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Lorin Woolley’s Keys Given to a Lamanite Prophet in the Yucatan, Mexico? 

Most of the men and women who listened  to Lorin Woolley teach in the 1920s and 1930s remember him sharing stories about his visit(s) to the Yucatan, Mexico.[1]  Reportedly, one such visit occurred the night of 7 April 1932.  Musser conversed with Woolley the very next day: 

During last night, [Lorin Woolley] at home of J. Leslie Broadbent, claims to have been visited and conversed one-half or three-quarters of an hour with one of the three Nephite Apostles and was by him conducted to a temple in Yucatan, South America, [sic], that was built shortly after the days of the Savior in mortality.[2]  Its 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 miraculously kept clean.  Its location is not known by the nations generally.  One of the chiefs spoke of having seven wives and one five...  While there [Lorin] was introduced to a congregation of about 300 people - who were awaiting instructions on the gospel... [Lorin] was previously taken there and introduced to the leaders by the Prophet Joseph Smith under the direction of our Lord.  These people at Yucatan are white, having Nephite blood predominating in them.  They are intelligent and fine people.[3] 

Another account of that visit states that while in the Yucatan, Lorin Woolley gave all his priesthood keys to a “mighty and wise prophet” living there: 

 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.[4] 

One report states that this “Lamanite Prophet” or “Indian Prophet,” who reportedly received Lorin’s keys, had been ordained by the Savior himself over forty years earlier (in 1890) at Walker Lake, Nevada.  The Indian prophet then “was led by the Spirit” to migrate into Mexico and to continue south to the Yucatan “as white men’s oppression worsened.”[5]  The story goes that the Lamanite prophet then patiently awaited the visit of Lorin Woolley that would occur decades later in 1932.[6]

John Y. Barlow testified in 1935:  “Lorin was taken to Yucatan to give the Priesthood to certain parties and use the sealing rites; all the rites and ordinances given by Joseph [Smith] to the brethren in his day were given by Lorin before this death.”[7]  However, several years later in 1941, Musser clarified that the keys of priesthood were “not with the Indians.”[8]  Reportedly, he along with Rulon C. Allred and others traveled to the Yucatan in Spring of 1952 seeking to find the Lamanite prophet without success.[9]

Different recollections exist regarding Lorin’s specific teachings about his personal visits to the Yucatan.  In 1960, antagonist Nathaniel Baldwin recorded: 

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.[10] 

[1]    .  See also Reminiscences, 2nd ed., 4:189, Bishop and Bishop, Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated, 317-18, 329-30.   In 1946, Morris Kunz recalled Lorin’s teachings : “[Lorin] introduced the ordinance of the sacrament among that white people there [in the Yucatan]... the most beautiful women I ever me or set my eyes upon in my life were down there.  The day will come when their fathers will ask some of you men here to marry their daughters to show you are one with them.”  (Arnold Boss Prison Diaries, 8 August 1946.  See also 10 August, 24 August 1946.)

[2]    .  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint dedicated a temple in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico 8 July 2000.  Throughout all the exploration and excavation of land in the Yucatan area, the temple described by Lorin Woolley has yet to be located.

[3]    .  BOR 21-22, (8 April 1932).

[4]    .  Pierce, 3 1/2 Years, 77-78.; italics added.

[5]    .  Reminiscences, 2nd ed. 2:70.

[6]    .  Rhea Allred Kunz, Branch Prophet, 238-39.  Quoted is polygamist Price Johnson, brother of Leroy Johnson.  Also cited is an article from a Church publication, The Contributor, January 1891, volume 12, 4., which mentions this described occurrence.  The incident at Walker Lake is also discussed in, Coates, “Mormons and the Ghost Dance,” 89-111.

[7]    .  Musser Journals, 20 July 1935.  Spelling standardized.  William Thomas recalled in 1972:  “Once when Lorin and one of the Three Nephite Disciples went to the Yucatan, three men came from those people, met them with a canoe, and took them the rest of the way in to those people.  Lorin also told me, ‘I took certain keys down there to the Lamanite prophet....  If you have any idea what keys I took to that prophet, keep it to yourself.  (Reminiscences, 2nd ed., 4:202-03.)

[8]    .  Musser Journals, 28 February 1941.  Musser’s comments may have been in response to Francis Darter’s teachings published that same month: “the Senior Keys of the Priesthood [were passed] from the Believing Gentiles to the natural blood in the House of Joseph.”  The recipient, Darter explained, was an Indian “chief” living in the Yucatan who is “between 6'2_ and 6'4_ tall and is looked upon by most all Indian tribes as their head” (Kingdom of God, 37-38).

[9]    .  Wright, “Origins and Development,” 95.

[10]    .  Baldwin Journals, 13 November 1960.