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J. LaMoine Jenson, Utah polygamist leader, dies at 79.

Published September 4, 2014 2:57 pm

Obituary • "Sister Wives" among followers of Apostolic United Brethren.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

J. LaMoine Jenson, president of the Apostolic United Brethren — Utah's most public polygamous church — died Tuesday from colon cancer. He was 79.

Jenson died at his home in Eagle Mountain. David Watson, a member of the AUB's priesthood council and a spokesman for the group, said Jenson suffered from cancer for almost five years. The disease forced Jenson to abandon day-to-day operations of Jenson Lumber in Draper, the business he founded.

Between 5,000 and 7,500 people across the West, as well as Mexico and Great Britain, are said to belong to the AUB.

Jenson lived to see a husband and four wives claiming to follow the AUB score the biggest victory for Utah polygamists since pioneer days.

Kody Brown and his family from the television show "Sister Wives" sued Utah over its bigamy statute, saying it was overly broad for how it made it a crime for three or more adults claiming to be married to one another to live together. In an order finalized last month, a federal judge in Salt Lake City agreed, saying clauses in the statute violated the First and 14th amendments to the Constitution. (The judge let stand a portion of the statute prohibiting having more than one active marriage license.) The state is expected to appeal.

Despite the threat of prosecution, the AUB was visible long before the ruling.

Jenson's name appeared at the bottom of a paid advertisement published in The Tribune in 1980 by Fundamentalist Mormons critical of LDS Church leaders for dropping "the will or word of God" as given by past prophets to become "acceptable to the world."

While not mentioned in the nearly half-page ad, fundamentalists hold the abandonment of polygamy and the 1978 acceptance of blacks into the LDS Church priesthood as errors by the mainstream Mormon church.

The AUB has long worked with law enforcement and has taken calls from news reporters to educate them about what AUB followers see as the attributes of polygamy and its roots in early Mormonism.

The public has been invited to attend Sunday services with the AUB. Recently, the church has sought permission from Bluffdale to build a retirement community there.

Jenson had a hand in the openness and in AUB policies calling for members to follow the law, with the exception being laws against polygamy.

Jenson served on the AUB's priesthood council for 36 years. In 2003, council members voted to make him next in line to serve as president. When Owen A. Allred died in 2005, Jenson succeeded him.

Joseph LaMoine Jenson was born June 27, 1935, in Millville in Cache County to Eslie DeVoe and Letha Olson Jenson. The couple had eight children.

Eslie and Letha Jenson were not polygamists, but were among a Cache County group of Mormons who held fundamentalist views, Watson said. Eslie Jenson was eventually excommunicated for refusing to sign a letter of support for LDS Church authorities.

The AUB did not provide survivor information for Jenson. However, previous obituaries for various family members indicate that his wives included Marillee Thompson, Marilyn Baker and Joy Rains.

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday at the AUB meeting house at 1242 W. 16580 South in Bluffdale. A viewing will be 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday at the same location.

Lynn A. Thompson, another member of the priesthood council, will succeed Jenson as president, Watson said.

Watson said Jenson was relieved by the decision in the "Sister Wives" case, but there were two aspects of the ruling that caused him consternation.

The first was that the ruling by Judge Clark Waddoups did not attempt to strike down Reynolds v. United States, the 1878 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld laws against polygamy.

The second concern for Jenson, Watson said, was that Waddoups relied upon a Supreme Court decision that struck down the use of sodomy laws to prosecute gay sex.

The decision striking the sodomy laws, Lawrence v. Texas, also has been cited by judges vacating bans to same-sex marriage.

"We don't want to be associated with an alternative lifestyle, Watson said, "because we believe plural marriage is the lifestyle."

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle