Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Lou Midgley on BYU Spy Ring

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Louis Midgley [SMTP:lmidgley@burgoyne.com]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 7:59 AM
> To: lds-Bookshelf
> Subject: [LDS-Bookshelf] The Brethren and Something called "Politics"
> I signed on this list with the intention of lurking. But almost before the
> day was through, I have changed my mind, or been overtaken by a bad humor.
> I noticed some mention of an essay that appeared in Dialogue about the
> political views and actions of ETB. And this was followed by a reference
> to D. Michael Quinn's
> Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power. I was just then reading this last
> item. And I was reading the first portion of that book. I have just had
> another look at the first 115 pages.
> Why would I be reading such a thing? For reasons that I will not go into,
> I wanted to review the way Quinn dealt with me as he told his tale about
> ETB and hence also the series of events that took place at BYU that I have
> called Wilkinson's Watergate, that is, the spy ring that ELW set up to try
> to get something on a small group of very conservative Republicans who he
> disliked because they had signed an ad which was published in newspapers
> supporting Sherm Lloyd for the US Senate and not ELW (when ELW was
> struggling to become the Republican candidate for that office).
> It is useful from my perspective to have a look at the list of names of
> BYU faculty who ELW had the BYU Comptroller organize a group of kids to
> spy on, and then ask why those fellows (all conservative Republicans) were
> targeted by ELW. But Quinn sees ETB as the one behind the spy ring and
> pictures ELW as merely the one who was working for ETB in trying to get
> people who were sympathetic with communism. I believe that this is at
> least close to Quinn's thesis.
> And Quinn has two sources that he uses to "demonstrate" that ETB was
> ultimately behind Wilkinson's organizing a spy ring. Stephen Hays Russell
> is one of these sources. He flatly denies Quinn's allegations. Russell,
> who organized the spies for ELW, has provided me with all kinds of
> interesting documents relating to his side of this issue. The other source
> presumably supporting Quinn's theory is me.
> Those of us who Wilkinson targeted and who were spied upon frequently
> speculated on whether ETB might be involved. And we were very much
> prepared to believe that he was.
> Now suppose for a moment that Quinn is right and a letter that I once
> wrote to Ray Hillam, when he was in Nam, could be read as an indication
> that I thought some remarks made by a BYU VP seemed to link ETB to the
> spies, or suppose that I strongly believed that ETB was ultimately behind
> Wilkinson's spies. Should not Quinn have asked himself what evidence I had
> or could possibly have had to support such an opinion? Or whether I had
> understood the BYU VP, whose views I was passing on to Ray Hillam were a
> proper deduction from what went on in the conversation that took place
> between three BYU faculty and a VP?
> And would it not have been a good idea for Quinn to have interviewed me
> and the others upon whom Wilkinson sent spies to get our take on his
> theory that makes ETB the ultimate source for Wilkinson's Watergate? Why
> would Quinn interview one of the spies and not those spied upon? The fact
> is that those who were picked as spies were, with perhaps two dramatic
> exceptions, really odd, unstable people. One only has to know a thing
> about Ira Hankin to know just how odd and totally unreliable some of those
> spies were.
> The letter I wrote to Ray Hillam that Quinn relies upon as evidence that
> ETB was behind the spy ring was, among other things, a report on my
> efforts to get the BYU administration to interview the spies and try to
> explain why their actions, while generated by ELW, were wrong. We did not
> want them punished. Any kid might have fallen into that kind of nonsense
> if it appeared to them that ELW was behind it. And given the kind of
> hysteria that was then common at that time about communists lurking behind
> everything, it is easy to see how kids could have fallen into the spy
> trap. So we--I--wanted the administration to talk to them about what they
> had done. What the VP told me and two others was that they feared doing
> this because they feared that somehow word of this would get back to ETB
> and he would be annoyed. And he was a supporter of BYU. They did not want
> to offend him.
> Now, if you cut the link between ELW and ETB on the spy business, much of
> Quinn's story turns out to be wrong. But there is still a very interesting
> story right there that Quinn has not told. Since part of this story is my
> story, I may try telling it in the future. But it will not be a story in
> which there are only Good Guys and Bad Guys. Why?
> The fact is that when Ray Hillam from one source and I, from another
> source, learned of the existence of a spy ring, and then Richard Wirthlin
> and I confirmed the existence of the spy ring and made this evidence
> available for a panel of BYU Vice Presidents that ELW had set up as a kind
> of court to look into charges made by spies against Ray Hillam, that group
> shifted its focus and looked into the spying and eventually found ELW
> guilty and fully cleared Hillam. And ELW just sat there and let this
> happen. He could have stopped the whole investigation at any time. But he
> did not.
> Eventually two of those spied upon and the leader of the spy ring went to
> the Brethren and reported on ELW's antics. And ELW went to the Brethren
> and tried to blame his Comptroller. But that fellow defended himself with
> his diary in which he had spelled out the request from ELW to organize a
> spy ring and included his wife's remarks that to do so was evil and he
> should refuse to do it. Oh the story goes on and on, but it is not the
> story that Quinn tells.
> Why did Stephen Hays Russell, who got the group of kids together to act as
> spies, turn on ELW? Russell wanted to get married. His wife to be told
> him, since she knew of the spy ring, that he could not truthfully get a
> Temple Recommend. He was not honest. And so he confessed to his Bishop
> that he had been involved in spying for ELW. And that Bishop insisted that
> to make things right, Russell had to tell the Brethren about Wilkinson's
> spying.
> Now I have just mentioned a few of the juicy and interesting things that
> went on. But one will not find much of this in Quinn. And what one does
> find is a sanitized and distorted account of an interesting and rather
> faith-promoting episode in the past.
> And I must add that I have always felt somewhat sorry for ELW, since the
> spy business cost him credibility with most all of the Brethren, except
> DOM, who was too old to understand any of the details. What the
> revelations about the spy ring did was to darken for him his last years at
> BYU. His subordinates lost whatever confidence they had in him. It is sad.
> But it shows what happens to those driven by hubris. And it seems that
> something like this has happened to Quinn.
> Incidentally, does anyone really believe that President Kimball told Quinn
> that he would be called as an Apostle? What confidence can one have in
> someone who makes such a claim? Or can we expect that it will still
> happen? Or are the Brethren so caught up in "homophobia," whatever that
> is, that they will not act in such a way as to do what was ordained in
> Heaven? Those of you out there who are cynics, who are not believers, do
> you not find Quinn's constant claim that he is a primitive believer just a
> little odd?
> lcm

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