Utah’s polygamous Kingston clan mixes incest and white supremacy with old-fashioned capitalism
When it comes to racist Sunday school lessons, the polygamous Kingston clan could teach the Ku Klux Klan a thing or two.
During a recent interview with the Intelligence Report, Jessica Kingston, a former member of the secretive, Salt Lake City-based cult and a star of the A&E reality series “Escaping Polygamy,” remembered, when she was 12, her Sunday school teacher coming into class with a bucket of water and a vial of black food coloring.
The teacher added a drop of dye to the water, and the children watched as the blackness slowly spread.
“The teacher was like, ‘You can never get that out, that is always there now,’” recalled Jessica, now 29. “She talked about how you can’t associate with black people or anybody of a different race.”
Based on available evidence, including the accounts of numerous former Order members, the SPLC has designated The Order as a hate group under the category of `general hate.'
This racist display was no one-off. Jessica said she and other children of the Kingston clan — a group also known as The Order, the Davis County Cooperative Society, and the Latter-Day Church of Christ — dropped the N-bomb all the time, as did their parents.
Black people supposedly suffered from multiple scriptural curses, from the mark of Cain and Noah’s curse on Ham in the Old Testament to the racist tenets of early Mormonism that have since been renounced or abandoned by the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS or Mormon church.
Black blood was “the worst thing you can have,” Jessica said, particularly since the Kingstons consider themselves to be the whitest of the white, descended directly from Jesus Christ and King David, the Middle Eastern origins of both men notwithstanding.
Obsessed with the purity of their bloodline and empowered by a sense of entitlement on par with the divine right of kings, the Kingstons have made incest the cornerstone of a self-serving theology that loathes non whites, fosters homophobia and abhors government authority.
Additionally, ex-Order members tell of a reputed church prophecy of an “End of the World War,” an apocalyptic vision that foresees a bloody race war with the Kingstons as the ultimate victors, chosen by their Heavenly Father to rule the world for a millennium.
But given that the Kingstons command an estimated 6,000 adherents, boast a business empire reportedly worth as much as $1 billion and have outlasted myriad bouts with law enforcement and the press, these dreams of world domination may be less delusional than they first seem.
All Along the Watchtower
The Order denies that it encourages racism and homophobia within its ranks.
In a letter to the Intelligence Report responding to allegations made by former members, Kent Johnson, a spokesman for the Davis County Cooperative Society, claimed that The Order’s “foundational principles” include the Golden Rule, and that the church rejects any form of racism or bigotry.
“[W]e directly condemn in action and in words, racist, homophobic or hateful actions against any group or individual,” Johnson wrote.
Johnson maintained that The Order’s vast array of businesses — which includes a grocery store, pawn shops, a garbage disposal business, an insurance company, a politically-influential biofuels plant, and a high-end firearms manufacturer — employs individuals of various racial and ethnic minorities.
The letter asserts that one of the earliest members of the church was a Native American man and that the “Co-op,” as it is sometimes called, has been the victim of prejudice and harassment by Utah’s “majority religion” (i.e., the LDS church) because of the former’s “progressive” ideas.
Indeed, the group was founded during the Great Depression as a communal religious organization where members dedicated their earnings and possessions to building “the Kingdom of God on Earth,” as one church document attests.
Its ominous-sounding moniker, “The Order,” is a reference to the United Order, a quasi-utopian society proposed by LDS-founder Joseph Smith, and practiced in some Mormon communities under the leadership of early church president Brigham Young.
The Order can rightly claim discrimination by mainstream Mormonism, but this is due to its embrace of polygamy, which the LDS church officially abandoned in 1890 in order for Utah to become a state. The renunciation of polygamy is now church doctrine, and the Mormon church has a policy of excommunicating polygamists. Kingston forebears were among those who suffered this fate.
Polygamy is outlawed in Utah, both by the state’s constitution, and in statute, where it is a third-degree felony, with a possible punishment of five years in prison. But for their part, The Order and other fundamentalist sects believe the LDS church exists in a state of apostasy for abandoning what they see as a bedrock principle of their faith.
According to church lore, The Order came into existence when founder Charles “Elden” Kingston saw Jesus in the mountains above the family’s settlement in Bountiful, Utah, inspiring him to create the DCCS in 1935.
The family’s dedication to “the principle” of polygamy already had been established by Kingston’s father, who had three wives. Elden continued the tradition. According to historian Brian Hales’ Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations After the Manifesto, Brother Elden, as he was also known, had five wives and 17 children.
Elden also instituted the church law of “one above the other,” requiring members’ blind obedience to the church’s hierarchy of “numbered men,” with Elden being Brother Number One.
Brother Elden died of penile cancer in 1948, despite the best efforts of some family members to burn away the cancer using acid. Elden had predicted that he would be resurrected from the dead, so clan members kept his body on ice for three days, to no avail.
His brother, John “Ortell” Kingston, took over the leadership of The Order — incorporated in the 1970s as the Latter Day Church of Christ. Ortell is credited with expanding The Order’s business empire and making the family immensely wealthy. His seven sons and two daughters by LaDonna Peterson, the second of his 13 wives, are reputed to be the inner circle that runs the cult.
A stern disciplinarian, who in later years looked and dressed like a mortician, Ortell made incest a tenet of the clan’s faith, informed by his work breeding Holstein cows on the Kingstons’ dairy farm.
A 1999 Salt Lake Tribune article mapped the Kingstons’ incestuous family tree, quoting one of Ortell’s 65 kids, ex-Order member Connie Rugg as saying, “My father experimented [with] inbreeding with his cattle and then he turned to his children.”
In order to maintain his family’s “superior bloodlines,” Ortell married and had children with two of his half-sisters and two nieces. He orchestrated all unions within the cult, which was maintained with classic mind control techniques, corporal punishment, fasting and bizarre dietary practices. Ortell died in 1987, but his progeny continued the polygamy, the inbreeding and the marriages to young female teens that he instituted.
Control of The Order then passed to Ortell’s well-educated son Paul Kingston, one of several lawyers in a cult whose members dress normally and try not to draw attention to themselves.
Known variously as “Brother Paul,” “the leader,” and “the man on the watchtower” by Order members, this unremarkable, balding middle-aged man reportedly has 27 wives and over 300 children. Three of his wives are his half-sisters. One is a first cousin. Two are nieces.
Similarly, his older brother John Daniel Kingston has had 14 wives, four of them his half-sisters. Another is a first cousin.
Like polygamy, incest is a third-degree felony in Utah, and as with polygamy, convictions are rare. Over the years, state law enforcement and the courts have sporadically addressed the incest in the Kingston ranks.
In 1999, Paul’s younger brother David Ortell Kingston was convicted of taking his 16-year-old niece as wife number 15. The incest came to light after the girl tried to escape the arranged “celestial” marriage — an illegal marriage, sans license.
Her disobedience incurred the wrath of her father Daniel, who took her to a family ranch near the Idaho border and savagely beat her. The girl, who as an adult would unsuccessfully sue the clan, then walked miles to the nearest gas station, where she called the police.
Daniel was arrested and eventually spent 28 weeks in a county jail for felony child abuse. David was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the incest, but served only four before being paroled.
In 2003, another clan member, Jeremy Kingston pleaded guilty to incest for taking 15-year-old Lu Ann Kingston as his fourth wife. Jeremy was nearly 10 years her senior at the time. Due to the Kingstons’ convoluted genealogy, Lu Ann was both his first cousin and his aunt. As part of a plea bargain, Jeremy spent just one year in prison.
The ‘Curse’ of Blackness
In secret videotapes of Order church meetings aired on Escaping Polygamy, Paul’s nephew Nick Young, speaking from a church lectern, identifies himself as a numbered man, number 72, to be precise.
The son of Paul’s sister Rachel — herself a daughter of Ortell and LaDonna Kingston — Young was the only current member of the Kingston clan, out of the many contacted for this story, who consented to a live, on-the-record interview.
Young is the owner of Desert Tech, a Utah gun manufacturer, which produces sniper rifles and so-called “bullpup” rifles, The latter, unlike conventional magazine-fed rifles, have shorter barrels, with the gun’s action located behind the trigger. These specialty firearms can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $8,000 each.
Desert Tech and its rifles have been featured on Fox News, Mythbusters, Daredevil and The Blacklist, among other TV shows. Young told Intelligence Report that his company has sold weapons, with the approval of the U.S. State Department, to governments in Europe and the Middle East, Saudi Arabia being one.
Young also claimed Desert Tech had sold guns to Picatinny Arsenal, the research division of the U.S. military.
“We haven’t gotten any big U.S. contracts,” Young explained. “Obviously, we would love to.”
Spokesmen for both the U.S. State Department and for Picatinny Arsenal could neither verify nor deny Young’s claims.
The company was founded in 2007 with an investment from family members. Young denied that The Order was racist or taught any form of bigotry, and said he had people of all races working for him.
“What we’re taught is to love our neighbor, that all people, all races no matter who they are … deserve to be loved,” he explained.
Still, he conceded that some Order members may have prejudiced beliefs because “in our organization people have freedom of choice.”
So what about polygamy? Is it a requirement to gain the highest levels of heaven?
“Yeah, I believe in it,” he said. “As far as how you end up in heaven, that’s up to God.”
Young declined to comment when asked if he practices polygamy. Intelligence Report then read the names of women believed to be his wives — four in all.
“Okay, I have one legal wife,” he said. “But I do have children with other women.”
Asked if two women named were in fact his first cousins, Young paused, finally replying, “I guess I’m curious as to what you’re trying to get at here.”
Before the call ended, Young insisted that he “didn’t admit to any kind of incest or anything.” When Intelligence Report inquired if Young thought there was anything wrong with first cousins getting married, Young opined that such issues were between the individuals involved and God.
Nevertheless, former members of The Order say that incest and racism are inextricably linked in The Order’s teachings.
During an interview with this reporter, Lu Ann Kingston, whose defiance of the cult led to the conviction of her former “spiritual” husband Jeremy, recalled that Order members saw intermarriage as a way to “keep the bloodline pure.”
And by pure, they meant pure white.
All outsiders are considered to be beneath Order members, she explained. But The Order saves most of its bile for blacks and other non whites. Ethnic jokes and stereotypes were commonly repeated. Chinese people were called “stupid,” and Mexicans were “dirty,” said Lu Ann, adding, “because of their skin.”
Allison, a 17 year-old ex-Kingston member says not much has changed since Lu Ann’s day.
“I didn’t even know the n-word was bad until I was like 15 or 16,” she told Intelligence Report.
Once free of the cult, Lu Ann, Allison and other ex-Order members have had to unlearn the hatred that was drilled into their heads. The mere rumor of black blood could condemn someone in the eyes of Order members.
That’s what happened with Ron Tucker’s family. Tucker is another of Ortell’s many sons, though not from the favored wife, LaDonna.
Seated on a couch, sipping lemonade in his home in a Salt Lake City suburb, he resembles Paul Kingston quite a bit. The two were playmates when they were boys.
A loyal Order member for years, he lost his faith and ended up leaving the Order over a curse of sorts, leveled at his family by LaDonna. Supposedly, LaDonna had a dream wherein it was revealed that anyone who left The Order would be tainted by black blood.
Somehow LaDonna’s curse was transferred to the Tuckers via Christy, Ron’s wife, because, Christy’s mom left The Order and married an Irishman, before leaving him and returning to the fold.
“I could see that the leaders of The Order really did believe we had black ancestors,” Ron explained, with Christy next to him, and his adult daughters Emily and Julie nearby.
Boys began to show interest in Julie as she matured, but Paul, as the clan’s leader, warned them away, because of Julie’s black blood.
Up to this point, Julie had treated the rumor like a joke. Her younger sister Emily thought it was a joke, too, until one day another Order kid told her, “We can’t play with you because the Tuckers are niggers.”
Julie left the cult at age 19. Her parents and siblings eventually left as well.
Ron says the cult’s justification for its racism goes back to early Mormon teachings about a war in heaven between the forces of Satan and those of Jesus. The battle took place in the spiritual pre-existence that Mormons believe all souls come from. Blacks were “the less valiant people in heaven” who sat on the sidelines while others took sides, according to The Order.
Their punishment? Dark skin, of course.
Another of Ortell’s teachings: Adolf Hitler had the right idea about creating a master race, but didn’t have the Lord’s help, so he failed.
Tucker recounted the clan’s version of the apocalypse, the “End of the World War,” a riff on a prophecy some ascribe to Joseph Smith, called The White Horse Prophecy. In it, black people come close to killing off the white race until they are countered by Native Americans, symbolized by a Red Horse, which gallops to the White Horse’s rescue.
“That will open up for The Order to rise up and take over the world,” Ron said.
The Tuckers think this is all hogwash now, though they were programmed to believe it at the time.
Recordings of church testimony given by various Kingstons serve as further evidence of the cult’s bigoted teachings.
In one, Ortell warns that there is a movement afoot that wants to “homogenize the people” and “make one race,” by mixing all the races up.
In another, Order attorney Carl Kingston warns listeners about marrying up with “Ham’s kids,” a reference to the aforementioned Biblical curse. “If you have as much as one drop of that blood in your veins,” says Carl, “you’re cursed from holding the priesthood.”
The lawyer’s words call to mind another heavenly curse, described in 2 Nephi, Chapter 5 of the Book of Mormon, where God caused a “skin of blackness” to come upon a group called the Lamanites, supposedly ancestors of Native Americans.
Modern interpretations of this passage vary, but The Order apparently takes quite literally this idea of “blackness” being a sign of iniquity.
Soy Makes You Gay
LGBT people fare little better in the Kingston clan.
One ex-Order member, who asked to be referred to as “Scott,” instead of his real name for fear of retribution by clan members, said hatred of gays was big in the Kingston clan, with the word “faggot” in frequent use.
For fun he and other Order men would go to a park frequented by gay males, looking for victims.
“We would cause harm,” he confessed. “Bad harm. Hospital harm.”
While part of The Order, Val Snow, a twenty-something gay man with a wry sense of humor, believed being gay was like “spitting in the eye of God.” Snow is the son of Daniel Kingston, whom he paints as “a little man with a lot of power.”
From a young age, Snow worked for Order companies to help feed his siblings, a responsibility some Kingston men are known to shirk.
Snow began dating men when he was 22. When this got around to his dad, his father packed up Snow’s belongings and left them in the room of a hotel owned by The Order. Daniel’s ultimatum: Stay in The Order, date no one, and have no contact with family. Or leave.
He says The Order regards homosexuality as a choice. If gay men stay in the closet, they are allowed to remain in the cult as “worker bees.”
Snow also remembered being taught end-time prophecies, with a “cleansing” wherein the streets of Salt Lake City would run red with blood.
“All of the gay people would definitely be the first to go,” he said.
Another of the cult’s teachings was that soy can make you gay, an anti-government conspiracy theory popular in some right-wing circles.
“I guess I just had too much soy,” Snow smiled.
Ex-order members interviewed by the Intelligence Report generally agreed with the characterization of the Kingston clan as a “hate group.”
Ron Tucker went so far as to call his former brethren “white supremacists,” and “ten times more racist” than your run-of-the-mill skinhead.
As for its anti-government views, allegations of fraud against government entities have long dogged the Kingstons.
In the 1980s, the state of Utah sued John Ortell Kingston over welfare fraud related to his many wives. Rather than submit to DNA tests, which could have revealed the incest in his brood, he coughed up a more than $200,000 settlement.
More recently, the Kingston-owned Washakie Renewable Energy (WRE) agreed to pay a $3 million fine after it was sued by the federal government for raking in tax credits for biofuels it never produced.
WRE’s influence earned special scrutiny in February 2016 after the IRS, the EPA and other government agencies raided owner Jacob Kingston’s house as well as The Order’s bank and other locations, carting away banker’s box after banker’s box of records. Nothing has come of the raids yet, and the IRS refused comment on the matter when contacted by this publication.
But The Order’s critics say that cult members see nothing wrong with bilking the government, a time-honored tradition among FLDS sects, gleefully referred to as “bleeding the beast.”
More troubling, during a contentious 2004 custody case that ensued when Jessica and her sister Andrea fled Daniel Kingston’s household, a judge in the case reportedly was the subject of a death threat, allegedly from Kingston clan members. There was also testimony, during one hearing, that someone in the Kingston clan wanted to blow up the courthouse.
Given such incidents, could Order members be a threat to law enforcement?
Ron Kingston says The Order’s leadership has too much to lose for something like that to happen.
“Paul would rather have the wealth and the money than the isolation and the conflict,” he said.
Matt Browning seems less sure. A retired Arizona law enforcement officer, Browning is the president and founder of the Skinhead Intelligence Network and is in charge of security for the A&E show, where his wife Tawni works as the casting producer.
Browning sees similarities between The Order and the religion-minded racists of the World Church of the Creator and the Christian Identity movement. There is also some overlap with Sovereign citizens, he contends.
“They’re basically the Utah Mafioso of the white power world,” Browning told Intelligence Report.
And they are growing. Former Order members tell of babies being born nearly every week in the church. And during a recent picnic to honor the birthday of patriarch John Ortell Kingston, Order families descended on a Salt Lake Valley park, where hundreds of children of all ages blanketed the park’s green expanse.
Accounts of clan babies being born with congenital defects and other problems abound, including dwarfism, albinism and children born minus fingernails or without genitals.
Home births and the frequency of miscarriages and still-borns among the Kingstons have led to macabre legends of dead infants buried in Kingston back yards.
There are also accounts of dead babies being buried at the “Holy Spot,” a tree-shrouded patch of land across the street from a grade school in Bountiful, just north of Salt Lake City.
Asked about these legends, Kingston spokesman Kent Johnson, explained via email that “on occasion” Order families have asked to “spread the ashes” of a child lost before or after birth at the Holy Spot.
Johnson also acknowledged hearing family lore — dating to the Depression era — of Order families burying fetuses from late-term miscarriages “on their respective properties.”
Don’t the infant deaths and tales of horrific deformities belie Ortell’s homespun eugenics?
Scott remembered that Ortell had an answer for that question.
“Something along the lines of, to build a superhuman, if you have four or five defects to get the one good one, it’s worth it,” he recalled.
“Because that one is going to be genius-level purity, and that’s what The Order is looking for.”
Photo Credit: AP Images / Leah Hogsten, Pool (John Daniel Kingston); AP Images / Jeffrey D. Allred / Pool (Jeremy Kingston)