We’re continuing our conversation with Craig Foster & Dr Newell Bringhurst. We’re going to dive deeper into modern-day polygamists beliefs, including their continued ban on black members. What are their justifications? We’ll dive into some other groups like Centennial Park, Apostolic United Brethren, and more scholarship on these modern polygamists. Check out our conversation…
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Modern Polygamists Still Ban Blacks from Priesthood
GT 00:30 Let’s move on to volume three, then, and this is 1890 to the present. This is great because we get into the Mussers and the Allreds and those sorts of people.
Craig 00:43 Right.
GT 00:44 So give us an introduction.
Craig 00:47 Well, we have some really fun essays in there. [It’s] no wonder the book is so large, because…
Newell 00:57 The total number of essays, why don’t you give them that?
Craig 00:59 The total number of essays are 17 essays. It starts with the Barbara Jones Brown, “Manifestos, Mixed marriages in Mexico: The Demise of Mainstream Mormon Polygamy.” Then, we go into John Taylor’s 1886 revelation. Another one that is a fun one is Christopher Blythe talked about “The One Mighty and Strong” or it should be The Ones Mighty and Strong. He had the “One Mighty and Strong: Messianism and the Rise of Mormon Fundamentalism.” Then, we have, by Marianne Watson, who is a fundamentalist and my co-author on another book that she and I did, American Polygamy. She wrote, “From 19th Century, Mormon Polygamy to 20th Century Mormon Fundamentalism: Three Contemporary Perspectives on John W. And Lorin C. Woolley.” Then we have an essay by Ken Driggs, another one that’s on “Rulon Allred and The Search for Refuge” by Eric Paul Rogers and Carrie Roush. Then, an essay that Newell and I did together, “Rulon and Warren Jeffs: The Making of Two FLDS Prophets and the Changing Face of Fundamentalist Mormonism.” Then, we have a fun one, “The Changing and Unchanging Nature of Fundamentalist Mormon Clothing Styles” by Shannon Spafford.
Craig 02:47 Another one that Newell and I worked on together is “The 1980s Schism Within Fundamentalist Mormonism: the Emergence of Centennial Park.” Newell Bringhurst did a good one here, “The 2008 Texas Raid on the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch: Its Impact on the FLDS Church and on other Fundamentalist Mormons.” What a lot of people forget is that this not only affected the FLDS, but the raid had a ripple effect. It affected all of the fundamentalists in one way or another. Newell wrote another one, “The Fundamentalist Mormon beliefs on Race and African Americans.” Then Joseph Lyman Jessop, who was raised in the Apostolic United Brethren, he had a reminiscence, “A Personal Perspective: Growing Up and Out of the Polygamous Community of Pinesdale, Montana.”
Craig 04:01 Marianne Watson had, what I think, and I think you would agree, it’s one of the most interesting essays in the book, “Polygamous Ancestry of Contemporary Fundamentalist Mormons.” She did a survey among all of these different fundamentalists. Obviously, a lot of them didn’t answer, but a number of them did. [In the survey, she was] asking if they had ancestors in the church, if that they were polygamous or who they were in the LDS Church. It’s just a fun one.
Craig 04:41 Then [we have] my essay, “Plural Wives of the Mormon Fundamentalist Leaders.” Anne Wilde wrote, “Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants: A Fundamentalist Mormon Perspective.” So, ultimately, in this three-volume work, we have four essays dealing with 132. [We have] just two others here, “Mormon Media Stereotyping of Polygamy” that I wrote. Then, Pat Scott and Todd Compton did a wonderful job, “Wrestling with the Principle: a Historical Bibliography of Mormon Polygamy,” to end the series. We thought that would be a good way of ending it.
GT 05:31 Well, Newell, I would love to hear–I know, you talked a little bit about the race essay there with fundamentalism. It’s my understanding that a lot of fundamentalists don’t recognize the LDS revelation in 1978, and don’t like to talk about it because, as I think some of the early church leaders said, “Nothing good can be gained from talking about that.” But most fundamentalists (or can I say, all fundamentalists?) pretty much, still believe in a priesthood ban for blacks.
Newell 06:11 Yes, very much. That was one of the more interesting essays, kind of an extension of my interest in the race issue, which I’ve kind of been dabbling in for 40 some odd years. It was interesting that virtually all of the groups went along with the Brigham Young assertion the blacks not hold the priesthood and they go along with the myth that it was Joseph Smith that started the practice. They still hang on to all of the traditional beliefs that it’s because blacks are an accursed race, descendants of Cain and Ham, and that they were neutrals during the pre- existence. They still embrace all of the traditional arguments as put forth in the mainstream church, that have since been rejected, or denounced. [They still believe in] the essence of what Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in [Answers to Gospel Questions.]
GT 07:24 Have they been denounced, though? Because I know a lot of people still believe that.
Newell 07:31 Well, we can go down that road. In the mainstream church, in the Gospel Topics essay that you interviewed us on, the Church has moved pretty much away from those traditional arguments. But that’s not true for the fundamentalists. I mean, they still claim that that’s a basic cornerstone of their basic beliefs that sets them apart from the mainstream church. I argue, basically, that their belief that blacks are cursed, that they are not entitled to the priesthood, that they’re somehow an inferior race is still embraced as a basic cornerstone by the fundamentalists, almost every group. I think [there’s] one exception. I think one of the small, LeBaron groups, and I can’t remember which LeBaron it was that he went a little bit the opposite way. But the bulk of them, all of the rest, the AUB, the FLDS, all the rest of them, the independents [still believe in the ban.] I mean, Ogden Kraut wrote a whole book on affirming the legitimacy of black priesthood denial, that was published after the ’78 revelation. They consider that one of the cornerstones of their unique beliefs, that set them apart from the mainstream church, along with the idea of the United Order, along with the idea of practicing polygamy, and the Adam/God theory. Those tend to be the big, major cornerstone beliefs of fundamentalist Mormonism. They say, “This is what sets us apart from the mainstream church.”
GT 09:27 Yeah. Do you have anything to add on that, Craig?
Craig 09:29 No. He did a great job of explaining it. He is definitely the expert on that topic.
GT 09:38 I’ve tried to get a few of them to talk about that. They won’t talk about it on camera, I’ll tell you that. I know the Peterson group, they started in like April of ’78, and then June, two months later, the revelation came, and they were like, “We’re glad we got out of there in time.”
Newell 09:58 Oh, really?
GT 10:01 Yeah. So, that’s definitely a very touchy subject with the fundamentalists. I, personally, don’t think there’s much of a leg to stand on. It’s just a terrible policy. Have you talked to them about Lester Bush’s 1973 article that says, “Hey, Joseph Smith did not institute a ban.”
Newell 10:21 Well, I’ve never had that discussion. Maybe you’ve had more interaction with the fundamentalists than I have, particularly the leadership within the AUB. So, you could answer that question better than me.
Craig 10:33 We’ve had some fun discussions, and I haven’t changed their mind, and they haven’t changed my mind.
GT 10:42 (Chuckling) Oh, that’s a tough topic for them.
Craig 10:47 Yes.
GT 10:49 But I’m glad to hear that you’re having conversations with them, at least.
Growth of Fundamentalist Mormons in the Early 20th Century
GT 10:57 It seems like, and correct me if I’m wrong here. So, up until Heber J. Grant in the ’40s or ’50s, the fundamentalist groups were very loosely organized. And it was really, like you said, under Grant where we went after the polygamists. That’s when they started to formally organize. Is that right?
Newell 11:18 Yes, it was during the Grant era that they really started to come together with their Council of Friends. I think that formation came about. They first talked about the Council of Friends about 1929. Wasn’t it?
Craig 11:35 Yeah. In the ’20s, they began to coalesce.
GT 11:40 So, it was a little bit earlier.
Craig 11:42 In the ’30s, we had the Council of Friends.
GT 11:46 Was that was around the same time as the third manifesto?
Newell 11:50 Yes.
Craig 11:51 Yes, the third manifesto was very much a reaction to the fact that so many people who felt that plural marriage needed to be continued, that they had begun to coalesce around the Woolleys. The third manifesto was really, specifically, aimed at those who were coalescing with that group. There were, obviously, other groups that were forming in the same time period, but the majority of them seem to be going toward the Woolleys, basically. With the Council of Friends, it was, for the most part, quite united. But then, we had the ’40s. We had the ’44 raid, where a number of men were put into prison. They were tried, sentenced and went to prison.
GT 13:02 That’s the Short Creek raid you were talking about?
Newell 13:04 Earlier.
Craig 13:04 No, actually, it was the Salt Lake raid.
GT 13:07 Okay.
Craig 13:08 There was a Short Creek raid in 1935 that resulted in a few arrests and a couple of prison sentences. Then, in 1944, there was a very well-orchestrated raid that arrested, if I remember correctly, it was at least 11 or 12 men and a couple of women. Then, the men, of that, at least nine of them went to prison. This is off the top of my head. They were serving time. Actually, I think there were 11 that went to prison. And what happened was, they decided to go ahead, under the direction of Joseph Musser and I might add, John Y. Barlow. Both of them encouraged the men to go ahead, sign a statement that they would no longer live plural marriage, which they immediately broke after they got out of prison. Except for a couple of the men said, “No, I would not do that.”
GT 14:31 I would not sign.
Craig 14:33 “I will not sign because I would be going against my oath.” And so, they remained in prison. So, that was actually, the first kind of break. Because, when they got out of prison, they basically said, “We don’t want to have anything else to do with you.” And they went independent. Then, there was the priesthood split that occurred in 1951 to 52. That was the big split. What eventually became of that is you had Musser’s group which became the Allred group. And you had Johnson’s group. Eventually it was known as the Short Creek group or Johnson’s group for Leroy Sunderland Johnson, and that eventually became the FLDS and the Centennial Park group.
GT 15:36 Okay. That was in the ’50s, you said?
Craig 15:39 That was the break that occurred between ’51 and ’52.
GT 15:44 And so the interesting thing about Centennial Park and FLDS, please correct me if I’m wrong, The FLDS got into this hairstyle and clothing style. But, Centennial Park, they just still have regular dress. Is that right?
Newell 16:02 Yeah, that was the major split that came about in 1986. That’s where they get the name Centennial Park from, is it was exactly 100 years after the John Taylor revelation, which they use as the basis for continuing fundamentalism. The reason for the break, as you say, a lot of it was due to the tightening control within the group. I mean, if they’d been ruled by a seven-member council of friends, as was the case in the Allred group, which continues along that line. But, eventually, with the emergence of Rulon Jeffs, he wanted to move one-man rule. So, he completely abolished the seven-member council, referred to it as, as a seven-headed hydra monster. That was the term that Rulon Jeffs used, and he said, “I am the sole authority. I’m the sole priesthood authority.” A group of people led by Haman, and by Timson, who had been part of the seven-member council, they walked away and formed what became known as the Centennial group. They were much more akin to the Allreds, in terms of their interaction with the larger community and not saying–we’re not going to isolate ourselves. We’re not going to try to make ourselves a distinctive part, tightening of dress codes. Because, it was interesting, as Shannon Spafford argues very beautifully in her essay, which I think is one of the most evocative essays in the volume. I went back and looked at it today. She did a wonderful job.
Newell 18:08 I might mention that’s Craig’s oldest daughter, who is just a very gifted writer. But she, in her essay, she just did a beautiful job of showing how the clothing styles within the FLDS or the Short Creek group became, it was almost like they were stepping back and back further into time, going back to 19th century prairie dresses that were in these very plain colors. [They had] these bizarre hairdos known, described by Oprah Winfrey as the puffy thing.
Newell 18:48 Yeah, that’s what–she referred to the puffy thing. The puffy poof, or whatever.
Craig 18:53 Yeah.
Newell 18:54 The poofy puff. But, anyway, whereas, the Centennial Park People dressed modestly, because they were still wearing the long original temple garments. That was one of the nice things that Shannon Spafford pointed out in her essay is the seminal turning point, in terms of the way that the fundamentalists dress as opposed to mainstream Latter-day Saints was a change in the style and the cut of the temple garment, which occurred in 1923. Because they still wear the old traditional garments.
GT 19:33 Long sleeved.
Newell 19:34 Long sleeves, that they wore prior to 1923.
GT 19:37 It goes to the ankles as well.
Newell 19:39 Yeah, it goes all the way down to the cuffs. So, Centennial Park, they tend to wear the longer sleeves and that, but they’re more akin to what modest dress would be among LDS or members of society as a whole.
Craig 20:04 The Centennial Park, the women do still wear dresses and skirts. Very rarely would you see them wearing pants, if at all. So, that differentiates themselves from the AUB. But, as Newell pointed out, the FLDS dress that we see, the so-called prairie dress, that came into style with the Jeffs, with Rulon and Warren. Because before that, they, too, dressed the way that you see the Centennial Park people dressing with just long dresses or skirts. They didn’t wear pants. And that was a reaction to the ’53 raid, actually. Because, in 1953, the Short Creek raid that is the best known, the well-known raid, by the time that all of the dust settled, we’re into about 1955 or so. Leroy Johnson, Uncle Roy, was very concerned with the influence of the outside world that had affected some of the members of their group who had been taken to Phoenix. [They] were living in Phoenix and other communities when they were all hauled off by the police. So, he had kind of a retrenchment. It went overboard to a degree because you can see photos of before the raid, or at least at the time of the raid, and you can see some girls wearing pants. They were wearing jeans and long-sleeved shirts. So, the women and the girls didn’t all dress just in dresses and skirts.
Craig 22:22 But after they had this retrenchment movement, from that point on, they dressed in just dresses and skirts. Uncle Roy particularly liked print dresses and skirts and flower prints and stuff like that. So, you see a lot of the others, they basically wore that, because they knew that’s what he liked. He felt that was the most feminine. Then, with Rulon Jeffs and Warren, then it moved to that other [style], as Newell pointed out. The colors are really kind of dark or drab colors for working out in the yard or other things like that. [The colors are] greens and browns and colors of that nature, dark blues. Then, when they’re inside or going to church or other meetings, then it would be all that rainbow of pastel colors. They started doing the poof again. It appears that it was Rulon Jeffs family that had started do to do that. Then, you know how it is. They’re just like regular society. They see people they look up to, or the leadership. They start to dress a certain way and everyone else kind of follows suit. Then, Warren really pushed that, as Newell pointed out.
Decline of FLDS
GT 24:08 It seems like Elissa Wall–she was the girl who basically testified against Warren Jeffs, and got him thrown in jail–had a big deal about red dresses, like they were slutty, or I don’t know the words she used.
Newell 24:21 Well, the red, that’s an interesting thing of that whole concept of red. That was the absolute forbidden color. Nobody could wear anything that had red in it. That was established under the Jeffs in the FLDS. There were a couple of rationales for that. The major rationale was that’s the color the Christ is going to wear when he comes back in the second coming. They also, looked upon red in almost a little bit of an opposite way in that it was the color of passion or color of, like, red light district. It was, somehow, attached to licentiousness. What I find ironic is when Warren Jeffs was stopped and arrested when he was driving between Las Vegas and back to Colorado City, he was arrested driving a red Cadillac Escalade, that was the color. Again, I love irony.
Craig 25:39 And [he was] wearing shorts and a T shirt.
Newell 25:45 (Chuckling)
GT 25:45 So, he wasn’t wearing his garments, then, huh, just like Joseph Smith.
Craig 25:54 Elissa’s sister, Rebecca, she had a book that came out called–what was it? Witness in Red or Woman in Red? Heck, we wrote the thing, but I can’t remember what the title of the book was.
Newell 26:14 Oh, geez.
Craig 26:15 Oh, The Witness Wore Red.
Newell 26:16 The Witness Wore Red, there you go. Yeah.
Craig 26:19 She was there as a consultant for law officials and for prosecution. So, she was there practically every single day of Warren’s trial down there in Texas. And every single day, she wore a different outfit that was red. Because…
GT 26:41 Was that Elissa or her sister?
Craig 26:43 That was Rebecca that wore the red, because she knew that that would just drive him crazy.
GT 26:52 So what has happened to their movement? I know he’s been in jail, and he’s tried to excommunicate a lot of the men. And I mean, it just seems–is it dying?
Craig 27:02 It appears to be dying. There’s been a real out-migration from Short Creek, Hilldale and Colorado City, because he told the faithful followers, those left, that if they had any means to leave, they needed to leave. So, there’s been a real out-migration from Short Creek to all over Utah, all over the West, back to the Midwest. I understand some people have said that they’ve even seen FLDS further east, into the south into New England and all that. But most of them are in a very large area of the Western to Midwestern United States. You had read something on that. No, I read it. I’m sorry. A person commented that one of his ex-FLDS friends said that it’s now down to about 1500 members.
GT 28:17 Wow, because it used to be about 10,000?
Newell 28:19 Yeah, 10,000. So, it’s diminished by, almost–they’ve lost 80% of their members.
GT 28:27 Are they joining other polygamous groups or LDS or just atheism or do we know?
Craig 28:33 It’s a mixed bag. William E. Jessop, that we interviewed, he had a following. He had been ordained as bishop, but was also ordained, you can correct me if I’m wrong on that, he was also ordained, at the same time, as an apostle.
GT 29:02 In the FLDS Church?
Craig 29:04 In the FLDS, and so he said that, basically, he had the authority since Warren had lost the authority. There’s been a good-size, well, good size–if I remember correctly, when we interviewed, it was about 1200 or 1000.
Newell 29:29 I’ve forgotten it.
GT 29:30 You said Warren had lost his authority. He still has the authority in prison, right?
Craig 29:34 Well, yes, but William E Jessop just said that [Warren] had lost his authority.
Newell 29:38 He [William] claimed that he [Warren] lost his authority.
GT 29:39 Oh, that Warren lost his authority.
Newell 29:41 Yes, and it’s a schismatic group. It’s broken away.
GT 29:44 He started his own church.
Craig 29:46 Then, there are others who have just, who continue to live the principle, but are just waiting for a new leader to come along. Then, there are a number of them who have just left altogether. Did I cover that pretty well?
Newell 30:05 Yeah.
2 Largest Polygamist Groups: AUB & Independents
GT 30:09 One of the groups that we haven’t covered, and I think they’re the hardest to study are the independents. But, I know, Anne Wilde is an independent.
Craig 30:17 Yes.
GT 30:19 The thing that I find so fascinating is–because they’re the largest group now, right? They’re like, 10,000? Ten thousand seems to be the number everybody likes to claim onto.
Craig 30:30 Yeah, it’s really hard to estimate a number, but I would say, there are at least 10,000, probably more, who, in one way or another, would be considered fundamentalist and independent. But, for organized groups, I’m going to stick my neck out. They probably won’t appreciate it. But I would say, today, the largest organized group would be the Apostolic United Brethren.
GT 31:12 That’s Kody Brown’s group.
Craig 31:13 Yes.
Newell 31:14 Yeah, and Dave Watson is the current head of their seven member priesthood council. His wife is Marianne Watson, who, has written…
GT 31:31 She’s my neighbor, right? Out in Lehi?
Craig 31:33 What? Yes. They used to live in Lehi.
GT 31:36 Oh, they don’t live in Lehi anymore?
Craig 31:36 They moved to Mt. Pleasant.
Newell 31:40 Yeah, that was one of the…
Craig 31:42 Yeah, she is the co-author, along with me, of American Polygamy.
GT 31:48 Okay.
Craig 31:49 And she is one of his wives.
GT 31:51 Okay.
Newell 31:51 Yeah, and that was an interesting experience. I just relate on a personal level. I had never been down to Mount Pleasant, where they’ve been establishing over the years a major AUB settlement down there. It’s interesting, because it’s out by itself away from the main part of Mount Pleasant. I had the opportunity, earlier this week, to go down there with Craig. It was an interesting experience for me, because one of the leaders down there, one of the principal families, his name is…
Craig 32:37 Do you want to give his name? I don’t know if he would want that.
Newell 32:40 Yeah, but anyway, I grew up with him. I won’t give his name, because I’ll protect his privacy. But he grew up with me in Midvale, Utah. He lived two streets over from me. His story is that he grew up LDS. We belonged to the same boy scout troop. He was a couple years older than me. He ended up going to Brigham Young [University], graduating in history, political science, ultimately became a seminary teacher for the mainstream LDS Church. He was, at the same time, serving as a counselor in his bishopric. He confronted the issue of the Adam/God theory and started looking into other aspects of what the fundamentalists were teaching. He met personally with Rulon Allred, and Rulon encouraged him to stay active in his LDS ward, even though he was–it’s like he was caught between two worlds. I found this an absolutely fascinating story.
GT 33:49 Oh, I know. I love it. It’s like the LDS Church is the bachelor’s degree and “We’re the master’s degree.”
Newell 33:52 Yeah, I mean, the LDS Church, they still consider that the legitimate church and they consider themselves [that] eventually the two groups are going to come back together. He has studied the theology and the doctrine. [He’s a] very bright, well-educated guy. I was absolutely impressed with what he had to say. Besides, our fathers had been close friends. Because they both had wonderful voices, they’d been in the Olympus Male Choir together. So, our fathers had been close friends. But, because he was two years older, I’d never been that close to him when we were growing up together in Midvale. But it was a surreal experience going out there and meeting with him.
Newell 34:37 He related his religious odyssey, how he went into the fundamentalist movement. He was so proud of his family. The thing that really impressed me the most was the loving close relationship that he had with his children. You couldn’t have met a nicer, more compassionate individual. As I say, it was a surreal experience to me that he had three wives. Through those three wives, he had had 23 children and over 100 grandchildren. He said, “That was my greatest blessing, is having this large family.” There was just a wonderful feeling about this man, and meeting him again, after all those years. We’d graduated from the same high school together and everything else. It reminded me of the famous William Faulkner quote, from one of his writings called, A Requiem for a Nun. “The past is not dead. It’s not even past.”
Craig 36:00 I will just make two notes. For any of your Mount Pleasant viewers, it’s not a huge group. It’s not the major site. They have a nice congregation, but the headquarters is still in Bluffdale. And that’s the largest congregation, by far, is the Bluffdale one.
GT 36:28 Do they have a temple?
Craig 36:30 Yes, they do.
GT 36:31 Is it in Bluffdale?
Craig 36:32 They have a temple in Ozumba, in Mexico.
GT 36:36 Oh.
Newell 36:39 But don’t they perform temple ordinances in the Bluffdale facility?
Craig 36:42 Yes they do.
Newell 36:44 They do have a facility for ordinances.
GT 36:47 An endowment house kind of a thing?
Craig 36:48 It’s like an endowment house. They emphasize that it is not a temple. But they do have…
Newell 36:55 The sacred…
Craig 36:56 …a facility out there. An endowment house.
GT 36:58 Are they going to do one in Mount Pleasant?
Craig 37:01 I don’t think so. I’ll put it this way. There’s nothing in the plans that I’m aware of. Now, they may be planning. They haven’t told me. Why would they tell me?
GT 37:13 You’re the outsider.
Craig 37:13 But, that I’m aware of, there are not any plans to build a temple there.
GT 37:22 Maybe this has giving away company secrets. But I’ve always been curious, mostly after talking with Anne Wilde, when you’re an independent fundamentalist, how do you find somebody with the priesthood power to seal you to a person?
Craig 37:41 It all depends upon the fundamentalist. The independent fundamentalists, some do not feel that they need priesthood power. They feel that God will recognize their relationship. So, it might be a relationship in front of very close loved ones, a ceremony I mean in front of very close loved ones. It might also be just a private ceremony. Then, there are other fundamentalists, independents, who do believe that there needs to be priesthood authority. So, some might go to people that they believe would have that authority, be they leaders within some of the other groups, like the AUB or something like that. Others feel that there are certain individuals or families within the independent movement. They’re independent fundamentalists, who at least have enough priesthood power that they could take care of that. But many of them did believe that they don’t need that priesthood power, that God will recognize what’s in their hearts.
GT 39:04 That sounds very Protestant.
Newell 39:08 Right, Protestant, yeah.
GT 39:11 All right. Well, do you want to share anything else from your American Polygamy book with Marianne Watson?
Craig 39:19 Other than the fact than the way we approach this, obviously, I’m a believing, active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Marianne is an active, believing member of the Apostolic United Brethren and comes from the leadership of that group. Her father was on the council. Her grandfather was on the council, etc, and so forth. So, she approached it from a fundamentalist point of view, and I approached it from a non-fundamentalist point of view. I said, “I’ll respect your story.”
And she said, “I’ll respect the Church’s story.” We, basically, worked together on what–we really feel good about the book it. It covers the history of fundamentalism. So, it has the origins and the early days of fundamentalism and the different groups.
Craig 40:36 So, we discussed the Kingstons and their story. We discussed the LeBarons and their story and obviously, those who were with the Woolleys. We discussed the priesthood split. I kept her honest, and she kept me honest, so to speak. In other words, if I felt that, at any point, the description, that there was some bias there, in discussing other groups, I would say, “I think that’s maybe a little too harsh there. I’m going to work with this.” She would do the same. So, we feel that as much as possible–there’s always going to be bias. But we feel that, as much as possible, it’s unbiased. We also discussed the warts. We discussed the warts in the FLDS, in the Kingstons, in the Petersons, in the AUB, which I might add, made the previous leader very unhappy with both of us, but especially Marianne. Unfortunately, she had to take the brunt of that, since I’m not a fundamentalist. But, we wanted to be honest, all the way across the board. Then, at the end, we discussed why. Why would people choose to live this lifestyle? Particularly, why would women want to live this lifestyle? I personally think that the conclusion, it’s a pretty good chapter, I think, in trying to look at what drives them. But all the way through was the theme that obviously, there’s faith. They have faith that this is what God wants. That’s, I think, the main thing that pushes them to live a lifestyle that, even in the best of times, is not easy. So, yeah, we enjoyed doing it.
GT 43:01 And you haven’t gotten any side eyes from your bishop for studying fundamentalism?
Craig 43:05 No, no, actually, I haven’t. In fact, [there’s] a funny story there. We were having a party here at the house. I had invited Marianne and there was at least a good handful of other fundamentalists here with their wives, etc. Among the guests was our Bishop, at the time. He’s been released after this.
GT 43:36 (Chuckling)
Craig 43:36 No. He was later he’s released after his five year stint there, but he was the bishop at the time. A fellow guest that recognized them went over to him and said, “There’s a number of fundamentalists here at this party.”
I went walking over and the bishop said, “I understand that there’s a lot of fundamentalists here.”
I said, “Yeah.” I’m thinking. “Oh, boy.”
“Is that a problem?”
And he goes, “No. Should it be?”
I said “Nope, I don’t think so.” So, they’re aware that I that I do research with the fundamentalists and in the process have gained a number of fundamentalist friends, but so has Newell. He doesn’t have to worry about trouble with the Church. But he, too, has gained some very good friends who are fundamentalist and we’ve had some great relationships and great times together.
GT 44:53 Well, I feel bad. We’ve got Under the Banner of Heaven. Did you guys ever talk about the Laffertys or anything in your books?
Craig 45:01 We did not talk about the Laffertys. I think we may have mentioned them, but I don’t think it made the final cut. Let me look, really quickly, because I can’t remember. No, it did not make the [cut in American Polygamy.] We ended up being way too long. The publisher said, “We’re not going to accept that. You have got to really cut.” And we did. They ended up on the [cutting room floor.] We did mention Tom Green, who was an independent. And he did make the final cut. We, at one point, had talked about David Brian Mitchell. We even mentioned the Knights of the Crystal Blade or whatever, but they didn’t make the cut. I think, at least part of David Brian Mitchell made the cut.
GT 46:04 He was the one who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart.
Craig 46:06 Yes. So let me look for Smart to see if she’s–yes. So, he and she did make the cuts. She, being the victim, obviously. But we did end up having to cut quite a bit, which we felt bad about, because there was some good stuff in there.
GT 46:31 I, actually, contacted Tom Green, and tried to get him on here. He said he was still on probation and couldn’t talk about it. Unfortunately, he passed away.
Craig 46:42 Yeah, he did. That was really sad when we heard that he had passed away. We would run into him at book signings, Benchmark, and I saw him on a couple of other different occasions. [He was a] very nice guy, certainly interesting to visit with.
GT 47:06 Yeah, I wish I could have gotten that interview. I was bummed that didn’t work out. Well, Newell, what are you working on now? What is your next project?
Newell 47:15 Well, I’m concurrently working on a couple of projects. My main focus right at the point, is a biography on Eldridge Cleaver, the former Black Panther.
GT 47:27 And presidential candidate.
Newell 47:29 And presidential candidate, and convert to the LDS Church in 1983. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to be able to interview a number of the LDS people, members of the Church that were very close to him, at the time. In fact, I interviewed a couple who lived down in your neck of the woods, Sonia and Vance Peterson. Sonia happens to be a niece of late president Ezra Taft Benson. I had a wonderful interview and wonderful session with them yesterday. By telephone, I interviewed an associate, actually, the son-in-law of W. Cleon Skousen. Because Eldridge Cleaver ended up being a major spokesman with the Freedman Institute.
GT 48:18 You’re kidding me.
Newell 48:19 He became, he went from being a radical Marxist Black Panther to being a conservative Mormon, lecturing on behalf of the Freedman Institute.
GT 48:31 But isn’t it like the John Birchers?
Newell 48:33 Yeah, they’re very much akin to, they’re not part of it. But they’re of a similar nature, in terms of their philosophy and beliefs. This is actually picking up on a project that I wrote a short article in the Journal of Mormon History that was published in back in 2002. And in the process of going through a new biography on Eldridge Cleaver, I found that he had written an unpublished autobiography, in which he talks about what attracted him to the Church. It was never published. It was in his papers when he died. So, I came across excerpts of this and I was able to get a hold of a copy of pretty much the whole portion of that autobiography in which he described that. That’s what sparked my interest in getting back into looking at Eldridge Cleaver. I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but I’m also intrigued by doing a history of the Mormon History Association. At one time, back in the day, I was actually serving as official historian for the Mormon History Association, and I conducted an number of interviews, I guess some 20 in number. I gave it over to the person who succeeded me as historian. I walked away from it.
Newell 50:10 But, at the recent Mormon History Conference, up in Logan, they had a special pre-conference session, in which they talked about Leonard Arrington, his involvement in the founding of MHA, and how that came about. There are actually three big boxes of material dealing with that early period. I ended up doing a couple of full days of research, and finding out how different the organization was when it was first founded and how much smaller it was, in terms of membership, but also the demographics of the membership, which was overwhelmingly male. They had a respectable contingent of RLDS at that time. They tried to include members of the RLDS. They wanted to make a broad organization that wouldn’t include just people out of a Utah LDS tradition, but also non-Mormons who are doing Mormon history, as well as members of the RLDS, now the Community of Christ. So, it started out as a much smaller organization reaching out to other professional organizations. It was really fledgling during these early years. I found that fascinating. There were hardly any women at all. The only charter member of MHA was Jan Shipps, who later became very prominent in the organization. But it was fascinating. The subjects that they stayed deliberately away from were polygamy, and the issue of blacks and race in the church. At the recently concluded conference, as you’re well aware, a whole bunch of papers were done on those very topics. And a large contingent of the presenters were women.
GT 52:20 Right.
Newell 52:21 I mean, now, women have become a very dominant force within MHA. When it started out, it wasn’t that way at all.
GT 52:31 Well, I just had an interview with Claudia Bushman, and she talked about how it wasn’t appropriate for women to attend that.
Newell 52:39 Oh really?!
GT 52:40 So, she had to rely on Richard just find out what happened.
Newell 52:42 I’d be interested in seeing the transcript from that interview. I brought up the subject of doing– because she lamented, and, in fact, the seeds of this idea of doing a comprehensive history of MHA came from a conversation that I happened to come upon between Claudia Bushman and Patricia Lynn Scott. They were lamenting the fact that, “Gosh, nobody’s done a history of MHA.” I got talking with them and so I brought up the idea with Claudia Bushman. I also brought it up with Paul Alexander, who, likewise, was a charter member of the organization when it started.
GT 53:22 Well, and they had that signature page with all those Bushman and everybody on there.
Newell 53:26 Oh, yeah. Well, I look forward to it. So you interviewed both Richard and Claudia?
GT 53:29 Yes.
Newell 53:30 I look forward to seeing it.
GT 53:32 I’ll send you a link.
Newell 53:32 I would really like to see what he had to say. So, anyway, that’s my other [project.] I’ve kind of found myself caught up in that because I’m just fascinated [about] how the organization has evolved and how it changed and how it came about. I found the most interesting thing about the origins. The initial real push came from a group of young, vibrant BYU professors led by Tom Alexander, Richard Poll…
GT 54:10 Bushman was there.
Newell 54:11 Yeah, Bushman. There was a group of them down at BYU that were really pushing for the formation of MHA.
GT 54:19 Yeah, Davis Bitton was another one.
Newell 54:21 Yeah, but at that time, he was down in Santa Barbara, and he later came up to the University of Utah. My wife, in fact, had Davis Bitton as a professor. But, anyway, that was the group that was really pushing. Then, Leonard Arrington, who had all these other professional connections with other organizations and a networking guy, really got the ball rolling. But the idea came from these BYU professors.
GT 54:56 How about you, Craig? What are you working on?
GT 55:04 I’m working on, helping out with a manuscript that we hope will be a book, that is a chronology of fundamentalists. It was begun by Kenneth Driggs. Ken, he’s had some health problems. A couple of us have kind of stepped in and said, “Well, we want to help you with that.” So, we’re working on that. Plus, there are annotated diaries of B. Harvey Allred. I told Marianne that I would help on that. Then, I’m working on a couple of articles, one of which has more to do with culture of violence, because I’ve moved a little bit from polygamy and fundamentalism to doing a series of different articles dealing with culture of violence. My most recent one that was published near the end of last year, beginning of this year, was published in the Journal of the Wild West History Association. It is titled, “The Wrath of a Wronged Woman: Ways 19th Century Women Punished Wrong-doers.” That was fun one to write. So, I’m working on an article with that, and also a paper that I’ll be presenting at John Whitmer, looking at the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in a larger historical and social context. Was that out of the ordinary? If not how, so? If so, if it was out of the ordinary, then how was it out of the ordinary? I’m just trying to put that more within a larger context of what was going on at that time. That’s been a fun one to do the research on. Now all I have to do is write it. The fun was there. Now that it comes to the writing, it isn’t as fun. But it has to be done.
GT 57:50 All right. I have one more question for you, Craig. I know on your Facebook profile, you’ve got a grizzly bear. I see here your house, you’ve got a grizzly bear lamp. You’ve definitely got the grizzly bear theme. Are you a grizzly bear?
Craig 58:03 Yes, I am. Yes, I am. What do they call that? My identifier says bear and bear self. I’m kidding there, but I do like bears. I had like maybe three things that dealt with bears before I got married. My wife really liked the idea. So, it really took off after we got married. But we do have bears of one type or another in just about every room in the house.
GT 58:48 I’ve noticed that. All right, well do you have any last words, anything we missed here?
Newell 58:53 Can you think of anything? I think we’ve pretty well covered the bases. I guess I express my appreciation that you take an interest in what we’re both trying to do. And I applaud you for all of your previous podcasts. It’s a great contribution that you’re making to the furtherance of Mormon studies. I really appreciate what you’re doing.
GT 59:23 Well, thank you.
Craig 59:24 I second that.
GT 59:24 I really appreciate that, Newell. You’re one of my idols, that’s why I have you on all the time. I love both of your scholarship. Well, thank you so much for being here on Gospel Tangents. I really appreciate it.
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