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 Louis Alma Kelsch 

Louis Alma Kelsch was born 2 December 1905 and baptized a member of the Church at age eight.  Eleven years later he accepted the call to serve a full time mission for the Church in the Northern States.  Kelsch married his first wife, Delmarie Mitten on 8 August 1930, setting up housekeeping in a home next to J. Leslie Broadbent’s residence.[1]  The two neighbors became friends and Leslie eventually introduced Louis to Lorin C. Woolley.[2]  By 1932, Kelsch was invited to join Lorin Woolley, Broadbent, Barlow, Musser, LeGrand Woolley, and Zitting in their council meetings,[3] and was ordained a High Priest Apostle the following year.  In joining the Council of Friends, Louis knew he would soon have to become a polygamist, which occurred several months later.  Less than three weeks after marrying polygamously, he was excommunicated from the Church by the Granite Stake High Council for “advocating plural marriage.”[4]  A few years afterwards his first wife divorced him, but he eventually married at least five others.[5] 

LeGrand Woolley and Louis Kelsch - Senior Members of the Council

With Zitting’s death, only Legrand Woolley and Louis Kelsch were left from Lorin Woolley’s 1933 Council of Friends.[6]  Next to them in seniority were men called by John Y. Barlow, first LeRoy Johnson and second Marion Hammon, who were added to the Council in 1941, with Johnson being ordained first.  Reportedly, Leroy approached Legrand Woolley and asked him if he was going to assume the leadership of the fundamentalist “group.”  Legrand was preoccupied with his medical office B to lead the fundamentalists would have required him to abandon his patients.  He conversed with fellow Council member Louis Kelsch who told the doctor, “I wouldn’t have anything to do with it.”[7]  Dr. Woolley maintained his practice until his death 10 December 1965. 

One fundamentalist leader would later claim that Legrand Woolley “was not faithful in his responsibilities to the Priesthood.”[8]  Despite his ordination as a High Priest Apostle, Legrand Woolley’s children remained active in the Church, with his sons serving LDS missions.  Reportedly, when “the burden rested on him to take over the leadership of the [polygamist] group, he had to turn it down because he was so deeply entrenched in the Church.”[9]

Leroy Johnson also approached Louis Kelsch: 

LeRoy Johnson came to Louis and asked him if he was going to lead the people.

Louis said, “Roy, have you had a revelation that you should lead the people?”

Roy said, “Well, no.”

Louis said, “I haven’t either.”

Roy said, “What shall I do?

Louis said, “Roy, do what you want to do.”

Roy Johnson went and told the people that Louis told him to take the leadership and that Louis had stepped down.[10]

Kelsch continued to perform plural marriages when requested, but he never asserted himself in the leadership of the fundamentalists.  His persistent cohabitation with his plural wives resulted in a second prison term beginning 17 December 1955.  By stealth Kelsch performed marriage sealings while still incarcerated.  On visiting day, the engaged couple would sit in a special, relatively private area of the prison visiting room and Louis would speak to the them quietly so no one else would hear.[11]  He was released 4 December 1959 after almost four years and remained aloof from the fundamentalist “groups” until his death on 16 July 1974.  He has been considered the quintessential “independent” fundamentalist by some observers. 

With the death of Zitting, and the refusal of both Legrand Woolley and Louis Kelsch to lead either fundamentalist group, Leroy Johnson stood as the unchallenged leader of the group of Short Creek fundamentalists.  To the north, Rulon Allred continued to preside over followers of the new Priesthood Council.

Over the years since 1929, three separate Mormon fundamentalist Priesthood Councils can be identified.  Lorin Woolley called his seven member council from 1929-1933; John Y. Barlow called seven new members between 1941 and 1949; and ultimately, Joseph W. Musser called his own seven in 1952.  Ironically in 1954, all three Priesthood Councils existed (in some form)  simultaneously and independently of each other.

[1]    .  Kelsch, Louis Alma Kelsch, 7.

[2]    .  See Musser Journals, 29 July 1931.

[3]    .  Ibid., 17 March 1932.

[4]    .  Kelsch, Louis Alma Kelsch, 29.

[5]    .  Ibid., 50b, photos.

[6]    .  His obituary published in Truth, 20:97-100 (August 1954) failed to mention his calling as a High Priest Apostle or member of the Priesthood Council.  Guy Musser was the editor at that time.

[7]    .  Kelsch, Louis Alma Keslch, 86.

[8]    .  Ormand F. Lavery, discourse given 1 February 1967, Gems 19.

[9]    .  Letter from Raymond Taylor to Samuel W. Taylor dated 28 November 1955.

[10]    .  Kelsch, Louis Alma Keslch, 86.

[11]    .  Ibid., 98.