Jan 10, 2024 - News

The polygamous "Mormon Manson" behind Hulu's hit docuseries

A 1978 FBI memo detailing allegations against Ervil LeBaron.

A 1978 FBI memo detailing allegations against Ervil LeBaron. Image via FBI Vault

A hit docuseries is raising the profile of Ervil LeBaron, the leader of a polygamous Mormon sect who orchestrated the murders of his rivals even from beyond the grave.

Driving the news: The 5-part docuseries "Daughters of the Cult," released last week, is hovering in Hulu's top 5 rankings.

  • The show chronicles the Church of the First Born Lamb of God, the sect LeBaron founded in 1972 and led until his 1981 death in Utah.
  • Members of LeBaron's church have been accused of dozens of murders at his behest.

Catch up quick: The sect is one of several fundamentalist Mormon groups established in Mexico after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cracked down on polygamy during the first half of the 20th century.

  • Ervil LeBaron's father moved his family to Chihuahua in the 1920s, and Ervil's older brother Joel later established a polygamous church there.
  • Ervil challenged Joel's leadership, causing a schism before he founded his own church.

What happened: After Joel was beaten and fatally shot in 1972, Ervil was convicted of his murder in a Mexican court, but the conviction was later overturned.

  • Ervil preached "blood atonement," an early Mormon belief that certain sinners must die to be forgiven by God. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which the LeBaron family left a century ago — now repudiates that belief.
  • But in "Daughters of the Cult," Ervil LeBaron's family members say he held to that doctrine and ordered his followers to kill various rivals and dissidents. He was nicknamed "the Mormon Manson," after Charles Manson, due to his influence over his followers.
  • In 1980, after several charges didn't stick, Ervil LeBaron was convicted in Utah of ordering the 1977 murder of Rulon Allred, the leader of another polygamous sect. Ervil LeBaron died in prison in 1981.

Yes, but: While in prison, he penned a 500-page religious tome that included a "hit list" of his enemies — four of whom were killed by members of LeBaron's family in 1988, seven years after he died.

Of note: Hulu's docuseries has been well-reviewed for its straightforward, journalistic approach to true crime.

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