On 17 December 1958, Ross Wesley LeBaron wrote a letter to J. Marion Hammon condemning the path taken by the Mormon Fundamentalist Priesthood Council:
Whenever an organization casts out the thinkers of its membership, and only keeps the “yes men” and “blind followers”, it soon comes to an end.
LeBaron is referring above to an earlier event (“a number of years ago”, he wrote) in which J. Marion Hammon had asked him to not come to the Fundamentalist meetings anymore. The authoritarian way chosen by Hammon, as seem by LeBaron, was of no small consequence, and prompted him the following comparison:
It was this kind of a situation that prevailed in Jerusalem at the time of the beheading of John The Baptist and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Ross LeBaron also suggests that the Mormon Fundamentalist Council was acting in a similar ways to the corporate LDS Church, by developing their own orthodoxy and by silencing individuals:
One can safely say that the prophecies used by the Fundamentalists against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pertain to themselves, too, at least to a degree.
The Crossroads of the 1950’s
The 1950’s were a period of conflict and identity definition within the Mormon Fundamentalist movement. Disputes had already started to appear after the death of J. Leslie Broadbent in 1935 and were intensified after the 1944 raid against the Short Creek polygamists. Two major divisions were then led by Joseph W. Musser and John Y. Barlow over priesthood authority and marriage practices.
J. Marion Hammon (1905-1988) was one of the men ordained as Apostles of Jesus Christ and called to be a member of the Priesthood Council by John Y. Barlow, before his death in 1949 — the same year Joseph W. Musser suffered a debilitating stroke.
That decade was also of crucial importance for the sons of Maud and Alma Dayer LeBaron. They would definitely break off from the Mormon Fundamentalist movement by forming their own church. The Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times was incorporated by Ross, Joel and Floren LeBaron in September, 1955. As their original hierarchy was altered by his brothers, Ross LeBaron then incorporated the Church of the First-Born in the following December.
Decades later, in a further development of Mormon Fundamentalism, J. Marion Hammon would be one of the main leaders of Centennial Park, serving his community until his death in 1988.
The Patriarchal Priesthood
In this letter to J. Marion Hammon, Ross LeBaron not only makes a passionate defense of free agency in religious matters, but also boldly states his claim to the Patriarchal Priesthood and his heirship to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
I HOLD THE RIGHT OF THE FIRST-BORN OF THE LINEAGE OF JOSEPH SMITH , JR., AND AM THE PRESIDENT OF THE PATRIARCHAL PRIESTHOOD TO ALL THE WORLD.
LeBaron says in the letter that his priesthood claim had been misunderstood as an attempt to preside over the Fundamentalist Council.
When I tried to explain these things to the Council members, years ago, the brethren thought that I was trying to preside over them and they wanted me out of the way.
Different keys, different works
LeBaron did recognize the sealing keys held by the Fundamentalists, but suggests in his correspondence that the High Priest Apostles were claiming priesthood keys that were actually beyond their callings:
What would the people say if the leaders of the Fundamentalists should call me to the stand and announce: “Here is the man who hold the patriarchal keys that we have been claiming to hold all these years.”
To read or download the letter, click here.
Ross LeBaron. Letter to Mr. J. Marion Hammon, dated 17 December, 1958. James D. Wardle Papers, Box 21, Folder 10. University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections.