Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ironic parallels with Paul Toscano

Posted: 7 December 2013 (Pearl Harbor Day)
Updated:  9 Dec 13

I had intended to post comments to my earlier post about Paul, but it soon became too complicated. So, here's a sequel:

Conversion of Paul

What struck me first (at ~20% into the Kindle version of Paul's e-book memoir) about the irony of our respective personal stories as fellow Mormon excommunicants, was Paul's reference to having received his "temple endowments" on July 17, 1965, because on that very date I had a life-changing epiphany.

Driving north from San Diego since early that July morning on California Highway 99, I was on an urgent errand, probably about the time Paul was moving from room to room in the Los Angeles Mormon temple, gaining new cultural experience and insights.

The second irony (at ~22%) was Paul's description of his pre-mission encounter with Apostle Harold B. Lee in October 1966 to discuss what for Paul was a critical theological question about Brigham Young's controversial Adam-God teaching. I had had two encounters with Apostle Lee just the year before, first in a May Day dream in 1965, where he was speaking as the Church President although in outer reality he was still down the line in seniority. The second encounter was in the flesh the following September at his Church offices. Lee's behavior toward me was similar to his behavior toward Paul (and in my dream!). As soon as I entered his office on that September 1965 day, Lee began by issuing orders before I'd even said a word. There had been no greeting, no handshake, not even a hint of kindness.

I had written him a letter a couple of months earlier seeking counsel on the issue of  "The Principle" or polygamy, where I naively disclosed a personal dilemma about it. He now declared that the Church had "repudiated" (his word) that practice. Although surprised and puzzled by his belligerent behavior, I told him at the time that I would obey his orders because I was committed to the order of the priesthood, but not because I believed him. To this he bellowed, "You'd BETTER believe it!...It's all of the Devil!" (Again, this was the attitude presented in my May Day dream four months earlier, which had somewhat prepared me for this encounter).

To be fair, as soon as Lee had delivered his threatening command, he abruptly changed his demeanor to a soft inquiry about Howard E. Salisbury, the man who had precipitated my above-mentioned urgent errand and whom I had also mentioned in my August letter. Having been an intimate friend of Lee's when Salisbury was a legendary faculty member of Rick's College, Salisbury had once been groomed by Lee to become a general authority. But then tragically he had been excommunicated and forced to resign his position at Rick's two years earlier in 1963 by Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency (another close confident of Howard's) when it was discovered that Howard was gay.

"How is Howard?", Lee asked softly.

"He's having a hard time", I replied.

"You know, our intention is to save souls, not destroy them," Lee said simply and ended the meeting without further discussion of that or my issue.

To be continued as I continue reading Paul's story....

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Road to Exile: Memoir of a Mormon Excommunicant

Posted: Sunday, 1 December 2013
Updated: 9 Jan 14

Paul Toscano

Paul Toscano's new book Road to Exile: Memoir of a Mormon Excommunicant is a must read for thoughtful members of any ecclesiastical institution, especially Mormons. Paul tells the truth in a way that most Mormons or church-goers are not used to telling, let alone hearing. He writes with the skill of a journalist. It is witty, precise, thorough, candid, compassionate, fearless, and devastatingly naive.

The year before he was excommunicated as one of the "September Six" in 1993,  Paul called me from Salt Lake City, having learned from friends about my impending Mormon Church trial in Ventura, California in June 1992. That was how we met. He and fellow Mormon Lavina Fielding Anderson had founded The Mormon Alliance to give support to and seek justice for church members subjected to ecclesiastical abuse. He called me to give moral support if the judgment went against me or proved unfair. I will always feel grateful for that generous gesture and, as it would turn out to be for him, a significant risk.

Here is his preamble:
Excommunication, like revenge, is best served cold. Mine was—cold and quick on a clear autumn day. 
Excommunication! The word resonates like the bell of a gothic cathedral and seems as anachronistic as a rank of grinning gargoyles, as rebel monks, warrior popes, or heretics burning in a town square. It is a rite one might suppose had been relegated long ago to a footnote beyond the margins of modern life, a practice outdated as the related ritual of exorcism that serves the same end—the expulsion of the evil one.
On September 19, 1993, the evil one to be expelled was I. Yes I, who as a youth had hankered to be an apostle of Jesus, was on this day branded an apostate of the Church I had chosen and then served in my fashion for over 30 years. In that same month, five other Mormon writers, believers, and critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were also excommunicated in a leader-orchestrated purge that would leave us branded and stigmatized as the infamous Mormon "September Six." 
This memoir is the story of how I came to be numbered among them.
20 December 2013. 
Having just this morning finished my first reading of Paul's memoir, I would recommend that, after reading his preamble above, you might next read his epilogue. Especially if you are disinclined to read further as I suspect many, if not most, devout Mormons might feel.

I cannot help but admire Paul's honesty, integrity, courage and insights. And I consider myself fortunate to have been befriended by him.

9 January 2014.
For those who choose to read this memoir and take stock in dreams that tell a personal truth, I would urge you to pay special attention to three significant dreams which came to Paul shortly after his excommunication. They tell his truth in stark, powerful imagery and cannot be mistaken by anyone seriously interested in comprehending the truth of this story.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day 2013



For: telephone and Skype conversations, email or texts with/from all my children and step children and their families, scattered all over: Katya in Dallas; Nick near Chicago; Jim in San Diego; Ivan in Heaven; Steve in Virginia; Michael in Seattle; Johnny in Salt Lake City; Larissa in Uppsala; David in Uppsala.

For: relatives and friends: too many grandchildren and great grandchildren, let alone siblings, cousins, nephews, nieces and friends to name any or all here. Thank God for the Internet!!!

Most of all for love as Jesus taught, which I am still learning about from those above and The above,

For example: the Elks Club public dinner we attended on that day.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Event: 27 November 2013
Updated: 5 Dec 13

Dream of ~0700...
With a woman high in the sky--we seem to be flying. She is Bible based. 
I see words like tiny leaflets falling down beneath us and as they touch the ground far below they lite fires.... 
Scene change: Am by myself in a\large old wooden church-like meeting place with people I do not recognize, many of whom speak Russian or some kind of Slavic language. Many words are proclaimed in Russian or Slavonic, which I do not understand, but to which many in the congregation respond with excitement. 
I find myself crawling on my hands and knees down the middle isle of these standing, speaking people, trying to get to the rear of the building without being noticed. Someone in charge sees me and touches me lightly on my back at the right shoulder to make me aware that I have a part to play in reading something in Russian or Slavonic, which are words to be spoken at the end of the service. This I accept and manage to do.
The atmosphere is awesome and mysterious.
CREEI score: +?+?++//+++/+++  Motivational

On Monday, 2 Dec, at our regular Bethlehem Lutheran Church dream seminar, we did a CREEI analysis of this dream, as well as discuss the circumstances that may have contributed to it. After finishing the analysis, a participant suggested I do an IDL interview of the person who tapped me on the shoulder. An excellent suggestion! He also asked about the fires. What kind were they? I realized that they were not consuming ones, but more like that of the Biblical burning bush!

On Wednesday, 4 Dec, after sharing this dream at breakfast this morning with my favorite Orthodox priest, he suggested that the structure and the congregation as described reminded him of the Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox tradition. Another excellent observation!

To be continued with an IDL interview...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Keynote Address by Gar Alperovitz: Conversation with another son

Posted: Saturday, 23 Nov 13

On Thursday, 21 Nov, my second youngest son made me aware of Gar Alperovitz, whose name I did not recognize. We had been talking about my son's planned manifesto for a new political party, after he expressed his displeasure with both current major parties, which have stalemated the Congress. He sent me a link to Alperovitz's keynote address to the Second Democracy Convention, held last August in Madison, Wisconsin.

Democracy News

Gar Alperovitz delivers keynote at 2013 Democracy Convention
Gar Alperovitz

Alperovitz's presentation surprised and inspired me. "Why haven't I heard of this guy before?" I asked myself and then shared it with Birgitta. She, too, became excited. So, we will be sharing this stuff with family and friends as it develops.

Here is an excerpt from the keynote speech:
[My] suggestion is that it is possible that we together can in fact transform the most powerful corporate capitalist system in the history of the world, and that it is possible to create a system beyond corporate capitalism and beyond state socialism in the real world... And my suggestion to you is, not that it's inevitable, but that we live in a period of time when that possibility actually is opening up before us.  And the question is whether we can rise to the level of grasping that possibility, really, and then act upon it with intensity and clarity and make it happen.-Gar Alperovitz speaking at the 2013 Democracy Convention

Thus begins a new conversation of substance with another son.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My 80th Birthday!!

November 17, 2013

On our kitchen table is Birgitta's birthday card together with Asian Lilies with lit candles in a candelabra. In the background window are her glorious lavender streptocarpus flowers. The saguaro candelabra was made by my dad as one item in an exclusive line of pottery for Goldwater's Department Store of Phoenix back in the 1950s. Yep, that was the same Goldwater who eventually became the senator from Arizona. He and Dad were friends. I was so glad Birgitta put that on the table!

Birgitta's card outside
Birgitta's card inside
Birgitta's husband with birthday gift
I've always wanted a pair of red suspenders!!

Notice Birgitta's reference to "Oceana of the North" on the card inside. That is (almost) the title to a poem written to her when we didn't know if we would ever see each other again. I was living in Provo, Utah, working with the Eyring Research Institute. She and I had been corresponding as friends for over two years, since we had met in September 1976 in Pasadena after a concert she had given as professional singer visiting from Sweden. She had telephoned to say she would be visiting her relatives in California and perhaps could stop in Utah on the way. She could stay for three days. The trip didn't materialize, but here is the poem. Her call was magical. (We would marry 15 years later!--i.e., 20+ years ago)

To Oceana from the North
For three days or a lifetime
Which now will it be?
Your call evokes my wonder
In new life beneath the sea.

Oceana, do you call me
From within or from without?
Or are you like the ancient siren
Come to conquer me with doubt?

I need eternal partners
To help with creative work
And not another mistress
Who can only see herself.

Will you help me love my people
As I try to serve them well?
Though they may never see me
In ways I can never tell.

I need you to believe in me
In spite of craziness.
Yes, that’s a monstrous challenge
With no promises for bliss.

But if Grace will smile upon us
I know I can commit
For the rest of this short lifetime
Not another grand exit!

Feb 79

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Essence of Religions: A Glimpse of Heaven in the Near-Death Experience. A conversation with my son. Part 1.

Event: Friday, 15 Nov 13
Updated: Saturday, 30 Nov 13 image 
On Friday, 15 Nov, my oldest son Nick called to wish a happy 80th birthday the following Sunday, correctly thinking that I would be preoccupied on that day. After pleasantries, he made me aware of a new book that substantially agreed with his own experience and views and would I discuss it with him. Having unsuccessfully attempted an on-line discussion with him on this subject in earlier years, I agreed and immediately downloaded it onto my Kindle.

Saturday, November 23, 2013
On Saturday morning, 23 Nov, I was about 20% into the book and am finding it a fascinating and useful discussion of the five major religions as they compare to current and proliferating NDE accounts being increasingly reported world wide.

Later in the day (2:35 PM) I wrote to Nick:
What is your first question of me now that I'm about 20% into the book?

Nick answered (9:32 PM):
Is there anything new for you in this book? Are you learning anything about religious history, philosophy and NDEs that you were not already aware of (so far)?

I answered (9:38 PM):
Good question. Yeah, I am learning more about Hindu and Buddhist history. Not so much about NDE stuff. Not yet sure how that blends in with Mormon history and doctrine, if it does. How about you?

Nick answered (9:45 PM):
Keep reading for more interesting stuff...and it's all related; all different interpretations, extensions & mythologizing of originally authentic divine conduit and "enlightenment".

I answered  (9:52 PM):
OK. I've wanted to do this earlier, but do you still object if I post this conversation on my blog? I'd like others, such as Tom R., Birgitta and maybe even other family members to join in if they choose.

Nick answered (9:53 PM):
This would be worthy of posting and discussing. :)

I answered (9:54):

On Monday, 24 Nov 13 (11:33 AM), Tom Rogers wrote: 
I've since perused the conversations with the two sons you just forwarded. [ENK note: see here for second conversation.] 

Congratulations on your recent 80th....What's most exciting and gratifying is to have such conversations with one's adult children.  That's as fine a birthday gift and tribute as I can imagine.  I have little to add here to what are still clearly quite preliminary discussions that do not yet address any truly substantive issues. 

A statement rang out to me in what I recently read in "The New Republic":  "We grow intolerant when we take notice of the outward forms, but the truly wise will discern the unity within plurality."  While, as you well know, I do not consider all religious institutions equally inspired or efficacious, this was good advice for all of us.  The article, by Harvard history professor Peter E. Gordon (Nov. 25) is one of several that the essentially Zionist  "TNR" has recently sponsored in the defense of religion, per se.  Earlier, one of my favorite commentators, Leon Wiesltier, gave a strong rebuttal to Harvard's noted psychologist Steven Pinker's (a strictly secular Jew)'s defense of so-called 'scientism,' which explains everything naturalistically.  It's been a stimulating and timely exchange. 

I've by now interviewed 2,547 candidates for LDS patriarchal blessings--except for several grandchildren, all East Europeans.  They often tell me of their dreams and various telepathic experiences.  I do not discount them in any way and take them as seriously as they do.  This has occasionally involved 'near-death' experiences, though I do not presume to be at all expert on the subject.

Later that Monday (3:35 PM), I replied to Tom: 
In this blog thread, I hope for a communication (communion!) with folks of good will (beginning with my son), not a fight over ideology or dogma... Sharing our respective experiences is all I ever hope to achieve. With this in mind I was greatly encouraged by your comment: "…They often tell me of their dreams and various telepathic experiences.  I do not discount them in any way and take them as seriously as they do.  This has occasionally involved 'near-death' experiences, though I do not presume to be at all expert on the subject." That is directly to the point of this thread! Thank you.

On Wednesday, 27 Nov 13 (9:44 AM), Nick wrote:
Dad, i think you might find this movie [Inception] intriguing... It's all about dreams and how "they" have learned how to steal ideas from people by sharing dreams using a futuristic high-tech device. In this movie they attempt to "plant" an idea, instead of stealing one, from the target person... :)

I replied to Nick the same day at 11:23 AM:
Nick, this movie is interesting and I want to view it! ...Reminds me of my story "Heart Planting"... written back in 1975-76 with all you kids in mind, especially 9-year-old Michael. The me further confidence in my growing awareness of certain ETs and their centuries old (if not millennia!) purpose on planet Earth. This also may contribute to our conversation re "The Essence of Religions…" and NDEs.

Later that day at 1:39 PM, Ken wrote:
Much good stuff which I briefly looked at. So much going on ... that I can't follow it all. But thank you for including me. Ken
[ENK note: Ken is a former professor of pubic administration at the University of Southern California and a retired police psychologist for the Long Beach Police Department.]

Still later that same day at 2:03 PM, Paul wrote:
Gene--Who is Tom Rogers?  And are you _really_ 80??
Best, Paul

I replied to Paul at 2:21 PM:
Yeah, 80! I don't believe it myself!

Tom is one of three official LDS patriarchs to Eastern Europe, which means mainly Russia and Ukraine. He's been in that capacity for maybe four or five years along with Gary Browning and one other guy, whom I don't know. Gary was the first [LDS] Mission president to Russia [in 1991] and Tom followed him in 1993-96 after Gary was released in 1993. I got to know both of them in 1979, when they... were professors of Russian at BYU and I was working with the Eyring Research Institute, which you know about.

Good to hear from you! Thanks for responding…
[ENK note: Paul is a retired US Army officer and former member of the now declassified CIA Stargate project, which was spoofed by the movie "Men who stare at goats" (2009).]

On Thursday, 28 Nov at 3:42 AM, Joseph Dillard wrote:
In my own experience, having interviewed a number of people who have had near death experiences, the essence is not religious or even spiritual. It is context dependent and context driven. If you provide a religious or spiritual perspective, that is what you will perceive and experience; that is what it will mean to you. If you interview another aspect of the experience, for example the tunnel or the Void or the Light, you will shift into another perspective that may or may not be religious or spiritual, and that will be what you perceive and experience; that is what it will mean to you. This is important to remember to avoid falling into either dogmatism or metaphysical overlays of what is on its own a profoundly transformational experience. 

On Friday, 29 Nov at 11:06 AM, Pat wrote:
...your blog reminded me of something C.S. Lewis wrote in "Mere Christianity."  (See below) He was a Christian and so am I, as you know, but I did at one point in my life study other religions.  I found the Servant King (the Humble Servant who died on the Cross ) and the Creator God who lives outside of time and space the most appealing of all, but also found just joy and even peace that was beyond words to express my love for Him.

C.S. Lewis wrote:  The world does not consist of 100 percent -- Christians and 100 percent non-Christians.  There are people (a great many of them) who are slowly ceasing to be Christians but who still call themselves by that name: some of them are clergymen.  There are other people who are slowly becoming Christians though they do not yet call themselves so.  There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand.  There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it.  For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teachings about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points.  Many of the good Pagans long before Christ's birth may have been in this position.  And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lo of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together.  Consequently, it is not much use trying to make judgments about Christians and non-Christians in the mass.  It is some use comparing cats and dogs, or even men and women, in the mass, because there one knows definitely which is which.  Also, an animal does not turn (either slowly or suddenly) from a dog into a cat.  But when we are comparing Christians in general with non-Christians in general, we are usually not thinking about real people whom we know at all, but only about two vague ideas which we have got from novels and newspapers.    

On Friday, 29 Nov (4:56 PM), I replied to Pat:
Pat. I'm motivated to reread Lewis's book from today's perspective...I read it at least 30+ years ago and his insights seem a good fit for this blog's purpose...

On Saturday, 30 Nov (9:34 AM), I responded to Nick:
I'm about 30% into the book now and notice several differences between the Buddhist concept of Nirvana and the NDEr report of Heaven. Whereas the Buddhist seeks to leave this planet and all personal sense of self, having been enlightened and experiencing Nirvana, NDErs often are sent back with a new awareness and personal sense of a specific task to perform.  In both cases a spiritual transformation occurs. How does your personal experience square with this? Do you have a sense of a personal task?

As far as the movie Inception is concerned, I realize I'd seen it years ago when it was first released in 2010. However, this time it meant a great deal more! What a mind-bending experience!! Drama all the way! Dreams within dreams within dreams….  Hard to keep track. This is why I am wary of lucid dreaming training. It imposes an ego perspective--i.e., having thinking decision-making dominate feeling decision-making, which means to me that such an attitude does not respect or even acknowledge the fundamental wisdom of a dream, which comes from the heart. 

On Saturday, 30 Nov (7:06 PM), my wife Birgitta wrote:
I've only read about the first 12% of the book and so far it appears as if the author doesn't differentiate between NDEs and OBEs, as in the case with the man who had “an NDE” while enjoying life sitting on the beach and no way near death. I would call that experience an OBE (out of body experience). For a long period in my early 30s years ago, I had many OBEs. At that time I had never heard about NDEs or OBEs.  I was in good health at the time and also no way near dying. After my first bewilderment about these experiences, the OBEs took away every bit of my fear of death. They also confirmed my early childhood spiritual experience of love and forgiveness after inviting Jesus Christ to live in me. I also think of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians where he talks of having been “caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know…was caught up to Paradise…heard inexpressible things that man is not permitted to tell.” In my own OBEs, I left my body and visited specific places and saw people instantly, miles away from where my body was. I could later confirm by going to these places that I had actually been there. During one of these OBEs, I moved upwards and saw how I separated from my physical body, which had stopped and stood still. Up under a high ceiling in a big grocery store, I felt myself spread out and could see far and wide everything and everybody moving below me all at the same time, as if all of me was sight. This is hard to explain!

Later that same day, at 7:30 PM, I replied to Birgitta,
This is the kind of experience that belongs to this thread, my dear. I'll be interested in how Nick and others respond. 

At 8:00 PM on 30 Nov, Nick wrote:
I had to watch the movie [Inception] a couple of times to make sure i got it.
If you like it and want to see it again, + the extras, i'll order/send you one. :)

Ah yes, the good old Heart Planting story. I'm going to give it a good reading. I'd be interested in knowing how much of it was based on actual experience, imagination and perhaps magic mushrooms?! ;)

Love you and am glad you're my Dad. 

At 9:15 PM on 30 Nov, I responded to Nick:
...You will also see that I have viewed the movie already...and commented on it in the blog.

About Heart Planting, I'd be glad to sort out which is real, dream and fantasy. How do you want to proceed...? Line by line? Paragraph by paragraph? Or image by image? 

There were no 'magic mushrooms' or anything psychedelic!  :)

To be continued...

Discovering the MormonThink site.

Posted: 15 Nov 13
The Thinker

Yesterday, in the process of continuing my conversation about slavery and Mormonism with my black friend from South Carolina, I googled for a reference to Brigham Young's comment about bloodline purity with respect to having Negro ancestry in one's genealogy. The first thing that came up was a site called Mormon Think, which put me squarely on the path to reliable historical references to that now abandoned doctrine. It was an exciting discovery!

To be continued...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Conversation about Slavery

Posted: Monday, 11 Nov 13
Updated: Saturday, 16 Nov 13

Two Men Talking
Last night (10 Oct) my friend from South Carolina gave me permission to post our correspondence, as long as I didn't use his name. I will call him "Frederick Davis" (not his real name).

On Saturday, 9 Oct 13, I first wrote to Frederick:
"Last night Birgitta and I saw 12 Years a Slave in Santa Fe. Have you seen it yet? I sent you a text message... It will win many awards... Sorry I didn't see it with you!" 
On Sunday, 10 Oct 13, FD replied:
I’m glad you saw it.  I’ve seen it and I found it very moving because I’ve heard similar stories from some of my family that were not necessarily born into slavery but were the children of the former slaves. Attached is one of my great-grandfather's “Slave Testimony”.  It’s quite insightful and it’s a hard read but it was the life he lived from 1853 until the end of the Civil War.  I’m third generation free and this institution of slavery is still a lot closer than many are willing to admit. I’ve attached a second document of the 1910 census that shows him a free man with his family.  My grandfather, his third child, was 8 months old during this particular census.  You’ll find my great-grandfather Hector starting on line 21.  My grandfather shows up on line 25.  Hector married two different women with the same name and outlived them both. Anyway, enjoy the read.
On Monday AM, 11 Nov 13, I wrote:
Your story is hugely important, FD! Not only for you, but for me, too!!! Will you allow me to post it on my blog if I don't reveal your name? Here is the thread I'm referring to.
I agree [that slavery is still closer than many are willing to admit], which is why I want to post your story. The Mormon institution has a key political, let alone spiritual, role to play here... I think your story can help his happen.
Later on Monday FD replied:
No, I don't mind at all especially if my name is not used.  Thanks for your interest.  I've got other documents about the other side of my family.

My father knew his great grandfather also and he too was born into slavery 10 years before the beginning of the Civil War.  I've got some of his stories about his life as a slave documented.  They were passed along to my Uncle (who's written a book about it) and my father when they both were children.  Thankfully, they've kept the stories going by passing them along to me and my generation.  Most of their stories are oral but, I've found some documentation like death certificates and census records to collaborate the stories.
Anyway, I'll share whatever I can find.
Still later on Monday, I replied again:
Great! Thanks. I'll be more than just interested in your family's story.
On Wednesday, Nov 13, I wrote:
FD, your great-grandfather Hector Smith's former-slave testimony is remarkable! The document you sent was written on July 22, 1937, citing Hector's age as 79, which would have him born in 1858. But, you say he was actually born in 1853 ... which means he was five years older... 
 (click on image to enlarge)
Ex-Slave Hector Smith Testimony
(July 1937)
Page 1 of 10

I was four years old in Phoenix, Arizona, when he gave this testimony, which gives me a new personal perspective. I'll have more to say about this later in our conversation.

A short time later on 13 Nov, FD replied:
It's an eye opener when you talk to some of the older members who were direct descendants of slaves. I was fortunate to be able to have conversations with my grandmother about her great-grandmother and the other slave members of our families who they knew.
My grandmother took care of Hector in his later life because he actually stayed with her and his son until he died.  My mother remembers him fondly as "Uncle Hec" and she always described him as having a long white beard and white hair.  She said she would sit on his lap and he would tell her stories about his life when he was a slave.

On his tombstone, it reports his birth date as being 1853.  The census documents of 1910 put him at 40 and that would indicate he was born in 1870.  That's obviously wrong since he can remember the civil war and when freedom came.

To which I replied later on 13 Nov:
...Obviously the dates and reported ages are questionable, but the important thing was what he remembered. So, your recollections about what his descendants report orally is super valuable, such as those details about your grandmother sitting on his lap and hearing him tell about his slave days. That is a perfect example. I reflect more on our conversation and your family's story, I want you to know my Mormon story and why it is relevant. But, before doing so, I'd like to ask about your wife's story. Is it similar to yours? Would she be willing to join our conversation? 

FD replied still later on 13 Nov:
I'm researching her side as well but I've not been able to validate her family with respect to slavery.  I'm sure as the sun rise[s] that the[re] were always member[s] of her ancestry that were slaves, I'm just not sure of the details.

I've focus[ed] more on my family because [of] the oral history that's been shared with [us] more through the years.  I can always [ask] her if she has the time because she's in the middle of finishing her masters degree.

And I replied:
I'll be as interested in her side, too, for the same reasons, whenever she has time to give it attention.
On Thursday, 14 Nov, I wrote:
Since Hector was still alive in 1937, have you taken a look for him in the census for 1920 and 1930?
A few minutes later Frederick wrote:
Here's the 1930 census.  His family starts around item 28 - 34.  My grandfather in this one was approximately 19 and even though it says daughter for Mathew.  I knew my uncle Roy and my Aunt Arnella well.  I heard stories about Clio - that was actually a female and not a male as it's indicated.  She died from pneumonia after being exposed to a late Fall storm.
Before I got the above (our messages crossed) I wrote again:
Does anyone in your family know the melodies of the four songs in Hector's testimony? Namely,
1. Nobody Business But Mine
2. Way Down in de Lonesome Valley
3. Hold de Deal
4. Bulldogs a barkin

Frederick replied:
My great aunt might know since she was the one who understood the vernacular of the day to help me understand what he was saying.  I'm going home to see her during the Christmas break and I'll ask her to sing them for me and if she's willing, I'll record it.
After reading Frederick's 1930 census attachment, I wrote:
Both interesting and dismaying. With such sloppy census record-keeping/reporting, it's all the more important that families keep their own records. I'm confident you know that the subject of accurate genealogy is something that the Mormon Church is primarily noted for (and has also been censured for by many in the Jewish community). In the old days (prior to June 8, 1978) much genealogy research was done with the intent to make sure of the "purity" of a person's blood line. That preoccupation has now changed. Here is a link that might interest you:  
On Saturday, 16 Nov, FD wrote:
Here’s an interesting video from YouTube:
I replied,
Powerful!!! First time I've heard of it. I've only just begun to view it with my wife and realize it is a first rate docudrama right up there with "12 Years".
And FD continued with:
One of the best online documentaries about the institution of slavery in America that I've seen:

Part 1: 
Part 2: 
Part 3: 
Part 4:  
I’m thankful that you are interested in the subject.  Clearly our interest[s] are for different reasoning but, we seek the truth about this institution that taint[s] the idealism that helped form a government that was intended to be for the people and by the people.  The exception to that honorable notion was it benefited the money makers here and across the pond at the expense of so many

Slavery was an institution that was fueled by greed and untethered capitalism.  The ascension of the tobacco, sugar and cotton economies drove the need for a cheap labor force.  I can go into the global history of slavery but, I think that should be a discussion best had with a couple of glasses of good wine – hopefully in two weeks when I return for good....
To which I added...
In two weeks, then! We will continue our conversation with appropriate libations! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"12 Years a Slave": must see film for all people of faith

Posted: Saturday, 9 Nov 13

Slave and slave owner

Birgitta and I saw "12 Years a Slave" last night in Santa Fe. I hope the film makes it to Los Alamos. It was horrifying, gripping and conscience searing. All through the viewing, I couldn't help but think  about my own Mormon background and the fact that Utah was officially a slave state before the Civil War.

I learned about the film from a neighbor friend up the street, a black man from South Carolina, himself a descendant of slaves. And I remembered Joseph Smith's legendary 1832 prophesy about civil war beginning in South Carolina.

Here is a review of the film that Mormons must read and then reconsider their respective consciences and whether they have the courage of their convictions.

And, here are the words from Mormon scripture: Doctrine and Covenants, Section 87:1-4, a time when the legal Mormon Church institution (first known as "The Church of Christ") was less than three years old.

Section 87

Revelation and prophecy on war, given through Joseph Smith the Prophet, at or near Kirtland, Ohio, December 25, 1832. At this time disputes in the United States over slavery and South Carolina’s nullification of federal tariffs were prevalent. Joseph Smith’s history states that “appearances of troubles among the nations” were becoming “more visible” to the Prophet “than they had previously been since the Church began her journey out of the wilderness.”
1–4, War is foretold between the Northern States and the Southern States...

 Verily, thus saith the Lord concerning the awars that will bshortly come to pass, beginning at the rebellion of cSouth Carolina, which will eventually terminate in the death and misery of many souls;
 And the atime will come that bwar will be poured out upon all nations, beginning at this place.
 For behold, the Southern States shall be divided against the Northern States, and the Southern States will call on other nations, even the nation of Great Britain, as it is called, and they shall also call upon other nations, in order to defend themselves against other nations; and then awar shall be poured out upon all nations.
 And it shall come to pass, after many days, aslaves shall rise up against their masters, who shall be marshaled and disciplined for war.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Senate Bill on Bias Against Gays Finds Support in Mormons

Posted: Friday, 8 Nov 13
Updated: Sunday, 10 Nov 13

Good News!!

My friend in Berlin sent me a heads-up to an editorial by Jeremy Peters in the New York Times yesterday about changes in political Mormon attitudes in the Senate towards gay rights. See here for that article or keep reading...

The point here is that the changes are coming as a consequence of  politically active Mormons, not necessarily active Mormon ecclesiastical leaders...

Senate Bill on Bias Against Gays Finds Support in Mormons

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WASHINGTON — At nearly every critical juncture, the Senate bill that passed Thursday banning workplace discrimination because of gender identity and sexual orientation has had an unconventional and powerful ally.
Michael Lloyd/The Oregonian, via Associated Press
Gordon H. Smith, a former Republican senator, helped convince Senator Orrin Hatch, a fellow Mormon, to support the bill outlawing workplace discrimination.
Mandel Ngan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Senator Orrin Hatch
J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press
Senator Harry Reid, also a Mormon, made the bill a priority.
Mormons, reflecting shifting attitudes inside their church, have stepped in to provide the political muscle, the additional momentum or the decisive vote. And more often than not, they were not just Mormons, but Republicans.
The bill, which passed by a vote of 64 to 32 with 10 Republicans joining, was a priority of Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, who, as the Mormon Church’s highest-ranking member in the government, put the nondiscrimination measure at the top of the Senate’s agenda once the government reopened last month. “People shouldn’t be able to fire them because of their sexual orientation any more than you can fire them if they’re Mormon,” Mr. Reid said Thursday in an interview.
Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, who at 79 is one of the Senate’s longest-serving members, became the first Republican to signal he would reverse his opposition as the bill faced a crucial vote in committee. He voted against a similar bill the last time it came up in the Senate — 17 years ago — but changed his mind earlier this year after Gordon H. Smith, a fellow Mormon and former Republican senator, convinced him there was nothing in it that violated church doctrine. “The church does want to be helpful where we can be, without violating our own conscience,” Mr. Smith, a former bishop, said in an interview.
And as the bill approached a vital vote earlier this week, Senator Dean Heller, the Nevada Republican who has taught Sunday school at his Mormon church, provided the crucial 60th vote to break a filibuster.
In the end, all but two of the Senate’s seven Mormons voted yes.
Their support for including civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people is the latest example of a broader evolution by some of the most visible members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who have come to cautiously embrace gay rights. It is a remarkable turnabout from just five years ago, when the church faced a maelstrom of criticism for backing the initiative in California that took away the right of same-sex couples to marry.
Unlike the issue of marriage, which the church views as an inviolable doctrine, nondiscrimination law has become one subject that Mormons of all political stripes can safely seem to support. Indeed, the church publicly backed a provision in Salt Lake City in 2009 that extended many of the same workplace protections as the Senate bill. It did not, however, take a public position during the Senate debate.
The church has also embarked on a public relations campaign to soften the perception that it is homophobic. It has even created a website called, which points out that while acting on same-sex attraction is a sin, “With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
Mr. Heller, who voted against a similar nondiscrimination measure in 2007 when he was a member of the House, said he was typical of members of his faith who had come around on the issue.
“Where American families are becoming more inclusive, I think the same is true of the L.D.S. faith,” he said. “We believe we should treat people with dignity, and you saw that on the immigration reform issue as well. It’s an issue of fairness.”
Success in the Senate guarantees nothing in the House, where the measure faces serious Republican resistance. Speaker John A. Boehner has made no commitment to put it to a vote, a prospect that drew criticism from President Obama after the Senate vote on Thursday. “One party in one house of Congress should not stand in the way of millions of Americans who want to go to work each day and simply be judged by the job they do,” the president said in hailing the Senate vote.
Building support among the Senate’s Mormons had always been part of the strategy for the bill’s sponsor, Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, who reached out to the man he beat in 2008 — Mr. Smith — for help. “He can speak from a perspective that I might not be able to replicate,” Mr. Merkley said of his former rival. When Mr. Smith asked how he might help, Mr. Merkley suggested he reach out to Mr. Hatch.
Of all the Republican senators who came around to supporting the bill, Mr. Hatch was in some ways the least obvious. He is solidly conservative on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. He is one of the oldest members of the Senate. But Mr. Smith, who co-sponsored the hate crimes bill named for Matthew Shepard, said he appealed to Mr. Hatch’s “constructive conservatism.”
Shortly before the committee vote in July, he said he reminded Mr. Hatch about the church’s support for the Salt Lake City initiative and impressed on him that this was an issue of conscience. “These are positions that I came to as a matter of my own conscience long ago,” he said.
“It’s just the right thing,” Mr. Hatch said as he walked into the Senate chamber to vote. “Religion should be respected, and so should people.”
More so than his Republican colleagues, Mr. Reid has distanced himself from some of his church’s attitudes toward homosexuality, most notably saying its involvement in the California same-sex marriage fight was wrongheaded.
But he has not always been so open-minded, and in 1996 voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.
In an interview on Thursday, he recalled how he once considered sexual orientation “kind of an environmental thing,” but said he later realized that orientation was not in fact a choice.
He has a lesbian niece who he said had “helped us work our way through the issues.” He recalled having two neighbors in Nevada he always called “the bachelors.” Thinking of them now, he said, he realizes they must have been gay. “Let’s assume they got married. What difference would it make to me and my family? Zero. None. None,” Mr. Reid said.
He has already been to two same-sex weddings this year, including one where he gave a toast to the grooms.
Mormons, who have seen their own share of bias, should be especially sensitive, he said. “I would think that members of the church should understand that one of the things that should be paramount in their minds,” he said, “is how they’ve been treated.”