EskDale is a communal settlement in the west Utah desert that combines elements of Mormonism, Christianity and Judaism. Members see themselves as the successors of the biblical priests leading back to Aaron.
EskDale was founded by chiropractor Maurice Glendenning (1891-1969), who heard heavenly music as a boy while picking berries and fishing in Kansas; later a voice dictated cryptic poems to him. Eventually, he stopped transcribing the poems, perceiving them as the work of Satan. Believing that God had placed a curse upon him for disobedience, he wandered from place to place without professional success. Eventually he and his family settled in Provo, Utah, where he resumed recording the poems. Here, in 1929, he was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormon) and found people in the congregation who were interested in his revelations.
In 1938, Glendenning related a vision in which the Angel Elias anointed him as a priest of Aaron; he later organized his group of followers as the Aaronic Order, for which he and several of his followers were excommunicated from the LDS Church. The Aaronic Order interacted with other religious groups over the next two decades, including Quakers, Hutterites, Christian evangelists, and Pentecostal preachers, all of whom influenced their beliefs.
In 1948, Glendenning had a revelation encouraging the community to establish communal settlements in the tradition of the early Christians. After several settlement attempts, the group acquired some land in the desert of western Utah with an underground stream that they named the River Esk after a Scottish waterway. The settlement’s name honors this river. After drilling wells for irrigation and amending the alkaline soil, the community was able to cultivate alfalfa, small grains, vegetables, and fruits. EskDale survived rudimentary conditions for the first few decades, not having electricity or telephone service until the 1970s. The community’s main source of income has always been from raising dairy cattle, although there were several unsuccessful business ventures over the years, including egg production, furniture making, propane delivery, and ceramics.
EskDale is run as a for-profit common fund community and includes members who live in the commune and others who join for worship and special events. As of 2000, there were 34 adults and 25 children living as full members. All finances are managed centrally, and the community pays for individuals’ utilities, taxes, insurance, health care, food, and a small monthly allowance. There are also communally-owned vehicles that residents check out if travelling out of EskDale.
The community has a daily routine of prayer and hymns marked by bells and celebrates weekly sacrament services and Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. They combine traditions from Judaism such as blowing the shofar, wearing a prayer shawl, and abstaining from pork with traditions from Christianity such as partaking of bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. Some dancing and some music are prohibited.
EskDale’s rules and rituals have changed over the years. Meals were once all eaten in silence and all members wore uniforms, but these practices have fallen by the wayside. Women did not play a role in the administration in the early days, but have since gained more positions of authority. Some members have regretted these changes, seeing them as a loss of identity for the community.