Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bringing Music to Short Creek: My Review of Tom Bennett's New EP

When most people think of Mormon fundamentalists, they think of the members of the FLDS Church, with the practice of multiple wives and prairie dresses.  That is the way that the media portrays them, at any rate.  However, as a Mormon fundamentalist myself, that world is as alien to me as it is to you.  Nestled in the red rocks of Short Creek, in the small communities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, these people have kept themselves sequestered from the rest of society, enshrouded in mystery.

However, in recent years, as their megalomaniac leader Warren Jeffs tries to maintain his grip from his life imprisonment and the demands on the people become more outlandish and ascetic, more and more people are slipping from that tight control, and the community is imploding.

From personal experience, I know that the one of the first things that authoritative figures try to take away from the people is entertainment - movies, TV, computers, music, etc.  These things become verboten in an insulated society.  And one of the first things that people do when they break free is to embrace these things as they find liberty again.  I plan to blog soon about my personal experiences, but my story is certainly not unique.  As the community begins to unravel and the prophet begins to lose control, the FLDS people are beginning to take in arms things that once were denied to them.  For instance, social media is literally being flooded by people who were probably denied even the simple use of computers.  And now, music is coming to Colorado City.

Tom Bennett, a traveling one-man blues band with roots in the Deep South of Georgia, brought music to the community not long ago by strumming his guitar and playing his harmonica.  The sounds drew a crowd of curious children, and soon he was playing gigs in the local bakery.  This inspired Tom to organize The Colorado City Music Festival this upcoming April 22nd right in the heart of the FLDS.  Tom will be playing, and he has recruited a crew of other musicians to help bring music to this place that has, for so long, been empty of sounds other than the desert wind.  (Please consider donating to make this free festival possible by donating to this link.)

 Now, about Tom's music - since I have been following him on social media for the last year, I can say that Tom is somewhat ubiquitous.  He is one of the busiest musicians I know, traveling far and wide.  There is scarcely a day that goes by during the week that he is not playing some venue, some bar, some coffee shop somewhere in the United States,  So, it is appropriate that his new EP is entitled "I Am Everywhere".  This three-song gem is a perfect introduction to Tom's music.  This is straight-up blues Muddy WatersJohn Lee Hooker blues.  It captures the essence of of Tom's one-man act.  The primary single is "Show Me the Exit Sign", which extols the virtue of being on the road, a common theme in Tom's music.  The guitar is driven and insistent, and Tom's voice is rich and throaty, perfect for singing the blues.  The harmonica and background vocalists give ambiance to the song, and I envision driving on a highway through the bayou.  "The Conductor", with its hip-shaking percussion and implacable guitar riffs plunge forward like a locomotive while Tom wails, "I can't get you off of my mind."  "Where Do You Keep Your Love?" rounds out the collection with a subdued pace and Tm's keening wail, carried by his harmonica.  This one if probably my favorite of these songs.

Tom's music is the perfect music to bring to the people of the FLDS communities.  Without needing to explain, some hip hop outfit was not going to make the same headway.  These are simple people, close to the earth, living their lives in the colorful canyons where John Ford shot his Westerns.  These people needed something down to earth, something rooted in the back roads of our country, something relatable to them, and Tom's music has struck a proverbial chord, has resonated with this people.  And it will to you, too.

Please consider attending The Colorado City Music Festival on April 22nd of this year.  I have also booked Tom for my Feast of Tabernacles celebration in St. Johns, Arizona this October.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Year of Polygamy

So, I was recently contacted by Lindsay Hansen Park, one of the directors at the Sunstone Foundation, a Mormon think tank.  Lindsay has been a series of well-known and well-received podcasts called "Year of Polygamy".  I was honored that she picked me to be a part of it.  I quipped that this was what every narcissist needed - a forum to talk about themselves!

This last Tuesday, I was snowed in at home, and I had to fire up my generator just to talk.  I made a Skype appointment to interview with Lindsay.  She was very kind, and it is very nice to have someone at her intellectual caliber give Mormon fundamentalists and polygamists such an objective voice.  It was a pleasant experience.

Anyway, the podcast aired yesterday, and I am very pleased with how it turned out.  In essence, I give highlights from my life.  I hope it is interesting.  You can listen to it here.

Lindsay has given me the possibility of presenting at this year's Arizona Sunstone Symposium with a segment aptly entitled "From Punk Rock to Polygamy".  I am looking forward to it!

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Land of Bountiful, Part 3

Bountiful, BC
So continuing on my visit to Winston Blackmore in Bountiful, British Columbia - you can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

In the morning, we got up and got ready.  We did up the living room for prayers, and then our friends came over.  We had prayers.

Our friend explained that the people here don't know that much about the endowment.  There were endowments done in the FLDS, but it was reserved for only the very elite, so they have a bit of a disdain for them.  He also said to not use the word “patriarchal”, because it is viewed in the same light.

While we were offering the last prayer, there was a knock at the door.  No one seemed to hear, but I could hear voices.  Whoever it was eventually just left.  There was discussion about whether or not they could see us through the window.  I don’t think it matters. 

After prayers, I could see that Winston had tried to call me.  My friends called, and we were told to come to breakfast to Winston’s house.  We got ready and packed up.

Right before we were ready to leave, my father-in-law lost the car keys.  I swear, first the credit card, and now the keys.  He finally found them, and we went to Winston’s for breakfast.  He was eating breakfast with Frank and Daryl Naylor, two older men from Bluffdale.  Their wives sat at the far end of the table, obviously separated from the men.  They asked how I was a Jessop.  They were Barlows, and they knew my Uncle Jim. 

Winston did mention that we must be deep sleepers, because he had knocked on our door and we didn’t answer.  Nothing else was said about it.

Breakfast was delicious.  After visiting, we got ready and went down to the meetinghouse.  It was quite a large meeting.  We took our seats, and Winston sat up on the stand with his brothers and the Naylors, along with Nate. 

It has been funny to observe Winston.  I would characterize him as a benevolent dictator.  In other words, it is obvious that he has a sincere love for all of those around him.  His children come up, and he is affectionate with all of them.  He is jovial and pleasant.  But he is definitely in charge.  He has his finger on the pulse of everything that happens in his community.  My friend said that many of Winston's children have left.  But he has done his best to keep everything together.  He controlled every aspect of the meeting, even leading the music.

He called on Frank Naylor who read an entire discourse by John Taylor.  Word for word.  Pausing after every few words for emphasis.  I was bored to tears.  They had a few other speakers – only people up on the stand.  Winston didn’t call on any of us to speak.  Oh well.

He called on all of his single daughters to sing.  It was beautiful.  I counted fifty of them.  Then a smaller group of daughters sang a version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”, changing the lyrics so that the sexual metaphors were absent.  For instance:

I heard there was a sacred chord
That David played to please the Lord
But you don’t care about Jesus, don’t you?

After the meeting, everyone lines up to shake the hands of the people on the stage.  A couple of them were outright hostile.  One man I introduced myself to refused to give me his name.  I shook Winston’s hand and asked for his email address, but he didn’t know it right off hand.  He invited us to stay for lunch, but my father-in-law declined, saying that we had to push on.  I wish that we had stayed.

There was an old woman in her 80s sitting with the my friends.  She introduced herself to me as the daughter of Morris Kunz and Rhea Allred.  She is the sister to Aunt Nan and Aunt Millie.  She seemed very sweet.

We went outside and said bye to Nate and his sons, and to our friends.
They look so Jessop!  Me with Nate & his sons

On our way back, we got lost and started heading towards Creston.  We got directions and found the border.  It was way easier crossing into the States than it was going into Canada,  We stopped for dinner in Missoula, and tried to stay ahead of a snow storm, staying the night in Dillon, Montana.

Winston Blackmore is a good man.  I don't care about the negative press.  He has held together his people in the recovery of the despotic travesty that is Warren Jeffs.

This trip - and other trips - taught me something significant to me.  We are all Mormon.  I am tired of factionalism and the things that divide us.  This has become somewhat of a theme with me lately.  I am tired of focusing on the things that set us apart.  I want to focus on the things that we have in common and work with every Latter-day Saint on whatever level I can, even if it is just to sit and break bread together.

The Land of Bountiful, Part 2

Bonner's Ferry, Idaho
Continuing on my story of traveling to Bountiful, British Columbia to meet the leader of the Mormon fundamentalist community there, the charismatic Winston Blackmore:

At midnight, the alarm clock in the room where we were staying went off.  I got up and shut it off.  I used my phone as a flashlight to shut it down.  I noticed that I had received an email from a friend from Casa Grande.  One of my good friends from my younger years had suddenly died. 

This was a shock.  I lay in bed for a while, thinking about her, unable to believe that she was gone.  I finally went to sleep, and then I woke up early.

I took a shower, and, when I got out, there was a text from Nate, inviting us over for breakfast.  We got ready and then packed up the car.  It was a chilly, frosty morning.

We drove to Nathan’s house.  He has such a beautiful view from his place that I took a couple of pictures.  (Seen above.)

We went in for breakfast.  I visited with the wives for a while.  I really like them.  

After breakfast, I hopped into the truck with Nate and his son, Vaughn, and my father-in-law followed us.  We drove to the Canadian border, which was just a few miles away.  We got to the checkpoint, and all of the border guards know who the people in Bountiful are.  He asked Nate what his business was in Canada, and Nate answered, “We’re going to see Winston.”

When they learned that I was visiting from Arizona, they started grilling us with questions.  They asked when we were leaving, and I said that I wasn’t sure.  Either Sunday or Monday.  Nate later told me that this was why they detained us for so long, that I needed to be up front with them and give direct answers.  They directed us to pull over, and we waited for about fifteen minutes until they let us go on in into Canada.

My first time in Canada!

We drove to Bountiful, which is just a few miles from the border.  It is beautiful, nestled in a narrow valley up against the tall mountains.  Nate drove us on a brief tour of Bountiful.  He showed us the school, which is broken down into several smaller buildings to avoid permit problems.  He showed us their chapel, where Vaughn is the sound technician.  The community is shared with the Warrenites, or people belonging to the FLDS.  It is not like Centennial Park, or even like out at the my community, where there is a physical separation between the factions.  They all live in the same neighborhood.  You can tell the home of the Warrenites, because they have high fences and trashy yards.  We would drive past Warrenites, and Nate would mutter about whether or not they would say hi.  He said that he has family in Colorado City, like his mother.  They can’t even visit with him, because it will get them in trouble with the priesthood leadership.

I have to admit – there was a lot of tension and an oppressive feeling in the community.

We stopped briefly to see my friend.  He came out of his house, barefoot, to see us.  We saw the rest of the family.  We went in, and he took my father-in-law aside for a little but to speak in private.  Winston contacted Nate and told him to bring us down for lunch.  My friend was invited, too, but he didn’t show up.

We went to Winston’s house, which was enormous, like an apartment complex.  He had a separate building with an enormous kitchen and dining room.  He has wives that work full time in there.  It is like an industrial kitchen, and they make 17 loaves of bread a day.

We sat with Winston, and we ate turkey sandwiches with avocado on homemade bread, raw milk, and peaches.  It was good. 

Earlier, Nate had invited me to ride with him and Winston to Cranbrook, a nearby community, on business.  It would give me a chance to see a bit more of British Columbia.  I was looking forward to it.  During lunch, Winston invited us out to ride with him to Cranbrook, so that we could talk more.
My father-in-law declined, saying that we were here for the benefit of our friends.  I looked at him in disbelief.  We have a chance to have a discussion with this dynamic character, and he declines?  When he saw my look, he decided to accept.  But he said that he would go, and my brother-in-law and I would stay and visit the our friends.  This upset me, too.  So the “adults” go and talk, and the “kids” stay at home.  I know this is the way my father-in-law sees things.  But I really felt like I should have been in on any discussions with Winston.  I was relegated to the status of unimportant, and Winston didn’t take me seriously after that.  I felt marginalized.  This made me a bit angry. 

As we got up from the table, Nate told me, “I guess you got bumped.”

They left, and my brother-in-law and I hopped in with Vaughn.  He drove us around the community, including taking us to see the rodeo grounds.  I got more information from Vaughn than I did anyone else.

I asked him if they live United Order.  They don’t.  All of the land is owned UEP Trust.  If the state of Utah hadn’t appointed a fiduciary to oversee the trust, they would have been in trouble.  Warren Jeffs could have told them to leave, and then they would have been without homes.  They do several work projects together, help each other build homes.  But one of the downsides is that they can only do work projects until they run out of money.  Then they have to wait to get money, and it seems that once funds come in that they move onto other projects, leaving previous endeavors unfinished.  The homes of Winston’s followers are clean, whereas the FLDS homes are junky and littered with trash.  They don’t appreciate their stewardship.

I asked him if they do endowments.  He said that they don’t.  They really don’t know much about that and have enough on their plate trying to live their lives as simply as they can.  Maybe someday they will receive those things.

Something unusual is going on in the community.  There are other visitors in the community this weekend from Salt Lake.  They are members of the Ivan Nielsen/ Frank Naylor group, a breakoff from Centennial Park.  One of Winston’s daughters was marrying someone from that group.  It was the first intergroup marriage.  The only stipulation was that Winston was the one to perform the marriage.

I told Vaughn, “One of the issues facing our young people is that there is no one for them to marry.  They are all related, so in order to get married they are going to have to go outside to find someone.”

“Exactly,” answered Vaughn.  “Winston may have many children, but there is no one here for them to marry.  The way I see things, if you believe in Christ, and we believe in Christ, there is no reason that our communities can’t come together.”

This really struck me.  I understood why we were there.  Winston is a very confident man who does not perceive himself as needing anything.  But there is an opportunity before him, if he will accept it.  Given his prejudices, he will probably not accept it, but it is a chance before him nonetheless.  What do we have to offer?  The ordinances.  The fullness of the priesthood.  What does Winston have?  Sons and daughters for our children.  I felt the Spirit strongly that this was the case.  I was very glad at this point that I stayed and had this conversation with Vaughn.  I was amazed to see that the Lord had brought us here. 
Winston Blackmore

I saw signs on some of the houses about water contamination, so I requested that we go into town to get some bottled water.  Vaughn drove us to Creston, and we went to a grocery store and bought a flat of water.  My brother-in-law had a silly grin on his face the whole time and made it a point to inform the cashier that this was our first time in Canada.

We went back to my friend’s house and visited with his family.  They served us some homemade kambucha. It was my first time trying it, and it was pretty nasty.

We went out to the living room, and then my father-in-law and Nate showed up.  My father-in-law later told me that it was a good visit.  He said that Winston had asked to know a bit about his perception of Joseph Musser.  He told my father-in-law that he appreciated hearing his side of things.  Winston told him that he refused to learn anything from someone who was less intelligent than him.  This made an impression on my father-in-law, because he kept mentioning this. 

Our friends served us a dinner of barley cooked like Boston baked beans with bread.  It was simple, but good.  We said goodbye to Nate and Vaughn, and our friends invited us to stay for their weekly meeting.  The kids all did parts, and it was impressive how they not only recited, but had to explain how they understood everything.

Our friend guided us over to a trailer owned by a man who was out of town.  It was simple on the outside, but very nice on the inside.  There were many huge ants crawling everywhere, though.  I was assigned a bed.  We visited for a while, and then I went to bed after plugging in all of my electronic devices.  I was exhausted.

This story will continue in one more installment.

The Land of Bountiful, Part 1

Bountiful, BC
In the news recently, Winston Blackmore, leader of the Mormon fundamentalist community in Bountiful, British Columbia, Canada was taken to court yet again.  The LDS Church had lapsed in their right to have the name "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" in Canada.  So Winston snatched it up.  He purchased the legal rights to the name, and, of course, the LDS Church took him to court.  They won the right to the name and, furthermore, blocked him from using the name, along with the generic term "Mormon", which is ridiculous.  There are a multitude of Restoration churches and organizations that use that name and who use the Book of Mormon.  How is it that the Utah-based church is the only entity that has a right to that name?

Anyway, I decided to write about my visit to Bountiful in March of last year.

I have a friend who lives in Winston Blackmore's community, and he invited us out.  Our visit would be part of a larger journey.  We were planning on visiting a few families in Idado, detouring up to British Canada, and then finish out by seeing my friend, Nathan Collier, in Montana, whose family was featured last week on "Sister Wives".  The visit in Montana fell through, but we were able to go to Canada - my first visit ever in that fair country.

In the afternoon, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and I left Boise and headed towards Oregon.  Our first mishap occurred when we hit the first gas station.  My father-in-law could not find his credit card.  We backtracked and looked everywhere.  After about an hour of looking, he found it in the shoe he was wearing.  The night before, for safe keeping, he had slid it in his shoe for safe-keeping and then forgot it was there.

We crossed into Oregon - also my first time in that state and cut across to Kennisaw.  It was dusk as we pulled into that city, and the lights extended into the horizon.  I texted my friend in Canada.  He said that he had spoken to Winston.  He had business in Spokane the next morning and would meet us there.  It was dark when we pulled into Spokane.  We stopped by Denny's for a late night dinner, and then checked into a hotel.

For those who know that I have health problems, I woke up with swollen, throbbing legs - all caused by riding into a cramped Prius.  For a moment, I wondered if coming on this trip was a good idea.

At 6:00 in the morning, I got a call from Winston.  His business was detouring him to Missoula, Montana.  He was sending someone else from the community, and then he would meet us later up in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho, right on the Canadian border.

After breakfast, we met Winston's representative in the hotel parking lot - a kind, soft-spoken bespectacled man named Shem.  His accent spoke of southern Utah, and, sure enough, he was originally from Colorado City.  He had business in Spokane, so we piled into his very nice diesel pickup and rode around while he stopped at different shops.  Shem, along with many of the men in the community, worked for a commercial construction business based out of Bonner's Ferry.

Once his business was done, we headed up towards Bonner's Ferry.  My father-in-law followed us in the Prius, and I sat in cab with Shem.  As we got onto the highway, I looked at him and said, "Perhaps you are wondering what we are doing here, what our intentions are.  Honestly, I don't know.  We were invited to come and meet Winston, and well, here we are."

I made this statement, because I could sense the question, the wariness of having a stranger come out.  He didn't say much about my comment.  We spent some time playing the game that most polygs do when they meet each other - who knows who.  As a child, going to visit relatives in Colorado City with my dad, I met many of the old-timers is that community.

Then Shem gave me some background of their community.  For the two hour drive, we have a good discussion.  One of the things that I learned – things were NOT as we were told in Colorado City.  Many of the things that he told me reminded me of things that other ex-FLDS had told me.  Things were really good under “Uncle” LeRoy Johnson.  He was a kind man and well-loved.  There were not so many arranged marriages back then.  The women had a choice where they wanted to go, and, like Centennial Park, they discouraged men from trying to seek wives.

I asked Shem if they now practice placement in marriages, and he skirted the issue, not really answering me.

When Rulon Jeffs came into power, he became sick and had a stroke.  Warren Jeffs came into power, because he isolated his father and began speaking for him.  When Rulon died, Warren essentially seized power and began taking wives away from men and cutting off men.  At this point, many of the people in Colorado City decided to cut themselves off from Warren, including Winston. 

Shem mentioned that they remembered something that they had been taught, that Joseph Musser had had a stroke and that he wasn't held accountable for the things that he did (which, of course, I don’t agree with, because the thing that he did was to set apart Rulon Allred.)

He told me that half of the community lives in Bonner’s Ferry, those who are American citizens, and that half of them live in Bountiful.  Many have wives, children, and/ or jobs on both sides of the border and that many people from the FLDS – or “Warrenites” as they call them – still live in the community. 

Shem is a nice guy, but I could tell that he was feeling us out.  He reiterated that they were a simple people and believed in the teachings of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith.  There was a death in the family down in Colorado City, so Shem was actually going to leave with his family as soon as he dropped us off.  He was going to take us to their offices to meet up with Nate, an employee that works as a foreman for their company.  He made several phone calls while he drove, making arrangements to leave with his family.

We pulled into their shop in Bonner’s Ferry.  It was a large warehouse.  We were introduced to Nate.  Right away, you could tell that he was kin.  His mother is a Jessop, and you can tell.  He was a nice man.  They sat us down in the lobby to wait.  We sat there while Shem arranged to leave, and Nate wrapped up his work.  

They mentioned to us that we would be staying in the apartment that they have on the top story of the office.  I became concerned.  My friend from Canada was texting me, asking me where we were.  I told him that I felt like we were being detained at the office until they decided whether we were good or not, that we were being screened.  My friend from Canada answered, “You probably are.”

I told Nate that we kind of needed to know what the plans were, because our friend was waiting for us.  He said that we were waiting for Winston to get back from Missoula, and then we would meet up with him and decide what we were doing.  He asked if we were hungry, so he invited us out to lunch.

I hopped in with Nate, and we went into Bonner’s Ferry to a local deli.  We met Nathan’s wife who was running the sandwich shop.  She served us sandwich wraps and smoothies.  It was good.  I was so hungry.  She seemed really nice.  She is a Barlow.

While we sat and visited with Nate, we got the same story that we got from Shem, and so I could kind of see their rhetoric.  Their split from Warren.  The justification about Joseph Musser being senile after his stroke and not being accountable, hence Rulon Jeffs not being accountable for the things that Warren did in his name.  The gospel is a simple thing; we should get back to the basics and just teach what Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith taught.  My father-in-law asked him how Warren could get away with bypassing the council and taking power the way he did.  He was intelligent and manipulative.  He was known to be a pervert from the early days.

From there, we went to Nate’s house.  He apologized profusely about his humble house.  It was a beautiful, two-story log cabin.  In the entrance, there was a huge room with an enormous, hand-carved wooden table in that was curved.  We went into the kitchen, and I met Nate’s other wife, also a Barlow.  I really liked her.  They had a large kitchen equipped to feed a large family.  We also met Nate’s sons.  Eventually more people showed up and visited with us.  There were stories and laughter and discussions.  They served us dinner.  Later in the evening, my friends from Canada showed up.  I almost didn’t recognize them; it had been a while since I had seen them.
Winston Blackmore

Then, after dark, Winston showed up with a wife and a daughter.  Winston is a short, stocky man with longish white hair and glasses.  He was wearing a white shirt and a leather vest, and didn’t look at all like someone who was once FLDS.  He had a charisma about him, and the whole room got quiet when he walked in, in deference to him.  He sat down and talked to us while he ate dinner.

He told us that his father had been set apart as bishop and presiding elder in Canada by Charles Zitting.  He had been set apart in that position by his father.  He recounted the story about they had split off from Warren Jeffs.  He used a lot of the same rhetoric that Shem and Nate had used, about Joseph Musser’s senility.  He talked about, because they had gone through what they had gone through with Warren that they no longer believed in the One Man Doctrine.  As a result, they had adopted a streamlined version of the gospel.  They focused on the teachings of Joseph Smith.  They focused on what Jesus taught.  As far as what other men taught, like Brigham Young, well, they honor what Brigham did and what he taught, but they acknowledge that he was just a man, prone to mistakes. 

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what Lorin Woolley taught,” he said.  “Don’t get me wrong.  I still believe in the 8-Hour Meeting.  I just don’t care about anything he said.  I want to know what the Savior said.”

Although I think they are throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water, I could respect what he said, and I could understand the circumstances that brought them to this.  It was refreshing to hear these sentiments coming from someone from the FLDS.  I told Winston as much when I shook his hand at the end of the meeting.  He brushed aside my comments, though.  I don’t believe he thought I was sincere.  I don’t know what kind of people he is used to dealing with.

We wrapped up the visit, and Nate gave us the key to the office.  We drove back to the office and went up into the apartment.  It was really nice, like a timeshare.  There were two bedrooms, both of them very nice.  My brother-in-law and I took one, and my father-in-law took the other.  The pantry was well-stocked.  I took a chance to use the washer and dryer and did my laundry.  Then I went to bed, my legs quite swollen.  What a day.

I will finish the rest of this story tomorrow...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Baby's Got Setback

I haven't posted on this blog since The Year of the Crutch (2013).  Why?  Because it has been hard to even think about this project.

At the onset, the plan was to have gone out on my experiment by now - to go out hitchhiking for one month without purse or scrip, to preach the gospel to those who would listen, just like the missionaries of old did in the Mormon Church.

The moment I resolved to do this, I have been beset my health issues that, by all appearances, have killed my project.

I could very easily turn this into a blog about medical issues in 2014, but I will give you a quick run down.

2014 was a year of travel.  I went to British Columbia, Idaho, Wisconsin, and to Missouri twice.  All of these were missionary trips.  My wife and I were planning a trip to Europe (also a missionary trip), and to New York.  Those trips didn't happen, because of health issues.

In March, I went to Mesa, Arizona with some of my kids.  I took them sight-seeing and went to a ghost town.  We walked around for the afternoon.  I was wearing new shoes that were a bit tight.  When we stopped for the night, I discovered that my big toe was kinked inside of my toe.  There was a huge water blister that encircled my entire toe.  The problem was - I couldn't feel it due to the neuropathy.

Within two weeks, the whole toe went infected, and I had to have surgery to have most of my toe removed.  It took several weeks to get over it.  On my trip to Wisconsin, I had recently lost my toe.  For the long ride there, there was a mattress placed in the back of a pickup with a shell, and that's how I rode there, to prevent injury to my foot.

No sooner was I over it that I developed back pain.  It started in my shoulder, and gradually worked down to my hips and my legs.  The X-Rays say that I have degenerative disc disease.  They really don't know what is causing it.

Over the last couple of months, I have lost strength in my legs, and the muscles in my legs have atrophied.  It has become increasingly difficult to even walk.  I have lost my appetite and barely eat anymore.  Since September, I have dropped 40 pounds.  I'm not sure why.  The doctors don't know why, because the insurance keeps denying any MRI, any test that could give us answers.  Certainly, it all stems from diabetes.  I have suspected MS.  In the meantime, I have tried to eat healthier and control my diet.

Right now, I can't even walk across Wal-Mart without losing energy.  How am I going to hitchhike across the United States?  I don't know.  I'm trying to stay positive about this, but I have faced some moments of depression, come moments where I wonder how many years I have left on this earth, how many months.

And yet.  I cannot scrap this project.  I believe that God will heal me.  I remember that blessing I had at age 24.  I would go on a mission to all of the world.  My health would be poor, and God would heal me, would raise me off the proverbial bed of my affliction so that I could fulfill my mission.  I'm still waiting for that to happen.

When it does, I will be out that door in a heartbeat, pounding the pavement, Book of Mormon in one hand, and thumb extended on my other one.

Monday, December 1, 2014

An Open Letter to the A.U.B. from Robert S. LeFevre

I was asked by my friend Robert LeFevre to use my networks to post an open letter to people in the AUB. Here is his letter:
November 22, 2014
When my father died his third wife Sharlette was pretty much homeless. Brother Owen called me up and told me he had bought this house in Riverton Utah for her and her children. That was eternally kind of Brother Owen. And our Family is very thankful for what he did. The main problem with the whole thing is this: My father and his wife had an agreement with Brother Joseph Blaine Thompson (his life long close friend) that if Dad was to die (he had bypass surgery and a bad heart) that Brother Joe would take Sharlette to be his wife. Sharlette was on board with that and was looking forward to the association with Brother Joe's Family. Unbeknownst to me at the time was that all the “Royal Priesthood” had condemned Brother Joe (without even a trial) to be a child abuser. Brother Owen, therefor would not let Sharlette go into Brother Joe's family.

I told Brother Owen that my Dad would expect and wanted to pay for the house that was bought for Sharlette. I traded Brother Owen 10 or 12 lots in the Fifetown Subdivision and 12 to 15 acre feet of water to pay for the house. We made an agreement that Sharlette could live in the house for the rest of her life and that the Priesthood would keep control of it until she died, so she would always have a place to live. Once she passed away, it would go to her children.
It wasn't long after this that Brother Joe died. I contend that Sharlette would have been in a much better place had not this Priesthood stepped into my Father and Brother Joe's business. Can we all say, “Consequence?”

Any reasonable thinking individual can plainly see that Owen and Joe had a complicated relationship and Brother Joe was a victim of Priesthood unrighteous crap. (crap is my father's words and it seems to fit this situation.) Brother Joe could be a hard man but was never guilty of the things all those in the A.U.B. accused him of doing. He was one of the most moral men I ever knew, falling victim of money in a banana-box and the long time envy of those who said they were his brother.

I met with Kent and Ron Allred and several others on this deal. It took me over two hours to get them to understand that I didn't want anything other than what I had first stated. I think Kent or Ron said, “now let me get this straight, you don't want anything?” and my reply was, “That's right!” Only a home for Sharlette and her children.

Under the leadership of the fine man Rulon Clark Allred, I made a covenant with you men of the A.U.B., not to say or hear any gossip of another brother unless I have personally confronted them with the accusation. I've personally tried to keep that covenant and pray for you that you are keeping that agreement also. I saw David and Harry here in Stockton MO. and it was uncomfortable for them. I felt that for the most part they have tried to keep that covenant, as I have.

A few years ago we tried to get you to let Sharlette sell the house in Riverton so we could move her to Arizona. Where Sharlette's daughter Clara, could take care of her. My understanding was that Sharlette was told Robert was trying to steal her house. It saddened me to hear that some of the Brethern accused me of being a thief. I've been taken advantage of so many times by men, in the name of Priesthood. All I want to do is forgive and forget. The time of the peace makers to rule is here, and all some can do is side with the other guy and accuse.

I hope there is some sanity in your counsels. My father loved all of you and gave thousands and thousands and never cared, or asked anything in return. Brother Owen was trying to be kind and I love him for his memory and for his kindness.

Brother Owen called me headless because I walked away from the A.U.B., rather than squabble over?? May God Bless you in your Righteousness.

Your Brother in Christ Jesus,

Robert S. LeFevre