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Unanswerable Mormon History Questions

I’ve been thinking about an alternative Mormon history. What if things had occurred differently. How would the Church be different today? Would there be fewer schisms?

The original apostles were arranged in seniority by age. In 1838, Thomas B. Marsh was president of the Q12. As I’ve learned recently, he went after WW Phelps membership and had him excommunicated in early 1838, but Phelps returned. Following the Mormon-Missouri War of 1838, both Marsh and Phelps produced testimony about Mormon actions of Danite vigilante justice during hostilities. Phelps was excommunicated a second time and came back months later. This time, Marsh left for good. What if the situation was reversed? What if Marsh stayed and Phelps left?

Marsh lived until January 1866. If he had succeeded Joseph, his term of service would have cut into Brigham’s 30 year term of service considerably. (Brigham died in 1877.) Would the saints even have come to Utah under Marsh?

David Patten was second in line after Marsh. What if he hadn’t died during the Battle of Crooked River? Would he have outlived Brigham and Thomas?

What if John Taylor had succumbed to his wounds at Carthage? He obviously wouldn’t have received the 1886 revelation so important to fundamentalists declaring that polygamy was an eternal principle.

For that matter, even if he lived, what if Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt hadn’t been demoted? Hyde survived Brigham by a year, until Nov 1878. Pratt lived until 1881. Taylor lived until 1887. Would succession have changed? The Church functioned without a president for up to 3 years before the first presidency was reorganized during the 19th century. How would Hyde and Pratt have influenced the Church as the top leaders?

What do you think?

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3rd Father’s Day Without Dad

This is my 3rd Father’s Day since my dad passed away. It feels a little weird because I don’t have to worry about getting him a gift. So why celebrate?

Back in January 2014, I wrote about my dad’s hip fracture. One in three elderly patients die within 12 months. Well, my dad made it past the year mark, but he didn’t make it to the 5 year mark. He died in February 2018. He didn’t really need to die, but he didn’t care to take care of his health either. For decades he told us how glad he would be to die. Yeah, it was weird. But he meant it.

My feelings about dad are complicated. I expected to be much more sad, but to be honest, I haven’t really missed him as much as I thought I would. It took me a good year to start to feel better emotionally when I lost my sister (brain tumor) and my brother (car crash.) It was awful to lose them. But dad was mostly ready to die. I was a little angry at him for refusing to stay in the hospital. He had congestive heart failure, and fluid collected in his legs, causing painful sores that got infected. While it was painful, he didn’t want to stay in the hospital to take the IV antibiotics. He punched an orderly (not surprising at all to me–that was dad.) When the doctor asked him if he wanted hospice care, at first he said “No.” Then he decided that might be helpful. He came home on a Friday. He was gone Sunday.

Surprisingly, I didn’t cry much when he died. I was mostly angry with him for being the same stubborn jerk he has been my whole life, but I also knew he was done with life. He grew up in a bad home, joined the Air Force at age 17, then joined the LDS Church, and that was a drastic improvement in his life. So judging where he came from to where he ended up, he was a major success. But growing up with him was also very hard. He was harder on me than my siblings. (They have all admitted that to me.) I always told him that I would miss him, but I haven’t missed him as much as I thought, and I haven’t missed him like I miss my brother and sister. I still think of them almost every day. But dad is more of an afterthought.

Yes, it would be nice if I could call him up for advice on some fix-it job around the house, or ask about a car problem. He could fix stuff much better than me. But whenever anyone helped him, he would yell at them. We never held the light in the right place, or helped the right way, or understood what he was doing. I hated helping him, because he was a jerk with a short temper.

So when I ask my son to help me, I am always surprised at how willing he is to help. Because I hated helping my dad. But my son seems like enjoy helping me. In fact, sometimes I think he can fix stuff better than me. This fix-it stuff must have skipped my generation. But I also know that my son is willing to help me because I don’t yell. I am much more patient than my dad was. Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be candidate for father of the year, but I’m not the worst father either. Still, I don’t have a great relationship with my oldest son. (History repeats itself.)

I wish we had a better relationship. He’s a good person. Like everyone else, I do the best I can. But I also don’t know how to be a good father. I am too impatient, like dad was. But I do feel like I’m more patient and a better father than my dad was.

As I approach this Father’s Day, it is with great ambivalence. I kind of wish we could get rid of the “holiday” though.

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Matriarchy and Patriarchy at Baptism

My brother called me up a few days ago and asked me if I would serve as a witness to his son’s baptism. Of course! I’d be honored. Then I realized why he asked me. Traditionally, it seems that grandpas serve as witnesses at LDS baptisms. But grandpa died a year ago. While I was happy to do the honor, it was also strange to realize that I was taking the role of my dad. Continue Reading »

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Father Forgive them…Not in Original Bible?

My wife gathered the family together to go over the 1st lesson of the new Home Study program earlier this week. (Note my previous post expressing mixed feelings about the 2 hours block cutting out half the lessons.) Anyway, for Christmas this year I got a copy of Thomas Wayment’s New Testament Study Bible for Latter-day Saints, and decided to read all the verses and footnotes out of his Bible.


Seriously, if you don’t own this, go out and buy it right now!!! It’s amazing.  Thomas is a New Testament scholar at BYU, and has translated the entire New Testament into modern English, and added lots of AMAZING footnotes.  Seriously, I want this to be the standard for studying the New Testament.  We were reading the verse that should be very familiar to you, but Thomas adds an amazing footnote.  It comes from Luke 23:34.  I’ll quote Thomas’s rendering of the book, which you should clearly recognize, but the footnote is what caught my attention.

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Mixed Feelings About 2-hour Block/Pageants

I am probably in the minority.

I think I’m going to miss weekly Sunday School. Having said that, I’m sitting here in the hall skipping Sunday School. So why would I miss it?

I’ve taught gospel doctrine twice. It is one of my favorite callings. It helped kick start my gospel study and forced me to try to make interesting lessons. The manual they give is so poor. Greg Prince is on the board of directors at a Methodist seminary. He handed the LDS Old Testament manual to some people there and they said they had seen some bad manuals, but the LDS manual was the worst. Continue Reading »


Is the Church Running Scared? (Plus Elizabeth Smart Notes)

The LDS Church has been subject to increasing leaks and protests lately.  MormonLeaks has been publishing internal documents (some mundane, some embarrassing), and some people have been sneaking cameras into church to record Protest-imonies.  Apparently Jeremy Runnells and Sam Young have had excommunication proceedings posted online as well.  Is the LDS Church becoming even more skittish with cameras?

I had a really weird experience happen to me today.  I spent the weekend with my family in Moab.  On my way home from Moab, my wife tells me Elizabeth Smart is speaking at the U of U institute. So I decided to come by myself because she is tired of driving. She sends me the Facebook post telling me it is open to the public. Continue Reading »


Please Give Me Advice for a Calling I Don’t Want

After a few pleasantries, including how busy my life is, here’s the gist of a conversation with a counselor in the bishopric.

Counselor:  Brother, the reason why you are here is that we have prayed on our knees, and the bishop feels inspired to call you to be the building coordinator.  Now you don’t have to clean the building yourself.  You just need to set up a program so that the building gets cleaned every Saturday.  What do you think?

Me:  Honestly?  I think this is a crap calling.  I’ll do it, but I’m not excited one bit about it.  I hate it when people assign me to do the cleaning without asking me if I’m available.  I often work weekends, and my wife will help clean the buiding, because she has a supremely guilty conscience.

Counselor:  Well, that schedule is just a suggestion.  You can always ask to trade with someone else.

Me:  It’s a bad system.  I get it that you don’t want to have the same people doing it over and over, and that everyone should have the opportunity, but I hate being assigned.

Counselor:  Do you have a better suggestion?

Me:  Hire a janitor.  The Church makes $50 billion/year.  Hiring a janitor would be supremely easy and the Church can easily afford it. Continue Reading »

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Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

Fair warning:  this post is a downer.  But first let me say how blessed I am.  I was in a wreck last month and walked away with no injuries.  Seat belts are awesome.  I am grateful I wasn’t seriously injured.  (My truck and laptop weren’t so lucky.)

I miss my truck, but it definitely could have been much worse.

I miss my truck, but it definitely could have been much worse.

On the other hand, I’m sad.  I just found out my brother-in-law has prostate cancer.  His brother died from prostate cancer last December.  He lost both parents to prostate cancer and breast cancer.  He lost his first wife (my sister) to a brain tumor 20 years ago.  His 2nd wife beat breast cancer (so far.)  Sometimes it seems like God picks on certain families.  I don’t get it.  I hope it isn’t too bad.  His last daughter is getting married next week, so I’ll find out more about the prognosis.

Of course tragedy strikes everywhere, but we’ve had some unusual things happen in the neighborhood.  A neighbor commit suicide soon after moving in.  A woman was struck and killed by lightning on Easter Sunday a few years ago.  A woman in our ward (first time mother) gave birth to twins.  The family posted a photo showing her smiling with her babies, and then she bled to death, in the hospital!  To top it all off, another neighbor, after having gone through a year or so round of chemo and radiation for ovarian cancer, was just told the tumors have returned and they have no treatment options left.

I don’t blame God.  Bad things happen to everyone, and I don’t believe that God is killing people with cancer.  It’s part of life.  But it sucks.  A friend of mine said,

Maybe you want to yell what Tevye said in Fiddler on the Foof: “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”


Elder Oaks: Be One, Unless You’re Gay

I attended the “Be One” celebration last night at the Conference Center.  It was truly an amazing service.  I encourage you all to watch it.  Gladys Knight, the Bonner Family, the Be One Choir, and all the performers were amazing.  I got a little emotional as I listened to these wonderful black performers discuss the First Vision, and highlighted black history.  Some of these stories I had heard, some of them I had not.  I encourage you all to watch it if you haven’t.  The link is below.  Just skip ahead of the countdown timer.  The meeting starts about 1 hour in.

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A Couple of Interesting Sacrament Meetings

I’ve attended a couple of interesting Sacrament Meetings the past 2 weeks.  In one, the bishop got up an asked a few rhetorical questions.  “How would you react if the church suddenly asked for 20% tithing, rather than 10% tithing?  What would be your reaction if the church suddenly said once/month home teaching isn’t good enough, now it needs to be once/week?  Would you complain?  Would you murmur?  Or would you obey?”

Gahhh….  I would complain.  I hate “obey or else” talks, because I think these kind of talks are stupid, and completely miss the point of the gospel.  I wanted to add a few more to the bishop’s list:  Would you kill your son if God asked?  Would you do polygamy like Joseph Smith if the prophet asked?  Would you be a suicide bomber?  Obedience can be taken too far, and bishop, you’re not helping with this kind of stupid talk.

Then I attended another sacrament meeting that was quite unexpected.  It was an older couple.  The sister spoke and said they had been married just 2 years.  She spoke about getting a divorce, coming home heartbroken when her husband of several decades said he didn’t love her anymore and wanted to divorce.  She talked about how awful it was to attend family gatherings where he was there with his new wife.  She talked about joining a group of divorced women who ranted about their exes.  Then she talked about the importance of forgiveness, and moving on.  She is now happily married.

Then her husband spoke.  He talked of being inactive for years.  His daughter invited him to come to church and said she knew something bad would happen if he didn’t.  “Yeah, whatever,” was his basic reply.  He sounded very rich, on the verge of a multi-million dollar deal that not only fell apart, but left him financially ruined.  He discussed getting dis-fellow-shipped by the church.  Then he got suckered into a business partner who did illegal, mafia type stuff.  He was arrested for his partner’s business crimes.  He served probably 10 years in notorious Sheriff Arpaio’s jail in Arizona.  Mouse crawled across his body in jail.  He discussed making ingenious mouse traps with Coke bottles and things like that.  Then he spoke about reading the scriptures in jail, gaining a testimony, and being treated well by both gang-bangers and prison guards.  And of course, he is now out of jail, and met his wonderful wife and married in the temple after.

Wow.  I haven’t been that interested in a Sacrament meeting talk in a decade or more.  Truly the contrast between the two weeks was profound.  How about you?