Patterns of Polygamy - Son of 'Kingston Clan' founder comes forward

Davis County Clipper/October 2, 2008

Bountiful - To hear the son of Kingston clan founder Elden Kingston tell it, the organization is no stranger to such things as incestuous relationships, a favored "royal" bloodline among its leaders, a dependence on governmental assistance and polygamous marriages by some that make it hard for other males to find even one wife.

Kingston's son Lionel recently came forward to meet with Clipper editors to take issue with statements made by Carlene Kingston Cannon and Heidi Foster, in an article published on Aug. 14.

His purpose, he said, was not to denigrate his father's work but to call attention to disturbing changes that have occurred since his father's death in the late 1940s.

Lionel, a Bountiful resident, believes in the organization his father started, and even in polygamy. He never married more than one woman but said leaders wanted him to give up his future wife and marry another - which he refused to do.

"I'm not against polygamy," he said. "I wouldn't be here" without it. "I wanted to live it when I was younger."

He says he was kicked out, along with his 80-year-old mother and other family members, in 1990.

Where Lionel draws the line, however, is in what he considers incestuous marriages that first took place in 1950, two years after his father Elden died.

"They claim they would build the bloodline" and keep it pure, he told the Clipper.

But there have been some physical and mental problems as a result of that practice, Lionel said.

"They have mental problems; some of them are handicapped," he said. "A few go in and out of mental hospitals."

But he said most with severe deformities "die, usually when they're born. They take them to the hospital (usually the University of Utah Medical Center), where it's free" for medical care, he said.

In most cases, though, babies are not delivered at a hospital. "They always do home births. Paul (Kingston) has delivered more babies than most doctors, and he's good at it," Lionel said.

Paul Kingston, the group's current leader, is an attorney, by formal training and is Lionel's cousin.

"He kicked my mother and all of my full siblings, out," Lionel said, referring to the 1990 ousting of his family.

He insists that the organization run by Paul today is characterized by distrust of outsiders or even the banishing of certain former members.

Officially the group is known as the Davis County Cooperative Society, which is a secular organization distinct from the Kingstons' religious worship.

Current Kingston spokespersons, Carlene and Heidi, prefer being called members of the cooperative and dislike the term "clan" although Lionel has no objections to the word because he feels it truly operates as a clan.

Even those differences in how to describe the organizaunderscore the vastly contrasting views presented by Lionel (along with former Kingston Rowenna Erickson and LDS scholar Brian C. Hales, and others) and those held by Kingston supporters.

Carlene and Heidi are frankly mystified by their uncle Lionel's views. In one area of agreement, they concur with Lionel's assessment that the Kingstons number about 2,000, with many in Davis County, some in other parts of the state and a few in other states.

But for the rest, their views are widely divergent from those espoused by Lionel and others.

They say they are not aware of forced, underage marriages and contend they have always operated within the law.

"It's a myth," Carlene said of forced underage marriages. "No young girls were entering marriages, and all made their own choices.

"We've always been law abiding, and since they've changed the law, we've followed it."

By this, Carlene and Heidi mean that no girls were married at younger than age 16 when the law considered 16 the age of consent. Now that it has been raised to 18, they also raised their minimum age to 18 - although Lionel remains skeptical about this.

Carlene is also mystified by Lionel's statement that his mother was kicked out. She checked the records, she said, and notes that they indicate his mother died as a member in good standing.

Lionel, however, insists that his mother was kicked out of the Kingston cooperative, although her church records may have remained intact.

He says Paul Kingston personally handed him a check in excess of $80,000 as his mother's settlement for her years of financial contributions to the co-op. Lionel and the rest of his family members also received smaller checks, Paul telling him that once they received their money they were no longer members.

Heidi, meanwhile, is perplexed by the insistence of Lionel and other former Kingston members that key people were given numbers that corresponded with levels of power and importance. Under that theory, those with the lowest numbers always outranked those who came later and had higher numbers.

"I can't wrap my mind around it," she said. "My dad raised us to be whatever we wanted to be. I don't understand where that came from."

While Heidi does not deny there is domestic violence and sexual abuse within the organization, it only reflects society as a whole.

"There is abuse in any community," she said.

"While we haven't done a study of the Kingstons over the last eight or nine years, a lot of things are done differently now (than when Lionel was involved).

"Classes are held and information is provided on what services are available and what to do in certain situations. We offer parenting classes and car seat classes just to make sure children are safe."

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