Thursday, December 13, 2012

Recalling inspiring letter from an old mentor

Event: May 1965
Updated: 14 Dec 12

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In the midst of my excitement over discovering and reading George Adamski's books back in 1965, I received this letter from the late Howard E. Salisbury, an erstwhile Mormon mentor, who had unwittingly been instrumental in bringing the subject of flying saucers to my attention. Howard had sent a copy of a book to my laboratory at General Atomic written by his nephew Frank B. Salisbury, a Colorado State University professor of botany, titled Truth by Reason and by Revelation. He asked me to review the book critically as a fellow Mormon professional research scientist. I was not kind in my review, except for Frank's chapter on UFOs. Frank B. was one of five prominent American scientists in those days who had the courage to publicly urge the country to take the phenomenon of flying saucers seriously.

It was the second paragraph of Howard's letter that inspired my poem Nathan's Cry, written while in a state of personal crisis to Mormon Church president David O. McKay four months later in Salt Lake City. This hand-written poem was found in McKay's personal papers by one of the Church archivists and sent to me as a scanned attachment in 2005. That Pres. McKay would keep this item was for me particularly significant. It made me wonder if he had, after all, experienced the kind of remorse that ancient King David had experienced. Could this modern David have experienced remorse over the Mormon Church's reluctance to rectify its prejudicial policy towards the Negro race during his presidency? Or, more likely, in not protecting gay Mormons like Howard from abusive treatment at the hands of ecclesiastic leaders and regular church members? I was never sure what Salisbury's intent was in proposing "Nathan" to be the hero's name. Howard had been excommunicated for "perversion" by one of McKay's counselors in the First Presidency, who had been his missionary companion when they were young men. That same FP counselor nevertheless credited Howard for saving his ecclesiastical career after the counselor, having resigned his Canadian military commission, had come home from the Second World War in a state of depression and sought Howard's counsel.

Sent from Church archives in Sept. 2005

To be continued...

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