Note: The following information was originally posted at polygamyinfo.com — a site that now has been offline for a couple of years. It is reposted here as a research resource.
Note from Apologetics Index:
The vast majority of groups listed are offshoots of the Mormon Church. They were established after the Mormon Church disavowed polygamy — which Joseph Smith, the church’s founder, had called “the most holy and important doctrine ever revealed to man on earth.”
Smith taught that a man needed at least three wives to attain the “fullness of exaltation” in the afterlife. He had warned that God had explicitly commanded that “all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same … and if ye abide not that covenenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.”
It is therefore not surprising that the offshoots held on to this ‘fundamental’ doctrines — and are hence known as ‘Mormon Fundamentalists‘.
As a matter of fact, the doctrines and practices of Mormon Fundamentalists are closer to those of the original Mormon Church than are the doctrines and practices of today’s Mormon Church.
The following list of polygamous sects is not exhaustive. See also the Polygamy Leadership Tree.
In our work and communications with refugees exiting the cults of polygamy, the numbers of polygamist are larger than those figures reported by Utah Attorney General’s office or the media and growing everyday. Although our information gathering may be informal, it does come directly from the mouths of those who have been there.
We have also spoke to some Utah State officials who agree behind closed doors, that the true figures are closer to that of 80-110 thousand polygamists in the State of Utah alone. A number of these groups have colonies in other states and/or countries.
Corporation of the Fundamentalist Church (FLDS)
Prophet Rulon T. Jeffs recently died leaving his son, Warren Jeffs ( Who has already over 50 wives) as the leader of 11,000 to 16,000 members. (Rulon Jeffs–married 22 women, fathered more than 60 children. at last count) The headquarters are in Hildale, Utah, but the group has a strong presence in the border Colorado City, Ariz. and a large ranch in Texas as well. In Utah the town was once known as Short Creek, were the site of the last effort to prosecute polygamists in 1953….
Apostolic United Brethren (The Allred Group)
The group, headed by 85-year-old Owen Allred, is centered in Bluffdale, south of Salt Lake City. It has members in Idaho, Nevada, Montana, England and Mexico. They have developed an underground following in the United Kingdom. Allred, who claims eight wives, has said the group has 6,000 members. Some estimates place membership as high as 9,000 or more.
Latter-day Church of Christ (Kingston Clan)
The Kingston cooperative is formally led by Merlin Kingston, an elderly patriarch, but Paul Ortell Kingston is believed to function as the church’s spiritual and economic leader.
The cooperative owns more than 24 companies, but the holdings are difficult to trace. The group has amassed a $150-million business empire, running companies in Utah Nevada and Idaho. The cooperative is headquartered in South Salt Lake City, but has holdings in Nevada, Idaho and Arizona and Mexico. It is considered the most affluent and most secretive group. Authorities believe the group has an estimated 1,200 members, although some members say it has as many as 3000.
The Church of Jesus Christ in Solemn Assembly
The Church of Jesus Christ in Solemn Assembly was formed by Alexander Joseph in 1974 after he left the Apostolic United Brethren in which he had been a prominent leader. Joseph has actively pressed the rights of polygamists in general and his Church in particular. Shortly after founding the Church, he attempted to homestead federal land but was denied access by court order.
He moved to Glen Canyon, Kane county, Utah, and established a new town incorporated as Big Water, the current location of the Church’s headquarters. Several hundred families still inhabit this growing community and are following the practices set up by their leader. Joseph became the first mayor of the town in 1983. Joseph died in late 1999, previously in 1983 he claimed to have 10 wives. He is the author of one book, Dry Bones: A Resurrection of Ancient Understandings, a commentary on the Pearl of Great Price (a well known LDS set of scriptures.)
The True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (The Church of the First born and/or T.L.C.)
Headquartered in Manti, the group is governed by James Harmston, who claims to be the reincarnation of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith. Harmston, a former Mormon, was excommunicated for advocating polygamy. Today, he and about 300 to 500 members own several buildings in Manti, including an assembly hall.
Righteous Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (A.K.A. Christ Church Inc. )
This small group of about 100 people 80 miles west of St. George in Modena. This group was founded by Gerald Peterson, whom has since died and his son has taken over. Gerald, who laid claim that the ghost of Rulon Allred, who founded the Short Creek community, returned to restore the priesthood to him. Numbers in this group a still a bit sketchy at this time.
They built a temple, in a shape of a pyramid within 2300 days after the LDS Church gave Priesthood to the blacks who prior were not allowed to hold this religious position in the mainstream LDS church. Petersons group claims that Joseph Smith released the General Authorities of the LDS Church right before they did this and that the Church was set in order by Joseph Smith with new General Authorities who live the fullness of the gospel.
The Church of Jesus Christ in Zion-originating from Independence, Missouri
This little known Group is headed by Roger Billings, who like so many is a former member of the mainstream L.D.S. church. Billings, is a scientist, engineer and inventor prior to creating his own sect. The Billings Business Computer was an early competitor of Apple and he was the originator of many ideas in spreadsheets, databases, etc. He has now created his own following of people who practice the doctrine polygamy as well as other teachings of the fundamentalist beliefs among his members. Some estimates on the number of members to this group range near the one thousand mark at present. This group is active on the internet with a site that does live and canned sermon broadcasts.
The Original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
This group was a splinter group began shortly after the death of Joseph Smith by James J. Strang June 18, 1844. Their beliefs include a tolerance of polygamy as well as a higher authority than that of Brigham Young. They also believe that Young was summoned to a trial and excommunicated by a high council on April 6, 1846. Young in turn claimed that he excommunicated James J. Strang, but there was never a notice for Strang to appear, nor was there ever a trial for Strang. About 10,000 people acknowledged the appointment of James J. Strang. They are now located in Burlington, Wisconsin and lay claim to about 300 members that with a larger following throughout the world.
The Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times
This group is was founded by the sons of Alma Dayer LeBaron, a polygamy-practicing Mormon who lived at Colonia Juarez, a Mexican Mormon settlement where many went to escape anti-polygamy laws in the United States. His children, Benjamin, Ross Wesley, Joel, Ervil, and Alma, each became founders of a new Church. First, in 1944 Benjamin declared himself a prophet. Several of the brothers supported his claim, most notably Ervil, but most of the family quickly recognized that his claims were mixed with some mental pathology. Few followed him and he spent much of his life in and out of mental institutions.
Ross Wesley proclaimed himself a prophet, specifically the “One Mighty and Strong” who would put the House of God in order as prophesied by Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants 85:7, and the heir to his fathers patriarchal authority which the LeBarons believed had been passed through the family from Benjamin F. Johnson, A.D. LeBarons grandfather. Ross Wesley still has a small following in Utah.
It was in the context of membership in a family within which two brothers had already claimed prophet-hood that Joel became the third. According to his account, in 1955 he was visited by two heavenly messengers and told that he was the “One Mighty and Strong”. He incorporated the Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times in September of that year in Salt Lake City and the next spring formally organized the new body. He appointed his brother Ervil secretary and head of the Mexican Mission.
Of the several Churches to grow out of the LeBaron family, three, the Church of the First Born of the Fullness of Times and the small bodies headed by Ross Wesley and Alma, seem to still be in existence.
The Church of the First Born
There is wildly varying beliefs, some believe that you must sign over all of your property, including bank accounts and monthly payments in order to be blessed with the ordinances. They believe that one should be connected to the royal priesthood of the Celestial Kingdom by the law of adoption and other higher ordinances of the house of Lord. The memberships numbers are unconfirmed at this time.
Christ of the First Born
Original leader, infamous polygamist Thomas Green was sent to prison in August of 2001 to serve two consecutive five year sentences for polygamy, rape of a child one count of Criminal Non-support of his 28 children. They were originally located in Greenhaven Utah but in the absence of Green, some of the members of this group have left, leaving the number of the current membership is unknown at this time. Prior to the conviction of Green, the membership fluctuated around 100 independents.
Jesus Christ of the United Order
This sect is located in the Sacramento/Folsom California area. The leader, Luis Alberto Gonzalez has been brought up on charges of spousal rape, stalking and sexual abuse of a child. It is not known at this time who the leader is of this several hundred member group. Their focus in the past is converting non-English speaking Hispanics to their clan.
Sons Ahman Israel
This group is led by David Israel (a.k.a. Gilbert Clark) originally members of the A.U.B. and now a splinter group of their own.
Joe Thompson group- (title Unknown)
After excommunication from the A.U.B. Thompson created his own group information on this is sketchy at best…
Church of Christ (Patriarchal)
Another group to splinter off from the A.U.B, leadership at this point is not widely known, since the originally leader John Bryant is living in southern California with his third wife after leaving polygamy and the group behind. The last known location of the group was Salem Oregon current information says the group may have splinter into several.
Celestial Church (newly discovered-Limited information)
According to their website they are located in the Mid-west and boast claims of 60,000 members in several states. They provide audio sermons via the net and also a dating/mating service. They are Mormon Fundamentalist based.
The Biblical Patriarchal Christian Fellowship of God’s Free Men and Women
His is one of the many Christian polygamous organizations thorough out the world which claims over 14 thousand memberships and growing everyday. They have sold their holdings in Circleville, Utah and now moved to the state of Washington. They also have branches in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Seattle/Puget Sound and Lewisburg, West Virginia.
A Widow’s Mite Foundation a.k.a. The Sealed Portion
Founded by Christopher Marc Nemelka, a polygamist from Utah has created a new cult in San Diego. After splintering from his group in Southern Utah and much litigation over child support with former wives, Nemelka has moved to southern California to establish another Zion. The number of followers are unknown at this time as this is a new group it is expected to grow rapidly in the beginning as many do.
Israel has given permanent resident status to the “Black Hebrews, ” a community of black Americans, some of whom have been in the country since 1969, the Interior Ministry said. The government granted the status to the group of about 2,000 American citizens, who followed Chicago bus driver Ben Ami Carter to the southern Israeli desert town of Dimona in the belief that they are descended from the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Favoring stark black robes with elaborate inlaid designs, Black Hebrews constitute one of Israel’s most unusual groups. They practice polygamy, shun birth control, and refrain from eating meat, dairy products, eggs and sugar. Many of the Black Hebrews entered Israel as tourists and were in the country illegally until the Interior Ministry granted them temporary residency in 1992.
The prevalence of polygamy continue in the communities with heavy Hmong populations, more than 25 years after Hmong began arriving in the United States. No one has been able to put a finger on the number of people involved in polygamous families in Minnesota. The state has about 42,000 Hmong, including more than 24,000 in St. Paul, the largest Hmong population of any American city. The Hmong aided the CIA in Laos during the Vietnam war and came to the United States as refugees. There are estimates between 270 and 450 men are practicing polygamy in Minnesota, each with an average of two wives and 14 children. That would be as many as 7,600 men, women and children who are living in polygamous families. clans still support arranged marriages, and most husbands are still expected to pay a bride price ranging from $6,000 to upwards of $10,000.
The 2000 U.S. Census counted 169,428 Hmong in the United States, a 90 percent jump from 1990. But the Hmong Studies Resource Center in St. Paul, Minn., which compiles demographic data, contends the actual number of Hmong in the United States is double that. According to the census, North Carolina had 7,100 Hmong; state and local officials, along with Hmong leaders, put the actual number at more like 20,000.
The Tarheel State ranks fourth in Hmong population, behind California (66,000), Minnesota (42,000) and Wisconsin (34,000), the Census Bureau says; There are communities in Utah, California and other western states as well.
Mormon Fundamentalist and Christian Polygamists.
An independent is an individual family or group of families who are not technically organized but may have similar beliefs with some variations from family to family. Approximately another 50,000 Independents separate of these large organizations inhabit the State of Utah.
Besides the several larger and more well-known groups discussed here, numerous small independent polygamy-practicing churches exist throughout the Rocky Mountain area from Montana, Washington, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Missouri, Michigan and Idaho to name just some of the locations.
Polygamy was once believed to be only a problem of Utah but, we have had contact with current and former members of polygamous groups in all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico.
These are only some of the more well known polygamous cults, there are common occurrences of splits with in the groups and new groups formed frequently. This makes it increasingly harder to keep track of them. These figures may also be on the conservative side since the polygamous sector of our society is the fast breeding sector in the United States today.
The above information was originally posted at polygamyinfo.com — a site that now has been offline for a couple of years. [Web Archive] It is reposted here as a research resource.