Monday, February 12, 2018

The Bishop's Wife tears at facade of normalcy


“The Bishop’s Wife,” Soho Crime, 2014, (buy it here) stands alone as a fine addition to crime fiction. It has a strong main plot, an almost-as-compelling chief secondary plot, the requisite twists and turns and an exciting climax. As a Mormon-themed novel, penned by active Mormon wife and mother Mette Ivie Harrison, the novel is unique for two reasons: It has a Mormon, stay-at-home mom as its narrator and protagonist, and it deals frankly and provocatively with discrimination, subtle and frank, that is part of a church with a male hierarchy.
The book is a great mystery read, and only the fact that I had to work the next morning kept me from finishing it with an all-night read. In a Draper LDS ward, Bishop Kurt Wallheim, and the bishop’s wife, Linda, receive an early-morning visit from ward member Jared Helm, and his daughter, Kelly, 5. Jared reports that his wife, Carrie, has abandoned the family. Jared is an immature young man, struggling with his marriage. As the author has noted, the story is inspired by the disappearance of Susan Powell several years ago. However, the developing plot does not mimic the turns of the Powell case. As Carrie Helm seems to virtually disappear, Linda Wallheim, a mother of sons, becomes protective of toddler Kelly, who seems a substitute for the daughter she lost to a stillbirth years earlier. She also becomes sympathetic to Carrie Helm’s parents, who use the media to try to indict Jared and his family as culpable in Carrie’s disappearance.
The main subplot involves the illness and death of ward member, Tobias Torstensen, who has been married 30 years to his second wife, Anna. The experience brings Linda and Anna into a close friendship. As Tobias nears death, questions about his first wife’s death — there is no grave and no one seems to know how she died, even her two sons — arise. Through a series of incriminating discoveries, Linda, Anna and even the police are convinced that mild-mannered Tobias murdered his first wife long ago and never told anyone. However, as is a theme in this novel, the story is more complex, providing new answers as layers of long-held secrets are unveiled.
The deepest relationship in the novel is between Kurt and Linda Wallheim. The author makes their relationship one of mostly mutual value, with the usual frustrations, disagreements and trials supported by the loyalty and love that binds the pair together. Linda, the bishop’s wife, is a liberal Mormon; a former atheist tempered by her husband’s more conventional beliefs. She forgives his occasional patriarchal biases, understanding that she has softened him over the years. Ivie Harrison does a good job of presenting a diverse collection of Wallheim sons, all with distinct personalities on life and spirituality. Linda is closest to the youngest, Samuel, who is a lot like his mother, with the novel having him react to many of the events.
Active Mormons will appreciate how well the usual life of a bishop and his wife are outlined. Kurt is an accountant who barely sees his family between church and tax season, as well as Sunday afternoons and evenings. Linda, as a bishop’s wife, struggles to deal with being the “ward mother” and the listening and action that requires. He deals with the ward’s secrets. While his job necessitates discreetness, he trusts his wife enough to request she visit specific families to offer friendship, kind words and baked goodies. In one scene a troubled ward member, understanding that Linda is a better ear than the bishop for his problem, confides in her.
There is another strong scene early that captures Mormon culture. Linda, helping prepare for a wedding at the ward chapel, consoles the bride’s mom over her disappointment that the wedding is not in the temple. It’s an interesting passage because there’s no scandal attached to the wedding; the pair simply want to get married as soon as possible. Active Mormon parents place a high priority on a temple wedding, and its inclusion adds authenticity. (In the years after I wrote this review I have gained more empathy with this scene.)
The disappearance of Carrie Helm carries the novel, as Linda struggles to maintain a relationship with little Kelly after the arrival of her paternal grandfather, a controlling, truly repellent character with obsolete Mormon beliefs. A strength of her character is despite her impetuous nature — which leads her to make wrong assumptions — she’s able to embrace the truth when it’s revealed. And it’s several twists, and a key discovery, that makes Linda again question her ability to discern what’s righteous and what’s evil.
And the truth doesn’t come easy in “The Bishop’s Wife.” The “normalcy” of an LDS ward is taken apart layer by layer as serious injuries and dysfunctions are revealed. And these layers can’t be peeled back in a nice manner. They are torn off the facade of the ward, with the requisite pain, bleeding and adverse consequences.
If there’s a quibble with “The Bishop’s Wife,” it’s Linda’s specific action that leads to the climax. I’m not sure Ivie Harrison’ character, while impulsive, would willingly put herself into such certain danger. But it’s an exciting scene nevertheless, and wraps up a novel that’s well worth reading, either all night long or during a particularly boring Sacrament meeting.
- Doug Gibson

Sunday, February 4, 2018

After First Manifesto, LDS internal debate over polygamy raged for a generation

In Official Declaration No. 1, found in the LDS scripture “Doctrine and Covenants,” then-Prophet Wilford W. Woodruff says, “…  I now publicly declare that my advice to the Latter-day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.” (Read) It’s taught today that the 1890 Manifesto ended polygamy within the LDS Church. That, however, is a pleasant fantasy. The debate over polygamy raged within the LDS Church’s hierarchy for another generation, and polygamous marriages were conducted, and sanctioned, within the church. The polygamy debate wasn’t settled until well into the 20th century, when two prominent apostles were harshly disciplined for not ceasing the practice.
The 1890 Manifesto was necessary as a means to end the federal government’s efforts to harm the church. In fact, for a while the church did not have control of its own funds, and it’s third prophet, John Taylor, had spent much of his tenure in hiding. As historian Kenneth L. Cannon notes in his excellent Sunstone of 1983, a majority of the 12 Apostles, including President Woodruff, intended polygamy to continue. What the First Manifesto meant to most LDS Church leaders through much of the 1890s was that the primacy of United States law took precedence over the church’s mandate to have plural marriage. To Woodruff and others, particularly his First Counselor George Q. Cannon, polygamy could continue outside the United States.
An example of post-First Manifesto plural marriage at the highest degree of the church hierarchy involves LDS Apostle Abraham H. Cannon, a son of George Q. Cannon. Abraham Cannon, already a polygamist, married at least one more plural wife in the mid-1890s, and probably two. One of his marriages, to Lillian Hamlin in 1896, was followed shortly by his death. Nevertheless, Lillian managed to conceive, bearing a daughter named Marba, which is Abram spelled backwards. In an interesting footnote, Lillian, a future teacher at the Brigham Young Academy, would marry and become a polygamous wife to Lewis M. Cannon, one of Abraham’s cousins. (This information is gleaned from the introduction to the published diaries of Abraham Cannon, which is fascinating reading. Abraham Cannon was a remarkable man, who in his relatively short life was an energetic apostle, hustling church duties with journalism responsibilities, business dealings, both personal and church, and maintaining relationships with his plural families with the threat of federal arrest and prosecution always around.)
So, as Kenneth Cannon writes, from 1890 to 1898, a significant majority of Apostles and members of the First Presidency had “an active part in post-Manifesto polygamy.” Plural marriages, those allowed, were usually conducted in Mexico or Canada. One reason for the perpetuity of the practice was, as mentioned, that a majority of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles still supported polygamy as a church practice. Cannon cites this as one reason that plural marriage increased during the tenure of LDS Prophet Lorenzo Snow from September 1898 to October 1901, even though Snow, Woodruff’s successor, opposed continuing polygamy. As Cannon writes, “… President Snow privately expressed the same sentiments to Apostle Brigham Young Jr., stating he had never given his consent for plural marriage and adding ‘God has removed this privilege from the people.’”
When Joseph F. Smith assumed responsibilities as LDS leader in 1901, he maintained an approval for some polygamous marriages. That was not a surprise, as Smith had not been a vocal opponent of polygamy. Nevertheless, Joseph F. Smith is the LDS Church leader who essentially enforced a ban on polygamy, and made its practice an offense that would lead to excommunication.  On April 6, 1904, at LDS General Conference, President Smith said the following:
Inasmuch as there are numerous reports in circulation that plural marriages have been entered into, contrary to the official declaration of President Woodruff of September 24, 1890, commonly called the manifesto, which was issued by President Woodruff, and adopted by the Church at its general conference, October 6, 1890, which forbade any marriages violative of the law of the land, I, Joseph F. Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent, or knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“And I hereby announce that all such marriages are prohibited, and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage, he will be deemed in transgression against the Church, and will be liable to be dealt with according to the rules and regulations thereof and excommunicated therefrom.”
This Second Manifesto was also published in the church’s official publication of that time, “The Improvement Era.” Even this manifesto did not come close to ending internal debate over the legitimacy of polygamy. It continued through the decade, with its two strongest adherents being apostles John W. Taylor and Matthias Cowley. They led a faction that interpreted the Second Manifesto, as the First Manifesto, as only respecting U.S. law.
Nevertheless, polygamy’s days were numbered within the LDS Church. By 1911 both Taylor and Cowley were not only dropped from the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, but Cowley was disfellowshipped, which means he lost his LDS priesthood standing, and Taylor excommunicated, which is the maximum church punishment. (In 1936 Cowley’s priesthood was re-established. He died in 1940. In 1965, long after his death, Taylor was re-baptized posthumously and had his priesthood standing restored.)
So, what led to the eventual crackdown of polygamy in the LDS Church? As Kenneth Cannon notes in his article, attrition played a role. During the first decade of the 20th century, apostles who supported polygamy died, and Smith chose as replacements opponents of polygamy. By the end of the decade, the LDS Church hierarchy was strongly anti-polygamy.
But there was a bigger reason for President Joseph F. Smith to end polygamy. As Kenneth Cannon relates, LDS Apostle Reed Smoot, a monogamist, had been selected as U.S. senator from Utah. Polygamy threatened Smoot’s assumption of the Senate seat, which was considered of vital importance to Smith and other LDS leaders. Smoot was asking Smith and others to unseat Cowley and Taylor, and by mid-1906 they were gone from the Quorum. By 1907, and the death of apostle George Teasdale, there were no polygamy advocates left in the hierarchy.
Smoot’s ascension to the U.S. Senate was of such importance that President Joseph F. Smith, speaking to the U.S. Senate, provided testimony he must have known to be false, claiming that since the Woodruff Manifesto, “… there has never been, to my knowledge, a plural marriage performed with the understanding, instruction, connivance, counsel, or permission of the presiding authorities of the church, in any shape or form; and I know whereof I speak, gentlemen, in relation to that matter.” Such testimony, although skeptically received, helped Smoot survive efforts to deny him his senatorial seat. He would serve in the U.S. Senate until 1933.
In retrospect, it would have been impossible for polygamy, a practice entrenched in the Mormon church for nearly half-a-century, to have been instantly ended in 1890. It required a generation for attrition, changing times and church priorities to finally eradicate the principle.

-Doug Gibson

This post originally was published at StandardBlogs.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

In Lee v. Skousen tiff, LDS Church sided with the man who liked strippers


One of the more entertaining Utah political tiffs was the battle between Salt Lake City Mayor J. Bracken Lee and Salt Lake City Police Chief W. Cleon Skousen. The battle ended in 1960 when Lee managed to convince a majority of city commissioners to fire Skousen.

Skousen was hired in 1956 to re-energize a police force that suffered from low morale. He had been recommended by FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover. The then-mayor, Adiel F. Stewart, not surprisingly, lobbied LDS Church leader David O. McKay for permission to get ex-FBI agent Skousen out of his BYU job. By most accounts, Skousen did improve the moral of the department. However, the moralistic, ultra-conservative Skousen was headed for a collision with the election of Lee as SLC’s mayor in 1959.

The Fall 1974 issue of “The Utah Historical Quarterly,” has an interesting account of the tension that developed between Mayor Lee and Chief Skousen. Both were political conservatives, but Lee, who was not Mormon, enjoyed recreational activities that the straightlaced Skousen regarded as immoral. According to historian Dennis L. Lythgoe, the pair clashed over Skousen regularly sending the city’s vice squad to bust striptease shows “to the private clubs of the city, such as Alta, Ambassador and Elks.” Lee allegedly ordered to Skousen to let up on the raids. Skousen refused. According to Lythgoe, “Angry words followed, with Lee suggesting that the police should stay away from striptease shows and admitting that he enjoyed them himself and had no desire to be arrested while attending one.”

Lee’s defense of striptease shows in refreshingly candid. In a footnote to Lythgoe’s article, he says in an interview “… I think the prettiest thing in the world is a nude woman — a good looking nude woman.” It’s clear that Lee was offended by what he believed was Skousen’s attempt to put a heavy police presence on issues that offended his personal morality. The pair also clashed over Skousen’s attempts to crack down on mild forms of gambling that went on surreptitiously at area private clubs.

When he became police chief, Skousen initiated a program where local taverns would self-police themselves. His reasoning was that if the taverns could self correct any potential violations of the law it would cut down on needed police presence. The taverns formed an association and hired a former police officer to advise them.

Lee disliked the program, and asked Skousen to disband it. He believed that tavern businesses were pressured and intimidated by both SLC police and the association if they spurned membership. At a public hearing charged by Mayor Lee on the program, both sides of the association debate were heard. In an interview with Lythgoe, Lees regards the tavern owners as thieves who had made a bargain with Skousen to steal less. He told Skousen, “I think you could make a deal with the underworld to only steal so much at night and they would be glad to police themselves.”

The rift between Lee and Skousen was moving beyond competing moral visions and into disputes over the role and size of government. Despite both men being traditional, anti-communism conservatives, Lee was realizing that Skousen’s morality tolerated an intrusive form of bigger government that his competing moral views opposed. Lee was not interested in vice cops chasing dancing women in panties or bras. Also, he wanted taverns to be policed by cops.

Not surprisingly, the final straw that led to Skousen’s firing was over the size of the police department’s budget. Lee wanted it trimmed far more than Skousen wanted to trim it. Skousen’s salary, at $10,000 a year, was larger than Lee’s. He also had three highly paid assistant police chiefs. Lee wanted those to go. The money issues, as Lythgoe recounts, couldn’t be worked out, and one day, in a Machiavellian move, during a routine commission meeting, Lee made a surprising motion to fire Skousen. Even more surprisingly, it passed 3-2 among city commissioners.

The mayor suffered short-term public relations/media problems but eventually withstood harsh criticism from Skousen supporters and others. In fact, Lee was re-elected as mayor of Salt Lake City twice after firing Skousen. In an interesting twist, the Deseret News, which had been an enthusiastic supporter of Skousen during his tenure, published a lukewarm, passionless editorial on his firing. What Lythgoe reports is that the Deseret News had prepared a full-page editorial harshly condemning Lee for firing Skousen. However, at the last minute, the LDS Church First Presidency spiked the editorial, and sent Counselor Henry D. Moyle to make sure the editorial did not run. Moyle’s church duties at the time included overseeing the editorial content of the Deseret News.

According to the article, Lee says that when he learned of the upcoming editorial, he called Church President McKay, who told him not to worry. Skousen is quoted as saying that Moyle was sent to spike the editorial because Lee was a Mason and the church worried about offending Masons. In an article footnote, then-Deseret News editorial director William Smart, who was editor and general manager of the News at the time Lythgoe’s article was published, Smart said that he had been opposed to Skousen’s firing but added this: “Well, we’ve never published nor ever will publish a full-page editorial — that’s ridiculous. And I’d really rather not comment on that. That’s an internal matter that I’d rather not get into.”

n the history of Utah journalism, it’s no secret that the Deseret News’ editorials are influenced by the hierarchy of the LDS Church. (In fact, recently, the newspaper, and the rest of the church’s media, has been restored to First Presidency control to a level that equals, if not exceeds, what it was 52 year ago.)

As to what drove the LDS Church leadership to side with the mayor who liked strippers over the ultra-straightlaced Skousen, I suspect Skousen is pretty close to the truth when he claimed “that the president of the church had always been more comfortable with a non-Mormon in office who was friendly than a Mormon who might feel a need to be independent,” writes Lythgoe.


As mentioned, it was an entertaining tiff in Utah history. The winner was Lee, who continued with a successful political career. Skousen resumed a private life, and enjoyed success with his brands of politics and religion for about two more decades until changing moods rendered him obsolete. However, in recent years the popularity of Mormon commentator Glenn Beck, a Skousen fan, has pushed his books, particularly “The 5,000 Year Leap,” back into prominence.

-- Doug Gibson

-- Originally published at StandardBlogs

Monday, January 22, 2018

Can we go back to priesthood manuals from wayback?


I was indulging in one of my passions, which is leafing through the bookcases of elderly Latter-day Saints. A lot of treasures can be found — books by B.H. Roberts, old mission journals, the Improvement Era, “Papa Married a Mormon,” the works of Cleon Skousen, pamphlets from the 1920s offering advice for a new missionary. …

I came across the 1960 Course of Study for the Melchizedek Priesthood Quorum. It’s titled “Apostasy to Restoration,” by T. Edgar Lyon. I borrowed the book, eager to compare today’s vanilla-brand manuals with one a half-century old. I also wondered if it would reflect the arch-conservatism that defined the LDS leadership 50 years ago.

The book, manual, lesson, whatever, is a fascinating history of the centuries between Christ’s birth and the emergence of the LDS Church. Whether one disagrees with its conclusions, the scholarship must be appreciated. Look, I have no objections to trudging through priesthood manuals that have, for the past few years, been collections of quotes and reminiscing about various prophets — it’s useful stuff. 

But, apologies to Cal Grondahl, reading “Apostasy to Restoration” is like unearthing ancient scripture. Did we actually have lessons like this 50 years ago, that discussed “the Absence of Mysticism in the Apostolic Christianity,” or “the Fragments of Papias,” or “Irenaues’ Concept of the Ultimate Potential of Man,” or “Christian Gnosticism,” or “The Diocletian Persecution,” or “Ambrose the Christian Statesman,” or “the Contributions of Monasticism,” or “Pope Leo the Great (440-464 A.D.), or “Reformation Trends in Switzerland” …?

I Web searched T. Edgar Lyon and learned about the author of “Apostasy to Restoration,” which by the way, is for sale at E-bay. Thomas Edgar Lyon was born in 1903 in Salt Lake City. He went on a mission to the Netherlands, later married and enjoyed a long career as a prominent academic and historian.

Lyon’s thesis from the University of Chicago was on early LDS apostle Orson Pratt. He eventually received a doctorate in history from the University of Utah and was president of the Mormon History Association in the 1970s. He died in 1978.

Lyon’s book/manual is fascinating. I envy the Melchizedek Priesthood holders who used it in their classes 50 years ago. I look at the current manuals — sans author(s) name(s) — and while I’m OK with what’s being taught I wish we could have a re-run of “Apostasy to Restoration.” It must have been quite satisfying to learn something new in every lesson.

-- Doug Gibson

Originally published at StandardBlogs

Monday, January 15, 2018

Memo to 'High Priests': the 1950s were not better


“Boy, I wish we lived in the 1950s.” “We are definitely in the last days.” “The amount of sin and unrighteousness has tripled since I was a young man in the 1950s.” “I’d prefer to live in the 1950s.” Those are popular sentiments I often hear in my church -- High Priest -- meetings. (I kid my fellow High Priests, these sentiments are not exclusive to my elder graybeards -- some of whom have less gray than me.)
I’d kind of like to visit the 1950s for a couple of days. It’d be cool to take in a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds, or Ebbetts Field, watch the Hollywood Stars play baseball, catch a fight card at The Olympic Auditorium, or St. Nicks in NYC. But I couldn’t live in any era where I couldn’t travel 15 minutes and enjoy Schezwan chicken. Try that in the 1950s. (Actually, since I've gone gluten-, soy- and dairy-free I don't eat Schezwan chicken anymore).
I just read an interesting book, “Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960 to 2010,” by Charles Murray, and it’s got me thinking about life then and life today. I jotted down a few positives and negatives about the 1950s to early ‘60s, I jotted down a few positives and negatives about the 1950s, whether secular, political, cultural, religious … In the 1950s, most of the professions were off limits to women. My LDS Church was 20-plus years away from allowing blacks the priesthood and temple privileges. There were very few LDS temples. Many Mormons had no access to the faith’s General Conference. (In fact, when I was a missionary in Peru 29 years ago, there was no access to LDS General Conference as well). Members didn’t have the access to church materials, or interests such as genealogy, that are available via our Internet or TVs.
In the 1950s, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder; Salt Lake City was a long way from being regarded a gay-friendly city. People smoked liked chimneys and as a result, lots of us lived shorter lives. Medicine didn’t have near the ability it has now to relieve chronic pain and more from cancer and other illness.
May children may have played outdoors more in the 1950s, but I’d want them to be exposed to the tolerance of today’s culture and benefit from the advances in science, technology, engineering, and other areas that we have experienced the past 40 years due to an increased egalitarianism within the universities, the culture, and workplace.
On the plus side, the food had fewer preservatives in the 1950s. On the bad side, there wasn’t much variety. Whether Indian, Chinese, or many other specialties, there are so many more culinary offerings today. Consider the Internet: We can reach just about anywhere in the world in a split second, face to face; we can watch — in real time — events scores of thousands of miles away.
We have the potential to buy virtually anything we need or just want. TV: We have the ability to watch hundreds of channels, either via our digital TV or on the Internet. ( I was flipping channels Saturday and discovered the Aussie cricket on in the early AM, live; that’s crazy) There are hundreds, if not thousands, of more events, contests, sports offerings today than what was available 50-plus years ago.
Vehicles were inferior to those today. Gas wasn’t as cheap as we remember. Based on today’s prices, a gallon of gas in the early 1960s, for example, was above $2 a gallon.
The level of sports was not as strong as today. No offense boxing purists, but Deontay Wilder would easily KO Rocky Marciano. The movies may have been cleaner, but there weren’t nearly as many available. If you missed a film for a couple of weeks, you needed to hope that it would be on TV in a couple of years.
And even with our LDS religion, how can we live sans instant access to even videos of past General Conferences, many, many books, even from the 1900s and all the lessons, songs, history, etc. we want.
We remember our past fondly. We romanticize it and we devour books and film that details the past, usually in its most alluring forms. But seriously, you gotta be crazy to want to swap 2017 for the 1950s.
-- Doug Gibson
Originally published at StandardBlogs

Monday, January 8, 2018

'The Mormoness' gets a reprint 163 years after its publication


Greg Kofford Books, as part of its The Mormon Image in Literature series, is re-publishing “The Mormoness: or, the Trials of Mary Maverick, a Narrative of Real Events." That’s quite a mouthful for an 1853 novella of about 25,000 words.
Written by a minister/educator/journalist of some note named Professor John Russell, it’s 1853 publication, in serial form, is significant because it’s virtually the only work of Mormon fiction derived from non-church sources that is sympathetic to Mormonism. But sympathetic is not intended to mean that Russell had any warm feelings toward the doctrines of the Latter-day Saints, and its founder. Indeed, Russell was contemptious of its doctrines, its leaders, its scriptures and lamented individuals who were ”ensnared“ by it.
But Russell was unique in that he vociferously condemned persecution of the young faith, primarily for two reasons. The first was that it violated the constitutional rights of Mormons. The second reason, more personal, was Russell’s fear — probably accurate — that outrage over Mormons being persecuted incited public sympathy for their plight, and improved the faith’s missionary efforts. In ”The Mormoness“ he writes: ”Employ Force and violence to put down the wildest delusion that fanaticism ever invented, and you inevitably insure its success. ... It is strikingly verified in the case of the Mormons. Hundreds who ridiculed the absurdities of that creed when its followers were unmolested, fell directly into the snare of Mormonism when their sympathies were awakened by seeing them calmly enduring persecution and death for their cause.“
In fact, Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall, who edit and annotate this volume, include a letter Russell wrote in 1841 to Thomas Gregg, the editor of the extremely anti-Mormon Warsaw Signal, chiding his friends for the newspaper’s tone. Russell was prescient when he wrote, ”I have not a doubt but that the Signal will destroy the settlement and town of the Mormons. I am fearful that on opening the next number I shall see the event announced in starring capitals.“ But he added, “the excitement will soon fade away and the deepest feelings of sympathy be awakened for that people. Their errors will all be forgotten in their suffering.
Gregg was not as murderous a foe of Mormons as another Signal editor, Thomas Sharp, and the editors note that under Gregg’s guidence, the paper took a less harsh tone with Mormons and Nauvoo.
As for “The Mormoness,” Russell based the main characters, very loosely, on a father and son who were killed at The Hauns Mill Massacre in Missouri, leaving a widow. The Maverick family, James, Mary, and son Eddy, live in Sixteen Mile Prairie, a small settlement. They are happy, pious and very content, Mary such a wonderful housekeeper and mother that she inspires envious gossip from peers. James, once a vociferous opponent of Mormonism, is converted. Forced through pressure to give it up, he fears for his soul and nearly dies. To bring him back to health, Mary decides to convert to the faith. The family falls from esteem and eventually moves.
In Russell’s tale, the family grows in the faith, all are converted. On the night of the Hauns Mill-type  massacre, both James and Eddy are killed. Deeply depressed, Mary, the heroine, gathers her faith and courage and dedicates her life to Christ-like behavior. Russell shares passages in which Mary, a veritable saint, teaches children, is proposed to, unsuccessfully, by a rich man, goes among native Americans, nursing them through cholera, and gains the respect of everyone she meets, despite suffering discrimination due to her religion. The theme is clear — anything evil or bad that is thrown at Mary Maverick is returned with an excess of love, thereby increasing her esteem, and by extension Mormonism.
The climax of the novella involves Mary’s crisis when she discovers she is nursing back to health the man who killed her husband and son. A conflict arises when the man, enamored of her, insists they be married. 
As literature, this melodramatic tale will cause no sleepless nights to defenders of Charles Dickens. But it is readable, and I found myself eager to finish it in a sitting. Russell is progressive enough, for a faithful mainstream Christian of that time, to describe Mary Maverick as an example of a Christian, despite her religion. With his text, he shows how great suffering and humility moves the protagonist deeper into her faith, and a Christlike existence.
He writes, “These unmerited and cruel wrongs, inflicted upon that sect, and especially upon her own husband, made a deep impression upon the feelings of Mary, They enlisted her sympathies in the cause of the injured, and had a thousand fold greater effect than all the arguments of the prophet himself could have had, to change her opinions. Insensibly to herself, the daily abuse unjustly heaped upon her husband wrought an entire change in her views of Mormonism, and she now joined heart and hand with that sect, and willingly united her destiny with theirs. Such is ever the effect of persecution, even of those most deeply in error.”
Other portions of the book include a biographical sketch of Russell, the aforementioned letter to the Signal’s editor, and a chapter from another book Russell penned, an attack on Universalism.
-- Doug Gibson
-- Previously published at StandardNET

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Cal Grondahl's Standard Works cartoons -- a sample

For the holiday week, here's a sample of Cal Grondahl's Standard Works cartoons, done over a several-year period, roughly about 2009 to 2015. A website change ended the site (except for Wayback), but these were saved at Flickr and we occasionally use them on the Culture of Mormonism blog. Enjoy!