Inside Polygamous Cult Leader Ervil LeBaron’s Reign Of Terror
‘He used fear to manipulate and control people,’ says the daughter of the man known as the ‘Mormon Manson.’
Ervil LeBaron was convinced he was a prophet called to lead God’s chosen people, but to those who shunned the cult leader he was a terrifying figure capable of murder — even from behind bars.
In the early 1970s, LeBaron clashed with his older brother, Joel, and got kicked out of the family’s polygamist sect, the Church of the Firstborn of the Fulness of Times. [sic]
LeBaron, who believed it was his life’s mission to purify Mormonism, then founded the Church of the Lamb of God. Going against the mainstream beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he eventually took 13 wives and fathered over 50 children.
“He used fear to manipulate and control people,” LeBaron’s daughter, Anna, 52, told the BBC of growing up in the sect. “We were absolutely afraid of not doing what we were told. And we didn't have a voice.”
“We were taught that we were being persecuted because we were God's chosen people and that the world outside didn't understand us,” the author of The Polygamist’s Daughter continued. “That was how they used to explain all the moving in the middle of the night and staying ahead of the law.”
Authorities believe LeBaron, who was wanted in both Mexico and the United States, was responsible for dozens of murders, including his brother, Joel, in 1972, as well as a wife and two of his children.
LeBaron — the so-called One Mighty and Strong prophet — used a discontinued Mormon doctrine to eliminate anyone who threatened to expose him to authorities or tried to escape his grasp.
“My dad not only believed in polygamy, he also believed in the law of blood atonement,” said another of the cult leader’s daughters, the actress Estephania LeBaron, 48.
Blood atonement, she explained, is based on the idea some people have sinned so greatly that Jesus Christ cannot atone for them.
“So, they had to atone for their own sins by getting killed and this would allow them to go to heaven,” she noted.
But instead of carrying out the murders himself, LeBaron had his disciples do the dirty work.
“When you are so convinced that someone is right, that you are willing to do anything — and even if you disagree, if you are so afraid to voice that disagreement and you just go and do it — that's the ultimate control,” LeBaron’s daughter Anna said.
In 1979, authorities captured LeBaron in Mexico and extradited him to the United States. He was sentenced to life in prison for ordering the murder of rival Mormon cult leader Rulon C. Allred.
LeBaron, dubbed the 'Mormon Manson' by media, died behind bars in Utah at age 56 on August 16, 1981.
“However, even from the grave, he was able to control people and their actions and that is just mind-blowing — that from the grave he was able to do that,” Anna said.
Before he passed away, LeBaron wrote a 400-page tome called The Book of the New Covenants and within it hid the names of people he wanted dead — directives his most devout devotees carried out.
Decades later, Estephania noted her late father and his “bogus” doctrine no longer have control over her or her family, including brothers now imprisoned on murder charges.
“Nobody believes in this cult anymore, nobody,” she said. “When I speak to my siblings now, we talk about how horrible it was that this ever happened, and how did we get so brainwashed into believing something so wrong?”
“But,” she added, “that is the only life we knew.”
Stream the Blood Atonement episode of Evil Lives Here on discovery+.