Cowboy Apostle: The Diaries of Anthony W. Ivins, 1875-1932

As part of a series of essays on controversial topics, the church recently published an article discussing plural marriages performed after the Manifesto. The article noted, “on an exceptional basis, some new plural marriages were performed between 1890 and 1904, especially in Mexico and Canada.” [1]

The publication of Cowboy Apostle: The Diaries of Anthony W. Ivins, 1875-1932, is timely for those interested in further exploration of this topic. Anthony Ivins was involved in the initial LDS exploration of Mexico with instructions to locate a place where polygamists could hide. When U.S. efforts to stop plural marriage gained momentum in the 1880s, Mexico became a safe haven for Mormon polygamists. Ivins was called as a Mission President over the Mormon colonies in Mexico “to specifically enable the church” to continue to perform plural marriages, which were “still considered to be an essential, eternal principle.” [xxv] There he performed or oversaw more than 60 covert plural marriages after the 1890 manifesto. His son described his father’s involvement (included in Appendix B) noting Ivins had the full authority of the First Presidency to solemnize these marriages. [xxiv] Ironically Ivins, a monogamist, apparently did not embrace ‘The Principle’ himself. [xxvi]

Signature Books new volume illuminates this episode of Mormon history, as well as other interesting topics such as Mormonism in Mexico, the execution of John D. Lee, the stalled BYU expedition to Columbia, expunging the Adam-God theory from LDS belief, the beginnings of Mormon fundamentalism and violence among  Mormons, Indians, cowboys and Mexicans.

The pages unfold the story and character of Ivins, who loved hunting and fishing, was an accomplished cowboy (winning an award from National Cowboy Museum and the Cowboy Hall of Fame) [xiii], an Indian agent, and one who considered running for governor. As an ardent democrat, he was a supporter of women’s suffrage. [xx]

The diaries provide valuable insight into the operations of the Quorum of Twelve and First Presidency beginning with his description of being overcome with emotion when called to the apostleship. Despite concerns about the perception of three democrats in the First Presidency, Heber J. Grant went ahead and called his first cousin Anthony Ivins as his counselor. The diaries chronicle Ivins service in the Twelve and First Presidency from 1907 to 1934.

Ivins was a prolific diarist, filling over 60 volumes, plus additional notes and records. Elizabeth O. Anderson has carefully edited the diaries and related materials into the latest volume of the Signature Books’ “Significant Mormon Diaries Series.” Particularly noteworthy are the prolific, detailed notes, bringing life and context to details that otherwise would have remained obscure. Anderson and the Signature Books team have provided a valuable contribution to Mormon studies.

748 pp. 978-1-56085-226-1.
Significant Mormon Diaries Series No. 13
Limited edition of 500 copies at select bookstores. $125.00.
Kindle Edition. $20.00.

[1] Gospel Topics: “Plural Marriage and Family in Early Utah”,, accessed 12/31/2013