Dear 100 Hour Board,
The Netflix show Murder Among the Mormons has got me thinking about LDS history and lore. What are your claims to Mormon fame?
-My aunt once dated Mack Wilberg
My grandfather was a part of the Tabernacle Choir for many years. In his younger years, he ran a barbershop in Salt Lake, where he gave haircuts to more than a few apostles and other leaders in the church. In the last year of his life, he put together a short compilation of his experiences with a number of them and shared printed copies with his children and grandchildren (that's me!). I've reproduced a few of these stories below for your reading pleasure. (Personal names have been changed for obvious reasons.)
Spencer W. Kimball
I honored and respected President Kimball as the head of the church, but I also considered him to be a very close friend. President Kimball never referred to himself to me as "President," but rather "Spencer." I have never known a man so spiritually inclined as was Spencer W. Kimball.
When my wife was first diagnosed with cancer, we were devastated. We sought the help of our Father in Heaven through prayer. I also asked my friend, President Kimball, if he would add her name to the prayer list of the General Authorities when they next met in an upper room in the Salt Lake Temple. He very graciously consented. President Kimball had never met her. She took heavy treatments of radiation and chemotherapy after undergoing serious surgery ... [which] caused my sweetheart to occasionally faint. It worried me to be away from her for fear that she would fall and hurt herself ... so after work we would go home together. One day, after she finished her work, she came downstairs to the barbershop to go home with me. I told her that I had one more haircut to do before I could leave. President Kimball was my last haircut. She was eager to meet the president of the Church, and she also wanted to thank him for including her name on their prayer roll. When President Kimball arrived, he walked by everyone in the shop and headed directly to her. She stood up to introduce herself. He put his arms around her, kissed her, and said, "Sister Jane, you're going to be okay."
When diagnosed, my wife had been told she likely would not live beyond six months more. She lived for thirty years more. I am grateful for a friend and prophet whose faith strengthened ours such that we enjoyed many years together.
Howard W. Hunter
I had the opportunity to give a haircut to President Hunter only one time, but that one experience was extremely peculiar and amusing. I had been in my newly acquired barbershop only a few weeks when my mother called to ask how business was going. Among other questions, she asked if any of the General Authorities had been in to get their haircuts. I affirmed they had, and she asked me to list who had been in. I mentioned several of the brethren, including a Brother Hunter. My mother worked with Howard W. Hunter in the Salt Lake Temple at the time, and she assumed I meant him, though I was actually referring to Milton R. Hunter of the Seventies.
Several days later, my mother was riding in the elevator in the Salt Lake Temple with Howard W. Hunter. She commented to him, "That new haircut that you have was given to you by my son." Elder Hunter frowned and said, "I don't think so; Sister Jane, the barber who cut my hair is probably older than you are." My mother blushed with embarrassment and said, "My son told me that he cut your hair." "Who is your son, and where does he work?" She told him where my barbershop was. "Oh," Elder Hunter said. "I had my hair cut at the ZCMI barbershop." … A couple of weeks later Elder Howard W. Hunter came into my barbershop and inquired for the new owner of the shop. I volunteered and affirmed my identity, to which he replied, "Please cut my hair so I can make an honest woman out of your mother."
Lastly, I'll share one of the experiences he had with Gordon B. Hinckley, which happens to be somewhat relevant to the impetus for your question.
President Hinckley was a faithful customer of mine until my retirement. … During the late 1970s to middle 1980s. a man named Mark Hoffman was accepted as an authentic document collector and dealer in the area of both national and LDS landmark documents. One of his documents was purported to be an authentic letter written by Joseph Smith to a man known as Father Johnson. … The letter contained information that the presidency of the church should pass from father to son, as was taught by the subsequently formed Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (today known as the Community of Christ). Many church members, myself included, felt relieved when we learned through the Church News that Elder Gordon B. Hinckley of the Church's Historical Department had purchased the letter from Mr. Hoffman. However, just a short time later, an article in the Church News reported that Elder Hinckley had traded the letter for a piece of property in Jackson County, Missouri, that the Church had previously tried to purchase from the Reorganized Church. I was shocked that we would sell this document, as it seemed to bolster the Reorganized Church's position that they held the rightful presidency of the church.
When Elder Hinckley came into the barbershop for his next haircut, I asked him anxiously, "Why did you ever let that letter get into the hands of the Reorganized Church?" Elder Hinckley turned and smiled at me and responded, "John, aren't you forgetting something?" "I don't think so," I replied. Elder Hinckley then made a statement I will never forget: "If we have the truth, what else matters?" I felt foolish for questioning and I was immediately reminded that the Lord is in charge of His work.
A short time later, Mr. Hoffman was proven to be an expert forger, a liar, and a murderer, which resulted in him being sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison. The Church acquired property they wanted in Missouri, and the Reorganized Church was left holding a meaningless document. I learned again to never question the designs of the Lord.
I could go on, but I don't want to keep this answer waiting any longer. I'll finish with his personal affection for and testimony of these men.
I personally knew and loved these men, and they were men of integrity, meekness, and service. They each contributed solid testimony to the truth of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I add my testimony to theirs, that God lives; His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, is the promised Savior of the world who opened up the pathway to everlasting life through his atoning sacrifice. Though my mortal body grows increasingly infirm, I know that I will yet see both God and my Savior again. I ever pray for each of you and look forward to the day when we may all sit down in heaven together. I give you my testimony of these great truths, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Thanks for indulging me in a bit of family history! Hopefully these stories are suitably interesting.
- Alta and I are like 2nd cousins twice removed or something from President Monson.
- We're descended from the guy who made the death masks for Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
- One of our ancestors holds the record for the longest period as as Bishop in the Church--over 40 years (some of this was served in jail because he practiced polygamy).
- My young women's group once caroled to President Oaks.
- Our visiting teachers who came and visited us every single month from the time I was like 6 all the way through high school were the older brother and sister in law of Elder Cook. One time they gave my dad and me tickets to conference, and so we got to sit in the apostles' family section.
- President Nelson goes to the same dentist as my family did, and so I ran into him there once while in high school.
- I used to read books to a blind lady who was a heart surgeon who directly worked with President Nelson and Elder Renlund (at different points in time).
My great-great-great grandmother founded the Primary.
My fourth great-grandma had Eliza R. Snow come to her in Wales and asked her to make temple clothes from the pattern Joseph Smith gave to Eliza.
My great-grandpa talked to the First Presidency to get the endowment session performed in Spanish.
My third great-grandfather is Laban Morrill, who was a part of the a Mountain Meadow Mormon Massacre. Largely what we know about the massacre has to do with his testimony.
My great-great-grandpa also settled in Dixie County for some time. (Not famous by I found out after I answered this question.)
I'm directly related to William Draper for whom Draper is named. I like his wife Elizabeth Staker Draper though (the one I'm related to), she was a real fiesty independent woman. William was obvs a polygamist (Elizabeth was his first wife, they were married before they converted and trekked to Utah.) Anyway, William had to take off when Johnson's Army showed up. She was asked to go with him, but she literally said, "I ain't pickin' up and leavin' for nobody, nohow!" So she stayed in Draper on her own farm and became the town midwife, delivering hundreds of babies. Here's a snippet of a newspaper article I found in the "Memories" section of Family Search:
"Aunt Betsy, as she was known throughout the area, was a midwife... She had on an old poke bonnet that looked as if it had come across the plains, but it was her farmin' hat. She was fond of bonnets and many times, with a poke bonnet on her head and her pip in her mouth, Mr. Fitzgerald (a neighbor) said it looked just like an old fashioned locomotive going down the street, with the front end of the bonnet serving for the front of the locomotive and the pipe for the smokestack. In fact, Mr. Fitzgerald, then a boy, of course, would see her come down the street in just such a fashion, and he would hide behind a bush near the road and say, "choo, choo!" as she walked by. Course, he got chased home a few times with Aunt Betsy after him and his Pa would minister the hairbrush in the proper place, but he also got away with it sometimes, since Aunt Betsy rarely got mad at one of her kids. Since she midwifed at his birth, he then was one of her kids too."
Also, Mack Wilberg lived in my homeward... before I was born, when it was my dad's homeward growing up. So all the old ladies knew him pretty well, and he actually lived like one street behind where my family lives now.
I have a few, I guess. My grandpa grew up with Elder Christofferson, and they're still really close friends. My grandma on the other side of the family served on the Young Women's General Board for a few years. One of my close friends is the son of Bonnie Cordon, the current YW General President. My only historical claim to fame is that one of my ancestors was mentioned in a verse in the Doctrine and Covenants.