|Latter Day Church of Christ|
|Orientation||Latter Day Saint movement|
|Trustee in Trust|
|Paul Elden Kingston|
|Associations||Davis County Cooperative Society Inc.|
|Headquarters||Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.|
|Founder||Ortell Kingston (Elden Kingston was founder of the Davis County Cooperative Society)|
|Origin||January 1, 1935 |
Bountiful, Utah, U.S.
The Latter Day Church of Christ is considered a Mormon fundamentalist denomination by some in the Latter Day Saint movement, although it did not split from the mainstream LDS church. Also known as the LDCJC, it is a religious organization created by members of the Davis County Cooperative Society or DCCS in 1977. The Cooperative itself was established in 1935. Upon the creation of the LDCJC, most members of the DCCS became members of the church and most retain dual membership in both organizations to this day. There are approximately 3,500 members, some of whom are known to practice polygamy.
According to his autobiography, Charles W. Kingston became disenchanted with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) in 1926 because it abandoned plural marriage. Kingston began preaching polygamy amongst fellow members of the LDS Church and distributing pamphlets and the book he had co-written, Laman Manasseh Victorious: A Message of Salvation and Redemption to His People Israel, First to Ephraim and Manasseh. This resulted in his excommunication from the LDS Church in 1929. By 1935, his followers began to move to Bountiful, Utah, intending to live under a United Order communalist program as defined by Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants. On February 7, 1941, the community founded by Elden Kingston officially declared themselves the Davis County Cooperative Society Inc. The corporation produces goods and services that are used by members, and sold or traded to other cooperatives and to the public. In 1977, Elden's brother Ortell Kingston began to file for legal recognition of the church later organized as The Latter Day Church of Christ.[verification needed]
Over the decades, the Cooperative has maintained extreme secrecy while developing an extensive system with assets once estimated at over $150 million. Some of their secrecy might be attributed to a fear of arrest for living in plural marriages, as had happened in 1959-1960 when being investigated by the Davis County Grand Jury, which some members claimed was organized by LDS Apostles Mark E. Peterson and Spencer W. Kimball. The Grand Jury was described as "The polygamist hunting Davis County Grand Jury" by the Ogden Standard-Examiner in 1959. That same year, Ardous Kingston Gustafson, a mother of four and founding Co-op member, was jailed on Christmas Eve when she could not produce membership lists that were to be used to target plural families for further arrest and harassment.
The Cooperative had its birth during the Great Depression when many families struggled immensely to provide for their families. For many years, members of the Co-operative lived in poor conditions, and those in need had no legal way to apply for assistance. Long-time leader John Ortell Kingston lived in a small one-story clapboard house in Salt Lake City up until the time of his death in 1987. Over the past 25 years, many members have become college-educated and live in middle- to upper-middle-class homes throughout their communities. Currently the group claims that although different skillsets bring different financial outcomes, there is no homelessness within the DCCS, and internal programs exist for those experiencing financial poverty.
Members' financial holdings are believed to include: a 300-acre (1.2 km2) dairy farm in Davis County; a 3,200-acre (13 km2) farm in Tetonia, Idaho; a coal mine in Emery County; 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) in Terreton, Idaho; a cattle ranch and a discount store; Desert Tech Firearms; a grocery store; and a restaurant supply in many western cities including Tucson, Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas, Boise, and Portland.
The Latter Day Church of Christ is based on a belief in Jesus Christ and the restoration of his gospel in these latter days. It is not affiliated with the mainstream LDS Church. Doctrinally, members of the LDCJC try to adhere to the teachings of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Members of the Latter Day Church of Christ are also members of the Davis County Cooperative Society (a separate organization and legal entity) which practices the law of consecration and United Order. Some members had begun the practice of plural marriage years before the establishment of the cooperative.
During the first years of the Davis County Cooperative Society, Elden Kingston and his followers wore unique blue denim outer garments that led to people referring to them as "blue-coats." Men and boys wore blue coverall-type suits tied with strings; women and girls wore plain blue denim dresses. As a symbol of their renunciation of worldly goods, the outer clothing contained no pockets in which possessions could be carried, although later an inside pocket was provided for the sanitary measure of carrying a handkerchief. All went bareheaded and barefoot. This practice lasted only a short time and was abandoned sometime before 1940. Members today wear normal modern clothing, although they are encouraged to be modest and keep a high standard of dress.
Plural marriage is practiced by some members of the LDCJC and members make their own choice in who they marry. Some members of the church are also believed to practice consanguineous marriage, or marriage to relatives within the group. This practice has been attributed to "endogamous preference and the small size of the group's population" according to recent research from the University of California. The group claims no preference for any particular family or surname stating members join every year "from a variety of different backgrounds and surnames."
According to a 2011 document prepared by the attorneys general of the states of Utah and Arizona, the church describes itself as emphasizing family values, education, self-sufficiency, and the belief that every child is a priceless blessing. Children are allowed to attend public school and many go on to college.
In the late 1990s, three members of the LDCJC faced scrutiny for entering into incestuous relationships. During this time, some non-members and ex-members began claiming the practice stemmed from theories of genetic purification held by past leaders. However, active members and recent independent research has more plausibly attributed the practice to "endogamous preference and the small size of the group's population". Some of these relationships may be considered incestuous, according to the laws of the state of Utah.
These cases included:
The LDCJC has publicly spoken out against child-bride marriages and the Cooperative has a policy encouraging its members to marry within the legal age of consent. Plural marriages are forbidden for individuals under the age of 18.
In 2016, the State of Utah with federal law enforcement raided various properties in connection with the Kingston family or Davis County Cooperative Society with the intention of finding welfare fraud. The State of Utah stated: "It was a specific investigation that we were approached by [federal law enforcement] to participate in." After two years of investigating, they did not find any welfare fraud. "State investigators found no wrongdoing among members of the Davis County Cooperative Society, also known as the Kingston Group." Members claim they have been broadly and unfairly targeted by authorities for the negative actions of a small few. Members allege to have been targeted for audit at a rate over 9x the published IRS average for the general population, with no pattern of fraud being found outside of a couple of bad-actors.
In July 2019, Jacob Kingston, Isaiah Kingston, and two others pled guilty to participating in a fraud scheme masterminded by Lev Derman, a non-member and Armenian national. The scheme included filing for $512 million in federal renewable-fuel tax credits from 2010 to 2016 through a company named Washakie Renewable Energy LLC. One of the guilty pleas states they "cycled" fraud proceeds through a number of international partners and then back to Washakie's bank accounts, falsely claiming them as loans or profits. A small portion of the funds (less than 6%) were also used to purchase legitimate goods and services from businesses who provided them in "good faith". Legitimate businesses, including those in the Cooperative, argued that Jacob hid the scheme from business partners as well as Co-op leadership. The remainder of the transactions (over 94%) were to entities associated with Lev Derman, who prosecutors allege was the mastermind of the scheme. Derman was found guilty of masterminding the scheme in March of 2020. As part of the plea deal and restitution, the company forfeits rights to a number of assets including their bio-fuel plant in Plymouth, Utah. WRE has since become defunct.
Davis County Cooperative leadership and members swiftly condemned the fraudulent behavior stating that "[Jacob] broke from tradition in many ways" and stressing "to members and non-members alike that this behavior is not in line with our beliefs or principles." And, "We cannot and will not condone or support anyone found to be engaged in any fraudulent behaviors."
The Utah holdings of Davis County Cooperative members were once estimated at more than $200 million, and were believed to include the following: