Church of the Lamb of God
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Church of the Lamb of God
Murderous Mormon sects have conducted a bloody, secret religious war, wreaking vengeance on individuals judged wayward in the eyes of God.
The Mormon historian Tom Green believes that over twenty killings of members of polygamous sects have been motivated by religious beliefs and by the desire to gain rival prophets’ financial assets, their congregations, and their multiple wives. And it may be that the killings noticed by the police and the public are only some of the deaths. At least a dozen other disappearances of sect members have gone unreported since 1981.
The web of murders centers on the now-deceased Ervil LeBaron, an excommunicated polygamist who declared himself to be God’s prophet on Earth and assumed the title of the “One Mighty and Strong.” In a book of “New Covenants” that he wrote while he was in prison, LeBaron drew up a blueprint of death for “traitors”—members of feuding sects in Utah, Arizona, Texas, California, and Mexico.
Ervil was so ruthless that he had his pregnant daughter killed for disagreeing with him, and he ordered his brother Joel shot down to clear the path for his own bid to become God on Earth. In October 1987 the man accused of Joel’s execution, Daniel Ben Jordan, was himself gunned down. He had committed the fatal error of straying away from the protection of nine of his wives and twenty-one of his children while deer hunting. Utah detective lieutenant Paul Forbes revealed that Jordan’s body was found in the southern part of the state. Jordan had been shot in the head and chest with a 9-mm handgun. Someone was waiting for him when he left his hunting camp.
The murder of Jordan, self-styled prophet apostle of the Church of the Lamb of God, was only one in a string of mysterious slayings that remain wrapped in a cloak of secrecy.
The Mormons practiced polygamy until the late 1800s. At the time when Utah was trying to become a state, the church decided to discontinue the practice of multiple wives. However, a number of groups broke off from the original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and established their own versions of Mormonism. Each sect was led by an individual who claimed to have the keys of authority. Many of the groups left Utah and went to Mexico, Arizona, or California.
One such group of fundamentalists settled in Chihuahua, Mexico, and titled themselves “Colonia Juárez.” Ervil LeBaron was reared in this colony of polygamists, the son of a farmer excommunicated from the mainstream faith in 1924 because of his bizarre beliefs and teachings. Ervil and his six brothers were, in turn, excommunicated in 1944.
Joel LeBaron, upon his father’s death, announced that he possessed the Key of Power, and he founded the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Time. Joel declared himself God’s prophet and demanded that all of his wishes be carried out and obeyed without question.
Ervil wasn’t so certain that Joel was correct, and since Ervil was in the enviable position of writing most of the sect’s literature, he could set down the facts as he perceived them. He decided that Adam was God and that Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, was the Holy Ghost. Ervil also declared that the doctrine of blood atonement demanded that all sinners be put to death. Furthermore, he envisioned that the One Mighty and Strong had supremacy over all Mormons.
Detective Forbes said that Ervil sent out notes announcing that he was the final authority and that all group members must pay tithes to him. In 1970 Joel had suffered enough of such insubordination. He assessed Ervil as unstable and stripped him of his leadership in the sect. Undaunted, Ervil quickly founded the Church of the Lamb of God and announced that he was the genuine One Mighty and Strong. In short order he took thirteen wives and embarked on his crusade of blood.
Police authorities have established that from this point onward in the secret war, gory events occurred very rapidly:
August 1972: Joel LeBaron is murdered in Mexico by order of his brother.
December 1974: A squad of men and women on a commando-style raid firebomb the Mexican village of Los Molinos, a Mormon community. Two are killed, fifteen others wounded. Ervil LeBaron is said to have led the attack.
January 1975: Ervil decides that Naomi Zarate, the wife of one of his followers, is disobedient. Shortly thereafter she disappears and is never seen again.
April 1975: Robert Simons of Grantsville, Utah, disputes Ervil’s claim and declares himself the One Mighty and Strong. Simons vanishes and is presumed to have been executed.
June 1975: Dean Vest, one of Ervil’s military chieftains, becomes sickened by the executions and murders and prepares to defect. He is murdered in his sleep.
March 1976: Ervil is arrested in Mexico for complicity in Joel’s death. His twelve-year sentence is abruptly reversed after eight months, and he is released. While in prison, however, he converts new followers, including drug smuggler Leo Peter Evoniuk.
April 1977: Ervil announces to his followers that his daughter Rebecca has rebelled against him. He orders her strangled and buried in a hole in the mountains.
May 1977: Dr. Rulon Allred, leader of the largest polygamist sect in Utah and Ervil’s principal rival for the title of God’s Prophet, is murdered in Murray, Utah. LeBaron boldly dispatches a hit team to Allred’s funeral, but the gunmen withdraw when they spot heavy police protection. They flee to Texas to escape Ervil’s wrath for their failed mission.
May 1979: Ervil is arrested by Mexican police, extradited to Utah, and tried and convicted for the murder of Allred and for a machinegun attack on his brother Verlan LeBaron.
August 1981: Ervil LeBaron is found dead in his cell at Utah State Prison. The official report lists the cause of his death as a heart attack.
August 1981: Verlan LeBaron is killed in a mysterious car crash in Mexico.
July 1984: Brenda Lafferty and her baby daughter, Erica, are found dead, victims of a ritual killing at their home in American Fork, Utah. Their throats are found to be so deeply slashed that their heads were almost severed.
May 1987: Leo Peter Evoniuk, fifty-two, presiding patriarch of the Millennial Church of Jesus Christ, vanishes while making a business call near Watsonville, California.
October 1987: Daniel Ben Jordan, fifty-three, prophet apostle of the Church of the Lamb of God, is ambushed while deer hunting in southern Utah.
Lieutenant Forbes clarified that the individuals conducting the bloody secret war should be regarded like clan chieftains, rather than like most of the polygamous Mormons, generally law-abiding and low-key people who do not wish to make waves of any kind.
Law enforcement officers have estimated that in the southwestern states and Mexico, there are about are thirty thousand people in ten groups like Ervil LeBaron’s. These groups engage in power struggles to take over one another’s financial bases. If they kill rival prophets, then a lot of the deceased’s followers are likely to come to them. Some of the groups are quite wealthy. Some, like the remains of Ervil’s, are destitute. But they are all very secretive, very close.