F.D. Roosevelt personally that
he would give him his vote, but," said Bro. Woolley, "I had my reasons
for promising that, but I'm not advising you to vote for him. I'll tell
you this much, if he is elected he will bring things to a head quicker."
We plainly understood this statement presaged evil, and yet we knew it
had to come to fulfill prophecy. (Reminiscences 5:27; italics added.)
Woolley's affirmations are extraordinary. They are a definite contrast
to the Prophet Joseph Smith's experience with the President of the United
States which he met. President Martin Van Buren treated Joseph "very insolently"
telling him, "your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you."(58)
It is unfortunate for the Saints in the 1830s that Joseph Smith wasn't
as effective with one U.S. President as Woolley purportedly had been with
several. If Lorin's recollections were true, he was apparently more familiar
with each of the Presidents of the United States during the early twentieth
century than were many of the career politicians in Washington.
Lost Nephite Cities
Certainly some of his more fascinating tales concerned lost Nephite
I shall never forget how thrilled I was to listen
to Lorin tell of an ancient Nephite city on the bottom of the Great Salt
Lake. He said man would rejoice to discover this wonderfully preserved
city. This preservation would be chiefly through the salt from the lake.
He also told of a city buried under the mountains east of Salt Lake City.
He said an earthquake would restore the city under the lake, and the one
under the Wasatch Mountains would be uncovered by the power of the Priesthood.
He definitely said that these two cities would be rebuilt and would be
places of refuge. (Reminiscences, 4: [section I] 6-7.)
I was not present when Lorin told about the city
under the lake, but others have testified to hearing him tell this. I was
present another time when he told about the holy city under the Wasatch
Range; in fact, I feel sure that I heard him tell of two such cities buried
under these mountains. Be that as it may, we can both attest to buried
These assertions are problematic because despite extensive mining and
exploring efforts across the Wasatch Front, no such discoveries have been
made. Also any chemist can tell you regarding the corrosive properties
of salt as found in the Great Salt Lake.
The Future of Utah and Its Inhabitants
Woolley's prophesies of the future of the inter-mountain area are extraordinary:
At one time when we were at Leslie Broadbent's
home, I heard Lorin speak of the plague that is coming. He said it will
be terrible and devastating. He spoke of the fear that people will have
of this plague. He said there would be businessmen in town who would be
called on the phone by their families and told of this plague -- the families
apparently hearing about it before the husbands did. It would create so
much fear, Lorin said, that there would be cases where the businessmen
would be too frightened to return home. They would jump in their cars and
leave the city. Thousands would flee from this valley and many of the homes
would be deserted and vacant. He said, "There are many of you people living
now who will have no homes, and the time is coming when you will be able
to move into some of the finest homes in Salt Lake City. (Reminiscences
4: [Section I] 10.)
Brother Woolley said, "The time is coming when
people will flee out of here by the thousands. At that time you men can
buy some of the finest homes in Salt Lake City at your own price. (Ibid.)
Lorin shared some interesting ideas concerning the water supply in Utah
and a few other topics:
The judgements are upon the earth and the scourges
are reaping their deadly harvest. Water-springs heretofore pure and sweet,
in parts of Massachusetts and Washington, have become foul and unfit for
use, causing much sickness. Expect water in Utah to become poison through
the efforts of doctors to purify it through a chemical addition, and thus
the scourges will increase. The air is cursed for travel as are the waters,
and in fact all man-made and man-governed travel methods are cursed and
great destruction is in the offing. (Items from a Book of Remembrance
of Joseph W. Musser p. 23.)
Nonetheless, a little confusion appears to exist since he also taught:
The Zion spoken of to which the righteous would
flee for safety and where their money will be safe, is the region occupied
by the Saints in the Rocky mountains, according to instructions from Joseph
Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, etc. (Items from a Book of Remembrance
of Joseph W. Musser p. 17.)
Lee's Ferry, Arizona - Nephite "Bountiful" (?)
Sometimes, Lorin Woolley would recount incredible prophesies and special ordinances, attributing them to known prophets such as Joseph Smith, Brigham Young or John Taylor. However, it is difficult to verify these quotes and activities because none of them were recorded at the time they were allegedly spoken. Nor are they recalled by anyone else. One very fascinating example involves a small section down by the Utah - Arizona border named "Lee's Ferry" (after John D. Lee who ran the ferry for a time).
Feb. 17, 1932: Section near Lee's Ferry, in Arizona, is the hub of this inter-mountain country between Yucatan and Canada, and was set apart under the direction of Brigham Young by John W. Woolley for the gathering of the Saints. It is a choice land, One acre will prove as productive as five acres in other parts of Utah. One well will develop enough water for 1,000 acres. Here is one place water will bubble up in the desert as spoken by Isaiah. Prayer circles of the Priesthood will be scattered from Yucatan in Mexico, through that section to Canada, to keep the Asiatics and Europeans from overrunning this country. (Utah and surroundings.)
"In the Lee's Ferry section of Arizona is the
principle place where Jesus met the people after his resurrection." (Items
from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser p. 17. Reminiscences
Inhabitants of the area have yet to see any fulfillment of this extraordinary
Definitions of Ancient Words
Some of Lorin Woolley's very remarkable pronouncements involved his
claims to understand ancient languages, including the Adamic language.
He gave his followers new knowledge concerning several words:
Joseph Smith was called Gazelam, or one who gazes...
(Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser p. 4).
Fasting is from the Adamic word "Kaluka" and means
prayer or praying, as expressed in the Hebrew, or feasting. Jesus fasted
for 40 days and nights, but did partake of food to sustain his body. (Items
from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser p. 18.)
Halloween is a corruption of Elohim, having reference
to the evening of October 31st, and is supposed to be the date when Elohim
said, "Let us go down and make an earth." (Items from a Book of Remembrance
of Joseph W. Musser p. 25.)
Joseph Smith's Body
Apparently another of Woolley's favorite topics involved the status
of the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith:
Lorin Woolley told me that when Brigham Young
came to this valley and said, "This is the place," he was riding in Brother
Woolley's wagon. Lorin Woolley said that the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum
Smith were dug up, put in new caskets, and brought to the Salt Lake Valley
at a very early date. Lorin further stated that the bodies were buried
in the Salt Lake temple grounds... (Charles Kingston in Reminiscences
Another witness added that "they were buried beneath where the monuments
to Joseph and Hyrum now stand" (Ibid). Some of the alleged teachings
of Lorin Woolley on this subject contradict each other; it is therefore
difficult to know whether Lorin changed his story, or whether people's
memories are faulty. It should be noted that the bronzed statues of Joseph
and Hyrum Smith were originally placed in the alcoves located on the east
end of the Salt Lake Temple, thus making it virtually impossible to have
buried anything beneath them.
Lorin Woolley had some intriguing enlightenment for his listeners on
the subject of astronomy:
I learned from Lyman Jessop that Lorin told him
that the stars of the Big Dipper are all portions of this earth that were
taken away. Lorin also said that the portions taken away as a whole are
large than what remains, but this earth is the largest single piece." (Reminiscences
4:[section 2 - #VI] p. 5.)
Lorin said the earth originally was a triple orb
"upon her wings," which have since been taken away. In the beginning of
the Millennium these two bulbs or wings will return to provide a place
for Negroes and others not yet ready for a terrestrial order. At the close
of the Millennium, Earth will "leave her track" and these two bulbs, and
then will rise to become a celestial "sea of glass" needing neither sun,
moon or stars." (Ibid. p. 14.)
Jewish and Lamanite Prophets
A number of Woolley's teachings involved the Yucatan, a portion of southern
Mexico. Previously we reviewed accounts of his purported visits there.
He also taught concerning a prophet supposedly teaching in that place:
A Lamanite Prophet is laboring among the Lamanites
in Yucatan, been laboring there about eight months. The three Nephites
are laboring among the Lamanites of South and Central America and Mexico.
(The Book of Remembrance of Joseph Musser, printed copy, p. 19.)
Lorin also made statements concerning Jewish prophets during the 1930s:
Two Jewish brethren have been translated in our
day and are now working among the Jews. This happened recently, one within
a year ago. [Stated May 12, 1932.] (Items from a Book of Remembrance
of Joseph W. Musser p. 16.)
Rosenbaum, and Izenstein are the three Jewish prophets
that are in Jerusalem. There is a Lamanite prophet in Yucatan laboring
among the Lamanites commencing 1930..." (Items from a Book of Remembrance
of Joseph W. Musser pp. 21, 26. Reminiscences 5:27.)
In 1932 Lorin professed knowledge of the activities of Russian Jews:
Russia: Jews there are seeking to establish the
Order of Enoch, but are starting wrong. When the Gospel of the Kingdom
is preached in fulness, the Russian Jews will accept it and a nation will
be born in a day. (Book of Remembrance of Joseph Musser, p. 38.)
Woolley prophesied concerning a war that would involve the Jews:
Russia will likely fight for the rights of the
Jews, and the Bear will put its paw on the Lion. Jewish money will make
the war possible and will be controlled by the Priesthood. Jews are friends,
Catholics are enemies. (Ibid., p. 39.)
Concerning Joseph W. Musser
Joseph W. Musser listened to Lorin Woolley speak several times during
the 1920s. He also recorded pages of Woolley's teachings in his personal
journal. Nonetheless, Musser did not team up with Woolley until the early
1930s. Musser had been unsuccessful in drilling oil with the Diamond Oil
Company. Musser shared with Lorin his frustration with his lack of success
in the oil well business. Lorin seemed to believe that Musser had a right
to greater knowledge concerning "the oil conditions of Utah":
Bro. Woolley told me that by reason of my training
and mission, I had a greater right to know of the oil conditions of Utah
and the desirability of developing the oil reserves than any other man.
(Musser Journals, September 9, 1931.)
Despite this belief, Musser was entirely unsuccessful in his oil well
venture and much money was lost on account of it.
An Old Testament Personality - Peleg
Woolley taught interesting things about an Old Testament personality
In the days of Peleg the earth was divided --
so says the Bible. Peleg was a great prophet. He was persecuted by those
who claimed to live the Gospel and was vilely used and abused even to the
extent of having been unsexed. He forgave his seducers and persecutors
in accordance with the principle laid down in Doc. & cove. Sec. 98,
not only four times but even ten times; then they were stricken though
claiming to be Saints of God, are went [sic] to hell, while he and his
faithful followers were taken away on the planet of earth as was Enoch.
After being unsexed, his body was restored, or renewed, in accordance with
the Lord's promise in Doc. & Cov. 84. He had 61 wives and had 25 children
born to them after being renewed. What a prophet! (Items from a Book
of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser pp. 22-23.)
Peleg was a great and mighty prophet who, with his people, was taken from the earth as Enoch was.
These like Enoch and Peleg, who are faithful and
are taken away ascend away from the earth. (Book of Remembrance of Joseph
Musser, p. 9.)
Peleg took with him a greater amount of earth
than either Enoch or the lost tribes. He was the greatest prophet in the
Adamic dispensation. (Ibid., p. 13.)
Recollections of a Deal with President Heber J. Grant
Lorin claimed that Church President, Heber J. Grant offered to get rid
of the polygamists. Rhea Kunz reported:
Lorin personally told me and others that Heber
J. Grant had offered to buy an island off the Pacific coast on which to
transplant us [polygamists] in a body. Brother Lorin told us that he replied
to them, "This is the place where this issue must be fought out and this
principle established." (Reminiscences 2:18.)
Woolley's teachings include a myriad of interesting prophesies:
Look for the earth to be so wasted with calamities
during next four years, the Lord will come and reorganize the government.
[November 8, 1932.] (Book of Remembrance of Joseph Musser, p. 45.)
Anarchy may be manifested in streets of Salt Lake
and other cities of 100,000 people, or less, before March 4, 1933. The
wars of Lorin C. Woolley saw in vision are now shortly to be brought to
pass. (Ibid. p. 49.)
At 1886 meeting John Taylor said: "Kings and Queens
and the rulers of the earth will pay tribute to some of you and your associates."
(Ibid., p. 54.)
Don't expect another presidential inaugurated
under present form of government after March 4, 1933... (Ibid. p.
Temple of Jackson County to be built before 1936,
perhaps by next April (1934). Saw temple lot swept clean - being cleansed
by hundreds of men with rakes, hoes etc. (Ibid. p. 61.)
Joseph Smith prophesied they (the Saints) would be using the temple (Jackson County) within 100 year form October 1834...
President Taylor said, "Lorin boy, " with hands on my head, "your spirit will not leave this place until the end of the millennium, then you will be one of those who will be changed in the twinkling of an eye."
Brigham Young said, "You will be one of those
who will not see death until after the millennium." (Ibid. p. 69.)
On the 100th anniversary of the prophet's martyrdom,
a sacred council will be held in the temple in Jackson County, of Sanhedrin,
Grand Council, Patriarchs. Summer of 1936 Temple will be ready for ordinance
work and will be commenced before the end of 1934. Five feet longer and
2 1/2 feet wider than the Salt Lake Temple. (Ibid., p. 72.)
Reviewing the claims and teachings of Lorin Woolley naturally brings up a few questions. The first involves the many assertions which are simply not true or are unbelievable.
A second involves his claims to multiple interactions with immortal beings. If they actually occurred, it is surprising that he felt comfortable sharing them so openly. Experiences where the veil is rent and mortals are allowed to learn from beings beyond this sphere are generally considered to be very sacred, to be shared only on very special, spiritual occasions. The apparent ease with which Lorin C. Woolley referred to such experiences contrasts the Lord's instructions concerning such things:
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they
are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only
according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children
of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him. (Alma
12:9; italics added.)
Remember that that which cometh from above is
sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit;
and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through
prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation. (D&C
Joseph Smith also taught:
The reason we do not have the secrets of the Lord
revealed unto us, is because we do not keep them but reveal them; we do
not keep our own secrets, but reveal our difficulties to the world, even
to our enemies, then how would we keep the secrets of the Lord? I can keep
a secret till Doomsday. (HC 4:479 and Teachings of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, p. 195.)
Brigham Young observed:
There is one principle that I wish the people
would understand and lay to heart. Just as fast as you will prove before
your God that you are worthy to receive the mysteries, if you please to
call them so, of the kingdom of heaven that you are full of confidence
in God that you will never betray a thing that God tells you that you will
never reveal to your neighbor that which ought not to be revealed, as quick
as you prepare to be entrusted with the things of God, there is an eternity
of them to bestow upon you. Instead of pleading with the Lord to bestow
more upon you, plead with yourselves to have confidence in yourselves,
to have integrity in yourselves, and know when to speak and what to speak,
what to reveal, and how to carry yourselves and walk before the Lord. (JD
Now I want to tell you that which, perhaps, many of you do not know. Should you receive a vision of revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for He cannot safely reveal Himself to such persons. It is as much as He can do to get a particle of sense into some of the best and most influential men in the Church, in regard to real confidence in themselves. They cannot keep things within their own bosoms...
If a person understands God and godliness, the
principles of heaven, the principle of integrity, and the Lord reveals
anything to that individual, no matter what, unless He gives permission
to disclose it, it is locked up in eternal silence. And when persons have
proven to their messengers that their bosoms are like the lock-ups of eternity,
then the Lord says, I can reveal anything to them, because they never will
disclose it until I tell them to. Take persons of any other character,
and they sap the foundation of the confidence they ought to have in themselves
and in their God. (JD 4:288.)
Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has instructed:
We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so.
But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear
that special witness. (Ensign, May, 1980, p. 65.)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated it this way: "Those who know don't say; those who say, don't know."
Lorin C. Woolley's ubiquitous claims to conversations with immortal beings are astounding. Everyone who wrote about him in their journals seems to have recorded at least one such reference, if not several. It appears that Lorin felt justified, if not compelled, to circulate his collection of alleged sacred experiences freely on many different occasions, even allowing one to be published.
A third consideration is highlighted by reviewing the effect of Woolley's "recollections" and claims upon his listeners. Virtually without exception, his assertions exalted him in the eyes of his audiences. He professed intimate knowledge of the Savior, deceased Church Presidents, world leaders and even men mentioned in the Old Testament. He told of personal visits with the three translated Nephite Apostles and related how they helped him transfer his priesthood keys to a Lamanite Prophet living in the mysterious Yucatan (Mexico). On the home front, he declared he had baptized a U.S. President and had detailed conversations with them concerning their religious and political beliefs. He also spoke of his commission as an agent of the Secret Service. As a prophet-scholar, Lorin shared detailed understanding concerning astronomy and the Adamic language with his listeners. Also he claimed to be "a 33 degree mason of the Scottish Rites Lodge, Washington, D.C." Only "one of eight in New York, Washington, Chicago and St. Louis."(62) Who wouldn't be impressed by such claims?
His tendency to relate stories which would naturally impress his followers
is seen clearly in two dreams he shared:
A dream or vision related by L.C.W., Dec. 1, 1930: In about the year 1886, after having retired to rest, all of the sudden I appeared to be standing on a high range of mountains, from which point I could see a Cordon of Elders reaching Yucatan, Central America, north to the Arctic regions. Then there appeared a black cloud in the Balkans traveling westward. It only reached to the shores of the United States when it seemed to stop and go back to its starting point. Then it came again and covered all the eastern part of the United States and north to Canada. As I looked I saw what appeared to be large birds (now interpreted as airplanes) emerge from the dark cloud; also horseless carriages appeared (automobiles) all loaded principally with women traveling westward. We made no effort to stop them.
As the cloud traveled westward, groups of men holding the priesthood seemed to run in circles, one in the center of each group, rebuking the cloud through prayer. The cloud would stop and start again and it made headway until it reached the Missouri Rive west of Independence. At this point three groups of Elders with three men (instead of one as before) in the center of each group, formed in circles, one group being in Canada, one group in the United States and one in Mexico (Lorin being in the center of the center circle). As we prayed the black cloud also over the Pacific Ocean and traveled eastward as far as the Sierra Nevada mountains where it was arrested, not reaching Utah.
In relating the above to pres. John Taylor and
others of the brethren, Pres. Taylor said the vision showed two wars, the
first reaching only to the eastern shores of the United States, while the
second would reach to the shores of the Missouri River. The Asiatics will
overrun the west coast, but will not be able to hold it. He said, "It will
be a war of desolation, and you (Lorin) will see it." (Items from a
Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser pp. 35-36; Reminiscences
5:12; italics added.)
Antone [Ivins] asked about new plural marriages,
and I told him they were going on and that I understood he (Brother Ivins)
had the record of performing the most plural marriages in the Church, while
he was in Mexico, except my father, John W. Woolley, and that I hoped yet
to eclipse that record. Antone smiled assent, but did not deny the statement.
He did little talking in the dream, Heber [Heber J. Grant] and Reuben [J.
Reuben Clark] being the main spokesmen. Reuben mildly rebuked me, asking
why I did not uncover my head in the presence of the [First] Presidency
as they themselves had done. I replied, "A king never uncovers to
his subjects."; That statement greatly astonished Reuben, and the statement,
in varied forms, was made several times during the conversation." (Items
from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser p. 34-35; italics added.)
Assessing Lorin C. Woolley
At this point the reader may respond to the foregoing discussion in one of several ways. First he may believe all the assertions are true and then faithfully follow Lorin C. Woolley as one of the greatest prophets this world has ever known.
Second, a more common approach for modern polygamists will be to conclude that this author has distorted Woolley's life and teachings in the same way that anti-Mormons misrepresent the life and message of Joseph Smith. By labeling this article in a negative way, individuals can dismiss its significance. However, we readily observe that little effort has been expended by Woolley's followers to look beyond the 1929 Account of the alleged 1886 ordinations.(63) No biography or other monograph dedicated to his life has been produced. A few individuals have attempted to preserve his instructions and ideas. However, no collection of his teachings and precepts has received even a limited circulation among those who believe in his claims to legitimate priesthood authority. Therefore, for them, the challenge to produce a more "accurate" treatise of Lorin Woolley's life and teachings awaits.
Third, for non-believers, the question exists of how such convincing
and creative "recollections" might have been generated by someone who appeared
"Remembering Things Forgotten"
The actual process through which Lorin C. Woolley's ideas could have
originated may be explained in portion of the 1929 Account (of purported
1886 events) which was discussed previously. In that account, Lorin taught:
Many of the things I forgot, but they are coming
to me gradually, and those things that come to me are as clear as on the
day on which they were given.(64)
The process of "remembering things forgotten" may be equal to fabricating
things believed to be true, but are not. The medical term is "confabulation."
This process may have gathered momentum in the 1920s, thus permitting Lorin
Woolley to promote almost any idea as simply remembering something he had
Deceived by a False spirit?
Another possibility exists. Lorin may simply have been deceived concerning
the spirit that he followed. Brigham Young noted that people can receive
I say to such persons, Go ahead, and get all the
revelations you can. If brother Joseph visits you every night, go ahead,
and tell him to bring brother Hyrum, father Smith, Don Carlos Smith, St.
Paul, Peter, James, and John, and Jesus Christ, if you can induce him to
do so. But I could almost lay my hand on that Bible and swear that the
man or woman who gets such revelations has been guilty of adultery, or
of theft, or has been rebellious and apostatized in feelings, but has come
back again, and now professes to have such revelations. Hell is full of
such revelations; and I could almost testify that a man or woman who receives
them has been guilty of some outrageous crime. I have had men come to me
and tell the wonderful great dreams and visions which they have, when those
very persons have apostatized heretofore, have denied their God and their
religion; and I knew it. Many come to me and tell me what wonderful visions
they have--that their minds are open to eternal things--that they can see
visions of eternity open before them and understand all about this kingdom,--many
of whom have at some time been guilty of betraying their brethren, or committing
some atrocious crime. (JD 5:352.)
President Young also gave counsel concerning such individuals:
I never notice them much. I sit and hear them
talk about their wonderful knowledge, but it passes in and out of my ears
like the sound of the wind. It is for me to see to this kingdom, that it
is built up, and to preserve the Saints from the grasp of the enemy. The
visions of the class I have mentioned are nothing to me. They may exhibit
their great knowledge before me; but when they have done, it is all gone
from me. (Ibid.)
We Must Judge
Each of us must decide for himself or herself concerning men like Lorin
For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants
of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion... and they who are not
apostles and prophets shall be known. (D&C 64:39-40.)
To distinguish between true prophets and false prophets, we must study
and pray. Prayer alone is insufficient:
Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study
it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is
right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you
shall feel that it is right. (D&C 9:7-8.)
Without study and prayer, we may be deceived. The Lord warned of the
Behold, verily I say unto you, that there are
many spirits which are false spirits, which have gone forth in the earth,
deceiving the world. (D&C 50:2.)
For there shall arise false Christs, and false
prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it
were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matt. 24:24.)
Our eternal salvation depends upon it.
Alexander, Thomas G., "The Odyssey of a Latter-day Prophet: Wilford
Woodruff and the Manifesto of 1890," Journal of Mormon History,
17 (1991) 169-206.
Allred, B. Harvey, A Leaf in Review, Draper, Utah: Review and
Preview Publishers, 1980.
Anderson, J. Max, Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact, Salt Lake
City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1979.
Baird, Mark and Rhea, Reminiscences of John W. Woolley and Lorin
C. Woolley, 5 vols. N.p. N.d. to 1987.
Bateman, Samuel, Journal, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University,
Bishop, Lynn L. and Stephen L, Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated,
Draper Utah, 1971.
Broadbent, Joseph Leslie, Celestial Marriage? / In the Case of Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Vs. Joseph Leslie Broadbent, Salt
Lake City, Utah: N.p., N.d. (1927 or 1929).
Clark, James R., Messages of the First Presidency, 6 vols. Salt
Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1965-1975.
Clark, John T., The One Mighty and Strong, N.p., 1922
Collier, Fred C., "Re-examining The Lorin Woolley Story," Doctrine of the Priesthood, Salt Lake City, Utah: Collier's Publishing Co., 1981.
- Unpublished Revelations, Salt lake City, Utah: Collier's Publishing
The Four Hidden Revelations, N.p., N.d.
Fulton Jr., Gilbert A., Gems, 3 vols., Salt Lake City, Utah: Gems Publishing Company, 1967.
- Most Holy Principle, 4 vols., Salt Lake City, Utah: Gems Publishing
Godfrey, Kenneth W., "The Coming of the Manifesto," Dialogue, A Journal
of Mormon Thought, vol. 5 (Autumn 1973) 3:11-25.
Hales, Brian C and J. Max Anderson, The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, An LDS Perspective, NPI, 1992
- The Doctrines of Modern Polygamy, An LDS Perspective, Unpublished
Jesse, Dean C., "A Comparative Study and Evaluation of Latter-day Saint
and `Fundamentalist' Views Pertaining to the Practice of Plural Marriage."
M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, 1959.
Johnson, Leroy, S., Sermons of LeRoy Johnson, Hildale, Utah:
Twin City Courier Press, 1984, vol. 1.
Journal of Discourses, 26 volumes, Liverpool, England: F.D. Richards
et. al., 1854-1886.
Musser, Guy, Star of Truth, vols. 1-4, Murray, Utah, N.p., 1953-1957.
Musser, Joseph White Musser, Private Journal. CHD.
- Supplement to a New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage.
- New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage.
- Priesthood Items.
- A Priesthood Issue.
- Book of Remembrance
- Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser.
- Journal of Joseph White Musser,[not his actual journal] 1872-1954, N.p., N.d., (available from Pioneer Press).
- Celestial or Plural Marriage, Salt Lake City, Utah: Truth Publishing
Newquist, Jerreld L, compiler, Gospel Truth, Discourses and Writing
of George Q. Cannon, two volumes in one, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret
Openshaw, Robert R., The Notes, Pinesdale, Montanan: Bitterroot
Publishing Company, 1980.
Parkinson, Preston Woolley, The Utah Woolley Family, Salt Lake
City, Utah: Deseret New Press, 1967
Pierce, Norman C., 3 1/2 Years, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1963.
Richards, Henry W., A REPLY TO "The Church of the Firstborn of the
Fulness of Times, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1965.
Roberts, B. H., History of the Church, 7 vols., Salt Lake City,
Utah: Deseret Book, 1978.
Singer, Merrill, Nathaniel Baldwin, Utah Inventor and Patron of the
Fundamentalist Movement, Utah Historical Quarterly, 47 (Winter 1979)
Smith Joseph F. Gospel Doctrine, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret
Smith, Joseph Fielding, compiler, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1976.
Stone, Jessee Burke, An Event of the Underground Days, Salt Lake
City, Utah: Shephard Book Company, N.d. (Reprinted in vol. 3 of Reminiscences
of John W. Woolley and Lorin C. Woolley.)
Talmage, James E., Journals, CHD.
Woolley, John W., 1914 Affidavit, Anthony W. Ivins papers, Utah State Historical Society.
Zitting, Laura Tree, The Life of Charles Frederick Zitting, N.p.,
1988, (available from Pioneer Press).
20. Baldwin purchased a mimeograph machine which allowed him to make multiple copies of his and other's writings. He also financed the publication of a book entitled The One Mighty and Strong, written by John T. Clark in 1922.
29. John T. Clark was a friend of Baldwin and Lorin Woolley. Clark proclaimed himself a prophet and during the 1920s competed with Lorin Woolley for followers. Joseph Musser was among the group of possible followers. He finally sided with Woolley in about 1931. See The Priesthood of Modern Polygamy, pp. 188-192.
We all at attended Sunday School at 10 A.M. and
studied during the day. I fasted until 5 P.M. and in the evening we attended
Church. Elder L.C. Woolley spoke of the power and authority of the Priesthood
bearing a great testimony to the people of the Divine calling of the Prophet
Joseph Smith; saying that he had seen him personally since his,
the Prophet's death.
See also the 1912 Account on page 9.
61. Computerized searches of the History of the Church (seven volumes), The Words of Joseph Smith, The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith fails to find even a single reference to Peleg by Joseph Smith.
63. The 21 volumes of Truth magazine, published between 1935 and 1956 contains only nine references (in the entire index) to Lorin Woolley or any of his teachings. Four of the nine refer to copies of the 1929 Account. This paper undoubtedly contains many more
of the teachings of Lorin Woolley than all of the volumes of Truth put together.