Irene Spencer

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Irene Spencer
Born Irene Kunz
(1937-02-01) February 1, 1937 (age 80)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Died March 12, 2017
Occupation Author, Mother, Grandmother
Spouse Verlan LeBaron (July 3, 1953 until his death in 1981);
lane Stubbs (1981-1984);
Hector J. Spencer
Relatives Former sister-wife:
Susan Ray Schmidt

Irene Spencer is an American author and a widow of Verlan LeBaron, brother of former prophet Joel LeBaron of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times, a fundamentalist Mormon offshoot.

Early life[edit]

Irene Golda Kunz was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1937. She secretly wed Verlan LeBaron on July 3, 1953, becoming his second wife. His first wife was her older half-sister Charlotte. Irene would eventually bear 13 of Verlan's 58 children.[1]

Married life[edit]

Following her marriage to Verlan, she moved to a farm called "Colonia LeBaron" in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Northern Mexico. Colonia LeBaron had been settled by Verlan's father Alma Dayer LeBaron after the Manifesto of 1890 when the mainstream LDS Church abandoned polygamy. When Alma died in 1951, he passed leadership of the polygamist community down to his son Joel, who formally organized the Church of the Firstborn in the Fulness of Times in Salt Lake City, Utah.[2]

A power struggle ensued between the sons of Alma Dayer LeBaron.[1] A younger son, Ervil, founded his own church, the Church of the Lamb of God, in 1972 in San Diego, California, and later that year ordered the murder of his brother Joel, claiming justification based on the doctrine of blood atonement. Ervil's hit list would eventually reach the hundreds and include John F. Kennedy and the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Besides Joel, he would succeed in murdering his pregnant daughter Rebecca and Rulon C. Allred, the President of the Apostolic United Brethren, another key polygamist group. Rulon Allred was Irene's mother's brother, and one of the reasons Ervil had him killed was so he could kill Verlan at Rulon's funeral.[3]

After Joel's death, Verlan was tapped for leadership of the Church of the Firstborn, so Ervil added Irene's family to his hit list. To escape the death threats, Irene and her children were forced to move to Nicaragua, where they lived in huts without electricity or indoor plumbing, battled tics and jungle insects, and were infected by intestinal worms.[1]

The living conditions in Nicaragua nearly broke Irene, but she finally left Verlan in 1978 when, despite the family's abject poverty, he married a 10th wife, Priscilla.[4] After seeking spiritual advice outside of the polygamist community, she was convinced to return to Verlan in 1980. One year later, on August 16, 1981, Verlan died in an automobile accident. His brother Ervil, had died 2 days prior in the Utah State Penitiary, where he was serving a life sentence for the murder of Rulon Allred.[3]

After Verlan's death[edit]

Irene Spencer lived in Anchorage, Alaska, with Hector Spencer, her husband of 19 years. She became a born-again Christian at the urging of one of her sons and is now an outspoken critic of polygamy. She has published the book Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife and Cult Insanity: A Memoir of Polygamy, Prophets, and Blood Atonement to shed light on the realities of polygamy in modern America.

Hector Spencer died on January 21, 2013, at their home in Mexico, where he was buried. [5]


  1. ^ a b c Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Predators, Prey and Other Kinfolk by Dorothy Allred Solomon
  4. ^
  5. ^