Table of Contents:
The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact
(by permission of the author)
I am the only one of the five now living, and so far as I know all five of the brethren remained true and faithful to the covenants they entered into, and to the responsibilities placed upon them at that time....
He [John Taylor] stated that many of the things he had told us we would forget and they would be taken from us, but that they would return to us in due time as needed, and from this fact we would know that the same was from the Lord. This has been literally fulfilled. Many of the things I forgot, but they are coming to me gradually, and those things that come to me are as clear as on the day on which they were given.
The credibility of the Lorin Woolley story may be called into question on the basis that, of the five men purportedly involved in the above-claimed transferal of priesthood authority, he was the only one who recorded the event. Further, his widely publicized recounting did not occur until 1929, long after the rest of those supposedly involved were dead, and five years after Woolley himself had been excommunicated from the Church. Where is John Woolley's account of the alleged meeting and of his supposed reception of special priesthood authority? Likewise, where is there such an account from Samuel Bateman or from Charles Wilcken? What about George Q. Cannon, Joseph F. Smith and John Taylor? Where are their records of these alleged proceedings? Why is there an account from only one participant, and why was that account not written until forty-three years after the "fact"? Where in all such pretensions is compliance with the divine law of witnesses?
The Lord has never permitted the keys of priesthood authority to be transferred without requiring witnesses to bear record of that fact. The law of witnesses stipulates that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall all things be established.1 The Savior said of his own authority: "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true."2 The Prophet Joseph Smith likewise required witnesses. The special mission of Oliver Cowdery as "Second Elder" was to bear witness of priesthood restoration.3 The investiture of priesthood keys by Joseph Smith upon the Twelve Apostles was made known at a meeting of the Council of Fifty and their wives in the spring of 1844. Many of them left written and published testimonies of this event.4 Several testified of it many times throughout their lives.
Lorin Woolley and the Law of Witnesses
What of Lorin Woolley's story of priesthood succession? Where are his witnesses, and where is their testimony? Without witnesses Woolley is without substantiation, and we are not obligated to believe his testimony--it is not in force.
One logically wonders why the account was not published earlier, when it could have been corroborated by witnesses. Could it be that it was purposefully withheld until all those purportedly involved were dead, because the story is fictitious and could not be supported? The story apparently was not conceived until after plural marriage ceremonies were being strenuously suppressed during the presidencies of Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant. President Joseph Fielding Smith said of Lorin Woolley's claim:
No such meeting ever took place.... I knew President George Q. Cannon, Samuel Bateman, and Charles H. Wilcken, and they were true men and they were true to President Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow and to President Joseph F. Smith. Lorin Woolley's stories are afterthoughts uttered when all these men are dead and cannot speak for themselves.5
The Woolley account may further be called into question on the basis that Lorin Woolley impeached his reliability as a witness by admitting that for a number of years he did not remember what had occurred, although he contended that by 1929 he was able to recall these events. This claim of forgetting and remembering was apparently a device used by Lorin Woolley to justify in his own mind, as well as the minds of others, a story that, as a comparison of the various versions shows, grew and changed with each telling.
This forgetting and subsequent remembering was declared as a divine sign of the truth of the story and was used as an appeal to Daniel Bateman, who was persuaded to believe that he too had witnessed the events of 1886 but that they were promptly taken from him. Thus, when he corroborated Lorin Woolley's story in an account published in 1934, he reports being told that "much of the instruction he [John Taylor] was giving us we would forget, but that at the proper time it would come back to us."6 Another account says:
He [Daniel Bateman] stated that the prediction of President Taylor that all things would be brought back to their memory in the proper time, had literally been fulfilled.7
On the strength of this alleged forgetting and remembering process, Bateman was induced to testify of "events" in which he was not personally involved, "events" that Lorin Woolley only told him about. Appended to Lorin Woolley's standard 1929 account is the following statement written by Daniel R. Bateman:
I was not present when the five spoken of by Brother Woolley were set apart for special work, but have on different occasions heard the details of the same related by Brother Lorin C. Woolley and John W. Woolley, and from all the circumstances with which I am familiar, I firmly believe the testimony of these two brethren to be true.8
Seven years later, Daniel Bateman admitted that his own father never told him about the meeting. Joseph Musser reported:
[Daniel R. Bateman] Bore testimony that Mormonism is true. His father, being one of the five set apart, did not tell him so, but did testify to Bro. Finlayson of the fact, and the latter had written to him of the event. Others of the five had told him and from their testimony and through the Spirit he knew it was true.9
With no second witness to the alleged five-hour meeting where the important act of conferring special priesthood authority is claimed, Lorin Woolley is left without witness and must of necessity say of his own authority: "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true.10 -- And, according to the divine law of witnesses, we, as his critics, can rightly charge: "Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true."11
Faithfulness to Covenants
Joseph Musser reported the following statement in his 1929 version:
Then he (John Taylor) talked to us for some time, and said: "Some of you will be handled and ostracized and cast out from the Church by your brethren because of your faithfulness and integrity to this principle, and some of you may have to surrender your lives because of the same, but woe, woe, unto those who shall bring these troubles upon you." (Three of us were handled and ostracized for supporting and sustaining this principle.)
None of the five alleged to be recipients of this special priesthood authority surrendered his life because of his faithfulness and integrity to the practice of plural marriage in defiance of the Church or the civil law; as admitted, though, three of the five--Lorin C. Woolley, John W. Woolley, and Daniel R. Bateman--were excommunicated from the Church for their actions in this regard. Let us review the "faithfulness" of these three men in supporting and sustaining this principle.
Daniel R. Bateman's youngest sister gave the following testimony of her father and his reaction to the Manifesto as it was presented at October General Conference in 1890:
There may have been a few in that audience who did not vote, and a few may have remained away in order that they might not commit themselves. But father and mother were at that conference and they voted to sustain the manifesto....
More than once I heard father say before other members of the family that when he went to that conference he and some of his friends who had suffered exile and imprisonment had determined to vote against the manifesto. "But," said father, "some power not my own raised my arm, and I voted to sustain President Woodruff in this matter. As soon as I had done it a sense of peace and contentment came over me."12
As an illustration of her father's later abhorrence of those who defied the Manifesto, she told of a friend of her father who, after it was issued, approached her to become his plural wife:
He said polygamy was not a dead issue and that there were ways and means of carrying it on. He said when he saw me that day on Main Street, God revealed it to him that I was to be his plural wife. . .
When I went home and told my parents, father swore an oath. He had been betrayed by a friend. When occasion demanded, he could swear effectively, but rarely did he do it in the house. This time he did, and he said he would speak his mind to so and so when he saw him. Mother said nothing as usual, but she seemed to acquiesce in what father said....
Father's oath that day meant much more than his indignation over my affair. In conference assembled the people had taken a unanimous vote to sustain President Woodruff s wishes. Here was a trusted friend who had not only betrayed him, but the Church also. No matter what his feelings had been before, and no matter what previous pledges he had made either oral or written, that eventual pronouncement which he sustained in conference made all other promises regarding polygamy null and void. All father did and said in our presence bears this out.13
Samuel Bateman seems to have had some longstanding problems that were resolved before his death on January 23, 1911. One of the apostles reported:
By appointment met with Bro. Sam Bateman at Bro. O. T. Arnolds. He has been trying to pull away from his brethren for years. Now he confesses that one of the Twelve offended him twenty years ago. He has paid his tithing and kept on with his quorum, but failed to, or omitted to, partake of the sacrament. I talked to him as the spirit gave me utterance and he said "I will amend my ways." Bro. Bateman remarked, "My prayers have been answered. My labors have been successful."14
And so, with some repentance, he returned to full harmony with the Church. Thus Samuel Bateman can hardly be alleged to have stood firm to a covenant to see to it that plural marriage continued after the Manifesto.
After his father's death, Daniel Bateman began a close association with Lorin Woolley, his good friend, and began practicing polygamy, which resulted in his excommunication from the Church. His sister wrote:
From the very wording of the Manifesto it was evident that some men and women could find in it a loop hole, an excuse to carry on the practice of polygamy. They were few in comparison with the many who had pledged themselves to live by President Woodruff s advice and kept their pledges. The few did in secret marry other women than the one they were legally entitled to.... For several years no punishment was placed on these men by the Church. Some years later new offenders were excommunicated, among them my brother, Daniel, who, during the days of the underground, had helped guard the lives of the Church authorities then in hiding. He had grown up in polygamy and believed in it sincerely, but he did not enter it until after the death of his wife Ellen. This was some twenty years or more after the Manifesto which he did not support.15
Daniel Bateman's first wife, Ellen Malmstrom, died on October 16, 1920, at the age of fifty-seven, leaving a family of three children. Two years later, on August 1, 1922, he married Ida May Barlow, the eldest daughter of his friend John Y. Barlow. Daniel was sixty-five and Ida May was twenty-five, and they raised a family of four children.16 Joseph Musser intimated at Daniel Bateman's death that Bateman was also sealed to a polygamous wife, but that she had had no children.17
If Daniel Bateman did indeed pledge in 1886 to "see to it that no year passed by without children being born in the principle of plural marriage," as alleged, he certainly failed its fulfillment in great measure. He would have been over sixty-five years old when he entered the practice of plural marriage. This means that for over thirty-five of his prime years he procrastinated fulfilling the purported pledge, namely, that he. . . would defend the principle of celestial or plural marriage, and that they would consecrate their lives, liberty and property to this end, and that they personally would sustain and uphold that principle.18
The whole reason for plural marriage, according to the Lord, is to raise up a righteous generation more quickly than can be done through monogamy. "For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things [monogamy]."19 If Daniel Bateman did indeed take a plural wife, apparently the act was fruitless so far as basic purpose is concerned, and even his two legitimate families combined fell short in number of children when compared to monogamous families of the time. Thus, he materially failed his pledge as far as his personal life was concerned.
John W. Woolley, according to available evidence, was never involved in the Fundamentalist movement to the extent that is claimed. He was a faithful member of the Church during most of his life. He was, however, one who was unwilling to give up plural marriage after the Woodruff Manifesto was issued, and apparently he never received a testimony of the Manifesto. He lived in polygamy during his later years, but all of his families were reared before the Manifesto was issued. He married the widowed mother of B.H. Roberts in 1886, four years before the Manifesto, and he married Annie Fisher in 1910 when he was seventy-nine, a marriage from which no children resulted.20 The issue of his personal fulfillment of the purpose is therefore moot.
After being ordained a stake patriarch in 1912 by David 0. McKay, John Woolley performed some plural sealings in the Salt Lake Temple and elsewhere, and when this was discovered he was excommunicated from the Church.21 Joseph Fielding Smith, a member of the Council of the Twelve at the time, wrote of this action:
I was well acquainted with John W. Woolley. He was a good man, but permitted himself to be drawn into the performing of a so-called "plural marriage." When this rumor first appeared, John W. Woolley was called into a session with the Council of the Twelve, President Francis M. Lyman, presiding. Before that body he denied that he had performed any plural ceremony and we accepted his word, for we believed him to be a man who would not deceive the Twelve. President Francis M. Lyman reported to President Joseph F. Smith the fact that Brother Woolley had been before the Twelve and that he had disclaimed any association with those who were engaged in this traffic. My father replied to President Lyman that he was very grateful to know that Brother Woolley was clear, for my father had the utmost confidence in John W. Woolley.
Some time later John W. Woolley was in the presence of President Joseph F. Smith, and President Smith said to him, "John, I am happy to know that you have not been involved in any of those so-called 'plural marriages.' "John W. Woolley hesitated a moment and then replied: "President Smith, I cannot lie to you. I am guilty." Then he confessed his wrongdoing. Of course action had to be taken.22
Another member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder John A. Widtsoe, was also present on this occasion. He related the following:
I will tell you of an experience I had some years ago. While in President Joseph F. Smith's office in Salt Lake City, John W. Woolley came into the President's office and asked if he could have a few weeks off from his work in the temple in order that he could visit with his Brother Sam who was then president of the mission in the South Sea Islands. I believe it was Samoa. Brother Woolley was a worker then in the Salt Lake Temple. President Smith gave him the time off that he wanted, and just as Brother Woolley was about to leave the President said, "John, it has been brought to my attention that you have been performing plural marriages in The Salt Lake Temple, is that correct?" Brother Woolley, he said, rather hung his head and answered, "Yes, President Smith, I have." President Smith then looked directly at Brother Woolley and said, "Did President Taylor ordain you and others to carry on plural marriage independent of the Church?" Brother Woolley answered, "President Smith I have lied to others about this, but I cannot lie to you as President of the Church. No he did not."23
Shortly after this confession, several of the polygamists for whom John W. Woolley had performed sealings were summoned before the Quorum of the Twelve. Anthon H. Lund recorded the following:
The twelve met on the case of Joseph Silver who has married a plural wife. John Woolley having confessed to having done the sealing. Silver like the rest who have done like he has done lied about it and denied it. I told the door-keeper not to let John Woolley come to the Temple until the matter is settled. We were shocked to hear that a man working in the temple would dare to do such a thing. He is sick today so he could not appear before the Council.
I spent the day in the office and in the evening attended S. S. Board Meeting. Peter C. Peterson came in from Ephraim and called God to witness that he spoke the truth! When he heard that John Woolley had confessed he had not so much to say. He promised to go with the brethren to see Brother Woolley, but instead of going with them he got into an automobile and rushed up to see Brother Woolley. Brothers Francis M. Lyman and Anthony W. Ivins found him there. They got the evidence and Joseph Silver was cut off the Church by the Apostles.24
Several days later, John W. Woolley wrote the following confession:
At Centerville, Davis County, Utah on the 16th day of January, A. D., 1914, Prest. Francis M. Lyman and Anthony W. Ivins called at my home, and in answer to questions asked, I made the following statement:
Some months [ago] I met Mathias F. Cowley on the street and he asked me if I was familiar with the sealing ceremony. I told him I was. He said, "If any good men come to you don't turn them down." I believed from that statement that it was still proper that plural marriages be solemnized, and that President Smith had so authorized Cowley to instruct me.
Since that time I have married wives to Nathan G. Clark, Joseph A. Silver, Reuben G. Miller, and P. K. Lemmon, Jr. The ceremony in the case of Miller was performed in the S. E. part of Salt Lake, the woman being a widow whose name I do not know. The Lemmon ceremony was in Centerville, the name of the woman, I think, being Johnson.26
Anthony W. Ivins recorded details of the Lemmon case as follows:
March 1st, 1914. In the Evening P. K. Lemmon called at the hotel. I served notice on him to appear before the Council of Twelve and show cause why he should not be excommunicated for unlawfully taking a wife. He stated to me that Nathan G. Clark had written him that if he wished to take a plural wife to come to Centerville where he--Clark--would meet him at a house 2 blocks west. He followed directions and went to the house of a young man named Woolley and told him what he came for. The young man said there would be a man there soon to attend to the matter for him.
Later an older man came to him and performed the ceremony. After concluding the man told him that he must say nothing about the marriage as they would both be excommunicated if they were found out. He told the girl, as soon as they were alone, that he did not believe it was a marriage at all, and it was all off.
He had never lived with the girl as his wife and did not intend to do so until he had come to Salt Lake and satisfied himself that the ceremony was performed by proper authority. He had never talked with bro. Cowley on the subject. He would appear before the Council and make a full statement of the facts. He had met Bro. Musser at the Fisher [home] some time ago and he had told him that Woolley had given the whole thing away.27
John W. Woolley was so anxious to prevent the Quorum of the Twelve from excommunicating him that he exposed men for whom he had performed plural marriages in 1913, thus making their excommunications certain. Why did he presume to perform plural marriages so long after the President of the Church had forbidden it? Not because he claimed to hold the keys of the priesthood, but because of a veiled comment allegedly uttered by the disfellowshiped Matthias F. Cowley, who in turn supposedly received his direction from the President of the Church. (This has interesting implications, in view of the Fundamentalist claim that John W. Woolley was Joseph F. Smith's superior in the priesthood and held the keys of the priesthood.)
Lorin C. Woolley is the star performer in the drama under consideration. One would expect him to excel as an example of "faithfulness" and as a pillar of "truth." Let us examine his personal claims and compare them with the record:
March 20, 1870, I was called by President Brigham Young to receive my endowments and was ordained an Apostle by Pres. Young. Among other things he stated, "You will yet be called to an important position in the Church," which promise I feel was fulfilled, at least in part, by the mission given me by Pres. John Taylor, in connection with four others, Sept. 27, 1886, to assist in perpetuating the practice of plural marriage.28
Joseph Musser referred to this statement in a brief eulogy of Lorin Woolley:
Lorin C. Woolley, the son of John W., was a "chip off the old block." At thirteen years of age, he was given his endowments and was ordained an Apostle by President Brigham Young; and while he was never numbered with the Quorum of Twelve, he maintained his Apostleship to the end.29
A check into Church records shows Lorin Woolley's memory of his own personal statistics to be faulty, if not presumptuous. On March 20, 1870, Brigham Young was in St. George, where he had spent the winter as usual.30 He, therefore, could not have given Lorin Woolley his endowment nor ordained him an apostle in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City as alleged.
Church records show that Lorin Woolley was born October 23, 1856, and was baptized by his father on October 18, 1868, at the age of twelve. He received his endowment and was ordained an elder on March 10, 1873, at the age of sixteen by John Lyon.31 As an elder he filled a mission to the Southern States Mission from October 31, 1887, to October 6, 1889.32 Later he was ordained a seventy in the Seventieth Quorum at Centerville, and he went on a short mission from December 23, 1896, to April 6, 1897.33 On July 6, 1919, he was ordained a high priest in Centerville. He was excommunicated from the Church on January 15, 1924, and he died on September 19, 1934, at the age of seventy-seven.
Lorin Woolley made claims that he was an undercover agent for both the Church and the United States government. He told of a dream discussion with President Heber J. Grant:
I asked him about his wives, telling him who they were and when and where they were married. At this Heber seemed greatly astonished and asked me how I knew these things. I stated I had been set apart in 1874, at the age of 18, by President Young, to learn of and keep track of such things for the protection of the brethren. Also answering Heber's question, I stated I had been ordained an Apostle by President Young at the age of 13. Heber said, "You are then the oldest apostle, in point of years of service, in this dispensation."34
Joseph Musser reported further claims in this regard in 1922:
Brother Woolley had been a Government official and as such had learned many things about the brethren who are now so pronounced against the principle of [plural marriage].35
In a letter dated January 18, 1924, Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve told a stake president about Lorin Woolley's claims as an undercover agent for the United States government:
I think you should be informed of the fact that this Lorin C. Woolley has been brought to trial before the High Council of South Davis Stake, aided by the advisory assistance of the Twelve through myself, and that on Tuesday last he was excommunicated from the Church, having been found guilty of pernicious falsehood.
As testified to by witnesses, he had repeatedly stated that in his capacity as an officer of the United States Government Secret Service, he had trailed certain of the leading authorities of the Church, and knew of their having been guilty of violating the Church rule and law against the practice of plural marriage. Last night I had conversation with the Chief of the United States Government Secret Service, and he positively denies that Lorin C. Woolley was connected with that service in any capacity whatsoever; and, moreover, he further intimated that he may have to proceed against Woolley for making any such claim.36
Isn't that interesting! Lorin Woolley was excommunicated from the Church, not for advocating or living plural marriage, but for "pernicious falsehood." Even the verdict of his trial seems to have cropped up as an unpublished part of the Lorin Woolley story. Joseph Musser's journal reveals:
Apostle John W. Taylor told Lorin, "You are the one spoken of by my father who will be handled and ostracized by the brethren. It will not be done because of your taking another wife, but for talking," which was fulfilled literally.37
Apparently Lorin Woolley did not sustain the pledge he is supposed to have made at the alleged meeting in 1886, a pledge that he "personally would sustain and uphold that principle." According to available records he did not take a plural wife until 1932, over forty-six years later. He married a German immigrant--Goulda Kmetzsch--on November 25, 1932.38 No children ensued from this marriage, apparently due to Woolley's advanced age (seventy-five), so his entry into polygamy was fruitless as far as purpose is concerned. Thus, like Daniel Bateman, he totally failed his pledge to personally keep the principle alive. Here indeed we have a paradox. Lorin Woolley was the very founder of a movement which has as its basic tenet the continued practice of raising children, in polygamous families, yet he totally failed to measure up to the rules of his own making.
1. See Deuteronomy 17:6; Matthew 18:15-16; John 8:12-19; and 2 Corinthians 13:1.
2. John 5:31. See also Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1 (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1954), PP. 203-28.
3. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 210-13.
4. Reed C. Durham, Jr., and Steven H. Heath, Succession in the Church (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft Inc., 1970), pp. 50-54; B. H. Roberts, Succession in the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2d. ed. (Salt Lake City: Geo. Q. Cannon & Sons Publishing Co., 1900), pp. 97ff.; Joseph Fielding Smith, Succession in the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pamphlet published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, pp. 20-23; letter from Johnson to Gibbs, Pp. 10-11.
5. Joseph Fielding Smith to Walter Whipple, April 24, 1956.
6. Musser and Broadbent, Supplement to the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage, pp. 26-27.
7. Truth, vol. 17, no. 3 (August 1951), p. 71.
8. 1886 Revelation, p. 8.
9. Joseph W. Musser Journal, December 20, 1936. Italics added.
10. John 5:31.
11. John 8:13.
12. Juliaetta Bateman Jensen, Little Gold Pieces (Salt Lake City: Stanway Printing Company, 1948), pp. 129-30.
13. Ibid., pp. 136-38.
14. Brigham Young, Jr., Journal, February 1, 1901
15. Jensen, Little Gold Pieces, p. 134.
16. Family Group Sheet, Genealogical Society Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
17. Truth, vol. 8, no. 1 (June 1942), pp. 12-15. (The article is a eulogy to Daniel Bateman.)
18. 1886 Revelation, p. 6.
19. Jacob 2:30.
20. Family Group Sheet, Genealogical Society Library, Salt Lake City.
21. Salt Lake City, Utah, March 30, 1914. The Davis Stake High Council Record for April 25, 1914, lists: "Today by unanimous vote of the Council of the Twelve Apostles John W. Woolley was excommunicated... for insubordination to the discipline and government of the Church. Francis M. Lyman in behalf of the Council."
22. Joseph Fielding Smith to Dean Jessee, July 13, 1955.
23. Statement Concerning the Purported Ordination of John W. Woolley, statement deposited in the Brigham Young University Library Special Collections by Lloyd Rine.
24. Anthon H. Lund Journal, January 13, 1914. See also Anthony W. Ivins Diary, Utah State Historical Society, entry at the end of the 19 13-1914 book.
25. This allegation would have had no validity because Elder Cowley was stripped of his apostleship in the Quorum of the Twelve in 1906 and was disfellowshipped from the Church in 1911. Any authority from this source would be presumptuous.
26. Affidavit in Anthony W. Ivins's Papers, Utah State Historical Society.
27. Journal of Anthony W. Ivins, Huntington Library, San Manno, California, January 1911, pp. 199-200.
28. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 10.
29. Truth, vol. 2, no. 8 (January 1937), p. 122.
30. See Manuscript History of Brigham Young, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
31. Church Membership Records, South Davis Stake.
32. Missionary Book B, p. 97, no. 236, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
33. Missionary Book C, p. 38, no. 741, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
34. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 34.
35. Joseph W. Musser Journal, April 9, 1922.
36. James E. Talmage Correspondence File, January 18, 1924, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
37. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 12.
38. See obituary in the Deseret News, April 28, 1975. Goulda's two sisters also married Fundamentalists: J. Leslie Broadbent and Joseph W. Musser.