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Splinter Group: Apostolic United Brethren

 

Church Name Apostolic United Brethren. Other names include “Allred Group,” “AUB,” “The Work,” “The Group,” and “The Priesthood.
Founder Rulon C. Allred (1906-1977) in 1954
Current Leader Lynn A. Thompson (1940-    ): Top leader since 2014.
Membership 7,500 estimated
Main places of faith United States (mainly Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana), with a few hundred followers in Mexico
Doctrine Followers of Joseph Smith, believed the LDS Church should not have changed beliefs on polygamy (1890) or allowing blacks to gain the priesthood (1978)
Temple A temple in Mexico and an endowment house in Utah
Website No website

Founder

Rulon C. Allred (1909-1977) was a chiropractor in Salt Lake City who founded the Apostolic United Brethren in 1954. He grew up in polygamous families and claimed he had a vision in his 20’s telling him to take additional wives. His first wife, Katherine Handy, ended up leaving him because he wanted to marry other women.

Allred belonged to the Short Creek, AZ community in the early 1950s when he and other polygamous men were arrested in the Short Creek raid in 1953. He got into contact with the LeBaron polygamous group and moved to Mexico where he was promised wealth. When that didn’t happen, Allred ended up beginning his own group in 1954. By 1959, his group had more than 1,000 members. The group sold a church house to Fashion Place Mall in Murray, UT and bought land in Bluffdale, UT where members built a “building that was used as a residence, school, and church called the ‘Brown House.’”

Allred was known for publicly declaring his polygamous ways and discussing this with print and TV journalists. He had at least seven wives and 48 children. Toward the end of his life, he was sealed to additional widows and others who wanted to be spiritually sealed to him, with a total of as many as sixteen wives.

He was not on good terms with the FLDS group (Rulon/Warren Jeffs) or the LeBarons. In the late 1960s he began to get death threats from the LeBarons. On May 10, 1977, two disguised women visiting his chiropractic office shot Allred to death. One of the killers was the plural wife of Ervil LeBaron’s, the top LeBaron leader.

Allred was replaced by his brother, Owen A. Allred (1914-2005), who had eight wives, 23 children, and more than 200 grandchildren. He had been excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1942 when he married his second wife. In 2005, J. Lamoine Jenson (1935-2014) led the church until 2014 when he died of cancer. The current leader is Lynn A. Thompson (1940-    ), who has been controversial within the group because he has been  accused of sexual misconduct by several women. In November 2014, his daughter, Rosemary, claimed her father had abused her in the early 1950s when she was 12. Other women have made similar claims.

The Apostolic United Brethren has a priesthood council, with the top leader called the President of the Priesthood. The number of men in the council varies, as there is no set number. The religion’s main headquarters are in Bluffdale, UT, with pockets of members in several places in Utah and Montana, including:

  • Pinesdale, MO (1961). A total of 640 acres of land were purchased for $42,500. By 1973, more than 400 polygamists lived there, and by 1998, more than 800 persons and 250 families. That number went down to 65 families by 2009. There has been controversy with the members, however, with a split and the other group now meeting at the “second ward.” (For more information, click here.)
  • Rocky Ridge, UT (1971). A total of 225 acres were purchased between Santaquin and Mona, UT. In 2009 there were 65 families, although it is down to fewer than 50 families. A chapel built in 1990 can accommodate 750 people.
  • Cedar City, UT (1973)
  • Eagle Mountain, UT (Harvest Haven subdivision)

Several hundred members live in Ozumba, Mexico where a temple was built in the 1990s.

Church sociology

Unlike the Latter Day Church of Christ (Kingston) or FLDS groups, the leaders do not dictate marriages, which provides freedom for the members to marry whomever they want. Incestuous marriages, as encouraged in the Kingston Group, are not allowed. Marriage sealings can be administered by anyone in the priesthood council. According to a 2009 document prepared by the state of Utah:

Sex is only allowed between married couples, and children are not recruited. The church discourages first-time marriage under the age of 18 and no plural marriages can take place under 18. The leaders do not organize the marriages, and the potential husband must get the approval from his other wives before taking another wife. While the husband/father is considered the patriarchal leader, the church suggests consulting with the wives before making decisions.

In August 2009, the Utah Attorney General put together The Primer: A Guidebook for Law Enforcement and Human Services Agencies who offer Assistance to Fundamentalist Mormon Families. The report quotes a public statement made in 2008 by the church’s leaders:

  1. We are, and always have been, wholly opposed to abuse and oppression of any kind, and we feel it our duty to promptly report any suspected abuse to the proper law enforcement authorities.
  2. We do not encourage or permit “child-bride” marriages or arranged marriages. Instead, it is a fundamental principle of our faith that it is the sacred privilege of all, male and female, when they are adequately mature, to choose whom they will marry. Forced, arranged, or assigned marriages are not a part of our belief or practice.
  3. We try to encourage our people to take care of their own needs and to entirely avoid any reliance upon the government. Though there are some members of our faith who may have received government assistance, they are encouraged to become self-sustaining as soon as possible. Our teachings are to be honorable in all our financial dealings which includes full payment of all required taxes as well as avoiding debt.
  4. We believe in being honest in our financial dealings and in providing for our own people. We are appreciative of this good country in which we are allowed to worship Almighty God, and we willingly pay our taxes so that these and other freedoms may be enjoyed by all. We do not condone underage, assigned, or incestuous relationships. We abhor compulsion and oppression in all its forms and support those laws that seek to properly address these issues.

Births of children typically take place at home, although there is no rule against using hospitals. Many members are involved in blue collar work, especially construction. However, education is encouraged, as children are encouraged to attend school (including several of the religion’s sponsored private schools) and some even attend college. It has been reported that an estimated 50% of those who grow up in this religion later leave. The Word of Wisdom rules are more relaxed, with members being allowed to sometimes use hot or alcoholic drinks, coffee, tea and wine.

Probably the most recognized family in this religion is Kody Brown and his four wives (photo at right) who have starred in the TLC television series Sister Wives since 2010. The shows provide a closer look at the reality (and difficulties) of living in a polygamous household. Family disagreements and financial problems are even more complicated when there are so many different people involved. The family became fearful of Utah law and decided to move to Las Vegas in 2011; in 2020 the family moved to Flagstaff, Arizona.

Doctrine

In earlier days, there were many parallels with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Some Latter-day Saints who worshiped with the Apostolic Brethren were encouraged to keep their membership in the LDS Church so they could still attend the temple. However, this encouragement ended in 1978 when the LDS Church allowed those with black skin to get the priesthood and become temple participants. Owen Allred believed the LDS leaders had caved in to political pressure, so he prohibited his followers from associating with the LDS Church. On  July 23, 1978, the church paid for a full-page Salt Lake Tribune ad that criticized the revised teaching. Some say that the decision on allowing blacks to hold the priesthood caused dozens—some say hundreds—of Mormons to convert to the AUB soon after Kimball released Official Declaration 2.

In the 1980s, the church built an “endowment house” in Bluffdale; in the 1990s, a temple was built in Ozumba, Mexico. It is unclear what takes place in these buildings.

Conclusion

Of the seven groups considered in this series on polygamous groups, this article has been the hardest to write. The church does not have a website and skittish leaders do not openly talk about its doctrines. Besides allowing for polygamy, it’s hard to determine what else is advocated. Although this religion is more liberal than its FLDS relative, there is little to attract a potential convert other than it is not as “weird” or controversial. Unfortunately, its people are not being told the biblical Gospel and thus the followers are headed to hell.

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