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It's A Kingston Life

Lovin' and Livin' in Utah's Kooky Klatch

The Good Old Brothers

The beliefs and religious practices of the Kingstons have remained a murky affair. Despite intense media and law enforcement scrutiny since 1998, little is known about the tenets of the Latter Day Church of Christ (a.k.a. the Kingston Clan).

Paul Ortell Kingston , the purported head of the Kingston clan.

Most of this due to a centralized leadership that allows few into its inner circle. Church leadership and "higher" religious tenets seems to be delegated among seven brothers, all sons of the first wife of former church patriarch, John Ortell Kingston. It is a sweet deal if you can get it.

Unlike most of their polygamous counterparts, the Kingstons don't court new members. The Kingstons seek to perfect a "pure bloodline" following the teachings of John Ortell, according to former members. This gives rise to a whole lot of marrying of half-sisters, cousins, nieces and such. An attempt to breed an Uber-Kingston, so to speak.

To qualify for this polygamous master race, a member must be the male progeny of the first wife in a polygamous coupling. If you happen to be the unlucky seed of a second, third or twentieth wife you are kind of S.O.L. in the spiritual department.

Considering the Kingstons seem to be a marrying bunch, current Church ichiban Paul Kingston has been tagged with 32 wives and over 200 children, this makes for one hell of a select elite and a whole lot of sheep.

Secrets, Secrets, Secrets

The Kingston clan membership is estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500 souls. And with all that marrying and child bearing the number can only be growing.

Standard Restaurant Equipment where the Kingston family holds services. It is also one of the largest restaurant suppliers in the state.

This club of sons of first wives only makes keeping a secret pretty easy. No one outside of the Kingston hierarchy seems to know what goes on in the services held every Sunday at a chapel in the Kingston-owned Standard Restaurant Equipment building on 3500 S. West Temple.

The upper level teachings of the Latter Day Church of Christ remain a mystery, as does most of what goes on in a typical Kingston Clan member's life.

  However, ex-members such as Rowena Erickson, one of the founders of Tapestry of Polygamy, and Mary Ann Kingston have spilled the beans on much of what it means to be a Kingston wife and shed some light on the clan's beliefs.

The Wife Shall Obey the Master

In a series of articles for the Ogden Standard-Examiner in 1998, Erickson spelled out some of the seamier aspects of the Kingstons and their treatment of the many multiple wives and their children.

The picture that Erickson paints is one of total control by the elders of the Kingston clan. A vision in which paradise is only insured to those who have a child married to one of the Kingston seven, and in which the wives and children are condemned to a life of secrecy and near poverty.

Erickson and other members said the young ones are taught "memory gems," sort of spiritual platitudes with a polygamous bent. Hallmark, eat your heart out.

Members are also informed that they hold a "spiritual bank account," and records are tallied concerning their religious progress. Economic sacrifice adds to this holy bankbook, and so does practicing polygamy and popping out a boatload of kiddies, according to Erickson.

Kingston patriarchs even mandate how members should bath, how much toilet paper they should use and even how to rinse out milk cartons. If wives or children should rebel against the Machiavellian order they are whisked off to the Washakie Salver ranch in Northern Utah to have the disobedience forced out of them.

"They'll threaten you with starvation or beatings and say they're going to send you to Washakie," said Rowena Erickson in an interview with the Standard-Examiner.

It was from this island of misfit wives that Mary Ann Kingston escaped to rat out her father and uncle-husband for forcing her into a polygamous marriage.

The elders' authority extends to the financial life of its members. According to the Standard-Examiner story, members are not allowed to keep their own finances or own property. It is all handed over to the church.

Kingston family members can use a special scrip to purchase goods at family-owned businesses such as the East Side Market.

Members often work for low wages at the numerous Kingston businesses. They are given a special script that can be redeemed at Kingston-owned joints such as the East Side Market or True Value Family Store.

The amazing thing is that even the Kingston Seven spurn opulence and often live in run-down homes. The many Kingston wives and children have to resort to state welfare to keep themselves in food and clothing.

Kingston organizations also help the faithful. Members can receive "loans" from such non-descript named entities such as the Davis County Cooperative Society and Fidelity Funding.

An Associated Press article by Julianne Basinger goes into further detail. The article stated that members of the clan who work for Kingston-owned businesses "receive statements, not paychecks, that credit them with minimum-wage salaries." These members shop at Kingston stores and live in Kingston housing. The cost of these "services" is deducted from their monthly statements along with the obligatory 10 percent tithing. An efficient polygamous moneymaking machine.

Anything extra in the credit bankbook, give it to the Davis County Cooperative, members were urged, claims Erickson. Those that withdrew the most credits had their names posted to reveal them to the brethren as the spendthrifts the elders thought they were.

And the Kingstons Shall Rule the Earth

Why all this hoarding from an empire conservatively valued at over $150 million? It seems they are waiting for the Armageddon, according to Erickson. The Kingstons believe they are the chosen folks that will inherit the earth. Great.

Once the big war is over, real estate and all other sorts of cool stuff will be up for grabs. The Kingstons, with their hoarding and parsimonious ways, will be positioned to snatch up most of the goodies.

  In an ultra rare public statement to The Rocky Mountain News, one of the Kingston Seven poo-pooed such claims about the rather sinister nature of the clan.

"There has been a lot of news media coverage that has tried to portray the Kingstons' as some kind of secret religious group," Elden Kingston, owner of record for Rocky Mountain Coin, replied in a February 2000 faxed statement to the Rocky Mountain News. " The people that really know 'the Kingstons' know these stories simply are not true and realize they are just normal people trying to make an honest living."

"And no, I do not believe the world is going to end tomorrow, next year or any time in the near future."

Others don't share Elden's opinion that his clan is a bunch of just-plain folks trying to make their way in the hard old world.

They claim that Paul O. Kingston is a leader who believes he has a direct pipeline to God. His six brothers make sure that the word is parceled out to the lesser members. And because of the secrecy that wraps the religion, no one outside of the group knows what God is telling Paul. Ohh-eee-ohh.

Another bone of contention among some of the lesser male members is that the Kingston Seven seem to snap up all the best wives.

"Paul and Daniel (Paul's brother) spot the young cute girls, and they go to them and say, 'We've received direction from God to marry you.' And then they shower them with gifts," Bill Adams, who once worked for the Kingstons and has relatives in the group told The Rocky Mountain News.

"The girls are told to go pray and see if you receive direction," Adams said. "It's sad in a way, because it's always the young cute girls. It's never the overweight plump ones. It seems to me that somebody in the group would get a clue as to what is going on here. But they don't. They don't question it. They're taught to be obedient."

Talk about good-old-boy hog heaven. However, what really goes on behind closed doors in a gathering of the Kingston Klatch remains a mystery. The real purpose of the Davis County Cooperative Society (the group founded by original Kingston patriarch Charles Elden Kingston back in the 1940s) is a closely guarded secret.

Former members can supply only small pieces of the puzzle and it is all anecdotal. We will probably never find out all of the Kingston's secrets. It is just part of life in Utah, the home of wacky Mormon fundamentalists.

 

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