John Ortell Kingston

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J. Ortell Kingston
Photo of Kingston in the Military
Kingston in the Military
Trustee in Trust [1][2]
July 8, 1948 (1948-07-08)[1] – August 25, 1987 (1987-08-25)
PredecessorElden Kingston
SuccessorPaul Elden Kingston
Personal details
BornJohn Ortell Kingston
(1919-05-19)May 19, 1919
Idaho, United States
DiedAugust 25, 1987(1987-08-25) (aged 68)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
Resting placeBountiful Memorial Park
40°52′02″N 111°53′15″W / 40.8672°N 111.8874°W / 40.8672; -111.8874 (Bountiful Memorial Park)
Spouse(s)At least thirteen,[3] including:
LaDonna Peterson
Marion H. Tucker
Isabell Johnson
ParentsCharles W. Kingston
Vesta Minerva

John Ortell Kingston (May 19, 1919 – August 25, 1987) was the Trustee of the Davis County Cooperative Society in Davis County, Utah, from 1948 until his death in 1987.

Davis County Cooperative membership[edit]

John Ortell Kingston was the son of Charles W. Kingston, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) who had been excommunicated from the LDS Church on March 4, 1929. Kingston joined his brother Elden Kingston's cooperative shortly after its establishment. When Elden Kingston died from cancer in 1948, leadership of the "Davis County Co-op" passed from Elden to Ortell.

During Ortell's tenure as Trustee of the Cooperative, some members formally organized the Latter Day Church of Christ in 1977.[4] Most members of the Cooperative became members of the church and retain dual-membership in both organizations to this day.[5][6]


The Cooperative had its birth during the Great Depression when many families were finding it hard to provide for their families.[7] For many years, members of the Co-operative lived in poor conditions with those in need having no legal way to apply for assistance. Plural families at times resorted to gathering expired groceries that had been thrown out from local stores.[8] Long-time leader John Ortell Kingston himself lived in a small dilapidated one-story clapboard house in Salt Lake City up until the time of his death in 1987.[9][10]

As Trustee, Kingston aggressively pursued a financially expansive agenda for the Cooperative[1] in the hopes of improving the financial condition of his followers.[9]

In 1983, after destitute members of the Cooperative had applied for assistance[11] Utah sued Kingston to recoup the subsidies they had received, alleging they were ineligible to receive them due the cooperative's combined assets purporting to total $70 million. While admitting no wrongdoing, Kingston paid the state $250,000 to settle the case and it was dropped.[12]

Over the past 25 years, many members have become college educated and live in middle, to upper-middle class homes in their respective communities.[13][14] Currently the group claims that although different skillsets bring different financial outcomes, there is no homelessness within the DCCS and internal programs exist for those experiencing financial poverty.[15]

Controversial practices[edit]

Kingston was living plural marriage until his death; he had married at least 13 wives and had dozens of children.[3]

Throughout the 1940s and 50s, the state carried out an extensive campaign of legislation, raids and arrests in an attempt to break up plural families.[16] For the Davis County Cooperative, this culminated in a Davis County Grand Jury investigation in 1959, 1960 described by the Ogden Standard-Examiner as "The polygamist hunting Davis County Grand Jury".[17] This likely contributed to the Cooperative associating mostly within themselves, marrying within the group, including some consanguineous marriages.[18] In the late 1990s, some non-members and ex-members began claiming the practice stemmed from theories of genetic purification.[3][19] However, active members and recent independent research has more plausibly attributed the practice to "endogamous preference and the small size of the group’s population".[14][20] Some of these marriages could be considered incestuous under Utah consanguinity laws.[21]

Kingston taught his followers to "seek their own direction" when choosing who to marry, and to marry within the legal age of consent.[13] For many members, this meant choosing to marry just after reaching legal age, which at times has been somewhat controversial. The legal age of consent in Utah has historically increased from 14, to 15, now to 16 with court approval in 2019.[22] Plural relationships with anyone under 18 is prohibited. For decades, the Cooperative has publicly joined with many others in speaking out against child-bride marriages and the DCCS has a policy encouraging its members to marry within the legal age of consent.[23][15][24][25]


Kingston died in 1987 and was living plural marriage until his death. Ortell had at least thirteen wives and dozens of children.[19] Kingston's sons comprise most of the members of the highest echelon of leadership within the cooperative as well as many of the plural families within the group.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Hales, Brian C. "John Ortell Kingston Archived 2013-10-18 at the Wayback Machine"., accessed 2009-06-06
  2. ^ Hales, Brian C. "John Ortell Kingston". Archived from the original on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Greg Burton, "When Incest Becomes a Religious Tenet", Salt Lake Tribune, 25 April 1999.
  4. ^ In 1941, Elden Kingston registered the "Davis County Cooperative Society Incorporated" in Utah. In 1977, J. Ortell Kingston registered "Latter Day Church of Christ" in Utah.
  5. ^ (PDF). 2013-01-27 Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-01-27. Retrieved 2021-01-20. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Osmond, Amy (December 2010). "Organizational Identification: A Case Study of the Davis County Cooperative Society, the Latter Day Church of Christ or Kingston Order". University of Utah, Marriott Library.
  7. ^ Foster, Craig (2019). American Polygamy. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-4671-3752-2.
  8. ^ Ana Breton, "Polygamist's home found in squalor", Salt Lake Tribune, 11 August 2007.
  9. ^ a b Burton, Greg (August 16, 1998). "Kingstons Cling to Vision of LDS Lifestyle". The Salt Lake Tribune.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ D. Michael Quinn, "Plural Marriage and Mormon Fundamentalism" Archived 2011-06-13 at the Wayback Machine, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 31(2) (Summer 1998): 1–68, accessed 6 June 2009.
  11. ^ "DCCS Self-Sustaining Policy, Contributions to the Community". Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  12. ^ Ray Rivera, "Utah Attorneys Key Figures in Polygamist Kingston Clan", Salt Lake Tribune, July 19, 1998.
  13. ^ a b Foster, Craig (2019). American Polygamy. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-1-4671-3752-2.
  14. ^ a b Mueller, Michelle (2019). "Escaping the Perils of Sensationalist Television Reduction". Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative Religions. 22: 70.
  15. ^ a b "DCCS - FAQ". Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  16. ^ Foster, Craig (2019). American Polygamy. Charleston, SC: The History Press. pp. 79–128. ISBN 978-1-4671-3752-2.
  17. ^ "Jury to Peak at Records Tuesday; Lets Woman Go Home for Christmas". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. 1959-12-25.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ Foster, Craig (2019). American Polygamy. Charleston, SC: The History Press. p. 133. ISBN 978-1-4671-3752-2.
  19. ^ a b Moore-Emmett, Andrea. God's Brothel. San Francisco, CA: Pince-Nez Press, 2004, pages 28, 67, 88, 146, 146.
  20. ^ "Incest could be behind probe of Kingston family". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  21. ^ Utah Code: Title 30 Husband and Wife: Chapter 1 Marriage: Section 1 Incestuous marriages void.
  22. ^ "A bill banning 15-year olds from marrying in Utah is headed to the governor". The Salt Lake Tribune. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  23. ^ "Shurtleff: Child bride polygamous marriages appear to have stopped". Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  24. ^ News, Deseret (2008-06-19). "Polygamists are urged to make public statement". Deseret News. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
  25. ^ News, Deseret (2007-09-09). "No longer performing child-bride marriages?". Deseret News. Retrieved 2021-01-20.
Latter Day Church of Christ
Preceded by Trustee In Trust
July 8, 1948 (1948-07-08) - August 25, 1987 (1987-08-25)
Succeeded by