Ross LeBaron as a Ministering Spirit

Ross Wesley LeBaron died in December 1996 without seeing the Second Coming of Adam he clearly expected to happen during his lifetime. Nevertheless, LeBaron believed that his patriarchal work would not only continue but fully develop during the Millennium. The earthly Church of the Firstborn LeBaron had incorporated in 1955 would only meet its heavenly counterpart and function in full power until the ultimate end-time events took place:

The True Church of the First-Born will come about through the organizing of the worthy patriarchal Families in connection with the House of Israel. This will not take place until the return of the Ancient of Days, and the Ten lost Tribes of Israel.[1]

Some of his present-day followers or those who had an association with LeBaron have declared that they were, in some circumstances, able to communicate with, or be influenced by his spirit.

Steve Bkorkman with his son, Sven, Max Gerald “Jerry” Barlow, his wife, Linda, Ross Wesley LeBaron, his wife, Joann Hutchings Knight, Pamela Kunz (out front), Lee Hickenlooper ( in back), Thomas Green, his wife, Linda Kunz Green, Knut J. Knuteson, circa 1985. | Image courtesy of Tom Green.

During a fire that destroyed her house and killed her child in the Utah desert, June Johnson said she saw Ross LeBaron carrying her child away from this mortal realm.

In a time of stress and spiritual quest in the early decade of 2000, Aleen Bennet (Hafen), who had been recently excommunicated from the LDS Church for becoming a plural wife, had a revelatory dream in which LeBaron ministered to her, answering some of her doubts about the LeBaron`s priesthood. She had never met LeBaron in this mortality.

Tom Green reported a detailed, and somewhat humorous, account in which the spirit of his adopted father was present in a more mundane occasion, but having the spiritual significance as to his communication with LeBaron:

On November 21, 1998 I was in Salt Lake buying some wood-burning stoves for our homes. Though most stoves were listed in the paper for $150 to $400 there was one listed for $75. I called on it and an older man, Mr. Peterson, answered my questions; said that it had double doors. I got his address and told him I would be over to see it. Shirley and Cari went with me. We had Llewelyn’s big trailer behind Bill Aldrich’s little pick up.

When we got to Mr. Peterson’s home he and his son (about my age) were doing some welding back by the garage. We greeted them and went back of the garage to look at the stove. As soon as we saw it we knew that it was a good stove. It even had a blower. After he showed us all about the stove and bragged up it’s quality I asked, “What do you want for it?” He said that he wanted $75 for it.

Of course, I knew what was in the paper, but I was planning to ask if he would take $50 and then compromise at $60. But before I could ask, a voice (and it sounded and felt like Ross) said to me, “Ask him if he would take $80.” I argued in my mind with the voice, “But that’s more than he’s asking!” The voice (I’m sure it was Ross) said, “Yes, but you know it’s worth a lot more than that, and so does he.”

So I looked at Mr. Peterson and said, “Would you take $80 for it?” He just stared at me trying to figure out which of us wasn’t hearing the other correctly. His expression was so humorous I burst out laughing and said to his son, “He’s looking at my like I’m crazy.” Mr. Peterson said, “Well usually someone tries to get you to come down on your price. Why, I’ve never in my life had someone ask me if I would take more.”

I only had twenties and pulled out four of them. He looked in his wallet and said, “I don’t have a five, but I’ll go see if the wife does.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. I offered you $80, and you and I both know that it’s worth more than that.” He said, “Well, that’s right. It is worth more.” So he pocketed the twenties and then scurried around coming up with stovepipe, fireplace tools and other items worth about $20.

Mr. Peterson and his son helped us load the stove. As we drove away I thought how strange it was that in his long life no one had ever offered him more than he was asking. I could feel Ross smiling at catching someone off-guard by doing the unexpected. It felt good to feel Ross around again, being his same old self.

Not only Ross LeBaron’s voice was heard by Tom Green, but his presence was also physically felt. When I asked Green for his permission to publish the above account, he commented that

The story (…) about the stove was a wonderful experience for me. I could literally feel Ross standing behind my right shoulder when I heard the words, ‘Offer him $80.’ It was fun – the kind Ross frequently engaged in. [2]

An interesting contrast to the above beliefs and accounts is offered by religious leader and author Fred Collier, who believes LeBaron went “into darkness” for some of his later teachings. For Collier, his former adopted father Ross LeBaron will have to be reincarnated. In the following quote, Collier perhaps seems to suggest that LeBaron will be born as part of Collier’s posterity:

There is no doubt in my mind that there will be another time for Ross — in view of his blessings and inasmuch as the Prophet Joseph taught that it is not all to be accomplished in this lifetime, I verily believe that there will be another for Ross Wesley, however, when it happens he will not be born as a LeBaron. [3]

*

Joann Knight was the last surviving wife of Ross LeBaron. She passed away in December, 2020. Tom Green passed away in February, 2021. They were both victims of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which, if nothing else, seems to be here reminding us how random and chaotic life can be. [4]

Death – our great unknown moment of existence – is often the subject of attention of religious thought. The “god you worship influences the ghosts you see”, writes a psychology professor. Mormonism, in particular, has a rich tradition of teachings on the afterlife, and a lasting heritage of encounters and communications between mortals and their gods or ancestors.

While the accounts of Ross LeBaron ministering to or communicating with those who had outlived him may appear at first unusual within the modern Mormon context, they could probably be interpreted as an expansion of the latter-day-saint concept that “they without us and we without them cannot be made perfect,” with a patriarch guiding and caring for his own posterity.


Notes

[1] Ross Wesley LeBaron. Priesthood Expounded, 1985, p. 11.

[2] E-mail to the author on 8/13/2018.

[3] Doctrinal Teachings of Fred C. Collier, volume 2, p. 1052.

[4] Thomas Arthur Green passed away on February 2021, at age 72. His obituary by his family can be found here. The New York Times reported his death, noticing that he “was the first man in more than 50 years to be prosecuted in Utah for having multiple wives”.

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