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Chapter Five


Most Fundamentalists assume that John W. Woolley's purported 1886 ordination allowed him to come into possession of the keys of sealing sometime before his death in December of 1928. After his demise, his son, Lorin C. Woolley, is supposed to have become the one(146) anointed to hold the sealing authority. Since neither John, nor Lorin Woolley were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1928, questions naturally arise: When did the keys of sealing supposedly leave the Church and what, do modern polygamists believe, caused them to be forfeited? Much confusion exists among Fundamentalist authors concerning these two inquiries. Nevertheless, most are forced to conclude that by the 1920's at the latest, the keys of sealing authority mentioned in D&C 132 were held by men outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Below is a list of the purported incidents that Fundamentalists claim may have caused the keys to be lost from the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They believe that such must have occurred since they proclaim he is no longer the "one" anointed and appointed to hold the sealing Keys of Elijah. Possible events:

1. 1886 with the purported ordinations?

2. 1890 with the Manifesto?

3. 1898 with Pres. Woodruff's death?

4. 1914 with the excommunication of John W. Woolley?

5. 1918-1921 with the Presidency of Heber J. Grant?


Few modern polygamists have suggested that the keys of sealing authority left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with the proposed 1886 ordinations.(147) Since John Taylor was still alive and Wilford Woodruff had not yet issued the Manifesto of 1890, it appears the 1886 ordinations, if they ever occurred, were to priesthood positions that were to remain dormant, at least for a few years.


One of the most common events that Fundamentalists identify as the cause of the Church losing the keys of sealing is in conjunction with the issuing of the 1890 Manifesto by Wilford Woodruff.(148) More will be said about the Manifesto in chapter eleven. However, several problems exist with believing that Wilford Woodruff sinned in 1890 by teaching that the commandment to live plural marriage had been lifted. Many modern polygamists believe he thereby lost the keys to sealing authority, but he and other priesthood leaders such as George Q. Cannon and Lorenzo Snow still believed in President Woodruff as the President of the High Priesthood.(149) Likewise, an examination of the life of Wilford Woodruff after giving the 1890 Manifesto shows he was still in favor with the Lord. This is most obvious as one reads of the marvelous spiritual experiences he enjoyed in conjunction with the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893. During the dedicatory services, President Woodruff disclosed a portion of what the Lord had revealed to him:

I feel at liberty to reveal to this assembly this morning what has been revealed to me since we were here yesterday morning. If the veil could be taken from our eyes and we could see into the spirit world, we would see that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor had gathered together every spirit that ever dwelt in the flesh in this Church since its organization. We would also see the faithful apostles and elders of the Nephites who dwelt in the flesh in the days of Jesus Christ. In that assembly we would also see Isaiah and every prophet and apostle that ever prophesied of the great work of God. In the midst of these spirits we would see the Son of God, the Savior, who presides and guides and controls the preparing of the Kingdom of God on the earth and in heaven.(150)

It seems inconsistent to claim that the Lord might have withdrawn priesthood keys from Wilford Woodruff in 1890 and yet three years later given him such grand revelations in conjunction with the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. Any inquiry into the spirituality of President Woodruff would support the belief that his calling as Prophet and President of the High Priesthood(151) was not compromised by issuing the Manifesto.


Some have written that Wilford Woodruff held priesthood keys that were not passed on to Lorenzo Snow after President Woodruff's death.(152) This novel doctrine is difficult to defend in light of the marvelous vision Lorenzo Snow received after the death of President Woodruff as related by President Snow's granddaughter, Allie Young Pond:

One evening when I was visiting Grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the doorkeepers had gone and the night-watchman had not yet come in, so grandpa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser.

After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor, leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grandpa when he stopped me saying: "Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff."

Then grandpa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: "He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold."(153)

It is apparent from this vision that after the death of Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow was the Lord's Prophet upon the earth. It is interesting to note that at the time, several members of the proposed 1886 Council of Friends were living. However, the Lord did not recognize their purported priesthood positions and instead appeared to the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to deliver His message concerning the reorganization of the First Presidency.


In 1886, seven men were supposed to have been set apart as members of the proposed Council of Friends. They were:

John Taylor
Wilford Woodruff
John W. Woolley
Lorin C. Woolley
George Q. Cannon
Samuel Bateman
Charles Wilkins

It is suggested that just prior to John Taylor's death, Joseph F. Smith was summoned from Hawaii and ordained to the Council as well.(154) A significant problem with the overall seniority exists, especially in light of the absence of Lorenzo Snow and the fact that Joseph F. Smith was the last man added.(155) Nevertheless, most Fundamentalist authors believe John W. Woolley was somehow next in seniority to Wilford Woodruff and superior to all other members of the proposed council.(156)

In 1914 John W. Woolley was excommunicated from the Church. Joseph F. Smith personally started the excommunication process as he learned of John W. Woolley's unauthorized polygamist activities.(157) The reader is reminded that at the time of his excommunication, John W. Woolley said nothing of any 1886 ordination or his proposed position in the Council of Friends.(158) If we believe that Joseph F. Smith still held the keys of sealing in 1914 and they had not yet passed from the Church as many Fundamentalists believe, a somewhat complicated scenario must have then occurred.

The authors have concluded that when Joseph F. Smith had excommunicated John W. Woolley, who was by Musser's definition "God's mouthpiece" on earth by virtue of his seniority in the Council of Friends,(159) he would have been committing a very serious sin. Such a transgression (if it really were such) might have naturally caused the sealing keys to have passed out of the Church with the excommunication of the proposed senior priesthood officer (John W. Woolley). Nevertheless, few, if any, Fundamentalists believe that this occurred and many assert that Joseph F. Smith retained the keys until his death in 1918.(160)

The idea that Joseph F. Smith was still approved of the Lord up until his death is strongly supported by observing the wonderful vision given to him shortly before his demise which is now found as Section 138 in the Doctrine and Covenants. On October 3, 1918, President Smith recorded:

...the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the host of the dead both small and great.(161)

The account proceeds to relate a most marvelous vision which has greatly enhanced our understanding of missionary work in the spirit world. It is unlikely that the Lord would have given such a wonderful manifestation to Joseph F. Smith if he had sinned in excommunicating John W. Woolley or was not the Lord's mouthpiece upon the earth in 1918.


Along with issuing the 1890 manifesto, the most popular event that Fundamentalists promote as causing the keys of sealing to leave The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in conjunction with the death of Joseph F. Smith in 1918.(162) It is believed that President Smith retained his authority and favor with the Lord during his lifetime despite the following actions which he took:

1. Denying authorization for polygamous marriages during his presidency

2. Issuing the 1904 Manifesto

3. Excommunicating members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for continuing to practice plural marriage(163)

Heber J. Grant became president of the Church in 1918 which some identify as the time the keys left the Church. Others promote the idea that the keys did not leave until a few years later or in conjunction with the death of Anthon H. Lund in 1921.(164) Regardless, by the time Lorin C. Woolley remembered his 1886 ordination in the early 1920's, Fundamentalists were united in the hope that the keys of sealing were controlled by individuals outside the Church.


The diagram below shows several groups which claim priesthood authority through a line of succession from Lorin Woolley to Joseph W. Musser and beyond. An analysis of this authority line is also fraught with problems. The individuals in question include:

to (1934)
to (1935)
to (1949)

Each of these three proposed transferrals of sealing authority deserves special attention.


It appears relatively certain that J. Leslie Broadbent was called to be Lorin Woolley's Second Elder,(165) and was therefore to succeed him as the senior member of the proposed Council of Friends. Nevertheless, Lorin C. Woolley taught that one night in the Spring of 1932 he was met by one of the three Nephite Apostles who had been translated.(166) Supposedly he transported Lorin to the Yucatan, Mexico, and where Woolley conferred some or all of his purported priesthood keys to a Lamanite Prophet living there.(167) One account of the visit written by a "Woolley" Independent:

Concerning some possible times when Lorin C. Woolley ordained his successor among the Indians, the following experiences are well documented:

Around the Church conference time, some of the believers in the "Fullness" generally gathered together at one of the homes of the saints in order to listen to the Conference. In the Spring of 1932, after some of the saints had gathered together for such an occasion, some of the saints stayed over night at the home where they had congregated.

During the night, one of the saints awoke, as a conversation was taking place in the living room. One of the voices was recognized as Lorin C. Woolley's, who had been staying there during the night. The person, however, did not join those in the living room, thinking it was a private matter. The saint then heard those in the living room walk toward the front door, open it, and go out, closing the door after them.

After they left, she went into the living room and while passing the room where Lorin Woolley had been sleeping, the voice of the Spirit spoke to her telling her to stop and to look toward the room, the door being open. A thing she would never do otherwise, she turned and noticed that only Lorin Woolley's bed was empty. John Y. Barlow was in a deep sleep next to where Lorin Woolley had been sleeping, and all others were in their bed. It was a puzzle then to think of whom Lorin Woolley could have been talking with.

The next day, at the breakfast table, the conversation turned to instances when Lorin Woolley had on various occasions gone to perform important responsibilities of a highly spiritual nature. John Y. Barlow then said that the next time Lorin went, he would go with him and that Lorin would not be able to go without him, for he would stay right close to him. The woman who had witnessed the events of the night, then quickly answered to the effect, `O, I don't know about that.' Lorin Woolley then turned to her and said, `What do you know about it?' She then related her experience. Lorin Woolley then explained that he had been talking with one of the three Nephites. He said he knew someone else had awakened, whom he hoped would come out into the living room as a witness of the conversation, and that if she had done so, he would have introduced the visitor....

All were now anxious to learn where Brother Lorin had gone. He then explained that he had been taken by one of the three Nephites to the Yukatan.

This was not the only time, but there were other occasions when he was miraculously taken to the Yucatan and other places...

Lorin Woolley explained that he was taken to a city of white Nephites, secreted in a jungle area in the Yukatan peninsula. He explained that when he was first taken there, he found them living the Fullness of the Gospel, including Plural Marriage. They had a temple and were very industrious, delightsome and righteous people.(168)

Another account contains additional details:

On April 7th, 1932, according to Lorin Woolley's testimony, he was visited in the night by an angel of the Lord, who conducted him to the southern end of Old Mexico, to a holy city of white indians, or nephites, well concealed on a high plateau of a great jungle vastness. He found them with their temple and a quorum of twelve, living the fullness of the gospel to perfection.

Under the direction of this angel, Lorin C. Woolley conferred all the priesthood keys which he held upon the head of their senior chief apostle, -- the mighty and wise prophet, known better in holy writ as the Branch.

Two years later, on Sept. 19, 1934, Lorin C. Woolley passed away, thereby making the transfer of seniority to this great Branch Prophet complete.(169)

The Lamanite prophet mentioned supposedly started preaching to the Lamanites in 1930.(170) The question arises regarding the keys supposedly passed to J. Leslie Broadbent in 1934, if they had already been given to a Lamanite Prophet in 1932.(171) This is the basis of the claims of the "Woolley" Independents. They believe that the keys were given to a prophet in the Yucatan and that all other alleged priesthood lines from Lorin C. Woolley are counterfeit.(172)


The issue of whether or not John Y. Barlow held the keys after J. Leslie Broadbent supposedly held them is easy to address. In November of 1936, the matter was directly confronted by those following John Y. Barlow and the Council of Friends.

For many months prior to November, 1936, John Y. Barlow had been managing the temporal affairs of the believers in Shortcreek, Arizona. Some dissatisfaction arose with his leadership, but the believers continued to follow him because they believed he held the keys and was the Lord's prophet. Musser wrote of the incident in his journal:

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. (Journal of Joseph W. Musser November 8, 1936.) [Bold added.]

Here we have reliable record that Barlow admitted not having the keys of the priesthood in 1936. It is unlikely that a man could hold the keys of the priesthood and be unaware of it.(173) Therefore, one would normally conclude that in 1936, John Y. Barlow, the senior member of the Council of Friends did not hold the priesthood keys.

This frank admission by John Barlow has cause some Fundamentalist authors to assume that the keys passed from J. Leslie Broadbent to Joseph W. Musser.(174) This idea contrasts with Joseph W. Musser's teachings in June, 1935 as recorded in his journal:

[I] explained the proper order of leadership -- this at the request of President Barlow, and in response to a question from the brethren. That Bro. Barlow is at the head no matter where he is. That under his direction men may be appointed to take charge of certain work, as had been done, and that they will be respected in their positions, but always be subject to the head.(175) (Journal of Joseph W. Musser, June 13, 1935.)

Naturally the question arises as to how John Y. Barlow could have been "at the head" and obviously presiding over Joseph Musser, and yet have Musser somehow holding the priesthood keys? It becomes a bit confusing and certainly contrasts the more orderly priesthood leadership set up by Joseph Smith and perpetuated since his death through succession by the Senior Apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


It is difficult to believe that Joseph Musser could have obtained priesthood keys that John Y. Barlow admitted he did not have. Additional problems with believing that Musser ever held those priesthood keys comes from the candid acknowledgment that Musser did not know where the keys were in 1936. In conjunction with the question of whether John Y. Barlow held priesthood keys, Musser recorded his teachings to the people:

J. W. Musser explained his views on Priesthood matters: 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. (Journal of Joseph W. Musser, November 13, 1936.) [Bold by the authors.]

So in 1936 the senior member of the Council of Friends clearly states that he does not hold the priesthood keys and the second in seniority admits the Lord had not revealed to him who did possess them. It therefore becomes difficult to understand how Musser could have later held them. He never claimed a separate visitation from Elijah or any other prophet to have restored them to the earth a second time in this dispensation, nor would we expect such to be necessary.


After the death of Joseph W. Musser, a major split occured. Other divergent groups have also separated since that time.(176) An analysis of the major division between the Allred group (or Church of the United Apostolic Brethren) and the Colorado City, Arizona polygamists will not be made. Nevertheless, it is doubtful that any priesthood authority Musser might have held could have persisted through the ugly disagreements that followed Musser's death.(177) Even after Rulon Allred was murdered, questions arose concerning the priesthood keys and his successor.(178)


It appears that, in the 1930's, even the polygamists following the Council of Friends were concerned who held the priesthood keys. This is probably what prompted Musser to teach his followers in 1938:

It is the mission of the Priesthood group at the present time to teach the fullness. Stop quibbling about who holds the "keys" but each magnify his particular calling and see to it that no day passes that they are not engaged in advancing the cause of the Kingdom. (Journal of Joseph W. Musser, August 12, 1938.)

It is likely that those men and women practicing plural marriage in 1938 were wondering how they might advance "the cause of the Kingdom" if their leaders did not hold the priesthood keys.


An examination of the origin and the line of priesthood succession for those claiming sealing authority through Lorin C. Woolley discloses several important concerns. There is much in the historical record to suggest that the 1886 ordinations never occurred and little beyond Woolley's testimony to recommend them. Even if Woolley had received special authority, it appears unlikely that that authority could have persisted to the present day and be available for modern practitioners of plural marriage.


146. D&C 132:7, 18, 19.

147. Jesse Burke Stone, An Event Of The Underground Days, p.8 suggests that the "Keys of the Kingdom" were given to John W. Woolley in 1886, but that those keys only allowed him to "preside over the grand council of the kingdom" which apparently was not a priesthood council.

148. Truth 6:21-22, 8:262, 9:142, 144, 251, 10:329, 16:79; Sermons of Leroy S. Johnson, Hildale, Utah: Twin City Courier Press, 1984, volume 1, p. 211.

149. Collected Discourses, 2:128 (Lorenzo Snow), 132-133 (George Q. Cannon).

150. Archibald F. Bennett, Saviors on Mount Zion, pp. 142-143. Quoted in Joseph Heinerman, Temple Manifestations, Salt Lake City, Utah: Magazine Printing and Publishing, 1974, pp. 118-119.

151. D&C 107:65.

152. An Event On The Underground, p. 8. See also Truth 9:74-75 and Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 12.

153. LeRoi C. Snow, "Remarkable Manifestation to Lorenzo Snow," The Deseret News, Church Section, Saturday, April 2, 1938, pp. 3, 6. Quoted in Temple Manifestations, pp. 135-136.

154. A Priesthood Issue, p. 25. There is a problem with the Fundamentalist story that President Taylor instructed Joseph F. Smith in the membership of the COUNCIL OF FRIENDS prior to his death. Samuel Bateman recorded in his journal:

The 18 Monday [July, 1887] At Do. I stayed with the President till after 12 o'clock midnight. He seemed to be about the same, only a little weaker. Was bothered in his mind a good deal as he has been for several days. Rained quite a shower. No mail today. This afternoon Joseph F. Smith arrived here from the Sandwich Islands. Bro. Albert Davis went and met him up in Idaho territory. Bro. John Woolley met them at Brigham City and brought them here....

The 20 Wednesday ... The President seems about the same only weaker.

The 21 Thursday ... The President still weaker...

The 22 Friday ...The President still continues to grow weaker.

The 23 Saturday ... At 1 o'clock p.m. the President took a decided change for the worse, his pulse stopped beating.

The 24 Sunday ...The President no better, still weaker.

The 25 Monday At Do. The President much weaker. I lay down after 4 o'clock. Got up before 10 o'clock a.m. Stayed by the President the rest of the day. At about 6 o'clock p.m., he took a decided change for the worst. At bout a quarter to 8 o'clock p.m., I saw that he was going. I told Bro. Malin to call the folks in, and he breathed his last 5 minutes to 8 o'clock p.m...

These entries show that President Taylor was "bothered in his mind" prior to the arrival of Joseph F. Smith and that his health only deteriorated until his death a week later. The Fundamentalist story of President Taylor instructing and ordaining Joseph F. Smith after the latter arrived in Utah from the Sandwich Islands appears to have been impossible and is unsupported by the events as related by President Taylor's body guard, Samuel Bateman.

155. The question of why Lorenzo Snow ascended to the presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints even though he was not a member of the proposed 1886 COUNCIL OF FRIENDS exists. The question of the location of the Keys of Sealing during President Smith's presidency also looms. An analysis of this complicated issue of the proposed seniority of the fundamentalist COUNCIL OF FRIENDS between 1890 and 1918 will not be provided here.

156. Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 27.

157. See chapter four.

158. Ibid.

159. Ibid.

160. The Notes p. 394; Guy Musser ed., Star of Truth, 4 vols. Salt Lake City, Utah: N.p., 1953-1956, 4:51, Gems, 1:4-5.

161. D&C 138:11.

162. The Notes p. 394; Guy Musser, Star of Truth, vols. 1-4, Murray, Utah, N.p., 1953-1957. 4:51; Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, pp. 12, 14, 24, 28. B. Harvey Allred, A Leaf in Review, Draper, Utah: Review and Preview Publishers, 1980, pp. 40-41.

163. Obvious examples include John W. Woolley and Judson Tolman. The Quorum of the Twelve, under Joseph F. Smith's direction, was put in charge of discovering and excommunicating members who continued plural marriage without proper authority.

164. Gems 1:4; Rulon C. Allred, Treasures of Knowledge, Hamilton, Montana: Bitterroot Publishing Co., 2 Vols. 1981-1982, 2:201; Truth 16:78, The Notes p. 395.

165. Journal of Joseph W. Musser September 30, 1934.

166. 3 Nephi 28:1-9

167. Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated, pp. 317-318, 329-330. Journal of Joseph W. Musser July 20, 1935. Reminiscences of John W. Woolley and Lorin C. Woolley, Vol. 2, (Price W. Johnson interviewed June, 1971), p. 22.

168. Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated pp. 317-318. The authors unfortunately list their source as their own "Journal Notes" which are entirely unavailable for review concerning their reliability. Nonetheless, many other independent sources verify that Lorin Woolley taught he was transported to the Yucatan, Mexico and there ordained an Indian prophet. See A Leaf in Review, p. 219 and Journal of Joseph W. Musser, July 20, 1935.

169. Norman C. Pierce, 3 1/2 Years, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1963, pp. 77-78.

170. Items from a Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, pp. 15, 21.

171. Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated, p. 325.

172. It is reported that Joseph Musser and others attempted, without success, to visit the Yucatan, Mexico, in 1951 to meet the purported Lamanite Prophet. See Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated, p. 326.

173. Musser taught that such keys were personally given by the Lord through a divine visitation and ordination. See chapter six.

174. The Notes p. 394 lists John Y. Barlow as a "President of the Priesthood" but has his name in parenthesis. The significance of the parenthesis is not specified. See also "The Succession of the Keys of the Priesthood," an article printed in The Branch, a magazine published by Christ's Church, June, 1981. The article was republished in Restoration, Vol. 1, No. 3, (July 1982), pp. 11-14. This article contains useful copyrighted diagrams of the fundamentalist priesthood organization and the line of authority. John Y. Barlow is not listed as a President of the Priesthood between J. Leslie Broadbent and Joseph W. Musser.

175. See also Life of Charles Frederick Zitting, pp. 61-62, 66, 70.

176. One group was headed by Gerald Peterson (see Restoration Vol. 1, No. 3 (July, 1982) pp.11-14). Many of "Woolley" Independents have had association with the more prominent groups, only to later split away claiming their own special priesthood conduit to deity.

177. Gems 1:33-45 recounts the split after Musser's death from the Allred side. The whole issue of "Second Elder" and the legitimacy of Rulon Allred's position deserves special consideration and has been analyzed in an unpublished manuscript by one of the authors.

178. Weeks after the death of Rulon Allred, Owen Allred, his successor, commented to Fred C. Collier that he did not know where the priesthood keys were (personal conversation with Fred Collier).