Leroy S. Johnson

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Leroy S. Johnson
Leroy S. Johnson2.jpg
During the Short Creek raid, 1953
Senior Member of the Priesthood Council (Short Creek Community)[1]
1954 – November 25, 1986 (1986-11-25)
Predecessor Disputed: Possibly:
  Joseph White Musser
  Charles Zitting
Successor Disputed: Possibly:
  Rulon Jeffs
  J. Marion Hammon
Personal details
Born Leroy Sunderland Johnson
(1888-06-12)June 12, 1888
Lee's Ferry, Arizona, U.S.
Died November 25, 1986(1986-11-25) (aged 98)
Hildale, Utah, U.S.
Resting place Isaac W. Carling Memorial Park
Colorado City, Arizona, U.S.
Spouse(s) At least 15[2]
Parents Warren Marshall Johnson
Permelia Smith

Leroy Sunderland Johnson (June 12, 1888 – November 25, 1986), known as Uncle Roy,[4] was a leader of the Mormon fundamentalist group at Colorado City, Arizona (which later evolved into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or FLDS Church), during the latter part of the twentieth century.


Johnson was born on June 12, 1888, at Lee's Ferry, Arizona, to Warren Marshall Johnson, a first-generation convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and one of his wives, Permelia Smith Johnson.[5]

Johnson was baptized into the LDS Church at the age of eight, not long after church president Wilford Woodruff's 1890 Manifesto banning plural marriage was issued.[6] His father, upon reading the Manifesto, addressed "To Whom It May Concern," simply stated that it did not concern him. Roy Johnson took issue with the Manifesto, being very outspoken about his belief in "the Celestial Law" even before learning about the formal fundamentalist movement within Mormonism.[7] His convictions were strengthened after he traveled to Short Creek, Arizona, where a prominent polygamous community was coalescing, and acquainted himself with movement leaders such as John W. Woolley, Joseph White Musser, and John Y. Barlow.[8]

Leroy Johnson and his wife Josephine were excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1935 along with most of the rest of the Short Creek Community after they refused to sign an affidavit abandoning their belief in plural marriage. Then, Johnson chose to officially join the "Woolley group" of fundamentalists, the spiritual predecessor to the modern Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church), and was eventually ordained an apostle by John Y. Barlow and became one of the group's Council of the Priesthood.[9][10]

Johnson became a leader of the polygamous movement after Barlow's death in 1949. He did not initially consider his group a distinct organization from the Salt Lake-based LDS Church, describing it simply as "the Fundamentalist division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," but by 1952, he openly remarked that he and his followers "have separated ourselves from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it now stands."[11][12] Despite being plagued by incidents such as the 1953 Short Creek raid, Johnson's thirty-two-year tenure as senior member of the Priesthood Council has been characterized as "a time of stability, growth, financial success, and greater public acceptance."[13]

While Johnson is today recognized as a prophet of the FLDS Church, he only implicitly referred to his own prophetic status: "You have heard other men call me a prophet, but you have never heard me make the claim."[14]

While acting as Prophet, Johnson dismissed J. Marion Hammon and Alma Adelbert Timpson from the Council of Friends.[15] Hammon and Timpson went on to form the Centennial Park group of polygamists.

Following Johnson's death in Hildale, Utah, on November 25, 1986, Rulon Jeffs succeeded him as leader of the FLDS Church. Although Johnson had been very ill and unable to mingle among the people for several years, his passing created a "climate of upheaval" within the community, during which the church became increasingly authoritarian.[16] The numbers of apostates gradually increased, spiking in the early 21st century, with the turmoil accompanying the imprisonment of Jeffs's son, church president Warren Jeffs, on two counts of child sexual assault.

In recent years, Johnson's tenure as Prophet has become a focal point for Mormon fundamentalists disaffected with the modern FLDS Church. For instance, one of Warren Jeffs's brothers noted that Uncle Roy was a "warm, loving" prophet who "taught polygamy for the right reasons," but Jeffs "has no love for the people."[17]

Johnson's birthday was celebrated as a holiday within the FLDS Church until the practice was discontinued by Warren Jeffs in 2003.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hales, Brian C. "J. Leslie Broadbent". mormonfundamentalism.com. Retrieved 18 March 2014. 
  2. ^ "Polygamist 'Uncle Roy' Johnson," The Montreal Gazette, 27 November 1986.
  3. ^ http://www.mormonfundamentalism.com/Photos/LeroyJohnson.htm
  4. ^ Krakauer (2003, p. 33) ("Until 1986 ... the prophet was LeRoy Johnson, a plainspoken farmer known to his followers as 'Uncle Roy.'")
  5. ^ Johnson & 1983-84, 4:1223.
  6. ^ Johnson & 1983-84, 2:693.
  7. ^ Johnson & 1983-84, 3:1159 ("I tried for some years before I became acquainted with President Barlow or President John W. Woolley to get into the principle of plural marriage, because I had it in my heart".)
  8. ^ Johnson & 1983-84, 6:346.
  9. ^ Johnson & 1983-84, 6:343.
  10. ^ Baer (1988, p. 38).
  11. ^ Johnson & 1983-84, 4:1635.
  12. ^ Johnson & 1983-84, 5:28.
  13. ^ Ken Driggs (1990). "Fundamentalist Attitudes toward the Church: The Sermons of Leroy S. Johnson" (PDF). Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. p. 39. 
  14. ^ Bistline (2004, p. 102)
  15. ^ "Leroy S. Johnson". Retrieved 6 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Krakauer (2003, pp. 38–39) ("Uncle Roy ... was by then ninety-three years old, very ill, and fast fading into senility .... In 1986 Uncle Roy died, and Rulon Jeffs became the UEP's new prophet. In the climate of upheaval that followed, there was turmoil in both Bountiful and Colorado City.")
  17. ^ Krakauer (2003, p. 263)
  18. ^ Wall (2009, p. 260) ("Warren announced that this year we would not be celebrating Uncle Roy's birthday. Though Uncle Roy had begun this tradition himself, and it had been carried on for years, Warren declared that the event was not what Uncle Roy would have wanted.")
  19. ^ Jeffs (2010, p. 206) ("Warren had already begun cracking down on the people of Short Creek: canceling the 2003 celebration of Leroy Johnson's birthday in June and the Pioneer Day Parade in July, which commemorates the date that Mormons first settled in the Salt Lake valley.")


  • Baer, Hans A. (1988), Recreating Utopia in the Desert: A Sectarian Challenge to Modern Mormonism, Albany: State University of New York Press .
  • Bistline, Benjamin J. (February 2004), The Polygamists: A History of Colorado City, Arizona, Agreka Books, ISBN 1-8881-0674-3 .
  • Jeffs, Brent W. (May 2009), Lost Boy: The True Story of One Man's Exile from a Polygamous Cult and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life, Broadway, ISBN 0-7679-3177-7 .
  • Johnson, Leroy S. (1983-4), The L. S. Johnson Sermons (6 vols.), Hildale, Utah: Twin Cities Courier Press  Check date values in: |date= (help).
  • Krakauer, Jon (July 2003), Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, New York: Doubleday, ISBN 1-4000-3280-6 .
  • Wall, Elissa (February 2008), Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs, New York: HarperCollins, ISBN 0-0617-3496-9 .

External links[edit]

Mormon fundamentalist titles
Preceded by
Joseph White Musser
as Senior Member of the Priesthood Council 
(Short Creek Community)
Senior Member of the Priesthood Council
1954 – November 25, 1986
Succeeded by
Rulon T. Jeffs
as Prophet and President
of the FLDS Church
Preceded by
Charles Zitting
as Senior Member of the Priesthood Council
Succeeded by
J. Marion Hammon
as Head of the Centennial Park group