Table of Contents:
The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact
(by permission of the author)
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:14.)
After reviewing the discrepancies and fallacies of the Lorin Woolley statement, one is caused to wonder what would motivate him to make such claims under the guise of truth. What would cause him to claim that he was the especial recipient of the "mysteries of the kingdom" and the president of a priesthood elite without peer? Perhaps a look into his personality will provide us with a clue.
A man's inner drives and ambitions are frequently expressed in his dreams. Consider the following dream Lorin Woolley had on February 26, 1933, as reported by Joseph Musser:
Dreams of Grandeur
He was on the west side of Main Street, between South Temple and First South, when he was met by Joseph F. Smith, (who had died some time before). President Smith said, "Lorin, aren't you going to the meeting?" (A solemn assembly being held in the Temple.) Lorin said, "No, I haven't been invited." President Smith said, "Oh yes, you must be there, you are expected to speak."
President Smith then led Lorin into the Temple and to the door leading into the Priesthood Assembly room. He opened the door and told Lorin to go in and go to the stand. As Lorin advanced toward the stand he heard arguing between Brother Talmage and others, to the effect that he, Lorin, should not be there. He had been handled and was not entitled to admission. (This was before he had actually been handled.)
The voice of Pres. Smith was heard from the door to the effect, "Oh yes he is entitled to be here, go ahead Lorin. Voices whispered, "That is President Smith speaking." Lorin walked to the pulpit and the voice of the Prophet Joseph Smith was heard, saying, "Lorin will now give the history of the Church from the underground days until the present." A voice in the assembly said, "That is the Prophet Joseph Smith talking;" and the brethren who had been arguing against Lorin's admission into the assembly shrunk and shriveled up.1
A year earlier Joseph Musser reported another of Lonn Wool ley's dreams in his journal:
Dream of Lorin C. Woolley: Officers were after him; called for him in a loud defiant tone. He ran in the midst and defied them and they shrank away.2
On April 19, 1933, Lonn Woolley had another dream which even more vividly expresses his inner drives for recognition and greatness. He reported:
I was in a large field in the open, probably larger than a ten acre square. The grass was beautifully green and a beautiful harmony in nature prevailed. I was dressed as usual except that I wore a high brimmed stove hat, which style of hat, however, I had never worn in life. I had no cane to walk with. Didn't need one. Probably 50,000 people were in the field, grouped about and all in position to hear what was going on. I was accosted by President Heber J. Grant, Antone W. Ivins and J. Reuben Clark the First Presidency. I saw no others of the general authorities. Brother Grant did most of the talking. He suggested that he and I call each other by our boyhood names as we knew and used them, viz: "Hebe" for Heber J. and "Noisy" for Lorin.
Heber stated he had misunderstood Lorin and wanted to apologize for the injustice he had done him and also for the way he had rebuffed J. Leslie Broadbent who had sought an interview with him. I told him it was all right, that I had forgiven him for the fifth time, in accordance with the principle as outlined in the 98 Sec. of the Doc. & Cov., which section Heber stated he had just been studying with Brother Clark, and had never understood its meaning before.
Speaking of the "seven" friends in the Priesthood, I explained they ruled the earth, the Kingdom and the Church; that they, when united and it was necessary, had authority and power to rebuke, to remove mountains, set the Church in order, etc. That none of them would act as officers in the Church, but would shortly proceed under the one "Mighty and Strong" to set it in order. I said these men held the authority of God on earth; that they would shortly take charge of the Temple and cleanse it. . . . These men were called up and introduced to the brethren. Heber said he was already acquainted with Bros. Broadbent and Musser, but had not met the others before.
The question regarding our wives (Lorin's and Heber's) was broached, I stating in answer to Heber's question, that I had five wives living, and I had them come up and introduced them to the brethren. He inquired about my sons and I had them introduced. Heber mentioned Earl and regretted having prevented Earl marrying the ______________ girl, stating that she had never been happy and now would get a divorce and marry Earl if she thought he would have her. Earl spoke up, stating he certainly would, but not as his First wife. Heber said she would be willing to come in as his twentieth if necessary. 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."
I said, you have taken five wives since the Manifesto and have sealed them to others, which you had no authority to do (to seal). Heber seemed startled and asked how he knew. I said a little bird, like a stone, etc., whispered it to me. "Have you that stone?" Heber asked. "I don't know that I have 'that' stone, but I have one." Heber claimed these sealings had been taken care of before he had become President of the Church, but I mentioned one as late as December 1918, after he became President, and offered to give names, which challenge was not accepted, during which conversation Reuben appeared greatly surprised.
Antone asked about new plural marriages and I told him they were going on and that I understood he (Bro. Ivins) had the record of performing the most plural marriages in the Church while he was in Mexico, except my father, John W. Woolley, and that I hoped yet to eclipse that record. Antone smiled assent, but did not deny the statement. He did little talking in the dream, Heber and Reuben being the main spokesmen. Reuben mildly rebuked me, asking why I did not uncover my head in the presence of the Presidency, as they themselves had done. I replied, "A king never uncovers to his subjects." This statement greatly astonished Reuben, and the statement, in varied forms, was made several times during the conversation.8
These dreams are taken from many that are recorded in Joseph W. Musser's Book of Remembrance. They all indicate a keen desire on Lorin Woolley's part to gain prominence among his associates almost to the point of veneration.9 In fact, Woolley's aspirations did not end with his superiority over the Presidency of the Church. Note the following claim:
At the 1886 meeting John Taylor: "Kings and queens and the rulers of the earth will pay tribute to some of you and some of your associates. Those who take part in casting you out and are vicious, their names shall be blotted out from the Book of Life."10
It should go without saying that no king or queen or ruler of the earth has ever noticed Lorin Woolley nor any of his associates, much less paid tribute to them. The latter part of the above-cited statement is obviously a rebuttal against the Church for severing them from fellowship with the Saints.
With this insight into Woolley's ego, and recognizing his anxiety over plural marriage and the Manifesto, it becomes easy to understand why he might have come up with such a story as his 1886 commission to perpetuate plural marriage independent of the Church. It would seem probable that a dream such as the one cited above might be the source of this story. Then, as he continually contemplated it, he might have conceived additional details with the justification that they had been forgotten and gradually remembered. This in time would produce the full-blown account as it appeared in 1929.
It seems strange that devout and intelligent Latter-day Saints have been, and are being, led astray by the specious and presumptuous claims of Lorin Woolley. His followers take the position that the Doctrine and Covenants and the history of the Church are incomplete, and that if all the facts were known Woolley's followers would be completely vindicated. Those followers claim that the higher order of things was withheld from the Saints, who were unable to accept them. Thus Fundamentalists hide behind a cloak of public subterfuge and innuendo. It is because of their misguided persistence in living the suspended laws of consecration and plural marriage that Fundamentalists seem willing to close their eyes to the plain statements of continued revelation and Church history. They have resorted to a retrenchment in the past, rejecting the present course of the Church. It seems they would rather believe a fabrication that appeals to their senses than investigate and accept the truth. The apostle Paul spoke of this blind rationalization in his day
. . . .They [shall] heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
. . . Giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils, speaking lies in hypocnsy . . .11
What spirit could be more "seducing" than one which pretends that the Lord sanctions illicit plural marriages under the guise of unverifiable secret authority, when the right to practice this principle has been divinely and publicly withdrawn.
Through the Spirit, the apostle Paul forewarned us: "For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you."12
Heresies are false doctrines which lead men from the truth and from salvation. They are listed, again in Paul's language, among "the works of the flesh"; those false doctrines gain a foothold among men because they "fulfil the lust of the flesh," and those who adhere to such doctrines "shall not inherit the kingdom of God."13
The apostle Paul sounded the following timely warning:
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers [etc.].... from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.14
It is prophesied that in the last days dissidents will ply their evil wares and deceive many. We are told also that the situation is not going to get better, but worse:
But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.
But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.15
The only safe course to pursue is that marked out by the Lord's servants, each in his own time. To reject the Lord's prophets is to reject the Lord himself, and such rejection will lead to apostasy and eternal damnation. Orson Pratt issued the following warning to some apostates in his day who used the same arguments as do the present-day Fundamentalists:
"Oh," said they, "here is the difference between us and them [apostates of an earlier day]: we believe in plurality of wives; we believe in the order of the Church," and so on. Said I, "Don't you know that the devil would be very foolish, if he wished to lead astray men who had been in this Church, who had been taught for years to believe the principles you believe in, if he should undertake to lead them astray by telling them there was no truth in all these things? The devil can adapt himself to the belief of any person. If you believed in plurality he would make you think it was all right. If he could get you to swallow down one or two great lies that would effect your destruction, and which you would preach and destroy many others. He would not mind how many truths you might believe."16
Heber C. Kimball spoke of the deadly effects of lies and criticism:
I will give you a key which brother Joseph Smith used to give in Nauvoo. He said, that the very step of apostasy commenced with losing confidence in the leaders of this Church and kingdom, and that whenever you discerned that spirit, you might know that it would lead the possessor of it on the road to apostasy.17
We conclude with this solemn injunction from the Prophet Joseph Smith.
O ye Twelve! and all Saints! profit by this important Key that in all your trials, troubles, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments and death, see to it, that you do not betray heaven; that you do not betray Jesus Christ; that you do not betray the brethren; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given and revealed unto man in this world or that which is to come. Yea, in all your kicking and flounderings, see to it that you do not this thing, lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell. All other sins are not to be compared to sinning against the Holy Ghost, and proving a traitor to the brethren.
I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. The principle is as correct as the one that Jesus put forth in saying that he who seeketh a sign is an adulterous person; and that principle is eternal, undeviating, and firm as the pillars of heaven; for whenever you see a man seeking after a sign, you may set it down that he is an adulterous man.18
Shall we follow men who have apostatized and been excommunicated from the Church for criticizing and defying its leaders, or shall we follow the Lord's mouthpiece in our day, the President of the Restored Church?
1. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 1.
2. Ibid., p. 21.
3. Lorin Woolley was small of stature, and as a result of an accident he walked with a cane in his later years.
4. Lorin Woolley seemed to have had an ego problem even in his early years. The Centerville Fifth Ward Elders Quorum minutes, for instance, reveal that Lonn was the first to speak at quorum meetings and frequently dominated discussion. His self-evaluation as "Noisy," a nickname he picked up in his childhood, confirms this.
5. As we have seen, Lorin had only one polygamous wife, whom he had acquired about five months previous to this dream. As the leader of a group whose main purpose was to perpetuate polygamy he, no doubt, had great desires in this regard, even if his deeds did not measure up to his desires.
6. Earl Woolley, Lorin's seventh child, was born in 1899, but did not marry until 1965, over thirty years after Lorin Woolley's death. This claim of Church interference and polygamy on the part of his bachelor son is not true. The dream discussion is probably self-justification for Lorin's embarrassment over the situation.
7. Such claims were part of the evidence submitted at Lorin Woolley's Church trial in 1924, which resulted in his excommunication on a charge of "pernicious falsehood."
8. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, pp. 33-35.
9. See Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, pp. 10-11. See Truth, vol. 16, no. 11 (April 1951), pp. 319-20, for another fantastic account wherein the Savior, John Taylor, and Brigham Young spared Lorin Woolley's life so that he might accomplish his "mission" in mortality despite his grandfather's call from the spirit world.
10. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 21.
11. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, 1 Timothy 4 1 2.
12. 1 Corinthians 11 19.
13. Galatians 5:16-26.
14. 2 Timothy 3:1, 2, 5-7.
15. 2 Timothy 3: 13-14.
16. Journal of Discourses, 13:73. Italics added.
17. Journal of Discourses, 3:270. Italics added.
18. Documentary History of the Church 3:385.