Alex Joseph (1936 – September 27, 1998) (born Alec Richard Joseph; also referred to as Ronald Ellison) was an outspoken polygamist and founder of the Confederate Nations of Israel, a Mormon fundamentalist sect. As mayor of Big Water, Utah, Joseph was the first Libertarian Party mayor of a community in the United States.
Joseph was not raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, but was baptized into it in his late teens. He became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in 1965. In 1969, he abandoned the LDS Church and briefly joined a group of Mormon fundamentalists under the leadership of Rulon C. Allred in Pinesdale, Montana. In time, he convinced four students at the University of Montana to marry him and become his plural wives. His wives were not Latter Day Saints; rather, two were Roman Catholics, one was a Methodist, and one was a Presbyterian. The parents of the students were outraged and confronted Allred with their displeasure. Allred was displeased that Joseph had married without his permission, and after Joseph pointed out that Allred had also taken multiple wives, Joseph was asked to leave the colony in Montana. Joseph's exposure to Mormon fundamentalist groups eventually led him to see them as oppressive and corrupt. "Atrocities are committed and people have no recourse because they're outside the law, like the Mafia", commented Joseph. From then on, Joseph followed his own Christian-based religious convictions.
Elizabeth Joseph, one of Alex Joseph's wives who served as Big Water City Attorney and an instructor at Coconino Community College, was a featured speaker at the Utah NOW conference in 1997.
Joseph's style of polygamy was formed out of his own reading of the Bible, and contrasted with that practised by some other Mormon fundamentalists in some notable ways. First, his wives entered into their marriages of their own accord, initiative and free will, rather than being designated by a paternal authority. Second, his wives were encouraged to be very independent. Third, he was open about his polygamist lifestyle rather than being secretive, and welcomed media coverage, believing that it is his constitutional right and because "he wants public opinion on his side".
Big Water and Confederate Nations of Israel
Joseph and his wives moved to Kane County, Utah to a deserted settlement known as Glen Canyon City; Joseph renamed the settlement Big Water in 1983. Joseph became the first mayor of the newly renamed settlement. In 1977, he organized the Church of Jesus Christ in Solemn Assembly and the Confederate Nations of Israel, a hybrid church–political organization modelled after Mormonism's Council of Fifty.
In April 1986, Joseph made news when he abandoned the Republican Party and joined the Libertarian Party and by so doing became the first American mayor to be a member of the Libertarian Party. Joseph also convinced the four other members of the town council to join the Libertarians, thereby creating America's first "Libertarian Party town government" in Big Water. The Libertarian government abolished all taxes on real estate in the town. Joseph stepped down as mayor in 1994 after serving three consecutive terms.
Occupations, family and death
At different times in his life, Joseph was employed as a U.S. Marine, a police officer, a firefighter, a mail carrier, a car salesman, an accountant, an author of books, a health food producer, a private investigator, and a manager for country and western music performers. He also starred in a movie about himself known as Alex Joseph and His Wives. He requested that his occupation on his death certificate be listed as "pirate". Although it has been estimated that he may have married up to twenty women at various times, Joseph was survived by seven wives and 14 biological children, as well as several adopted or fostered children. He died of liver cancer at the age of 62.
- Joseph is given the pseudonym of "Ronald Ellison" when discussed by Dorothy Allred Solomon in her book In My Father's House; see D. Michael Quinn, "Plural Marriage and Mormon Fundamentalism", in Martin E. Marty and R. Scott Appleby (eds.) (1991). Fundamentalism and Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-226-50880-3) pp. 240–290 at p. 286 n. 61.
- D. Michael Quinn, "Plural Marriage and Mormon Fundamentalism", Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 22–23.
- Sara Davidson, "The Man with Ten Wives" retrieved 2-Nov-2010
- Dorothy Allred Solomon (2003). Predators, Prey, and Other Kinfolk: Growing Up in Polygamy (New York: W. W. Norton) p. 287.
- Julie Ann Kessler An Immodest Proposal Women's Quarterly, Summer 1997
- Stokes, Jerry (2007), Changing World Religions, Cults & Occult, p. 159, retrieved October 7, 2013
- Melton, J. Gordon (1992), Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults in America, retrieved October 7, 2013
- Webb, Loren (December 22, 2012), Southern Utah Memories: Alex Joseph Story, Big Water, Utah: KCSG Television, retrieved October 7, 2013
- Alex Joseph: The Confederate Nations of Israel MormonFundamentalism.com
- "Alex Joseph, first LP mayor, dies at 62", Libertarian Party News, Dec. 1998.
- Brian C. Hales (2006). Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalists : The Generations after the Manifesto (Salt Lake City, Utah: Greg Kofford Books)
- KCSG, Southern Utah Memories: The Alex Joseph Story
- Mormonfundamentalism.com: Alex Joseph — & The Confederate Nations of Israel.
- Saradavidson.com: "The Man with Ten Wives" (Alex Joseph), by Sara Davidson.
- Sister Widows: Wives of dead polygamist rebuild their lives
- "Alex Joseph and His Wives" — information about the film.
- Salt Lake Metro article: "Utah's Gay Mayor" — includes background information on Alex Joseph and the founding of Big Water, Utah.