MORMONS AND EPISCOPALIANS AND CATHOLICS AND OTHER FOLKS AND MATTERS [HUNTER GRAY MAY 24 2003] UPDATED DECEMBER 7 2007
UPDATE LETTER TO A GOOD FRIEND [HUNTER BEAR] 12/07/07
UPDATE COMMENT BY HUNTER BEAR DECEMBER 3 2007:
NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR: 5/10/07
The early morning, for me, is starting off very well -- and I certainly don't think I am dying [at whatever deliberate speed] via my admittedly deadly companion, Systemic Lupus. While drinking my gallon of strong black coffee and smoking my [whiskey-flavored] tobacco in one of my several pipes, I do marvel at the offerings of the major media on television. I'm struck, even a bit surprised, by the primacy of "Religion" in our national discourse -- something which I essentially consider the private province of a person [whether believer or non-believer.] I have been privileged by History and various forces, "seen and unseen," to have a reasonably interesting life so far and to meet a very wide range of fascinating examples of Humanity, And with most of these I could [and can] always find some common ground. I like most folks. I do have thoughts on people and religion which I occasionally share and, now and then, post on our huge Hunterbear website -- along with a vast amount of other material. About four years ago, I wrote the following and posted it on our site -- and it's suddenly, in the past six weeks, seen a very significant "spike" in visitation. [This is confirmed, in part at least, by its up-high location on several Google pages. ] In the spirit of the morn, I share it now:
"A lapsed Mormon who hasn't been to church
for 30 years, Freeman said she
found Fairclough's letter ominous, and considered it a disciplinary summons.
''This letter was intended to silence or punish or intimidate me as a
writer,'' she said."
Note by Hunter Bear:
Well, as starters, 30 years is a very long time. As I recently told a
Catholic friend of mine, who is unhappily located in a Midwestern diocese
where the very unusual and excommunicating Bishop is something out of
Jurassic Park, "you can always hook up with the Episcopalians."
Actually, I'm quite fond of the Episcopal church whose general thrust on
social justice issues is solid indeed -- and I always admired its maverick
Bishop, Jim Pike, who was a strong supporter of civil rights and peace and
parapsychology as well. Mother was an Episcopalian [high church or "Anglo
Catholic"] and, although I was and am Roman Catholic like my Native Dad, some of us
often went back and forth -- practicing ecumenism and inter-communion ages
before those official toes went into any churchly waters. In fact, at one
point, I was a leader in Monsignor Albouy's Explorer Scout troop and, at the
very same time, president of the local Episcopal youth organization,
Canterbury Club. [I've never been one to fret about the fine points of
theology -- or ideology.]
Although, of course, we always admire the courageous and principled Sir
[Saint] Thomas More, and are bitter about the role a determined Henry VIII
and an uneasy Thomas Cranmer played in his judicial murder [see the
extremely fine film, "A Man for All Seasons" for all of that], I much
regretted it when the Episcopal church revised its Prayerbook, removing the
elegant prose of Cranmer [just like I've hated to see most statues taken out
of our R.C. churches.]
And, at the same time I was hopping back and forth across the really very
narrow canyon separating Catholicism from the Episcopal/Anglican faith, I
was also, as I have always been throughout my life, very immersed in certain
Southwestern Native theologies and practices -- e.g., the Navajo and the
Laguna. [My Navajo brother and age peer was Lee T. Benally who lived
extensively with our family at various points while he attended public
schools at Flagstaff.]
And then, too, I sometimes accompanied another good friend -- a g/g grandson
of the John Doyle Lee mentioned prominently in the accompanying news
story -- to the local Flagstaff LDS church. At 15, I was a pall bearer at
my friend's mother's funeral. I've lived in Mormon country much of my
life -- knowing many LDS people at Flagstaff, in the various Indian
nations, in Mine-Mill, and in a million other settings. I have Mormon
nieces and nephews. Long ago, the LDS church dumped its bar -- which
originated in early 19th century New England -- to full membership and
participation by Blacks and a great many then joined the church whose
African missions have been thriving. As vigorous a proponent of Mormonism I
ever met was the African American city bus driver at, of all places, Grand
An old Army buddy of mine -- a S/Sgt -- was the son of the head of the
Communist Party of Utah -- but my friend and everyone else in the family
[other than his dad, of course] were very good Mormons and the father, a
copper miner and one-time Wobbly, was a great guy in his own right who
smoked like a chimney and listened to Joe Glazer's Joe Hill songs.
Big Bill Haywood, born an Episcopalian at Salt Lake City in 1869, got on
very well with the LDS folk, mentioning all of that in consistently friendly
fashion in his 1928 autobiography. He especially recalled Porter Rockwell,
the kindly and then venerable Mormon gunman who was Prophet Brigham Young's
chief bodyguard. And, of course, the genial Butch Cassidy and most of his
outlaw Wild Bunch crew -- especially committed to pursuing Eastern-owned
banks and trains -- were all Mormon boys.
The great and charming Left lawyer, Nathan Witt, who represented Mine-Mill
over the longest and toughest Red Scare years, got along wonderfully well
with the Utah membership [as he did with the whole IUMMSW membership,
everywhere] -- who always invited him to big Mormon family doings and
sumptuous covered dish suppers. Both Nat Witt and the Mormon Mine Millers
were fascinated by many of the similarities between Jewish and LDS extended
family structures. And, of course, traditional Mormonism, many of whose
roots lie in American utopianism, is no stranger at all to grassroots
Mormonism and Native Americans have always had a very close and often very
mutually supportive relationship. In the Southwest, the pioneer emissary to
the tribes over decades was Jacob Hamblin -- always a staunch and courageous
advocate of Indian rights. [For him is named Jacob's Lake, in the North
Kaibab, north of the Grand Canyon.] And there have been many, many others
Many of our friends and immediate neighbors right here at Pocatello -- of
all ethnicities -- are LDS. Most are strong labor people and most are
Democrats. My youngest daughter's "steady" -- an excellent guy, in
IBEW --comes from one of the region's oldest LDS families: ranchers and
very strong labor unionists.
Ms. Judith Freeman has joined other ex or lapsed Mormons in writing yet
another book trashing the LDS church. Google, as with ex-Reds and
ex-Catholics and avowedly ex-gays and other ex-folk, is full of poisonous
junk about Mormons from those who've cut and run. Frankly, I doubt very
much that she gets bounced by the Church.
I should add that this attached newspaper article contains some significant
inaccuracies in its own right. The AP and some other media often shoot
wildly at the Church and/or simply mess up. Church leaders never sought to
blame the Mountain Meadows tragedy -- the massacre of a hostile wagon train
of Gentiles -- on Indians. There may have been some locals who tried that
briefly -- but not the LDS leadership nor most of the faithful.
Of course, all is not perfection in Mormonism. In the late spring of '59, a
buddy and I junketing toward Salt Lake City and the copper country to its
west/southwest, were warned by a friendly waitress that the town-coming-up
was at that point the worst speed trap in the Intermountain West. "You
Arizona boys be real careful," she said, "the Mormons are building a new
church and the Bishop [a local leader] is the justice of the peace. They
call him Wyatt Earp." She also advised that the small town had,
pragmatically, moved its legal city limits a mile out into the sage brush on
either side -- and "you'd need a great big magnifying glass to see the speed
limit signs, 20 miles per hour."
How right on every count that good lady was! I drove my old Chev station
wagon 15 mph through the barren sage, down into the little green patch along
a river that was the Real Town, and then through much more barren sage.
Even when we were sure we'd escaped the Web, we glanced apprehensively
behind us for the longest time.
That certainly wasn't common Church practice -- but it did happen.
The fact that this book of Ms. Freeman's, Red Water, is a novel allows her
to be cavalier about any primary commitment to historical accuracy. I doubt
she's any Wallace Stegner [the really great American fiction writer, a
Gentile who, growing up mostly in Utah, was very friendly to Mormons] and
even he made an inadvertent mistake or two.
Our local Pocatello newspaper, Idaho State Journal, ran an extensive story
on Ms Freeman's novel. The accompanying author photo showed a quite
attractive woman in what can only be described as a suggestively seductive
pose. [I was, I must say, pleasantly surprised at the oft-staid Journal.]
And she certainly didn't look worried about Anything at All.
Novelist fears book may bring Mormon excommunication
AP Photos SLC803
By PATTY HENETZ
Associated Press Writer
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Nineteenth-century polygamy and the Mountain Meadows
Massacre are hypersensitive subjects in Mormon history. Judith Freeman wrote
about both in her 2002 novel, ''Red Water.''
Now she believes she may be excommunicated.
In July, six months after the novel's publication, the president of the Los
Angeles stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Michael
Fairclough, wrote Freeman a letter inviting her to meet with him ''to
discuss your feelings about the church and what, if anything, should be done
A lapsed Mormon who hasn't been to church for 30 years, Freeman said she
found Fairclough's letter ominous, and considered it a disciplinary summons.
''This letter was intended to silence or punish or intimidate me as a
writer,'' she said.
While Freeman hasn't been active in the church for decades, neither has she
asked to have her name removed from membership rolls.
The notion that church authorities might do that for her ''brought up all
kinds of feelings,'' Freeman said. ''One of the feelings was, 'I'm about to
be ejected from the tribe,' a tribe my ancestors had served for
In his letter, Fairclough said he was generally aware of her reputation as a
gifted writer. ''I am also aware of public reports that you have long since
become disaffected with, and estranged from, the Church,'' he wrote.
In an interview, Fairclough denied his letter was a prelude to church
discipline. ''I just wanted to talk to her,'' he said. ''I haven't read the
book. I've only read about it.''
In ''Red Water,'' which won a 2002 Utah Book Award, three of John D. Lee's
wives tell the story of the 1857 massacre in southern Utah of more than 120
Arkansas pioneers bound for California.
Lee, the adopted son of church prophet Brigham Young, was the only man found
guilty for the killings. On March 23, 1877, he was taken back to the scene
of the crime, where a firing squad sat him on his coffin and shot him to
Church leaders at first blamed the massacre on Piute Indians, then on
apocalyptic fanatics on the frontier led by Lee. Historians continue to
argue about the tragedy to this day, with some saying church prophet Brigham
Young incited the mob and allowed Lee to be his scapegoat. Others maintain
Young couldn't have known the settlers would attack the wagon train.
In 1999, crews preparing a new monument to honor the Mountain Meadows
victims inadvertently uncovered the scattered bones of at least 28 adults
and children, some of whose skulls bore bullet holes. The conclusion they'd
been shot at close range implicated the Mormons.
But at the dedication of the memorial, church prophet and President Gordon
B. Hinckley, while saying the church had a moral responsibility to remember
the victims, refused to acknowledge any church complicity in the massacre.
''Let the book of the past be closed,'' he said.
For years, the story of the killings had been suppressed. Freeman said that
when she was growing up, she knew only vaguely that something terrible
happened at Mountain Meadows, but she, like many other Mormons, believed
Indians did it.
In 1996, after three of her novels and a short-story collection had been
published, Freeman discovered Juanita Brooks' 1950 history, ''The Mountain
Meadows Massacre,'' and decided she had to write a novel about it.
That meant she had to write about polygamy, too.
Freeman said that as a child with polygamous ancestors on both sides, she
was taught a romantic view of polygamy, that everyone was happy and everyone
But as she immersed herself in the 19th century diaries, including those of
her own ancestors, Freeman concluded that polygamy, which church founder
Joseph Smith said was an edict from God, caused plural wives to suffer
emotionally and physically from the hunger and harshness and emotional
privations of their lives.
The Mormon church outlawed polygamy in 1890. It excommunicates practitioners
and denies any affiliation with modern-day polygamous sects that consider
themselves the true practitioners of original Mormon doctrine.
Lee was excommunicated in 1870 for his part in the massacre. The church
quietly restored his membership in 1961.
In ''Red Water,'' Lee's excommunication terrified his wives, dependent on
him both for sustenance on Earth and a place in heaven. Emma explains that
''to be excommunicated was to become a pariah, an outcast, in this world,
and to join the realm of the damned in the next.''
Freeman said Mormon doctrine on excommunication, ingrained in her since
childhood, contributed to her dismay over Fairclough's letter.
Other Mormon artists have run into similar trouble with the church.
Tom Rogers in 1976 wrote the play ''Huebener'', the story of a 17-year-old
German Mormon boy who was guillotined for resisting the Nazi party; his
bishop was a party member trying to protect the church. After its initial
run at Brigham Young University, Rogers, a Russian professor, was told he
couldn't produce ''Huebener'' again.
English professor Brian Evenson in 1995 left BYU for the University of
Denver and eventually left the church amid Mormon criticism of the dark
themes and parallels to Mormonism in his fiction. He has since left the
Playwright and film director Neil LaBute was barred from taking sacrament
and participating in church priesthood activities for creating despicable
''I really do feel it's very difficult and, in fact, even impossible to be a
genuine writer and maintain that allegiance to Mormonism,'' said Evenson,
now a professor at Brown University.
But Rogers, who is fully active with the church and currently producing
''Huebener'' at a community theater in Bountiful, Utah, said that as a
Mormon writer, ''you have to follow your own vision, then take your
Meanwhile, interest in Mountain Meadows remains high. A history of the
massacre, ''Blood of the Prophets,'' by Will Bagley, was published last
year. Two other versions by journalists are about to be released, and church
historians are writing their own book.
''I think many people in the church would be relieved to face the truth
because then they could move on,'' Freeman said. ''I'm not out to reform the
church. I just want to write novels.''
Hunter Gray [Hunter Bear]
Micmac / St Francis Abenaki / St Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunterbear]