Dale Morgan on Early Mormonism
John Phillip Walker, editor
19. To Bernard DeVoto
I had on Monday your vigorous letter of December 28, and today, while I am still trying to get acclimated to the new year, I have a letter from Fawn Brodie enclosing a carbon copy of a letter to you which makes an extremely interesting contribution to this paranoid discussion I opened up. Thus we have three people sitting in our sanity commission and can quarrel amiably among ourselves (comforted by the knowledge that regardless of our findings, few people will ever find out about them and fewer still give a damn). You are, as you insist, a peaceable fellow: Fawn has an altogether pacific nature, or so she maintains in public; while for myself, I am a perfect paragon of sweet reasonableness. So “quarrel” is not the mot juste, but let it ride.
As an appropriate introduction to the discussion following, permit me an anecdote in which I figure as victim. A year or so ago I was conducting with [J.] Rod[eric] Korns1 a long-distance argument on some question or other relating to Western history, and in the course of the argument we arrived at a point where certain evidences were in dispute. I would not allow them the status of “facts,” and Rod with his usual combativeness assured me that that was precisely what they were, facts, brother, facts. So then he told me a story. Once upon a time he had gone duck-hunting with a friend, and in the dawn’s early light a duck and a mudhen flew overhead. Both men blasted away with their shotguns, and the two birds fell into the water. “I’ll retrieve them,” Rod’s friend said, and he clambered out of the boat and went sloshing away through the mud and muck, the while Rod glowed in contemplation of this high altruism. So a few minutes later the friend came back to the boat, the duck in one hand and the mudhen in the other, and he tossed the latter into • Rod’s lap. “Here’s your mudhen, Rod,” he said graciously.
Now, Rod said, he had been hunting ducks for a good many years, and was a pretty fair shot. Moreover, he’d gotten a clear crack at the duck. So, said he to me now, when you shoot at a fact, you bring down a duck, every time! But when I blast away, it’s a mudhen. “Nuts to you,” said J. Roderic Korns.
[p.107] With this devastating story green in my memory, it would be something less than intelligent of me to suppose that I alone am capable of bringing down ducks, or that I never turn up without mudhens in my bag. I am at pains to make this point clear because I believe you read out of my last letter a greater harshness, perhaps a more superior air, than was either intended or, as I would like to think, written into the letter. I did not conceive of this letter as a “blast,” but simply as a probing into what struck me as some curious judgments curiously arrived at; indeed, I hardly recognize my letter as it is reflected back to me in yours. This is not of any particular importance, except that I should like to make some things plain about my attitudes respecting history and myself. Anything I ever say, I like to have accepted as being within the proportions of my ignorance and according to my understanding of the facts, which on occasion may be quite inadequate. When I make judgments in print, I prefer to restrict myself to opinions I can nail down if necessary, but in my correspondence with my friends I permit myself some latitude and feel free to discuss not alone error but the possibility of error—not always clearly distinguished in my letters, I grant you. I have no illusions that all the bugs can ever be gotten out of any kind of history; history made absolutely “straight” is a snare and a delusion. The very terms on which history is written insure this in perpetuity. But it is nevertheless absorbing, as well as necessary, to work with the facts we have, and insofar as we can establish their status as facts, see what they add up to, straighten out such distortions as we become aware of and have tools to work on. (This is your own view, of course, amply stated in your letter to me.) For myself, I take an active personal interest in doing what I can toward straightening out books which capture my respect and my enthusiasm. It comes out as an idiosyncrasy, perhaps: I wrote Nels Anderson about everything that struck upon my attention when his book [Desert Saints] came out; I did as much with Wally Stegner’s book, and yours, and Fawn’s, notwithstanding I’d had two earlier cracks at Fawn’s book. (And as a matter of fact, when I get up the ambition to separate out the new from the old, I am going to write Fawn another catalogue of things that have come to my attention since I wrote her at the end of October.) I am in hopes that all my friends will serve me equally with my own books, and I should have been happy to have you give way to your low instincts, as you put it, and write me about everything debatable you found in my book on the Humboldt. There are preposterous errors in that book, such incomprehensible misstatements as having the South Fork of the Humboldt run south, for instance. And only the other day I turned up five gross errors in connection with my discussion of the Stevens-Townsend-Murphy party of 1844 (and this party is important, because in conjunction with an Oregon group they took wagons over precisely the trail the Mormons followed in 1847, from Council Bluffs to the Greenwood Cutoff.) One can only derive such comfort as is possible from the [p.108] fact that as author you yourself turn up more things that are wrong with your book than all your critics combined.
I’ve been at pains to make these various points since it would seem that we have to dispose of an earlier letter I wrote you before we can get at the position you have taken on my new one. I had remembered that letter as simply a page-by-page recital of detail you would do well to check up before you published a revised edition, so I spent half an hour rooting around in my papers, and after blowing the dust off, came up with a carbon copy of that letter which I have reexamined in the light of your comments. I think you must remember it somewhat inexactly, and I believe it exhibits rather less of verbal gymnastics than your present letter would lead us to believe. Although no literary production, it answers the purpose I had in view. I have checked up all the page references I gave, and find them in my copy of your book, for example. I don’t follow you in the matter of verbalizing. I began that letter by personally objecting to the thesis that any year of the period could be conceived, finally and irrevocably, as the year of ultimate decision for the Civil War, and I hazarded the opinion that emphasis given this point had obscured for some of the critics and readers the large things your book had to say about American life and which were wholly independent of this thesis. But beyond this I concerned myself principally with factual details. Some of these details remain matter of opinion, and my remarks could serve the function only of a stated dissent from stated conclusions. On a couple of points I was clearly in error, for example my questioning of there being “two well known maps” (p. 41)—I can now name you a great many more than two. My second point was not too well put in the light of facts as complex as I have since ascertained them to be, in connection with the movement of [William H.] Ashley’s men upon the mountains. And my provisional correction for p. 87 is perfectly irrelevant, since it is not the Josephites who hold the temple site. In some cases I suggested the desirability of more reserved phraseology, to militate against misunderstanding or ambiguity, and I took you to task for polishing off Colonel Kane too slickly. But this is about the sum and substance of that letter, and I think it does not necessarily present us with any difficulties in pursuing our present discussion. Incidently, if the time comes that you undertake a revised edition, give me a little advance notice and I will translate for such as you can make of it some marginalia that has accrued from using your book and cross-checking in sources during the last couple of years.
So much for preliminaries. We seem to have three principal topics requiring discussion, my underlying attitudes toward and basic conceptions of Mormon history; the Book of Mormon in its literary qualities, with some related questions; and the question of the paranoid thesis. Suppose I take the latter two first. Or on second thought, maybe I’d better tackle the questions in order since my qualities of judgment and perception affect in some degree the validity of my arguments, and it might serve a useful purpose to ascertain [p.109] whether an intelligence in some degree consistent informs my reasoning.
First let me say that your portrait of me as being something like a “spoiled sociologist” is closer to reality than Fawn’s presentation of me as a painter. I took an art major in college with a view to using it in advertising and commercial art, but I at no time ever took myself seriously as an artist and as a painter I am below classification, even. My principal interest always remained the social sciences, and it was in social psychology that I first found the tools that enabled my mind to grasp the Mormon phenomenon and see the history in perspective. So to that extent I am your sociologist, although my interest has never been for sociology as such. Not that there is anything original in my discovery or use of these tools. You have used certain of them yourself, and to fruitful effect, in literary researches and criticism. This insistence upon social causation at any rate has had the effect of persuading me to look first in the environment for an explanation of a social situation or of a person, even. I would not say of myself as you say of me, however, that I am willing to go whistling about my business once I have established certain matters of background. Indeed, if environment were all-important, we would have had twenty dozen Mormonisms, an infinity of them, even—or none. I try rather to evolve an integrated view of the individual as a biological organism and as a factor in society; perhaps, indeed, I insist upon the terms of this integration more than you do. I recall that you wrote me once, for example, that “every man is a study in the psychology of the individual before he is an item in sociology.” I would not accept that dictum. Even if one were to maintain that life in the womb were to be taken into account, the social angle remains, the physiological relationship of the mother and the child. After parturition the biological organism and the individual in society are one and the same. Nothing can be subtracted from the whole without leaving a nullity. Every man is the product of total environment acting upon the biological organism, as I call it for lack of a better term, the “life” itself. It is hardly possible to conceive even an adult withdrawing wholly from society and remaining what we could define as a man. Take him out of society and what have you left? An Alexander Selkirk reduced almost to gibbering idiocy within a relatively brief period. Or a wild woman of the Santa Barbara Channel Islands. The pattern of behavior that we call sanity disintegrates very rapidly indeed when any man ceases to feel the impact upon his personality of society. And you could define that the other way around, if you wanted: we define a man’s sanity in terms of his ability to maintain contact with “reality,” with society and its norms. At the same time, of course, subtract the “life” and you will have left only a hundred pounds or more of an organic substance that very quickly requires to be cremated or buried. And I am not willing to grant the possibility of either a static psychology or a static environment. Stasis is impossible if for no other reason than that men inevitably grow old and die.
[p.110] None of this is in any part either brilliant or profound, but it may serve to indicate that I have a dynamic view of the possibilities of any man in any given social situation, and no doctrinaire ideas: I am willing to look narrowly into the specific situation or the specific individual with a sense of discovery. And the “sociological” coloring of my thinking and of my techniques of historical approach may, in what I have said above, have been more clearly defined than has hitherto been the case.
You wonder what conceptions my factual investigations rest upon, what my controlling theory on Mormonism and its significance is. Well, for one thing let me say I have been at pains not to formulate theories of large views about the Mormons. I have been aided in this by the oddity of much of my research; I have worked backward instead of forward in time—an accident consequent upon the fact that I have had to use libraries and archives as I have found them, exhausting them in turn. No complete inversion of research and no complete lack of controlling ideas is possible, of course, for any intelligent person engaged upon gathering and evaluating facts. But in large part, I think, I have kept myself free from the formulation of theories before all possible facts had been collected. I have tested the theories of others as I have acquired reagents I could bring to bear upon them (as is evidenced by the fact that at the very moment you read this you are peremptorily dragged up out of the depths of your proper preoccupations to read these words). I was at one time inclined to be persuaded by your paranoid theory, as offering a naturalistic explanation of Joseph [Smith] which did not insult the intelligence as those of the past had done; I am now very much inclined to reject your theory for reasons quite different from Fawn’s. But let me not anticipate myself on that subject. I was saying that I have carefully steered away from most theories; I decline to let academic historians, for example, require me to declare myself on the [Frederick Jackson] Turner hypothesis in relation to Mormonism. I’ve been making a collection of facts about places, people, and time, and of course something of a collection of ideas that people have held about the Mormons.
But still it is obvious that I have some controlling theory about the Mormons, regardless of how much we will grant to my judicial fact-gathering. And the theory has a societal base. In defining myself, I may make somewhat clearer what is in my mind when I talk of Joseph as both a product and exemplar of his times. (It seems to me that you hold too narrow a view here, as though only one type of person or one range of interests could qualify within this definition. I think a thousand men, or five thousand, all within the range of their individuality, could stand as “products and exemplars of their time”—you have the infinitely variable factor of individual personality and the factor more nearly approaching the common denominator, of energies and tendencies in society.) Anyway, I conceive of Mormonism as an extremely interesting type-specimen of the Jacksonian democratization of American society. By [p.111] “Jacksonian” I have reference to the same forces in society that operated to bring forth [Andrew] Jackson and his associates and adherents, rather than the social causation originating in Jackson’s own acts. The energies that produced Jackson, the sway and surge of ideas and emotions, produced Mormonism simultaneously. Mormonism can therefore properly and instructively be examined as another dimension of the Jacksonian upsurge, and our ultimately rounded idea of the full significance of the Jacksonian age may wait upon the opening of a number of such new channels of thinking, new ways of looking at the period. [Arthur M.] Schlesinger has lately published a book on the Age of Jackson, but observe that outside the economic and political field his purview is narrow—for instance, his discussion of religion is primarily a discussion of religion as an instrument influenced by and influencing political ideas and socio-economic change. This is not to criticize him for hewing to his thesis, merely to say that new awarenesses of the religious scene of that period are possible and desirable. You may remember what Walter Prescott Webb had to say in his The Great Plains, that none of his facts was new but that we should look at them in new ways. I think the idea is perfectly applicable to the Mormons. Indeed, if I did not, I should be infinitely discouraged by the extraordinary job Fawn has done for Mormonism’s opening period. Within her restricted compass, she has had a tremendous lot of things to say. What I propose has to be done, of course, with a sense of history’s proportions—with due attention to the number of people involved in proportion to the size of the population itself, the ways in which Mormonism has affected American life, what it has drawn from as well as given back to that life, and so on. I regard Mormonism as an infinitely more fruitful avenue of approach for some thinking about American life than Millerism, for example. Although Millerism was not without its typical elements, it may be studied much more nearly in a vacuum than may Mormonism—a theological vacuum. It was, in a sense, something imposed upon the daily lives of people, and it could congeal about its collapsed ideas leaving hardly a ripple in society. Mormonism, on the other hand, proceeded out of American life at more points, from millennialism to the evangelical communisms, with religious, political, social, and economic ideas indiscriminately sucked into the vortex to be digested or spewed out, with the central energies and structure of the church always different because of what it experienced or took to itself. I don’t say, with you, that Mormonism was at best an aberration of the principal energies involved; I do say that it is an interesting vehicle for some of the social energies of its time, and that something can be learned about the nature of American society from a critical scrutiny of the Mormon phenomenon. That is all I will ever claim for any history of the Mormons. Unless, of course, after we are all dead and buried it turns out that Joseph was, after all, a prophet of the living God who established the consummating dispensation and was thus the most important thing to happen since Christ. But unless we are set to [p.112] writing that history in another existence, I think we can dismiss this anxiety from our minds.
So much for the background of my thinking. Suppose now we take up the Book of Mormon, and the verbalisms you detected in my last letter. I should describe those elements of my letter as being elliptical statement instead, assuming in you a very considerable knowledge of what I was talking about which would enable you to follow me without my having to spell things out as I would in print or for the uninitiated. But if you want to call those passages plain, bad writing, I won’t quarrel with you. You took particular exception to my view that the Book of Mormon could not be conceived as absolutely lacking in form and structure, that “the history of the book itself is a denial that it altogether lacked in some kind of form and structure.” Let me for present convenience itemize the ideas thus elliptically disposed of: What would a book with “neither form nor structure of any kind” be? In the nature of things, could it be anything but a patternless collection of words taken at random from the dictionary? “Form” and “structure” may be abstract ideas, but for everyone they have connotations of organization, of pattern and design. Was it an inchoate book of the above type that was used in Mormon proselyting with such immense early effect? Would such a book have given the church any kind of foundation, any intellectual justification, any glamour of ideas? May it not be established in Mormon history that converts did get something out of the Book of Mormon? If not, how could two persons have derived the same thing from an utterly inchoate mass of words, and how could they have found an identity of feeling and an intellectual satisfaction in reading the book? Does not the history of the book show a compulsive force which may be traced concretely in the source literature? Does not the book in its history therefore deny any thesis that it was “absolutely lacking” in form and structure?
All this simplifies my ideas to the point of absurdity. Really, you don’t mean what you say, that the Book of Mormon had no form or structure of any kind. You know that there was a story of sorts, that the narrative moved along after a fashion, that people read it then and now as a more or less convincing history, that people have found religious sentiments in it they have been able to adapt to their purposes, that it also incorporated a fund of comment on contemporary American life and ideas. What you really mean is that all this was done without “style.”
After receiving your letter, I had intended to point up what I thought to be an odd limitation of viewpoint on your part, in that you would not conceive of the idea of “novel” as having any real meaning outside a 20th century definition of the word. This seemed to be a viewpoint arbitrarily arrived at and irrelevant, for all we need concern ourselves with is the creative energies involved, the mechanism of literary creation on however primitive a level, not with the end-product. We are all three agreed that Joseph wrote the book; from our viewpoint it is immaterial what type-name we give to it. [p.113] But Fawn has made it unnecessary to argue this point, for in the carbon copy she sends me of her letter to you, I think she has disposed of the subject satisfactorily to all of us through by-passing any argument about the 19th or 20th century novel. So I will wind up this section of the letter by saying simply that I have reread all the citations you give me with respect to the imagination, style, and structure of the book, and do not think that they materially affect my own position as set forth in my last letter, or support yours. I am not in any way concerned with this part of the discussion, however, and do not think argument is likely to be of any particular value; I would not have brought up the [issue as fully,] as a matter of fact, except that the evaluation of the Book of Mormon that was involved had some bearing on our common judgment as to the paranoid thesis. Except for my interest in this latter, I should not have opened this present discussion at all, for you and Fawn were quite capable, between you, of thrashing out any differences between what she seemed to be saying and what you seemed to think she had said. But since I did think a useful purpose was to be served in inquiring into your view of the paranoid thesis in the light of Fawn’s job, I also took occasion to call attention to what I then and still conceive to be some distortions of language if not of viewpoint on your part.
So without further delay let’s get into the paranoid question. Between our letters Fawn herself has had something to say on this subject, something of great interest, and I feel that it is much to be regretted that she didn’t formulate these ideas within the framework of her book. If she had challenged the psychologists with a problem, maybe someone with the technical equipment would be spurred to see what he could find out. It is really a little obligatory on authors to phrase, at least, the questions for which there are no answers; being able to phrase a question sometimes is half the effort involved in getting an answer. I have remarked to Fawn in the past, and again said in my review, that there were more difficult problems involved about the selection and assessment of fact than her text always made clear, though I have recognized literary difficulties involved. Nevertheless, when the occasion arises for a revision of the book, I think Fawn would be well advised to incorporate a discussion of this kind among the appendices, at least. The point of view is certainly one that must operate in any evaluation of the objective “facts” and her interpretation thereof.
Fawn goes far to harmonize our differences in her letter to you. For all your insistence upon the paranoid color of [Joseph’s] personality, you are not disposed to dispute the influence of social causation. And for all my emphasis upon social causation, I am not disposed to dispute a psychological abnormality. For regardless of what you may find in a normal man’s background, you don’t find him bringing forth revelations from God and founding churches with sweeping claims. In the area of personality, there is certainly a mystery to be grasped after, how Joseph’s mind worked, what his values were, and all the rest of it. He quite possibly had the capacity for fantasy [p.114] which other circumstances might have made him a writer as we customarily think of this term; there is indeed little question of this, though one may indict his talents for insufficiency. There is a cloudy and shifting borderline, as you say, between sanity and insanity, between perception of reality and employment of dream images. But if everyone is a little insane in some way or another, still I am not disposed to accept the thesis that Joseph ever was insane in the usual meaning we give this word.
A little earlier I remarked that Fawn and I had come to reject your paranoid thesis for different reasons. She has explained an area of investigation in which I had not worked, research into Joseph’s youth. I knew the importance of such an investigation and refused to open a discussion of Joseph as a paranoid before someone had done such a job. But my own rejection of your thesis came at the other end, the Nauvoo end to which Fawn barely adverts in her letter. You had to say on pp. 97-8 of your “Centennial,” “The finding that Joseph Smith comes somewhere within the wide limits of the paranoid reaction type does not attempt to appraise the degree of his insanity nor the regularity and duration of its attacks. That its rhythm was uneven, that for long periods he was free of it, that at other times his delusions did not affect his behavior apart from the dominant ideas—all this seems to me to show plainly in the record. But that some form of the paranoid constitution is the explanation of him seems necessitated by all the available facts.”
This is persuasively put, but I do not think a demonstration can be made against the record to which you must appeal, the day-to-day story of his life. You cannot anywhere select out individual acts and say that he here reveals himself insane, not if you use those facts in context, and have reference to chronology. You cannot, I feel well assured, document the stated conclusions from a pattern of fact. I think it would be close to impossible to write a booklength study of Joseph which would seriously maintain the paranoid thesis and show forth his life as exemplifying it. I grant you that [Harry M.] Beardsley tried something of the sort, but you and I both know that his biography [Joseph Smith and His Mormon Empire] was shallow and a little silly, exhibiting the paradox of being skeptical without being critical. Beardsley at no time achieved other than a muddy view of Joseph, and the contradictions in which his book abounds are the logical consequence. As far as the paranoid thesis goes, he interlards psychiatric language into his book at intervals, and that is about all. My own rejection of your thesis, then, found its roots in my utter inability to demonstrate in a sustained pattern of fact, in Joseph’s life lived from one day to the next, the validity of a paranoid conception. I have very grave doubts, indeed, that anyone can do so. I outlined some reasons for skepticism in my last letter, and I am also in accord with what Fawn says, that Joseph is best explained in evolutionary terms, that he was a different psychological phenomenon at 17 than at 38. That would apply as well in the case of the paranoid thesis, but I think the evolution for all practicable purposes [p.115] can be traced within the limits of working sanity, as we conceive of sanity. Not “normality,” no, but sanity.
The test I speak of can also, profitably I think, be applied to the earlier years and the revelations, which serve as much as anything to give comfort in the abstract to the paranoid thesis. Some time ago Fawn expressed to me a difficulty here: At just what point in the revelations can you say with assurance that Joseph was honestly deluded instead of an unabashed fraud? Which revelation first partakes of delusion, and how can you thereafter separate the conscious fraud from the delusion? (Perhaps recognizing this difficulty, you have yourself observed that he eked out his deluded revelations with conscious inventions.) This is an appeal to the record the paranoid thesis must face, since as you have yourself said often in print and have repeated in your letter to me, retrospective psychoanalysis of a dead man is at best speculative and uncontrolled, and justifiable only if no other proper tools exist for getting at the dead man’s personality. It may be an injustice, but in the nature of things the paranoid thesis must be subjected to a more rigorous testing and must make a better showing under close examination than any other.
This entire letter may have served to clarify the background to my thinking on the paranoid question, perhaps exhibiting some evidence that I have a more solid philosophy in my appeal to social causation, and a more liberal attitude toward the x-factor of personality, than was immediately apparent. I emphasize the point only that I may not seem to evade your effective burlesque of my point of view, your neighborhood of Napoleons. I submit in your instance, however, that there is a difference between personality—substitution and the kind of thing I have had under discussion; the one is subject to being checked against experience, while the whole history of religion insists upon the personal relationship between man and God, with the frontiers of this relationship so tenuously defined as constantly to defy exact delineation. Any time you deal with the God-concept in society, what men think about God, you come a little unstuck from [what] we may choose to call either experience or reality, and I submit, again, that there is a vast field for the operation of “self-deception” within our definition of normality.
Well, I’m not sure where all this has brought us. I don’t even guarantee that this letter reads intelligibly. It has been written subject to constant interruption by every imaginable circumstance over a period of some days since it was begun. But writing these letters has not been without some personal value to me; you have served me very well as an anvil on which to hammer into greater concreteness some of my ideas about Joseph’s personality. If you’ve got nothing comparable out of the correspondence, you’ll just have to derive whatever consolation anvils do derive from being anvils!
Dale L. Morgan
1. During the 1940s, J. Roderic Korns participated with Morgan and Charles Kelly in a three-way correspondence regarding western trails. Following Korns’s death, Morgan prepared his unfinished manuscript, “West from Fort Bridger,” for publication in the 1951 Utah Historical Quarterly, volume 19, numbers 1 through 4.
20. To Fawn Brodie
Here it is, the new year a week old, and I am just answering your letter. The trouble is that the [Bernard] DeVoto letter had first priority, and I couldn’t get opportunity to complete it until this afternoon. My affairs have been complicated by the fact that Charlie Wood, who went to college with me and who comes from Ogden (you may well know him) has been named executive secretary to Gossett, the new Idaho senator. I wrote him airmail on Christmas Day inviting him to put up with me till he could find a house or apartment for his wife and three kids. He arrived Friday morning and things have been somewhat turned around ever since, as you can imagine.
DeVoto’s reply to me surprised me a little, but only on first reading. The tone of my letter was on the tactless side, and since for some years he has been in a position where criticism of him represented an attack upon him, he was bound to have an emotional reaction. I imagine also that he had felt some little irritation that I didn’t write him in unreserved praise of his ’46 book [Year of Decision] when it came out—after all, he had sunk years into it and by now would yearn for a little more appreciation. Also my consistent interest in detail can be irritating to people who don’t share my enthusiasm for it. Hence DeVoto’s letter to me blew up into verbalisms whereas you own tactful letter brought a very ingratiating reply. Under the circumstances, I think his letter to me was tolerant as well as testy, and the only thing I regret is that he seems to have got me involved in some emotional reactions, saying to you and perhaps thinking to himself that I believe him “dishonest” in certain matters. Actually, I regard him as human instead, as you may gather from these remarks. So I was at some pains in my letter not to quarrel with him. I don’t quarrel as a rule, anyhow, except with extremely disagreeable people, and only with them when I have to.
[p.117] I return to you the letter he wrote (and also the rather touching letter from your aunt). I chose not to refer to this letter in any way that would indicate I had seen it, as you will observe. Much of my letter to him, a carbon of which I enclose, you will note to have been addressed to you over his shoulder, particularly with respect to your intervention in the paranoid discussion.
Madeline [McQuown] still hasn’t received your book, but I have hopes she will lay hands on it this week. It must have arrived at the San Francisco hospital a day or so after she left there, and the forwarding service of the post office was so inefficient that finally they returned the book to me instead. Madeline meanwhile returned to Ogden just before Christmas, and I have sent the book off again. She is beginning to feel a little recovered from her trip, and better, apparently, in general, which is welcome news. The mountains just now are magnificent, she says, as I can well imagine, though temperatures seem to be quite mild and pleasant there at present.
Meanwhile Juanita [Brooks] writes me from St. George [Utah] that Maurine [Whipple] has evidently got an $1800 advance out of Simon & Schuster for a sequel to The Giant Joshua, and is settling down in S[alt]. L[ake]. on this $150 a month income to write the book. Whatever I have to say in criticism of Maurine as a person doesn’t extend to her talents as a business woman. You and I are the merest amateurs, I assure you.
Speaking of Juanita, you somewhat misconstrued her letter to me and my reply, though this was natural enough. Juanita did not make a special point of writing this letter to me, nor did I reply in quite that vein. When she is moved to communicate on any subject, she sits down and writes me like that. I give her a kind of intellectual companionship, if you get what I mean. She is very reserved in St. George about her ideas and ambitions; in fact, nobody but her husband even knows she has been writing that book about Bunkerville. Her husband is not at all a literary person, or a person of literary interests, but I gather that he is a very fine, understanding fellow, wholly sympathetic to Juanita’s interests and ambitions, and willing to take on his own shoulders certain of the family responsibilities and labor so that Juanita may, from time to time, have the freedom and the opportunity to get into things like books and history. Although I know him only as I find him reflected through Juanita, as our own intercourse has been limited to the few occasions he has written me from special circumstances, as when Juanita had an appendectomy a couple of years ago, I have a great deal of respect for him as a person, and could wish that more husbands were as kind, patient, and understanding with their wives when it comes to things not precisely held in common. Juanita doesn’t “give out” at all with Maurine, and she has for her somewhat mixed feelings, not liking, precisely, but a certain amount of understanding and forebearance. Maurine is temporarily off her, but when she needs her for something, she’ll be around again, Juanita remarks without any acidity at all.
[p.118] Your own comments on Juanita’s case interested me for the insight they afforded into your own personality as at present constituted. You seem to find it much more necessary to place things on a clearly rational level than I do. (For instance, without accepting the intervention of God in Juanita’s experience, I am willing to admit of a dozen explanations of this, including pure chance, and feel no impulse to “explain” anything, merely being content with the fact that something happened and that it had an emotional impact upon Juanita.) I have an idea that you haven’t come full circle yet in liberating yourself from the church. You have an intellectual but not yet an emotional objectivity about Mormonism. You are still in certain of a mood of rebellion and you sometimes give vent to a sharp intellectual scorn for the Mormon way of life which practically speaking is an intolerance for it. I suspect that you won’t begin to have really generous feelings, a live-and-let-live philosophy, until you have finished disentangling yourself from the religion. Your intellectual detachment is only a way-station in your development—it aligns you with another culture, that of the world outside, but does not yet equip you to come to terms with the Mormons on the emotional plane. I am inclined to believe that this reflects a sense of emotional insecurity which may require several more years to overcome. You feel a need to maintain yourself in a status of rebellion, sharp, constant, and unequivocal, and on an unassailable intellectual plane, argument held within the limits of reason, and the quicksands of emotion fenced out. Your Achilles heel, of course, is your feeling about your father, and being conscious of that vulnerability you defend it at all times. After a while, I think you will no longer feel the need of fortification, no longer feel the imminent danger that if you relax you will be dragged by the heels back into the Mormon complex. When you reach that stage, you will feel more comfortable about Mormonism generally and your critical reactions, I think, will be softened with a wide acceptance of some of the human values.
And while we are psychologizing like this, let me hazard the opinion that your inability to settle upon a proper subject for a new book is an effect of this emotional complex. Otherwise I think you would be crammed with new ideas, bursting and running over with them, as authors tend to be. I don’t think you fully recognize the extent to which your book was written out of an emotional compulsion, and the extent to which that compulsion persists. You are looking for something that will occupy and satisfy your emotions as Mormonism has done, and it is hardly likely that you will find such a topic or subject. Because writing Joseph’s biography was your act of liberation and of exorcism. You might write on Mormonism again with the same pleasure and intensity—but this violates your idea of your growth as an artist, to be so limited in your subject-matter; you want to find something that will let you develop in new dimensions of your mind. This of course is a good and valid artistic impulse. I have brought up this subject, however, so you can wonder whether your decision about the desirability of doing any new subject [p.119] suggested to you is not subconsciously affected by your feeling of emotional flatness. Maybe—and maybe not. I don’t say decisively so, but I have been interested to wonder about the coloration of your thinking, and the formation of your essential attitudes.
The gossip about you is getting interesting! Now “adopted,” and perhaps in due time, as you suggest, “bastard.” Let’s hope it doesn’t reach the stage where they start to call you a bitch! Enough is too much!
A (somewhat delayed) happy new year to you!
21. To Juanita Brooks
23 May 1946
While the spuds (or spud, rather; just one was left in the sack) are making up their minds to boil, let me get off a rebuke to you. Sister Brooks, I’ll have you know that the time will never come when I will be too busy to read and enjoy any letter you may have the time and energy to write me, and don’t you forget it. I may not be equal to replying in the moment, but this nevertheless holds true on the incoming end. It is always a delight to hear from you and to see your own characteristic (which is to say, vigorous, honest, and sensible) intelligence at work.
You had yourself quite a time in S[alt]. L[ake]., but the occurrence was by no means a waste. Even in the negative sense, you got something out of it. If nothing more than a consciousness of your own freedom.
…At this moment I hopped to the window to see if the plane in the sky was one of the Shooting Stars. It may well have been. They are much on everybody’s mind here since a flight criss-crossed the town Sunday. They move less swiftly across the sky than my mind’s eye had pictured, but just the same, they move so fast and with such a slim grace as to have an incredible beauty of their own. An ordinary plane looks like the sheerest earth-bound machine by contrast; the heart lifts to follow them. For all the world it is like seeing a half dozen flung stones across the sky, or a flock of starlings, [p.120] with the curiously flung look they have always had for me. I wondered about their sound. Darel [McConkey] says it is a kind of shuddering roar, louder than ordinary planes. I imagine your kids would be delighted to see and hear them, airplanes bulking as they do in small boys’, minds, these days.
…By this time the spud, with miscellaneous other things, is tucked under my belt. But I’ll let things digest for a few moments while I gossip further with you.
The G[reat] S[alt] L[ake] book continues to be my No. 1 headache. And not the text only. I worked on it all day yesterday, till past midnight, without writing a word. I was assembling some base maps to send to the publisher so that he can start a cartographer on the maps. Fortunately the publisher sees eye to eye with me on the provision of adequate maps. They are most cooperative about it. But if I want maps that are accurate as to trails and routes, I must provide adequate base maps. You ought to see the collection I am sending as a starter-gasoline company maps, national forest maps, Geological Survey quadrangles, maps dating back to the Wheeler survey of the ’80s, Bear River survey maps, and heaven knows what else. The job would be simple if quadrangles existed for the entire region. But map coverage has been of only the most spotty variety. Fortunately I hear that plans are on foot for the U[niversity] of U[tah] to cooperate with the G[eographical]. S[urvey]. in getting the rest of the state mapped. But that does me no good right now. The map I worked on yesterday is designed to show the country from Pilot Peak to Fort Bridger, and from Fort Fall to Utah Lake, with routes of the Bartleson company of 1841, Fremont of 1843 and 1845, Clyman, Bryant, Hastings, and the Donners, 1846, and the Mormons, 1847, plus some odds and ends. There will be at least three other maps in the book, one showing most of the West, one showing Great Salt Lake in some detail, and one showing the mythical lakes and rivers of the period before exploration. I have been thinking of one to illustrate my Mormon text, illustrating the spread of settlement, etc., but haven’t made up my mind what I want. Maybe a kind of “Mormon empire” map to illustrate its geographic reach. Then also I am having to round up pictures from here, there, and everywhere (there will be 22 pages of pictures). All this, and I am not yet past the two-thirds mark! Sometimes I wonder why I ever took up authorship.
One thing that continues to astonish me is all this speculation about why Fawn [Brodie] wrote her book. It is so apparent to me that I’ve never even asked her, though she has made various remarks to confirm my understanding of her. It is strange that every motive is seized upon except for the obvious one. It makes me wonder if the generality of the Mormons don’t know what it is to be scourged by a driving intellectual curiosity, to have the drive, the urge, and the will to know how something came about. You yourself understand this well enough, in your absorption with the M[ountain] M[eadows] M[assacre]. But how is it the people you talk to, even the ones with generous intentions, are such dead sticks? The origins of Fawn’s [p.121] book are akin to the origins of mine and of yours. There was more than met the eye in certain circumstances of history. How to account for it, and why had no one ever accounted for it? As a matter of fact, Fawn did not originally set out to write a biography of Joseph [Smith]. She got curious about the origin of the Book of Mormon, and what the scientific method could decide about that. This gave her, as she felt, a new way of looking at Joseph and the church, and her expanding interests ramified finally into a book. That was the basic drive. To it you must add the attraction exerted upon an artist by a vacuum in the literature, a craftsman’s urge to do a job well—and also, in Fawn’s case, the desire to interpret her own origins to herself. As she has remarked to me, the book has served her as the autobiographical novel serves many other writers; it has been a kind of catharsis for her.
The motivation is not greatly dissimilar in my own inquiries into Mormon history. It is a challenge to me to try to tread objectively between warring points of view, to get at the facts, uncover them for facts, and see what the facts have to say to a reasonable intelligence. If somebody else had already done this, my interest might have been deflected into something else. But as it is, I am neck-deep in the Mormons!
As a matter of fact, I have a parallel specialism, fur trade and exploration in the Far West. Here the challenge is not that the facts are so contradictory but that they are so sparse and so hard to come by. You have to piece out what you can from the merest skeleton of fact. About three-fourths of my library consists of “Western” source narratives, as distinguished from Mormon books. I think you would be surprised to run over my collection—the Lewis & Clark original journals, the Astorian books and journals, and dozens of others covering the era of the mountain men and the immigrants. When I get the Mormons off my chest, about five years from now, perhaps, I shall have some books to write on this general subject.
Getting back to Fawn’s book, and leaving my autobiography to take care of itself, I find it interesting also, this need the people in Utah feel to interpret Fawn’s book in terms of what her intention was, whether she was “sincere” or not. This seems to me an entire abdication of the critical function. Even if her intent had been malicious, that would not affect the solid fact of her book itself. Are the things she has written good history or not? Are they susceptible of being tested as fact or not? People leave these things aside and feel around for ideas about her to occupy their emotions. This is natural enough, perhaps. But one would look for more perceptive attitudes on the part of those who avowedly use their minds to think with, this fellow [Daryl] Chase,1 for instance. The first rule for any book is to begin with the book, not the author. I think I apply this in my own critical reactions. I don’t have an elevated idea of Maurine Whipple as a person, but I still feel that her Giant Joshua is the best romantic novel about the Mormons yet written; and I didn’t qualify that with “romantic” until Scowcroft’s book came along. Similarly I [p.122] was not favorably impressed with Virginia Sorenson on the one occasion I met her, four years or so ago; I liked her husband much better. But the lady can write, there’s no doubt about it; she can probably write still better than she has up to now. And if she can and does, more power to her, no matter what my personal reaction is to her.
[LDS writer] Claire Noall flitted through town last week, but I didn’t see her. She expected to be back from N.Y. about the middle of this week, but I have not yet heard from her. In re[gard to] the diaries you speak of, I wonder if there isn’t some mistake, when you say the ones she borrowed are missing. At least, the ones she had copied were those for 1846 and for 1849-50, and you include these among those you itemize to me.
Your anecdote of Marguerite [Sinclair2] is perfectly characteristic. Oh, well, if they [the Utah Historical Quarterly] expurgate the Tracy journal, I will promptly unexpurgate my copy by proofreading it against the original in the N[ew] Y[ork] P[ublic] L[ibrary], so I, at least, have nothing to lose. I waged the same battle once over the Priddy Meeks journal, and it was because of my announced intention to quote from the original instead of an emasculated version when, in due course, I used the material that [J. Cecil] Alter elaborately prefaced his editing with a statement of what he did to the journal. So I figure that if only in a negative way, I sometimes have a good influence on Utah historical publication!
I am interested to hear that you have several times reviewed Children of the Covenant. Summarize for me what you tell your audiences, Juanita. You talked about it when you first read it, but what you said to me is not necessarily what you would say in a formal public review of it.
I picked up a copy of Lillian McQuarrie’s book off Brentano’s library discard table a week or so ago but haven’t had any time to look into it. This summer, sometime. Do you know her personally? What do you think of her?
Returning to another old theme, I asked my mother again about the James S. Brown papers. She has learned that they are in the possession of a daughter, Louette, who is a Mrs. Henry Tanner (a 5th or 6th wife, hence evidently getting on in years). I gather that she is found a somewhat different person by some of her own family, so if you follow up on her in S[alt]. L[ake]., you will no doubt want to play your cards close to your chest. I don’t know what the address is, but it is doubtless in the city directory or phone book. I also asked Mother if Nora Shumway knew anything about the Charles Shumway journals, if he kept any. She says she will ask when she sees her next. As I understand you know her also, you might want to inquire yourself, though I imagine his journals, if any, will turn out to be in the [LDS] H[istorian’s]. O[ffice].
And speaking of journals, there is a typewritten copy of an Oregon journal of 1854 in the Library of Congress which is something of a treasure. It has certain naturalistic comments such as I have seen in few if any other journals. Although it is several years since I [p.123] looked at it, I remember, for example, one entry about like this: “Got up at daybreak and you know what was the first thing we done, as ussual.” (I’ve sometimes thought that it would make an interesting chapter in social history to know just how people managed this part of their lives along the Overland Trail—how it accorded with their notions of modesty and convenience, and so on. But for the most part one has to fill in this part of the record of the trail from one’s own imagination.)
Well, as you can see, it is easy to talk to you, once I get started. I had better break off, I guess. I’ll just squeeze in a comment that Ray West’s introduction to his anthology, which was published Monday, strikes me as having a lot of philosophical nonsense in it. He is talking with his eye on Big League Criticism, not the authors and materials, in discoursing on moral facts, etc. Not that there aren’t some interesting observations made, but in my view his discourse is inadequate and in large part irrelevant. He should look to social history, not to esthetics, if he wants to know why we have some writers now and didn’t have some a while back. I might add that I am annoyed with him over his reprinting my piece on Mormon novelists. I gave my permission if he made certain necessary corrections, but I’ll be damned if he made the corrections, and there are some brand new errors and elisions to boot. Incidently, I think his excerpt from [Maurine Whipple’s] The Giant Joshua, when stacked up alongside the excerpt from [Vardis Fisher’s] Children of God, neatly demonstrates my point that the former is much superior as a novel.
Sister Brooks, thassall! Good night, sleep tight.
P.S. Juanita, I’m going to ask you to do something for me, if, as, and when you can. I would like very much to get a record of Brigham Young’s wives and of the women sealed to him. Fawn told me she saw the card catalogue containing this information at the Genealogical Society while in Utah last year, but the time equation was such that she couldn’t copy any of these cards, and just barely did get the dope on Joseph, in fact. I am well assured that Brigham had more wives than the family has ever acknowledged. For example, my Journal History notes record the death in 1846 of his wife, Mary Pierce, who has never been listed as a wife in any published record. This was not the same person as Margaret Pierce, who lived to a ripe old age. It may be that since Fawn’s book was published the records are inaccessible. But if by hook or crook they can be got at, I would give a great deal to have the authentic information. If you know someone doing genealogical research, for instance, I would be glad to employ such a person to do this particular job of research. I would like to have such records for everyone who was an apostle in 1844 or [p.124] became one by 1849, but I would settle for the information about Brigham Young if I couldn’t do better.
Also, I ran into Nels [Anderson] on the streetcar earlier this week. For a month past he has been with National Housing and is, he says, busier than hell. He showed me the notes of the speech he was going to make about Harry Hopkins at the Hopkins memorial services Wednesday, a speech he has since made. He looks well and says his wife and son are fine.
1. Daryl Chase, a graduate of the University of Chicago Divinity School, had written in 1944 Joseph Smith the Prophet, as He Lives in the Hearts of His People. In 1954, he became president of Utah State University in Logan, Utah.
22. To Fawn Brodie
The date being what it is, it is to be hoped that you are somebody’s mother by now, and that you have come safe and sound and triumphant through the ordeal. I shall be anxiously waiting to hear that you have made out all right, for notwithstanding medical advances, childbearing is serious business and there is always that great big IF to worry about. I’ve been looking for some word from my sister, who has been daily if not hourly looking for her big moment for two weeks past, but up to Wednesday night the mad dash to the hospital had not commenced, and the lack of news is to be taken as probably meaning that things are still status quo. My mother is driving east with her sister and two friends, and who knows, they may yet arrive in New York for zero hour. They are due here Thursday night, and may stay on with me a day or two, depending on what the news is from Brooklyn. Things worked out very well at my mother’s end, for my younger brother, who has been in Japan since October, arrived back home Thursday in time for Mother to see something of him before she shoved off Saturday morning. That is more split-second timing than I am able to manage. Unless [the] O[ffice of] P[rice] A[dministration] is killed dead, the probability is that I won’t launch into the Guggenheim thing until March, what with my inability to get a car, and the G[reat S[alt] L[ake] book [p.125] taking so much time that should have gone into Mormon research. So my timing is months off, a sad contrast to my mother’s.
Incidentally, my mother writes me that she found out that [Albert E.] Bowen1 wrote the onslaught on your book, though she didn’t specify how she knew. Perhaps through one of her friends who is a friend of the Harold B. Lees.2 As you remarked, the Bowen piece was more cogent than many of the critiques we have seen. I believe you will be interested, however, to read Juanita Brooks’s reaction to this, written me some weeks ago before I had seen it myself. The letter is perfectly characteristic of Juanita herself, and typical of the kind she writes me every now and then, so for that reason also I think it will interest you.
Returning to Bowen, however: I think it is a comment on the Mormon provincial mind that Bowen did not have the intelligence to be urbane in his review. If [Robert Joseph] Dwyer stuck his neck out and asked to have his block knocked off, Bowen would have been smart to be ever so much the gentleman and do the job with a scalpel instead of a bludgeon. As it is, he and his church come out as a pair of plug-uglies—capable, of course, but still plug-uglies. Bowen is perfectly right in his contention that the naturalism of your book can be turned as tellingly on the Roman Catholics as upon the Mormons. This was a good point and he could have shown up Dwyer and at the same time made himself out a very forbearing Christian. But his mind is evidently not of that caliber. I don’t know whether the churlish headline for the review is his idea or that of the [Deseret] News, but this is of the same kidney.
But as you guess, I am definitely annoyed at his use of the quotation from my S[aturday] R[eview of] L[iterature] review. For one thing, he quotes as much as, if not more so, out of context in using this review as you do in any accusation he levels against you. For another thing, his use of part of my review is based on nothing more substantial than a printer’s boner! You may recall that when my review was published, I mentioned to you a word transposition in the next to the last paragraph. Well, let me now be explicit. The original text of my review read,”…may be subject to both a kinder and a more far-rangingly objective reinterpretation.” The way it came out in print was, “a far more rangingly objective reinterpretation,” and this, I submit, is something else again. However, this review proves me wrong in one thing. When Darrell Greenwell told me that my review of your book would probably exile me permanently, I asked him how any church member would ever find out I had reviewed it. I can only suppose that Bowen read the blurb Knopf used and looked up the entire review at the library!
The [Hugh] Nibley pamphlet [No Ma’am That’s Not History] came just after your letter did. I think it is something of a slapstick performance, and the irony of it is, Nibley [a professor at LDS church-owned Brigham Young University] is much more intoxicated with his own language than you, the “glib English major,” are. Nibley’s law of parsimony is all right, but no church member has ever [p.126] been willing to apply that law to the record of Joseph’s life. It is applied only to the belief about Joseph’s life, which is another proposition entirely. The interesting thing is that both Nibley and Bowen actually leave severely alone the factual structure of your book. Their quarrel is with words alone. Change, say, 20 phrases in your book and you have eliminated nine-tenths of their criticisms without in any way impairing the structure of the biography. Actually, you are being challenged on very few fundamental grounds. The court record, chiefly. I am surprised at how that has aroused everybody. You recall that it aroused Durham, also. Well, if that record is to be found in any town or county archives, you may be sure I will find it when I lay hands on a car. The thing that worries me is whether the Saints may not undertake such a hunt in advance of me. I can just imagine some zealous missionary confiscating the page from a record and shipping it to Salt Lake City so that the experts can look it over and put it away, satisfied it is a forgery!
If you knew as much about [German historian Eduard] Meyer as you tell me, you knew more than I did. All I knew about Meyer was that [George B.] Arbaugh used him [in his 1932 Revelation in Mormonism]. I wouldn’t have thought that any foreign scholar ever made a critical investigation that was worth a damn about Mormonism, and even Meyer will have to convince me, no matter what his attainments may have been in other fields. But it will be a damnably annoying chore for me to find out what he had to say.3 Someone could translate aloud to you, but for me such a translation would involve an actual written translation, a tough proposition to face. I suppose I will have to get someone to read it and summarize what it’s all about, then in one fashion or another, I can get an abstract or translation of anything worth thinking about. I promise you that no more than you will I learn German for the single purpose of using this one book.
At this point I go round up your letter, and I see that all this time I have been passing by the big news it contained. A thing like that is a rude shock, there’s no two ways about it. If one could resign from the church, you and I would have resigned ten years ago. But one cannot resign, one can only be excommunicated, and I would guess that as in my own case, you did not demand excommunication because there was no point to causing needless pain to numerous relatives. Anyhow, I hope you aren’t prepared to retire forever from the soil of Zion. When I finally settle down in Utah in a place of my own, I will expect you to come visit me, and we can have your picture in the society section with a caption perhaps like this, “Mrs. Fawn M. Brodie, the well-known Mormon apostate who is now visiting Mr. & Mrs. Dale L. Morgan,” etc.! O.K.? Anyhow, by that time I may be in your company, though it is true I don’t have any vindictive avuncular church authorities in the undergrowth of my life.
Turning from persiflage to more serious things, I am sure you will be sorry to hear that Darel and Anna McConkey three weeks ago finally lost the long fight for their 9-months-old baby’s life. The [p.127] poor kid just didn’t get a break from life. His heart was so greatly enlarged that at the time of his death it occupied four-fifths of the lung cavity. He was in oxygen all the time, the last two months of his life, and had been much of the time for two months before that, but nothing could save him in the end.
I had lunch with [LDS writer] Claire Noall on May 28. She dropped me a card in passing through two weeks before, and looked me up on her way back. It seems that she has twice rewritten her novel since I saw it, and her agent, who has faith in it, is trying to market it for her. She worked with Brewster Ghiselin at the U[niversity] of U[tah] during the school year, and feels that she learned much from him to improve her writing. She has completed her work for a Master’s except for the thesis, and is embarking on a biography of Willard Richards for that. She hopes, but does not really expect, to have the MS done by the end of the year. She went to see [LDS church president] George Albert Smith and somebody else I forget, [George E] Richards [president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles] perhaps, about getting unrestricted access to the church archives for writing her biography. It seems that her mention in your book had put the touch of the devil on her, and she had to do some convincing, but finally got full pledges of cooperation and no censorship! I asked Claire if there had been any reactions to your acknowledgments, and she said some, adding that she told people she was proud to be mentioned in such a scholarly work. From what she says, Levi Edgar Young4 is displaying a much more liberal attitude toward the book than many others of the dignitaries.
This brings us back to the familiar subject of your book. There is a favorable paragraph about it in the first June issue of Christian Century, in case you haven’t seen this, and I also saw a review of it in the current issue of New York History. The latter reviewer is the same fellow who wrote that piece on early Mormonism I showed you a year or more ago, and to some extent it reflects his convictions that he knows more about significant parts of your background than you do!
By the way, this Father Dwyer is not just a run-of-the-mill cleric. His doctoral thesis written at Catholic University in 1942, “The Gentile Comes to Utah,” is one of the few first rate monographs in Mormon history that has been written, though I feel it gives inadequate attention to the economic background of the religious and social conflict it more particularly dwells upon. One can count on the fingers of one hand the works of equivalent stature in Mormon and Utah history. I understand that personally he is something of a conceited egg, but on the basis of this thesis he is a Grade-A workman. The Yale library no doubt has a copy if you want to look it up. I like one phrase in his bibliographical discussion, when he says that one Catholic historical work in Utah repeats the errors of an earlier one “almost verbatim.”
I looked up Josiah Thorpe in the Union Catalog but he is not listed, so I suppose I will have to chase this guy down in Missouri [p.128] libraries—when I get there. I have copied the [B. H.] Roberts Parallel [regarding the Book of Mormon] in odd moments at the office and have just finished it, so I return it with the other stuff in this envelope.
And that reminds me. Last week while looking at Mrs. Elizabeth Kane’s Twelve Mormon Homes, published in 1874 and descriptive of the trip she made with [her husband] Thomas L. through Utah in 1873, I noticed that she mentioned (on p. 3) an encounter with a woman who told her positively that Joseph had revealed the principle of plural marriage to her 36 years before, and that she had become his wife. Mrs. Kane says the woman was now the wife of a high church member, but regrettably she does not give her name. If true (that is, if the recollection of the date is true, for there is little doubt about the incident itself), we have an interesting reference of 1837 on plural marriage.
I guess I’d better get started on a new chapter of my book. But let me first say that I seem to recall this Claire Stewart Boyer as a professional book reviewer in Salt Lake—the lecturer type, that is. You gave me some leaflets a while back, sent you by your mother, referring to these Sons of Aaron. I guess I’ll have to dig up the dope about them when I get back to Utah.
All this literary gossip! Still, we have to dispose of it when it comes up. Suppose you write me next about yourself in the newest and most personal sense, how things went at the hospital, what the new accession to the family looks like, how you’re feeling, and all those non-literary details which interest me. Also tell me if Dickie has realized what was coming in his life. I guess that preparation of an older child for a new birth is one of the most important jobs a mother has to do, to minimize as far as possible the psychological shock inevitably involved.
With very best wishes, now especially,
P.S. I omitted to thank you for the photos, which arrived safely some time ago. You may keep the Rocky Mountain Review, as I have another. Oh yes, and have you Stanley Ivins’s5 address?
4. Levi Edgar Young (1874-1963) was a member of the LDS church’s First Quorum of the Seventy. He had taught history at the University of Utah, had twice been appointed president of the Utah State Historical Society, and was author of The Founding of Utah.