I was thinking this morning about my novel, ZION’S WEB, and pondering what might be the best way to introduce people to the book who haven’t yet read it. It was then that it dawned on me: What more fitting way to introduce people to ZION’S WEB that let them read the introduction. Please note that we’re talking about an author’s introduction here, one that is meant to give an overview of some of the topics dealt with in ZION’S WEB, not to provide a synopsis of the actual storyline itself. For that, please go to my website at www.michaelsnowauthor.com where I provide a detailed summary of the story.
The introduction, exactly as it appears in the book, is presented below.
When the Mormon Church abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, many of its members refused to accept this decision. Eventually, some of these people traveled to Mexico and established colonies where they were free to continue the banned practice. One such individual was Alma LeBaron who, in the early 1920s, moved his children and multiple wives to Northern Mexico where he formed a polygamist community called Colonia LeBaron. The LeBaron family was later excommunicated from the Mormon Church for refusing to give up the practice of plural marriage.
In 1955 Alma’s son Joel formed The Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times in Salt Lake City, which became the official church of Colonia LeBaron. At the time, the Fullness of Times sect was but the newest member of a group of polygamist churches whose members collectively became known as fundamentalist Mormons. Joel, with the help of his brother Ervil, ran his church until 1967 when Ervil was removed from leadership for challenging his brother’s authority.
Ervil eventually formed his own church in San Diego in 1972 known as The Church of the Lamb of God. However, Ervil’s doctrine was radically different from that of his brother. Ervil had come up with a concept called Civil Law which he believed gave him the right, as self-proclaimed prophet and leader of the church, to pronounce a sentence of death upon members or others he felt were in violation of his law. One of those upon whom such a sentence fell was his own brother Joel.
Not long after Ervil’s church was formed, Joel LeBaron was murdered in Ensenada. Although Ervil LeBaron was later convicted of this murder in Mexico, that conviction was ultimately overturned and he was released from prison. For a number of years Ervil continued to send out assassins to do his bidding, some of whom were his own wives. This practice eventually caught up with him, however, when he was convicted of masterminding the killing of a rival fundamentalist leader in the United States and sent to prison in Draper, Utah. Ervil later died in prison of an apparent heart attack.
ZION’S WEB deals with the topic of polygamy, an issue that continues to capture the imagination of the public with situations like the raid on the FLDS compound in El Dorado, Texas in 2008, and the recent conviction of its leader Warren Jeffs for sex crimes. But polygamy is a topic that is difficult to discuss without offending people. A fictional group similar to the LeBarons is presented in this novel. Such a group was chosen because it not only provides a vehicle to address the subject matter without basing the narrative on any real group existing in the world today, but it makes for a compelling story because it is inspired by events that really happened.
In addition to the items just mentioned, it is impossible to discuss polygamy—at least as it exists in the United States—without also touching on the topic of Mormonism. In reading this novel the reader may question whether the LeBarons were Mormons. Perhaps more importantly, the reader might ask if—despite their name—any of the groups claiming to be fundamentalist Mormons can claim to be Mormons in any sense.
The answer lies in the roots of the Mormon Religion itself. Mormonism has at its core two basic principles: 1) The idea that divine revelation can happen in the world today and 2) the concept that obedience to God’s word, as revealed in those revelations and elsewhere, is necessary. If God can command his people to practice polygamy, he can also withdraw that commandment which, according to his followers, he did in 1890. Anyone continuing the practice after that point cannot make the claim of being a true Mormon, or a Mormon at all if the Church finds out what they are doing, for they will be excommunicated. There are undoubtedly many good and sincere people who make the claim of being fundamentalist Mormons—people who should no more be associated with LeBaron’s crazy clan than Mormons should—but these individuals are not Mormons; no more than Protestants can claim to be Roman Catholics.
As noted earlier, the public continues to have a fascination with polygamy. Perhaps it is because it is still embraced by many people today, even though it has long been outlawed. Or maybe it has more to do with the fact that it was once practiced by one of the largest and fastest growing religions in America and then abruptly cancelled. Was the abandonment of polygamy by the Mormon Church driven purely by pressure from the United States Government to end the practice, combined with a desire to achieve statehood, as some believe, or do the answers lie in the roots of Mormon Doctrine itself? The author has his theories, which are touched upon in this novel, but they are only theories. The Mormon Church has never made an official statement on the subject, leaving the question for its individual members to ponder as a matter of faith.
Whatever the reasons, the fascination with polygamy is not likely to end soon. With that in mind, this book adds its perspective to the debate, along with what those turning its pages will hopefully find to be a damned good read.
Michael Snow January, 2013
Remember, between now and May 15th you can purchase a copy of ZION’S WEB and avoid shipping costs simply by going to the website at www.michaelsnowauthor.com and entering the free shipping code when prompted which is Bfree50. The promotion is limited to the first fifty customers so hurry to take advantage of this significant discount.