Leaving the Fold
James W. Ure, editor
Calvin L. Rampton
It is not enough to have a good mind. The main thing is to use it well.
[p.1]Utah’s only three-term governor, Calvin L. Rampton, was born in Bountiful, Utah, in 1913. He attended George Washington University and the University of Utah, where he took his Juris Doctorate in 1940. He was admitted to the Utah bar in 1940, and the next year was admitted to practice before the U.S. Court of Appeals. In 1946 he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Cal was county attorney in Davis County, 1939-40, assistant attorney general of Utah, 1941, and again in 1946 and 1948. He was elected governor, took office in 1965, and was reelected twice. He chaired the Education Commission of the States and was president of the Council of State Governments. He also served as chair of the National Governors’ Conference in 1975. Cal was active as a reserve officer in the Utah National Guard, including active duty from 1942-45. For readers who would like to know more, I suggest his autobiography, As I Recall (University of Utah Press, 1989), in which his political career is interlaced with his romance, marriage, and family life.
Today Cal’s hair is grayer, but the abundant head resting squarely on hunched shoulders will be familiar to anyone who lived in Utah [p.2] through 1976, when he left office. His eyes are alert for nuance, but his face is confident and open, his manner candid and gentle. The man who directed the state’s affairs, who cobbled agreements for industrial giants such as Union Pacific Railroad, sits behind a modest desk stacked with papers in a comfortably small office in downtown Salt Lake City. Wood carvings collected from his travels occupy much of one wall—an African rhythm pounder, a bust of Don Quixote, a soaring eagle. There is spoor from his political past, including signed photographs and sculpted busts of U.S. presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. Photographs of his family, a plant or two, medals from his World War II service in Europe and his National Guard service in Utah occupy shelves along with numerous books and award certificates. Outside the temperature is already 90 degrees on this overcast August morning. He leans back in his chair.
My grandfather had been what they call disfellowshipped from the Mormon church, which is something less than an excommunication. As I understand it, if you’re disfellowshipped you can apply and get back in the church, but Grandpa would never have applied. So in Dad’s family the church was not predominant, and Dad himself didn’t go to church very often. He’d go when the children were named and on special occasions.
My father’s family was not anti-Mormon. And my grandfather’s best friend and brother-in-law was Mormon general authority Brigham H. Roberts and really I think that it was he who got them to reduce the excommunication charge to a charge of disfellowship. I never heard Grandfather say anything derogatory about the church.
Do you know what he might have said that caused this disenfranchisement?
I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t a quarrel with an individual. It was a disagreement with policy.
But your mother was active?
Oh, yes. Now I don’t remember if my Campbell grandparents were active. Grandmother Campbell died when I was quite young, and I don’t remember her very well. Grandfather Campbell lived till I was [p.3] about sixteen or seventeen. But mother belonged to the Relief Society and she insisted I go to church.
Did you want to go?
I enjoyed certain functions of church. I don’t remember if I enjoyed children’s primary or not when I was little, but I certainly enjoyed the Mutual Improvement Association and the Boy Scouts when I was a teenager, and I didn’t mind sacrament meeting. I thought stake conferences were too long.
There was a social element.
Well, I belonged to the Bountiful 1st Ward, and the ward house was a wonderful big white church that still stands in the full block—in the center of Bountiful. And that was the social center of Bountiful. It wasn’t only the ward house; it was the stake house, as well.
Were your parents ever in conflict over the children going to church?
My father also encouraged it. Mother did it because she herself was religious and thought I should go, and I think Dad felt that it was good for me.
When did you become less active? Was it an abrupt event?
I don’t think it was an abrupt thing. I continued being quite active in Parley’s Ward almost up until the time I was elected governor (1964). I don’t mean I was a regular attender, but I was a frequent attender. I taught Sunday school and I was scout master. One day my wife, Lucybeth, and I were sitting in church and a couple of scouts from behind us sniffed and said, “I smell a cigar”; another kid said, “That’s no cigar, that’s Cal’s pipe.” So I smoked a pipe and the kids knew it. When they asked me if I’d be the scout master, I said, “Well, do you know I smoke a pipe?” They said, “You don’t have to smoke it at a scout meeting, do you?” I said, “No.”
Your dad smoked a pipe, too, according to your book. When did you start smoking a pipe?
In the army.
So you were in your late twenties or early thirties.
[p.4] What caused you to pick it up?
Well, I don’t know. I’m sure a lot of people took up smoking in the army. I did it principally because nearly everyone else was doing it. It was a peer thing, and a release from tension.
Did you feel any guilt over that? Over breaking the church’s Word of Wisdom?
No. Although mother was very active in church, she was also an avid coffee drinker. And we had coffee in our home, and I drank coffee as I was growing up. But the army changed a lot of habits, of course. You’re living in an entirely different environment—different than a family environment. I’d never smoked before that. I’d drunk some liquor before that and continued to do so in the army on occasion. Not frequently, we couldn’t get it frequently. But I had no feeling against the moderate use of alcohol.
Regarding that, is there less stigma toward the drinker than there is toward the smoker?
No, I think, because you can drink and still be with others and they don’t necessarily know it. But they can see you smoke. I think it’s a matter of the obvious with some.
How old were you when you first tried alcohol?
I was between high school and college. I’d say I was seventeen.
Did you enjoy it?
No. But we had a bunch of guys go up to Como Springs near Morgan, Utah, and we’d made some home brew in the barn of one of the guys by the name of Weldon Parrish from Centerville. His dad was a bishop, but we made this home brew in his barn without his father’s knowledge.
What did you make it from?
Hops and, oh, I don’t know. It was a drink like beer. And we were trying to smuggle ’em out of the barn, and one of the bottles dropped and broke on the bishop’s front yard. It was a little embarrassing.
I thought maybe your first experience with liquor was related to the time you tried to use young Alton Call as a projectile in a slingshot you made [p.5] from a standing tree and an inner tube. You broke his arm while attempting to launch him to—
Oh, no. That was when I was twelve or thirteen.
Did alcohol and tobacco seem to be elements that delineated whether people where active or inactive?
Almost the litmus test.
You were elected to public office several times before you became governor. You were also defeated a couple times.
I was defeated more than I was elected.
Did you feel that you had to disguise or hide your habits? I mean, it’s not a good idea to go around waving your pipe in Utah if you’re running for office.
Well, I didn’t make a fetish out of it. On the other hand, I think most people who knew me knew I smoked a pipe. Now, the first time I was elected to office was before the war—I was elected county attorney of Davis County—and I’m sure I didn’t smoke a pipe at that time. But I never did hide the fact, but I didn’t advertise it either.
There’s a story I like to recall because it gives me a warm feeling about politics as contrasted to now. Early in my time as governor, I was in the governors’ conference in Minneapolis, the National Governors’ Conference, and the set up was in a big ballroom with a horseshoe-shaped table. Governors sat all around the outside, and behind each individual governor sat his staff and newspeople from his home state. Well, most of the governors smoked at that time (I’d say that very few of them smoke now. They quit for the same reason I have, you get older and the doctor tells you you’d better stop). Anyway I was smoking my pipe and I didn’t pay any particular attention that there was a pipe in my hand. I looked up, and a newsman from one of the national newspapers snapped my picture. I don’t know if you remember Roy Gibson, the Salt Lake television newsman, but Roy got up and followed that guy, the newsman. They stopped and talked a minute. The newsman opened his camera and gave the film to Roy and Roy brought it over and put it on my desk. Roy never said a word, but I appreciated it. I don’t think many of the press would do that today.
In your memoirs, As I Recall, you mention that because Sherman Lloyd [p.6] admitted he was a social drinker you believe that hurt him in the election in 1962. And I think there were rumors about Lawrence Burton, too …
Edith Ann Lloyd, Sherm’s widow, got very angry at me for even mentioning that in my book. For the fact that I confirmed that Sherm occasionally took a drink, she felt was demeaning to him. She was very angry at me.
That shows you the power of that issue in this state, doesn’t it?
Yes. Sherm certainly wasn’t a heavy drinker, but a very light drinker. I’m sure that alcohol never affected his conduct.
Do you attend church today?
Do you go to regular Sunday services or funerals?
I don’t like funerals. We lost a daughter, Meg, ten years ago, and funerals bring that back, so if I have a friend who dies, I generally go and see the family and then I leave. But I go to church on occasion. I speak in church occasionally when I’m asked to.
Do you consider yourself active?
No, I would not consider myself active.
What about your bedrock belief in the Book of Mormon? Do you have that?
No, I don’t. That’s probably my principle problem with the LDS church. I have a hard time accepting the authenticity of the Book of Mormon stories. On the other hand, I feel that the philosophy of the Mormon church is wonderful. I am, as most people, uncertain about the existence of God. I try to believe in it because I want to believe in it—I sort of make myself believe. I have a hard time forcing myself to accept the Book of Mormon story literally. Just as I have trouble accepting the biblical stories literally. If you do believe in an omnipotent God, they’re possible. Anything’s possible, if you believe in that. I think this is responsible for the fact that I’m not active as I should be.
When did these feelings first come to you?
As a boy.
[p.7] Even from early childhood?
I wrote a poem in college that was published in the Pen magazine on that subject.
You don’t have a copy of that, do you?
I remember it.
Can you recite it?
Well, it’s a sonnet:
As forth upon life’s perilous cruise I sail,
No vision of my goal invites me on.
Though I watch others cross the horizon,
My sight does not extend beyond death’s veil.
I pray, but even while praying doubts assail
My mind. Who hears my prayer? Am I upon
My knees worshipping some false image drawn
In my mind by an age old fairy tale?
Yet I fear to think that when at last
Death’s finger points at me my soul must face
An awful empty never-ending night.
Oh, God, if by your hand our fates are cast,
If you can really hear me pray, erase
My doubts, in my heart to let there be light.
It won a prize.
I don’t remember, it was a cash prize. Five dollars, maybe.
How did you deal with church “activeness” with your own children?
I encouraged them to be active in the church of their choice.
You didn’t restrict them in any way about which church? Lucybeth was in agreement with this obviously. You and she, according to your book, often went to church together, when you were in Washington. Does she continue to go to church?
She continued to go to church pretty regularly until about ten years ago. There was a woman’s conference here and she got pretty angry at the church about their involvement. She comes from good religious [p.8] stock. Her grandfather was first counselor in the First Presidency for a number of years until his death in 1932.
Were you married in the temple?
I was not married in the temple.
What about your brother Byron. Has he been active? [Byron died shortly after this interview.]
About like I am.
And your sister, Virginia?
About the same.
Before your mother’s death, did she ever have any feelings about your activity or inactivity? Did she ever mention them?
No, she never did. But then I continued to be fairly active in my participation up to the time I was elected governor. I lived in Parley’s First Ward. It was a wonderful ward. We had the finest bishop I’ve ever known. A fellow named Joe Wood. When we moved to the Federal Heights Ward, we moved to a new ward. I had new responsibilities as governor that were very time consuming. And although the church house was right next door to the governor’s mansion (I could just jump out of bed some mornings and go through the back lot to church), I went fewer and fewer times.
Why was that?
I don’t know. I guess I didn’t feel the same warm relationship to that ward that I’d felt to Parley’s First Ward. Although I had some very good friends there. You know Bill Smart, former editor of the Deseret News? Bill used to teach the early morning priesthood meeting when I lived in the governor’s mansion next door to the ward house. I saw him one Monday and he said, “Oh, it was hot in that meeting yesterday.” And he continued, “The very hottest time was while I was teaching the lesson. I heard you start up your car and I knew you were going to the golf course, and I said to myself, ‘I hope this is all true.’”
You mentioned some conflicts with the church during your period as governor. They don’t seem to be major conflicts.
I got along very well with all of them. I served with four church presidents. I got along very well with all of them.
[p.9] Who was your favorite?
I’d have to say President McKay. He’s one of my favorite people of all time.
He was a very gentle and loving man.
He was when he was old. I understand he was kind of a fire-brand as a young man.
Where you ever angered by official church positions during you governorship?
The Equal Rights Amendment.
The Right to Work law. While this wasn’t the subject of a church position, I felt church influence. I wanted the Right to Work law repealed. I felt it was sort of a burr under labor’s saddle and wasn’t doing any particular good. But I know the church wanted to keep the Right to Work law, although I never heard a church pronouncement on it. That irked me a little bit. Those are the ones that I can remember. Ordinarily the church stayed out of political and governmental matters.
We often hear stories about how they have an “underground” system of letting their political views be known. Do you believe that?
Do you think that communication with the church is affected by a person’s active or inactive status?
I don’t think so. I enjoyed chatting with church leaders and they seemed to enjoy chatting with me. A cute little story. During my first term, when President McKay was in very good health, he was fairly robust then. I used to enjoy very much going down and talking over matters with him. I can remember one day the Peace Corps director wanted to put work camps in Utah and I was to designate where they went. I decided one should go at the mouth of Weber Canyon (there were some facilities held over from the old Civilian Conservation Corps), and I decided the other one should go to Milford, Utah. But Wallace Yardley, the president of the Beaver Stake, was much opposed [p.10] to it. And I didn’t want to bring those boys from out of state into a hostile atmosphere, so I said to hell with them and made the decision the work camp should go down to Price. I thought I was going to have some others to designate, so thought I’d better talk to the church leaders about it. I made an appointment and I went down and President McKay had President Hugh B. Brown and President Nathan Eldon Tanner there.
I explained the Work Corps concept and said, “Is the church opposed to this new policy?”
President McKay said, “Well, no. It sounds like a good idea to me.” He said, “You say Brother Yardley was opposed to it?”
I said “Well, I suppose he’s afraid of bringing in these young boys of unknown background among the Mormon girls.”
President McKay said, “Oh, I don’t think that’s a problem unless young men have changed since I was a boy. If there are Mormon girls who are trying to get into trouble, there’ll probably be a Mormon boy to take care of it.”
You never felt any lack of confidence because of your inactivity or status within the church?
What do you mean, lack of confidence?
You seem to be a completely confident man and with a good self-image.
Do you mean, did I feel somewhat inadequate in my dealings with the church? No, they treated me well.
I guess I mean, did you ever feel inadequate in your own spirituality?
Oh, yes. I wish with all my heart right now that I had a testimony. You don’t get that. Maybe if you work at it hard enough you do, I don’t know. I wish I did. I envy people who do. I’m sure they are happier. The mind is at ease on a matter that it might be troubled about.
Takes quite a leap of faith, does it?
Do you think the church hurts itself in a way by asking that we have faith, yet encouraging us to get the kind of education that might challenge that faith?
Well, I suppose the theory is that your faith should be tested. If it’s not tested, it’s not strong. And if it’s not strong, it could fail.
[p.11] As a child, do you remember having any feelings about being good or evil according to the way church doctrines had been taught to you? Did you ever feel that when you catapulted Alton Call, for instance, you were doing something bad?
I guess everybody’s suffered that type of guilty conscience. If they did something they knew they shouldn’t or felt they shouldn’t. Like the time we catapulted Alton. I felt bad because Alton was hurt. I wasn’t particularly concerned about the fact that I flipped him in the river.
I remember stealing cherries as a kid and feeling very guilty and remorseful.
Well, I don’t remember stealing cherries, but stealing a watermelon. In Bountiful it was just a way of life. It’s just what you did. It just wasn’t considered stealing.
Do you think inactives are more likely to be better educated and have better jobs, more income?
I can’t see it. You’d have to do a survey. Jon Huntsman is very active. George Eccles wasn’t active at all.
Do you think many of us become inactive because we don’t feel we can live up to the rigid demands of active status in the church?
No, I don’t think it’s that so much. I think we get awfully tired of going to church Sunday after Sunday and hearing a repetition without evidence of something we can’t accept. I think that’s the problem. We just can’t listen to that anymore.
You mentioned you like the way of life that Mormonism teaches. Can you be more specific?
The Mormon work ethic, the Christian work ethic—that you should work and that nobody owes you a living. The golden rule is not exclusive to the Mormon faith, for all great religions—Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist—teach you to treat your neighbor kindly. But the Mormon church has a good way of life. Now would I have joined the Mormon church if I’d been born in some other religion? I don’t know. Maybe not. But I think all religions have excellent ethical underpinnings that guide us in our lives, and as I was born a Mormon and as the Mormon code was perfectly acceptable to me, I tried to follow it.
[p.12] What might the church do to reactivate those who become inactive?
I’m sure the church is working very hard on that. I can remember clear back right after Lucybeth and I first moved into Parley’s Ward, they asked me to teach a quorum of elders, which came to be called the “Smoking Elders.” And I did teach for two years. I had a good Sunday school class. They not only came from our ward, but from other wards. Gus Backman [former executive of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce] used to come all the way from where he lived at the Ambassador Club. He’d come Sunday morning and there would be a faint smell of alcohol, hardly dissipated from the night before. The church would make an effort then. I taught the Old Testament and the New Testament, and then they asked me to teach the Book of Mormon. I just didn’t feel like I could teach that. I didn’t know it well enough and I didn’t have enough confidence in it. You see other churches doing the same thing. Some of these evangelical preachers go to all extremes to be startling to bring in their people. I haven’t seen anything very successful.
What political issues might be alienating active people from the church?
The church hasn’t taken positions on very many political issues. They’ve taken positions on tobacco issues, but I don’t know anybody who quarrels with them very much there, even smokers. Almost everyone today agrees we shouldn’t smoke. The church takes positions usually only on moral issues. Or when a political issue becomes a moral issue. Now on the Equal Rights Amendment, I guess it was President Spencer Kimball to whom I said, “Not only do I think you’re taking a wrong position, but I don’t think you should have a position.”
Today many people are disillusioned or become inactive because of the issues of censorship. In 1993 and since, we’ve had active Mormons resign or be excommunicated as a result of their desire to speak out on issues. For some women I think divorce and their status as divorcees have alienated them. What’s your view?
Yes, that’s true. You know Alvin Gittins, the painter? Here’s a wonderful story. Alvin didn’t tell me, someone else did, about the church calling him into a bishop’s conference. Alvin had criticized some church pronouncement. Anyway, they said they were seriously considering excommunication charges against him, and would that trouble him? Alvin said it would because his parents are very devout and [p.13] that would hurt them. He said, “But as far as I’m concerned, if I’ve done something for which I should be excommunicated, the Lord’s already done it. If I haven’t, it doesn’t matter what you fellows do.” Which I think is a pretty rational position.
Was there ever a time that being a Mormon was embarrassing.
No. But I remember a funny incident. My daughter Meg came down to Washington and rode in one of the inaugural parades with us. Someone on the sidelines said, “He’s the governor of Utah. He has two wives, an old one and a young one.”
As for my children? Two of them have been very devout Mormons and two not. Vince is in the bishopric and Meg’s husband was bishop and Meg was Relief Society president. Tony has become an Episcopalian, and I don’t think Janet goes to church.
What do you think active Mormons think of those who are inactive?
I get along fine with active Mormons and they seem to get along with me. Sometimes they subtly try to get me to be more active, but I don’t resent it because I don’t respond.
What do you think happens when we die?
I wish I knew.