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Centennial Park and the “Second Ward” 

In response to their February 1984 dismissal from the Priesthood Council by senior Council member Leroy Johnson, Marion Hammon and Alma Timpson departed from Colorado City.  With them went a portion of Johnson’s followers.  The new group held their first Priesthood Meeting on 13 May 1984 just a few miles outside of town.  They named their group the “Second Ward” in contrast to those following Johnson who comprised the “First Ward.”  The Second Ward initially met in the home of Alma Timpson, but within two years they secured land and built their own meeting house.  It was dedicated 27 September 1986, precisely one hundred years after the date described by Lorin Woolley when John Taylor ordained five men to continue plural marriage.  Consequently, the town was named, “Centennial Park City.”

Marion Hammon died in 1988 leaving Alma Del Timpson as the sole leader of the Second Warders.  He soon called his son John Timpson and Frank Naylor as apostles and Ivan Neilsen as a high priest and later as bishop.  Due to disagreements in 1990, Naylor and Nielsen and their families separated from the rest of the Centennial Park group.  Many came to the Salt Lake Valley where they formed their own group with Naylor as presiding priesthood authority.[1] 

The remaining fundamentalists in Centennial Park continued to follow Alma Timpson until he died in 1998.  Subsequently, his son John assumed the leadership role along with five other men in their own Priesthood Council.  In 2003, Centennial Park was a flourishing town of nearly 2000 people. 

History Behind the Split – the “One Man Doctrine” 

As a general pattern in Colorado City since 1935, each individual Priesthood Council member had the power to decide who would marry whom without discussing the arrangements with other Council members.  Individuals who desired new wives could obtain the approval and cooperation of any member of the Priesthood Council to seal their marriages.  In time, factions and cliques formed aligning themselves with the various Council members.

One significant disagreement arose regarding the question of presiding authority: “Was there ‘one man’ who ruled the PRIESTHOOD (and the ‘group’) or did the entire Priesthood Council preside?”  Council members were split regarding the answer.  The “One Man Doctrine” taught that in accordance with D&C 132: 7, 18, 19, only “one [man] on earth at a time” holds the priesthood keys and that man is the Senior Member of the Priesthood Council.  Accordingly, other members of the Council are essentially only “counselors” to him.  If the “one” man felt he did not need six other counselors, then he was under no obligation to call new Council members to replace those that died.  Proponents observed that apparently the Council of Friends contained only “one” member in early 1929.

The opposing view was that all members of the Council hold the priesthood keys together and the Senior Member presides over the group.  In support of this belief, adherents would quote from an uncanonized 1880 revelation to Wilford Woodruff given at a time when the Church was lead by the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (after Brigham Young’s death but prior to the First Presidency’s reorganization).  The revelation states: 

“While my servant John Taylor is your President [of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] I wish to ask the rest of my servants of the Apostles the question.  Although you have one to Preside over your Quorum and over the Church which is the order of God in all generations  Do you not all of you hold the Apostleship which is the highest authority ever given to man on the earth  You do. Therefore you hold in Common the keys in all the world you each of you have power to unlock the vail of Eternity and hold converts with God the Father and his son Jesus Christ and to have the Administration of Angels. It is your right privilege & duty to inquire of the Lord his mind & will concerning yourselves the inhabitants of Zion and their interest  And whenever any one of you receive the word of the Lord  Let it be written and Presented in your Council and whatever by a united council you deem wisdom to be presented unto the people let it be presented by the President ...”[2] 

Also contradicting the “One Man Doctrine” were Lorin Woolley’s teachings that the Council of Friends consistently contained seven members throughout the nineteenth century.  Lorin often referred to the Council, not simply as the Council of Friends, but as “the Seven,”[3] which number Woolley (re)established in the early 1930s.  According to Lorin, the unanimous vote of all Council members was required for important decisions.[4]

By the 1960s Leroy Johnson was acknowledged to be that “one” man by most residents of Colorado City, although he was careful in his teachings saying, “You have heard other men call me a prophet, but you have never heard me make the claim.”[5]  But on another occasion he acknowledged his lofty calling: “I realize that the Lord has placed upon my shoulders a work similar to that of Enoch, to gather a people together and teach them the principles of salvation, and to tutor them in a way that they can be used in the redemption of Zion.”[6]  He also observed: “Only one man at a time holds the keys and power of the sealing power, and those who act during his administration are only acting under a delegated authority.”[7]  “I am only standing in the place that Joseph stood in B head of the Priesthood.”[8]

By 1979, two of the old Council had passed away, Carl Holm on 27 April 1972[9] and Richard Jessop on 23 October 1978.  Leroy Johnson believed in the “One Man Doctrine,” but was himself severely ill with a case of the shingles.  In almost constant pain, he seldom left home or participated in fundamentalist meetings. 

Rulon Jeffs remained the solo voice in favor of the “One Man Doctrine.”  Jeffs referred to President Johnson as “the key-holder and the mouth-piece of God”[10] and taught:  “President Johnson stands in the same position to the people of Zion in this day as Joseph did in that, and we are to have those ministrations done through the keys and power conferred upon him by the Lord God.  It has been the same through Joseph Smith’s legal successors from his day until the present.”[11]  The “One Man Doctrine” also received significant support from the sons of John Y. Barlow who were leaders in the community, Dan Barlow as Mayor of Colorado City and Sam Barlow as Deputy Sheriff.[12] 

Since Leroy Johnson was Senior Member of the Priesthood Council, he was responsible for recommending new replacements so that the Council might be perpetuated.  However, after Holm’s and Jessop’s deaths, he followed his belief in the “One Man Doctrine” and made no recommendations for new members.

Those who opposed the “One Man Doctrine” were junior Council members, Marion Hammon, Guy Musser and Alma Timpson.  Hammon left Short Creek in 1972 to pursue personal interests, but returned in 1976.  The last Priesthood Council meeting attended by all five members occurred in 1979.  At that time, three opposed the “One Man Doctrine” while two upheld it.  Guy Musser died 11 July 1983 leaving the Council evenly split.  The rift between Council members widened and attempts were made to evict residents siding with Hammon and Timpson from their properties owned by the UEP.

By February of 1984 Johnson’s health improved enough for him to speak to his fundamentalist followers.  He addressed the division directly: “I was struck down in the early part of 1979 [with shingles]....  I want to say a few words to these men who sit here on the stand today.  (He turned to face J. Marion Hammon and Alma A. Timpson.)  The Lord gave you men five and a half years to change your thinking on this principle of having one man holding the sealing powers in the earth at a time, and you have made a miserable mess of it by coming here and preaching over this pulpit that I was about to die because of my attitude towards this principle.”[13]  Then he vented: “For about three and a half years, neither I nor Brother Rulon Jeffs were allowed to speak to the people.  Why?  Because I was stricken down and I couldn’t speak, but I am speaking today.  They would not allow Brother Jeffs to speak because he sustained me.”[14] 

Six days later, he declared: “I want to tell you, the first thing that is going to take place is the cleaning up of the Priesthood Council.  I want to tell these men on the stand B Brother J. Marion Hammon, and Brother Alma Adelbert Timpson, that from now on, I am throwing you off my back, and I am not going to carry you any more.”[15]  They were dismissed as members of the Priesthood Council.

The following year Rulon Jeffs encouraged his listeners to “have an oath and covenant with the keyholder of [the] priesthood, Leroy S. Johnson, to obey him in all things, because he holds the keys and is the mouthpiece of God.  And he is God over us.”[16]  Strict discipline was required of all “group” members.  At one 1985 meeting, Johnson announced: “From now on, sentinels will stand at the door, and men and boys with long hair will have to go home and have a haircut before they can come into meeting.”[17]

[1]  Bistline, Colorado City Polygamists, 156.

[2]  Willford Woodruff Journal, 26 January 1880; Musser, Four Hidden Revelations, 3-11; italics added.  Rulon Jeffs, supported of the “One Man Doctrine teaching: “Wilford Woodruff had no authority nor power to receive and write that revelation... So what follows is received illegitimately and from below...  I know, as I know I live, brothers and sisters, that this Council does not hold the keys in common...”  (LSJ Sermons 7:306.  See also 6:408-10,7:466-68.)

[3]  BOR 47-48, 53, 64, 65, 70.

[4]  For example, in choosing new members of the Council, Lorin taught: “A person is first chosen by the Council in heaven and then a messenger comes here to reveal the man chosen to the President of Priesthood.  Then the Priesthood Council here votes on him and the results are taken back to the Priesthood Council in heaven, who call the man by revelation through the President of Priesthood.”  In Zitting, Charles F. Zitting, 62, (written in 1946 - see page 82).  See also  Morris Q. Kunz, Reminiscences on Priesthood, 22-23. 

[5]    .  Sermon given in 1980 recorded by Benjamin Bistline. Bistline, History of Colorado City, 102.

[6]    .  LSJ Sermons, 7:390.  See also notes from a meeting held 5 August 1962 in Hilton, “Polygamy in Utah Since the Manifesto,” 53.

[7]    .  LSJ Sermons 7:352.

[8]  Ibid., 4:1732.

[9]    .  LSJ Sermons 2:462-67.

[10]    .  Ibid., 7:272.

[11]    .  Ibid., 7:304.

[12]    .  Sam Barlow’s services as deputy sheriff were defended by Leroy Johnson in April 1970: “You young men, you should be ashamed of yourselves to do anything in this community to cause the Priesthood to call you to order or to cause Sam Barlow, our peace officer, to stop you on the highway and tell you to drive a little more peaceable.  When you are stopped, you should never hold a feeling in your heart that Sam Barlow is trying to put something over you and cause him to have to give you a ticket to appear before a judge.  It is the most disgraceful thing that I know of from this community...  You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.  You are not only doing an injustice to yourself and the driver of the car, but you are doing an injustice to this Priesthood.  We call on these boys sometimes to get up and bear their testimonies.  They bear testimony that these men hold the keys of the Priesthood.  Then they go out and do things like this.”  (Ibid., 1:169.)

[13]    .  Ibid., 7: 351.

[14]    .  Ibid., 7: 352.

[15]    .  Ibid., 7: 355-56.

[16]    .  Priesthood Articles, 348.  Discourse given 16 February 1985.

[17]    .  LSJ Sermons 7:452.