Monday, December 30, 2013

Mormon Historical Movie: Only a Stone Cutter

This presentation tells the story of John Rowe Moyle.  Brother Moyle and his family were handcart pioneers with the Ellsworth Company of 1856, the first handcart company.  He settled in Alpine, UT on a small farm.  He was called by Brigham Young as a stone cutter on the Salt Lake Temple.  The animals were needed for the farm, so he walked 22 miles every Monday, leaving at 2 a.m. To be to the temple by 8 a.m. He walked home every Friday arriving at midnight, and did all the household chores on Saturday.   He did this in all kinds of weather.  He did this for over 20 years.  He stopped for a time after he was kicked by a cow and his leg broke.  It had to be amputated.  However he fashioned a wood leg for himself, and after teaching himself to walk, continued his duty at the temple. He explained some calls are not convenient. This is a story of duty, and then doing your duty. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

The History of Christmas in the U.S.
Christmas was not always a popular holiday in America as pointed out by the above link on the history of Christmas.  In fact it was not declared a federal holiday until 1870.  Some of the early Puritanical forces in America outlawed Christmas, and showing Christmas spirit was subject to a fine in Boston.  However other areas celebrated Christmas. 
Christmas went through a reformation in America.  In Europe it was often a raucous holiday, with merriment and a carnival type atmosphere.  Washington Irving did much to rewrite Christmas tradition.  He published a series of stories in the early 1800s redefining Christmas and making it a day to reach out and extend love between classes.  Children's stories and books played an important part in Christmas tradition.  "A Night Before Christmas" written by Clement Clarke Moore was published in 1822. 
Christmas, interestingly, was more embraced in the South then the North.  However, after the Civil War Christmas spread throughout the country, becoming a family oriented holiday and a time of peace.  Harper's magazine began published pictures of Santa every year in 1863.  The story of Virginia O'Hanlan took place in 1897.  The CocaCola Santa pictures were introduced in 1931.
Of note in recent years is the commercialization of Christmas in recent years, and attempts to remove Jesus from the celebration. 

St Louis World's Fair

The St. Louis World's Fair was also known as the Louisiana Purchase Exposition.  It was originally scheduled for the centennial 1903, but was moved back a year to allow more countries and states to participate.  43 of the 45 states at the time participated.  As did many territories, including new territories as a result of the Spanish American war such as the Philippines and Guam.  62 foreign nations participated.  The fair had almost 20 million visitors.
The original land used for the fair is now part of Washington University and Forest Park.  This was the biggest fair up to that time, with 1500 buildings, 1200 acres and 45 miles of roads and trails.  They said you couldn't see it all in a week.
Noted exhibits included Geronimo, ragtime music and Scot Joplin, Helen Keller, 24, lectured, John Phillip Sousa and his band played.  T.S. Elliot also visited.  Many foods were popularized including the waffle cone, peanut butted, iced tea, cotton candy, and even to an extent hot dogs and hamburgers were popularized.
The 1904 Summer Olympic Games were held as part of the fair and went on for a drawn out period.  However they were overshadowed by the fair.  Source Wikipedia
The fair is the backdrop to the 1944 movie, "Meet me in St. Louis."
The stamps show Robert Livingston, French negotiator, Thomas Jefferson U.S. President who ordered the Lewis and Clark expedition, James Monroe U.S. negotiator, William McKinley proponent of the exposition, and a map of the Louisiana Purchase.  They were issued April 30, 1904.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

President Monson Biography: On the Lord's Errand

I guess those words, on the Lord's errand exemplify the life of Thomas Monson.  The other half of this is being sensitive to the spirit, and obedient to the spirit.  President Monson talks of a time he didn't head the spirit, and then arrived too late.  He made a commitment to always head the spirit after this, and as a result has had some marvelous experiences.  Some of the stories told are astounding, and talk of the preparation of a prophet, but also after being called, of taking the mantle of the prophet.  This movie is highly motivational, and very touching.  I had tears in my eyes on several occasions. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Civil War: Trent Affair

As early as 1861 it must have been clear to many of the leaders of the Confederacy that victory would be difficult, unless someone in Europe intervened on their behalf.  The Union had started effecting the blockade of the South, establishing a base of operations at Point Royal which the Confederacy was helpless to oppose without a much greater presence in the sea.
The best chance for Great Britain was the Trent Affair.  The Confederacy was sending diplomats to Europe to seek recognition.  However the U.S. Navy intervened.  The USS San Jacinto under command of Captain Charles Wilkes, stopped the British mail packet RMS Trent and removed the diplomats by force, James Mason and John Slidell. 
The initial reactions of the citizenry of Great Britain was very different.  In the U.S. Captain Wilkes was seen as a hero, while in Britain the stopping of a British ship was seen as an act of war, which could have lead to open hostilities.  Those in the know found hope in the prospects of a British/American war.
The time it took to communicate in those days allowed for both sides to rethink their initial reactions.  The British demanded an apology and the release of the diplomats.  The U.S. rethought their position, knowing that a war on two fronts would have been disastrous.  The U.S. did not issue a formal apology, but explained the move as the removal of contraband which was within the laws of the sea.  The U.S. explained that Captain Wilkes acted without orders, and released the men.  They continued their journey to England, but could never win recognition of the Confederacy which had been their goal.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holocaust Survivor Misha Defonseca

This story is from Readers Digest: Incredible Journeys.  This is an incredible story in survival and perseverance about Mila Defonseca who was a six year old Jewish girl in Nazi occupied Belgium.  When the Nazis occupied Belgium in 1940, the family went into hiding.  While she was at school, her parents were taken by the Nazis, to the "East" she was told.  She was one of 5000 Belgium children rescued by the underground.  Initially she was able to see relatives, but as Nazi control increased this was harder.  Rather than stay with a caretaker who was mean to her, she decided to go and find her parents, after all, they didn't look very far away on the map.  And so she ran away, and headed east.  She had a compass, and a knapsack with a little food.  What are the chances of a six-year-old Jewish girl surviving in Nazi occupied territory with little or nothing to eat. She at worms, berries, leaves, dirt, whatever she could.  She also relied on carcasses of animals she would find by watching the crows fly around.  She made it to Poland (over 800 miles), having traveled through Germany.  Sometimes she would join with other children in a street gang, but mostly she traveled by herself, keeping to the woods.  She was surprised while raiding a home, and someone threw a brick at her, hitting her in the back, breaking a vertebrae.  She was in pain, and a wolf took care of her.  The wolf was shot by a man, and then she lived with a pack of wolves for a time.  She eventually walked back to Belgium, thinking perhaps her parents had returned.  They never returned as they were Hitler Holocaust victims.  For some time she was weary of people, preferring isolation or animals.  She had difficulty reintegrating into society, but eventually did, marrying and coming to America. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Story of Gladys Alward, Missionary to China

Gladys Aylward came to China to work with a fellow missionary, Jeannie Dawson.  However when Dawson passed away she was left to tend to affairs.  This included running an inn where they hoped to teach mule drivers about Christ.  This was hard to do in a rural area where everyone referred to you as the foreign devil.  However she persevered and won the confidence of the people, but in 1937 there was war.  War internally, and war against the invading Japanese.  Aylward found herself taking care of more and more orphans, and an ever increasingly dangerous situation.  By 1940 there were over 200 orphans.  Aylward decided the best course of action would be to send the children to Sian, a city still controlled by Nationalist.  She sent half.  However the push forward by the Japanese forced her hand, and she decided to walk out with the remaining orphans.  She took 96 orphans, mostly between ages four and eight with a few older children to help, over the mountains to Sian.  They reached the Yellow River in twelve days.  The older children had scavenged for food, but they were all hungry.  It took three days before the encountered Nationalist troops who let them use a small boat to ferry the small children.  Aylward was sick and in a blur for the remainder of the trip.  However they finally made it to Sian, still singing and holding hands.
This story is from Reader's Digest: Incredible Journeys. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Another Look at Robert E. Lee

The information in the post is taken from an article in U.S. News Secrets of the Civil War.  The present and interview with an historian, Elizabeth Brown Pryor, who wrote a book based on Lee papers discovered in 2003.  She sees Lee as an enigma.  A stoic military man, but also a family man who swims with his children and studied parenting books.  He flirted with women, but was faithful to his wife Mary Anna Custis Lee.  He inherited slaves from his father-in-law with the legal stipulation that the be freed at a certain time.  Lee saw slaves as property.  He petitioned the court to extend the time he could keep his slaves.  However the court ruled against him and he released his slaves.
Lee had the view that he had to join the Confederacy because he couldn't fight against his family and friends.  In truth Lee had family and friends who fought for the North as well as the South.  Lee agonized over his decision for some time. 
Lee could not self appraise his performance after the war, it was too close.  He wrote in some papers a bitter attitude, but showed forbearance in public.  His wife lost her properties which became part of Arlington Cemetery.  He was a disappointed and heartsick man in his old age.