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 J. Leslie Broadbent 

Born 3 June 1891, J. Leslie Broadbent married his first wife in 1906 and then polygamously joined Rula Louise Kelsch in 1915.[1]  Leslie gained some notoriety through the publication of his 1927 pamphlet, Celestial Marriage?, one of the very first Mormon fundamentalist tracts.  His defiance of Church leaders lead to his excommunication in July 1929.[2]

 Succession After the Death of Lorin C. Woolley

         By April of 1933 Lorin Woolley became ill and was no longer able to attend the meetings of the Council of Friends.[3]  Within a year he was greatly incapacitated, “growing weaker, both mentally and physically,” passing away 30 September 1934.[4]  Musser recorded:  “Lorin C. Woolley past on [sic], after a lingering sickness of about 10 months, and a critical sickness of about two months.  In his passing God summoned home the President of the Priesthood and who held the Keys to the patriarchal order.  Upon him as a thin thread the Priesthood rested, with the Keys from late in 1928 to Feb or March 1929...”[5]

With the death of Lorin Woolley, the next senior member of the Council of Friends was J. Leslie Broadbent.  However, certain Mormon fundamentalists believed that no one could rightfully succeed Lorin, teaching that whatever priesthood keys Lorin held were given to a Lamanite prophet in the Yucatan, Mexico.  They thereby reject any perpetuation of the Council of Friends here in North America.  A second group believed “Louis A. Kelsch would be the last man that God the Eternal Father would call into that Great High Priesthood Council, before ‘the setting in order of the house of God’ took place.”[6]  Still a third faction followed a quote attributed to John W. Woolley that predicted that in the future (after 1928), polygamist “groups” would form and warned his listeners to “join none of them.”[7]  In any case, some fundamentalists separated themselves from the remaining polygamists, existing singly, they have been referred to as “independents.”   

J. Leslie Broadbent is the “Senior Member” of the Council of Friends

For the majority of the fundamentalists who followed Lorin Woolley and the Council of Friends, the transference of authority to Broadbent was uneventful because he had seniority over all other Council members based upon the date of his being set apart as a High Priest Apostle.  In addition, he had also been designated Lorin’s “Second Elder.”  Oliver Cowdery was Joseph Smith’s “Second Elder” (D&C 20:3) meaning that as long as he was faithful, he would have succeeded Joseph as President of the Church had the Prophet died.  These two claims allowed Broadbent to assume leadership in a smooth transition.

         As the leader of the fundamentalists, J. Leslie Broadbent held gatherings and traveled spreading the doctrines of the PRIESTHOOD and plural marriage.  On 11 October 1934 “a meeting was held at Brother Broadbent’s.  About 75, excluding children, were present.  The spirit of the Lord visited [and] rested richly upon Bro. Broadbent as he explained the true order of the Priesthood.  His remarks were convincing to all present with possibly one or two exceptions, which was expected.”[8]  Broadbent presided over other meetings held at his home although it appears no one recorded any of his teachings.[9]

In February, Broadbent, Barlow, Musser, Zitting and Kelsch all traveled to Millville, Utah for a meeting with fellow believers.[10]  Then the following month on 16 March 1935, J. Leslie Broadbent succumbed to pneumonia.  Having only presided for a short six months, Musser was shocked:

Bro. Joseph Leslie Broadbent has passed on_  Leaving the office last Monday, with a cold and tired feeling, he took to his bed.  The trouble developed into pneumonia.  However, he seemed in no serious danger until yesterday. The brethren of the Priesthood attended him faithfully and prayed mightily with the Lord for his restoration, but without avail.  ‘I am perfectly resigned to either stay or go as the Lord desires,’ he said shortly before his death...  I loved this man of God as only a man in the Priesthood can love.  We have been closely associated together.  He was God’s medium on earth - holding the highest order of the Melchizedek Priesthood.  Four wives and five children survive him.  His life was noble, big and unselfish.  He contended valiantly for the faith once delivered to the Saints.[11] 

During his years as a member of the Council of Friends and as a High Priest Apostle, J. Leslie Broadbent sought a personal confirmation from the Lord.  “On the day he died, Louis Kelsch asked him if he had received what he was seeking (meaning an actual visitation and direction from heavenly messengers).  He answered that he hadn’t yet but said, ‘If they come to get me, I can tell them I am still in the work,’ pointing to a stack of his books they had ready to mail.  Leslie apparently had not received that kind of confirmation...”[12]

At Broadbent’s death, two men made claim to be his rightful successor.  Charles “Elden” Kingston, son of Charles W. Kingston, asserted that Leslie had designated him as the “Second Elder.”[13]  The Kingstons would eventually establish the Davis County Cooperative Society, remaining entirely separate from all other Mormon fundamentalist groups.

John Y. Barlow, who sat next in line in seniority of the Council of Friends, also asserted his position as the “Senior Member.”  Many also believed that Broadbent had designated him as “Second Elder.”  Regardless, the majority of polygamists followed Barlow’s leadership, believing him to be the presiding priesthood leader on earth.  It was a calling that he readily accepted.

[1]    .  Ancestral File.  

[2]    .  Kelsch, Louis Alma Kelsch, 25.

[3]    .  Musser Journals, 18 June, 10 August 1933.

[4]    .  Ibid., 10 April 1934.

[5]    .  Ibid., 30 September 1934; italics added.

[6]    .  Hammon, Betrayal of the Godhead, 25.

[7]    .  Bishop, 1886 Visitations of Jesus Christ, 137.

[8]    .  Musser Journals, 11 October 1934.

[9]    .  Ibid., 30 November, 2 December 1934.

[10]    .  Ibid., 11 February 1935.

[11]    .  Ibid., 16 March 1935.

[12]    .  Kelsch, Louis Alma Kelsch, 32.

[13]    .  Wright, “Origins and Development,” 58.  The paragraph that discusses this issue has a footnote with sources listed as a Joseph Thompson interview 17 July 1962 and a Rulon C. Allred interview 29 June 1962.  Other sources have not been identified to independently verify this assertion.