by Brian C. Hales
While writing his autobiographical sketch in 1948,(1) Joseph White Musser wrote, "I believed intensely in the mission of Joseph Smith, and were it possible to become fanatical in accepting the decrees of the Almighty, I have been fanatically religious..."(2) This assessment accurately describes his life as one of Mormon Fundamentalism's more prominent leaders.(3)
Joseph Musser was born March 8, 1872 in Salt Lake City,
Utah, the son of A. Milton Musser. A. Milton Musser served in the Church
as a traveling bishop between 1858 and 1876 and was later imprisoned for
his obedience to the principle of plural marriage.(4)
Joseph Musser grew up in a staunch Latter-day Saint home and learned first
hand of the blessings associated with authorized plural marriage.
Joseph Musser's education consisted of a few years in the lower grades, never having attended a high school or university. He characterized his higher instruction as coming from "the University of Hard Knocks."(5) His lack of formal education, however, did not deter him from pursuing employment in fields that required the knowledge of shorthand and accounting.
Joseph's experiences in business involved him with dozens
of companies, serving in a variety of positions:(6)
Year Company Position
1892 Palantic Mining and Milling Co. Secretary and Treasurer
1897 Union Light and Power Co. Assistant Secretary
1900 Utah and California Railroad Secretary and Treasurer
1901-1906 Bank of Heber City Organizer - Cashier
1901-1906 Smart and Webster Livestock Co. Organizer
1901-1906 Wasatch Real Estate Dev. Co. Manager
1901-1906 Timpanogas Irrigation System Secretary
1901-1906 Wallsburg Mercantile Co. Organizer
1901-1906 Heber Mercantile Co. Organizer
1901-1906 Duchesne Irrigation Co. Organizer
1901-1906 Rocky Point Ditch Co. Organizer
1901-1906 Pioneer Irrigation Co. Organizer
1905 with Uintah Indian Reservation to locate applicants
1906 Inter-Mountain Realty Co. Manager
1908 Lubra-Oils Manufacturing lubrication processes
1908 Utah Oil Refining lubrication processes
1920 D.H. Gustaveson locating "oil lands"
1922 Gustaveson Oil Co. Manager
1922 Diamond Oil Co. Manager
1929 Smoke-Less Fuel Board of Directors
Unfortunately, these enterprises seldom produced any marketable goods which left them financially insecure. This insecurity caused Joseph great anxiety at times. It also made it difficult to support himself and his several polygamous families.(7)
Joseph Musser's longest involvement with any single venture commenced in 1922 when he began to serve as manager of the Diamond Oil Company. He was placed in charge of all the drilling enterprises. Unfortunately the wells never produced a drop of crude despite the expenditure of a great deal of investment income.
Musser reflected many times in his personal journal concerning
the anxiety he felt as he was repeatedly forced to solicit monetary assessments
from stockholders to continue to finance the enterprises. Finally in 1933
Joseph was discharged from his position. He recorded:
Arriving at Salt Lake I received
the following through the mail, signed Thursday, but not mailed until I
left for well, Friday morning:
"J.W. Musser, Gen. Mgr. D. Oil.
"The Executive Committee of the Diamond Oil Co. hereby notify you that your services as Manager, also your offices as director and vice-President, will expire on July 1st, 1933.
"This action is taken in the interests and welfare of the Diamond Oil Co.
"Signed John Shewell, A.O. Crisimon
Was I surprised! At last they think they have me. A persistent effort has been made to get me out of the company. I have given all there is in me to build up and keep from going overboard. The fight was started by Harold Shewell and Seymore B. Hajen, who were probably assisted by a few disgruntled stockholders who feel I should pay the largest assessment and work for nothing. Shewell finally let down but Hajen kept up the fight. The ground on which I am now deposed are two:
1st that I am a member of an oath bound (by reputation) gang spoken of in the recent articles of the 1st Presidency, and am making a business of marrying girls and inducing others to do like-wise. And since the Church is against me, I am a hinderance to the progress of the Company. John Shewell with tears in his eyes said: Joe I didn't believe it to be true, but they make the charge (would not tell who "they" were) [indecipherable] Company from going to pieces. Herald Shewell said: I only hope we can bring the well in, and then you can tell them to go where they belong.
I am charged with a moral and religious crime. Without hearing or trial of any kind - not even an opportunity to make our explanations, action is taken, - I am deposed! How like the actions of Lucifer that is! Satan is behind it all. And I will go on, while the Company, so far as the efforts of these people are concerned, will go to wreck and ruin.
The 2nd Charge is that my management has been too expensive and therefore I must be deposed.
God alone knows my heart and soul.
To him I go for comfort. (Entry for July 1, 1933.)
His position at Diamond Oil appears to be the last formal employment he engaged in.
A few months after his discharge, Joseph asked a close
friend, Lorin C. Woolley, why his business endeavors had been without success:
Friday last I took up with Lorin
the question of why since beginning to write my book, I had not been able
to succeed along financial lines. I had not only lost my job, but had failed
in every undertaking to date. He said it is because your services are wanted
in the ministry, writing and talking, and the Lord don't [sic] want you
mixed up in other things(8)
that will distract your attention from your real
work. (Entry for September 27, 1933.)
From the latter part of 1933 until his death, Joseph Musser
existed mostly on donations from his family, followers and the proceeds
from his publications which dealt exclusively with fundamentalist topics.
An inquiry into the relationship between Joseph Musser
and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reveals a series of
changes during which Joseph was transformed from a faithful believer into
a severe (at times) antagonist. As the son of a prominent priesthood leader,
he grew up believing in the truthfulness of the Church. In 1892, he was
married in the Logan Temple to his first wife and then embarked on a mission
to the Southern States in 1895.(9) Joseph
recounted in his journal that in December of 1899, he and his wife Rose
were invited by President Lorenzo Snow to receive their full temple blessings.(10)
Shortly thereafter, Musser claimed that:
[A] messenger came to me from President
Snow, stating I had been selected to enter plural marriage and to help
keep the principle alive... The "Manifesto" had been issued, and the word
had gone out from Bishops and Stake Presidencies that a definite stop had
been put to the practice. Those assuming to enter the principle would be
"handled." I was placed in a peculiar situation. God's Prophet told me
to accept the law and keep it alive. His subordinates said if I did so,
they would cut me off [from] the Church. I could not argue with them and
divulge the source of my authority. (Joseph W. Musser, p. 9.)
It appears Musser never revealed the identity of the alleged "messenger" who supposedly represented President Lorenzo Snow. Anyone familiar with President Snow's stand on new Plural Marriages would find this claim difficult to believe.(11) Nevertheless, Joseph Musser believed and married two additional wives during the next decade and a fourth wife in the 1930's.
Musser's support of plural marriage is undoubtedly the reason he was called to appear before members of the Quorum of the Twelve in 1909 to answer questions regarding his beliefs in polygamy. During that interview, he acknowledged that President Joseph F. Smith held the keys of sealing authority(12) but declared that it was possible for the Quorum of the Twelve to be unaware of President Smith's actions concerning new plural marriages. He likewise asserted that the Quorum of the Twelve had no right to directly administer within the stakes of the Church and that they should only work through the presidents of the stakes.(13) Despite the fact that Joseph had taken a plural wife after the 1904 Manifesto,(14) he was not disciplined by that council. Perhaps they were unaware of all of his polygamist activities. Regardless, he agreed to "harmonize [his] attitude with that of the brethren," though maintained that he "could not promise what [his] future course might be in case new light came to [him] upon the subject."(15)
In 1921, Musser was accused of attempting to enter into a plural marriage with a woman named Marion Bringhurst. The marriage never occurred, but the incident resulted in Joseph's excommunication.(16)
Joseph's formal estrangement from the Church in 1921 did
not prompt him to reject it or its leadership immediately. An entry in
his journal a year later recorded:
Attended meeting with "Fellow Sufferers"
in plural marriage... Everyone felt under obligation to sustain the
present Authorities and patiently await the Lord's pleasure in all
Apparently during the ensuing decades, Musser's heart
changed considerably. Ultimately, he found himself on several occasions
calling down vengeance from heaven on Church leaders:
(June 25, 1933) - Asked the Lord
to visit his vengeance upon those of the Church leaders who have repudiated
the revelations of Joseph Smith...
(April 8, 1934) - Met with John
Y. Israel, Edmund, and I.W. Barlow, J.L. Broadbent and Louis Kelsch, at
home of Edmund and joined with the Barlow's in invoking the penalties contained
in the 98th Sec. of D&C Verse 41 to 44.
(November 22, 1934) - Witnessed to God the fourth trespass committed upon the Apostolic order of the Priesthood by church officials, as commanded to do D&C 98:41-48 in accordance with the law of retribution. The four offenses are: Disfellowshipment from the Church of John W. Woolley, Joseph L. Broadbent and Louis A. Kelsch, the latter action being taken last evening, for upholding the patriarchal order of marriage either in spirit or fact.
It is now up to the Lord to act, we are relieved from all action, for the Lord said: "thou shalt not forgive him, but shalt bring these testimonies before the Lord, and they shall not be blotted out until he repents and reward thee four fold in all things wherewith he has trespassed against thee;" etc.
The leaders of the Church have much
to answer for.
(April 11, 1935) - Learnt through
Bro. Petty, that his wife in consultation with John M. Whittaker, learned
that the Church had appointed Committees to get evidence on all the brethren
so as to pounce upon them when the time comes, and rush them "Over the
road." Let them come, -damn them -- and God will damn them to an eternal
destruction, if they persist in their wicked designs.(18)
Despite these forceful criticisms, Musser never entirely
discarded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
I have faith in the ultimate success
of the Mormon Church. It alone of all institutions in the world, is built
on principles of truth, justice and mercy... And tho [sic] the Church has
changed many of its tenets in order to comply with the convenience of men,
it will not fall... (Entry for March 30, 1940; italics added.)
In the 1930's, Joseph Musser came to believe that he had
become a leader in a special Priesthood Council which actually presided
over the Church, while not being a part of it. Based on that belief, in
1948 Musser wrote the following concerning his excommunication:
...when the Church assumed to cut
me off for living one of the laws of God, all that the Officers who participated
could do, and did do, as I see it, was to cut themselves off, unless they
repent and correct their wrongs. (Joseph W. Musser, p. 12.)
Joseph White Musser married and had children by a total
of four women. His first wife, Rose Selms Borquist Musser, married him
in 1892 and was the mother of eight children.(19)
She appears to have supported her husband's initial participation with
plural marriage. Early references to Rose and polygamy in Joseph Musser's
May 30, 1901 - At night had a splendid
talk with Rose on the subject of plural marriage. She is fully converted
to the principle and says she believes we will have to practice it before
long. She is trying to prepare herself for the principle.
November 17, 1901 - Upon returning home from the [Church] meeting, my wife and I, - Rose volunteered the information that she was prepared to accept the principle of plural marriage, and suggested a young lady as one very well adapted for that condition of life, and requested if consistent with my feelings, I lay my plans accordingly.
For this testimony given to my wife,
I am truly grateful to the Lord, and it shall be my desire through life,
weather living in that principle or not, to live worthy of receiving to
myself wives and children according to the will of God.
Notwithstanding Rose Musser's initial cooperation, when
the Church totally withdrew its support, so did she. By the 1920's, she
was decidedly positioned against his polygamist activities:
March 8, (1922) ... My wife Rose
is not friendly with my other families. She cannot accept Plural Marriages
and antagonizes my efforts to live it.
August 21, (1922) Learnt that my
wives Rose and Mary have both made statements of late reflecting on my
integrity and indicating their utter lack of confidence in me, yet they
are straining every effort to get money from me for their support. Their
misrepresentations are damaging to as it prevented me from doing business
with certain people into whose ears the "rattle" of these women reach.
August 5, (1925) ... [Rose] did
not want to have Milton [son of wife Ellis] come. She did not want any
of Ellis' children in the home. That evening when invited to take dinner
there, I told her where my son was not welcome I did not have to stay.
She flew in a swedish tantrum and as is the rule went wild. I gave it up
and told her it was the last time I would try to help her. The children
were with me and felt very badly but their mother, actuated by a fiendish
jealousy remained adamant. And so it goes. As hard as I have strove and
worked, I only get blame and [indecipherable] and my humble request was
flatly refused. She has time and again driven me from home, yet I have
provided the home the best I could and cared for her; but I give it up.
Not in this life will she modify I fear; but perhaps in eternity she will
understand things. She first turned against my wife Mary until I married
Ellis (She earnestly enlisted me to mary Ellis, but now only is friendly
with Mary and deathly against Ellis.) She complains that Ellis has won
me away from her.
After years of separation, she obtained a civil divorce.(20)
As mentioned earlier, Joseph Musser took his first plural
wife after purportedly receiving instructions to do so from an alleged
messenger representing President Lorenzo Snow. These instructions supposedly
were given in late 1899. After pursuing a courtship with Mary (Mame) Caroline
Hill, she consented to become his plural wife. Musser recorded few of his
interactions with plural wives or the women he was courting. Concerning
his first activities with Mary Hill, Musser wrote:
December 16, 1901 - Attended M.I.
officers meeting at Mill Creek Ward. After meeting accompanied Bros. Winder
and Moss to Bro. Hills where we administered to Guy Hill,
who was very sick in bed. The gift of healing was in the house and Guy
felt better immediately after the administration.
December 17, 1901 - Attended M.I.
at Murry ward accompanied by Mamie Hill.
January 8, 1902 - Visited Guy
Hill with Bro. Winder and administered to him.
January 12, 1902 - Visited Mamie
Hill with wife and baby, and had very pleasant time. Filled an appointment
to Sugar M.I.A. with Mamie Hill.(21)
Mary Hill Musser bore six children(22)
including Joseph Musser's patriarchal heir, Guy Musser.(23)
Despite her apparent early acceptance of plural marriage, Mary too parted
with her husband concerning its continued practice:
(Also Quoted Above) August 21, (1922)
(Mon.) - Learnt that my wives Rose and Mary have both made statements of
late reflecting on my integrity and indicating their utter lack of confidence
in me, yet they are straining every effort to get money from me for their
support. Their misrepresentations are damaging to as it prevented me from
doing business with certain people into whose ears the "rattle" of these
August 27, (1922) - Spent today
at Yale writing up records. Mary and some of the Wright friends came to
visit the home. I took them through, and had a short confidential talk
with Mary, by which my heart is made to rejoice, as I believe she still
has a spark of love for me and that there is still hope of reclaiming my
own at the farm. Wife Mary listens to so many people in her Stake and to
some of the Apostles, denouncing our marriage state that she is being greatly
influenced by it. I pray to the Lord, in the name of Jesus Christ, that
he will give me power to keep the love spark aglow in the hearts of my
loved ones until the present clouds of doubt and uncertainty are dissipated
and the real truth comes forth.
September 1, (1922) - Visited my
wife Mary at the Farm. Found her very positive in her feelings that she
should not continue living with me because of the counsel she has had from
different monogamic sources. She says the Lord has taken from her love
from me and she does not desire me to visit her in future, but of course
should have perfect liberty to see the children and to support them. I
told Mary that I still loved her and that I expected some day to lead her
into the Celestial Kingdom of God. Poor girl. She is deluded. Her self
righteous brothers, her prattling sister neighbors, her ward officials,
some of the apostles, have lost no opportunity in trying to convince her
that her life is wrong is plural marriage, and she is wavering. She cant
endure the test. She looks for the plaudits of the populace. She said as
long as I could go the stand [sic] pray and preach she loved me, but now
that I am dropped and am not recognized by the Church authorities, she
cant stand it. She must be with the popular side. She must feed on recognitions.
She forgets that one of the authorities told her to stand by me. Poor girl.
She has so many wonderful qualities too and she is a lovely girl. Heavenly
Father take possession of her heart and lead her back to me. Teach her
that trials are meant for a purpose and that they purify and ennoble; That
only those who are purified as by fire will win the great reward; that
her husband understands more of the situation than her neighbors and that
she should follow him.
August 5, (1925) Mary Sr. is wafted
to and fro by every wind of doctrine. What her brothers think, so does
she when she is with them. When they are away she tries to think with me.
Very unstable. With the authorities of the Church, - some of them - forever
denying modern plural marriage, I am having the "devils own time" holding
my family together. But the struggle is on and as long as God gives me
life, I shall hope and struggle and try to be just to all concerned. I
love my beautiful children...(24)
In 1922, she refused to have him live with her on the farm where she was residing. Mary was diagnosed as having breast cancer in 1929. By November of 1930, she had passed away.(25)
Joseph's third marriage was to Ellis R. Shipp, the daughter
of Dr. Ellis Shipp. Dr. Shipp was the first woman physician in the territory.
Her daughter, Ellis, added five children to the Joseph Musser family. While
Ellis R. Shipp Musser appears to have accepted the principle of plural
marriage until the 1930's, she later joined with Musser's other wives terminating
any conjugal relationship with her husband and invited him to move out
of her home:
September 11, (1933) - Matters have
not been running smoothly of late. Quite an antagonistic feeling is aroused
in Ellis' mind because of my association with Lorin C. Woolley and companions.
I am wanted to get in harmony with the Church standards, and not oppose
their policies and teachings.
March 12, (1934) - This completes
my move from Yale and from Ellis. Doubtless she feels a relief in getting
me away. The presence of her children, church opposition, etc. is too great.
She has been a grand and glorious wife, a pure and devoted mother, but
she has never been converted to the "fulness of the Gospel," and now, under
the severe pressure the opposition has been able to bring to bear, she
doesn't feel she can "carry on." God bless her forever. Bless her for what
she has been to me and may she be preserved to do much good yet. And may
the time come when through a clearer light and a better policy of life,
we may again be united, but in a more enduring union.
July 19, (1937) - Wife Ellis has
requested we maintain a recess, since my plans and work are obnoxious to
her views and aims. She just can't seem to harmonize with my work.
April 29, (1941) - Wife Ellis feels
it better that I do not visit at her home, as it tends to prejudice Sam's
chances for a job with the Government. I am not considered a good citizen.
Ellis Shipp Musser's rejection of the continued practice of plural marriage is significant because during the 1920's she often accompanied her husband as he attended religious meetings with other polygamists.(26) She heard men, like Lorin C. Woolley and Daniel Bateman, preach many times and yet she ultimately rejected their testimonies.(27)
Less is known about Musser's fourth plural wife, Lucy Kmetzsch Musser.(28) Their marriage took place in the 1930's(29) after Joseph was positioned as a potential priesthood leader within the fledgling fundamentalist religious organization. She bore him two children.
Respecting the frustration that Joseph Musser felt with
his first three wives and their eventual rejection of his polygamist views.
He reflected in 1922:
...I am in much the same position,
of course on a smaller scale, but the principle is the same, as the Prophet
Joseph Smith, when he crossed the river to come west, and escape the fury
of the mobcrats, his friends, and especially his wife. Emma sent word intimating
that he was a coward, demanding that he come back and face the music, etc.
He came to his doom. So my wives instead of standing by me and sustaining
me in the fullest extent, are forever depreciating my efforts and ability
and causing, by their words and actions, other people to do likewise. (Joseph
Musser Journals, August 21, 1922.)
Fundamentalist prophet Lorin C. Woolley characterized
Joseph Musser's polygamous family in very positive terms, despite the many
problems mentioned above. Musser's 1931 account (when he was living as
Took Lauren [sic] C. Woolley to home on "I" St. for dinner...
Said aside from [the] polygamous
family of Samuel Woolley of Centerville, (in early days) he considered
my family the best regulated family in the Church. "The Spirit of the Lord
is with you." (Joseph Musser Journals, July 7, 1931.)
During the mid-1930's, Joseph Musser spent a great deal
of time promoting an organization which he believed was the guardian of
the keys of sealing authority upon the earth. He called the alleged organization
...there is a Priesthood organization
greater than that of the Church; and that Priesthood always has, can now
and will continue to function aside from and independent of the Church.
(A Priesthood Issue, p. 25.)
There are three major organizations, set up in the following order:
(a) Priesthood; the higher order of which being God's immediate authority, and to which all other organizations, priesthoods and callings are subordinate.
(b) The Church; which is the vehicle used by the Priesthood in its spiritual work, both at home and abroad.
(c) The Kingdom; having to do with
the temporal or civil affairs of the peoples of earth. (Joseph W. Musser,
A Priesthood Issue, N.p. N.d. (1948), pp. 15-16. See also Truth
17:164. Joseph W. Musser and J. Leslie Broadbent, Priesthood Items,N.p.,
1933, p. 13. Joseph W. Musser with J. Leslie Broadbent, Supplement to
the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, N.p., 1934, p. 91.)
This Priesthood was presided over by a Council of Seven Friends or Priesthood Council.(30) Each member of the alleged Council of Friends held the purported priesthood office of HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE.(31) Though Musser was not the senior member of that Council of Friends (Priesthood Council), he was clearly the most vocal concerning it. It is useful to describe the process through which Musser became a member of this alleged priesthood council and organization.
As mentioned earlier, Joseph Musser retained his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until 1921, when he was excommunicated for attempting to enter into a new polygamous union. If there was a Priesthood organization existing in 1921, we might have expected Musser to have encountered it and joined with it. This did not happen.
For fundamentalists today, this may present something
of a problem. Many wish to believe that their Priesthood organization
(which they now belong to) has existed from the time that the Melchizedek
Priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in 1829. Joseph
This Priesthood group began to function with Joseph Smith, its head, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, as early as June, 1829. (Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, p. 96.)
First then, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were endowed with the Priesthood - the Aaronic and then the Melchizedek.
This was all done before the Church
was organized. The Priesthood first functioned in Joseph Smith and Oliver
Cowdery and, later in others. The "Gospel of the Kingdom" was preached,
converts were baptized and the "Gift of the Holy Ghost" bestowed,
still no church organization, according to the laws of the land, was in
existence. The Priesthood could and did function without the Church. (A
Priesthood Issue p. 5.)
However, this is clearly not true. There is no discussion of such an organization in the scriptures or by any monogamist or polygamist prior to Musser's 1934 expositions.
It appears that during the latter portion of 1933,(32) Musser, with the help of fellow "High Priest Apostle" J. Leslie Broadbent, scanned the historical sources(33) at their command to retrospectively identify quotations and episodes which they believed supported the existence of a Priesthood organization. That Priesthood organization purportedly existed outside of the Church and was presided over by a Council of Friends (Priesthood Council) composed of seven "HIGH PRIEST APOSTLES."(34)
Musser's theories about an external Priesthood
organization existing since 1829 have been accepted by many modern practitioners
of plural marriage. Nonetheless, much evidence exists to suggest that Joseph
Musser was entirely unaware of any such Priesthood organization
until 1933 or 1934. Evidence supporting this conclusion includes:
1. As early as 1922 Musser listened to the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley and recorded pages of his beliefs in his journal. Woolley is important because in 1934, Musser described him as having been a leader in the alleged Priesthood organization since 1886. However, throughout all of Woolley's teachings during the 1920's, he never described anything that even remotely resembled the Priesthood ideas introduced by Joseph Musser in 1934.
It is also significant that Woolley did not invite Musser
or the other men and women he was teaching to join him in a Priesthood
organization during his lifetime. Two examples include Nathaniel Baldwin
and Charles F. Zitting. Baldwin listened to both Lorin C. Woolley and John
W. Woolley several times in the 1920's starting in 1921. Yet there is nothing
to indicate he was encouraged to follow a Council of Friends in
an external Priesthood organization or that he was taught of the
existence of such an entity. A few references to the Woolleys which Baldwin
recorded in his diary:
August 28, 1921 - Stake Conference
day. Attended Sunday School. In afternoon a meeting was held under the
trees on Brigham Duffin's farm - a meeting of about 15 men and as many
women, many of whom have been cut off the Church for practicing the principle
of plural marriage and performing the ordinances. Among the number were
John Woolley, Lorin C. Woolley, Israel Barlow and his son. A memorable
occasion. Strong testimonies were born concerning the truth of the gospel
and especially concerning the principle of plural marriage.
September 15, 1921 - At shop. Working
on various items. In afternoon took Nathan, Clyde Nielson, Seymor Neff,
Lester Fisher, and John T. Clark over to visit Lorin C. Woolley and his
father at Centerville. We heard many remarkable testimonies particularly
regarding the teaching and practice of polygamy by our Church leaders.
Arrive home at 10:40pm.
November 10, 1921 - Brother Clark
and I went to Centerville in the evening to visit Brother Woolley. Tried
to fit the father, John Woolley, with an instrument to help his hearing.
January 15, 1922 - In afternoon
went to a meeting at John Woolley's home in Centerville. His friends presented
him with a fine watch and made many expressions of appreciation of his
faithful labors. He has just past his 90th birthday. Patriarch Sperry was
present. He and Brother Woolley have both seen the Prophet Joseph Smith
and had much experience in the Church. There were present about 34 people,
some important spirits no doubt.
March 21, 1922 - Went to Centerville
to give and receive a report from Brother L. Afternoon returning home earned
that Brother Woolley was at the home of John Barlow visiting with some
other friends. Called on them and listened to his conversation until about
Notwithstanding multiple opportunities for Baldwin to be taught about a Priesthood organization by the Woolley's, no such teachings are referred to, neither does Baldwin participate in any such group. Undoubtedly he, with his abundant financial resources, would have been invited to join if any such Priesthood existed.
Charles F. Zitting encountered the Woolleys sometime prior
to 1927. John Woolley performed two plural marriages for Zitting that year.(35)
Despite the fact that Zitting believed that the Woolleys both held sealing
authority, there is nothing to support the idea that either of the Woolleys,
in 1927, taught him about a Priesthood organization existing exterior
to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or encouraged him to
join the same. The Priesthood organization described by Musser in
1934 simply did not exist in the 1920's.
2. At the same time that Joseph Musser
was spending time learning from Lorin C. Woolley, he also spent many hours
with John T. Clark. John T. Clark was a charismatic self-proclaimed prophet
who professed to be "One Mighty and Strong" mentioned in D&C 85:7 who
was to "set in order the house of God." Clark also declared himself to
be "the most literal descendent of Jesus Christ on earth today" and to
carry "indian blood in his veins."(36)
Joseph Musser wrote in 1922 that he was "deeply impressed with his claims"(37)
and while Joseph Musser did not espouse all of the teachings of John T.
Clark, he later recorded in his journal:
To me, John [T. Clark]'s claim's
do not ring true in their entirety. That he has an important work to do,
I do not doubt, but that he is chosen to lead the people I do doubt. And
shall continue to doubt, until at least the Lord shall make his mind
and will known to me. (June 10, 1928.)(38)
To demonstrate his support for John T. Clark, Joseph Musser
aided him for many hours(39) as Clark wrote
a book entitled The One Mighty and Strong.(40)
That book contains nothing about a Council of Friends (Priesthood
Council), the office of HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE, or an external Priesthood
organization. It also contradicts Musser's later teachings on the subordinate
position of the Church President. It seems unlikely that Musser would have
spent so much time supporting Clark and his ideas during the 1920's if
he had then known about the Priesthood organization he detailed
in several publications in 1934.
3. Many fundamentalists today believe
that Musser was purportedly ordained to the leadership council of the Priesthood
(i.e. made a HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE) in 1929 by Lorin C. Woolley. Musser wrote
[On May 14, 1929] I was ordained
a High Priest Apostle and a Patriarch to all the world, by a High Priest
Apostle, and I was instructed to see that never a year passed that children
were not born in the covenant of plural marriage... (Truth 20:28
and Joseph W. Musser p. 11.)
However, Musser's actions and beliefs prior to 1934 suggest
that the proposed 1929 "ordination" was nothing more than a "blessing."
The actual reference in his personal journal says nothing of any "ordination":
Received most wonderful blessing from Bro. Lauren [sic] C. Woolley.
Spent 2 1/2 hours with him listening to his past experiences. I rejoice greatly in his friendship and the Lord's blessing.
Vital points to be considered:
Family ties - Sustain - Sacred
Great in Kingdom & Church
Wise(41) (Joseph Musser Journals,
May 14, 1929.)
This entry from Musser's personal journal refers only to a blessing being received and nothing of a Council of Friends or "High Priest Apostles."
An examination of Musser's activities between 1929 and
1934, as reflected in his personal journal, fails to support the idea that
he held a formal leadership position in any kind of Priesthood organization
during that time. However, after publishing his priesthood beliefs in 1934,
he apparently realized his important alleged priesthood calling. Beginning
in February of that year, Musser's journal contains numerous references
to his leadership calling and Priesthood organization, all of which
were entirely absent prior to that time.
4. Publications written prior to 1933,(42)
such as the popular A Leaf in Review by B. Harvey Allred, contain
nothing about a presiding Council of Friends or teachings on an
external Priesthood. In fact, the book teaches that the First Presidency
of the Church presides over both priesthoods and that the First Presidency
was to be ordained by the Twelve Apostles.(43)
B. Harvey Allred was also consistent in referring to the leadership of
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the presiding priesthood
authority upon the earth.(44) There is
no hint of the priesthood doctrine that Musser was to introduce in 1934.(45)
A second volume, Celestial Marriage? written by J. Leslie Broadbent
in 1929 is also devoid of any reference to Musser's priesthood ideas.
Got No. 8 TRUTH in mail this morning. It contains an editorial on the question of "President of Priesthood", attacking the theory that Prest. Grant holds all the keys. The fight seems to be simmering down to the question of Priesthood pure and simple. Is the Church the all in all of organization? If not, what is? The Priesthood must rule.
I have spent the year championing
the rights of the Priesthood as against the arbitrary (as I see it) actions
and rule of the Church. The TRUTH magazine has been the medium I have used.
My brethren of the Priesthood Council have stood by me. If I have missed
the mark it has been innocent and entirely unintentional. I am convicted
with the feeling that the Priesthood is one organization and the Church
is another, and that Pres. [Heber J.] Grant has jurisdiction in the Church.
If I am wrong I pray the Lord to correct me and to assist me in getting
back into the proper channel. Up to date, however, in all the reasoning
power I have, and listening to the voice of the Spirit of the Lord, I am
convinced that I am right.(46) (Joseph Musser Journals, December
28, 1942; emphasis added.)
Perhaps we should also note that there is nothing in the scriptures or the teachings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor or other priesthood leaders to support it. Neither should it be ascribed to the likes of Lorin C. Woolley.
Suffice it to say that by 1935, Joseph Musser was comfortable
with his position as a "HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE" and second in seniority in
a Council of Friends(47) that presided
over an alleged Priesthood organization comprised of believers in
the continued practice of plural marriage.
Between 1933 and his death in 1954, Musser also gained
prominence with men and women practicing plural marriage through his many
publications. Foremost among those was Truth, a monthly periodical
which he edited. It commenced in June of 1935 and continued for 21 years.
In its pages Musser compiled many of the arguments still promoted by fundamentalists
today. Topics included: plural marriage, the Manifesto, an external Priesthood
organization, the united order, changes associated with the temple, Adam-God
doctrine, "One Mighty and Strong," the gathering of Israel, missionary
work without purse or scrip and a host of others.(48)
Musser's publications include:(49)
Official version of Lorin C. Woolley's 1886 account
The New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage
Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage
Open letter to President Grant
Open letter to President Roosevelt
Michael, Our Father and Our God
The Coming Crisis
Celestial or Plural Marriage
The Law of Plural Marriage
A Priesthood Issue
The Economic Order of Heaven
Four Hidden Revelations
Journal of Joseph W. Musser (autobiography -
not actual journal)
In addition to his ability to write on religious topics,
Joseph Musser was also able to compose beautiful prose. Writing at the
death of his mother-in-law, Dr. Ellis Shipp, he recorded:
The day wears on. Shadows grow longer. Heat gives way to a softening warmth preluding the chill of even-tide. This body, once nimble, strong and alert, begins to weaken; steps slow down, the voice reveals a tremor; but there is yet much to do and she must redouble the effort while time ticks on. Scarred, bleeding and weary of step she nears the summit. The mountain side is about to be conquered. The shade of night are drawing close while nature prepared a downy bed and turns her lights dim. Still trudging on the wary soul moves with steps -- yet with purpose firm and unyielding.
At the stroke of midnight she reaches
the top. Her steps cease. Angels attend her. Folded in the silken shrouds
of eternity her weary body succumbs to sleep, while her spirit smilingly
travels on. She has lived a whole day through -- one of God's days -- every
hour, minute and second of it. No task is left unfinished.! (Joseph
W. Musser, p. 45.)
Thursday Lewis [Kelsch] and I had
a personal talk with Bro. John Y. Barlow. We pointed out our fears that
under the present set-up the group could not prosper; that there seemed
a disposition toward a one man rule; that the present arrangement was not
in accordance with the spirit of the action of the Priesthood recently
taken, whereby it was advised that Bro. Barlow resign from the Management
of the affairs of the group and confine his labors more particularly to
the spiritual field; that our work was especially along the line of keeping
faith in patriarchal marriage alive, and not in the directing of colonizing.
Bro. Barlow was asked if he claimed to hold the keys of Priesthood,
which he answered in the negative, saying, however, that he had dreamed
of a personage coming to him and handing him a bunch of keys, and leaving
without explanation. He did not know that that had any special significance.
(Joseph Musser Journals November 8, 1936.)
One week later the inquiry was made to Musser who replied:
That the special mission and labors
of the Priesthood group was [sic] to keep plural marriage alive... Stated
the Lord had not revealed to him [Joseph Musser] who held the Keys to Priesthood,
but that Bro. Barlow, by reason of his seniority in ordination presided
over the group. (Joseph Musser Journals, November 13, 1936.)
An examination of the purported line of succession of the keys of sealing from John Taylor to Joseph Musser identifies other significant problems.(50)
From about 1933, Joseph devoted nearly all of his energies
to promoting plural marriage. Besides publishing, he spent a great deal
of time visiting and strengthening his fellow fundamentalists all over
the United States.
Joseph Musser was willing to sacrifice even his own life
for his beliefs. He prophesied that the re-establishment of plural marriage
within the Church would "take the best blood of this generation":
Tuesday last visited with Morris
Kunz and family and enjoyed a spiritual feast with them. Made the prediction
that the principle of Patriarchal Order of Marriage would have to be re-established
by the shedding of some of the best blood of this generation as it was
established by shedding of blood of Joseph and Hyrum. Who will be selected
by the Lord to be the sacrifice I know not, but my life is on the Altar
and if I can be used, I shall praise God for evermore, for his great goodness
and mercies toward me and mine. (Joseph Musser Journals, April 1, 1934.)
Several times he recorded his desire to be a martyr to his cause.(51)
The closest Joseph came to being a martyr to his cause
began on March 7, 1944 when he and 44 other suspected fundamentalists were
rounded up by FBI agents on the charges associated with their belief in
the continued practice of plural marriage.(52)
Musser apparently was aware of the investigation and wrote in his journal
on February 29, 1944:
The Federal Grand Jury has been
in session since 28th investigating our group activities and particularly
the Truth magazine and its sponsors. What they hope to do, according to
their open declarations, is to stamp plural marriage out of the state,
to stop Truth publication, and to make us like the rest of the people.
We challenge their powers in this respect and shall go on serving our God
as we are led by our consciences... Some of us may have to go to prison,
but what of that. We should be willing to bear such a testimony to the
nation if that course is the will of the Lord. We ask, not for lighter
burdens, our Father, but for the strength to carry out all burdens that
in thy wisdom, are placed upon us.
Joseph Musser was confined to prison but was able to regain
his freedom after serving only seven months by signing a pledge to "refrain
hereafter from advocating, teaching or countenancing the practice of plural
marriage or polygamy..."(53) This "pledge"
has been referred to by some Latter-day Saint writers as the "Fundamentalist
Manifesto" and has been the source of criticism for Joseph Musser since
he obviously broke the pledge after his release from prison.(54)
He continued to teach and write in favor of plural marriage until his death
As referred to earlier, Musser was not the senior member of the Council of Friends prior to 1949. John Y. Barlow had presided over the Council of Friends and the Priesthood organization since the death of J. Leslie Broadbent in 1935. Barlow's death in 1949 left Musser as the senior member of the Council. Since Musser had purportedly been ordained as a Council member by Woolley in 1929, few, in any, followers questioned his seniority. Soon, however, many would question his leadership and right to preside.
Three elements contributed to the difficulties which arose with Musser's leadership. First, in early 1949, he experienced a stroke which left him partially disabled and according to his son Guy, with his memory "partially destroyed."(55)
Second, fundamentalist doctrine teaches that the Senior Member of the Council of Friends is God's Prophet and presiding priesthood authority upon the earth.(56) However, their literature is rather vague on how a successor to the Senior Member is to be determined. The doctrine of "Second Elder" dictates that a man so designated becomes the Senior Member of the Council when that position is vacated through death.(57) For example, Lorin C. Woolley had chosen J. Leslie Broadbent as his "Second Elder."(58) Likewise, it also appears that Broadbent had designated John Y. Barlow as his Second Elder and that Barlow later designated Joseph Musser as his Second Elder in proper order. Besides being designated as the "Second Elder," these last three men (Broadbent, Barlow and Musser) possessed ordinations which respectfully placed them second in seniority within the Council in their turn. The issue which had not been clearly described by any fundamentalist prophet was whether a "Second Elder" could be someone other than the person second in seniority within the Priesthood Council.
Third, in 1950 Musser undertook to deviate from the precedent set by the three former Senior Members (Woolley, Broadbent and Barlow) of the Priesthood Council by attempting to ordain Rulon C. Allred as his "Second Elder" which clearly implied that Allred would be his successor in the leadership of the Priesthood Council after Joseph's death. By so designating Allred, Musser was seeking to bypass the seniority of all other members of the Priesthood Council.
A majority of the Priesthood in 1951 felt Musser
was out of order in his ordination of Rulon Allred. Even though the Council
was apparently "united in its stand against Brother Allred,"(59)
exactly how those members of the Council were to proceed was unclear.
Part of the problem with the activities of the Priesthood Council
stems from the belief that they are a strict theocracy and not a democracy
in any way. Musser taught:
[The] Priesthood is a Theocracy
- direction coming direct from God, while the Church is in essence a Democracy
- all things being done in it by "common consent" of its members (D&C
This doctrine allows little more than prayer and direct revelation from heaven(61) to settle disputes which might arise within the Priesthood Council (Council of Friends). As one recalls that the Senior Member of the Council is also God's prophet, resolving disagreements between him and the other members of the Council could rapidly escalate into a leadership crisis, especially if the Senior Member of the "Theocracy" was receiving revelations that contradicted the inspiration of the rest of the Council.
Sometime after January of 1952, Joseph Musser felt he
was inspired to bypass the former Priesthood Council and appointed
another Council in its stead with Rulon Allred serving as his "Second
Elder" (see the Appendix to this chapter). Allred became Senior Member
of the new Council upon the death of Musser in 1954. The former
Council assumed leadership of the followers in the Colorado City,
Joseph White Musser was a intelligent and gifted man. He participated in the transformation that saw scattered individuals, who were trying to live the principle of plural marriage, evolve into an established Priesthood organization. Through the pages of his publications, he brought together virtually all of the arguments and doctrines that have become the basis for fundamentalist theology today. He was also the first man to describe a Priesthood organization, with a Priesthood Council (Council of Friends) and HIGH PRIEST APOSTLES, which allegedly authorizes continued polygamous unions for many today.
Some may disagree with the assessment that he was the "father of the fundamentalist movement."(63) Nevertheless, many people would agree that few, if any of the other fundamentalist leaders, have influenced that movement as significantly as he did.(64)
A Chronology of events as recounted by a follower
of Rulon C. Allred (see Gems 2:33-42):
1937 Rulon C. Allred received a commission from Joseph
Musser to "perform ordinances" under his direction in Idaho and elsewhere.
1940 Rulon Allred received special Patriarch blessing
"You shall have the power and the gift of a Prophet and a Seer and a Revelator
and the Fullness of the Priesthood. The fullness of the Orders of the Priesthood
will come to you and you will have the hands of your Savior laid upon your
1948 John Y. Barlow blessed Rulon and "ordained him a
Patriarch, and conferred upon him the sealing power, and said that from
hence forth he was authorized to perform sealing 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 this (that
1948 Received word from Joseph Musser that he should return
from Mexico to Salt Lake City, Utah, because this was where the Lord wanted
him. Rulon Allred had been sent to Mexico by John Y. Barlow without Joseph
1949 Joseph Musser has a stroke leaving him partially
disabled and according to his son Guy, "his memory [was] partially destroyed."
1949 Dec. Three days before John Y. Barlow's death he
called Rulon Allred to help him with shoulder pain. John Y. Barlow instructs
Rulon Allred to "stand in the appointment he [John Y. Barlow] had given
him in Mexico."
1950 May Joseph Musser gives Brother Bautista the "keys
of authority" to "seal the Lamanite Saints in Celestial Marriage for, and
only, as long as Joseph lived." Brother Bautista also set apart as an Apostle
and a Patriarch and he stood second to Rulon in authority, appointment.
1950 Aug. Rulon Allred requested to answer written correspondence
and make decisions for Joseph Musser.
1950 Sep. Joseph Musser asked Rulon Allred to come see
him. Rulon Allred inquires whether his calling had ceased with John Y.
Barlow's death? Joseph Musser sets Rulon Allred apart as his "First Counselor
and to stand at [his] side as Hyrum stood to Joseph and as Leslie stood
1950 Oct. Joseph Musser announced to the people that he
had chosen a counselor for himself and that man was Rulon Allred.
1950 Nov. Discussion concerning how "much the members
of the Priesthood Council had violently opposed Rulon's calling and appointment."
As Joseph Musser Counselor, Rulon Allred did not understand him "to be
set at the top ahead of the rest of them..." neither Joseph nor Rulon claimed
that Rulon was ahead of any of the other members of the Council."
Dec. 3 Two members of the Council meet with Joseph
Musser to persuade him to not call Rulon Allred as his "counselor." Joseph
Musser insists upon having Rulon Allred as a counselor.
Later, the Council met and decided that Rulon Allred
was not a member of the Council nor an Apostle as Joseph had said.
"Rulon Allred held only a commissioned authority and was an assistant to
Joseph, holding this commissioned authority only during the life of Joseph."
Dec. 7 Joseph Musser tells Rulon Allred about meeting
with two of the Council on Dec. 3rd. Joseph Musser states that Rulon
Allred will be sustained as his [Joseph Musser's] "second elder " by the
Council or be "broken in pieces." Rulon Allred 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."
Joseph Musser answered, "Yes, but you cannot supersede the other brethren
in the Council.. You are called as my counselor."
Dec. 22 Joseph Musser explains to a group of fundamentalists
about Rulon's position in relation to him as "Hyrum did to Joseph the Prophet,
and as Leslie Broadbent did to Lorin C. Woolley." "I say I called a First
Counselor, a man to be a Second Elder and my right hand man, Brother Rulon
May 6 Joseph Musser presents Rulon Allred as a "Patriarch
in the High Priesthood." Only one of the Council sustained the action.
1951 Dec. A member of the Council was asked if
"he believed that Joseph Musser was a Prophet of God and the mouthpiece
of God here on the earth?" The Council member answered yes. Then
he was asked why "he couldn't uphold Joseph [Musser] in the things that
he did the" concerning some of his priesthood ordinations including Rulon
Allred's. The Council member responded that he would uphold Joseph
Musser if the things he did "were done in order." "I felt that there was
not proof of what the 'order' was, since he 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
Jan. 26 Joseph Musser preferred "charges against the Council
as a body for insubordination, high handed procedure, and the violating
of their sacred covenants." Joseph Musser calls two more men as "counselors"
along with Rulon Allred. Joseph Musser threatens to "pass by" the Council
because they refused to hearken to his direction."
Later a "Special Priesthood Meeting" was held in Sugarhouse,
[Salt Lake City], Utah. Comments made by Guy Musser, son of Joseph Musser
and a member of the Council, were introduced. Guy purportedly stated
that Joseph Musser was "incompetent and not able to give any man the Apostleship"
and that "all that follow Rulon Allred work under a spurious Priesthood
and all his work is done unauthorized." "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."
Jan. 31 Joseph Musser was asked, "Did you surrender your
authority to the Priesthood Council as a body?" He answered, "I never bestowed
my authority upon the Council. I could not have done so. I am responsible
to God in these matters as long as I shall live, and even if I had done,
they would have to act under my authority as long as I lived, and abide
in my decisions."
Later Joseph Musser bypasses the former Council
and appoints another in their stead. "When he did this, he automatically
demoted every member of the Council that had opposed him."
1. Joseph White Musser, Joseph W. Musser also entitled The Journal of Joseph W. Musser, 1872-1954, N.p. (available from Pioneer Press), N.d. (1948), p. 25. It is not Musser's private journal despite the title. Musser's personal diaries and journals have never been published and are available at the Church Historical Department, though some are restricted.
3. Fundamentalists from Colorado City, Arizona, do not presently hold Joseph W. Musser and his teachings in high regard. However, LeRoy Johnson, who led the group from 1954 until his death in 1986, referred to Musser as a "Prophet" (Leroy S. Johnson, LeRoy Johnson Sermons, Hildale, Utah: Twin City Courier Press, 7 vols., 1984, 3:866) and as "President" many times. He also acknowledged that Musser constituted a link within their priesthood line (ibid. 3:1153).
7. Joseph wrote that "in 1914 my business assets amounted to some $50,000, according to the bank estimate. The war came and in six months I was $50,000 in the hole" (Joseph W. Musser, p. 35). His personal journal reflects many concerns for finances, both personal and for the companies he was serving.
8. It is interesting to contrast Lorin C. Woolley's own actions during the 1920's, a time he was supposedly serving as a High Priest Apostle (according to Musser's 1934 writings). Lorin Woolley apparently felt it was very appropriate to involve himself in money-making schemes as he eagerly joined with Nathaniel Baldwin as a director in his radio instrument company.
10. This entry is not correctly positioned chronologically for reasons that are unclear. By his own account he attended the temple on November 30, 1899, but the record describing the activities of that day is located after the March 3, 1900 entry.
11. Generally, Musser claimed the
"messenger" was sent by President Snow (Joseph W. Musser pp. 9,
32). However, he also claimed the messenger was sent by "President Smith,"
not President Snow. His autobiography reads:
July 7, 1940, at a general meeting
on the lawn of Louis A. Kelsch in Mill Creek Ward, I testified before 143
adults to having received the word of the Lord on the marriage question
from President John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon,
and Joseph F. Smith, and from other reliable sources. That I was instructed
to enter the order of plural marriage by a messenger from President Smith;
that the principle must go ahead and that no power on earth can stop it.
(Joseph W. Musser, pp. 76-77.)
A review of Musser's personal journal for that period contains nothing
regarding the proposed "messenger" or Musser's being "selected" to become
a polygamist. The very idea that President Snow would suggest such a thing
goes contrary to other actions and statements he made supporting the 1890
Manifesto. Brigham Young, Jr., quoted President Snow in his journal:
"There cannot be a plural marriage
solemnized in this church without my consent and I have never given consent
for this to be done since President of the Church. God has removed this
privilege from the people and until he restores it, I shall not consent
to any man taking a plural wife. It is just as fair for one as it is for
all to go without. The business is taken out from our hands and we cannot
fight the United States. It is for them and God to settle this question.
We are not in it. There is no such thing as men taking plural wives
and keeping it secret. It cannot be done. Has any one of the apostles
a right to seal plural wives to men by reason of former concessions made
to them by the Presidency? No, sir, such right must come from me and no
man shall be authorized by me to break the law of the Land." (Brigham Young,
Jr., Journal, B.Y.U. typescript, pp. 36,37.)
12. The question of when the Keys of Sealing allegedly left the Church elicits inconsistent answers from fundamentalists in general. Some have taught that they were forfeited with the 1890 Manifesto and that John W. Woolley possessed them after the Church approved the Manifesto. See Truth 6:21-22, 9:251, 16:79 and Joseph W. Musser p. 14 (see also Truth 8:262, 9:142-144). Contrast Truth 10:329. See also Items , pp. 12, 24, 28 and Star of Truth 4:51. (Compare A Leaf in Review, pp. 40-41 and Robert R. Openshaw,The Notes, Pinesdale, Montana: Bitterroot Publishing Co., 1981, p. 395.) This is discussed in The Priesthood of Modern Polgyamy, An LDS Perspective chapter five.
18. Earlier in Musser's life, but
after his excommunication in 1921, he was much less critical of the Church
Leaders. The harshness of his condemnation seemed to grow over his years
of formal estrangement. Members of the Church might attribute this to a
process described by the Prophet Joseph Smith:
I will give you one of the keys
of the mysteries of the kingdom. It is an eternal principle that has existed
with God from all Eternity that that man who rises up to condemn others,
finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way while
he himself is righteous, then know assuredly that that man is in the high
road to apostasy and if he does not repent will apostatize as God lives.
(Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, The Words of Joseph Smith, Provo,
Utah: Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 413.)
21. While his journal says nothing
about his marriage which allegedly occurred on March 13, 1902 (see "The
Life of Mary Caroline Hill Musser" by her daughter Blanche Belcher, N.p.,
1952, p. 3 [date is pencilled in the blank space of the copy found at the
Utah Historical Society]) a later reference to Mary Hill's father at the
time of his demise is interesting:
"May 9th, 1902 - Received word through
mail of death of Guy Hill on the 8th. He was one of my dearest friends
and was prepared to die. Guy was good, pure and thoroughly a Latter-day
Saint. He sustained the principle of plural marriage in his desires,
his prayers and his assistance to others."
22. Musser did not mention in his journal the births of his children born to his plural wives, but the entry for November 13, 1903 states, "Went to Salt Lake to inspect some goods I ordered some time ago. They arrived on the morning train." This entry then has the name "MARY" pencilled diagonally through it and appears to be Joseph's handwriting. Interesting to note that the first child of Mary Caroline Hill Musser and Joseph W. Musser was born on this date named MARY Hill Musser.
"May 22, (1927) - Attended special
meeting with friends at house of Bro. Heber C. Kimball. Had most excellent
time. Accompanied by wives Mary and Ellis."
October 29, (1927) - Attended home
meeting at Bro. H.C. Kimball's with wife Mary at night. Bore my testimony.
"November 9, 1930 - Spent day at
farm - Mary passed away at 8:45 P.M. peacefully, after a long season of
suffering. She has lived a good life, has fought a good fight and by reason
of the life she adopted, is a candidate for the highest glory. Her fight
has not come from without, but from within. Those who made life hardest
for her were her own kin who should of [sic] helped her. But she faced
life bravely and did what she conceived to be right. Her children beautiful,
strong, and cultured as they are, are a lasting monument to the integrity
and deep religions sense of the woman. She will live forever in the memory
of God's faithful children. She is the only member of a large and prominent
family, to receive celestial marriage in its fullness. Under all the circumstances,
she acted her part well."
"Matters have not been running smoothly
of late. Quite an antagonistic feeling is aroused in Ellis' mind because
of my association with Lorin C. Woolley and companions."
28. Sometime in the early 1930's (1932?) several Kmetzsch sisters married leaders in the evolving COUNCIL OF FRIENDS or PRIESTHOOD COUNCIL. Lucy married Joseph Musser. Her sister Golda married Lorin C. Woolley. Sister Anna married J. Leslie Broadbent and Elsie wed Louis Kelsch.
30. Supplement, p. 103, 109. This council has several other names which include: The Council of Friends of God, the Quorum of High Priest Apostles, and the Council of the Presidency. A few of the other proposed titles include: "Presidency of the Priesthood" (A Priesthood Issue, p. 18), "Presidency of the Council of High Priesthood" and "Presidency of the High Priesthood" (Supplement, p. 106), and "Council of the Church before the Presidency of the High Priesthood" (Ibid. p. 107). Some fundamentalist groups simply refer to it as Priesthood Council (see LeRoy Johnson Sermons).
31. The highest priesthood office, they believe, is that of "High Priest Apostle" which is higher than the Apostleship held by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. See Supplement pp. 99-100 and Truth 4:132-133. Fundamentalist leaders in later years have largely ignored or denied Musser's teaching of a HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE. Rulon Allred refrains from ever using the term (see Treasures of Knowledge, 2 vols., Hamilton, Montana: Bitterroot Publishing Company) as does LeRoy S. Johnson (LeRoy S. Johnson Sermons). Recently, Rulon Jeffs, leader of fundamentalists centered in Colorado City, Arizona, completely denied the existence of the office of HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE (see page 61 of deposition given by Rulon Jeffs, May 23, 1989. Copy in possession of the authors).
"The keys of the sealing ordinances
rest today solely in President Heber J. Grant, having so passed to him
by the ordination prescribed by the Lord, at the hands of those having
the authority to pass them, and whose authority has never been taken away
by the Lord, nor suspended, nor interfered with by the Church. President
Grant is the only man on the earth at this time who possess these keys.
He has never authorized any one to perform polygamous or plural marriages;
he is not performing such marriages himself..." (James R. Clark, Messages
of the First Presidency, 6 Vols., Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft,
1965-1975, 5:315-330, Quoted in Truth 16:292-302.)
This clear claim to the sealing keys by the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints placed Musser and his followers somewhat on the defensive with respect to the issue of priesthood authority. If the statement were true, their polygamous marriages "would not be valid, neither of force in the world to come" (D&C 132:18).
33. These included books such as the seven volume History of the Church, volumes five through nine of the Historical Record, the Journal of Discourses, issues of Church periodicals like the Times and Seasons, Millennial Star, Messenger and Advocate, Juvenile Instructor and the Deseret News. See A Priesthood Issue.
34. The first reference to an external
"PRIESTHOOD" organization in any literature, be it fundamentalist or otherwise,
occurred in September of 1933. Musser's publication entitled The New
and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage (N.p., 1933) stated on page 78:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints is simply a vehicle used by the Priesthood for the accomplishment
of certain ends, and is, in connection with the Kingdom of God on earth,
subject to this body of Priesthood.
38. This reference strongly suggests that Joseph W. Musser was unaware of Lorin C. Woolley's alleged priesthood calling and the 1886 ordinations as late as June of 1928, even though Musser had been listening to the teachings of Lorin C. Woolley's for several years.
Took typewriter to Kenyon Hotel
to assist John T. Clark in preparing a pamphlet on "The One Mighty and
Strong" for publication.
This entry was handwritten, while previous journal entries were typed. For days after May 20, the entries continued to be written, not typed, apparently until Musser was able to re-acquire his typewriter.
41. While Musser does include the word Apostle here, there is nothing about his being a full-fledged "HIGH PRIEST APOSTLE" or being called to serve in a Council of Friends or to preside over a Priesthood organization. Likewise, we note that Musser never was "great in the Church" in any way.
45. It is interesting to observe that B. Harvey Allred approached the Priesthood Council (Council of Friends) in January of 1934 with a response to the 1933 First Presidency's Message that Heber J. Grant held the keys of sealing. Musser recorded on January 22: "We did not favor its publication." Since there was no hint of an external Priesthood organization or a Council of Friends in Allred's first publication, A Leaf In Review, one wonders if Allred's response to the 1933 First Presidency's Message agreed with the doctrine being developed by Musser? Concerning A Leaf in Review, Lorin C. Woolley is quoted as saying that "Every word of [A Leaf in Review] is scripture." (Stephen L. and Lynn L. Bishop, Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated, Draper Utah, 1971, pp. 305-306.)
46. In this journal entry, Musser acknowledges the conflict between him and the Church as being one of priesthood. He also frankly ascribes the doctrine of the external priesthood to "all the reasoning power" he possessed and "the voice of the Spirit of the Lord." Fundamentalists generally would prefer to attribute their priesthood organization to the teachings of the Lord through the Prophet Joseph Smith.
48. More modern treatises include Ogden Kraut's 95 Theses, Salt Lake City, Utah: Pioneer Press, N.d. and The Fundamentalist Mormon, N.p., presented at the Sunstone Symposium, August, 1989, reprints available from Pioneer Press.
54. J. Max Anderson, Polygamy Story:
Fiction and Fact, Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1979, pp.
87-90. It is interesting to note that not all members of the proposed Priesthood
Council (Council of Friends) signed the pledge. Charles F. Zitting,
next in seniority to Joseph W. Musser refused to sign. His refusal was
based upon a "personal revelation" he had received while in prison. It
Thou art much troubled in finding
thyself in opposition to my servants John [Y. Barlow] and Joseph [W. Musser]...
[Y]ou must not waver but stand firm and be unmoved after taking a stand
for God. The enemy have plainly informed you on many occasions that they
intend to destroy my works. They seek the destruction of my faithful ones
by pledging them to follow man instead of their God. Why should my people
fear them more than me. (The Life of Charles Frederick Zitting,
57. This idea is derived from the fact that Oliver Cowdery was designated "second elder of the church" by the Lord in D&C 20:3. Joseph Smith was the "first elder." Despite the reality that these were strictly church callings, Musser recruited the concept in 1934 and applied to his newly created Priesthood Council (Council of Friends).
"At the prayer meeting last evening
we endeavored to get the brethren back in harmony again. Two of them, Bros.
Brainach and Jentzsh were rebellious and would not recognize the Priesthood
except to perform sealings. The meeting ended by the brethren declaring
they would remain away from now on, which we trust is true -- until they
repent. The Priesthood is not taking orders from them, but is answerable
to God and He alone."
62. Those next in seniority, Charles F. Zitting and LeGrand Woolley, declined the leadership of the Council of Friends because they had not received a confirmation of their callings as High Priest Apostles which required a personal visitation of the Savior and an ordination from Him.
"While the man, who was called of
God and appointed, that putteth forth his hand to steady the ark of God,
shall fall by the shaft of death like a tree that is smitten by the vivid
shaft of lightening."