France and Polygamous Missionaries


When I was a missionary in France in the early 80's, there was a lot of hushed talk about a missionary that had convinced a couple of other elders and some of the sisters to break away from the church and 'go back to their roots' by forming a polygamous group [in the late 1950's]. This obviously caused a big stir in the region. Some excommunications took place, and many of the members, even in the early 80's still didn't fully trust the American missionaries.

I know the situation has been discussed here, many years ago, but I can't find anything in my searches.

Can someone help me? I have been messaging with Toto the last couple of days. She was a missionary in my mission a few years behind me but hasn't heard the story.

Found Something Myself--the Google god
I found this from Mormon Chronicles:

Excerpts of "Elder Tucker's Drift: The Trial of the French Mission," by Kahlile Mehr, This is a condensed version of "The Trial of the French Mission" published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Sep 1, 1988.
Part One (6 pages):
Part Two (6 pages):
...Early in 1958, Tucker became the second counselor in the French Mission presidency, and, in the absence of a first counselor, the only assistant to Mission President Milton Christensen.

...Tucker harbored many unresolved questions about the Church. A convert to Mormonism in California at age 15, he had immersed himself in a study of its history and doctrine. Intrigued by the former practice of polygamy and the many "mysteries" mentioned but not clearly defined in the statements of early Church authorities, he began to develop his own divergent conclusions

...In France he shared his conclusions with others. Conducting a mission within a mission, he sifted through the elders and sisters looking for his own harvest of receptive minds. Many began to credit his teachings above those of Church authorities, and to the many young missionaries who were attracted to him as a paragon of proselytizing, he opened a Pandora's box of doubt.

... The matter culminated in September 1958, when all French missionaries crossed the channel to attend the dedication of the London Temple. Alerted Church authorities interviewed the entire contingent to determine their allegiance. Many repented, but nine were excommunicated after a trial that was without precedent in the history of LDS missionary work.

... while en route to France, Tucker had obtained an interview with Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, known as a doctrinal authority. Tucker had not been satisfied with the interview.

... he was transferred to Marseille on the southern coast of France with David Shore as a companion. In Shore he found a kindred spirit. These two like-minded elders intensively prayed, fasted, studied, and in other ways actively sought spiritual growth. Their devotion and energy was unusual in the French mission in 1957 and attracted attention mission-wide.

... [Mission] Morale was low. ... When word spread that missionaries in Marseille were fasting, praying, prophesying, and baptizing, the aspirations of others began to revive.

... Attendance at Church meetings rose dramatically, and more baptisms were registered in Marseille than elsewhere in the mission.

... he had concluded that the Church had erred in abolishing polygamy. At some point he developed aberrant views regarding priesthood authority, the guidance of the spirit, the temple garment, and the Word of Wisdom.

... Others spoke of him as "setting the French mission on fire,"

... Mission President Milton Christensen called him to serve as his second counselor. The president commented in the mission journal, 6 February 1958, "The Lord truly blessed me in the selection of This Elder, who is very strong in the Gospel ."

... all four continuously traveled the mission publicly proclaiming the gospel but privately propounding their own special doctrine. They would team up with individual missionaries during the day and in the evening conduct study and testimony sessions. Usually, they would test a missionary's receptiveness by stating an apostate principle. What came next would depend upon how the elder reacted.

... While Tucker taught the primacy of seeking the Spirit for guidance in conducting missionary work, he privately went out of bounds, encouraging the elders to discount the current Church leaders' teachings in favor of doctrines culled from sources such as the Journal of Discourses. ... He decried the unquestioning acceptance of tradition

.. Elder Tucker held great sway over the entire Paris corps of elders as well as many others throughout the mission. One estimate is that a third of the 130 missionaries in the French Mission eventually came to be in sympathy with Tucker. According to another source about thirty of the missionaries could have been considered firm believers. Under his influence, missionaries began to study rather than proselytize, and some began to wear only the "old style" temple garments.

... Johnson, an ardent admirer of Joseph Fielding Smith, wrote to him concerning the incident. Word eventually got back to President Christensen that something was amiss in Marseille. In April 1958, he sent Tucker to investigate. Tucker made several visits in April and May, each time assuring the president that the situation was in hand

... The serious-minded new Paris recruit, Ron Jarvis, requested more information directly from Ervil LeBaron in Mexico

.... on 14 August, they divulged their feelings to President Christensen [who] tried to talk the problem through with them. ...Tucker's cover began to unravel, and President Christensen soon realized this was something bigger than he could handle alone. On 19 August, a Tuesday, he telephoned the First Presidency in Salt Lake. The following Saturday, Apostle Hugh B. Brown arrived in Paris.

--Apostle Brown concluded the meeting at 8:00 P.M. with a discourse on the powers of the adversary and the future of the French Mission. He described what had happened as the worst missionary apostasy in the history of the Church and further confided that they had discussed the possibility of closing the mission but decided the temple dedication would provide the opportunity to cleanse the mission.

... Left by the Church to their own devices to get home, they pooled their money to obtain ship's passage.

... The bishop in his [Harvey's] ward, mortified by the excommunication, had announced to the congregation that Harvey would never be rebaptized as long as he was bishop. ... Harvey's father had suffered a heart attack.

... a little over a year after the trial, President Moyle visited the mission. Anticipating the new year, he asked the mission leaders what baptismal goal they ought to set for themselves. They consulted and agreed on 400, four times the average baptismal rate of the ten years previous. ... By 4 July 1960, 404 new converts had been baptized, and by the end of 1960 the baptismal total stood at 942. It was an exceptional year in which the mission broke from the statistical mire of its past and was regenerated with an influx of new members.

... Of the seven, four elders and three sisters, who never rejoined the Church, all lived in Mexico for some time and supported the LeBaron movement.

... The trial for unnumbered others also drawn into the circle of Tucker's beliefs was conducted less publicly. The verdicts rendered remain the private legacies of each individual who followed Tucker to the edge of their ken and to whatever lay beyond.

Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
Yes, I can help. I have a friend who's father was among those missionaries - in the late 50s.

I was a missionary in France in the late 60s/early 70s, and the French members were talking about it even then - as you said, in hushed tones.

Whoa, dude.
You found it. Man, oh man, never heard of that until now. I'll have to ask my former companion if she knew. This is incredible information, no wonder people told you to "be careful" when you left for France. They heard of this story.

Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
I was also in France in the late 60s. I remember the Mission secretary remarking about the famed "French missionary apostasy." He said that as mission secretary he was able to look into the records and that it was a real shame because some of the sister missionaries that were ex'd were really good looking.

I thought at the time, sarcastically, "yeah, we ex the ugly ones without batting an eyelash, but exing a babe is a real heartbreaking experience."

Hahahahahaha... that was an awesome thought.
The jerk (the secretary, not you).

Re: Found Something Myself--the Google god
Garçon Wrote:
... Mission President Milton Christensen called
him to serve as his second counselor. The president commented in the mission journal, 6
February 1958, "The Lord truly blessed me in the
selection of This Elder, who is very strong in the
Gospel ."

This is one of my favorite examples of "The power of discernment in action."

I was there 1979-1981, we were still talking about it..

Lois Lane
Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
Oh, dear.

Bill Tucker joined the Lebaron group along with seven other ousted French missionaries.

Among them was Dan Jordan who killed Joel LeBaron, and urged Ervil to have his own daughter, Rebecca, murdered, which Ervil did.

Bill Tucker eventually defected from the LeBaron group and decided he was an atheist. He died in his early 30s

The French missionanaries who defected and went to join the LeBarons were an interesting crew. I have read as much as I could about them.

They seemed to me to be a very intelligent dedicated lot. Of special interest was Stephen Silver who took over the community's schools for a while. Stephen discovered his family was secretly Jewish, so he went to Israel to live on a kibbutz, with Joel LeBaron's blessings. Later he returned and tried to teach what he had learned to the LeBaron group.

This is a very strange and wondrous story. I guess I would recommend Irene LeBaron's books as a good starting point for anyone who is interested. Also Ben Bradlee Jr.'s book.

As I say, these were some VERY intelligent dedicated souls who joined up with the wrong group.

But I guess they are not the first to do such a thing.

Oh, your question was about polygamy. I believe all of the male missionaries married polygamously and the female missionaries became plural wives.

The French missionaries were intelligent and dedicated and it was quite a shot in the arm for the LeBaron group for them to gain the adherence of these people.

No pun intended. Other shots were fired. I just meant it was a boost to their little community.

The 4:00 murders is also a good book. There are LOTS of players in this drama, and they are all multi-married and related to each other five different ways. How the author keeps everyone straight is beyond me.

But he does.

Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
I knew a lady who was an aunt of my wife's ex husband. I never spoke to her about it, but heard of some unmentionable weirdness that happened during her mission in France. No one would ever tell me what it was all about! I got the impression that it wasn't something just about her, but something more global. Maybe this has something to do with it.

Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
I Know of a BYU professor that served as a missionary at this time. I was his ex sec for 2 yrs about 7 yrs ago. he is a very smart man so I believe he is aware of the LDS BS but its his livelhood. fyi, I live less than 1/2 mile from the mtc in Provo.

Lois Lane
Re: You know...
You are making me realize how charismatic Bill Tucker must have been.

He married polygamously but was only really close to his first wife. He wouldn't even take the second wife (another French missionary) on a honeymoon (but he took the first wife) and she ended up marrying someone else in the group (who had three other wives.)

ANYWAY he must have had a meltdown when he decided truth didn't reside with the LeBarons anymore than it resided with the Mormons.

Bill Tucker ystayed on good terms with Verlan LeBaron and said that IF Mormonism was true then it was the LeBaron brand of Mormonism that had the truth.

He died of some kind of sudden attack -- appendicitis? -- at a very young age. But you got the feeling that he died because he just couldn't believe his precious beliefs anymore.

I remember being amazed at how much he accomplished in his short life. I think he even got his PhD.

FORTUNATELY, the LeBaron group had a member (Irene LeBaron) who managed to be there when all the interesting things were going on, not to mention being the one everyone confided in. She has written two books about it all.

PLUS Rena Chenwyeth, the one who killed Rulon Allred wrote a book. As did Ben Bradlee Jr. As did another one of Verlan's ex wives. And -- oh, a lot of people wrote books. Verlan wrote a book. They were a bookish bunch. I'm a little irritated that Stephen Silver didn't write a book.

It's kind of like reading all four gospels to get an idea of what really happened.

And even though the colony dissolved, and everyone apostasized or just sort of left, and maybe they are all glad it's over, you get the feeling that their time together was the most memorable part of everyone's life.

I know that feeling well.


I love this board!
This thread is everything that I love about this board.

When I first started visiting and posting here in 98/99, the board had a very different flavor than it does now. Although many of us were out of the church, we were still questioning some of the more esoteric doctrine. This was the only place where you could have an intelligent discussion on the Second Endowment or the loss of the Church Patriarch.

I get just as much pleasure from the regular "what are you drinking" and "did you masturbate on your mission" threads, but sometimes I miss the deep discussions we had on some of the big issues of the time. Now, I must admit, I don't care about some of those issues that way anymore, so yes, I have changed too.

But just the way so many people have jumped in with information on a scandal in France in the 50's thrills me. THE CHURCH CAN HIDE NOTHING.

Thanks, Garçon.

Re: You know...
Lois Lane Wrote:

> PLUS Rena Chenwyeth, the one who killed Rulovn
> Allred wrote a book.

I recall her book. She had been acquitted of murder so couldn't be tried for that again. She confessed in the book that she actually had committed the murder.

What I found interesting was her description of her cross-examination during her murder trial. The prosecutor mentioned some Bible verses in his cross examination. Then he kind of "tossed" the Bible back on this table. She remarked, with disgust, how flippantly he treated the Bible. Interesting that a person who has committed murder, and is in the process of committing perjury to get away with murder is disgusted at a lawyer because he doesn't treat a book with enough respect.

Didn't something similar happen in London c. 1972-3?
I recall that a break-away group of missionaries in London started down the same path. If the story is correct, Victor L. Brown came over to interview and excommunicate.

A couple of years later, the "Mormon Sex in Chains" story broke in the UK.

Fun all around.

I arrived in the Swiss Mission the year after . . .
the @#$%& hit the fan in France. Apparently the fallout affected all the European missions. My first companion knew most of the story, and he said all the missionaries in Switzerland, and presumably Germany, were specially interviewed, i.e. grilled, by a G.A. about their beliefs.

Not-a-fun-time-ly yrs,


Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
That is absolutely AMAZING, Garcon! My ex-husband served in the Belgium Brussels mission mid-80s (mostly in Northern France); I doubt he's heard of any of this. I'm bookmarking this so I can send him the link.

Here's the link to the article you found, Garcon.

Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
There was another scandal in the French mission wherein lots of homosexual pairings within "companionships". One of my BYU friends came home from his mission and let me know that he and his companion were in love and were gay....and that theyv\ weren't the only ones, either!

What is it about France that just sets everybody aflame?

Re: Question for the Oldies: re. France and Polygamous Missionaries
Sorry about the typo. I meant, "wherein lots of homosexual pairings within companionships were occurring."

What Is It About France?
I think the most direct way to answer NeatNewName's question concerning what is it about France that just sets everybody aflame is this:

It was my observation that no one in France gave a @#$%& that one; I was an American, or two; that I was a mormon. To a sheltered boy from Utah, this was enlightening. I had some comps that were a little too closed minded to see it--but it was clear to me. It was part of what gave me permission to let my doubts run more than 5 or 6 seconds at a time.

Also, it was clear to me that most of the French people we talked to were doing fine without having some capitalistic American corporation (the church) tell them how to lead there lives. Those that may have needed a little help with their lives certainly weren't going to get it from a couple of 19-year-old kids.

Now, what all of this has to do with polygamy and homosexual companionships--I don't know. That may have more to do with the chocolate sandwiches we made for lunch out of a loaf of french bread and imported swiss chocolate. Eating one of those could set your mind on to some very non-missionary-like behavior!

Re: You know... Bruce Wakeham?
I am looking for information about Bruce Wakeham aka John Peacemaker. I have read everything I think I can about him online regarding the French Missionary and I know he went to Colonia LeBaron; I also have read after the murder of Joel LeBaron he stated his case that he held the Keys to the Priesthood and was the new leader but no one followed but his wife Juna. My question is then, where did he go? Did he stick around, go with Verlan's group to Los Molinos? I would really appreciate any information anyone may have.
Thank You

Lois Lane
Re: You know... Bruce Wakeham?
In Kim Taylor's book "Daughters of Zion," she talks about being courted (polygamously) by Bruce Wakeham.

BW was one of Joel LeBaron's quorum of 12, or whatever you call it.

Kim Taylor went out to dinner a couple of times, withv BW and one of his wives.

She was impressed with BW's gentlemanly behavior. BW had promised his wives that he would never kiss a girl unless he were engaged to her.

Kim Taylor maintains a webpage -- (Kim Taylor ended up marrying monogomously).

She seems to have kept up with many of her Colonia LeBaron friends, so maybe she could tell you.

Re: I was there 1979-1981, we were still talking about it...
i knew steve silver very well
he was a very very wise humble man before he passed in 1994
it was an honor to know him
Re: You know... Bruce Wakeham?
kim taylor is my aunt, my mother and her are sisters
(she is married to my fathers brother), none poligymist

but my father was , and was part of the lebarron colony
my mother left it when my ciblings and i were young.

Re: I was there 1979-1981, we were still talking about it...
I was in the Toulouse mission from 79-81, and I was told about it by some of the older missionaries. They seemed to have an old journal by a missionary that was involved somehow, and read some of it to me. But that was so long ago, and thinking back on it, and knowing the pranks missionaries played on each other, especially on the newbies, it may have been contrived. Who knows?
Lois Lane
Re: You know... Bruce Wakeham?
I am glad your Aunt, Kim Taylor wrote her book.

A most remarkable woman, an amazing life, a book (Daughters of Zion) I would recommend to anyone.

Would whoever it is that knows Stephen Silver please tell me something of his character.

Like so many of the French Missionaries, he led an amaving life.

If I recall, Kim Taylor said she married her husband because Stephen Silver thought it would be a good idea. The two parties involved hadn't really thought about the matter much, but went ahead with courtship and marriage on Stephen Silver's suggestion

It probably was a good idea since Kim is still the (only) wife of her husband.

STILL, an odd way to start married life.


Re: You know... Bruce Wakeham?
i am kim's nephew and Steve was my uncle as well
it is all a very long story.
Steve Silver was a very intelligent person, i knew him up tell the day he died, he was a man of honor and very humble at the same time,
it was a blessing to have known him and his wife Carolyn
two very amazing people.

kim , Carolyn , and my mother were all sisters, Kims husband Ron Taylor is my fathers brother.
as far as Kim and Ron , i beleave if you do not have anything nice to say, say nothing at all, so i will leave it at that.

thank you

"Recovery from Mormonism -"