Anson Bowen Call;
Post 1890 Manifesto Polygamist,
Typical Mormon or Religious Zealot?


The prominent Mormon polygamist, Anson Call (Sr.) founded Call's Landing on the Colorado River, had four wives and was a successful business and religious leader of Bountiful, Utah. Most historical accounts of the issuance of the Manifesto portrayed those who took plural wives, while in self-exile in Canada and Mexico during 1890-1904, as diehards or out of harmony with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While criticism may be warranted for a small number of eccentric members, it is not applicable to all. Once case in point is his 7th son, Anson Bowen Call, or Anson B. as his family called him. Anson B. was engaged to marry his first plural wife, before the first 1890 Manifesto, as thing worked out, he ended up marrying 3 plural wives after the October 1890 press release. 1

Anson B's case is important, because the early death of his second wife provided a second chance to examine his motives and commitment to the this unique religious practice. After examining the evidence, it will be more apparent that Anson B. was one who lived polygamy because of convictions gained through, what he refers to as religious experiences, rather than a rebel our of harmony with church authority.

Anson Bowen Call was born October 20, 1863, in Bountiful, Utah of Ann Mariah Bowen Call and Anson Call. He was his mother's sixth child and his father's twenty-third. Anson Call had six wives. 2 At a very young age Anson B. participated as a child in some peculiar aspects of plural marriage family life. Anson B. describes his youth as:

This situation was created because all of the children of Aunt Mary were grown and married when Anson B. was young and also because Anson B.'s mother had her hands full taking care of eight children older than Anson B. 4 As seen later, this advantage of plural marriage "mother swapping" or an ideal model of harmonious plural marriage in and of itself, did not initially convince Anson B. to take up plural marriage enthusiastically.

Apparently, Anson Call (Sr.) took the scriptures literally when it admonished the Saints to pray in secret. On top of his two-story house in Bountiful, Anson (Sr.) built a small prayer room which one could only enter through a trap door in the top of a bedroom closet. This later proved very useful during the polygamy raids. 5 Anson (Sr.) taught his children to pray in secret at least once a day. This had such an effect on Arson B. that he later wrote: "This practice became, a habit with me, and to this day, I do not remember a single day of my life that I have missed or neglected my secret prayer." 6

Anson B. was schooled at home by hired tutors. Later he attended a private school taught by his Aunt. Eventually he attended public school (until age 17) where he was under instructions by interesting teachers such as his nephew Anson V. Call and B. H. Roberts. 7

Anson B. was baptized just ten days before his ninth birthday. In his life history he further explains the differences in the Church policy from those of today. In doing so, he also gives a little insight on how these policies had actual impact on individuals.  Anson B. laments, "I was never ordained to any of the offices in the Aaronic Priesthood, since they did not have quorum organizations as they do now, and they did not know that they could have more than one quorum in a ward at a time. My brother, Chester, was Bishop at that time, and it made me feel very badly when I was not chosen as one of the twelve for the Deacons." His first ordination in the Priesthood was to the office of Elder at age twenty-one. 8

The conservative nature and concern for the spiritual stability of Anson B.'s farther for his son was exhibited when he withdrew Anson B. from the University of Deseret, because Anson B. had joined a debate club and had enrolled in a class on civic government. Which had caused Anson B. to debate every question that arose. Nevertheless, a brief two-year collegiate experience did qualify him to teach school in Bountiful at a starting salary of $40.00 per month. 9

For the next two years in his life he taught school and courted Mary Theresa Thomson. On November 4, 1885, they were married in the Logan Temple by the Temple President, Marriner W. Merrill. Anson B.'s records this interesting historical sidelight about his first marriage: "At that time everyone was required to be re-baptized (1885) just before going to the Temple to be married." 10

Anson (Sr.) had been on the "underground" for so long that from Anson's remarks apparently the family had come to except it as common place that his father was unable to attend the wedding. By coincidence Anson B. on his return trip from Logan was utterly surprised to find his father on the same train returning home for the first time since summer.

Anson B. was living in Bountiful, Utah, the first two years of his married life when he was asked by his father to move to Star Valley, Wyoming, to take care of Anson's brother's plural wife because his father and other family members were afraid of raids by deputy Marshalls." 11

According to his youngest son, Eran A. Call, while living in the frontier (sanctuary) 12 of Afton, Wyoming, Anson B. was "asked by the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Wilford Woodruff, to take a second wife and go into polygamy." 13 Anson B. Call, Jr., also mentioned in an oral interview that his father was called upon to take a plural wife while living in Star Valley. 14

Anson B. mentions that one primary reason for practicing polygamy , was that "I was taught all my life, the principle of plural marriage, and accordingly in 1888 I became engaged to Harriet Cazier." 15 The most predominant reason for entering polygamy was pointed out by the oldest daughter of Anson B.'s fourth wife in an oral interview. Lorna Call recounts her father explaining how he came to marry his second wife.

When Anson B. asked Aunt Theresa to marry him, she said to Anson B., "Do you believe in polygamy and would you practice polygamy?" Lorna further recounts the family oral history by saying that Anson B. did not know what to say because he wanted to gain her favor. Lorna recalls her father's response as follows: "I believe in the principle and if the opportunity comes I would practice it." Lorna further relates that it was impressed upon her from youth that her parents both believed the only way they could receive the highest degree of glory, was by practicing the principle. 16 From the time of the call from Wilford Woodruff and the subsequent engagement, sometime in 1888, and when they actually made the trip from Star Valley to the Logan Temple in June 1889, a momentous stopgap measure was taken by the LDS Church. Political pressure had worsened to the point that the decision had been made that no sealings were supposedly performed in the Mormon temples from September 1889-1890, (according to a press release, referred to as the Manifesto). 17

After Harriet Cazier took out her endowments in the Logan Temple they were informed that the temple workers could not perform any more plural marriages because the temples might be confiscated if they did. The Temple President, Marriner W. Merrill, told Anson B. that he was awaiting instructions and that he would write Anson B. as soon as he received them. 18

The Manifesto suggests a vague time period during the previous year (September 1889-September 1890), that no more marriages were being performed in the temples. The policy in the Logan Temple apparently was affective as early as June 12, 1889, (This being the endowment date of Harriet Cazier as recorded on genealogical records). 19 Subsequently, (circa one month later) Anson B. was counseled to correspond discreetly with George Q. Cannon in Salt Lake. After several attempts to contact Brother Cannon, Anson B. went to Salt Lake City, to contact the authorities, in person, to find out when and where he could fulfill his call to take a plural wife. 20 Anson B. received council from then, President Woodruff, while Woodruff was hoeing strawberries in his garden next to his Salt Lake home.

Many times Mildred Hurst, has heard Anson B. tell the story of what President Woodruff advised. In her oral interview she recorded what her father said was Wilford Woodruff's counsel: "sell everything you've got and go down there (to Mexico) and don't cause trouble for the Church. You go with my sanction." 21 It is apparent that President Woodruff was not desirous of having those who took sanctioned plural wives after the Manifesto return to United States, because of the investigations and accusations being made by the Utah Commission at that time. This was reiterated by Anson B. in his life history as the reason for selling the land in Wyoming. Wilford Woodruff illustrated his point by telling Anson: "If you leave a nest egg, the hen is pretty apt to come back." 22

A Humorous incident recorded by Anson B. regarding his trip to Mexico reveals part of the secrecy and tension of the times, being only a month after the Manifesto was voted on in General Conference. Anson B. records the following:

By December 10th they had made their way to Colonia Diaz, where the first wife, Theresa, stayed with the two children while Arson B. and his plural bride-to-be, Harriet, went on to Colonia Juarez. Anson B.'s account of their wedding shows that the plural marriage ceremony where the first wife gives her husband to the second wife, was not always observed, since the fist was left baby-sitting in another town. This account also indicates that the officiator (A. F. McDonald) put emphasis on the religious ordinances, and practicality rather than nuptial traditions and romance.
  Much of Anson B.'s life was governed or influenced by spiritual manifestations like the following: Anson B's plural wife Harriet "Hattie" Cazier died after just fours years of plural marriage, leaving Anson Bowen Call facing a real dilemma. He felt that there was no reason to remain in Mexico, but he had no nowhere to go because he had sold his land in Wyoming as per advice of the President of the Church. Anson B. found himself living in a Mormon Colony of self-exiled polygamist, but now, by a twist of fate, he was a monogamist. Polygamy was no longer extolled from the pulpits of the Mormon Church in America. It wouldn't be until 1904 that President Joseph Fielding Smith would personally visit Mexico to withdraw Church sanction of plural marriages world wide. 26

According to his son, Eran in his oral interview, Anson B. had no desire to take a plural wife even though his father had died a faithful polygamist and Anson B. had been raised in a successful polygamous environment. Eran expressed that his father's earlier desire not to enter into the order only changed when he was called upon and asked to live it by the Prophet of the Lord. 27

At this juncture the dilemma as indicated, by his son Eran, was that Anson B. had never desired to live polygamy previous to his call to live the principle. Also, Anson B. had lived at least the letter of the law of Celestial Marriage for a total of four mortal years. Anson B. could possibly rationalize that he had fulfilled his call, since he had done the sealing work here on earth and had started his Celestial covenants and that he would be able finish what he had started, after this mortal life. Arson B., while in a state of doubt over why God had taken his plural wife, he had voiced the desire to his first wife to return to Utah and live a monogamous mortality.

At this point a somewhat unique situation in Mormon plural marriage occurred. Mormons too often look only to the male priesthood holder, as the decisive person in a plural marriage arrangement. However in this situation, Theresa was a woman dedicated to the principle of Celestial plural marriage, before she even considered marriage to Anson Bowen Call. According to Lorna Call, in response to Anson B.'s request to return to the United States, Theresa replied: "No we are to live in polygamy. I know that is what we are to do and we can do it here and now and not there, (as back there in the US)." 28 Subsequently, because of his wife's dedication to the principle, and his not yet receiving an answer to his prayers, Anson B. remained in Mexico. This also hints that Theresa understood very well that the Manifesto applied in Utah, but not outside the US, as in Mexico.

Concerning the dilemma Anson B. mentioned in his life story that, "I just couldn't acknowledge the hand of the Lord in Hattie's passing." Even though he had prayed many times, he couldn't understand Why, if the Lord wanted him to live polygamy, he would take away his second wife, after only four years of marriage. The answer came in another spiritual manifestation and was to become the motivating factor in the decision of whether or not to enter polygamy again. After there months of not receiving an acknowledgment from the Lord, Anson B., while on a business trip to Colonial Juarez, was suddenly taken ill. According to his life history he went into a type of coma where he could hear those around him, but he could not speak. He was rubbed down in an effort to save him. He remained in this critical condition most of the night. In the middle of the night his wife Theresa noticed Anson B. sitting up in bed. He was awake when she inquired of his well being, but later Anson B. was not sure if he was awake or asleep when he had this spiritual manifestation. He then related to his wife the event as follow:

Consequently, Anson B. accepted the hand of the Lord in the death of his second wife. The following February he received a call to fill a mission to England.

The mission prevented him from taking a third wife until 1898. The visitation was a decisive factor in where they would live as indicated by this statement by Anson: "We remained in Mexico for the purpose of living the principle of plural marriage, and accordingly on March 8, 1998, Dora Pratt Was married and sealed to me for time and eternity by apostle John W. Taylor. 30 (The same man Who was the keeper of Anson B.'s book in his vision).

On January 21, 1903, one year before Anson B.'s third wife passed away, his fourth wife, Julia Sarah Abegg, was sealed to him. This decision was also prompted by spiritual intuition as indicated by the words of Anson Bowen Call from his life history. It reads; "We felt that I ought to have another wife." 31 Lorna Call offers a more detailed account in an oral interview, of what she had considers a very sacred family experience. Referring to her father's and his wive's choice of a fourth wife. Anson B. heard a voice telling him whom he should marry, but his two wives walking along side him did not hear the voice. 32

In addition to spiritual manifestations preceding the taking or a plural wife, Anson B's also had mission calls, one to England 1895-1897, and a five month M.I.A. Mission from October 1901 - March 1902, which each proceeded the taking of the last two plural wives.

At the beginning of his England Mission he stopped in Salt Lake for General Conference (April, 1895). He also stopped for October General Conference on the way to his 1901 M.I.A. Mission to Star Valley, Wyoming. These trips to Salt Lake previous to the taking of each plural wife confirms at least two separate and consistently chronological opportunities to receive specific, personal sanctions from the LDS Church president before taking plural wives. 33 As to how common it is to have personal sanctions, directly from LDS Church headquarters is beyond the scope of this paper, but would be in informative topic, requiring the search for rare documents that could be potentially embarrassing Wilford Woodruff as being disingenuous with his 1890 Manifesto. Few if any such documents may have ever been created in the first place.

Anson B.'s son, Ara Call, confirmed in an oral interview, that his parents talked to him often about polygamy. This is Ara's consensus of his father's views on plural marriages:

During the oral interview, Ara explains his own conviction towards plural marriage which reflects his father's teachings: Later on in the oral interview Anson B. continues: At one point the rumor was circulating through the Mormon colonies that the plural marriages performed in Mexico were invalid. It is important to note Anson B's response toward the Church authorities and the authority's response to the rumors. Anson B. recorded the following in his life history: Anson B. Call's life story and oral interviews of his children contain much material on the Mexican revolutions and the Saints expulsion from the Mexico Colonies. After one such expulsion enough Saints had returned to the area that the Dublan Ward could be reorganized. In 1915 Apostle Anthony Ivins visited the colonies for the purpose of reorganization. On the evening of May 11th, Stake President Bently and Apostle Ivans conducted a meeting at which Ivans proposed a reorganization of the ward.

Ivans requested the members of the ward to write three names on a slip of paper, any of whom they could sustain is Bishop of the Ward, and then sign the slips. After Ivans collected the slips he announced that he had selected Anson Bowen. Call as Bishop and W. Ernest Young and Nephi W. Thayne as counselors. 38 By this somewhat unusual process, Anson Bowen Call became, bishop of the Dublan Ward, at which position he remained in for thirty years.

The many years as bishop, father and patriarch along with the conflicts with the Mexican Revolution all remain for future study but one incident as bishop relates to the general topic of this paper and confronts A most interesting circumstance. Sometime after the 1904 Manifesto some members apostatized from the Church and formed various fundamentalist groups. Many of the leaders of these groups came from the Adair Lebaron family of Colonial Dublan. The way in which Anson Bowen Call handled this situation not only confirms his standing in the Church and shows that he intimately understood the importance of presidential sanction of plural marriage, but it completely demonstrates Anson B.'s disassociation as a fundamentalist.

In an oral interview Eran recalls the LeBaron situations:

Anson Bowen Call, Bishop. Father, Patriarch and Polygamist: like father like son. Typical Mormon or Religious Zealot? Compared with the LeBarons, he was a typical Mormon.


[The following is from a press release from the LDS Church, in regards to a new Temple that was built in the neighboring home town next to where Anson B. Call lived most of his life. Note that nowhere does it explain or even hint that the majority of the town was once a Polygamist colony. Or why such a small town would warrant a temple or why has such a small town in Mexico has such a high population of white Anglo-Saxons. Or why this community is one of the few LDS Church owned and operated High Schools in the entire world. Swept under the carpet once again, is any reference to our polygamous roots.

It is just as much a lie to omit relevant facts as it is to make them up.  The press release mentions the church run Schools and the area being a Mormon colony in 1880's but does not mention that it was a major Mormon polygamous refugee camp, the largest settlement of polygamist Mormons world wide.
Such selective editing of the press release shows no sense of history, tradition or loyalty, by the church towards those that sacrifices so much for one of the churches most distinctive doctrines!]

**March 6, 1998 Contact: Don LeFevre (801) 240-4377 *


Groundbreaking services heralding the construction start for a temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this northern Mexico community are scheduled for Saturday, March 7, 1998.

The temple site is in the foothills above Juarez Academy, an elementary-secondary institution operated by the Church.

Temples of the Church are used for marriages, baptisms and other sacred ordinances. Although authorized for use only by faithful Latter-day Saints, they are traditionally opened to public tours prior to formal dedicatory services.

The temple to be built in Colonia Juarez is one of three "small" temples announced by President Gordon B. Hinckley, world leader of the Church, during the General Conference this past October to serve small Latter-day Saint populations in remote areas. One is already under construction in Monticello, Utah. Another is to be built in Anchorage, Alaska.

The Church has 51 operating temples around the world, including one in Mexico City, and another 21 announced temples are in various stages of construction or planning, including one planned for Monterrey, Mexico.

Presiding at the groundbreaking services Saturday will be Elder Eran A. Call, a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and president of the Mexico North Area.

The building contractor, a joint enterprise between Jacobsen Construction Co., Inc., Salt Lake City, and Cobaco, a Colonia Juarez firm, is expected to begin work immediately and the project should be complete by the end of summer.

The temple district will include the Colonia Dublan and Colonia Juarez stakes, which include some 4,700 members of the Church. Both colonies were established by Latter-day Saint settlers in the 1800s.

# # #

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1. Perry L. Porter "Polygamy After the Manifesto: One Man's Reasons," History 490, Senior Seminar Paper. Copy in possession of History Department, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1979. pp. 1-48. (Upon checking for a copy of my paper with the History department, they informed me that they do not keep these historical papers, but they throw them away. My copy of the paper, I put in a special place for safe keeping, in fact it is so safe, that I can not find it. By pure luck that first part of the paper that dealt with analysis of how Mormon Histories skirted the 2nd Manifesto, I do have in my possession and a copy of it can be fond at [ ]. )    [ back ]

2. Anson Call, (SR), "Autobiography and Life Sketch of Anson Call." Autobiographical Typescript (edited and enlarged by Perry Porter Photo copy in the possession of Perry L. Porter, 365 North 1000 East, Orem Utah 84097, pp. 1-19. [ ]    [ back ]

3. Anson Bowen Call, "Life Story of Anson Bowen Call," Autobiographical Manuscript. Photo copy In the possession of Perry L. Porter, 365 North 1000 East, Orem, Utah P4601 p. 1. []    [ back ]

4. Anson Bowen Call, p. 1.   [ back ]

5. Anson Call (SR.), Appendix IV.   [ back ]

6. Anson Bowen Call, p. 1.   [ back ]

7. Anson Bowen Call, P. 1.   [ back ]

8. Anson Bowen Call, p. 1.   [ back ]

9. Anson Bowen Call, p. 1.   [ back ]

10. Anson Bowen Call, pp. 1-2.   [ back ]

11. Anson Bowen Call, p. 2.   [ back ]

12. Because Star Valley was a remote, predominantly Mormon community in the wild mountainous frontier of Wyoming, it was a kind of sanctuary for the polygamous families, from deputy marshals.   [ back ]

13. Eran A. Call Oral History, Interviews by Gordon Irving, 1973, Typescript, p. 1, The James Moyle Oral History Program, Archives, Historical Department or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Note that Eran was appointed as a quasi General Authority in April of 1997. Area Presidencies The new area presidencies are comprised of members of the Church's Quorums of the Seventy. Following are the new assignments, with the area name listed. Mexico North -- Earn A. Call, Dale E. Miller, Tomes Valdes Eran A. Call, 67, retired Church Educational System director for Mexico; formerly one Brigham Young University faculty; former department store manager, real estate and building developer; bachelor's degree, Brigham Young University; master of business administration, New York University; served church as mission president, patriarch, high councilor, stake president's counselor, bishop, missionary training center president; wife, Katherine Groesbeck Call, nine children.)    [ back ]

14. Anson Bowen Call, Jr., Oral History, story, Interview by Jessie Embry, July 17, 1976, Typescript, p. 16, L.D.S. Polygamy Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center of Western Studies, Brigham Young University Library, Provo, Utah.     [ back ]

15. Anson Bowen Call, p. 2.    [ back ]

16. Lorna Call Oral History, Interview by Jessie Embry June 28,-1976, Typed Manuscript, L.D.S. Polygamy Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center of Western Studies, Brigham Young University Library, Provo, Utah. pp. 42, 43. Mildred Hurst Oral History, Interview by Jessie Embry June 28, 1976, Typed Script, L.D.S. Polygamy Oral History Project, Charles Redd Center of Western Studies, Brigham Young University Library, Provo, Utah. p. 12. Mildred also mentions in her oral history that papa and Aunt Hattie we're taught the same thing. i.e. that Plural Marriage was prerequisite to celestial kingdom. Anson B. Call, Jr., also stated the same thing on page 16 of his oral history.   [ back ]

17. The Doctrine and Covenants, rev. ed. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1923, Manifesto pp. 256-257.   [ back ]

18. Anson Bowen Call, p. 2.   [ back ]

19. Genealogical Records, See Appendix p. 16-20.   [ back ]

20. Anson Bowen Call, p. 2.   [ back ]

21. Mildred Hurst, P. 12. Also a similar account is given by Ara Call in his oral interview.   [ back ]

22. Anson Bowen Call, p. 2.   [ back ]

23. Anson Bowen Call, pp. 2-3.   [ back ]

24. Anson Bowen Call, P. 3.   [ back ]

25. Anson Bowen Call, P. 3.   [ back ]

26. Interview with Earnest W. Young (age 92) at his home, 820 North 1077 East, Provo, Utah 84601, October 20, 1979. He recalls being in the meeting where President Joseph F. Smith withdrew any further sanction of plural marriage outside of the U.S.A., Earnest W. Young recalled the date as 1906.   [ back ]

27. Eran A. Call, p. 1.   [ back ]

28. Lorna Call, p.p. 43, 44.   [ back ]

29. Anson Bowen Call, p. 4.   [ back ]

30. Anson Bowen Call, p. 6. Anson B. further attests the validity of his marriage by stating that "(at this time men who had the authority, could marry for time and eternity outside the temples.)".   [ back ]

31. Anson Bowen Call, D. 3. Previously Anson B. had a premonition that one of his wives would die. If he had waited until the third wife died, in August 1904, the April 1904 Manifesto would have been declared and he would been restrained to be a monogamist for the remaining 54 years of his life.   [ back ]

32. Lorna Call, p. 4.   [ back ]

33. Anson Bowen Call, pp. 5-6.   [ back ]

34. Ara Call, p. 40.   [ back ]

35. Ara Call, P. 30.   [ back ]

36. Ara Call, pp. 44, 45.   [ back ]

37. Anson Bowen Call, p. 6.   [ back ]

38. Anson Bowen Call, p.p. 13, 14.   [ back ]

39. Eran A. Call, p. 15.   [ back ]


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