During the history of the FLDS there have been at least three major splits where a significant number of families have broken off from those who have remained. One can easily argue that it was the FLDS group that split off from the others. In all three cases there was much contention and the major issue centered on who had the legitimate right to lead and policies being enforced.
The three splits were: 1. The Allred Group in 1952, 2. The Centennial Park Group in 1984, and 3. The Winston Blackmore group in 2002. The fourth group later became known as the FLDS about 1990. The circumstances involving these splits are highly debated depending on the point of view and all four resulting groups feel that the others have fallen away from the truth. The FLDS go as far as to consider these other groups as apostates. Warren Jeffs has ordered his followers to shun members of these groups and have no contact with them even if there are family members in the other groups.
All of these groups trace their roots back to a small group of men who were excommunicated from the Mormon Church around the 1920-30s for continuing to promote and practice polygamy. This wasn’t really a “Mormon Splinter Group” because these men didn’t form another church. They simply believed that God wanted them to keep alive the principle of plural marriage. Families involved referred to this group as “The Work.” Eventually they were lead by a Priesthood Council composed of seven men with Lorin C. Woolley at as the senior member. More families joined “The Work” and they lived in several communities. A few families eventually settled in the Short Creek near the Utah/Arizona border. In 1945, the members of the priesthood council were arrested and served some time in prison for polygamy.
After John Y. Barlow became the senior member of the priesthood council, he appointed others to fill vacancies dues to deaths and to expend the council into a larger group. There eventually were 12 members of the council.
The 1952 Priesthood Split
After Barlow’s death, Joseph Musser became the senior member of the council. Musser suffered from a series of strokes and was in poor health. In 1952 he announced to the other council members his intention to appoint Rulon Allred to the council. The other members of the council could not accept this ordination and several claimed that they were under covenant from the previous leader, John Y. Barlow, to never allow Rulon Alled into the council. Musser went ahead and with this ordination. The council could not support this action. Faced with open rebellion, Musser demanded that those who supported him accompany him out of the meeting where he announced the appointment. Only a few followed after him. He eventually released all the other council members and appointed a new council. A major split occurred and families took up sides. One of Rulon Allred’s own wives refused to follow the Musser group.
The end result was two groups, one that followed Musser and one that followed Charles Zitting who was the next senior member of the original priesthood council. Musser died in 1954 and Rulon Allred became the leader of this group. They met in Murray Utah. By 1959, they had over 1,000 members. They later became known as the Apostolic United Brethren. Today, many of their members live near Bluffdale, UT, between Salt Lake City and Provo. They also have a large group in Pinesdale, Montana. Rulon Allred was murdered in 1977 by followers of the violent Ervil Lebaron Group. Today the AUB has an estimated 8,000-10,000 members.
1984 Priesthood Split
In the remaining group, LeRoy Johnson took over leadership in 1954 after the death of Charles Zitting. During his leadership there were power struggles involving the “Barlow Boys” who were sons of the former leader John Y. Barlow. These Barlows included Louis, Truman, Joe, Dan, Alvin, Sam, and Nephi. Some have referred to their efforts as the “Barlow Conspiracy.” They gained favor with “Uncle Roy” and increased in influence over the people. Among their activities was to push hard for the acceptance of a “one man rule” doctrine that had been discussed for several years. This was a doctrine of infallibility with one-man, a "prophet." The prophet had to be honored and obeyed no matter what. The doctrine would essentially take most of the power and influence away from the other priesthood council members and centralize all the power with one man. This one man would be the one who would make assignments for marriages, the most valued decision within the community.
By 1978, there were only five members of the priesthood council still alive. Three did not support the one man rule doctrine. Many claim, as LeRoy Johnson became ill, that the Barlows fed lies to Uncle Leroy (who was confined because of shingles) about the activities and sermons of council members Marrion Hammon and Alma (Del) Timpson.
Finally in 1984, after council member Guy Musser died, Johnson removed Hammon and Timpson from their positions of leadership. Hammon and Timpson refused to go away quietly and the community took sides. On one side were those who believed LeRoy Johnson was the one man prophet. On the other side were those who believed that the priesthood council should continue to lead, that they all held the same authority, a doctrine consistent with what had been taught by former leaders. The first group became known as “The First Ward” and the second group (about 1/3rd) became known as “The Second Ward.” Finally, in 1986 the Second Ward group broke away. Intense disputes continued, especially over property and the UEP. Law suits were fought for years. The Second Warders eventually moved off of UEP property a couple miles south of Colorado City, in Centennial Park.
Warren Jeffs’ stated his version of this history: “In 1978, three men, apostles, turned traitor to Uncle Roy. Marion Hammon, Guy Musser and Alma Timpson. The Lord allowed those three men to continue from 1978 until 1984. For around six years, they would come and control the meetings because Uncle Roy wasn't here (in Short Creek). They talked against him. He allowed them to take charge of our meetings. Some of the men who were with Uncle Roy went to him and complained and criticized those three men. . . . He wouldn't even let us criticize these men who were talking against Uncle Roy. He said for us to have patience and endure well. He wept over Guy Musser, and in his suffering and his patience, he gave those men, who turned against him, six years to repent, but they would not. When the Lord sent him in 1984, he then put them down and told them they could no longer teach this people.”
The Barlows completely changed the UEP Trust, by a series of amendments, until the original document was totally discarded and in doing so, they successfully took over the UEP Trust. Now they had the leverage they needed to quash any resistance. They continued to wield influence during the administration of Rulon Jeffs and they unwittingly helped to secure Warren Jeffs’ firm one-man leadership. But in 2004, Warren turned the tables on these influential men by excommunicating many of them and taking away their families. Jeff accused them: “You judged and criticized legitimate authority.”
A person stated, “I am a daughter of one of the ‘Barlow boys’ and it is absolutely amazing to see what has happened to my heritage. It's sad, but like someone said, ‘They are being devoured by the very monster that they created.’”
2002 – Winston Blackmore split
Rulon Jeffs appointed Winston Blackmore as bishop over the colony in Bountiful, Canada. He was given authority to forgive sins and to perform marriages. (Winston married several underage girls). The Barlows and Warren Jeffs knew this would be a problem because Winston wasn’t intimidated by them. There were nearly 1,500 members in Canada under Winston’s leadership. Before Rulon Jeffs died, as Warren started to step into his father’s role and make changes, Winston resisted the changes that didn’t make sense. This frustrated Warren.
Winston saw that Warren was being dishonest in his communications with his father concerning the people and the church and manipulating him and decisions being made. They disagreed on how Warren was treating members that he deemed unredeemable; he sent them away, while Winston often refused to give up on them. Warren went so far as to send Winston a list of people that he wanted cut off the church completely, but Winston resisted.
This finally came to a head. A serious dispute arose over a girl who rebelled against Warren Jeffs’ dictates. It is rumored that he asked her to marry one of his brothers when she was sixteen, but three weeks later she left the community with a different brother. The two began living together but after a short time their consciences began to bother them, and perhaps they were afraid, so they decided to seek forgiveness from someone other than Warren. Winston contacted Rulon Jeffs (the prophet) by telephone, seeking his permission to perform the forgiveness and Rulon agreed. Warren was infuriated that Blackmore had bypassed him in the chain of authority. In defending himself, Winston claimed that the commission given him by Rulon entitled him to authority equal to Warren.
Warren called Winston to inform him that he was being removed as bishop. Winston later stated: “Uncle Rulon did not even know who was on the phone and had to ask Warren what was going on. Warren dictated to him what he should say.” Later a public meeting was held in Colorado City with a conference call connection to the membership in Canada. Warren announced, “Winston Blackmore has been aspiring to position. He is pushing his own words beyond that of the prophet.” The people were instructed to destroy or turn in any tapes or writings by Winston, in particular any stories of priesthood history. Rulon Jeffs, still the prophet, but ill, said “If you people in Canada just stand behind Elder Winston Blackmore, it will be okay.” Warren quickly said, “No Father, that is not right.” Rulon replied, “Oh yes, do what Brother Warren has told you.”
Winston refused Warren’s demands to leave his family and get off UEP property. The end result is that half of the members in Canada followed after Winston and half remained with Warren. Allegiances were even spilt within families.
Winston later wrote: “I am in no competition with Warren Jeffs. He is all I never want to be. I am only one of a hundred or so Elders who are thankful that we still have the testimony of the decency of the gospel of our fundamental faith. We also still have our families, thanks to the God of our fathers, and it is not because their families haven't tried to get them to leave. One of my ladies had two or three calls a day from her family members for over a year pleading with her to leave me.”
Winston was once among the trusted inner circle of Rulon Jeffs. Winston wrote, “I could not understand why it was that we could not just be honest with the people. No, we had to pretend that Uncle Rulon was doing it all. Uncle Fred [Jessop] pretended, Warren [Jeffs] pretended, Wendell [Nielson] pretended, Allan [Steed] pretended, LeRoy [Jeffs] pretended and I pretended. To my everlasting shame I sat among the dignitaries of our church and watched the ruining of peoples lives, and heard the reasoning. I knew that appointments were being recorded, files were being made, and people were being spied upon.”
A member loyal to Winston wrote, “Here in Canada we have always been taught to think for ourselves. When warren first started telling people to pray for the end of the world to come, most of us started thinking that was way too weird. One of the things we have been taught is that if it seems weird it probably is. Then when he tried replacing our bishop in Canada, the main reason he gave was that our bishop said the world wasn't going to end and that God was the only one who could predict the end, we decided we had about as much as we could take. When warren and his followers left our church to start their own we stayed believing the same as we have all our lives.”
A neighbor observed, “Those that follow Winston Blackmore appear to enjoy a lot more freedom as evidenced by their dress (modest but colourful and more contemporary), school curriculum and freedom to come and go into the town nearby.”
The destruction of families continued in Colorado City as Warren kicked out men who had associations with Winston. One former member wrote: “There was a time in my life when I had some questions, after a few visits to see Uncle Rulon, he asked if I new Winston Blackmore. I said I have been up there before and my father knows him well. He told me to go see Winston and he could answer my questions. My question now is? Why am I kicked out for having an association with whom Uncle Rulon sent my to in the first place??? This Warren guy must not have been as one with his father as he said he was or he would have understood, why I was talking to Winston. His father told me to. What gives?”
Each of these three splits took a huge toll on many lives. One member observed, “Every time there has been a major split within the group such as in the '50s and the '80s there have been women who did not follow their husbands one way or the other. Some of them were remarried on both sides. At each split there were people that used the circumstances to fulfill their spite against certain individuals. Sometimes against a family. Charges were leveled, politics were played and unfortunately there were men railroaded out of the community. In some of the cases the leaders were influenced by designing men and the leaders were responsible for 'booting'. In some cases the men being railroaded just got tired of the lies and left on their own.”