Sunday, September 14, 2014

Conversations with David O. McKay and John R. Howard, Part 6

Posted: Sunday, 14 Sep 14
Updated: 16 Sep 14

David O. McKay
John (Jack) R. Howard
(President of Lewis & Clark College)

ENK: David, I was interrupted on September 1, when you were about to say something about young Nathan's comment on [John Dehlin's podcast] Mormon Stories on August 31. The interruption was from friend Tom R., who took exception to Nathan's comments by saying:.
As for Nathan and his father, let those who so vociferously and presumptuously assert that certain others need to repent first look to themselves.  (It’s quite ironic that more than at any other time in its history, the Brethren have recently become so self-disclosing and transparent about much in the past: Uchtdorf: “Mistakes were made.”  Former Church Historian Marvin Jensen’s acknowledgments and spearheading of the book on Mountain Meadows and the Joseph Smith Papers.  Pronouncements about the various versions of the First Vision, etc. on the First Presidency’s weekly website. Etc.)   
DOM: Yes, Eugene, Brother Tom speaks truly. I understand he is a church patriarch.

ENK: Yes, he is assigned to Eastern Europe these days. We met originally in 1979 at BYU when he was a professor of Russian. In 1993-96 he was a mission president to Russia, based in St. Petersburg. 

DOM: An impressive background.

ENK: But I'd like to get back to the time I tried to contact you in fall 1965 while in a state of crisis. You were unavailable, so I wrote Nathan's Cry and hand delivered it to your secretary Clare Middlemiss. 

DOM: So you have said and I have acknowledged.

ENK: Yes, but what I haven't yet said is what that poem was referring to.

DOM: Go on..

ENK: Actually, there were five separate issues that I'd been struggling with, starting with the death of my Ukrainian-born, Russian speaking father in May 1964. I almost hesitate to list them here.

DOM: Don't worry, I'm listening....  

ENK: I'll list them in the order that they first came into my life and the approximate dates.
1. Psi-warfare defense initiative (mid-June '64)
2. Homosexuality and excommunication (January 1965)
3. Flying Saucers and extraterrestrials (23 April '65) 
4. Polygamy (1 May 65)
5. Revelation re the priesthood ban of Negroes.(25 July '65)

DOM: Those were huge issues back then and still are, aren't they?

ENK: Indeed they were and are! And you were the only person I thought I could talk to about my experiences related to them. That's why I came to Salt Lake in September '65 and stayed overnight with my old mission president, Morris A. Kjar, to whom I confided hints of issues 4 and 5. He realized I was under a great burden and arranged for me to meet with two general authorities on  a particular subject. The first regarding item 5 was with Joseph Fielding Smith, then president of the Quorum of the Twelve and next in line to succeed you. The second meeting was with Harold B. Lee regarding item 4, who was next in line to become church president after Smith.

DOM: Sounds like a good strategy on President Kjar's part.

ENK: I think he was well meaning and compassionately motivated. But I was in for a rude awakening in meeting with both those men, which is why I then wrote my poem to you.

DOM: Say something about what you mean by "rude awakening".

ENK: Gladly.When I met with Pres. Smith regarding item 5, my intent was to give him the original document received on 25 July 65 for his inspection. But, when I mentioned I was being considered for excommunication because of it, he became agitated and asked who my stake president was. When I disclosed it was the San Diego stake president, he immediately began to call the Sandy, Utah stake president! I was aghast at this mishearing and realized he was not all there. So, I immediately stopped talking and withdrew from his office without further interaction.

DOM: And Elder Lee?

ENK: He was entirely different. As soon as I opened the door to his office he began shouting at me. No greeting, No handshake. No warmth. He was reacting to a letter I'd sent to him a month earlier asking for counsel regarding a woman I'd just fallen in love with a day or two before, which was something I'd never experienced before (including my wife). I did not know how to handle it and was struggling to understand "the principle" behind it. The amazing part of this to me was that this was exactly how he behaved in my May 1st dream, almost five months earlier. In that dream he was speaking to an audience with great anger as the Church president.

DOM: I'm familiar with that behavior.

ENK: In barking orders to me never to see that woman again I responded that I would obey him because I was committed to the order of the priesthood, but not because I believed him.

DOM: And he said?

ENK: With great ferocity, he shouted, "Well, you'd BETTER believe it. It's all of the Devil. That principle has been REPUDIATED!"

I didn't have anything more to say, but vowed silently never sustain this man as Church president.

DOM: Understandable.

ENK: But then he totally changed the subject and his demeanor by gently asking "And how is Howard?" He was referring to another subject in my letter having to do with my gay mentor friend who had once been a confidant of Lee when my friend was with Rick's collage and Lee was grooming him to become a General Authority.

I answered, "He's having a rough time", to which Lee responded with sincere compassion, "You know, we're trying to save souls, not destroy them."  The irony of this crazy-making statement and previous behavior convinced me that I had to get to you and no one else. 

Furthermore, I'd had a dream the night I stayed with President Kjar containing the statement, "This is to celebrate the beginning of the recrystallization of the church", which I dared not share with Kjar but would with you.

DOM: Do you not see how difficult the issues were that you presented to these men?

ENK: From today's perspective, I most certainly do. I'd given them far more credit for wisdom and good judgment than they deserved. My expectations were way out of line and reality.

Jack, you must have a lot to say about this.

JRH: Yes I do, Gene. I was most intrigued to discuss all those issues with you at depth when you were our house guest for six weeks many years later. We called them "the important questions." 

ENK: Yeah, that was late March or early April 1972, when I showed up on your doorstep with just the clothes on my back.:You had told me weeks earlier at Lewis and Clark's Second Spiritual Quest Symposium in early March, '72 to drop by anytime I was in town. "Were you serious?" I asked when you opened your front door that night. "Yes", you said, "come on in". And that began one of the most important friendships I have ever had.

JRH: The feeling was mutual. And now let's talk a little about your expectations back then and in the present with respect to the five issues you say are implied by your poem to David.

ENK: That's gonna be difficult.

JRH: You don't need to make it a major treatise, Gene. Just give an outline of the basics and how they might relate to each other. Can you do that?

ENK: I'll try, but I want David to stay with us. I have some important stuff to say to and ask him.

DOM: I'm not going anywhere for now and remain interested.

To be continued in Part 7...

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