About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg contends Joseph was under commandment to restore plural marriage and taught the acceptability of plural marriage. But Meg suggests Joseph may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Book Review: The Polygamist King – James J. Strang

I was fascinated to learn celebrated journalist John J. Miller 1 had written a Kindle Single on the subject of James J. Strang.

I was thrilled that John Miller was willing to do a Q&A with me for your benefit.

For those not familiar with James J. Strang, he was the 1844 convert who claimed to be Joseph Smith’s chosen successor.

Strang started by renouncing polygamy and spiritual wifery at a time when Brigham Young and Heber Kimball were continuing Joseph Smith’s secret teachings regarding the possibility of plural wives in Celestial marriage. Ironically, men known to have participated in illicit intercourse and spiritual wifery under the leadership of John C. Bennett and William Smith would become Strangites. Strang came to Nauvoo right around the time William Law and Austin Cowles were becoming lethally disaffected with Mormonism. He was baptized in the month when Law and Cowles were gathering conspirators with the intent of murdering Joseph Smith. As many who actively conspired against Joseph allied themselves with Strang (including my ancestor, Austin Cowles), I have come to regard membership in Strang’s sect as a highly suspicious sign.

A few years after Strang put himself at the front of a post-martyrdom Mormon sect claiming to renounce polygamy, Strang began gallivanting around the country with “Charles J. Douglas,” a 19-year-old woman whose real name was Elvira Eliza Field. Ms. Field would dress in men’s clothing to permit her to accompany the man she regarded as her husband. Strang’s original wife, never more than lukewarm about her husband’s association with Mormonism, left him. Strang married three more plural wives. All four of his plural wives were pregnant in 1856 when matters came to a head.

By 1856 tension between Strang and those who opposed him resulted in his shooting. Strang lingered for weeks before dying, never conferring on another the keys to his Strangite kingdom. In Strang’s case, he had actually had himself coronated king, hence the title of John Miller’s book.

Meg: I enjoyed this slim volume immensely. What brought you to write about James Strang?
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  1. John J. Miller writes for National Review, the Wall Street Journal, and other publications. The Chronicle of Higher Education has called him “one of the best literary journalists in the country.”

Tools for a Happy 2016 – Money Management

Savings graphSaving money was the topic of our ward’s last 5th Sunday discussion.

Fun as it was to come up with a perpetual planner, that was a mere lark compared to the really cool tool I worked on during the holiday break. The problem was developing a template to plan and manage family finances and scheduling.

Just like there are lots of tools for performing tactical management of money, I was looking for something that would help us get a strategic approach to money. To some people this comes naturally. To many couples, this is no big deal. Some families already have systems to live well within their means.

We, on the other hand, find the financial aspect of life to be somewhat of a challenge, in part because we have lacked a tool that helped us have a common understanding of our spending and obligations.

A few years ago I had set things up so the bills would get paid with a minimal amount of effort on the part of my husband and myself. The holy grail was a tool that would help us easily visualize the year’s finances in advance so it would be easy to stay on budget even when the bank account showed lots of money “just sitting there.”
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Tools for a Happy 2016 – Planning for Productivity

You may have heard of the Passion Planner, a tool developed by Angelia Trinidad and launched via a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $700,000. My daughter was really excited about the planner and will be using it for 2016.

I, on the other hand, have been supporting Chris Bailey in his “A Year of Productivity” project, which has morphed into A Life of Productivity. Chris’ articles about what he’s been learning about productivity during his dedicated immersion in the subject are wonderful to read, and he seems to be just a really great guy. He was even pretty zen when I told him his logo makes me think of chicken:

Brain Sprout

One of Chris’ coolest insights, in my opinion, is that true productivity occurs when energy, time, and attention are focused on the goal. In retrospect, he found that a large percentage of his posts dealt with energy, time, or attention.


Inspired by my own 50+ years of learning and nearly as many years trying to find a planner I liked, here’s an excel-based planner you’re free to use, if it suits you. Continue reading

In Search of the Real Joseph Smith

Joseph compare

[Original painting of Joseph Smith circa 1842 and digital alteration of painted HPH copy]

The November-December 1980 issue of Sunstone contained an article by Lorie Winder examining the physical descriptions and depictions of Joseph Smith. Though physical characteristics tell us little about the man himself, I understand why she titled her article In Search of the Real Joseph Smith.

I have frequently used the forward facing oil painting created in 1842 by an unknown artist in my posts about Joseph Smith. This is a painting that was owned by Joseph Smith III and is now owned by the Community of Christ. But this image is incorrect in various ways when compared to Joseph’s death mask:

  1. The eyes are too small and too close to the center of the face.
  2. The mouth is too small and too close to the nose.
  3. The chin is too close to the nose and gives the appearance of a concave face, where Joseph had a convex face.
  4. The nose itself is too narrow and the tip is far too pointy.

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Star Wars: No Spoiler Review

StarWarsUnless you live in a galaxy far far away, you are probably aware that the new Star Wars film debuted this week.

Since not everyone will have seen the film, I’ll avoid giving away any plot points. But this film returns us to the 1977 roots of Star Wars, when the film sat in the top box office spot for 40 weeks in a row.

Revisiting 1977

What made the original movie great?

In Luke Skywalker we had the petulant teen who was stuck in a small town/world. He was an orphan whose aunt and uncle are killed minutes into the film. Having a young male protagonist without parental figures is always a good move in storytelling, since parent figures might actually protect you. And where’s the fun/danger in that? Continue reading