Christopher Blythe: The Crafting of a New Religious Movement

The following is an excerpt from historian Christopher Blythe‘s master thesis on Ross LeBaron, submitted to the Utah State University in 2009. In his work, Blythe characterizes Ross LeBaron as “a religion maker in the same sense as Joseph Smith or Jesus Christ, in that he brought forth new concepts, which diverged from previous orthodox norms” (p. 04).

Ogie’s Cafe, in Salt Lake City, Utah used by Ross LeBaron and associates for “priesthood meetings” | Photo: Antonio Trevisan

The Crafting of a New Religious Movement

In order to teach students the intricacies encapsulated in a “full-fledged” religion, Catherine Albanese has developed a system of four Cs: Code, Community, Creed, and Cultus.[1]  The first category, Code, embraces the notion that religions necessarily introduce a system of morals and ethics by which adherents make life decisions.  The second category, Community, includes social structure and hierarchy, as well as the manner in which believers relate to the non-believing world.  The third category, Creed, includes not simply a formal statement of belief, but a discussion of beliefs and theology embraced by the community of believers.  Finally, the fourth category, Cultus, is a technical word simply meaning ritual which embraces both formal ceremony and the practice of the believers. (For example, this includes informal prayer, the study of scripture, and sermonizing.)  In this section, Albanese’s convenient system is used in order to study the religion developed by Ross Wesley LeBaron.  Yet, before we discuss the basic four categories introduced above, a fifth C of particular usefulness when studying Mormon traditions – the claim – is presented. Continue reading