Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mormon Movie Review: The Long Awaited Day

This movie tells two stories which are related.  It tells the story of Joseph Johnson and a small group of believers in Ghana, Africa.  That had petitioned for missionaries, but the church was not yet ready to move into Africa.
The movie then turns to President Hinckley who talked of the revelation to extend the power of the priesthood to all male Saints, and the blessings of the priesthood to all worthy members.  This revelation came to President Kimball.  He talked of the feeling of confirmation that this was a revelation of the Lord.  Proclamation 2 in the Doctrine and Covenants also relates the story. 

 On September 30, 1978, at the 148th Semiannual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church was asked to read this letter:

To all general and local priesthood officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout the world:
Dear Brethren:
 As we have witnessed the expansion of the work of the Lord over the earth, we have been grateful that people of many nations have responded to the message of the restored gospel, and have joined the Church in ever-increasing numbers. This, in turn, has inspired us with a desire to extend to every worthy member of the Church all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.
 Aware of the promises made by the prophets and presidents of the Church who have preceded us that at some time, in God’s eternal plan, all of our brethren who are worthy may receive the priesthood, and witnessing the faithfulness of those from whom the priesthood has been withheld, we have pleaded long and earnestly in behalf of these, our faithful brethren, spending many hours in the Upper Room of the Temple supplicating the Lord for divine guidance.
He has heard our prayers, and by revelation has confirmed that the long-promised day has come when every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple. Accordingly, all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color. Priesthood leaders are instructed to follow the policy of carefully interviewing all candidates for ordination to either the Aaronic or the Melchizedek Priesthood to insure that they meet the established standards for worthiness.
 We declare with soberness that the Lord has now made known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel.
Sincerely yours,
Spencer W. Kimball
N. Eldon Tanner
Marion G. Romney
The First Presidency
 Recognizing Spencer W. Kimball as the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it is proposed that we as a constituent assembly accept this revelation as the word and will of the Lord. All in favor please signify by raising your right hand. Any opposed by the same sign.
 The vote to sustain the foregoing motion was unanimous in the affirmative.

The movie then moves back to a much older Brother Johnson.  On a night when he was discouraged he felt impressed to turn on his radio, and happened to hear the announcement that the Church had extended the priesthood to all worthy males.  It wasn't long after this that the group of believers had been contacted by missionaries.

Movie Brigham Young from a Historical Perspective

This movie is not very historically accurate from the beginning to the end.  It starts with Joseph Smith being convicted of treason at Carthage by a trumped up jury.  In truth, though arraigned many times, Joseph Smith was never convicted of anything.  He was accused of treason not for fighting back in the Nauvoo War, but for destroying a printing press that insisted on printing false rumors.  It was destroyed under the pretext of being a nuisance in the community.  While waiting trial, and with the promise of protection from the governor of Illinois, Joseph Smith and his  brother Hyrum were murdered in jail.  This movie shows Brigham Young close at hand, but he wasn't in Nauvoo at the time as he was serving a mission.  Upon returning, Brigham knew that the control of the church fell to the Quorum of twelve apostles of which he was president.  There were splinter groups, but for most Saints they received a spiritual manifestation of Brigham Young's right to follow Joseph Smith at a meeting in Nauvoo where he spoke with the voice of Joseph Smith.  This movie has Brigham Young doubtful of his call to be the prophet from start to finish.  It has the crossing of the river as a one night decision, when in fact it was planned for many months with wagons being built and preparations being made.  It is true, because of the persecution they left more quickly than planned,, but it wasn't a spur of the moment decision. It has Brigham not knowing where he was going to take the people, even though he had this in his mind from the beginning.  Even Joseph Smith had a vision of the Saints going West, and Brigham Young carried out that vision. Sam Brannan who had gone to California was the one who came to convince Brigham to go there.  This was before the discovery of gold.  Brigham knew through the spirit where they were to go.
Lastly, this movie ends with the crickets and the seagulls.  This event really happened.  However Brigham Young was not in Salt Lake at the time, being in Iowa where the bulk of the Saints still resided.  It was the stake president who remembered to pray, which prayer brought the seagulls and saved the crops from the crickets. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

William Tecumsah Sherman

Civil War General William Tecumsah Sherman was an interesting man.  After the Civil War he was vilified by the South and adored by the North.  Whatever else can be said about him, it is that he did what he thought needed to be done to end the war.  He is most famously quoted as saying "War is hell."  The actual quote given in 1880 at a Grand Army Reunion, cited in Time Magazine Secrets of the Civil War "Sherman's Trail of Tears" is "There is man a boy here today who looks on war as all glory but, boys, it's all hell."  Sherman and Ulysses Grant were closely tied.  They both were from Ohio, and Sherman always insisted on serving under Grant.  He knew what their roles should be.  When Grant was summoned to take control over all the U.S. Army, and then stationed himself with George Meade in the East, Sherman took command of the forces in the West.  Sherman set his eyes on Atlanta.  It was Atlanta's fall that provided enough spark for President Lincoln to win reelection against George McClellan.  Sherman did not stay in Atlanta, but executed his infamous march to the sea to Savannah, Georgia.  He left supply lines behind, subsisting on the wealth of the land.  After reaching the coast, he took his army North to punish the South Carolinians for their role in starting the war.  In this march collateral damage caused by his troops truly got out of hand, inflicting retribution.  Many were left hungry and suffered greatly.  Sherman's goal of making the South howl, and to show them their government was hollow and could not protect them were accomplished.  The war was won probably before he entered South Carolina, but he went north anyway.
Sherman new what it would take to in the war.  Although he was a man who disliked war, he was willing to extract and pay the price.
A summary of the total cost of war shows its devastating effect on the South.   66 percent of the wealth in the South was lost, a quarter of the white fighting age men were killed.  About that many more were left permanently injured.  In 1866 20 percent of the Mississippi state revenue was earmarked for artificial limbs.  500,000 plantations and farms in the South were destroyed.  Most of the railroads in the South were unworkable, and most of the railroad companies bankrupt.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving History

In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. For more than two centuries, days of thanksgiving were celebrated by individual colonies and states. It wasn't until 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held each November.  (History Chanel)
More than one year we made silly hats out of paper, the boys a black hat and the girls white hats, and one year also made paper buckles for my shoes.  It was part of the Puritan look.  We also made decorations of Native Americans.
But what about fact or fictions:
A couple spoilers, domestic turkeys can't fly, but wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles per hour.
Although Thanksgiving day became a National Holiday when Lincoln was president, two other presidents proclaimed national days of thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving day facts:
Remember Manteca is the pumpkin growing capital of the world, and Ripon the almond growing capital, although there are plenty of Almond orchards in Manteca.  Detroit is the place for Thanksgiving day football, and Macy's parade the place to be or what to watch.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Story: Rabbit Proof Fence--Aboriginal People of Australia

I came across a story I had never heard anything about before.  It is in a book "Reader's Digest: Incredible Journeys." There was a book "The Rabbit Proof Fence", and a movie with the same title about the aboriginal people of Australia in 1931.  As a general policy in Australia, there was a move to integrate aboriginal people.  One way of doing this was to take their children, and have them raised in white homes or schools, with the hopes they would behave more white.  The women could become domestics, and the men farm hands.  This is the story of three young women/ girls, two sisters and a cousin.  They were taken from their community, and placed in a boarding home.  The escaped the next day, determined to return to their own home, 1000 miles away.  As a guide they used a fence, and thus the book’s name. 
Being that young, and walking that far is not easy.  It is harder if people are looking for you with the goal of returning you to the boarding school.  Someone they were outside the law wanting to live with their parents.  The cousin was the youngest, and she had injured herself on thorns and her legs were infected.  She heard her parents had moved closer, and when she went to find them she was caught.  The other two girls continued to their homes, and finally made it.  The families decided to move, because the authorities would come looking for the girls.  They were able to stay with their families, but one of the girls, when she became an adult, her children were taken away and they were raised by others.  In the name of progress, and doing good, sometimes we as humans do some stupid things.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Only Mormon in Johnston's Army

Curtis R. Allen wrote a story about my great-great-great grandfather.  I have copied it in its entirety.

Curtis R. Allen1

“We continued on our journey as quick as we possibly
could. The cold increasing upon us. … Our provisions
are running out very fast, so that our rations are reduced
to 12 ounces of flour per day. … we are also being pretty
nigh wore out, with fatigue and hunger, a great many died.”
- Samuel Openshaw, Martin Handcart Company, just as
the company was leaving Fort Laramie.2
William Ashton, a 33-year-old LDS convert from Stockport, Cheshire, England was experiencing the same feelings as Openshaw but with tragedy and sorrow piled on top of them. William had lost his wife and two daughters on the easy part of the journey. Fortyfive
others of the company had also died on the way. He and his three remaining motherless girls were now faced with worsening conditions and a dismal forecast. At a camp near Fort Laramie, in Nebraska Territory (now Wyoming) in early October, 1856, William faced a decision almost beyond thinking, and with small hope of success in any of the few options.
He and his family had left Liverpool May 22, 1856 on the ship “Horizon” for the journey to America and Utah. The company was about 800 Saints; their leader was to be Captain Edward Martin. The Ashton family, like many on the ship, was traveling under the
auspices of the Perpetual Emigration Fund and would be pulling handcarts across the prairies. William’s family consisted of himself, 33; his wife Sarah Ann (nee Barlow), also 33; daughters Betsy, 11; Sarah Ellen, 7; Mary; 5, and Elizabeth, age 2.3
The ship docked in Boston the last day of June. While the company was waiting to board the train cars to Iowa City, little Elizabeth Ashton died.4 Many of the company had suffered of illness and several had died aboard ship. Perhaps Elizabeth had been sick on the sea journey. A crowded and uncomfortable train took them to Iowa City where they struggled with the delay in preparing handcarts and eventually left for the westward journey July 28th, later than hoped. Although they struggled with poorly constructed handcarts and other challenges, the company had a fairly comfortable haul to Florence
before starting across Nebraska. In Iowa, before crossing the Missouri River, Sarah Ann gave birth to another daughter. The baby, named after her mother, died fourteen days later at Florence. The difficult birth left the mother feeble and she soon passed on. A grieving and surely distraught William continued on the 1,000 mile trail toward Salt Lake
Valley with his three surviving daughters.
By October, as the Martin Company neared Fort Laramie, it became apparent the late departure, limited food supply, and lack of warm clothing would threaten the company.5  On October 9th, some of the Martin Company people gathered their valuables – watches
and the like, to trade for provisions at the fort. The commander, Major William Hoffman, 6 sympathized with the immigrants and allowed them to purchase from the commissary storehouse. The prices were reasonable: biscuits at 15 ½ cents, bacon at 15 cents a pound and rice at 17 cents a pound. Some purchased from the Sutler’s but the prices were higher.7
On this same day, October 9th, William enlisted in Company G of the 6th United States Infantry. He was surely influenced by the willingness of the army to aid the pioneers and saw in it an opportunity to help his own family to endure the remaining journey. But it was a decision that would probably trouble him for the rest of his life. Some analysis is
required to fill in around the known facts. Often, when a regiment’s ranks were depleted by desertions and other causes, the army offered cash and other inducements to enlistees.
The new men also became eligible to draw on the commissary and sutler’s stores against future pay. Three other men from the Martin Company enlisted with William, so this was probably the case then. Recruits were few in the wilderness. William was probably able
to supplement his children’s diet and possibly also help with blankets by enlisting. Also, he would not be along to receive an adult ration, also leaving that to others of the company. 
There was a Barlow family with the company that seems almost surely to have been his deceased wife’s relatives. John Barlow, an 18 year old son of that family also joined the army the same day as William. The Barlow family and William’s family lived less than fifteen miles apart in England. Although no exact genealogical link has been found, it
seems reasonable the Barlows took the girls to travel with them. Whatever the details, William must have been heartbroken and the little girls terrified at the parting. William had committed himself to five years of service in an unfamiliar situation and to repay some indebtedness to a government foreign to him.
The first several months of army life for William Ashton were uneventful. The Martin handcart company recruits in the 6th Infantry troops stationed at Fort Laramie surely Fort Laramie in the 1850’s 8
went through the adjustment necessary for any civilian introduced to military life but they were not called upon to participate in any arduous campaigns that winter. The local Indian tribes were generally not troublesome. But change was in the wind. By the spring of 1857, the Cheyenne were chafing at the encroachments on their tribal domain by settlers and the army and were raiding immigrant trains and settlements wherever they could. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis ordered Colonel Edwin (“Bull”) Sumner to mount an expedition of chastisement against the Cheyenne. Sumner’s 1st Cavalry was chosen as the spearhead with elements of the 6th Infantry, Company G included, in support.9  This included William as well as the others that had enlisted with him.10 During this expedition, the infantry suffered not only great fatigue but deprivation of food and shelter, as the expedition commander, Colonel Edwin V. “Bull” Sumner chased the
Indians with his cavalry, requiring exhausting forced marches by the foot soldiers in an attempt to keep up. The marches took them into what is now Southeastern Colorado, into central Kansas and on to Fort Leavenworth in northeastern Kansas. In Kansas, Company
G was involved in the battle of Solomon’s Fork where numerous Cheyenne were killed or wounded, but William escaped harm. Food ran short and the soldiers subsisted on scrawny beef and went days without nourishing food. At one point, the men were reduced
to eating coyotes, skunks and buzzards.11 Many soldiers deserted, perhaps justifiably, including two recruits from the Martin Company, Aaron Harrison and Samuel Blackham. 12 William stayed the course, perhaps because of commitments he had made to the sutler’s store as mentioned earlier.13 As the campaign ended, Company G was in the
vicinity of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In May, 1858, William’s regiment was ordered from Kansas to Utah Territory to reinforce the army sent there the previous fall to put down the “Mormon Rebellion”. The regiment was to become part of General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of Utah. By July 31, 1858, the regiment, including William’s Company G, had arrived at Fort Bridger, Utah Territory14. William was then in the unique position of being the only Mormon to be a part of what is known as “Johnston’s Army,” which was to march into the Salt Lake Valley to ensure Brigham Young and the Mormons would comply with federal law.
William was likely to be able to make contact with his daughters, if they had survived.
However, circumstances prevented this. In July, 1858, General Johnston was ordered by Headquarters, U.S. Army, to select one of two regiments to add to the force already at Camp Floyd in Utah County, the other to be sent to the Department of the West,
headquartered at Benicia, California. Johnston selected the 7th Infantry for Camp Floyd service and ordered William’s regiment to California. For a short time, William was within 130 miles of his two surviving daughters, but he was not aware that two of his daughters had survived.15
“Johnston’s Army” marched from the Fort Bridger area on June 13, 1858, taking companies, B and C, of the 6th Infantry into the Salt Lake Valley. William Ashton’s company G and the remainder of the 6th Infantry remained at Fort Bridger until companies B and C returned from the valley and on August 31st, the entire regiment began their march to California. That march, combined with the just completed march from Fort Leavenworth totaled 2,147 miles. Adding to this the marches associated with the Cheyenne Expedition, we see Company G marching more than 2,500 miles over a few months. The route from Fort Bridger was westward to the Bear River, near present day
Evanston, Wyoming, then avoiding Echo Canyon and the Salt Lake Valley altogether, north following Bear river past Bear Lake to Soda Springs and then along the Portneuf River to Fort Hall and then following Hudspeth’s cutoff past the City of Rocks and there connecting to the California Trail to Carson’s Pass over the Sierras. In spite of strenuous effort to beat the winter snows, they slogged through two feet of snow at the summit.
By October, 1858 they were encamped in California, moving then to Benicia Barracks in the Oakland area. At this point, the regiment was fragmented and sent to wherever they were needed to suppress Indian depredations or deal with other problems. William and Company G saw most of California during the next three years.
In October, 1861, the regiment received orders to sail to Washington D.C. for Civil War service. Company G was at Benicia Barracks and William’s five year enlistment was completed. On October 9, 1861, Private William Ashton was honorably discharged and from there, his trail goes cold. We do know he received several months back pay upon
discharge, with possibly additional funds held in his account.16 This would have given him some resources to travel to his next destination, wherever that might have been. He may have even been able to travel on the ship with the regiment to Washington, D.C. down the West Coast to Panama and across the isthmus by railroad and up the East Coast to the Capital.
No record tells us of the next several years of William’s life. It appears he found his way back to England, as he, or someone with the same name and circumstances, is found in census records. At some point he learned there were survivors in the Martin Company and in 1888 placed the following ad in the Millennial Star:
“Elder William Ashton is very anxious to learn the address of any one or all of his daughters, Betsy, Sarah, and Mary, who emigrated from Stockport, England, on the 18th of May, 1856. They crossed the plains in one of the ‘Handcart Companies’.”17
Betsy had died on the plains; Mary had died in childbirth in 1869 in West Jordan; and Sarah Ellen, who had lost the sight of one eye from the cold on the handcart trail, was in Whitney, Idaho, having gone there with her husband, Thomas Wesley Beckstead, a Canadian convert and early pioneer to South Jordan. A silent witness of Sarah Ellen’s
feelings toward her father, of whose whereabouts she then knew nothing, is the fact that she named one of her sons “William Albert Beckstead”, even using William’s seldom mentioned middle name. The name “William” is still popular among his descendants. She
also named a daughter that died as an infant “Sarah Alberta”, perhaps honoring both her parents.
Someone brought a copy of the Millennial Star to Sarah. We can hardly imagine Sarah’s emotions on getting this news of her father after thirty-two years. But she must have been anxious to see him as she and her husband sent him means to come to Idaho, which he did. He spent his remaining years with Sarah Ellen and her husband in Whitney and became known as “Grandpa Ashton.” An indication of Grandpa Ashton’s acceptance by the community was his giving a speech at the 1889 Fourth of July celebration in Whitney.
William shared the rostrum with several of his grandchildren who sang, gave talks and otherwise entertained the crowd. Like so many wishes when we study individual history, we hope someone might be digging into an old trunk and find a journal that included some notes of  that speech.
William died October 21, 1891 and is buried in the Whitney cemetery. Sarah Ellen lived until 1912 and is remembered in family histories as a grand old lady. Certainly her posterity is large and has achieved much in the way of service to their communities and country. One of her descendants, presumably gathering memories from the older
generation wrote: “She probably believed that having only one eye was no handicap. She churned butter, sold eggs, served as a midwife, and helped in the community wherever and whenever she was called upon.” She is also buried in the Whitney cemetery.
When, in an incident of more than fifteen years of researching the soldiers of the Utah War I first learned of the military experience of William, I knew nothing of his family connection to the Becksteads and Whitney, Idaho but that information soon surfaced. It turns out I was in high school in Preston, Idaho with at least a dozen of William’s
descendants. In contacting some of them, I found few were aware of his exemplary military service or of the details that, to me at least, provide a different view of his decision to enlist at Fort Laramie. I have since made my concept of his motives and circumstances available to some. Unfortunately, he may still be unkindly remembered by others.

1 This article is an expansion of an article titled “Soldiers into Saints: Saints into Solders” published in the Utah Genealogical Association’s quarterly publication Crossroads, December 2008 issue, pages 171-178.
2 Lynne Slater Turner, Emigrating Journals of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and the Hunt and Hodgett Wagon Trains, n. p.: 1996), 115.
3 Ibid, 81, 88, 141.
4 Ibid, 141. (Some accounts indicate Elizabeth was buried at sea.)
5 Ibid, 115.
6 Major Hoffman was a New Yorker and a West Point graduate of 1829. He had served in the Mexican War and was promoted for gallant and meritorious conduct in two battles. He would lead a large wagon train of emergency supplies to Utah Territory in 1858 to supplement the meager rations of the snowbound troops of General Johnston near Fort Bridger. He served as commissary of prisoners during the Civil War and was brevetted Major General in 1865. He retired in 1870.
7 Turner, Journals, 115.
8 Fort Laramie is not near the Wyoming city of Laramie. It is about 100 miles northeast on the Overland
9 William’s military experience from Fort Laramie until his discharge at Benicia, California in 1861 is taken from the monthly regimental returns of the 6th Infantry, NARA, Microfilm 665, Roll 68, FHL#
10 William, Samuel Blackham, 22; Aaron Harrison, 19; and John Barlow, 18, all joined the army on the same day. Barlow’s enlistment appears to have been as a contract laborer. William’s enlistment is found in Adjutant General’s Office, War Department, Register of Enlistments, U.S. Army, NARA, Microfilm M233, Roll 25, p. 2, line 83. FHL# 350331. The records of the other enlistees are found on this film.
11 Clifford L. Swanson, The Sixth United States Infantry Regiment, 1855 to Reconstruction, (Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2001),8-11.
12 It is a popular belief among many interested parties that Aaron Harrison did not desert but came into the Salt Lake Valley with “Johnston’s Army” in June 1858. The military records are clear that Harrison deserted October 27, 1857. It is also clear that only companies B and C came into the valley while the other companies, including company G stayed at Fort Bridger until they left on the long march to Benicia, California in August, 1858. Available records of the Blackham families lives have no mention of Samuel’s military service. They settled in San Pete County, Utah but Samuel, after his marriage to Mary Ann Lamb of Manchester, England, took his family to Evanston, Wyoming after the town was established as a railroad division point. He died there in 1910.
14 6th Infantry Regimental Return for July, 1858. NARA microfilm M665, Roll 68, FHL# 1579299. In 1858, Fort Bridger was within the boundaries of Utah Territory. Before Utah’s statehood, chunks of Utah
were split off until it reached its present configuration. The “notch” that allows Wyoming to be a rectangle contains Fort Bridger.
15 At this time, William must have been convinced, from what news he had heard, that the Martin Company disaster took his daughters. He did not learn the truth until much later. It is likely the army, knowing
William was a Mormon, kept a close eye on him while the regiment was at Fort Bridger.
16 During the Civil War and after, honorably discharged regular army soldiers were also provided travel money to their points of enlistment. It is not clear if this was a policy in 1861.
17 Millennial Star, 31 December, 1888.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

50 Years Since President Kennedy was Assassinated


These articles give some idea of the murder that will not rest.  For fifty years people have wondered what happened.  Could Oswald have acted alone, was President Johnson involved, was the mafia, the CIA, the Russians, the Cubans, Texas politicians.  Is the Warren report the last word on the subject.  One of these articles says he doesn't know what happened, but it wasn't Oswald because he had no motive.
However, recent things that have happened in the world say a motive is not always needed.  Besides, for Oswald, the notoriety could have been motive enough.  The rumors of conspiracy theory will never go away with regards to the death of President Kennedy.

Historic Temple Square

Ever hear the term Historic Temple Square.  This short documentary explains this, and also gives first hand accounts of people who visit, and of the sister missionaries who share temple square with others. 
In 1847, just a few days after the pioneers entered Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young selected a spot for the temple saying, "Here we will build a temple to our God." Temple Square surrounds the temple, and is the center of the layout of Salt Lake Valley.  Many historic events have taken place in ten acre square, from welcoming new pioneers, including the handcart companies, to the Tithing House being in this vicinity, Hotel Utah across the street, the Assembly Hall and the Tabernacle have hosted many performances, and conferences, and historic occasions.
Temple Square is decorated with thousands of lights for Christmas, and it itself is a light to the world.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mormon Historical Movie: The Joseph Millett Story is a very simple story, which illustrates our importance to God.  God is aware of us and our needs.  Brother Huff and his family are out of food.  The children bring this news home from school.  The years has been hard, and people are running out of food, before the run out of winter.  This was common in those days, but did not make it any easier.  Families often subsisted on roots, or thistles.  This story tells the story of on family's willingness to help, and also their having the trust of the Lord.

U.S. Civil War: People Became Acquainted with Death

Death is the most common denominator from the U.S. Civil War.  People on all sides of this war became acquainted with death, much more than they would have liked.  According to an article in “U.S. and World Report Secrets of the Civil War,” written by Drew Gilpin Faust 620,000 soldiers died.  The confederacy was hardest hit in percentage of the population as the deaths represent 20 percent of the fighting age men.  In other words, nobody escaped death in the South, while in the North, because of the greater numbers of soldiers the percentage was lower.  More Americans died in this war than in the other U.S. wars combined.  Two percent of the U.S. population passed away.  If two percent of the population were to die today this would be six million people.  
Soldiers did not have a monopoly on death.  The civilian population was also hard hit, with likely over 50,000 civilian deaths.  Some of these were the result of violence directed towards them, New York riots, vigilante gangs in the Midwest etc.   Some was the result of being in the battles way.  Death was also present during this time as a result of disease.  Having soldiers in close quarters spread disease, which then spread to civilian populations. 
National Memorial cemeteries sprung up as a result of the war.  One of these was Arlington Cemetery she is on the old Lee property in Arlington.  This is where Robert E. Lee lived before the war.
Another reason death became closer was the use of photography for the first time to document was.  People could see pictures of war dead for the first time.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Documentary Review: ***^Extreme Christmas Trees

This movie presented lots of Christmas trees, starting with Rio De Janeiro where the tree is so big and so bright it can be seen on the moon.  Then the brought the focus back to the United States.  There was the biggest tree inside a residence, and I was sure they were going to break some antique furniture getting that thing into the house. 
The one that intrigued me the most was the ten-foot Christmas tree cake.  It had a train made of cake going around the bottom.  It was a donated cake for a charity. 
The lobster trap tree was really interesting.  This was made in Maine, and was a way to honor the history of lobstering in the area.  Lobster traps were tied together, and then it was decorated with the buoys of the fishermen. 
In Michigan there was a 300 member high school tree choir, meaning the choir sang perched on the Christmas tree.  Some of the kids were feeling faint and had to come down, but they were prepared with a nurse.  I guess the lights were hot and conditions cramped.  There was a bed and breakfast in Georgia where the hosts had Christmas trees in every room, and upon these trees the had antique decorations.  A collection worth over $100,000.  Of course one broke, but everyone was happy in the end.  There was also a tree made with antlers, antlers from smaller deer at the top, larger deer in the middle, and elk at the bottom.  There was one guy and his tree I didn't understand.  He decided to have a tree hanging from the roof, and going through the two stories of his home.  He had to knock holes in two ceilings to make his idea work.  He also needed help from the fire department.  To each his own.  As best I can tell this was a 2011 Discovery Channel production. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mormon History Movie Review: Glad Tidings: The History of Baptisms for the Dead
When Joseph's brother Alvin died, the family was distraught.  Their grief was only more pronounced when the preacher who performed the funeral told the family that Alvin was condemned because he had not been baptized.
Later, in the Kirtand temple, Joseph received a vision of the Celestial Kingdom, and was surprised that Alvin was there.  The Lord explained that those who would have accepted the gospel, had they been given the opportunity, may inherit all of the blessings of heaven. 
It was while the saints were in Nauvoo that Joseph received the revelation for performing baptism for the dead.  These were originally performed in the Mississippi river.  Later Joseph received added direction that these should be performed in the temple.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration
This is a historical reenactment of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith as told through the eyes of his mother, Lucy Mack Smith.  This is a very entertaining movie made by the Church in2005.  It depicts Joseph's childhood briefly, but focuses a great deal of attention on the first vision and Moroni and the book of Mormon.  It also makes Joseph's courtship of Emma real, and shows the disappointment of his father-in-law.  It shows many of the trials and persecutions Joseph faced throughout his life.  It also shows the trials of the people he lead. 
Of course a historical reenactment cannot show every detail, and there are parts that were glossed over.  One of these was the reason for Joseph going to Carthage.  It was hinted this was because of Missourians, but does not talk about the local problems in Nauvoo.
This is a great movie.  It lives you feeling good, and shows period costumes and manners.  It seems the mob may be too mobbish, with teeth missing and ugly grins.  It seems that they may not all have been such rough men.
One of the best scenes is in Missouri, when Joseph was held prisoner and he rebukes the guards for they way they are talking.  Very powerful. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Church History Video: An Ensign to the Nations
It is in 8 parts on You Tube
This is a film produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and narrated by President Gordon Hinckley.  This movie does not use historical reenactment, by historical documentary style, pictures and quotations and talk of experts in Church history, or friends of the people involved.  It starts talking of the story of Heber Kimball and the missions of those who went him to England.  This includes the spread of the gospel from England to other European countries.  It then follows the church to the Pacific where in Samoa there had been a prophecy of the church coming by an elder.  The growth, through sacrifice came to other island nations.  Then it follows the church to South America where the land was dedicated for the gospel in 1925 by Melvin J Ballard who predicted growth would be slow to start, but then there would be tremendous growth.  South American now has the countries with the third most and second most members. 
The movie then focuses on the church in Asia, Hong Kong and Korea.  These are incredible stories of faith.  In Africa we here the story of a gentleman who twice had a dream of the Salt Lake temple.  He had to wait for 13 years for the gospel to reach him, but it finally did.  Lastly it tells the story of the church in Eastern Europe.  Here President Monson played an important part, feeling impressed to tell the Saints there, when the iron curtain was still in place, that they would one day have all the blessings of the gospel.  President Kimball was impressed to ask the members of the church for the Lord to create the circumstance so the gospel could be preached freely in these countries.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lead Up to WWII: The Platform of the Nazi Party
An important consideration in thinking about the lead up to WWII is to look at the platform of the Nazi Party first presented in 1920.  This platform had 25 points, many of which, particularly those putting down industry and assuring health benefits, were never taken seriously.  However the first two articles in the platform give us an idea of the assumption of power, and other articles talk about the Jew and the foreigner. 
1. We demand the union of all Germans in a Great Germany on the basis of the principle of self-determination of all peoples.
2. We demand that the German people have rights equal to those of other nations; and that the Peace Treaties of Versailles and St. Germain shall be abrogated.
These two premises explain many of the early moves made by the Germans under Hitler.  The re-militarized the Rhineland in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.   They forced the inclusion of Austria into  Czechoslovakia had a similar goal, of united German people.  In pursuing this goal further, they assumed more and more of Czechoslovakia.  First they set themselves up as a protectorate, and when the government of Czechoslovakia came to them for protection instead of protection they were forced to sign under threat and duress the rest of the country over to Germany.  The threat was that Germany would send bombers to bomb the cities.  The duress was that they leader was forced to stay up most of the night until he signed the agreement. 
It also portended poorly for Poland, where many German people also lived.  Germany began making demands that these areas also become part of Germany, as many Germans lived there.
This platform expresses the antisemitism which was part of the party rhetoric. 
4. Only those who are our fellow countrymen can become citizens. Only those who have German blood, regardless of creed, can be our countrymen. Hence no Jew can be a countryman.
8. Any further immigration of non-Germans must be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who have entered Germany since August 2, 1914, shall be compelled to leave the Reich immediately. 
24. We demand freedom for all religious faiths in the state, insofar as they do not endanger its existence or offend the moral and ethical sense of the Germanic race.
The party as such represents the point of view of a positive Christianity without binding itself to any one particular confession. It fights against the Jewish materialist spirit within and without, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our folk can only come about from within on the pinciple:
Then to carry out these goals, and talks about the type of government necessary.  
25. In order to carry out this program we demand: the creation of a strong central authority in the State, the unconditional authority by the political central parliament of the whole State and all its organizations. 
It advocates a strong central government.  The power being centralized in the hands of a few is not always a good thing.   Different parties and beliefs need to work together rather than calling each other traitors or other derogatory terms.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Movie Review: ****The Disappeared About Argentina's Dirty War

This movie is a very bad adoption story.  "The Disappeared" is the story about a baby, whose parents were killed when he was five months old.  It is about Argentina's Dirty War, and about "The Disappeared."  It is directed by Peter Sanders.  I watched it through Netflix DVD.  It was in Spanish with subtitles.  It is suspected as many as 400 babies were taken, and adopted by other families.  Of these 77 have been discovered.
Horacio with his mother as a baby
Horacio, did not know who he was until he was 25.  He had been adopted as a baby.  However he had inklings he did not fit in.  His physical appearance was different from that of his birth family.  He did not really feel loved. As a result, as a teenager he was depressed.  He contemplated suicide, he had thoughts of throwing himself off an upper story apartment.  It wasn't until when he was 25 that his girlfriend encouraged him to seek out his past, and to resolve his doubts.

Horacio went to a program called "Las Abuelas" (The Grandmothers.)  Through this program they were able to perform DNA testing, and prove that he was in fact the birth child of a couple from "The Disappeared."  Before receiving the results of the DNA testing he confronted his adoptive parents (or kidnapper parents depending on where your sympathies lie) and asked them, "Am I your son?"  The answer was, "In our hearts yes, but biologically no."

With the DNA results Horacio was able to piece together his history.  His parents had been married, put were also at odds with the government.  His parents were heavily involved in social causes, and perhaps they also were part of the Monteneros (radical Peronista group) or perhaps just caught in the government sweep of radicals which was going on at the time.  Horacio's father, Adriano, was killed in Cordoba.  His mother, in Buenos Aires, went into hiding.  When the baby was five months old, there was a military action against the apartment where she and others were hid.  The military placed a bomb in the stairwell and destroyed most of the apartment.  They also shot at them from across the street.  Lina,  Horacio's mother, put him in a cupboard and covered him with blankets and pillows and mattress.  This saved his life.  She was killed received eight wounds.  Her baby was uninjured.  He was taken by Lt Col Hernan Tefzlaff.  His brother-in-law wanted to adopt a baby.  However in the end his wife did not want the child.  The maid of Colonel Tefzlaff stepped forward and asked if she could take the baby.  There was the chance he would have been disposed of otherwise.  This took place, however, in an air of secrecy and fear.  

This secrecy was broken after 25 years.  Horacio was able to re-embrace his birth family, cousins and uncles.  His greatest regret, is that all of his grandparents had passed away, the last five years earlier.  One of his grandmothers had committed suicide, perhaps partially from the  trauma of these events.  He has uncles and aunts and cousins, who have a similar appearance.  He has been able to discover the remains of his parents, and removed then from unmarked graves or coffins, and give them proper funerals.  He now works with Las Abuelas, reaching out to others who may be "stolen" orphans.  

As for his adoptive parents, the results have not been so pleasant.  His adoptive mother has a broken heart over the son she raised as her own, with her daughter, who now does not want any thing to do with her.  Also she and her husband both spent time in jail, as they hid the truth, and falsified documents so as to be able to adopt Horacio (Cesar is his adoptive name.)  Living with a secret, even if there is an air of danger because of the military situation, is not healthy for anyone.

In applying this story to our adoption story, Tony has turned five this week.  His physical characteristics are nothing like ours.  Tony is tall and skinny, while both Sheri and I are short and plump (polite word.)  Tony's hair is curly, and the only curly hair in our family is through in-laws and cousins (Charity's Anthony and Dianna's Mark.)  However we love Tony every day, and let him know to us he is a miracle and a blessing.  We love him, and try to tell him these in word and action.  He knows he is adopted, and because of this he is special.  We have shared pictures of his birth parents with him from "Facebook."  We also share notes and messages they pass along.  However we also feel we are walking a type rope.  How do you introduce physical contact?  How do you make sure you baby is same emotionally and physically?  These are questions we are still answering as we live this life.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Movie Review: ****^Gettysburg (1993)

Movie Review: ****^Gettysburg (1993)

Third Day, Highest Point of the Confederacy

This movie fascinates and delights me.   I think it is the courage of the people who actually participated in these events that comes through.  It was produced by Ted Turner, and is based on the novel by "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara.  It shows the battle in general, but focuses on the stand on Little Round Top by Colonel Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) and his men.  However the movie shows all three days of Gettysburg, and the heroics of Little Round Top was day two.  It starts showing how the skirmish got started, with General Buford's (Sam Elliott) cavalry defending Seminary Ridge.  Had that first day ended differently, this battle would have played out differently. 
The battle of the second day focused on the wings, Little Round Top to the South, and Cemetery Hill to the North. Chamberlain was order to fight to the last.  After withstanding three or four assaults, the were out of ammunition.  Instead of retreating, Chamberlain ordered a charge.  This confused the Confederates enough that the were easily captured, often by men with no ammunition.
The Confederacy was unable to turn either flank, so the third day saw a full out attack on the middle, General George E Pickett leading the charge.  Pickett's charge was subject to over a mile of area where they were subject to canon fire from several different directions.  There were also obstacles which slowed them down. General Lee had hoped the Federals had spread too thin.  He was wrong.  General Longstreet  argued for a different strategy all day.  Picket and his forces were ordered to attack.  After they were repulsed, Lee asked Pickett to see to his division.  His response, "I have no division."  They had been beaten, badly. Lee, who was the best general of the war, had asked too much this day.  The Confederacy would be allowed to escape across the Potomac, because of the hesitancy of General George Meade, General in command of the Union Forces.  But the Confederacy would be on the defensive from this time to the conclusion of the war.