The Life and Teachings of Lorin C. Woolley
by Brian C. Hales
Lorin C. Woolley became popular in the 1920s
as a speaker among different groups of dissenters from The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. His acceptance was greatest among men and
women who had been excommunicated for practicing polygamy. On one occasion
Joseph White Musser, who had listened to him many times, recorded: "I love
to hear him talk and rehearse."(1) During
his lifetime, Lorin C. Woolley shared many fascinating stories with his
Since the Manifesto, the practice of polygamy outside of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been advocated by a number of
interesting and dedicated individuals. Many have served as leaders in their
respective pseudo-church organizations. These men have demonstrated sincerity,
charisma and commitment to their cause. They have endured persecution from
external sources including suffering prison sentences. Nevertheless, none
of their contributions to the practice of post-manifesto polygamy compares
with the offering presented by Lorin C. Woolley. Through his recollections
he provided his followers with access to a line of priesthood authority,
ostensibly allowing them to eternally seal plural marriages.
The Need For Legitimate Authority
To understand why proper authority is so important, we recall the Lord's
instructions concerning the sealing power restored to Joseph Smith:
All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations,
oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations,
that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise,
of him who is anointed, both as well for time and for all eternity, and
that too most holy, by revelation and commandment through the medium
of mine anointed, whom I have appointed on the earth to hold this power
(and I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in
the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on
whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred), are
of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the
dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when
men are dead. (D&C 132:7; italics added.)
In this verse the Lord identifies two important principles for anyone
wishing to seal an eternal marriage, whether it is monogamist or polygamist:
1. The marriage must be sealed by proper authority
2. The authority to seal a marriage is controlled by one man
"on the earth at a time."
In the first 19 verses of section 132 the Lord refers to the one
man who controls the sealing authority four times (verses 7 - twice,
18 & 19). The Lord explains why one man holds this power: "Behold,
mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of
confusion" (D&C 132:8). He tells us clearly what happens to a marriage
which might be performed with the correct wording and sincerity, but without
the authority controlled by the one man:
[I]f a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with
her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by
my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise,
through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then
it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world,
because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word;
when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because
the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass;
they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order,
saith the Lord God. (D&C 132:18; italics added.)
Woolley's contribution to the modern polygamist
movement was unique and immensely important because it alleged authority
to perform legitimate plural marriages. No other leader among the prominent
polygamist groups has asserted anything even remotely as significant and
Woolley's claims to sealing priesthood authority.
Woolley's Alleged Line of Priesthood Authority
It is difficult to trace Lorin Woolley's alleged line of priesthood
authority. Confusion is especially prominent concerning the period between
John Taylor in 1886 (who was Church President and the one man holding
the keys at that time) and the year 1930.(2)
This period has been analyzed in other publications and will not be examined
here.(3) Regardless, most polygamists today
(1993) believe that at least a portion of the authority given to
Joseph Smith in 1836 to seal eternal marriages was held by Lorin C. Woolley
by the year of 1930. Precisely what priesthood he supposedly possessed
is a matter of dispute. Two arguments are advanced:
1. By 1930, Lorin C. Woolly was the one man on earth who held the keys of sealing authority or
2. Lorin C. Woolley held sealing power which was independent of the
keys held by the one man (whoever he is). This purportedly left
Woolley completely autonomous (of the one man) in his exercise and
conferring of sealing authority.
Irrespective of the view polygamists choose to espouse, they conclude
that they currently have access to legitimate sealing power through Lorin
C. Woolley. He and his recollections represent the fundamental "link" in
a chain of authority that connects to Joseph Smith through Brigham Young
and John Taylor:
Researching Lorin's History
Despite the obvious importance of Lorin Woolley and his claims, little research has been performed concerning his life and teachings. Part of the reason for this may be due to the difficulties encountered researching his past. The number of contemporary documents which shed light upon his life and accomplishments is small. He did not keep a journal and did very little writing of any kind.(4) Through second-hand sources we can learn a great deal about his own vivid "recollections" which he related on numerous occasions, particularly during the last twelve years of his life (1922 to 1934). These "recollections" encompass many fantastic claims including those of priesthood authority, spiritual insights and veil-rending encounters.
This article will attempt to better acquaint the reader with Lorin C.
Woolley, his life and teachings. It is separated into five sections:
1. His history as gleaned from contemporary sources.
2. Several of his remarkable "recollections" concerning his own history.
3. His many stories recounting personal association with immortal beings.
4. Other of his fascinating teachings.
Lorin C. Woolley was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on October 23, 1856.(5)
His father was John Wickersham Woolley. In 1863, Lorin moved to Centerville,
Utah, where he attended Davis County Schools. While growing up, he helped
with the chores on his father's farm and became an expert horseman. Later
he worked as a dairy farmer and reportedly kept his farm neat and orderly.
Marriage and Family
On January 5, 1883 Lorin married Sarah Ann Roberts in the Endowment
House on Temple Square.(6) Together they
had nine children:
As a father and husband, Lorin Woolley was supportive and caring. Personal
communication with his children reveal that he never taught them any religious
doctrine which would have offended Church leaders. Their youngest daughter,
Olive Woolley Combs, learned of his unconventional ideas when she was an
adult. However, she continued as a monogamist Church member throughout
her life. Some other family members are actually offended by anyone who
even wishes to suggest that Lorin ever taught beliefs which differed with
accepted Church doctrines. They adamantly declare that they were entirely
unaware of any such teachings while growing up.(7)
Church Involvement and Excommunication
Lorin was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on October 18, 1868 by his father. Church records show that he was ordained an elder on March 10, 1873, at the age of sixteen by John Lyon.(8)
During the latter part of the 1880s, a number of the General Authorities
of the Church went into hiding on the "underground" to avoid federal marshals.
Lawmen were on the lookout seeking to arrest Church leaders on polygamy
charges. Between October of 1886 and February of 1887, Lorin was helpful
to some of the brethren by serving as a mail carrier for them. Samuel Bateman,
one of the body guards of Church leaders during that period, recorded Lorin's
participation with the Brethren in his journal:(9)
"Loren [sic] C. Woolley went with the mail." (Oct.
"At night we were all invited over to Lorin C.
Woolley's to supper." (Nov. 1, 1886)
"At night Lorin Woolley went with the mail." (Nov.
"D.R.B. [Daniel R. Bateman] and Lorin Woolley
went to Bro Rouche's with the out-going mail." (Dec. 8, 1886)
"Lorin C. Woolley came with the mail at half past
12 o'clock." (Dec. 10, 1886)
"I went over to Lorin Woolley's. Changed mail."
(Dec. 25, 1886)
"At night I went to the city, took the mail. H.
C. Birrell went with me. Met B. Young [Brigham Young Jr.] at tithing office.
Stayed at Sister Burt's. Met Sister Luke there, Lorin Woolley went in my
place while I was gone." (Dec. 31, 1886)
"I sent Lorin Woolley with the mail to the city.
He got back a little before 6 o'clock p.m. His wife went with him." (Jan.
"All day at Do [Church President's hideout], reading,
playing checkers Lorin Woolley, I beat... Lorin Woolley came at 2 o'clock
a.m. Went away at night and took the mail." (Jan. 11, 1887)
"Lorin Woolley came this morning at one o'clock
a.m." (Jan. 24, 1887)
"Lorin C. Woolley came at 1 o'clock." (Jan. 29,
"Lorin Woolley came at half past 5 o'clock a.m.
At night took the mail on horse back." (Feb. 3, 1887)
"At night I left G.Q.C. [George Q. Cannon] at
the half-way house. Lorin Woolley was to take him back. Lorin had come
down. He had gone up to my place. He brought the mail."(10)
(Feb. 5, 1887)
It appears that Lorin gave valuable service to Church leaders during that tense period and was even privileged to informally socialize with them on occasion.
During that latter part of 1887, Woolley served as a missionary in the Church's Southern States Mission. His labor extended from October 31, 1887 to October 6, 1889.(11) This was not his only missionary experience. After being ordained a Seventy and becoming a member of the Seventieth Quorum at Centerville, he spent three and a half months, from December 23, 1896, to April 6, 1897,(12) representing the Church in the Indian Territories. It appears he served honorably in the mission field.
Precisely when Lorin's feeling towards the Church soured is difficult
to identify. In 1912 he wrote the following account which does not include
any teaching which would compromise his Church membership:
In the latter part of September, 1886, the exact day being not now known to me, President John Taylor was staying at the home of my father, John W. Woolley, in Centerville, Davis County, Utah.
At the particular time herein referred to, President Taylor was in hiding (on the under-ground). Charles H. Bearrell and I were the "guardsmen" on watch for the protection of the President. Two were usually selected each night, and they took turns standing guard to protect the President from trespass or approaching danger. Exceptional activity was exercised by the U.S. Federal Officers in their prosecutions of the Mormon people on account of their family relations in supposed violation of the Federal Laws.
Soon after our watch began, Charles H. Bearrell reclined on a pallet and went to sleep. President Taylor had entered the south room to retire for the night. There was no door-way entrance to the room occupied by President Taylor, except the entrance from the room occupied by the guardsmen. Soon after 9 o'clock, I heard the voice of another man engaged in conversation with President Taylor, and I observed that a very brilliant light was illuminating the room occupied by the president. I wakened Bearrell and told him what I had heard and seen, and we both remained awake and on watch the balance of the night. The conversation was carried on all night between President Taylor and the visitor, and never discontinued until the day began to dawn -- when it ceased and the light disappeared. We heard the voices in conversation while the conference continued and we saw the light.
My father came into the room where we were on watch, and was there when President Taylor came into the room that morning. As the President entered the room he remarked, "I had a very pleasant conversation all night with the Prophet Joseph." At the time President Taylor entered the room his countenance was very bright and could be seen for several hours after. After observing that some one was in conversation with the President, I went out and examined all of the windows, and found them fastened as usual.
The brethren were considerably agitated about this time over the agitation about Plural Marriage, and some were insisting that the Church issue some kind of edict to be used in Congress, concerning the surrendering of Plural Marriage, and that if some policy were not adopted to relieve the strain the government would force the Church to surrender. Much was said in their deliberations for and against some edict or manifesto that had been prepared, and at a meeting that afternoon, at which a number there were present and myself, I heard President Taylor say; "Brethren, I will suffer my right hand to be cut off before I will sign such a document."
I, Lorin C. Woolley, of Centerville, Utah, do
hereby certify, that I have carefully made and read the foregoing statement
of facts and the same is true to the best of my knowledge. Dated this 6th
day of October, 1912.
(signed) Lorin C. Woolley(13)
This recollection contains assertions which are not supported by the historical record, such as Lorin's claims to have been a "body guard" of the brethren, but it also does not contradict Church doctrines or inherently represent apostate teachings.
An interesting incident in 1918 suggests that Lorin may have supported Church leaders at least until that time. Lorin's father, John W. Woolley, had been excommunicated from the Church in 1914 for performing plural marriages. Prior to his excommunication, John assumed his sealing authority came from the Church President through Matthias Cowley, a former member of the Quorum of the Twelve. At his excommunication the elder Woolley wrote that Cowley had instructed him that if any good men came to him seeking the sealing of a plural marriage, he was not to "turn them down."(14)
The years following his excommunication found John desiring Church membership again. He even asked his brother, George E. Woolley (Lorin's uncle) to approach some of the General Authorities on his behalf to see what he would have to do to be reinstated into the Church.(15) Specifically, John asked George to "use [his] influence in getting him back into the Church."(16) He also requested that George tell others that "he felt very keenly being on the outside of the Church" and that "he had suffered very much in his feelings" as a consequence of his excommunication.(17)
Shortly after John Woolley appealed to his brother to help him regain
his Church membership, John was asked to dedicate the grave of his deceased
sister-in-law Vinnie Woolley (Mary Lavina Bentley Woolley). The episode
was described by George in a letter to his brother Orson who resided in
I suppose you have read of the death of Vinnie,
Gordon's wife. She was buried Thursday from the 27th Ward Chapel. I presume
I got myself into bad repute with the sympathizers of our Bro. John. At
the conclusion of the services the Brother in charge announced that John
Woolley would dedicate the grave. It struck me as being out of place and
wrong. John had not heard the statement as he is hard of hearing and when
on the outside of the chapel and the funeral procession was forming, Loren
told John of the announcement. Loren apparently being in harmony with same.
[Brother] Sell was at the funeral and I tried to find him and ask if he
thought it was proper thing for John to do. I could not locate him, however,
and I felt some delicacy myself of broaching the matter to John, feeling
that he might think me prejudiced. I started to walk up to the cemetery
which is just a very short distance from the 27th. Ward Chapel and over
took Taylor Woolley. I remarked that I hoped John would not dedicate the
grave. He wanted to know why. I told him John had been in to see me within
ten days and asked me if he dedicated the grave and the authorities heard
of it would hinder any action they might feel disposed to take. That John
could not dedicate the grave by virtue of any priesthood he held and without
the priesthood it would be no dedication. At first Taylor thought I was
wrong, but soon concluded that I was right and said he would go and speak
to John. He started but his courage oozed out and he said he would not.
The auto carrying John, Fannie, Rachel and Maria coming along just then
I jumped on the step of the auto and asked John if he intended to dedicate
the grave. He said he did not want to but they had asked him and he didn't
know what he would do. I told him in my judgement, it would be a mistake
and gave him my reason. Fanny, Maria and Rachel thought it was awful of
me to say such a thing. That there could be no objection. Seeing Loren,
I dropped off and took the matter up with him. He said he believed I was
right but left it with his father. Well, John dedicated (?) the grave
[sic]. Did not do it by virtue of any priesthood... (Letter dated July
26, 1918. CHD. Italics added)
While the account is brief concerning Lorin's participation, it suggests that Lorin ultimately agreed with his Uncle George Woolley that his father should not have attempted to exercise any priesthood in the incident described. If Lorin was motivated by a genuine respect for the Church and its leaders, then we might conclude he was still supportive of the Church as late as 1918.
Lorin Woolley's excommunication occurred six years after the described episode on January 15, 1924. Polygamy was not the charge. He was called up to a Church court for teaching "pernicious falsehoods." The "falsehoods" included assertions that President Heber J. Grant and Apostle James E. Talmage had taken plural wives in the "recent past."(18) Woolley claimed to have learned of these plural marriage through his activities as an agent of the Secret Service of the United States of America, declaring that he was commissioned in 1890 to spy on Church leaders and monitor their activities. These claims are examined later in this article.
Ultimately, President Heber J. Grant publicly denounced Woolley in the
April 4th, 1931 morning session of General Conference saying:
One man by the name of Lorin C. Woolley said that Anthony W. Ivins and Heber J. Grant went to Los Angeles, that he followed them, that they went into a hotel and that Anthony W. Ivins married a plural wife to Heber J. Grant.
Anthony W. Ivins and Heber J. Grant were never
in a hotel together in Los Angeles. Heber J. Grant has never suggested
to any human being during his entire administration as President of the
Church that anybody should ever enter into plural marriage. On the contrary,
every man or woman who has ever opened his or her mouth to him on this
subject he has taught to the contrary. (Conference Report, April,
1931, p. 10.)
Lorin's Business Dealings
As noted earlier, Lorin was a farmer, but he also became involved in business ventures when they presented themselves. Woolley's relationship with a man named Nathaniel Baldwin gives us some insight into Lorin's commercial pursuits.
Nathaniel Baldwin was a prominent Utah inventor during the 1920s. His successes included "Baldy Phones," headphones used to listen to the radio receivers of the period.(19) Baldwin possessed a strong personality and appears to have been involved in post-manifesto polygamy in some form. He was excommunicated from the Church in December of 1921. For decades prior, he had openly sympathized with several prominent apostates, helping them publish their views.(20)
Baldwin's relationship with Lorin C. Woolley began on August 28, 1921 when Baldwin attended a meeting of individuals who had been cut off "for practicing plural marriage."(21) Woolley was one of the notable speakers. Baldwin listened to Lorin speak again in September and heard "remarkable testimonies"(22) and in October he wrote of the "very interesting accounts of strange happenings"(23) Woolley had related. He listened to Lorin speak several times during the next few months and even went with him to Alpine and Salem, Utah seeking gold and buried records.(24)
The religious association between Woolley and Baldwin expanded into a business relationship by April of 1922. Baldwin recorded that he "called on Lorin C. Woolley in evening. He advised letting a home company have the work on royalty."(25) By June of that year, Woolley was a member of the board of directors of the Omega Investment Company(26) which was a parent company to his other radio corporations. The Omega Board of directors would meet each Thursday night and generally discuss religious topics. In July, Woolley "came to stay a few days and look around the [radio manufacturing] shop and observe with the object of offering suggestions."(27)
It is unclear exactly what impact Lorin C. Woolley's leadership had on Baldwin's business ventures, if any. His overall influence might actually have been minimal if Lorin had not teamed up with his cousin, Ernest R. Woolley to play an expanded role in the development of Baldwin's businesses.
The Baldwin radio products had sold well up through the latter part of 1922, but competition set in and by November of that year, cash flow problems had begun to appear. Baldwin wrote on November 7, "the situation is serious." Notwithstanding, he was able to keep his business afloat for over a year before disaster was imminent.
Ernest R. Woolley was known as a man of affluence. Whether he really had much wealth is subject to speculation, but it is clear he knew how to manipulate business transactions to his advantage. Baldwin first met Ernest in January of 1924 and shortly thereafter was warned of a "scheme of Ernest Woolley to get in on our business" by a Judge Stewart. But Nathaniel passed it off as simply "hearsay."(28)
By August of 1924, Baldwin's financial problems had worsened and he
was required to seek a $50,000 loan from Continental National Bank, but
Ernest offered to lend the same amount. The entry in Baldwin's journal
for August 9 reads:
Lorin C. [Woolley] and I met with Ernest Woolley
who wants to take over our entire sales business. He also consented to
lend us $50,000 whether he gets the sales business or not.
On the 15th, Baldwin and Lorin went to visit Ernest Woolley only to discover that Ernest did not have the money, but he thought he could get it through previous sugar-related deal. Between August 15th and September 10th, Ernest made multiple assurances concerning the promised loan, but was unsuccessful in every case. He laid the blame upon Church opposition, an excuse which Baldwin readily accepted. On September 11th, Ernest pledged $40,000 which he sought to raise through a property mortgage. This also failed.
In the mean time, the financial woes of the Baldwin Radio Companies
continued to worsen and he was faced with being thrown into receivership.
His fear of receivership prompted him to grant a number of contracts to
Ernest Woolley which would supposedly prevent a court appointed receiver
from taking full control of the companies. However, the contracts also
gave Ernest Woolley significant control. At the time, Ernest was promising
money from one source or another to meet Baldwin's needs. It apparently
seemed logical to Baldwin to allow Ernest Woolley, an expected financial
backer, to gain some control over the companies. Concerning the actual
signing of some of the contracts, Baldwin recorded:
Ernest brought me back home again. John T. Clark(29)
and Lorin C. Woolley came out also. I finished up
the contract. John T. Clark suggested that we make it for 5 years instead
of 2 years and so to be contrary I made it for 10 years. (Baldwin Journals,
September 27, 1924.)
In spite of Ernest's formal association with Baldwin's corporations,
he still did not provide any of the loan money promised. Financial difficulties
worsened and Baldwin found himself in receivership on October 8th. On October
14th Nathaniel met with John T. Clark, Lorin C. and Ernest Woolley. The
next day he wrote:
Went to city in afternoon expecting to get about
$8000.00 from Ernest R. Woolley to relieve the strained situation with
the Omega Co. and the Farmington Mining Co. etc. Nothing produced because
impatient and doubtful [sic]. The question arises as to whether some of
the men are sincere. Some things look suspicious. Maybe they (Ernest and
Lorin) are purposely letting me get in distress to get a stronger hold.
I hope it is a false suspicion and that I may be forgiven.
The receiver indeed attempted to evade the contracts made with Ernest
Woolley, but Ernest had used stratagem in his own business maneuvers. Baldwin
Ernest reported that a receivership for the Nathaniel
Baldwin Sales Co. had been applied for and granted by Judge Richie in a
manner similar to that of the Incorporated. This would destroy Ernest's
contracts and placed us all at the mercy of the receivers; but -- anticipating
such a move Ernest organized a Nathaniel Baldwin Sales Company at New York
under the laws of Delaware and transferred to them all his contracts with
us, and this was done legally more than a week ahead of their movement.
(Baldwin Journals, October 21, 1924.)
Initially Ernest Woolley's tactics may have appeared desirable to Baldwin, but soon he became concerned about whether Ernest was a true friend or not. He confided in his journal of November 8th, "The question is how to get away from the tie up with Ernest Woolley. He may be all right but still there is a question."
During the latter part of November, Lorin and Ernest Woolley went to
Chicago, Illinois to work a "deal" which would result in financial relief
for the companies. On December 16, Nathaniel "sent a telegram to Lorin
requesting full particulars of their doings, but never received them."
The next day he recorded:
Went to city to answer a telegram from Lorin which
was difficult to understand. Received word that the money was ready and
that Ernest and Lorin would soon be on the way home.
After returning from Chicago, Ernest told Baldwin on December 22nd that, "he has raised the money to remove the receiver." Nevertheless, no money was presented and two days later Ernest Woolley made a speech asking for one half interest in the business. Baldwin recorded, "Some gall!"(30) but ultimately acquiesced to Ernest's demands.
Nathaniel Baldwin eventually concluded that Ernest Woolley, with Lorin's help, had conspired against him to break his companies. Baldwin ultimately file a lawsuit against Ernest, but the companies went into the hands of Banker's Trust Company, a court appointed receiver, anyway. The new owners quickly reshuffled personnel and began to operate at a profit.(31)
It is unclear exactly how much Lorin C. Woolley was involved with the
doings of his cousin, Ernest R. Woolley, though he was clearly positioned
to understand what was going on. It is equally difficult to know the level
of sincerity possessing both men as they, at least vocally, attempted to
support Baldwin's flailing radio companies. Nathaniel Baldwin, however,
believed the worst and wrote a paper he entitled "The Woolley Steal." He
also felt Lorin Woolley to be an integral part of the alleged plot because
he recorded several times in his journal that he had been working on "the
story of Lorin Woolley in the 'Woolley Steal'."(32)
Baldwin had little use for Lorin C. Woolley or his claims after this episode.
Contemporary History of Lorin C. Woolley
The preceding review of Lorin Woolley's life is incomplete by any standard.
However, it reveals a man who was hard-working and generally respected
by his peers. He demonstrated his support of the Church and its leaders
by serving as a missionary twice and carrying the mail for those in hiding
in 1887. He manifested his faith by being married in the Endowment House
and appears to have sustained the Church as late as 1918. As a father and
husband he was supportive of his wife and children.
During the 1920s Lorin C. Woolley began to share with his listeners
many details of his life which are difficult, if not impossible to document.
We will briefly examine a few of these:
1. Lorin's alleged ordination as an apostle
2. Recollections of exceptional events on September 26-27th 1886, including an 8-hour meeting and his reception of extraordinary priesthood authority to seal marriages
3. Lorin Woolley and the 1890 Manifesto
4. Claims as a spy for the Church and U.S. Government
5. Defending Matthias Cowley and Church Leaders
Lorin's Purported Priesthood Ordination
In 1922 Lorin taught that he became an elder in 1879 at age 13 and was
later ordained an apostle:
Brother Woolley was ordained an Elder at the age
of 13, and was ordained an Apostle by President John Taylor and Geo. Q.
Cannon. (Joseph Musser Journals April 9, 1922.)
Some confusion exists concerning the alleged ordination because in 1929 Lorin taught that Brigham Young, not John
Taylor and George Q. Cannon, had given him his ordination to be an apostle:
[Lorin Woolley] stated, March 20, 1870, I was
called by President Brigham Young to receive my endowments and was ordained
an Apostle by Pres. Young. Among other things he stated, "You will yet
be called to an important position in the Church..." (Items from a Book
of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 10 and Truth 4:130.)
This is an impressive assertion. Lorin claims he was also given his Temple endowments at age thirteen, besides being called to the apostleship at that time.
We have already noted that Church records show that he was ordained
an elder on March 10, 1873. There is no known record or other contemporary
account to support the claim to Woolley's ever receiving the apostleship,
at age 13 or otherwise. Charles Zitting, a polygamist leader after 1930,
listened to Woolley teach on numerous occasions. He believed that Lorin's
original ordination came "from John Lyon," not Brigham Young.(33)
Without a doubt, the most significant claim Woolley ever made described a meeting and ordination through which most modern polygamists derive their alleged authority to seal plural marriages. Because of its incredible importance, it deserves special consideration here. It was written by Joseph W. Musser in 1929 as a compilation of his personal notes taken while Woolley recounted his stories during the 1920s. Musser recorded Lorin's teachings in his personal journal and then composed the account without any directive from Woolley himself (as indicated by Musser's journal entries). When completed, Lorin simply signed it.
Over the past few decades it has been printed over and over in polygamist publications. It is reproduced here in its entirety. Commentary is included in italics:
While the brethren were at the Carlisle residency [in Murray, Utah] in May or June of 1886, letters began to come to President John Taylor from such men as John Sharp, Horace Eldredge, William Jennings, John T. Caine, Abraham Hatch, President Cluff and many other leading men from all over the Church, asking the leaders to do something, as the Gentiles were talking of confiscating their property in connection with the property of the Church.
These letters not only came from those who were
living in the Plural Marriage relation, but also from prominent men who
were presiding in various offices of the Church who were not living in
that relation. They all urged that something be done to satisfy the Gentiles
so that their property would not be confiscated.
This narrative begins asserting that Church members were sending
letters to President Taylor asking him to do something because the gentiles
were threatening to take away their property. He contends that (1) the
Saints were more concerned with their property than with obeying the Lord
and (2) the Saints wanted John Taylor to single-handedly "do something"
about the problem as if the Lord played no part in it. These notions really
do not represent the feelings of the Latter-day Saints in the 1880s. It
is true that some letters may have been sent by Church members explaining
their concerns about governmental action, but such letters should not imply
even a small minority of Latter-day Saints were ready to cast aside the
Lord's instruction in the interest of "property." It is also inaccurate
to believe that the Saints were demanding a manifesto, even an uninspired
George Q. Cannon on his own initiative selected a committee comprising himself, Hyrum B. Clawson, Franklin S. Richards, John T. Caine and James Jack to get up a statement or Manifesto that would meet the objections urged by the brethren above named. They met from time to time to discuss the situation. From the White home, where President Taylor and companions stopped, after leaving the Carlisle home, they came out to father's. George Q. Cannon would go and consult with the brethren of the committee, I taking him back and forth each day.
On September 26, 1886, George Q. Cannon, Hyrum
B. Clawson, Franklin S. Richards, and others, met with President John Taylor
at my father's residence at Centerville, Davis County, Utah, and presented
a document for President Taylor's consideration.
Here Woolley suggests that George Q. Cannon, "on his own initiative
selected a committee" to devise a plan to appease the gentiles. Lorin implies
that Cannon was willing to use his own wisdom and that of a hand-picked
committee to direct God's Church. Woolley also intimates that Cannon had
little confidence in President John Taylor's ability to deal with the challenges
they faced. This proposed behavior seems inconsistent with a righteous
leader like George Q. Cannon. He was an apostle who testified on one occasion:
"I know that God lives. I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen Him."(34)
I had just got back from a three days trip, during most of which I had retired to rest.
Between one and two o'clock P.M., Brother Bateman came and woke me up and asked me to be at my father's home where a Manifesto was to be discussed. I went there and found there were congregated Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, L. John Nuttall, Charles Birrell, George Q. Cannon, Franklin S. Richards and Hyrum B. Clawson.
We discussed the proposed Manifesto at length,
but we were unable to become united in the discussion. Finally George Q.
Cannon suggested that President Taylor take the matter up with the Lord
and decide the same the next day.
Available journals fail to support the idea that a special meeting
was held on Sunday, September 26, 1886 to discuss a manifesto or anything
similar to it. Samuel Bateman records for that date:
At [hideout], all day reading. Had meeting,
Bishop H.B. Clawson presiding, 12 present and 3 children. I spoke. All
the rest of the Brethren spoke. Had a good meeting. H. B. Clawson and J.
E. Taylor went home at night.
This entry describes a typical Sunday which is very similar to the
others reported on in Bateman's journal.
Brothers Clawson and Richards, were taken back to Salt Lake. That evening I was called to act as guard during the first part of the night, notwithstanding the fact that I was greatly fatigued on account of the three days' trip I had just completed.
The brethren retired to bed soon after nine o'clock.
The sleeping rooms were inspected by the guard as was the custom. President
Taylor's room had no outside door. The windows were heavily screened.
Woolley's claim to have served as a "body guard" of Church leaders
who were in hiding during the late 1880s was also included in his "1912
Account." However, the statement is completely unsubstantiated. Earlier
we reviewed all of the journal excerpts which mentioned Lorin's name as
recorded by a genuine body guard, Samuel Bateman. Bateman not only recorded
Woolley's contributions as a mail carrier, but also specifically named
the men who were left on guard duty at night.(35)
While several different men are mentioned,(36)
Lorin Woolley is never listed, not even once. George Q. Cannon's journal
for the same period also fails to mention any significant involvement of
Lorin Woolley, as a body guard, or anything else. It appears that Lorin
was even privileged to interact with Church leaders on a more personal
basis occasionally. Nonetheless, nothing exists to support Lorin's claims
that he served as a body guard or was considered a valiant personal acquaintance
of the brethren during those days of the "underground."
Sometime after the brethren retired and while I was reading the Doctrine and Covenants, I was suddenly attracted to a light appearing under the door leading to President Taylor's room, and was at once startled to hear the voices of men talking there. There were three distinct voices. I was bewildered because it was my duty to keep people out of the room and evidently someone had entered without my knowing it. I made a hasty examining and found all the window screens intact. While examining the last window, and feeling greatly agitated, a voice spoke to me, saying, "Can't you feel the Spirit? Why should you worry?"
At this I returned to my post and continued to hear the voices in the room. They were so audible that although I did not see the parties I could place their positions in the room from the sound of the voices. The three voices continued until about midnight, when one of them left, and the other two continued. One of them I recognized as President John Taylor's voice. I called Charles Birrell and we both sat up until eight o'clock the next morning.
When President Taylor came out of his room about eight o'clock of the morning of September 27, 1886, we could scarcely look at him on account of the brightness of his personage.
He stated, "Brethren, I have had a very pleasant
conversation all night with Brother Joseph." (Joseph Smith) I said, "Boss,
who is the man that was there until midnight?" He asked, "What do you know
about it, Lorin?" I told him all about my experience. He said, "Brother
Lorin, that was your Lord."
There is a possibility that John Taylor could have received a visitation
from Joseph Smith and the Savior, though it appears unlikely. (Woolley's
1912 account only mentioned Joseph Smith.) Regardless, prophets receive
heavenly visitations from time to time and President Taylor was certainly
worthy of such. However, there is nothing to support the claim of a visitation
for the night of September 26, 1886. Research into the period reveals that
some Church members were aware of stories that President Taylor had been
visited by Joseph Smith while on the "underground" in the mid 1880s. However,
the visitation(s?) mentioned clearly occurred prior to President Taylor's
stay at the Woolley home in the Autumn of 1886. The journal of John Moon
Clements records for July 31, 1886:
Went to the High Priests meeting held in the
Font house. Philo Dibble spoke of this being the resurrection day. And
that Joseph Smith had been to Prest John Taylor and conversed in his body
with him about this crusade against us... (Journal of John Moon Clements,
This visit to President Taylor may have occurred in the home of John
Carlisle where he concealed himself several times in 1885 and early 1886.
It is believed by many in the Carlisle family that Joseph Smith appeared
to John Taylor in the Carlisle Home while Alfred Carlisle, a son of John
Carlisle, was standing guard. Alfred Carlisle's niece recorded the story:
One night he [Alfred Carlisle] was asked by
President Taylor to stand guard at the upstairs bedroom where he was going
to spend the night. He entered the room alone and bolted the door from
the inside. It had a heavy bolt lock that was on the door many years later
while I lived in the home. During the night it sounded as if two people
were talking in the room and when President Taylor came out alone the next
morning my uncle told him about hearing voices. He told him he had been
conversing with the Prophet Joseph Smith. He also showed my uncle the ugly
scar on his body where he was wounded while in Carthage jail with the prophet.
My uncle felt these experience were given to him for a purpose so he could
testify of what he had seen and heard.(37)
It is quite possible that Woolley was just confused in his recollections
as he incorporated true elements of a story involving Joseph Smith and
John Taylor which he heard in the mid-1880s into his 1920 reminiscences.
Also, Charles Birrell lived long enough to hear about Lorin's assertions
including those which described his (Charles) own participation. Birrell
denied knowledge of any such incredible events which, if they had actually
occurred as Woolley described them, would be very difficult to forget.
We had no breakfast, but assembled ourselves in a meeting. I forget who opened the meeting. I was called to offer the benediction. I think my father, John W. Woolley, offered the opening prayer. There were present at this meeting, in addition to President Taylor, George Q. Cannon, L. John Nuttall, John W. Woolley, Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, Charles Birrell, Daniel R. Bateman, Bishop Samuel Sedden, George Earl, my mother, Julia E. Woolley, my sister, Amy Woolley, and myself. The meeting was held from about nine o'clock in the morning until five in the afternoon without intermission, being about eight hours in all.
President Taylor called the meeting to order. He had the Manifesto, that had been prepared under the direction of George Q. Cannon, read over again. He then put each person under covenant that he or she would defend the principle of Celestial or Plural Marriage, and that they would consecrate their lives, liberty and property to this end, and that they personally would sustain and uphold that principle.
By that time we were all filled with the Holy
Ghost. President Taylor and those present occupied about three hours up
to this time. After placing us under covenant, he placed his finger on
the document, his person rising from the floor about a foot or eighteen
inches, and with countenance animated by the Spirit of the Lord, and raising
his right hand to the square, he said, "Sign that document, -- never! I
would suffer my right hand to be severed from my body first. Sanction it,
-- never! I would suffer my tongue to be torn from its roots in my mouth
before I would sanction it!"
The question of whether or not an 8-hour meeting was held throughout
the entire day on September 27th, 1886 has been examined in other publications.(38)
In summary, none of the available journals for that date mention anything
about a meeting and the activities of the day listed would generally preclude
the possibility. They are very consistent between each other concerning
the enterprises which occupied the hours of that date.
After that he talked for about an hour and then
sat down and wrote the revelation which was given him by the Lord upon
the question of Plural Marriage.
It is somewhat curious that Woolley would assert that President Taylor
had spent the entire night conversing with both our Lord Jesus Christ and
Joseph Smith, but then wait until in the middle of an 8-hour meeting to
receive a brief revelation. Lorin states that it dealt with the "question
of plural marriage" however, the text circulated by polygamists does not
My son John: You have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant and how far it is binding upon my people.
Thus saith the Lord All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant
For I the Lord am everlasting and my covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with; but they stand forever.
Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject?
Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandment, and yet have I borne with them these many years and this because of their weakness because of the perilous times. And furthermore it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters.
Nevertheless I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not.
And as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph all those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law
And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham's seed and would enter into my glory they must do the works of Abraham.
I have not revoked this law nor will I for
it is everlasting and those who will enter into my glory must obey the
conditions thereof, even so Amen.
The authenticity of this alleged revelation is in question. At best it is a personal revelation to John Taylor for his own private enlightenment. At worst, it is a forgery. Regardless, it is not a revelation about "the question of plural marriage."
In response to this assessment polygamists will quickly attest that "the New and Everlasting Covenant" mentioned in this purported revelation is a direct reference to plural marriage. They would also affirm that the statement "all those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law" is a command to practice polygamy. Nevertheless, both of these interpretations are incorrect.
The New and Everlasting Covenant itself is comprised of all gospel
covenants restored in this dispensation. The New and Everlasting Covenant
of Marriage is eternal marriage. It includes plural marriage, but
is not limited to it. All mortals who are taught by God's servants about
eternal marriage and concomitantly have sealing authority restored among
them must marry with that authority while in mortality or lose their chance
for eternal marriage altogether. To illustrate why this is so, we know
that people who understand and reject baptism during mortality will, in
the Spirit World, be incapable of benefitting from baptisms for the dead
on their behalf because there are no "second chances" in the gospel. Equally,
people who reject eternal marriage and sealing authority here will be ineligible
to receive sealings for the dead (performed in temples on earth) on their
behalf after they die for the very same reason. In other words, they are
damned (D&C 132:4). The authority to seal a marriage is eternal as
are the covenants involved. Naturally, they cannot be revoked.
Then he talked to us for some time, and said,
"Some of you will be handled and ostracized and cast out from the Church
by your brethren because of your faithfulness and integrity to this principle,
and some of you may have to surrender your lives because of the same, but
woe, woe, unto those who shall bring these troubles upon you." (Three of
us were handled and ostracized for supporting and sustaining this principle.
There are only three left who were at the meeting mentioned -- Daniel R.
Bateman, George Earl and myself. So far as I know those of them who have
passed away all stood firm to the covenants entered into from that day
to the day of their deaths.)
Woolley lists 13 individuals as having been in attendance. Two of
them, John Woolley and Daniel Bateman, were excommunicated for their actions
with plural marriage though neither claimed they were fulfilling an 1886
covenant by participating. None of the 13 "surrendered their lives" for
After the meeting referred to, President Taylor had L. John Nuttall write five copies of the revelation. He called five of us together: Samuel Bateman, Charles H. Wilkins, George Q. Cannon, John W. Woolley, and my self.
He then set us apart and place us under covenant
that while we lived we would see to it that no year passed by without children
being born in the principle of plural marriage. We were given authority
to ordain others if necessary to carry this work on, they in turn to be
given authority to ordain others when necessary, under the direction of
the worthy senior (by ordination), so that there should be no cessation
in the work.
Of all the interesting details included in this account, none is more important than this claim to "authority" to "carry this work on." Generally this has been interpreted as the conferral of sealing authority. We have already pointed out that the relationship between these proposed ordinations and the "one man" who holds the keys to this authority as mentioned in D&C 132:7, 18, 19 is not specified in this account.
Several problems exist with these alleged ordinations. First, the Lord has plainly stated in D&C 42:11 that there should be no "secret" ordinations to presiding positions. Also, according to the law of witnesses (D&C 6:28), only Lorin C. Woolley has left his testimony concerning this incredibly important priesthood line of authority. An examination of the four other men reveals:
There is no evidence to suggest that Samuel Bateman ever sealed any kind of marriage. He remained active in the Church and obeyed the 1890 Manifesto. His son, Daniel Bateman, was an avid supporter of Lorin Woolley during the 1920s and 1930s. But even he (Daniel) admitted that he never learned about his father's purported priesthood ordination during his father's lifetime.(39) Nothing has been found to support the idea that Samuel ever even mentioned an 1886 ordination or special priesthood authority to his son Daniel. Neither did his actions suggest that he had received such. Daniel and his father were very close, living only a short distance from each other for many years after 1886. If the elder Bateman held some kind of lofty priesthood power, by his son's own admission, he was very successful in hiding it from his own family.(40)
Charles H. Wilkins was also a body guard to John Taylor and other Church leaders. While less is known about him, there is nothing in his history to suggest he ever performed a plural marriage or had received the commission and authority Woolley would claim for him after his death. Even Fundamentalist authors are silent concerning assertions that he exercised any apostolic or sealing authority at any time after September, 1886.
George Q. Cannon was ordained an apostle in 1886. Brigham Young plainly taught: "The High Priesthood, and the Lesser Priesthood, and all the Priesthood there is are combined, centered in, composed of, and circumscribed by the apostleship" (JD 1:134). As one who had received the apostleship, it is puzzling that Woolley would suggest he was capable of receiving additional authority.
John W. Woolley is the only one of the five men, besides Lorin,
who was alive during the 1920s when the younger Woolley made his extraordinary
claims. John was in his nineties at the time and was quite hard of hearing.
As we have reviewed, he was excommunicated in 1914 for performing plural
marriages. When questioned about his authority, John Woolley said nothing
about any 1886 ordination, but assumed authorization through a comment
from Matthias Cowley. We also noted that John tried later to regain his
Church membership. These activities are surprising for a man who purportedly
held independent priesthood authority.
He then gave each of us a copy of the Revelation.
Not one of these "copies" has been found or even referred to. There
is significant evidence to support the idea that even Woolley himself was
unaware of the alleged revelation in 1912.(41)
We would naturally expect a person to hold such a document in high regard
and not allow it to become lost. However, all "copies" have been unaccounted
for since their purported creation.
I am the only one of the five now living, and so far as I know all five of the brethren remained true and faithful to the covenants they entered into, and to the responsibilities placed upon them at that time.
During the eight hours we were together, and while President Taylor was talking to us, he frequently arose and stood above the floor, and his countenance and being were so enveloped by light and glory that it was difficult for us to look upon him.
He stated that the document, referring to the
Manifesto, was from the lower regions. He stated that many of the things
he had told us we would forget and they would be taken from us, but that
they would return to us in due time as needed, and from this fact we would
know that the same was from the Lord. This has been literally fulfilled.
Many of the things I forgot, but they are coming to me gradually, and those
things that come to me are as clear as on the day on which they were given.
Lorin Woolley's ability to remember "things he forgot" will be examined
President Taylor said that the time would come when many of the Saints
would apostatize because of this principle. He said "one-half of this people
will apostatize over the principle and possibly one-half of the other half"
(rising off the floor while making the statement).
Modern Polygamists will affirm that in fact this has come true and
that the Latter-day Saints are just unaware of their state of apostasy.
However, the prophecy also indicates that at least one-fourth, if not one-half,
of the Saints would not apostatize and continue supporting plural marriage.
Clearly this has not occurred.
He also said the day will come when a document
similar to that (Manifesto) then under consideration would be adopted by
the Church, following which "apostasy and whoredom would be rampant in
While few would assert that apostasy and whoredom have ever been
"rampant in the Church," it is quite probable that such problems affect
modern polygamists as much as Church members.
He said that in the time of the seventh president
of this Church, the Church would go into bondage both temporally and spiritually
and in that day (the day of bondage) the One Mighty and Strong spoken of
in the 85th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants would come.
The doctrine of the "One Mighty and Strong" mentioned in D&C
85:7 is very popular among modern polygamists. They claim the Church is
"out of order" because it does not allow plural marriage and that "One
Mighty and Strong" will come and vindicate modern polygamists by restoring
them to the Church (and making them leaders in it). Obviously this did
not happen during the tenure of the seventh Church President, Heber J.
Grant. He died in 1945.
Among many other things stated by President Taylor
on this occasion was this: "I would be surprised if ten percent of those
who claim to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood will remain true and faithful
to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, at the time of the seventh president,
and that there would be thousands that think they hold the Priesthood at
that time, but would not have it properly conferred upon them."
This prophecy refers to the variety of words which have been used to confer priesthood authority upon individuals in the past. From the beginning of the restoration, terms such as confer, ordain, set-apart, consecrate etc. have been used in different combinations to transfer priesthood authority to men. During the Presidency of David O. McKay, definitions were provided to eliminate confusion: priesthood is conferred, offices are ordained and callings are set-apart.
Modern polygamists presently believe that only certain words can
be used and that any variation from them constitutes an "improper" and
defective ordination. If this were correct, most of the priesthood ordinations
performed during the 19th century would be invalid.(42)
John Taylor set the five mentioned apart and gave
them authority to perform marriage ceremonies, and also to set others apart
to do the same thing as long as they remained on the earth; and while doing
so, the Prophet Joseph Smith stood by directing the proceedings. Two of
us had not met the Prophet Joseph Smith in his mortal lifetime, and we
-- Charles H. Wilkins and myself -- were introduced to him and shook hands
(Signed) Lorin C. Woolley(43)
More information concerning this alleged meeting may be found in Max
Anderson's Polygamy Story, Fiction and Fact.
Lorin Woolley and the Manifesto
Another closely related story told by Lorin concerns his proclaimed
first hand knowledge of the 1890 Manifesto and the activities surrounding
it. In 1922, Musser wrote one of Woolley's teachings regarding it:
[Lorin Woolley] said he knew the Manifesto, because
he helped to make it, and cited reasons for knowing that I had not been
kept by the leading authorities. (Journal, April 9, 1922.)
This assertion, that Lorin Woolley as a 33-year-old monogamist, might have "helped to make" the Manifesto is a bit perplexing and Musser fails to include Lorin's explanations concerning it.
On another occasion, Woolley shared other details of events he believed
preceded the release of the 1890 Manifesto. In this version, Lorin is not
The Twelve held a meeting and were discussing [the Manifesto] when it was finally suggested that the Editor of the Deseret News be asked to write a suitable document; "For," said George Q. Cannon, "he can write more and say less than any other man in the Church." Charles W. Penrose got up one, which, however, was not satisfactory. Frank J. Cannon was then appointed to assist him. They both failed and asked to be assisted by John H. White, the butcher, which was granted by the First Presidency.
After being prepared, a committed was appointed
consisting of George Q. Cannon, Francis M. Lyman, Erastus Snow and Moses
Thatcher, to present the Manifesto to certain Federal Officials for their
approval; among them, Judge C.S. Zane, Judge Dixon, Judge O. W. Powers
and C. W. Varian; both groups being accompanied by body guards, (Sam Bateman
and Samuel Seddon being the guards of the brethren). The meeting was held
in the Federal Offices in the building now occupied by the Kenyon Hotel
(Now the Walgreen Drug Store, Main and 2nd South). These Federal Agents
insisted on a change being made in the text, adding to the statement, "I
deny that either forty or any other number of plural marriages have, during
that period, been solemnized in our Temples or in another place in the
Territory," the statement, "One case was performed in the Endowment House,
etc." as witnesses were then in an adjoining room who could testify to
the fact. The document was then copied by a Mr. Green, a non-Mormon, and
was presented and accepted by the Church in that form. (Items from a
Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser p. 7.)
This is an impressive account with many particulars that, if left unexamined,
increase the over-all believability of the story. First, let's review the
circumstances which preceded the presentation of the Manifesto as recorded
in contemporary sources:
As the Church President [Wilford Woodruff] entered
his office the morning of 24 September 1890, he told Bishop John R. Winder
and President George Q. Cannon that he had not slept much the night before.
He had been "struggling all night with the Lord about what should be done
under the existing circumstances of the Church. And, he said, laying some
papers upon the table, 'here is the result.' Upon these was written what,
with the exception of some light changes, is known as the manifesto." He
then showed the Brethren assembled before him the document he had written.
After they had approved it and prepared it for publication, President Woodruff
declared that the Lord had made it plain to him what he was to do and that
it was the right thing. (Salt Lake Temple Historical Record, 1893-1922,
p. 71. CHD. Italics mine.)
Thus, after "struggling all night with the Lord," Wilford Woodruff was able to present the brethren with the original document that became the printed Manifesto. The manuscript presented contained 510 words which was edited by George Q. Cannon and others to its present 356 words.(44) While some changes were made in the press release, it should be noted that there was no committee appointed to write a "manifesto." Neither were federal authorities consulted or a copy made by a "Mr. Green, a non-Mormon" etc. The source of Woolley's imaginative details is unidentifiable. It appears to severely contradict contemporary evidence concerning the origin of the 1890 Manifesto.
In 1930 Woolley made a fascinating claim concerning a "special mission"
he had received from President Snow regarding the Manifesto. Musser recorded
Spent very delightful P.M. [evening] with Loren
[sic] C. Woolley during which time he related many interesting Items on
Church history, among which his appointment to a Special Mission by Pres.
Snow to middle West States to allay prejudice after Manifesto was issued.
(Joseph Musser Journals, April 18, 1930.)
Since Woolley had supposedly received a commission in 1886 to continue
plural marriage and had clearly taught that the Manifesto was uninspired,
his willingness "to allay prejudice" in the "middle West States" after
it was issued confused Musser. Joseph identified the contradiction and
apparently question Lorin concerning it:
This appointment appeared to conflict with that
given by Pres. Taylor previously, but as a matter of fact there was no
conflict as all parties understood the situation. (Ibid.)
Lorin's explanation at that time appears to have satisfied Joseph Musser,
but as we have seen, other pertinent questions persist.
Lorin Woolley as a Spy
Lorin C. Woolley buoyed up his believability as a credible witness of
events surrounding the 1890 Manifesto by claiming that he was a government
official commissioned to spy on the Church leaders. Musser recorded:(45)
Brother Woolley had been a Government official
and as such had learned many things about the brethren who are now so pronounced
against the principle of Plural Marriage. (Journal, April 9, 1922.)
As described earlier, Woolley's claims that he had served as a government
spy, commissioned to follow Church leaders is what eventually led to his
excommunication. In a letter dated January 18, 1924, Elder James E. Talmage
of the Quorum of the Twelve told a stake president about Lorin Woolley's
claims as an undercover agent for the United States government:
I think you should be informed of the fact that this Lorin C. Woolley has been brought to trial before the High Council of South Davis Stake, aided by the advisory assistance of the Twelve through myself, and that on Tuesday last he was excommunicated from the Church, having been found guilty of pernicious falsehood.
As testified to by witnesses, he had repeatedly
stated that in his capacity as an officer of the United States Government
Secret Service, he had trailed certain of the leading authorities of the
Church, and knew of their having been guilty of violating the Church rule
and law against the practice of plural marriage. Last night I had conversation
with the Chief of the United States Government Secret Service, and he positively
denies that Lorin C. Woolley was connected with that service in any capacity
whatsoever; and, moreover, he further intimated that he may have to proceed
against Woolley for making any such claim.(46)
Exactly why Lorin claimed to be a part of the Secret Service of the United States and not the FBI is confusing. The Secret Service is dedicated to protecting government leaders and prosecuting counterfeiters. They would never be involved in monitoring the activities of individuals suspected of other crimes such as polygamy.
On another occasion Woolley promoted a dream with President Heber J.
Grant which portrayed Woolley as an agent of the Church and not the government
as previously claimed:
I asked him [Heber J. Grant] about his wives,
telling him who they were and when and where they were married. At this
Heber seemed greatly astonished and asked me how I knew these things. I
stated I had been set apart in 1874, at the age of 18, by President Young,
to learn of and keep track of such things for the protection of the brethren.(47)
Regardless, no evidence exists to support the notion that Woolley had
received a commission from either the government or the Church to spy on
Woolley Allegedly Defends Matthias Cowley and Shows Mercy Upon Church
During the 1920s Lorin Woolley claimed to have been closely involved
with Matthias Cowley who was dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve in 1905
and disfellowshipped in 1911. Woolley asserted that he had used his influence
with Anthony Ivins, a member of the Quorum, to benefit Cowley during the
Church trial in 1911. Ivins discussed these claims with Nathaniel Baldwin
in 1922. Baldwin wrote the following concerning their meeting:
Met with Pres. Ivins at David Neff's place. Said
but little to him. He tried to convince me that the stories told by Lorin
C. Woolley regarding the authorized continuance of plural marriage were
lies. Said he had not performed any such ceremonies since Pres. Smith forbade
him in 1904. Said he was not acquainted with Lorin Woolley, that the Quorum
of Apostles had not been divided in Brother Cowley's case, that Lorin Woolley
had not persuaded him to stand up for Brother Cowley, that he had done
that himself without any such persuasion, and that Brother Cowley had not
been on trial for his fellowship. (Baldwin journals, September 30, 1922.)
Two years later Baldwin recorded other interesting details of Lorin's
Lorin C. Woolley reports that brethren from high
stations in the church have pleaded with him not to have the matter between
Ernest Woolley and the banks go to the courts because if it does it will
go to the Federal Courts and will not likely stop with financial matters
but that other matters which Lorin says are true may be proved and the
church authorities may be discredited by the people of the Church and may
lose their lives. Some remarkable confessions. (Baldwin journals, September
These claims by Woolley were indeed "remarkable." They place Lorin in
a position of great power. Supposedly, his influence was needed to help
Matthias Cowley and later to avoid "discrediting" some of the "Church authorities"
and even to save their lives. However, we must recognize beyond
Lorin's declarations, there is nothing to validate these assertions.