Lorin C. Woolley

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Lorin C. Woolley
Bust photo of Lorin C. Woolley circa 1880
circa 1880
Senior Member of the Priesthood Council
December 13, 1928 (1928-12-13) – September 19, 1934 (1934-09-19)
Predecessor John Wickersham Woolley
Successor Disputed: Inculding:
Joseph L. Broadbent[1]
John Y. Barlow[2][3]
Personal details
Born Lorin Calvin Woolley
(1856-10-23)October 23, 1856
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Died September 19, 1934(1934-09-19) (aged 77)
Centerville, Utah, United States
Resting place Centerville City Cemetery
40°54′47″N 111°52′05″W / 40.913°N 111.868°W / 40.913; -111.868 (Centerville City Cemetery)
Spouse 6
Children 9
Parents John Wickersham
Julia Searles Ensign

Lorin Calvin Woolley (October 23, 1856 – September 19, 1934) was a Mormon fundamentalist leader and a proponent of plural marriage. An early twentieth-century excommunicant from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), he is considered the founding father of the Mormon fundamentalist movement, and his claim to have been ordained to a secretive Priesthood Council of seven "High Priest Apostles" by LDS Church President John Taylor in 1886, as well as his distinctive teachings on authority, morality, and doctrine, are thought to provide the theological framework for nearly 90 per cent of fundamentalist groups throughout the Wasatch Front.[4]

Early life[edit]

Woolley was born in Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, the third son of Mormon pioneer John W. Woolley and his first wife, Julia Searles Ensign.[5] His family relocated to the city of Centerville in 1863, and he and his six siblings there attended the LDS Church's Centerville 5th Ward. Woolley was baptized a member of the LDS Church on October 18, 1868, by his father, and ordained an elder on March 10, 1873, by John Lyon.[6] Nicknamed “Noisy,” the boisterous young Woolley frequently dominated ward Elders Quorum discussions. In later life, he would claim to have been a childhood friend of future Church President Heber J. Grant, who attended the Salt Lake City 13th Ward presided over by his grandfather, Bishop Edwin D. Woolley, a close friend of Brigham Young.[7]

On January 5, 1883, Woolley married Sarah Ann Roberts in the Endowment House on Temple Square.[8] They would have nine children together: Lorin Ross (1883), Gordon Roberts (1888), Hugh Roberts (1890), John Dilworth (1892), Thomas Matthew (1894), Gwendolyn (1896), Earl Roberts (1899), Calvin Roberts (1901), and Olive Woolley (1905).[9]

Between October 1886 and February 1887, Woolley provided valuable assistance to LDS Church general authorities in hiding for the practice of polygamy by acting as a mail carrier and bodyguard. It was in this capacity that he would later describe the reception of the 1886 Revelation on polygamy by Church President John Taylor.

Woolley served as a Mormon missionary in the Southern States Mission from October 31, 1887 to October 6, 1889. After being called to the Seventieth Quorum of the Seventy at Centerville shortly thereafter, he served a second four-month mission to Indian Territory from December 6, 1896 to April 6, 1897.

Plural marriage[edit]

Between October 1886 and February 1887, Woolley became a mail carrier for the LDS Church leaders who were hiding from state authorities during the crack-down against Mormon polygamy. In 1912, he gave the first written account of the background to the 1886 Revelation, which included a September 1886 visitation of Joseph Smith to LDS Church president John Taylor at Woolley's father's home, and of a subsequent meeting in which Taylor stated that plural marriage must and would continue. In 1890, three years after Taylor's death, the church officially abandoned polygamy.

Woolley was excommunicated from the LDS Church in January 1924 for alleging that church president Heber J. Grant and apostle James E. Talmage had taken plural wives in the "recent past".[9] Woolley claimed that he had learned of such behavior because he was employed by the United States Secret Service to spy on LDS Church leaders.[9] The official reason for his excommunication was that he was "found guilty of pernicious falsehood."[9][10] Grant publicly denied Woolley's claims in a general conference of the church in April 1931.[9]

Mormon fundamentalist leader[edit]

Most Mormon fundamentalists believe that upon his father's death in December 1928, Lorin Woolley succeeded him as President of the Priesthood. The following spring, Woolley ordained a new quorum of seven apostles (known as the Council of Friends), including J. Leslie Broadbent, John Yeates Barlow and Joseph White Musser, to ensure the perpetuation of plural marriage.

Woolley is thought to have married at least five plural wives, four of whom were his first cousins: Alice May, Sarah Viola, Lucy, and Elnora Woolley by 1915, and Goulda Kmetzsch in 1932.[11]

As a leader of the Mormon fundamentalists, Woolley claimed to have been visited by a number of angels and resurrected beings, including Jesus; Joseph Smith; Brigham Young; John Taylor; Joseph F. Smith; his father; one of the Three Nephites, who was named "Nephi"; and a Lamanite prophet.[9]

Prior to his death, Woolley appointed J. Leslie Broadbent as his "first elder" and successor.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hales, Brian C. "J. Leslie Broadbent". mormonfundamentalism.com. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  2. ^ Offical website of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: President Lorin C. Woolley at the Wayback Machine (archived September 28, 2008)
  3. ^ Rulon, Jeffs (1997). History of Priesthood Succession in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times and Some Challenges to the One Man Rule.. Rulon Jeffs. p. 243. 
  4. ^ D. Michael Quinn, "Plural Marriage and Mormon Fundamentalism," in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby, eds., Fundamentalisms and Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, Education, and the Family, Vol. 2 of the Fundamentalism Project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), 244.
  5. ^ Preston Woolley Parkinson, The Utah Woolley Family, Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News Press, 1967, 313.
  6. ^ Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact, Salt Lake City, Utah: Publishers Press, 1979, 145.
  7. ^ Journal of Joseph W. Musser, April 19, 1933. ("[In a dream, Heber J. Grant] 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.")
  8. ^ Stephen L. and Lynn L. Bishop, The Keys of the Priesthood Illustrated, Draper, Utah: 1971, 146-152.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Brian C. Hales, "'I Love to Hear Him Talk and Rehearse': The Life and Teachings of Lorin C. Woolley", Mormon History Association, 2003.
  10. ^ James E. Talmage Correspondence File, January 18, 1924, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City
  11. ^ Bishop, Lynn L. The 1886 Visitations of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith to John Taylor: The Centerville Meetings. Utah: Latter Day Publications, 1998.
  12. ^ Norman C. Pierce, 3½ Years, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1963, pp. 77–78

External links[edit]

Mormon fundamentalist titles
Preceded by
John Wickersham Woolley
Senior Member of the Priesthood Council
December 13, 1928 - September 19, 1934
Succeeded by
Joseph Leslie Broadbent
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints titles
Preceded by
John Wickersham Woolley
Senior Member of the Priesthood Council
December 13, 1928 - September 19, 1934
Succeeded by
John Y. Barlow