Christina Olsen Rockwell: Visiting Teacher

Christina Olsen was a Norwegian convert to the Church who emigrated to Zion before the arrival of the railroad. She was in her early 30s when she married the legendary Orrin Porter Rockwell, a man more than 20 years older than she was. Christina began her short married life by dividing her time between an isolated ranch in Rush Valley, Tooele County, and a home in Salt Lake City.

Rockwell had been widowed shortly before his marriage to Christina, and Christina probably helped to raise some of the young children of the earlier wife, in addition to her own children.

We have a glimpse into the domestic life of the Rockwell household in a letter written by a casual acquaintance many years later:

“My last visible picture of [Rockwell] is that of a wiry oldish man, ‘teeterin’ his youngest grandchild [actually, his own young son Stephen] on the toe of his boot, while other devoted youngsters huddled around his big rocker, then cuddling and patting them with utmost impartiality in the big dining room.�

Christina regularly attended Salt Lake City’s 14th Ward Relief Society. The minutes note steady contributions made by Christina to the charitable efforts of the Relief Society – 25 cents one month, 95 cents another month, some carpet rags another time.

The Rockwell home was designated by the 14th Ward as part of “block 5� for purposes of visiting teaching. The ward kept very detailed records of the visits made. “Block 5� was consistently overlooked by the visiting teachers:

In July 1872, the assigned teacher “wished to be excused because she was not at home the previous month.� During that previous month, Christina’s first child had been born and died.

In June 1873, Christina’s teacher had not done her visiting, and so had not called on Christina and her newborn daughter Elizabeth.

Christina had a difficult time during the late 1870s and perhaps would have welcomed the aid of the Relief Society in June 1878 when her husband died; in October 1878 when the widow gave birth to Ida, her last child; and in November 1879 when her four-year-old son Stephen died. Yet month after month, the sister assigned to visit Christina’s block neglected to do her visiting teaching.

Christina devoted her life during the 1880s to raising her two surviving children. She had a home and some income from her husband’s estate, but she had to defend her right to that estate through constant lawsuits. Porter Rockwell had had two families before marrying Christina, and some of her stepchildren were older than she was. Some of those stepchildren were impatient to draw on their father’s estate, and Christina found herself pushed into negotiations that left her with less and less security. These negotiations must have been very difficult for her, perhaps increased by language difficulties, because as her daughters grew up they became Christina’s chief spokesmen in legal matters.

By the 1890s, Christina found herself with more time to devote to the Relief Society, and she became a visiting teacher herself. Her reports in the monthly teachers’ meetings were considerably different from those of the sister who should have been visiting Christina during the 1870s: Month after month, Christina reported her visiting teaching as having been faithfully completed. She reported charitable donations received from the sisters, and occasionally named one sister or another who needed help.

In addition to her regularly assigned block, Christina also took responsibility for all the Scandinavian sisters in the ward, calling on them and reporting their welfare to the Relief Society.

Month after month, year after year, ward records note Christina’s steady attendance to her assignment. They also provide evidence that her visits were more than mechanical completion of a duty: not only are the needs of individual sisters noticed and taken care of, but on the rare occasions when Christina was away from home, she arranged for a substitute to visit in her stead.

The public is understandably fascinated by the exploits of Christina’s famous husband, while Christina’s quiet, homely service is easily overlooked. But when the records – on earth and in heaven – are opened, Christina and many another faithful sister will be remembered and honored.

(originally published December 2005)

21 comments for “Christina Olsen Rockwell: Visiting Teacher

  1. Tatiana
    October 13, 2006 at 10:30 pm

    Awesome story! Who is Orrin Porter Rockwell, though?

  2. October 13, 2006 at 10:38 pm

    Beautiful and moving, Ardis. This is a wonderful story, but also splendidly delivered. I’m trying to remember the organizational development of the RS in the mid to late 1870’s. Are there records of consistant and pervasive Visiting by some of the sisters?

  3. October 13, 2006 at 10:40 pm

    Tatiana, this is a fairly good outline of Porter Rockwell’s life. The best biography is Hal Schindler’s Man of God, Son of Thunder. In fact, it’s the only one I could recommend. Stay away from the series promoted by Deseret Book.

  4. October 13, 2006 at 10:48 pm

    J., there are good records in the 1870s for several Salt Lake wards, including Christina’s 14th Ward. The sisters met monthly in a teachers’ meeting to report their visits and discuss sisters’ needs, recorded in fairly detailed minutes. Some of the sisters did visit conscientiously; others not so much. I haven’t surveyed too many wards elsewhere, though.

    Anybody with LDS ancestry who is researching family history should try to spend some time in the Church Archives, where most of the minute books of the various wards and their auxiliaries are preserved. The minutes vary in quality according to the secretaries and clerks, of course, but you can often find personal remarks about your ancestors, including your grandmothers. The Relief Society and MIA minutes often preserve the actual words or at least a summary of the testimonies borne by women and young people. You do have to know which ward your family lived in before you can find the books, and they take some time to go through because they are all handwritten until well into the 20th century. The first time you find something makes all the effort worth while! (I know you know that J., but these sources might be new to others.)

  5. mami
    October 14, 2006 at 1:50 am

    I always cry when I read about these women losing their babies and children. I just imagine her all alone and not speaking English with no support and a dead infant, and likely absent husband. It’s heartbreaking!

    I recently read Widstoes story of his mother and her sister. Have you done any research on them?

  6. Tatiana
    October 14, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Oh, now I know who he is! I recognize him from Orson Scott Card’s book Saints. I love that defense, “If I were trying to kill him, he’d be dead now.” Very convincing. =)

  7. Suzanne A.
    October 14, 2006 at 12:38 pm

    Nicely done!

    Do you have anything on file for an Ann Jones? She lived in Provo back in 1886. In 1882 she was president of the Adamsville Relief Society in Beaver Stake. That’s all I could find (for now… still looking).

    I recently did some research on a long list of sisters and I was able to jot down lots of information on everyone — except for Ann Jones.

  8. Hans Hansen
    October 14, 2006 at 8:36 pm

    #5. “I recently read Widstoes story of his mother and her sister. Have you done any research on them?”

    I assume you are referring to the book, “In the Gospel Net”, by Dr. John A. Widtsoe. My Norwegian Mission President gave my wife and me a copy for our wedding. During the time that I served in Norway the missionary newsletter was called “The Gospel Net”.

  9. mami
    October 14, 2006 at 11:31 pm

    Yes. That is the book. I didn’t particularly care for the writing style, but loved the story. What wonderful and inspiring women!

  10. October 15, 2006 at 6:43 am

    Oh, In the Gospel Net! I remember that. Its dust jacket was in tones of gray, at least in the edition on my parents’ shelves (I wonder which of my brothers got it when the books were divied?) Haven’t read it in 30 years. I think I’ll look it up at the library tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Mike
    October 16, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    I think Tatiana is one of the most intelligent and well-informed people on these blogs. At first I thought her question was gently sarcastic, reiterating the point that some of the quiet people in the Kingdom do so much to build it. I find it mind boggling that she has hardly heard of Orin Porter Rockwell until now and that what she has heard is through fictional sources, excellent though Orson Scott Card is as a writer.

    How many others have not heard much about him? Is Rockwell being edited out of the Newest Mormon history?

    I agree that the Schindler source named above is an excellent one concerning what is known factually about Rockwell. The trouble with Rockwell is that what he supposedly did of greatest interest was kept secret. And like his killing quote in #6, if he was keeping it a secret, it would be a secret, right? Not in the history books, right? Definitely not in the ward clerks’ minutes.

    One of the nastiest of secrets is what happened to Mormons in Missouri. Not that many were outright killed. Hauns Mill was about the worst and I think 18 died. Left homeless to freeze and starve and die of cholera, yes. But not that many were hanged or gunned down directly. However, many of the women were raped in front of their families by the mobs. This was not the sort of thing that very many people of that time would write down or tell others about. I think they constantly referred to it, vaguely and indirectly; hence the story is there if you know how to read it.

    These secrets fueled an inordinate hatred for our enemies and a persecution complex that won’t quit. I think that Rockwell suffered something along these lines in Missouri and that is one of the key events that made him into who he was. How a later gentle wife like Christina fit into this family picture is interesting. Her healing influence may have not been as great outside the walls of her home as within them.

    BTW, my favorite Rockwell quote is ” You know damned well, governor, that I ain’t never killed no one exceptin’ they deserved it.”

    We have Deseret authors spinning Rockwell to be about as dangerous as the Dali Lama and really we have very little historical evidence of the best or worst (depending on your viewpoint) of his alledged atrocities. We do have our critics making him into the Genghis Klan of Mormon history. I don’t think an adequate biography can be written of the likes of him. We are left with the folklore about him. The folklore tells us more about the folklorists than anything else. And though once plentiful, it seems to be fading away.

    * * * * * * *

    I am prepared to get spanked for this. I am descended from another lesser known of these type of characters. They were often referred to as “body guards of the prophet.” That designation is vague enough to escape the scrubbers and flushers of church history and shows up in many written family histories. According to my family lore, Rockwell, along with my ancestor and others, was part of a brutal secret police force called the Sons of Dan or the Avenging Angels or the Destroying Angels (not the crickets and not the mushrooms). They were necessary for the survival of the church in a lawless wilderness, set up by Joseph Smith himself who had prophetic knowledge of this need and perpetuated for many decades. Joseph may or may not have formally organized the famous band of Danites known to historians and he definitely disorganized them when they were getting out of control.

    But was this Danite disorganization a complete elimination, or rather was it a major refinement into a smaller, more obedient and effective and more secretive order? My family lore would suggest so. Much like the hundreds in Zion’s Camp was a proving ground for a few key future apostles. How long and what secret activities transpired is anyone’s guess.

    Although I doubt it, some think that they have continued until today and that there is a secret Mormon mafia in modern times. When Mark Hoffman’s bombs went off (1984), hundreds of apostates fled immediately to the airport and bought tickets to anywhere out of Utah, believing these latter-day rumors.

    So while we look to the example of the quiet Christian service of Christina Rockwell and others like her, is it important to not forget the darker side of history? Or would it be better for old cranks like me to keep our collective mouths shut and let these things die?

    (If, apostate lurkers, they really are dead?)

  12. Ardis
    October 16, 2006 at 4:22 pm

    Mike, I love questions like yours. I do, in all sincerity. There is something genuine in your tone that shows you have thought about this for a long time, and that you wrote carefully because it was important to be understood. Someone else might have asked pretty much the same thing but couldn’t have helped betraying himself as a troll. That isn’t you. You won’t get spanked by me.

    I love questions like yours, even those I can’t really answer, because the first step to correcting errors in our published history, or uncovering new stories, is to recognize a doubt, or an unsatisfactory explanation, or a gap in the record.

    One of the men working on the Joseph Smith Papers project gave a paper a few months ago about the Danites. (I think I remember which man it was, but in case I’m wrong, I don’t want to give a name here.) There is more known about the Danites now than ever before; I hope he publishes that paper.

    One thing I’ve become very certain about in our history is that it is impossible to keep a secret. We may not be able to uncover all the details we might want, or know how a specific person thought about something on a given day, but secrets can’t be kept. Even something as awful as the Mountain Meadows massacre, where participants made a solemn oath that they would never discuss the event or name one another, was being freely talked about within a few days. That doesn’t mean we know everything about it that we might want or need to know, but it’s a good illustration of a solemn, deep, dark secret that didn’t last the week.

    Even the fearsome Gadianton Robbers, the epitome of all that is evil and conspiratorial, couldn’t keep a secret. Look at how much we know about their leadership and internal squabbles, for instance. Just because the scriptures tell us that there are secret combinations doesn’t mean that any given political, religious, or social organization is a secret combination, either.

    That’s a long way to say that I have zero belief, zero evidence, zero confidence in a modern extension of the Missouri Danites. We can’t keep secrets; we can’t scrub records. It just can’t be done.

    And we can’t resist a good story, either, no matter how distorted it is. (Some documents dealers did go into hiding briefly when Hofmann’s bombs suggested that community was being targeted, but there were no hundreds of apostates rushing for the airport. That doesn’t even make sense – if there had been assassins on their trail, do they think they could have evaded them simply by flying to Denver?)

    As an experiment, I challenge you to do this: Write down and keep safe for yourself an outline of everything you have heard, surmised, or even faintly believe about the possibility of such an organization. Date it – this is a record of your thinking now. Then in a year or two, after Dan Brown gets through reinventing our history and doctrine, after you’ve read the book and seen the movie and checked the internet sites, do the same thing: write down what you believe about modern Danites. I predict that as careful as you try to be, your thoughts will have been influenced by Dan Brown’s imagination. That’s the way conspiracy theories work.

    Even so, I share your desire to understand events in our past that are troubling. How could Rockwell reconcile his workaday “tasksâ€? with his religion? How could Bill Hickman have remained in Brigham Young’s good graces as long as he did? What about Sylvester Collette? What about the others? I don’t have answers.

    By the way, your experience is exactly like mine concerning the hundreds of proud Mormons who declare that their ancestors served as bodyguards to Joseph Smith. You know what I always say, usually to myself, sometimes out loud? “Grandpa didn’t do a very good job, did he?�

  13. October 17, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    So is it a surety that Dan Brown’s latest is about Masons and Mormons with a little Danite thrown in to boot? I couldn’t really tell if Mormons were anything but a minor passing point, much like Umberto Eco’s Foucalt’s Pendulum. (The kind of book Brown wishes he could write, although admittedly Eco’s last few fictional works haven’t been up to par in my opinion)

  14. Mike
    October 18, 2006 at 11:34 am

    Reply to Artis:

    Thank you for your insight. I will take up your challenge.

    I think we are on the same page, a search for authentic history, but coming at it from different angles.

    I am a foyer rabble rouster and have never been in the archives and seldom go to a regular library and find the ward library my only steady source of Mormon historical information. A dry source at that. You seem pretty professional and scholarly; you can probably pick a random date and tell where Joseph Smith or Porter Rockwell was on that date and what they were doing. I have childhood memories of stories told on the back porch by old men and considered unfit for preservation by the Victorian women who polished our family history. I read sporadically and superficially from mostly unreliable sources, with a faulty memory drawn to scandal and I process this information in light of my previous experiences. After memory loss from advancing age, I am left with sort of a rolling intuition more than a logical well-constructed explanation of many events in church history. I want to know the truth, at least some approximation of it.

    I look forward to a new book that will change our view of church history. I remember after finishing college many years ago that I ran across a book by a then BYU history professor that answered some questions about a few quirky beliefs and practices in my family, like obsessions with water witching. But it raised enormous new questions. The book was Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. That was a book that changed my perceptions of church history. (I have loosely followed the misadventures of the author since and read a couple of his other books). Is this new book going to shake things up as much? Or is it more of an effort to balance and clarify in the other direction?

    I agree that it is difficult to keep a secret and impossible to keep a major conspiracy like MMM under raps indefinitely. However, what I referred to above is a bird of a different feather. Tatiana is one of the most intelligent and insightful people on this blog. Although I have never met her, I consider it a privilege, a miracle really that through this new computer technology, I am able to share her ideas and those of the rest of the gang here at T&S. Yet she seems hardly aware of Porter Rockwell. How can this be?

    It is not exactly a conspiracy, but more like a systematic flavor change of our entire history. Rockwell is irrelevant and mostly forgotten, as one small example. The enormous popularity of The Work and the Glory soap opera is another.

    Let me illustrate more dramatically, with a somewhat dated and reconstructed conversation I had with a couple of friends in my ward. Sister A. was the mother of a missionary and had a daughter in college and a couple of other younger children. She has been our Primary President, our YW President and in the RS Presidency. She is college-educated and teaches high school and is married to a brilliant scientist who has a similar church resume including a stint as the Bishop. She is in the top 10% of our ward any way you look at it, except in height. She is only 5 feet tall.

    Setting: North Foyer, right after church.

    Sis A.: Joseph F. Smith must have been the most wonderful husband and father. I was so inspired by his quotes in the lesson I just taught in RS. He had so much wisdom and good advice for parents and families. I wish we had another three hours to discuss his extraordinary teachings.

    Mike: He certainly had plenty of practice. You know he had, I’d guess, at least 6 wives and most of them had a bunch of children.

    Sis A.: Don’t tell me that. He was not a polygamist. He was the Prophet in the 20th century long after they issued the proclamation ending that.

    Mike: Actually his life spans much of our most interesting church history. He could remember the murder of his father Hyrum and his Uncle Joseph as a small boy. He was big enough to drive a team of oxen across the plains around or before 1850. He was definitely of a marriageable age during the War for Southern Independence in the1860’s. He had 3 decades to collect wives before the Manifesto in 1890. He didn’t just take all the extra ones out behind the barn and shoot them after that.

    Sis A.: But only 2% of the Mormon men ever actually practiced polygamy. I seriously doubt that he was one of them.

    Mike: Every President of the church before David O McKay practiced plural marriage. (I’m not sure about George Albert Smith). At one time almost all of the Twelve Apostles were in prison and it wasn’t for selling drugs. Except a few hiding on foreign missions. David O McKay was remarkable at the time he was called to be an Apostle by Joseph F. Smith, because he was not a polygamist.

    Sis A.: My parents remember David O McKay. He was the Prophet when they joined the church. I know David O. McKay and Joseph F. Smith were men cut from the same bolt of cloth. My parents told me how President McKay treated his wife with such honor and dignity, not like some plural wife. That was a time when divorce was scarcely heard of in Mormon families.

    Mike: I think Joseph F. Smith was divorced from his first wife.

    Sis A.: That can’t be right. He never would have been called to be the Prophet if that was true. You are just pulling my leg, aren’t you? Admit it.

    Mike: I think it is possible that about half of the first 6 or 7 Presidents of the church were divorced at least once. They all had several wives and it had to be a difficult arrangement. Joseph Smith’s plural marriages were all secret and some involved other men’s wives so it is hard to really classify them. Brigham’s 27th wife wrote a hilarious little autobiography about her bickering with the older wives in the Beehive house after divorcing him and it gained a national audience. You should read it. I don’t know about the rest.

    Sis A.: Mike, you are so funny. You tell such great ghost stories and missionary stories to the scouts around the campfire. My son still remembers and mentions them in his missionary letters. You really crack me up sometimes. But you had better be careful. Saying negative things about the Prophet is the first step to apostasy. Now I need to round up my kids and get dinner on the table.

    She walks away chuckling.

    Mike, to a friend listening nearby: Do you think it would have helped if I had mentioned that he beat his first wife? Or rather she accused him of beating her?

    Friend: Is that really true? Because if it is, then there is …(quietly) some hope for me.

    Mike: That depends entirely on who you ask. Just like in your situation. You’ll never really know unless you were there.

    (This friend had been accused falsely, I believe, of beating his wife. The police sided with him after an extensive investigation and did not prosecute him. After a joint custody divorce, she kidnapped their kids and is a fugitive to this day. Most of the women in the ward believed her version: when the police wouldn’t protect her and the kids, they ran for their lives).


    Is this a conspiracy?

    More like a thick wool cap being pulled over the eyes of the Saints. Brought to you by the friendly folks at the Curriculum department, the CES, and the Ensign. And I think it needs to stop.

    Not many people leave the church because they are offended. Rather more frequently, they undertake a Journey of Discovery, where they find out that their rosy perception of church history does not square with what seems to be hidden historical reality. They feel conned and angry. My folkloristic stories are no further from the truth in the other direction and are far less damaging than the current distorted mainstream view promoted by official church sources. We find ourselves in a pickle. Can most of the Saints stand full and accurate disclosure of every aspect of our history?

    Apparently our leaders think not and they know far more than I do. That scares me.

    Keep up the good work. You will have less trouble reining in old cranks like me; than keeping the people like Sister A. from jumping the fence if they ever figure anything out, which they eventually will.

    (I apologize for the length of this response. Since the thread seems dead, I don’t think it is disruptive and I hope y’all will indulge me.)

  15. October 18, 2006 at 11:59 am

    My folkloristic stories are no further from the truth in the other direction and are far less damaging than the current distorted mainstream view promoted by official church sources.

    Yes they are. Correlated history is still based on fact. It is just not all of them.

    Yet she seems hardly aware of Porter Rockwell. How can this be?

    For the same reason that most people in the Church don’t know who many important figures in our history are. There are a lot of them and all are not as prominant in the popular narrative. You can call it a conspiracy, but it isn’t. How many americans know who the presidents of the United States have been?

  16. Matt W.
    October 18, 2006 at 12:08 pm

    For that matter, can anyone name even 1 body guard of any president of the united states?

  17. bbell
    October 18, 2006 at 12:13 pm


    It does not take much to figure out the “Folklore stories” you allude to. You can walk into Deseret Books grab some relevant titles and get all you want on BY’s Polygamy. JFS’s divorce, polygamy etc. I knew all of that folklore from just being raised in the church. I also just read a book about the Mothers of Prophets that we bought at a church bookstore. It contained several pages on the divorce of JFS from his first wife.

  18. Ardis
    October 18, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    Mike — Probably nobody will mind if we keep chatting long after they’ve all moved on to other things.

    I’m not sure why you think the Curriculum Department, CES, the Ensign, and/or any other particle of the Church are engaged in a conspiracy, or a hoodwinking, or however we want to characterize it, because of Sis. A’s ignorance or because Tatiana didn’t recognize Porter Rockwell’s name immediately (she did after a very quick reminder), or because of anybody else’s lack of awareness of any other given historical event.

    First, all of the facts and interpretations that you use for examples, and everything ever written by Quinn or Bagley or Marquardt or anybody else you care to name, are fully and freely available, with more being studied, written and published every year. The Church is doing absolutely nothing to limit the access to history of anybody who is interested.

    Second, you imply that the perceived hoodwinking is a change from some earlier and different state. I think you’d have a hard time rounding up evidence to support that — has Porter Rockwell ever been the subject of a general conference address in any generation? Did The Contributor or The Improvement Era ever publish a study of unsuccessful marriage relations of Church presidents? The change isn’t in Church practices, it is in your increased familiarity with history.

    I suppose your real complaint is that these historical details are not taught in official Church outlets, perhaps because that’s the only way to reach all the Sis. A’s of the Church. You’ve no doubt already encountered my response, which is unlikely to satisfy you: JFS’s divorce is not at all relevant to anybody’s else’s salvation; if Sis. A spends a Sunday School period discussing Porter Rockwell’s career, then she has lost perhaps the only opportunity in her week to consider how the Atonement can help her cope with her own impending divorce. Lots of voices are calling from every direction with Mormon history; nobody but the Church is teaching the principles and ordinances of the restored gospel.

    Is it a conspiracy when the Church teaches only those aspects of political science, economics, medicine, psychiatry, social work, music theory, physical education, geography, international relations, art history, and recreational theory that further the Church’s mission or promote a gospel concept? Faulting the Church for not teaching JFS’s failed marriage alongside the example of David O. McKay’s successful marriage is rather like faulting the Church for not teaching meditation, primal screams, or whatever mental health techniques are currently in vogue, alongside repentance and righteous living. The mission is to teach the gospel, drawing on whatever resources assist that mission — it is not to replace the world’s other outlets for those subjects by incorporating everything they teach into our curriculum and magazines. History is no different from any other intellectual pursuit, in that regard.

    You remind me of a favorite C.S. Lewis essay: “We may have a duty to rescue a drowning man and, perhaps, if we live on a dangerous coast, to learn lifesaving so as to be ready for any drowning man when he turns up. It may be our duty to lose our own lives in saving him. But if anyone devoted himself to life-saving in the sense of giving it his total attention — so that he thought and spoke of nothing else and demanded the cessation of all other human activities until everyone had learned to swim — he would be a monomaniac. The rescue of drowning men is, then, a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for.”

    Likewise, the study and teaching of Mormon history is a valuable and worthwhile activity. But as much as I love history, I recognize its relatively minor role in the scheme of things that matter most.

  19. Ardis
    October 18, 2006 at 12:39 pm

    Hey, guys, it took me so long to compose my answer that I didn’t know anybody else was still hanging around. Good comments, all.

  20. Mike
    October 20, 2006 at 7:04 pm


    I don’t look at the computer every day so that gives off wrong impression about my interest in this.

    I don’t think the church is involved in a conspiracy and I agree that with some effort you can find out quite a bit now, thanks to the work like you do. And thanks to the internet. But I think there is a systematic effort to keep things way more squeaking clean than they are, by the official institutions of the church. And I think there is a fairly widespread effort to get people not to look at all. Watch out for those intellectuls! This is what needs to change. I see some slow progress. Not enough though.

    Does anyone think either political party in the US is telling the whole truth this close to an election? They are both “spinning” like crazy! I guess I expected a little more from the True Church than uplifting spin.

    I think a little bit more context and really interesting events that cause one to chuckle and that paint a less-than-perfect human picture would be helpful. Could we spend 5% of the time talking about problems? Kids in dry states learn to swim and it doesn’t have to take up all the time.

    JFS’s divorce is extremely relevant to my friend. I think he was deeply effected by my perspective because he snapped out of his funk right after the episode I described above. He started to date, then he got engaged, broke that off. But then he dated some more, got married to a really nice girl and moved. Dang. But all of that took quite a bit of courage and I think he derived some of it from JFS’s divorce story. See, I believe God can take our worst actions and turn them into something good, in this wretchedly wicked world.

    I rarely meet anyone who wants to hear about the classical missionary approach to sharing the gospel. But it is rare the individual who is not curious about polygamy and who does not perk up their ears when I get going on the MMM or J. Golden Kimball, etc.

    I like the recent history: Story of the Latter Day Saints, 2nd edition. Why something more balanced like it not play a bigger part in the Seminary class? Or heaven forbid RSR? (I wish he had gone farther, but he does stake out the most positive position a honest historian can take without being deception, allowing for a few errors I am not aware of.)

    Another example: Ezra Taft Benson biography heavy enough to give me a hernia with no mention of his Birching activities. Is this more honest than my tallest tale around a campfire?

    Another example: A close relative visited, who is on the High Counsel in Utah, and saw a copy of sunstone magazine and told me it was anti-Mormon literature, admitting to have never even read a single sentence in it.

    Another relative told me that Gerald Lund who wrote the Work and Glory series is a now a General Authority. So that means that those books must be close to the truth; written by inspiration or some other para-rational /inspirational process. Reading minds, therefore that proves that (pick a disturbing historical event) is not correct.

    On and on it goes when I think about it.


    I didn’t know JFS was divorced for sure. Thanks for the confirmation, another reason I tell stories is that I learn more that way. I was just making that up at the time, based on a very remote memory of something I might have read, not sure where or who about, and the idea that BY must have had a bunch of divorces. I don’t live within a days drive of a book story that carries LDS books. I guess I could get off my arse and order them from the Internet, but I am having too much fun at this site!. So I really don’t have an excuse. But you know how it is, to browse a book store is far better than looking on line. Why not find all those books mentioned above in the ward library? Or have some lending system in place?

    Reply to J. Stapely:

    First part:

    Analogy: Four small children are playing in the kitchen. The first steals a cookie. The second sees the theft and keeps silent, answering other irrelevant questions honestly. The third lies and blames it on a fourth child, who is punished before them all. Is the second child being honest with their silence?

    Do we need to return to primary riddles to clarify the moral position you describe the church to be in?

    Second part:

    Tatiana is not just another average member of the church, even in the top 10%. She seems like a one in a million to me. If she doesn’t know about Rockwell; that seems like a kid in Kansas who knows Quantum Mechanics and doesn’t know about the ocean. What if the Missouri river floods?

    Back to Artis:

    “Likewise, the study and teaching of Mormon history is a valuable and worthwhile activity. But as much as I love history, I recognize its relatively minor role in the scheme of things that matter most.”

    I disagree.

    I am bored at church. I seldom attend classes and look for excuses to not go. If I had a church history class with a manual written by a good historian such that even a teacher like my good friend, Sis. A could teach me something, I would be there every week. It actually might be a matter of spiritual life and death of the church, at least for one member, me. I might not have such and edge to the rest of what I do. Church is important and the fluffy version doesn’t do it for me very much any more. History could be the hook that gets me closer to the things you refer to being most important.

    Part of the squeaky clean spin is boredom, poor attendance, flakiness and reduction in activity.
    That is the lesser danger of the Journey of Discovery.

    Thank you for you ideas, all of you; it keeps me this side of madness.

  21. October 20, 2006 at 10:33 pm

    Mike, this conversation has gone as far as it can go. If I were in your position, feeling out of tune with the entire choir, I hope I would have the sense to check my own pitch rather than insist that everybody else sing flat. You’re clearly unhappy but I can’t fix it, especially when I disagree with the fix you demand.

    I’ll be glad to respond should anyone wish to discuss Christina Rockwell or visiting teaching or the research and writing of history in the vein of this post. Otherwise, this is the end.

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