Priesthood Expounded is the last tract published by Ross LeBaron during his lifetime. It contains, among other themes, his views on the different orders of the priesthood, his belief in the Adam-God doctrine and reincarnation, as well as an explanation of the coming of Elijah to the Nauvoo temple, an event LeBaron believed was essential to the understanding of the Patriarchal keys received by Benjamin F. Johnson.
Ross Wesley LeBaron in January, 1984. | Photo courtesy of Tom Green
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.
Bill Cook, J. Marion Hammon, LeRoy S. Johnson and John Y. Barlow in Short Creek, AZ. Date unknown. | Photo courtesy of the blog historicalshortcreek.wordpress.com
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: Continue reading →
Ross W. LeBaron claimed to have “the patriarchal keys of the lineage of the Prophet Joseph”. He considered his heirship to the Mormon Prophet “the highest title of birth, and the second order of priesthood,” as he stated to Joseph White Musser in 1951. Lebaron believed the Mormon Fundamentalist movement, on the other hand, operated under “the keys of the lineage of Hyrum”. In 1985, LeBaron explained his views of the Fundamentalist priesthood authority in the following manner:
The only possible claim to the sealing power, by the Polygamists after 1890, was through the sealing keys of Hyrum Smith. Those keys were conferred upon John Smith by Brigham Young.
Ross Wesley LeBaron in June, 1977. | Image: Dale Van Atta. Courtesy of L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Brigham Young University.
A religious innovator within the Mormon tradition, Ross LeBaron (1914-1996) organized The Church of the First-Born in 1955. Although commonly identified by outsiders as a Mormon Fundamentalist denomination, LeBaron saw his small organization as being the Church of God the Father, while recognizing the priesthood authority of mainstream LDS Church and the Mormon Fundamentalist movement as different branches of the Church of the Son. LeBaron also reinterpreted the Mormon concept of dispensations as never-ending spiritual jurisdictions, adding his own eighth dispensation that would usher the second coming of Adam.
“Lehi was evidently the first-born of Manasseh; for he followed the patriarchal pattern[,]” wrote Ross LeBaron about the Book of Mormon patriarch. “His youngest son held the right of the first-born (evidently of the tribe of Manasseh). Lehi was patriarch to a new world, Jacob priest, and Nephi King.”
Margarito Bautista (1878-1961) | Image: from his book La Evolución de México, 1935
A Mormon Fundamentalist, Margarito Bautista had an early association with the LeBaron family in Mexico. After his excommunication from the LDS Church, Bautista established a community called Colonia Industrial Nueva Jerusalém, in Ozumba, where he headquartered his church La Plenitude del Reino de Dios (“The Fullness of the Kingdom of God”), affiliated today with the Apostolic United Brethren.
After the death of Dayer LeBaron, in 1951, Margarito Bautista organized part of the LeBaron family living in Mexico into a branch, under the authority of Joseph Musser. Different from his mother Maud and most of his siblings, Ross LeBaron never joined the organization in Colonia LeBaron.
Later, after the LeBaron brothers had established their own church, in 1955, Bautista would pen some anti-LeBaron tracts.
From Bautista’s correspondence with researcher Lyle O. Wright, comes probably the earliest and clearest witness that Alma Dayer LeBaron in fact claimed to hold a special order of the priesthood, unknown to Mormondom and the world, a fact commonly disputed by some historians and apologists. According to Wright, Margarito Bautista stated in a letter in 1959, Continue reading →
Portrait of Brigham Young, by Charles Roscoe Savage, 1855.
Published by Ross W. LeBaron in 1975, the pamphlet Brigham Young Speaks was a compilation of statements on the Adam-God doctrine, without editorial comments. It was the product of Fred Collier’s research, then an adopted son of Ross LeBaron. Later, Collier republished the pamphlet under his name with the title Adam-God in a Nutshell.
In the introduction, Ross LeBaron wrote:
For over seven years now I have been discussing the Adam-God Doctrine over the radio. During this time many have asked questions concerning this principle and wanted proof that it was taught by Joseph Smith as well as by Brigham Young. It is for these people who are searching for answers regarding this question that this pamphlet has been prepared. It consists of statements made by Brigham Young, which were taken from fifty-ne different sermons, all of which have been arranged according to subject as shown in the table of contents.
1. We believe in Michael, the Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ, and in Joseph Smith, the Witness or Testator.
2. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam`s transgression; for He partook of mortality, that He might bring forth mortal bodies for His spiritual offspring.
3. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of the First-born.
4. We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are; first, Faith in Michael the Archangel, and His Son Jesus Christ, and in Joseph the Testator; second, Repentance; third, Baptism, by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Continue reading →
Steve McKinley recollects a conversation with Ross W. LeBaron about the endowment in 1995. The “ambiguous answer” given by Ross, according to Steve, made him “feel better about the changes [made by the LDS Church] in the endowment”. He says he realized that “the reason the endowment was taken away by the Lord was because people didn’t understand it. It didn’t work for them. … It made them responsible for things they didn’t understand.” In this interview, Steve also talks about the way Ross LeBaron gave him instructions and tells an anecdote on Ross’s excitement while watching a music concert on TV.
Francis M. Darter, date unknown. | Image: Family Search
Francis M. Darter (1881-1968) was a prolific Mormon Fundamentalist writer. Among the beliefs he espoused was Pyramidology, which proposed that the Great Pyramid of Giza was a “Bible in stone“, setting dates, through its measures, for the most important events in human history. Such beliefs seem to have been influential on Ross W. LeBaron, as the following letter shows.
LeBaron and Darter had a long association, although they disagreed on many theological topics, such as LeBaron’s claims and understanding of the priesthood keys, the main topic of this open letter. While Ross LeBaron claimed to have “the patriarchal keys of the lineage of the prophet Joseph”, he believed the Mormon Fundamentalist movement operated under “the keys of the lineage of Hyrum”.Continue reading →
Ross Wesley LeBaron in June, 1977. | Photo: Dale Van Atta. Courtesy of L. Tom Perry Special Collections, BYU.
In 1977, as the murderous acts of Ross LeBaron’s brother Ervil gained international attention, journalist Dale Van Atta did some research on the priesthood claims of the LeBaron family. Van Atta later co-authored a book on Ervil LeBaron and his crimes.
The following file can be found among Van Atta’s research papers at the Special Collections of the Brigham Young University. Despite the title on the library catalog – “Interview with Ross LeBaron” -, the document might actually be a transcript of a radio show by Ross LeBaron, in June that year.
According to Ross, the violence was over ownership of land in Mexico, as was well as a Cain-and-Abel war over spiritual rights to preside in Joseph Smith’s patriarchal family. In the following notes, Van Atta reports Ross LeBaron’s ideas on his brothers‘ churches, the Mormon Fundamentalist movement, and his own spiritual position as the heir of Joseph Smith:
Now this is going on in the LeBaron family particularly because we are, definitely, the patriarchal family of the line of the prophet Joseph Smith.