The July 2009 issue of A Shield & Refuge Ministry Newsletter mentioned an interesting facet of LDS temple ordinances — that of proxy work done on behalf of excommunicated fundamentalist polygamists.
On June 2nd (2009) the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story about recent findings discovered by non-Mormon genealogical researcher Helen Radkey. The Salt Lake Tribune reported,
“Prominent fundamentalist Mormons, most of whom were excommunicated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for practicing polygamy while they were alive, have been posthumously re-baptized in LDS temples, a Salt Lake City researcher says.
“Helen Radkey said in a new report that she obtained church records on 20 fundamentalists — from murderer Ervil LeBaron to Joseph Musser to Rulon Jeffs — showing that they’ve been baptized and have had their plural marriages ‘sealed’ for time and eternity by proxy LDS members, one as recently as this year.” (The article, “Polygamous fundamentalists baptized by proxy into LDS Church, researcher says,” is in the Salt Lake Tribune archives and can be downloaded for a fee. However, the entire article can also be found at the ICSA website.)
On Mormon Curtain Ms. Radkey has detailed her research findings, including names, dates and historical background information on many of the fundamentalists for whom LDS temple work has been performed. For example,
“Rulon Clark Allred was born into a polygamous family in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Allred’s decision to take plural wives came in his twenties following what he described as a vision. That decision resulted in the estrangement of his first wife, Katherine Lucy Handy, whom he had been sealed to in the Salt Lake (LDS) Temple in 1926. Allred was excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1940 for practicing polygamy. In 1941, his plural wives were also cut off from the Church… Allred was murdered in his office in Murray, Utah, on May 10, 1977, on the orders of Ervil LeBaron, the head of a rival polygamous group. At the time of his death, Allred was the husband of at least seven wives, the father of forty-eight children, and the spiritual leader of thousands of Mormon fundamentalists. Although the 1926 marriage sealing between Allred and Handy was annulled in 1942–Handy remarried in 1940–online IGI records still display the original 1926 sealing. Several of these records also list Mabel Finlayson, a plural wife of Allred, as an additional spouse. …Allred was posthumously baptized as recently as January 29, 2009 in the Ogden Utah Temple. He was previously baptized in 2001, 2002, and 2008. He was endowed and sealed to his parents in 2002 and 2008. Mormons gave plural marriage for Rulon Allred a recent thumbs up-when he was sealed by proxy to two of his wives, Ruth Rachel Barlow, and Ethel Jessop, on December 16, 2008 in the Ogden Utah Temple…”
A Shield & Refuge Ministry asks, “Why does the LDS Church condemn the practice of polygamy by Mormon fundamentalists, while at the same time, their temple system accepts deceased Mormon fundamentalists and many of their plural marriages?” That’s a good question.
It has long been understood within Mormonism that polygamy will be practiced to some degree in eternity. Three current Mormon apostles have been eternally sealed in the temple to two women each (Dallin Oaks, L. Tom Perry, and Russell M. Nelson are all widowers who have been remarried for time and eternity). But the polygamy of Mormon fundamentalists is quite different. Unlike the Mormon apostles who have but one living wife at a time, the fundamentalists have multiple living wives, and that in defiance of the laws of the Church and the land.
The polygamy of Rulon Allred (and so many others) was a sin requiring excommunication from the LDS Church. These men never repented in life. If they do so in death, according to Mormonism, their forfeited Church-membership blessings may be returned to them. Additionally, because of vicarious temple ordinances their (illegal) plural wives will be theirs for all eternity as well. They will (perhaps) become Gods and reign forever with their wives in their polygamous kingdoms.
Joseph Smith reportedly taught that the “dominion and powr” of a man’s eternal glory was directly tied to the number of wives and children he gained in mortality (see Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 99; Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 10-11). LDS author Todd Compton summarized,
“Thus in Smith’s Nauvoo ideology, a fullness of salvation depended on the quantity of family members sealed to a person in this life” (In Sacred Loneliness, 11, emphasis in the original).
How does all this fit together for the excommunicated Mormon fundamentalists and their wives? It appears they may gain a greater eternal glory than those faithful Mormons who obeyed the prophet and lived monogamously.