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Joel LeBaron's Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times 

Sometime in the early 1950s, Joel LeBaron resorted to the mountains, seeking answers to specific prayers regarding the “one mighty and strong.”  In response, he described receiving a visitation from heavenly messengers: “They talked to me as plain as you and I are talking together.  I now know the exact pattern to be used in setting the house of God in order.”[1] 

In August of 1955 Joel visited Salt Lake City and assured the Allred fundamentalists that he was still supporting them.  However during the same visit, accompanied by his brothers Ross and Floren, Joel proceeded to organize his own church, “The Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times.”  The minutes from the meeting show that by ordaining each other, all three men bestowed and received “all the keys rites and authority of the patriarchal priesthood.”[2]  At the meeting, Ross “presided” and was ordained “head patriarch” while Joel and Floren were only ordained as “patriarchs.”  In contrast, Joel was called to be president of the Church and Floren “First Counselor,” with Ross receiving no specific church calling.

Once the church was organized on 21 September 1955, baptisms and confirmations followed that very same day.[3]  The new church boasted three members, but its leaders expected many more to soon join.  The LeBaron teachings suggest that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “was established to prepare the saints for membership in the Church of the Firstborn.”[4]  At the urging of his brother Floren, Joel sought a secluded corner in a canyon above Salt Lake City.  Then prayerfully seeking a confirmation of his calling, he reported receiving a “personal visitation from no less than nineteen prophets, including Abraham, Moses, Christ, and Joseph Smith.”[5] 

Priesthood Expounded 

In the months following its organization in mid-1955, the three members of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times sought converts, primarily among other Mormon fundamentalist groups.  Having no success and later losing the participation of Ross, the remaining two brothers, Joel and Floren, returned to Colonia LeBaron in early 1956.  Soon they added two additional followers from their own family, Alma and Ervil LeBaron. Their mother Maude became the fifth baptized convert.[6]

Several months later Ervil LeBaron, with some input from his brother Joel, published a pamphlet entitled Priesthood Expounded, which provided many details regarding the LeBaron’s claims to legitimate priesthood authority.  In the very first few paragraphs, Ervil explained how his insights were superior to the doctrines previously taught by Church leaders:[7]  “If we LeBaron brothers are so fortunate as to be able to explain these things correctly, in this time of confusion and turmoil, when all others of our time have utterly failed to do it, then let every man and woman sit in silence and put their hands on their mouths, recognize where the authority is, and cease to speak evil of the servants of God.”[8]

Beginning with Joseph Smith’s comment that there “There are three grand orders of priesthood”[9] Ervil gave detailed scriptural support to ideas that previously had never been taught in any corner of Mormondom: 

"The Three Grand Orders of the Priesthood”

(According to LeBaron Doctrine)




 Presiding Office

Described Authority

 Line of authority



 Right of the Firstborn[11]

 “to preside over all things pertaining [to the Kingdon of God] and to properly coordinate all the different organizations of the priesthood that the people might be prepared to enter the terrestrial state”[12]

 Abraham to Moses to Christ to John the Revelator to Joseph Smith[13] to Benjamin F. Johnson to A. Dayer LeBaron to Ben/Ross/Joel LeBaron



(Priesthood of Aaron)[14]

 Presiding Patriarch

 “holds the keys of all the spiritual blessings, the work for the dead, etc., and holds all the keys pertaining to the apostleship and the fulness of the Melchizedek  priesthood”[15]

“to preside over the administration of the spiritual duties of blessings to the whole Church”[16]

 Aaron to John the Baptist to Hyrum Smith to Uncle John Smith to John Smith to Joseph F. Smith



 Presiding Bishop

 “Keys of temporal blessings”[17]

 Newel K. Whitney





 Church President



 Joshua - Peter[18] - Brigham Young


The elaborate discussions found in Priesthood Expounded may cause readers to struggle as they strive to follow the reasoning set forth by Ervil LeBaron.  He taught unique ideas, like Brigham Young did not hold the same authority as Joseph Smith[19] and “Brigham Young was the modern Joshua, not the modern Moses...”[20]  At one point in the text Ervil states:  “Thus we see that Joshua was under Eleazar in spiritual things, yet over him in political government.  He was also over the presiding Bishop in the political field yet under him in temporal concerns” (italics added).[21]  Many other circuitous explanations are employed. 

Undoubtedly Latter-day Saints readers would give Ervil LeBaron high marks for creativity as he described his religious beliefs, noting that the scriptures he cited do not naturally support the elaborate interpretations he provides.  Accordingly, they generally conclude from reading Priesthood Expounded, that the priesthood organization there propounded bears little resemblance to the priesthood hierarchy as described in the Doctrine and Covenants.  Neither is it “orderly,”[22] nor does it seem to follow an easily recognized “pattern” as promised in LDS scripture.[23] 

The Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times Expands

With the influx of the French missionaries and other converts joining largely due to the convincing power of Priesthood Expounded, the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times expanded throughout the first decade of its existence.  Its leader, Joel LeBaron was described as “kind,” “meek,” “gentle,” “humble,” and Christlike.[31]

In contrast, Ervil manifested glaring narcissistic traits that would explode uncontrollably in the years to come.[32]  Around 1960, Claude Bronson gave this assessment, “I don’t think there’s anybody that I know of who is any slicker than Ervil in hiding behind someone else, and reaching in and getting a handful of honey once in a while, and still look guiltless to the outside world.  He’s very very crafty.” [33]  Another supporter recalled:  “[Ervil] stated, after a lengthy revelation about the future of the gospel, that one of his operating principles was: ‘You can lie, cheat and steal in the name of God and it is all right.’“[34]

By 1962 Ervil was the number two man in the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times.  He then introduced the doctrine of the “Civil Law,” which stated that some principles of the church could be reestablished with force, even deadly force.  Joel apparently supported the Civil Law as something that could be utilized in the future, while Ervil was willing to use it immediately to accomplish his own goals.

In 1967 Ervil LeBaron taught members of the Firstborn Church that he, not Joel, was the head of a “celestial administration.”  When Joel caught wind of the teachings, he gathered eighteen of the “general authorities” of his church and denounced and discredited Ervil’s teachings.  Further disagreements ensued and by the summer of 1970, Ervil proclaimed: “I know as sure as the Lord lives that my program is the only one that will put over the kingdom.  And I also know that there are men in leading positions in this work who oppose me...  And I tell you that blood will have to run to settle our differences.”[35]  In response, Joel released Ervil from his position as Presiding Patriarch, causing Ervil to weep like a child.

By August of 1972, Ervil was teaching: “I am the one mighty and strong”[36] and at six foot four inches, 240 pounds, Ervil cast a dominant shadow.[37]  Openly declaring,  “Verlan and Joel will be put to death,”[38] his words would prove to be prophetic because on the 20th of the month, Joel was attacked and shot in the head, presumably by Dan Jordan.  His brother Verlan took control of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times and became target number one for Ervil and his followers in the Church of the Lamb of God.

[1]  Verlan LeBaron, LeBaron Story, 125.  In Janet Bennion, Desert Patriarchy, 126.

[2]  Photocopies of the notes from that meeting may be found in Richards, Reply to the Church of the Firstborn, 11-14.

[3]    .  The date 21 September is “Adam’s Day” according to Ross LeBaron.  (Wright, “Origins and Development,”  99.)

[4]    .  Fred C. Collier, Church of the Firstborn, 2.

[5]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood,  55.

[6]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood,  58.

[7]    .  Another LeBaron apologist, Fred C. Collier commented: “Brigham [Young] did not always fully explain himself...  Sometimes Brigham was a little tricky” (“Apostolic Succession,” 2).

[8]    .  Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 1:6.  Divided into Section and Verse by Thomas J. Liddiard March 1988.

[9]    .  TPJS 322.

[10] Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 2:42.

[11]  Ibid., 8:17, 19.

[12]  Ibid., 16:13.

[13]  Ibid., 8:1-49.

[14]  Ibid., 2:27.

[15]  Ibid., 4:36.

[16]  Ibid., 16:14.

[17]  Ibid., 5:11. 

[18]  Ibid., 14:15.

[19]    .  Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 5:28-29.  Contrast Fred C. Collier who wrote: “Of course President Young held the Fulness of the Patriarchal Priesthood and the Keys thereof; and of course he was also an Apostle.”  (“Apostolic Succession,” 19.)

[20]    .  Ervil LeBaron, Priesthood Expounded, 5:22, 25, 27.

[21]    .  Ibid., 5:23.

[22]    .  See D&C 132:8.

[23]    .  See D&C 52:14.  See also the pattern for the priesthood leadership as delineated in D&C 20 and 107.

[24]    .  The position is similar to that of an “Assistant to the President” in today’s Mission leadership.

[25]    .  Wright, “Origins and Development,” 127.

[26]    .  Mehr, “Trial of the French Mission,” 28.

[27]  “Tucker, Silver, Wakeham, Daniel Jordan, Marilyn Lamborn, Neil Poulsen, Loftin N. Harvey, June Abbott and Nancy Fulk were excommunicated and sent home.  Harvey Harper, Ron Jarvis and Marlene Wessel returned home on their own without being excommunicated.”  (Moore-Emmett, God’s Brothel, 115.)

[28]    .  Mehr, “Trial of the French Mission,”  37-44.

[29]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 80.

[30]    .  Mehr, “Trial of the French Mission,” 44.

[31]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 106.  However, Rena Chynoweth remember that on one occasion he threated Ervil saying, “And if you don’t stop this, I’ll kill you_”  (Chynowethh, Blood Covenant, 66).

[32]    .  Narcissistic traits include a need for admiration, lack of empathy for others and a profound sense of entitlement, which Ervil manifested.  See Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 82, 91, 104-05.

[33]    .  Interview with Claude Bronson, Jean Bronson LeBaron, Marden Spencer, Linda Allred et al. about 1960.

[34]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 114.

[35]    .  Ibid., 124.

[36]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 138. 

[37]    .  Chynoweth, Blood Covenant, 11.

[38]    .  Bradlee and Van Atta, Prophet of Blood, 138.