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1952 Priesthood Council Split 

Rulon Allred - Joseph Musser’s “Second Elder” 

          During the months after his first stroke in 1949, Joseph Musser was under the medical care of naturopathic physician, Rulon C. Allred.  Born on March 29, 1906 to B. Harvey Allred and Mary Evelyn Clark, Rulon first met John Y. Barlow and Joseph Musser while he was living in Long Beach, California in 1935.  During a visit to Salt Lake City, the twenty-nine year old Rulon greatly impressed the two Council members with his devotion to plural marriage, which he began to practice in November of that very year.[1]

          During the next seventeen years, Rulon Allred would become the focus of an intense disagreement.  Joseph Musser, the Senior Member of the Priesthood Council in 1952, would become entangled in a fierce tug-of-war with the other remaining ten Council members.  The results would split the Council and the Mormon fundamentalist movement into two headstrong and determined groups, each with a certainty that they were the guardians of the sealing keys restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

          On May 15, 1966, fourteen years after the 1952 division occurred, a special Sunday evening meeting of the followers of the Allred group was held.  Melba Allred, who was the fourth of the seven wives Rulon C. Allred had married by 1952,[2] gave a special presentation entitled, “Items Concerning Priesthood.”  Although she was obviously biased in her beliefs, it appears that she was present for many of the developments and had recorded the proceedings in her personal journal.  In addition, Melba apparently had access to Rulon Allred’s journal as well.  She provided this chronology:  

          In 1935, in Los Angeles, Rulon was given a commissioned authority to perform sealings, in California only, by John Y. Barlow.  Brother John Y. Barlow told Rulon at that time in the blessing that he would become a member of the Council of the Priesthood.  At this same time Joseph W. Musser had Rulon stand with his should next to his own right shoulder, Joseph standing a bit in front, and he told Rulon: “You stood in this position next to me in the Spirit World, and you will occupy this position in the future.”

          In 1937 Joseph gave Rulon a commissioned authority in Salt Lake City to perform ordinances under his direction in Idaho and elsewhere... 

          In 1948 at Las Parcelas, Chihuahua, Mexico, John Y. Barlow took Rulon with his wife, Ruth, and Carl Holms [sic], into an adobe home, and said that he wanted them to be witnesses to the blessing that he was going to give to Rulon.  He laid his hands upon Rulon’s head and ordained him a Patriarch, and conferred upon him the sealing power, and said that from henceforth he was authorised to perform sealings 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 his (that is, John’s)...

          In December of 1949, three days before John Y. Barlow’s death, John Y. called for Rulon to come...  He told Rulon that he wanted him to stand in the appointment that he had given him in Mexico, and to magnify it and to build upon the foundation which he had established...

          In September of 1950, Joseph W. Musser [Senior Member of the Priesthood Council] asked Rulon to come and see him...  Rulon had been wanting to ask Joseph what his responsibilities were since John Y. Barlow had died...  So early in the morning, on September 18, 1950, Rulon went to see Brother Joseph Musser as he had previously requested...  Rulon recognized Joseph as his file leader, and would do whatever he told him to do.  If the calling had ceased with John’s death, he did not want to exercise it since John had told him (Rulon) that he was accountable to himself (meaning John) only.  Brother Joseph answered that Brother John Y. Barlow had given him (Rulon) an appointment that he (Joseph) could not take away from him, and that he would  sustain him in magnifying it.  Joseph was silent for some time.  Tears flowed down his cheeks, and he said: “I see it all clearly now.  I am going to do it.  I have prayed concerning this matter for a long time and thought somewhat of calling my son Guy as my Second Elder, but I was not impressed to do it.  I am going to ordain you to that calling.”  He then got up and put his feet at the side of the bed and told Rulon to kneel down and said: “Brother Rulon C. Allred, by virtue of my Apostleship, I lay my hands upon your head and set you apart to be my First Counselor and to stand at my side as Hyrum stood to Joseph and as Leslie [Broadbent] stood to Lorin [Woolley], and I do this because the Lord has directed it, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”[3]

          Members of the Priesthood Council were distraught upon learning of the proceedings.  Although Musser’s calling Allred as his “counselor” was unprecedented, it might be acceptable if it did not affect the Council’s membership.[4]  But Musser had also promoted Allred as his “Second Elder,” thus indicating that Allred would succeed him as the leader of the fundamentalists after his death.  For Council members the primary issue was whether or not Musser could make such a calling without their approval.  Could Joseph singlehandedly call Allred as his “Second Elder”?  And if he could, would Allred thereafter be a member of the Priesthood Council?  And if he was, what was his seniority in that Council? 

          The seeds of this confusion were sown years earlier in 1934 when Joseph Musser and J. Leslie Broadbent wrote in Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage: “The keys to Priesthood descend either to the one designated as the ‘Second Elder’... or the worthy senior in ordination.”[5]  The “either” option was becoming pivotal in determining who would eventually succeed Musser as presiding authority in the Priesthood Council.  Within the Council, frustrations escalated since they were neither consulted regarding the original calling, nor invited to participate in the subsequent ordination.  They were suspicious regarding Musser’s sanity and Allred’s motives.

          Melba Allred provided further details: “On Thanksgiving Day of 1950, we had a big feast [with] Brother Joseph [Musser]...  Joseph arose and said: ‘Brother Lorin C. Woolley told us that a man who could get and keep seven wives in full harmony with him was entitled to a seat in the highest Priesthood Council on earth, and also would be a King and a God.  He said that a man with five wives in harmony would be entitled to be a prince and to be President of the Church, and a man with three wives so in harmony was entitled to the fullness of exaltation.’[6]  You have seven wives in full harmony (he said to Rulon) and because of this and other qualifications, you are entitled to the blessings promised.”[7]  Musser was attempting to justify his ordination of Rulon as his successor by noting that Rulon “qualified” because of his then seven wives.[8]

          Regardless, on December 3, 1950, two and a half months after Musser had ordained Allred, other members of the Priesthood Council met without Musser present to clarify, at least in their own eyes, Rulon’s position and the scope of his priesthood authority.  Melba explained: “They had decided that Rulon was not a member of the Council nor an Apostle as Joseph had said... that he held only a commissioned authority and was an assistant to Joseph, holding commissioned authority only during the life of Joseph.  They said that Joseph was mistaken in the things that he had told Rulon about his holding the keys and being one in the Council.”[9]  Melba then expressed their relief: “We felt thankful that all seemed to be settled and to know just where Rulon stood and what was expected of him.”[10]

          However, this united declaration of the junior Priesthood Council members did not satisfy the Council’s presiding high priest apostle, Joseph W. Musser, who dismissed their resistance to his direction.  According to Melba Allred who was apparently quoting from Rulon’s journal, the following day Musser said:

          “I told you [Rulon Allred] that two of your brethren had called and had objected to your appointment.  Those men were Brother Guy [Musser] and LeGrand Woolley.  They were very strenuous in their objections to you and they worked upon me in every way to get me to undo what I had done, in fact Brother [LeGrand] Woolley said that if I do this, it would destroy you [Rulon].  But I called you as my counselor, and I’m not going to put up with these objections....  I will have a Second Elder, and the brethren will sustain [me] or be broken to pieces.  They will be disintegrated if they do not sustain him...”  I [Rulon] said: “Joseph, I was perfectly willing to abide by their decision.  I did not ask for this appointment, but if you insist upon sustaining me in it, I want to serve the Lord.”  He said: “You bet I insist, and I will sustain you.  I am not going to be changed.  I have asked the Lord for a counselor, and I am going to have one, and I have asked the Lord to build you up and make you potent to stand by me that you might be even as I have been.”[11]

          Despite this apparently plain statement, when Rulon immediately 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 [sic].”  Musser reportedly gave this confusing answer: “Yes, but you cannot supersede the other brethren in the Council.  You are called as my counselor.”[12]

          On December 22, 1950 Musser attended a big turkey dinner held at Allred’s home where he again addressed the issue.  Melba gave this account:

          Joseph said: “Some time ago I chose a man to stand by me as Hyrum did to Joseph the Prophet, and as Leslie Broadbent did to Lorin C. Woolley.  I chose that man [Rulon C. Allred] because he was qualified, because he knew the history of the Church, and important things about his latter day work that a man must know to be in such a position.  He is well learned in these things, and I chose him under the direction of the Lord because of his qualifications.  Some of the brethren of the Council of the Priesthood objected to him.  They were very strenuous in their objections to him...  I called a First Counselor, a man to be a Second Elder and my right hand man, Brother Rulon C. Allred.  I want you, Brother [David W.] Jeffs, to witness this, and you Brother [Alma] Timpson to be as my witness, and you Rulon Jeffs, I want you to be my witness that I have called this man and he shall stand in this calling as long as I live, and when I go to the other side, I am going to take this matter up with the Priesthood and arrange for a place for him at my side if I am able.  Yes I am going to do that.”[13]

          The turmoil simmered until five months later on May 6, 1951, Musser spoke at a Sunday General Meeting of the fundamentalists.  Melba recalled his words as he addressed the anxious congregation:  “I have a special work to do, a special work that has been committed to me before my termination or death...  One business that I have to present tonight is that Brother Rulon Allred be made a Patriarch and be recognized as a Patriarch in the High Priesthood, and I recognize this as coming frm the Lord...  I commend him as a member of this Council and ask you to receive him...  All who heard this message will make it manifest in the usual way.”[14]  The vote was not unanimous.  Several members of the Priesthood Council and other members of the congregation raised their hands in opposition.

          Concerning this occasion, Ben Bistline wrote: “Joseph Musser stood before a general meeting of the polygamists and announced he had received a revelation to call Rulon Allred into the Priesthood Council.  He told the other Council members who were present that he wanted them to help him with the ordination after the meeting.”[15]  The only Council member present that day that supported Musser was Richard Jessop.  Opposing him at the meeting were Charles F. Zitting, Rulon T. Jeffs and Alma A. Timpson.  Not present were, LeGrand Woolley (a part-time participant who had earlier opposed Allred[16]), Louis Kelsch (a non-participant for many years), Leroy Johnson, Marion Hammon (attending a funeral in California), Guy Musser (who was ill) and Carl Holm.[17]  Bistline’s account continues:  “When the meeting was over, Richard Jessop was the only Council member to come forward to assist President Musser in confirming Allred.  With the other Council members milling among the congregation, Joseph Musser and Richard Jessop placed their hands on the head of Rulon Allred and ordained him to the office of Patriarch and Apostle of the Priesthood Council.”[18]

          According to Melba Allred, Zitting’s refusal was based on his recollection of Lorin Woolley strict instructions given to the Council of Seven Friends in the early 1930s that standing members of the Council of Friends had to unanimously approve any new members before they could be ordained.[19]  In response, Musser’s supporters pointed out that Carl Holm and Alma Timpson had been called and ordained at Barlow’s direction in late 1945 without prior approval of the Council, an action that was later sanctioned by Council members.[20]

 A New Priesthood Council is Called

          The discord heightened in the months that followed until on January 12, 1952, Musser released all the members of the Priesthood Council and called Rulon C. Allred, Eslie Jenson, John Butchereit, Lyman Jessop, Owen Allred, Marvin Allred and Joseph B. Thompson as replacements.[21]  In Musser’s eyes these men comprised the true Priesthood Council, displacing the old Council members who had opposed him.  Accordingly, members of the old Council were expected to follow the new Priesthood Council that Musser had just assembled.  Some eight months later in August Musser would affirm: “Whatever his former council did, was without authority from now on, unless he [Musser] sanctioned it and then it is done by HIS authority, not their own.”[22]

          Nevertheless, old Council members refused to be released.  In a Special Priesthood Meeting held at the Priesthood House (2157 Lincoln Street) in Salt Lake City, on January 26, 1952, Guy Musser, Joseph’s son and member of the old Council opposed his father saying: “Brother Allred is a devil.  He has tried for the last fifteen years to split up the Priesthood.  My father is incompetent and is not able to give any man the Apostleship.  Rulon has not got it.  All that follow R. C. Allred, work under a spurious Priesthood and all his work done is unauthorized...  Certain of the brethren have come to me and offered to take Brother Allred’s life if he continues to maintain his stand.  Some of the brethren have tried to put me next to father, but I am seventh in the line down.  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.”[23]

          Followers of the old Priesthood Council in 1952 would naturally dispute Melba Allred’s recollection that Barlow told Rulon Allred in 1935 that he would eventually become a member of the Priesthood Council.  They might also dispute a few of her other recollections.  Nevertheless, their primary concerns seemed to revolve around two issues: Musser’s exact authority and his mental competence.  Zitting, LeGrand Woolley, and Kelsch recalled Lorin Woolley’s teachings that every new member of the Priesthood Council had to be approved by a unanimous vote of all other Council members, including the members of a second lofty Priesthood Council existing on the other side of the veil.[24]  Also they might have observed that nothing existed to document that J. Leslie Broadbent had called John Y. Barlow to be his Second Elder.  But rather, all indications are that Barlow rose to the position through his seniority (in ordination) in the Priesthood Council.

          In contrast, followers of the new Priesthood Council called by Musser in 1952 believed that despite several small strokes, he was still capable, mentally and spiritually of functioning as God’s prophet.  In addition, they trusted that he, as the Senior Member of the Priesthood Council, had not only the right, but also the duty, to appoint his own Second Elder independent of the vote of the other ten Council members.  Doubtless they recalled that in 1929 Lorin Woolley had called six new members of the Council, including J. Leslie Broadbent as his Second Elder, and did it all without anyone’s approval but his own.

          Throughout these proceedings, an outsider might observe that the intensity of the disagreement and the level of confusion experienced by the participants is remarkable.  According to the Woolley-Broadbent-Barlow-Musser teachings of the early 1930s, the Priesthood Council or Council of Seven Friends had existed since before 1830 when the Church was legally organized.[25]  Reportedly, dozens of men and been ordained as High Priest Apostles and served as members of that Council during that span of years.  In addition, a line of priesthood succession was described through the Council’s senior member, which was perpetuated beyond the nineteenth century to Lorin C. Woolley in 1929.  Despite this history of over one hundred and twenty-two years, the collective memory of guiding directives, traditions, and protocols governing this super-powerful Priesthood Council was insufficient to successfully resolve the primary issue of the “Second Elder,” how he was chosen or defining his precise relationship to the Priesthood Council.  Curiously, none of the recollections or guidelines consulted in 1952 seemed to originate before the 1930s.

          In addition, LDS scriptures refer multiple times to the “order” that should exist in God’s earthly kingdom (D&C 20:68, 28:13, 58:55, 132:8, 18).  Melba Allred remembered that at one point, Council Member Charles Zitting was asked “if he believed that Joseph Musser was a Prophet of God and the mouthpiece of God here on earth.”  Zitting answered, “Yes.”  Then came the next question regarding, “why he couldn’t uphold Joseph in the things that he did then.”  Charles responded “that he would if they were done in order.”  Then Melba Allred reflected: “I felt that there was no proof of what the ‘order’ was, since [Charles Zitting] 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.”[26]

[1]  Dorothy Allred Solomon, Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy, W.W. Norton: New York, 2003, 284.  [We need to add this to the bibliography - thanks!] 

[2]  Dorothy Allred Solomon, Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy, W.W. Norton: New York, 2003, 30. Rulon would eventually marry a total of sixteen women.  Dorothy Allred Solomon, Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk, 284.

[3]  Melba Allred, “Items Concerning Priesthood,” Gems, Gilbert Fulton ed., 33-35; italics mind.

[4]  Neither Lorin C. Woolley, J. Leslie Broadbent, nor John Y. Barlow had called men to be personal “counselors” to them.


[5]  Musser and Broadbent, Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, 120; italics added;  Musser and Broadbent, Priesthood Items, 45.

[6]  Musser recorded Woolley teaching on March 29, 1932: “To be the head of a dispensation, seven wives necessary.  Keys of Kingdom and Patriarchal Order must have five wives.  President of the Church - three wives.”  (Musser, “Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser,” 21; Musser, Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, 16.)  As a doctrine of the restoration, the idea that a specific number of plural wives is required for priesthood leadership callings is problematic.  John W. Woolley (Lorin’s father) esteemed by most Mormon fundamentalists as the “President of the Priesthood” prior to his 1928 death, lived in a polygamist relationship with only two wives for only six years.  He was a monogamist the remainder of his life and was sealed to only one woman, making him a monogamist in eternity.  John was sealed to Julia Seales Ensign March 20, 1851 with whom he had six children including his son Lorin.  He wed Ann Everington Roberts  on October 4, 1886 for time only and lived the principle of plural marriage with both Julia and Ann until 1892 when Julia passed away.  Ann Roberts was the widow of B. H. Roberts and bore Woolley no offspring dying January 11, 1910.  Two months later on March 23, John married 39 year old Annie Fisher for time only as well.  (I am unaware of any fundamentalist writer who has proposed other marriages or wives for John W. Woolley.)  Also by all known accounts, Lorin C. Woolley was a monogamist until he was seventy-five years old.  Two years before his 1934 death, he married Goulda Kmetzsch (born March 20, 1904) (Kelsch, Louis Alma Kelsch, 27).  Lorin’s apparent monogamy has been disputed although no contemporary evidence for any pre-1932 plural marriages has been identified.  See Baird and Baird, Reminiscences of John W. and Lorin C. Woolley, 1:5; Bishop, The 1886 Visitations of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith to John Taylor, 192-202.  In addition, Jacob, one of the Old Testament patriarchs who was later called Israel, had only four wives, Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah. 

[7]  Gems 1:35.

[8]  Dorothy Allred Solomon, daughter of Rulon’s fourth wife lists the names of the seven wives as : LaVerne, Rose, Emma, Ella, Sally, Adah, and Melissa.  Doubtless these are pseudonyms, Melba corresponds to the third wife Solomon called “Emma.”  (Daughter of the Saints: Growing Up in Polygamy, W.W. Norton: New York, 2003, 32-43).  Solomon reported that a “priesthood council member” told Rulon to marry his seventh wife because “it was time Rulon completed ‘his Quorum’ of wives to seal his standing as a patriarch” (ibid. 38).

[9]  Melba Allred, Gems, 1:36.

[10]  Ibid.

[11]   Ibid., 1:37; see also Solomon, In My Father’s House, 28-29.

[12]  Melba Allred, Gems, 1:37.

[13]  Ibid. 37-38.

[14]    .  Ibid., 38.

[15]  Bistine, The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, 30.  Bistline dates the meeting as “in April of 1950.”  See also J. Lyman Jessop, Diary, December 6, 1951.


[16]  J. Lyman Jessop recorded that LeGrand Woolley was an “avowed enemy of Rulon Allred.”  Diary of Joseph Lyman Jessop, (N.p.: Jessop Family, 1990s) entry for May 27, 1951.  Perhaps some of the animosity was derived from their professional pursuits, Woolley being a medical doctor and Allred a naturopathic doctor.

[17]  Driggs, Imprisonment, Defiance, and Division, 80-88.

[18]  Bistine, The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, 30.

[19]  See Zitting, Charles Frederick Zitting, 62; Kelsch, Louis Alma Kelsch, 43-44; Kunz, Reminiscences on Priesthood, 22-23.

[20]  Related by Melba Allred, Gems, 1:39.

[21]   Ibid.   In 1975, Rulon Allred remembered: “Before Joseph finally died he called in members of the Council who are here and told them that they had spent an entire evening with the Lord, and that the Lord had told him what he should do. That led to the calling of this Council, and it wasn’t done just because Brother Musser was ailing in body and weak in mind.  It was the result of the visitation of the Lord with him for an entire evening.  I want you to take that for what it is worth.”    (Rulon C. Allred, Treasures of Knowledge, 2:132.)

[22]  Joseph Thompson Diary, 24 August 1952; emphasis in original.  Quoted in Driggs, “Imprisonment, Defiance, and Division, 87.

[23]    . From “John Buchereit’s Plea Before the Council” presented at the “School of the Prophets” or meeting of select polygamist leaders, January 26, 1952.  Typescript in Bistline, The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, 42-44.  See also  Melba F. Allred, Gems 1:41 and Solomon, In My Father’s House, 26-27.

[24]  See Zitting, Charles Frederick Zitting, 62; Kelsch, Louis Alma Kelsch, 43-44; Kunz, Reminiscences on Priesthood, 22-23.  See also chapter ten.

[25]  Musser and Broadbent, Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, 96; Musser, A Priesthood Issue, 4-5; see discussion in chapter ten.

[26]  Melba Allred, Gems 1:39.