Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sean Hannity banned from KSL for low standards

Excerpts of Sean Hannity vs. The Code by Glen Warchol, Salt Lake Tribune Blog
Conservative talk-radio giant Sean Hannity likely will be the latest victim of a puritanical purge lunched within LDS Church-owned media.

Insiders at KSL radio say that Hannity, even though he has a large and passionate listenership, will be gone from KSL Radio "sooner rather than later" because he doesn't meet the new values code insituted earlier this year by Deseret Media chief executive Mark Willes.

Willes' new mission statement, some might call it a creed, includes pledges like: "I seek to lift, inspire, and help others find enduring happiness" and "I promote integrity, civility, morality, and respect for all people," and "I seek to instill light and knowledge in my work." As you can imagine, Sean Hannity, who is beloved by his listeners for saying things like -- "I'll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo -- every filthy Democrat in the U.S. Congress," has a large problem in the civility-respect area.

In a minor KSL example, Jeff Bell, a left-leaning Saturday talk host, was bounced because he was out of step with the mission statement. ...

But Hannity is a heavy hitter with a long relationship with KSL and a special place in the hearts of Utah conservatives. ...

And [Family Values] KNRS, which has made room for Hannity in its line up....

Mormon Scholars Foundation Seminar: "The Foundations of Mormon Theology"

From Jared T at Juvenile Instructor


The Mormon Scholars Foundation Summer Seminar, hosted by the Neal A. Maxwell Institute, directed by Richard Bushman and taught by Terryl Givens

Symposium Theme: The Foundations of Mormon Theology
Date: July 8

Papers (some topics tentative):
  • Gifts of the Spirit--The Body
  • "Saints and Saviors: Vicarious Obedience in Early Mormon Thought."/AgencyInterracial Marriage, AKA Racial Amalgamation
  • The Family of God or God the Family
  • The Fall and Redemption of Nature, Theodicy of the Earth
  • Blood Lineage and Salvation
  • Eliza R. Snow and Death
  • Adam's Theological Place in Early Mormonism
  • Millennialism and The Vision--Section 76
  • Biblical Language and Joseph Smith's Prophetic Persona
More info here

Friday, June 25, 2010

New Mormon history books

"Recent Releases and New Sale Books" by Benchmark Books
Within These Prison Walls: Lorenzo Snow's Record Book, 1886-1897
edited by Andrew H. Hedges and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel. Published by the Religious Studies Center & Deseret Book, 2010. 152 pp. $21.99. In this fascinating notebook kept by Rudger Clawson we find copies of personal correspondence and poems by Snow, his doctrinal writings on pre-earth life and the origin of plural marriage, and some detailed notes regarding the goings on in the penitentiary. Many items are show as full-color scans and the transcription of each. One such example is a list of 150 "Names of brethern confined in the Utah Penitentiary for Polygamy and Unlawful Co-habitation." The list includes the age, name, residence, prison term, date of Imp., and by whom each were sentenced.
Mormon Graves in Kirtland: A Biographical Dictionary of Early Saints Buried in the Kirtland Area by Janet Lisonbee. Published by John Whitmer Books, 2009. 120 pp. Paper. $9.95. The Kirtland, Ohio area is the final resting place for over a hundred members of the early church. Lisonbee tracks down the burial locations and familial information of these early members. Also included are brief biographies that help to bring their stories to life.
150 Years of Song: Hymnody in the Reorganization, 1860-2010 by Richard Clothier. Published by Herald Publishing House, 2010. 111 pp. $15.95. Clothier tells the story of Community of Christ through the story of its hymns and hymnals. As Community of Christ moves into the future, and as its tenth hymnal is in preparation, Clothier provides an important look into the history and musical heritage of a unique people.
Community of Christ: An Illustrated History by David J. Howlett, Barbara B. Walden, and John C. Hamer. Published by Herald Publishing House, 2010. 72 pp. Oversize paper. $19.95.  A brief history, along with full-color maps and and striking photographs, gives a look back into the beginnings of the church and tracks its journey to the present day.
Lighting Out for the Territory: How Samuel Clemens Headed West and Became Mark Twain by Roy Morris, Jr. Published by Simon & Schuster, 2010. 282 pp. $26.00. Contains approximately 10 pages dealing with Mormons and Mark Twain.
Stories from the Life of Porter Rockwell by John W. Rockwell & Jerry Borrowman. Published by Covenant Communications, 2010. 166 pp. $18.99. This book is not a comprehensive biography, nor is it fiction. It is a collection of accounts about Porter Rockwell that provide insight into his character, his physical stamina and skill, and his devotion to the gospel.
Sale Books:
The Sword of Laban: Joseph Smith, Jr. and the Dissociated Mind by William D. Morain. Published by The American Psychiatric Press, 1998. 246 pp. Reg. Price $69.00, NOW $9.99. "Dr. Morain draws on his experience as a surgeon treating childhood trauma to theorize brilliantly about the psychological consequences of young Joseph Smith, Jr.'s painful leg surgery. He relates this, along with other insightful observations about Smith's familial and environmental influences, to a textual analysis of The Book of Mormon that is remarkably original and convincing. You might not agree with all the controversial conclusions reached in the book, but you won't put it down until you've turned the final page." - William D. Russell, Professor of American History, Graceland College, Former President, Mormon History Association.
The Book of Mormon. Facsimile of 1830 edition. Published by Experience Press, 2006. Paper. Reg. Price $20.00, NOW $9.99. Leather (sheepskin). Reg. Price $95.00, NOW $75.00. This paperback facsimile edition uses re-typeset text but is a very inexpensive way to own an 1830 facsimile.  The leather-bound edition features genuine vegetable tanned sheepskin, sewn signatures and blue dye sprinkled on the text block edges.
Forthcoming Book - Order Today:
A Tentative Inquiry into the Office of Seventy, 1835-1845 Remarks Presented by Lyndon W. Cook. To be published by Grandin Book Company, 2010. 132 pp. Cloth (400) - $75.00, 3/4 leather (74) - approx. $125.00, full leather (26) - approx. $300.00. This book, written by well-known author and historian Lyndon Cook, explores a topic that has had little examination and includes dozens of photographs of early Seventies in the Church, many of whom are little-known.  Cook details the first ten years of the somewhat fluid office of seventy, highlighting (among other topics) their often tense relationship with other priesthood authorities.  He does an admirable job of analyzing the contentious debate in Kirtland regarding the primacy of seventies versus high priests.
Benchmark Books
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Salt Lake City, UT  84115
801-486-3452 (fax)
800-486-3112 (orders)
Hours: Mon. - Fri., 10-6; Sat., 10-5
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

New Science Impacts Book of Mormon DNA Studies

Excerpts of New Science Impacts Book of Mormon DNA Studies, Signature Books

Ten years ago, population geneticists could study only relatively simple genetic configurations from the Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA. Since then, there has been a revolution in the methodology available for this kind of study so that now scientists are examining the most complex areas of an individual's complete nuclear DNA. Using what is called "admixture mapping," they look at thousands of variant SNPs (pronounced "snips" for single nucleotide polymorphisms) revealing the subtlest influences on an individual's genetic makeup.

Native Americans are so closely related, there appears to have been only one migration to the Americas from Siberia some 17,000 years ago.

What about the question of later migrations to the Americas? That issue has received less attention but is equally profound and is being illuminated by the same methodology. For instance, a study by Chao Tian and others, entitled "A Genomewide SNP Panel for Mexican American Admixture Mapping," in the June 2007 issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, looked at 400,000 SNPs for "ancestry-informative markers." They wanted to determine ethnic origins for indigenous diseases, but their conclusions have implications for those interested in Book of Mormon studies.

From his office in Canberra, Australia, Dr. Simon Southerton recently commented on "the beauty of SNPs, which is that they don't just show us someone's dominant heritage." Southerton is a molecular geneticist who has written about genetics and the Book of Mormon. "They tell us what ancestors of other ethnic backgrounds are hiding unnoticed in our family trees."

Some Mormon literalists have conceded that since there were so few Israelites among millions of Siberians in the Americas, their genetic legacy is unobservable, while nevertheless remaining convinced that Israelites numbered among the ancestors of Native Americans.

"It's no longer possible to say that the genetic evidence is unavailable because it became extinct," Southerton explains. "If there were Lamanites in the Americas, they will be found. If there weren't, we'll learn that too. The recent technological advances have changed everything."

Southerton says that "anyone interested in the Mormon angle, hold onto you seats because you're in for a ride. The results are going to start pouring in."

It will take time for scientists to sort out which SNPs are indigenous to which regions, but a comprehensive database is emerging. Tien's study identified 8,144 SNPs found only among the Pimas and Mayas, distinguished for instance from European SNPs. They can be used to determine when "other DNA"  entered the gene pool of American Indians. In all, out of 24 Mexican Americans in the study, the foreign DNA in their pedigrees "originated within the last 10-25 generations," Tien wrote. Southerton added that "if any of these individuals had pre-Columbian DNA from elsewhere in the world, it would have been virtually impossible to miss."

Two Mormon-oriented groups have found ways to explain away the pre-SNP absence of evidence for ancient Israelites in the Americas. The Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism (FIRM), led by Rod Meldrum has argued that the mitochondrial X haplotype concentrated in New England tribes shows a pre-Columbian arrival of Israelites.

In response, Southerton says that "the consensus is that the mitochondrial X haplotype came to the Americas by way of Siberia, and there's not any real controversy over this among scientists. It most likely originated in Central Asia and left a trace as it spread to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and then into the Americas about 15,000 years ago."

The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at BYU, argues a Central American setting for the Book of Mormon and contends that a small group of thirty people would not leave a genetic trace among millions of Siberians in the Americas, so the absence of evidence is actually positive evidence for the Book of Mormon in that it is what one would expect.

"The genetic tests are now so sensitive," Southerton says, "that it is possible through admixture mapping to detect a tiny fraction of a percent of the mixed ancestry in a person's DNA. If a small family of Jews mixed with American Indians 3,000 years ago, the Jewish nuclear DNA would spread throughout the adjacent populations like a drop of ink in a bucket. It would be virtually impossible for it to go extinct. If it is there, we'll find it."

A 2010 study by Katarzyna Bryc and others, "Genome-wide Patterns of Population Structure and Admixture among Hispanic/Latino Populations," in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in the USA, gives an admixture map for over 200 American Indians, showing European chromosome segments in red, African in green, and Native American in blue (figure 3, middle portion).

"If there were a lot of very short segments of foreign DNA on the admixture map," says Dr. Southerton, "it would suggest a pre-Columbian entry of that DNA. It would stand out like a sore thumb and be trumpeted around the scholarly world as an amazing discovery." There is also, according to the article, "a disproportionate contribution of European male and Native American female ancestry" evident in the map, as well as confirmation that European genes came primarily "from the Iberian peninsula." The goal of the study was to try to isolate genetic heritage associated with certain diseases.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: KJAZZ: "The Joseph Smith Papers"


Title: The Joseph Smith Papers: Television Documentary Series, Season 1
Author: KJZZ TV
Publisher: Deseret Book
Genre: Documentary
Year Published: 2009
Binding: 7 Disc DVD Set
ISBN: 978-1-60641-491-0
Price: $49.95

Reviewed by Trevor Holyoak for the Association for Mormon Letters

Those of us in Utah were treated, beginning near the end of 2007, to a TV series created by and aired on Larry H. Miller-owned KJZZ TV about the Joseph Smith Papers Project. It began with a pilot episode ("A Television Forward"), followed by a regular weekly schedule that started in early 2008, showing a new episode each Sunday night followed by a repeat of the previous week's episode.

People outside of Utah, upon hearing about it, immediately began wondering when (or even if) they would have a chance to see the series. It was quickly ascertained that KJZZ would not be providing it for viewing on their web site as some hoped, but eventually BYUTV picked it up. Today, season 1 can be watched on BYUTV and Utah viewers can see season 2 (now in reruns) on KJZZ. And now (as of 2009), season 1 is available on a 7 disc DVD set from Deseret Book.

The set contains 52 episodes, numbered from 0 to 51, which are about one half hour each, except for number 0 which was the longer pilot that was aired ahead of time. A booklet is included that gives a brief summary of each episode and lists the contributing scholars, along with an index. Unfortunately, it does not state which DVDs contain which episodes, so I ended up noting that myself in my copy. Each DVD contains a message at the beginning apologizing that the sound and video quality are not always perfect, but the one big drawback of this set is a total lack of closed captions. Anyone that can't hear will not be able to watch it, and even for those of us who are able to hear, it would have been nice to be able to read what is being said at times, particularly when trying to take notes.

Season 1 is filmed at historic sites as well as in a studio, using visual aids ranging from photographs, to paintings, to the actual writings of Joseph Smith and others. It includes interviews with scholars such as Ronald Barney, Richard Bushman, Steven Harper, Richard Turley, Richard Anderson, Larry Porter, Milton Backman, Robin Jensen, Jeffrey Walker, Jill Derr, Royal Skousen, Mark Staker, Dean Jessee, Carol Madsen, and many others.

In the pilot episode, Ronald Esplin (managing editor of The Joseph Smith Papers) said, "I think in today's world, every Latter-day Saint will encounter things about Joseph Smith they didn't know before. We have an informational overload - informational access - that has never been available before, and to the degree that Latter-day Saints are left only with what they learn at Pioneer Day, they are going to be vulnerable, because there is so much more to learn. And I think it's very important that we come to a true understanding of our history, and of our people, that involves dealing with all the issues, and dealing with all the personalities, and doing it broadly so that we understand our own heritage, and then we will not be overturned by some new little fact that we didn't have room for in our scheme, because we prepared ourselves to look at the whole picture."

Many of the other episodes in the series are spent giving us this understanding, beginning with familiarizing us with early 19th century America and Joseph Smith's heritage and local environment, and then going through many of the events in Joseph's life and the history of the church, and then his death and the aftermath. A good job was done in many areas where the church has been accused by critics of hiding information. For example, the different versions of the First Vision are discussed, and there is a very good history and explanation given of the Book of Abraham and associated papyri.

However, one weakness that stuck out to me was that the discussion of plural marriage was not as thorough as it might have been. The host, Glenn Rawson, was kind enough to answer my question about that: "Our discussion of Plural marriage was limited of necessity. We could only say what we could prove by reliable documentation and only a small portion of that. It was the first in-depth broadcast statement on the subject of plural marriage that had been done under Church auspices. We tried to be careful and circumspect." Indeed, it is significant that plural marriage was discussed to the depth that it was.

There are a couple of episodes devoted to a roundtable discussion featuring members of the Papers staff explaining what the project is all about, and the significance for members and nonmembers alike. There is an episode about the medical aspects of Joseph's leg operation. Separate episodes are devoted to the revelations and sermons of Joseph Smith, respectively. There are also episodes covering Joseph's encounters with the law.

To give an example of some interesting points covered in a typical episode, in episode 7 ("The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon") we are told that in the early 20th century, a farmer filled in the depression on the hill where the plates had been stored, because he was tired of people coming on his land to see it. It is pointed out that those who knew Joseph best believed him the most. And we are told that Joseph said he could see anything through seer stones.

There is much to learn about the history of the Church up through the 1840s, and this DVD set does a good job of helping to provide a foundation for more in-depth learning, and "to look at the whole picture." It also helps the viewer have a better understanding of some of what is being published as part of the Joseph Smith Papers. This set would be excellent for use in Family Home Evening, as well as for personal study. Season 2 will also be out on DVD shortly, which Rawson told me covers some of the potentially troubling issues more thoroughly, and he also mentioned that season 3, entitled "History of the Saints: Gathering to the West" will begin airing on KSL and KIDK (Idaho Falls) TV the weekend of General Conference in October.

Prop 8 trial

Excerpts of two stories
Prop. 8 backers target 18,000 same-sex marriages

San Francisco Chronicle

As the trial over California's prohibition on same-sex marriage enters its final stage today, the ban's sponsors are urging the judge to go a step further and revoke state recognition of the marriages of 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who wed before voters passed Proposition 8.

"Moral disapproval of homosexual conduct is not tantamount to animus, bigotry or discrimination," said Charles Cooper, lawyer for Protect Marriage, the Prop. 8 campaign organization. "On the contrary, religions that condemn homosexual conduct also teach love of gays and lesbians."

His ruling, which could be weeks away, will be the first round in a battle likely to reach the U.S. Supreme Court within two years.

Theodore Olson, lead attorney for the couples challenging Prop. 8, called the measure "an attempt to enforce private moral beliefs about a disfavored minority." He said the Yes on 8 campaign, supported by the Roman Catholic and Mormon churches, had told voters that same-sex relationships are immoral and had exploited fears that gays menace children.


Prop 8 proponents lose pre-closing skirmish

By Lisa Keen

Closing arguments get underway Wednesday in the Proposition 8 case in California, and attorneys representing the various officials who campaigned for the ban on same-sex marriage were just dealt another blow.

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker issued an order Friday denying their request to strike from the evidence certain emails that demonstrate how heavily involved Catholic and Mormon church officials were in the Yes on 8 campaign.

The evidence is not necessarily critical as a legal matter. There are many grounds on which Walker can decide the fate of the anti-same-sex marriage law without considering anti-gay religious-based sentiment. But the denial does create a public record that could be embarrassing to Catholic and Mormon church officials. Those officials, particularly with the Mormon Church, have been eager to keep their participation private.

But Walker said the First Amendment does not protect an email from disclosure "simply because it was intended to be private." The First Amendment, in the context of an initiative campaign, he said, protects those communications between individuals who make up a formal group, not communications between individuals in various groups.

Closing arguments begin at 1 p.m. Eastern, 10 a.m. Pacific, time Wednesday and are expected to conclude that afternoon. Plaintiffs attorney Ted Olson said he believes Walker could issue a decision "within weeks."


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mormon Church pays fine related to Prop8

Mormon Church Agrees to Pay Campaign Finance Fine

SAN FRANCISCO — The Mormon Church has agreed to pay a fine of slightly more than $5,000 for failing to report some campaign staff contributions it made in support of Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that outlawed same-sex marriage.

According to the Fair Political Practices Commission's Web site, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints "failed to timely report making late non-monetary contributions totaling $36,928." The commission had requested the church pay $5,539 in fines, which it has done, and the commission will meet to vote on finalizing the penalty on Thursday in Sacramento.

In a statement, the church claimed that all the contributions it made in support of Proposition 8, "were reported to the appropriate authorities in California." But it admitted that in the last two weeks of the highly contested campaign, it "mistakenly overlooked the daily reporting requirement for non-monetary contributions," which would include things like staff time. The church's statement called the reporting failure an "oversight" and thanked the commission for its "fairness and consideration" in dealing with the matter.

The commission began their investigation into the Mormon Church's contributions after a complaint was filed by Fred Karger, founder of the group Californians Against Hate, asserting that the church failed to fully disclose the time and money it spent on Proposition 8, which passed with 52 percent of the vote.

On Wednesday, Mr. Karger — who is openly gay and has expressed interest in running for the 2012 Republican nomination for president — sounded satisfied with the commission's expected decision.

"The Mormon church has been leading the charge to create constitutional amendments to take away marriage equality from gay and lesbian people all over this country and they've been doing it dishonestly and in the dark of night," said Mr. Karger, who referred to the situation as "Mormon-gate" when reached by phone. "I blew the whistle and they got caught for violating the law," he said.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Thorough study of Jewish DNA

How religion made Jews genetically distinct by Andy Coghlan (New Scientist).  The most thorough genetic study of Jews demonstrate that modern Jews descended from a single Mesopotamian group 2500 years ago, they have a number of distinct genetic markers and the 587 BC split shows up in their genes. American Indians were not included in the study.

Jewish populations around the world share more than traditions and laws – they also have a common genetic background. That is the conclusion of the most comprehensive genetic study yet aimed at tracing the ancestry of Jewish people.

In a study of over 200 Jews from cities in three different countries, researchers found that all of them descended from a founding community that lived 2500 years ago in Mesopotamia.

Harry Ostrer of New York University, whose team carried out the study, likens modern Jewish populations to a series of genetic islands spread across the world.

The main reason that Jews continue to form a distinct genetic group, despite their wide dispersal is the exclusivity of the Jewish religion and the tight restrictions it imposes on marriage to those outside the Jewish faith.

Ostrer's colleague Gil Atzmon of Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York says that the religious traditions and laws shared by practising Jews around the world, and their isolation from their non-Jewish neighbours, means that Jews share many more genomic segments with each other than they do with non-Jewish people.

Atzmon's team found that the SNP markers in genetic segments of 3 million DNA letters or longer were 10 times more likely to be identical among Jews than non-Jews.

Atzmon says that overall, the genetic similarity among Jews is equivalent to what would be expected among fifth cousins from a random population.

Results of the analysis also tally with biblical accounts of the fate of the Jews. Using their DNA analysis, the authors traced the ancestors of all Jews to Persia and Babylon, areas that now form part of Iran and Iraq.

Exiled from Babylon

The genetic tree shows that between 100 and 150 generations ago – the equivalent of 2500 years – the founder population split in two, with half the Jews being dispersed into Europe and North Africa, the other half remaining in the Middle East.

This corresponds with accounts of the expulsion of the Jews into exile in 587 BC by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.

The genetic analysis shows that amongst modern Jews, the populations that are most genetically similar are those originating from Iraq and Iran. The rest share much more of their DNA with non-Jewish Europeans and North Africans, which may be why many Jews whose recent ancestors lived in Europe or Syria have blond hair or blue eyes.

The team found genetic traces of a period of intense conversion to Judaism during the time of the Roman Empire, when up to 10 per cent of citizens were Jewish. Among modern non-Jewish Europeans, Italians, Sardinians and the French are most closely genetically similar to modern Jews, the team found.

Journal reference: American Journal of Human Genetics, DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2010.04/015

Review: Kimball, "Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, Working Draft" (reviewed by Brent Brizzi)


Title: Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball,
Working Draft
Author: Edward L. Kimball
Publisher: Benchmark Books
Genre: Biography
Year Published: 2009
Number of Pages: 665 including index
Binding: Hardback
Price: $99.95

Reviewed by Brent Brizzi for the Association for Mormon Letters

In 1995, Edward Kimball, son of President Spencer W. Kimball, retired
from teaching so that he could devote his efforts to writing the last
chapter of his father's life, having previously written a biography of
his father (with his brother Andrew E. Kimball) that ended shortly into
his father's life as President of the LDS Church.

It was meant to be a last chapter, summing up the remaining years of his
father's life, but as Edward wrote the "last chapter" it kept getting
longer and longer, until it was no longer recognizable as a final
chapter.  It instead has become a tribute to his father's
administration, and shows President Kimball in a much broader light than
a final chapter could have done.

There was a need to finish the story, so work began anew on a more
complete biography, one chronicling in extensive detail the years his
father spent as President of the Church.  His administration, personal
relationships, physical maladies, correspondence, as well as a number of
ecclesiastical subjects, not the least of these being the revelation in
1978 allowing for all worthy male members of the Church to receive the
priesthood, are all covered in this volume.  Bookcraft first published a
biography on President Kimball in 1977. Simply titled "Spencer W.
Kimball," it sold well, selling over 385,000 copies over the years.  It
worked as a catalyst, showing publishers there was a market for
well-written biographies of Church leaders.  This first book was well
received and served to open up a flood of correspondence from not only
the faithful, but those outside of the LDS Church.  Many of these
recollections were sent to Edward over the years; some of them have been
included in this volume.

Background to the publication process is not needed in most cases. In
this review, however, I find it necessary to include some details, as
part of the story of this publication is the process it went through to
reach the final stage culminating in its publication.  Though this book
details the last years of President Kimball's life, and his
administration of the LDS Church, It is not solely devoted to the
ecclesiastical duties of his father's Presidency, but also includes many
personal details on the last years of his father's life.

The route this book took to being published is a short story in itself.
To sum it up, this publication is the zenith of many years of hard work
between the author and both publishers. In a nutshell, Deseret Book (the
first publisher) didn't want to publish the entire manuscript of
"Lengthen Your Stride" due to length and some differences of opinion
referring to content.  The author, not wanting to lose his "golden
words." didn't want to publish only half the story.

Deseret Book and Edward compromised and the first publication included a
CD-ROM which included many items of interest including the "Working
Draft" (as Edward calls it) of "Lengthen Your Stride."  There was an
immediate interest among those who read the edited version of "Lengthen
Your Stride" to be able to read the complete version without being
tethered to a computer to do so.  Realizing the demand for a "finished"
product that the reader could hold, the owner and publisher of Benchmark
Books, Curt Bench, sought and negotiated with Deseret Book and Edward to
release a limited edition run of the entire "Working Draft" manuscript.
After a period of negotiation, Benchmark Books acquired the rights to
publish a limited run of 500 copies of the completed manuscript. Of this
they published 400 copies, thirty of which are bound in leather.

The CD-ROM is much like this book, but even in this there are more
details added to distinguish it further from its predecessors.  The
inclusion of an expanded table of contents, and a simple index, were
written exclusively for this limited edition.  Also there is a new
Publishers Preface, in part explaining the previous publisher's preface
to the Deseret Book publication.

There are many details that were omitted in the Deseret Book
publication. Here is one example, found early in the book. It concerns a
dream that President Kimball had early on in his administration.

The 2005 Deseret Book publication reads as follows:

"Now there was no one on earth to whom he could turn with his problems.
Yet he did not feel alone.  He dreamed one night that he and President
Lee were looking at real estate together.  The dream left him with a
warm feeling of assurance." [DB9]

The Benchmark Books publication reads as follows:

"But now there was no one on earth to whom he could turn over his
problems.  Yet he did not feel alone.  One night early in his presidency
he dreamed of President Lee:  He was handsome and happy.

We seemed to be together for a long period of time as we moved around in
what seem to be Thatcher, Arizona, looking at real estate….  We did not
seem to be hurried.  It was very pleasant to be with him.  It seemed we
did not use our voices but seemed to understand each other.

Eventually he gradually faded out of the picture and left me with a very
pleasing, happy mood.  Whether it was a dream or a vision, I do not know
but it was a most happy experience and I was grateful for it." [BB21]

Included in this volume are not just the details of Spencer's
administration, but also the physical frailties of which he endured.

Here are just a few of the ailments he faced:  a heart condition, throat
cancer, degenerative arthritis, glaucoma, cataracts, and even some
instances of hallucination following surgery to reduce the pressure on
his brain due to subdural hematomas.[BB588-89].  All are recounted here
in some detail.  There were many other ailments to which President
Kimball also endured, too many to specify in a review.

Through it all, I was struck time and again with his resilience, always
struggling to continue on.  This is not to say that he didn't let the
challenges of his health get to him.  Over the years he would be heard
to say on occasion that he didn't know why he was still here, his body
was broken, and his voice mostly gone.  Many times as he encountered one
health problem after another it would seem as though the end were near,
only to find him on the mend, and continuing his work, sometimes
traveling within a very short period of time after a major physical
ailment.  Sometimes he would miss most of General Conference, only to
reappear for several sessions at one of the following conferences.

No book would be complete about President Kimball if it did not discuss
at some length the revelation received on June 1, 1978.  This book has
extensive details as to how the revelation came to take place, the
Apostles reactions, those who were present, how to go about releasing a
statement (some thought it best to wait until General Conference in
October of that year). The reaction of Elder McConkie was to release the
revelation immediately, "so as to not be forced by Satan into saying
they had to do it"[BB355-56].  In LDS Church history there are several
defining events but not many equal the importance of the revelation
received by President Kimball in relation to the Priesthood being
extended to all worthy males, regardless of race or color.

Curt Bench, in his preface to the Special Limited Edition, had this to
say:  "We express gratitude to Edward Kimball and to Deseret Book for
their permission to publish this special limited edition of one of the
finest biographies ever written of a prominent LDS Church leader."

I concur with the sentiments expressed above.  This truly is a seminal
work on the life and legacy of President Spencer W. Kimball.  Every once
in a while a book comes along that rewrites the rules for publication.
This volume, for an LDS publication, does just that.  It is a complete
unedited version, containing all that the author wants to say, no holds
barred, a quintessential biography.  Rarely does an author come along
with the kind of insight and access that Edward Kimball had to his
father and the foresight to know that there was much more to be written.

The shortcomings of this book Edward assures us are not due to his
editing out of events, but sometimes the lack of complete access to all
the sources. He states:  "Despite my personal access to President
Kimball, I was never an insider in Church affairs.  After my father
became President, my interaction with him rarely related to Church
administration or doctrine.  He never discussed confidential matters
with me, or any other family member for that matter" BB-Preface10.  On
that subject he also had this to say: "I had access to correspondence
files in my parents' home office, but not to the correspondence kept at
my father's Church office".

In spite of these omissions, the book is a lengthy, detailed,
well-written accounting of the years that President Kimball was
President of the Church.  The author spent many years collecting
documents and correspondence, and kept a detailed journal of his own,
recounting events in President Kimball's later years.  It is a testament
to the author's tenacious love for the story, and for his father.
Edward wanted to preserve his father's legacy; he has done just that
with this publication.  It is a great biography of a great man.
Unfortunately, the book is out of print, with no 2nd printing expected.
If you can find a copy of this publication it is well worth owning.  If
you are unable to find a hardback copy, don't let the eye strain stop
you from reading it on the computer.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Review: Rockwell and Borrowman, "Stories from the Life of Porter Rockwell" (reviewed by Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury)


Title: Stories from the Life of Porter Rockwell
Author: John W. Rockwell and Jerry Borrowman
Publisher: Covenant Communications Inc
Genre: Nonfiction
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 176
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1-60861-005-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-60861-005-1
Price: $18.99

Reviewed by Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury for the Association for Mormon Letters

This book is not a biography in the formal sense.  Instead it's a great little collection of stories about a man many have heard of, stories which can help bring him a little closer to those who may not have known much about him.

The stories are in sections, the first of which is about Porter's relationship with Joseph Smith.  I, for one, had not known that they were friends as boys, and that information deepened their relationship for me.  Porter was eight years younger than Joseph, and both had suffered leg injuries (which may have encouraged fellow feeling between them).  The authors  (John W. Rockwell being a great-great-grandson of Porter Rockwell) suggest that among the things that Joseph may have been referring to when he indicated that his behavior was not entirely exemplary between the time of the First Vision and the visit of Moroni could have been fights in which he protected the younger boy from being harassed and picked on for his limp.

Other sections include "Porter in the West" and "Porter and the Outlaws," a section which also has stories that the authors describe as "tall tales" but which would be fun to believe were true.  The last day of his life was also described.  The book includes a photo section with the stories, and those are also helpful.

This book would be a great introduction to the man who stood, larger than life, between Joseph Smith and those who would harm him, until that last ride to Carthage.  Joseph ordered Porter to stay behind because he had other things he needed Porter to do, and Porter was there to do them for the church and its people for the rest of his life.  One of the most poignant descriptions in the book is of Porter's mournful cries as he rode through Nauvoo, announcing the news of Joseph's death.

There is one thing to be aware of, however.  Several times the dates in the text were incorrect.  For example, in the story about Rockwell's involvement in delaying Johnston's Army (pp 119, 120) the dates given are 1847-48, when the correct dates were 1857-58.  Also, a footnote on page 111 refers to a report of Rockwell's cutting his hair for the widow of Don Carlos Smith in the Church Section of the Deseret News of 1835 (19 years before the incident happened, and well before there was a Deseret News).

Another example of poor editing was the spelling of Alexander Doniphan's name.  It was correctly spelled on page 18, but when he is referred to again on page 63, his name is misspelled "Donovan," twice.

It is to be hoped that all of the dates in the book will be more carefully checked in future editions, and that Doniphan's name will be spelled more consistently as well.

Review: Udall, "The Lonely Polygamist" (reviewed by DeWayne Hafen)


Title: The Lonely Polygamist
Author: Brady Udall
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Genre: Fiction
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 572
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN: 978-0-393-33554-5
Price: $26.95

Reviewed by DeWayne Hafen for the Association for Mormon Letters

When this book first came up for review I considered myself the ideal candidate to write a review. After all, I share many of the advertised traits of the hero of the novel. I am a practicing polygamist, husband to at least four wives and father to at least 28 children. I am living alone with only an old red dog for company in an 8,000 square foot house. Surely I would be able to relate to "The Lonely Polygamist". At least that is the way it seemed to me.

I now realize that I am the worst candidate to write a fair review. Too many facts get in the way.

A novel is after all, a novel, a fantasy contrived in the author's mind. Considerable latitude is given for any relation to reality. Still, when the author uses real places, people and situations, he should get his facts straight. Brady Udall definitely didn't do his homework very well.

I was raised in southern Utah and Nevada with relatives in all the fundamentalist groups. Reading this novel I soon began to suffer from an overload of twisted facts about people, places, and dates that are pulled into the story for bit appearances.

For example it appears that the author based his rendering of Ervil Lebaron on the mostly nonsensical movie "PROPHET OF EVIL: THE ERVIL LEBARON STORY" starring Brian Dennehy.   Brian Dennehy is a fine actor and can appear real mean, but he is a small, barrel-chested man compared to Ervil LeBaron who stood at a muscular 6 ft. 4 inches.  Hardly one to be completely intimidated by the 6 foot 6 inch hero of the story.  Also the dates are all wrong. Ervil's brother Joel LeBaron was killed in August of 1972. No Brother supported Ervil in any way after 1971. Still we have Brian, AKA Ervil, showing up in Ervil's post 1974 trademark green LTD Ford driven by a brother.

Also, what about highway 19. It doesn't and didn't exist.  Is it an inversion of highway 91?  Highway 91 used to run from St. George to Las Vegas, where one would turn north on highway 95 to Nye county.  He describes a ride though the Virgin River Gorge on Interstate 15, but it didn't open through the gorge until December 14, 1973. Facts are such stubborn things.

And the partially polygamous community of Virgin, Utah.  I remember it in the 1960's as a very small town that has grown since then.   Did the author ever visit there? Did he even Google it for basic demographics? As of the census of 2000 there were 384 people, 102 families residing in the town and get this…approximately 10 percent more marriage age men than women living there.   Big enough to have a Beauty shop, a full time sheriff, a mortuary, and a furniture store? Sure.

The hero is also a member of the twelve apostles who rule his church. Most of the fundamentalist groups that have apostles have seven, not twelve and they call them High Priest Apostles, the few exceptions being the LeBaron and TLC groups and perhaps some few others that I do not know of.

I don't know if there was ever a test bomb named Roy, but the description is pretty accurate for a real blast named Harry -- "Dirty Harry" who rained radioactive debris on the St. George area for several hours and rained radioactive gas and debris over the US and Canada. I suppose it was necessary that Golden and his first wife, trying to consummate their marriage apparently somewhere in the  Kiabab Forest, should get doused with this debris and breathe and drink their fill. They and his future wife Nola needing a good dose of radiation to account for birth defects and other health problems.

I suspect that the author. Brady Udall, learned about polygamy by watching "Big Love".   Both "Big Love" and "The Lonely Polygamist" put a lot of emphasis on the sexual aspects of polygamy. Only a non-polygamist would think that polygamy is all about sex. Believe me, it's not.
At least the writers for "Big Love," both homosexuals with no personal experience with polygamy or even monogamy for that matter, did their homework.

Since the story has nothing to do with polygamy I wondered about the need to pull it into the story. At first I thought it might be just to pose the question of why a man with more women than he could handle would want another woman?

Later it dawned on me that the exaggerated chaos in his family was really what it was about. Golden had literally procreated himself away from a place at the table. He was having trouble sleeping with his wives because he feared another pregnancy. His boss's wife represented sex with no pregnancy risk since he was going to use a condom with her. Once he bought into the use of condoms, he became a sexual powerhouse with his wives, especially the young and beautiful one who had cheated on him out of loneliness and desperation to have a child.  God bless the leaky condom theory of pregnancy. Of course no real polygamist would ever practice birth control, but then again, this story isn't about polygamy.

All that said, it was, after all, a novel. We actually get the story from three different viewpoints.  The main character is the husband, Golden Richards. His son Rusty and his young, beautiful and unfulfilled wife, Trish, each carry a minor, but important role.  Once I stopped my critical review and just read the novel, I found it to be an enjoyable but somewhat long read.   It's about equal to the standard romance novels that are so popular, just told mostly from the man's viewpoint instead of the woman's. It should sell well with those who buy books of that genre.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Review, 8:The Mormon Proposition

Excerpts of Review of "8: The Mormon Proposition." Prepare to be Angry by Danielle Riendeau, After-Elton

8: The Mormon Proposition is  a documentary that unapologetically outlines the Mormon Church's role in (as the film contends, orchestrating) the Proposition 8 campaign in California in 2008 — the infamous piece of legislation that banned gay marriage in the state.

Milk screenwriter (and former Mormon) Dustin Lance Black narrates the story.

The film begins with a shot of a Mormon church leader, addressing his congregation during a televised religious conference broadcast about supporting California's Proposition 8. He calls them "a mighty army" and dictates: "Let us be strong in defending our position." We soon find out that this particular broadcast was akin to a call to arms to the entire Mormon world — to support the efforts in organizing "Prop 8."

It details all the ways the elders mobilized the base to get Prop 8 going strong, even using "code" language and scare tactics, including going to people's homes and demanding money. Churchgoers were told — in no uncertain terms — to donate money and time to the cause because the success of Prop 8 was integral to their faith.

Scene by scene, damning evidence is brought up by private investigators, elected officials, ex-Mormons, official Church documents and on-the-scene footage of Church leaders making disdainful comments about queer people. Some of their tactics are merely underhanded — the leaders allegedly used a sort of umbrella coalition and a random post-office box to handle financial matters — and some are outright shocking. One witness contends that families were threatened with being cut off from the church if they did not give money to the cause.

8 delves heavily into the pain that the anti-gay sentiment has caused people. Interviews are conducted with homeless youth, kicked out for being gay. Much is made of the fact that Utah has the highest proportion of youth suicides among young men in the entire country — a sad statistic that is made all the more painful in light of one Elder's public comments that it would be better to be dead than to be gay.

A particularly painful sequence details the story of a young gay man who killed himself inside a church in 2000. Instead of being appalled, his parents wrote a book basically agreeing with the Church's stance and applauding his decision to take his own life.

In another disturbing scene, a man recounts the truly horrific electroshock "therapy" he was forced to endure as a student at Brigham Young University (presumably in the 1980s). 

The film is very careful to place the blame on Church leaders, as opposed to everyday people. A reasonably comprehensive background in the Mormon faith (as it relates to homosexuality) is included for a helpful dose of perspective on the issue.

Obedience is mentioned as one of the key tenants of the faith more than once, as is the idea that churchgoers were made to feel as if organizing for Prop 8 was literally in God's plan.

Church Leaders are incredibly upfront and public with their bigotry, and unless all of the documents and on-the-scene video has been faked, the makers of 8 have a very strong case.

8: The Mormon Proposition opens in select theaters (and is available via On Demand) on June 18 and comes out on DVD on July 13. For more information on the film, check out the official website.

Read the entire article here.