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 is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Review: Dime Novel Mormons

Ardis Parshall and Michael (Mike) Austin give us Dime Novel Mormonsa new delight in The Mormon Image in Literature series, published by Greg Kofford Books.

I’ve been head down in other things, but when I’ve come up for air, it’s been refreshing to contemplate the forgotten art of “books” that could be purchased for mere pennies. “Dime novels,” as they were called even when even less expensive, were sweeping adventures. They were something like comic books without pictures, making reading accessible to everyone. They were the Instagram of their day.

Not all dime novels featured Mormons. In fact, Ardis and Mike indicate the number of dime novels that included Mormons as characters probably made up less than 0.1% of all dime novels published. However these dime novels presented Mormonism to those who had no other concept of Mormons and their beliefs and practices.

The tropes we see in the dime novels included in this volume were repeated in other, more prestigious, forms of entertainment.

  • Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, features malevolent Mormons abducting a fair maiden who then dies of despair. Continue reading

175 Years of Awesome!

This coming week is 17/3/17, the 175th anniversary of the formation of Relief Society.

Throughout the world local Relief Societies are holding celebrations, often focused on service, though I’ve been to some parties where belly laughs were the fare of the night.

Whatever the women in these celebrations will do, it is a celebration of womanhood and sisterhood.

For this anniversary, I will be at the Women’s Retreat in Nauvoo participating in two days of great activity, along with re-enactments of Relief Society’s founding at the Red Brick Store.

The formal Relief Society organization went into hiatus as a formal Church-wide organization between 1844 and 1880. However even during that hiatus, the sisterhood formed in Nauvoo continued to bring women together to do good and strengthen one another.

Membership in Relief Society, during 1842, could be seen as virtue signaling, but it was a time when signaling was desperately needed. There were those in the community participating in gross iniquity, because they had been pressured into believing it was acceptable. These individuals needed to be rescued, and the Relief Society rose to the task.

On March 25 I will be reprising a bit of Relief Society celebration, celebrating in brief conversations with my Stake sisters the life of Jane Nyman. She was the first to act as a proxy in providing a deceased relative the ordinance of baptism. It was her anguish over the matter that had prompted Joseph Smith’s revelation that proxy baptism was the way in which salvation (as decreed by the Bible) could be offered to all mankind. Yet her daughters, and possibly she herself, became embroiled in the illicit intercourse scandal of 1841-1842. When she attempted to join Relief Society in Nauvoo, she was refused because of her association with or involvement in illicit intercourse. Yet the Relief Society did provide Jane needed support because she was a widow, even though refusing her formal membership.

Yet charity would cover knowledge of many of these sins. Even those instances that would be published in newspapers in 1844 were largely dropped from collective memory. Not that those who had lived through the terrible events of 1841-1842 had forgotten, but because they valued one another as children of God. No matter what sins had been committed, repentance could wipe the slate clean.

After arriving in Utah, Jane Nyman was selected to serve as Relief Society President in her congregation in Beaver. She who had been refused entry during a time of heresy had repented, and was now fully acceptable to lead her sisters in doing good.

While it isn’t directly related to Relief Society, I am delighted by William W. Phelps. He is rightly honored as one of the stalwarts of the initial Mormon movement. Yet he was excommunicated twice. The first excommunication was related to his betrayal of Joseph Smith in Missouri. At that time he briefly believed it was right that Joseph die. But in 1840 Phelps begged to be allowed to return to fellowship in the Mormon faith.

In 1850 Phelps again found himself on the wrong side of the prophet, this time for entering into plural marriage without proper authorization while serving a mission to England. But Phelps accepted the correction and moved forward in faith.

So as I celebrate the 175th anniversary of Relief Society, I will celebrate the charity that sees all as children of God, willing to help and support independent of whether the child of God in question is “worthy,” seeing all as able to someday receive all that the Father hath.

Death of a Giant – Farewell Eni Hunkin Faleamavaega

Eni Hunkin Faleomavaega, being sworn in for the 2011-2012 term of Congress. Detail from an AP file photo.My seminary teacher died Wednesday. I knew him as Eni Hunkin, But Congress knew him as Eni H. Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa, 1989-2014). Eni Faleomavaega was American Samoa’s longest-serving non-voting delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, serving 13 consecutive terms.

Eni Hunkin was always a jolly presence, in his lavalava and bolo. During the decades he lived in our congregation, Eni and his wife, Hina, were part of what made Annandale a wonderful place to be a Mormon.

I remember the fabulous luau we held one year, with a large pig roasted in a pit in the woods behind the Church. While Eni and Hina seemed to stay eternally young, their children grew from small tikes into tall and gorgeous adults.

A number of years ago we were saddened to learn that Eni and Hina would be moving from their townhome off of Backlick Road in Annandale to Provo, where they could be nearer to their children.

One of the things I think Eni brought to Annandale was an appreciation that not every Mormon is a Republican. It would be impossible to get too stridently “the right is right” with Eni’s twinkling Democratic smile looking at you from the back pew.

Eni was my seminary teacher during the year when we studied the Book of Mormon. I recall his telling us that the founding story of the polynesian people correlates with the story of Hagoth, “an exceedingly curious man” who built a large ship “and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.” 1. The Book of Mormon speaks of the other ships that followed, and “they were never heard of more.” I treasured Eni’s youthful certainty that his people were descendants of Hagoth’s sea-faring adventurers.

Farewell, Brother Hunkin. May we meet again in the land beyond, where we are no more strangers and foreigners but brothers and sisters with an eternity to spend together.


  1. Alma 63:5

Nauvoo Untold Stories – 2017 Highlights

The first weekend in February is when Nauvoo hosts two events.

One is the Saturday recreation of the 1846 exodus, when the Mormons fleeing Illinois traveled down Parley Street to the Mississippi. The annual celebration starts in the Family Living Center (with food), then all march out to the landing in the cold. Nice words are said, then folks return to their parked cars and head home. It’s definitely something worth doing at least once.

In recent years, the Nauvoo Untold Stories Symposium is held Friday and Saturday, with evening presentations on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s a great mix of folk history and cherishing the lore of the main religious and ethnic groups that have passed through Nauvoo. This year featured exploration of DNA, the Smith burial grounds, German cookies, Joseph Smith’s plans to escape Carthage, and other good stuff. Continue reading

The Purpose of Prayer

Albrecht Dürer - Praying Hands, 1508 - Google Art ProjectA few days ago John S. Harvey sent the M* editors a question regarding the purpose of prayer. John particularly wondered what the M* community thinks about praying for the leaders of countries throughout the world.

I’m curious *what* we should pray for?  I assume God has a plan in mind and that my asking him to change any aspect of that plan isn’t going to change the plan.  And likewise if I happen to pray in ways that are consistent with His plan I don’t think it would increase the efficacy of the plan in any way.  I assume that God is already trying to prompt leaders to do what is right (obviously many don’t).

If I pray that hearts will be changed/softened that sounds nice, but wouldn’t God already be trying to get them to do what is right?  I know we have been commanded to pray that the opportunities for missionary work around the world will increase.  And so I do that.

“At the end of the day I’m left with the question of what should I be praying for with respect to leaders of countries throughout the world?  It seems like almost any prayer is either asking for the leader’s agency to be taken away, or for God’s plan to be changed given that God would already be trying to get them to do what is right already.”

John said that praying for Church leaders is different for him. “In the case of Church leaders much of what I am praying for is to bring my will into harmony with God’s will and for the leaders to be able to understand and accomplish God’s will.  That seems to be a very different set of motivations than any of the leader’s of countries I can think of.”

What think ye? How do you envision that prayers for world leaders work?