W. Cleon Skousen
Willard Cleon Skousen has been described as both an ultraright constitutionalist and a faith-based political theorist. He is well known as the author of The Naked Communist (1958) and The 5,000 Year Leap (1971). He also penned numerous religious volumes, including The First Two Thousand Years, The Third Thousand Years, The Fourth Thousand Years, and The Cleansing of America.
Skousen was born on January 20, 1913, in Raymond, Alberta, Canada. At age ten his family moved to California where they stayed for a few years before they moved to Colonia Juarez, Mexico. He later returned to California where he graduated from high school. Soon after he served as a full-time missionary to Great Britain for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which he was a member.
After his mission, he graduated from San Bernardino Valley Jr. College and then obtained a law degree from George Washington University Law School. He became an FBI Special Agent in 1940; his work was primarily clerical and administrative. He had been an FBI messenger while attending law school. Brigham Young University president Ernest L. Wilkinson asked Skousen to accept a post at BYU, so he left the FBI in 1951. From 1951 to 1955 he oversaw the Alumni Association. He later returned to BYU and taught religion from 1967 to 1978,
In 1956, Skousen was appointed chief of police by Salt Lake City mayor Adiel F. Stewart. In 1960, Skousen was dismissed by newly elected mayor J. Bracken Lee after Skousen raided an illegal poker club where the mayor was in attendance. For many years he edited the police journal Law and Order.
Skousen then founded the ultra far-right All-American Society and affiliated with the John Birch Society. In speeches for the society throughout the country, Skousen denounced communist attacks on the society and penned a pamphlet titled "The Communist Attack on the John Birch Society." At about this time, he published The Naked Communist, which was immediately successful and gave him prominence as a far-right speaker. At the same time, he faced fierce criticism for his views, which has continued past his death. He had wide support among LDS people during the 1960s and early 1970s, but in 1979 the First Presidency issued a letter to wards and stakes warning members not to promote Skousen nor his Freeman Institute in Church meetings or in Church-owned facilities.
In 1971 he had formed the nonprofit educational Freeman Institute (taking the name freeman from the Book of Mormon). The purpose of the institute was to provide students with political documents. The institute was renamed the National Center for Constitutional Studies in 1982.
In 1981, Skousen was asked to be a charter member of the conservative think tank the Council for National Policy, formed under the Ronald Reagan presidency. That same year he published The 5,000 Year Leap, a book he had been researching and writing since the 1930s. The book had a resurgence in popularity when Glenn Beck promoted it in 2009.
Skousen is also known for his book The Making of America (1977). In 1987, the state of California briefly considered using it as a textbook for the state schools.
He and his wife, Jewel, were the parents of eight children. He died on January 9, 2006, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Lloyd D. Newell, Susan Easton Black, and Mary Jane Woodger, Men of Character: Profiles of 100 Prominent LDS Men (American Fork, UT: Covenant Communications, 2015), 266–68.