Book Review: Dime Novel Mormons

Book Review: The Mormon Image in Literature, Dime Mormon Novels, edited and introduced by Michael Austin and Ardis E. Parshall.

Dime Novel Mormons

In the Harry Potter books and films, Harry and Dumbledore go from being heroes to evil villains, due to the continuous assault by the Daily Prophet, the major newspaper around. For most witches, Harry and Dumbledore are insane cranks, claiming Voldemort had returned. One can see the frustration in Harry’s face as many friends doubt him, even hating him. Imagine the uphill battle he fought against the wrong perceptions while trying to fight the Dark Lord.

So it was in the late 1800s and early 1900s for Mormon missionaries.Stories flourished about the evil Mormons living in seclusion in Salt Lake City. Mormons were known for lustful polygamy, murderous Danites, and general evilness. As noted in their introduction about early Mormon novels, Austin and Parshall note: “each featuring handsome heroes, villainous Mormon elders, and chaste young women who are kidnapped and taken to Salt Lake City as polygamous brides.” In these novels, “the lecherous Mormons are defeated, the chaste young women are rescued, and the hero gets the girl.”

Perhaps the most famous novel regarding early Mormons was Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. A few years ago, I’d heard about how this book ran roughshod over Mormonism, and so read it out of curiosity. My review of it is here. This was written in 1912, long after many other novels had been written in the Dime Novel genre.

Before Riders of the Purple Sage,dime novels were in their heyday. These were very inexpensive novels of about 50,000 words, printed on cheap newsprint, with no cover. They literally cost about a dime, making such novels very affordable to the average person. Writers worked feverishly to publish one or two a week, and some novels could sell half a million copies. Being made of such cheap materials, these novels were not designed to survive more than a few years, much less a century or more. Fortunately, Michael Austin and Ardis Parshall have worked hard to find surviving copies that deal heavily with Mormon themes and preserved the texts. Many of the novels were so brittle and fragile that to save the texts meant destroying the cheap paper they were printed on. With some novels damaged, Austin and Parshall had to determine words that may have been lost on the ragged edges of some dime novels. The results are excellent.

In this volume that continues the Greg Kofford Books’ series, The Mormon Image in Literature, we find four gems among dime novels that focus on how late 19th century Americans viewed Mormons. The four novels are:

Eagle Plume, the White Avenger, A Tale of the Mormon Trail
The Doomed Dozen, or Dolores, the Danite’s Daughter. A Romance of Border Trails and Mormon Mysteries.
Frank Merriwell Among the Mormons; or, the Lost Tribe of Israel
The Bradys Among the Mormons; or, Secret Work in Salt Lake City

The tropes are familiar to those who’ve read Zane Grey’s anti-Mormon novel: evil Mormons, even more evil Danites, and a girl needing rescued from the evil Mormons. Still, the stories are engaging and interesting, always with a twist in the plot. For example, in Dolores, the Danite’s Daughter, her wagon train is wiped out by Danites dressed like Indians. However, she is rescued by two white men (one being Buffalo Bill Cody), dressed like Indians.

While many of today’s films have good and bad guys that float in the gray area of good and bad, these novels are clearly black and white. Good guys wear white hats. They are handsome and rugged, while the evil Mormons are described quite the opposite.

In Eagle Plume, Indians are seen as the noble savages of early writings:

“By the river’s bank, gazing upon the turbid and swollen waters, stood two chiefs. One, by the richness of his attire, the wolf tails attached to his leggins, a mark of distinction only allowed to great braves, it was evident was a chief of note; and the eagle plumes thickly braided in his long, dark locks, as well as the look of dignity and pride upon his thoroughly Indian face, confirmed this supposition.”

Meanwhile, Mormon Danites are described thus:

“The emigrants were busy preparing supper. Apart from the rest, and seated by themselves, were some seven men, all fully armed with rifles, knives and revolvers. Seven stout, muscular men were they, and of the seven, all but one bore the stamp of ruffian visibly imprinted on their faces.”

So, why would today’s Mormons want to preserve writings that show us to be just a shade nicer than Stalin? First, it helps us understand the perceptions of the average American towards Mormons a century ago. Imagine being a missionary in New York, trying to share the gospel with people who were convinced you only wanted to carry off pretty young girls to be the wives of the Prophet, or worse, one of the Danites. Second, it helps us understand the tensions between Salt Lake City and the rest of America. The Smoot hearings were big news in the early 20th century, with the Mormon Prophet, Joseph F. Smith, testifying. Americans were so concerned about Mormons, even 14 years after the Manifesto ending polygamy, that Reed Smoot went through three years of hearings prior to being seated in the Senate.

Because of Mormon inspired fiction, like that found in these four dime novels, we have a better understanding of the struggles and strains in the collision of the two worlds of Mormons and Gentiles We have Michael Austin, Ardis E. Parshall, and Greg Kofford Books to thank for this great gift to our Mormon heritage.  A great treasure is preserved for us to read and ponder.

Available March 21, 2017 from Greg Kofford Books and Amazon

Book Review: Garden of Enid, Part Two by Scott Hales

Book Review: Garden of Enid, Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl, part two, by Scott Hales.

About six or seven years ago, the LDS Church did a survey of non-members, asking them their thoughts on the Mormon Church.  The responses included that we were very family oriented, honest, hard-working, and …. weird. Yes, weird.

In a Happy Valley world full of Molly Mormons and Bobby BYUs, traditional families, and a LDS chapel on every street corner,  Scott Hales brings us into a universe of stark contrasts.While many Mormons seek to be less weird in the eyes of the world, Hales creates a character that embraces weird. Her own kind of weird.  Enid is a teenager who has never met her father, lives with a severely depressed and sickly mother, and struggles with the messiness of her new-found religion. Continue reading

Dear Hollywood, YOU created Donald Trump

Last night at the most recent “I Love Me, Aren’t I Wonderful?” Hollywood awards, Meryl Streep and others showed great disdain for Donald Trump and fly over nation’s America.

I would like to point out that it was Hollywood that created the Donald. Without Hollywood’s embrace and help, Trump would have been an unknown billionaire.

At his 2005 wedding to Melania, hundreds of celebrities showed up. This included liberals like, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Katie Couric, Gayle King, Matt Lauer, Barbara Walters, Billy Joel, Chris Matthews, etc.

Trump was popular for cameos in lots of movies and tv shows, including, Sex in the City, Zoolander, Monk, Spin City, The Little Rascals movie, Home Alone 2, the Jeffersons, etc.

And the list of the liberal celebrities that jumped to play on Celebrity Apprentice include: Piers Morgan, Khloe Kardashian, Rod Blagojevich (former gov of Illinois), Lisa Rinna, Dionne Warwick, Clay Aiken, Debbie Gibson, Arsenio Hall, George Takei, Geraldo Rivera, etc.

So, if the country has elected a crude misogynistic racist, a large reason for it is because liberal Hollywood had no problems with snuggling up to him for decades, as long as he was a Democrat.

Perhaps Ms Streep and the others should look at themselves first, and just the friends they hang around with. After all, any regular person who put classified information on an unauthorized computer would be in prison. Any regular person who scammed contributors to a “charity” that paid for personal trips, hotels, etc., would be in jail. To snuggle with Hillary Clinton is just as bad as snuggling up to Trump. You created the corrupt Clintons and you created Trump. Deal with it.

 

*By the way, I have long been  Never Trump/Never Clinton. I voted Libertarian, and speak out at which ever side is doing wrong.

I blame the Obama Administration

Chicago has big problems. Huge debts are just one small item.

Violence is on the rise.  2016 was a record year with almost 750 murders, thousands of shootings, robberies, and now an attack by 4 thugs on an innocent young white man, tortured for hours on Facebook.

The mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel, is Pres Obama’s former chief of staff.  Pres Obama is from Chicago, and learned under the progressive and violent hands of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and members of the Weather Underground. Pres Obama has frequently spoken against the police, encouraging anger against police shootings, even when justified. His progressive actions have uprooted the fragile stability of the Middle East, even after going on an apology tour. For someone who received a Nobel Peace Prize, he has proven to create much violence both domestically and abroad.

Since the days of Al Capone, Chicago has been a cesspool. It is sadly a common sight to see a politician, including governors and mayors, end up in prison. Today, there are over 70,000 active gang members in the Windy City.

The chief of police in Chicago recently noted that most of the violent crime is committed by a small group of repeat offenders. The problem, he noted, is that liberal judges release them early from prison time after time.

And these are just part of the problem with Progressive Liberals in Chicago. Note, I am not talking about classical liberals, but progressives. Classical liberals included people like, Martin Luther King jr, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Sam Nunn, Joe Lieberman, etc.

Progressives, however, seek power through big government. Big government that enslaves people, such as in our welfare culture, creates opportunities for more big government and control. It has made the Clinton’s multi-millionaires by preying on the kindness of those wanting to help a charity, but then using the money to promote their agenda.  As with the Chicago politicians, the Clintons have cheated and ravaged their way to power on the backs of the poor.

Decades of such progressivism has brain washed a large portion of the masses to continually vote for those who keep them enslaved. Why do 90 percent of blacks vote Democrat, when most blacks are against abortion, for school choice, and hate many of the core positions of the progressive movement? It is because progressives know how to promote their agenda in a way that scares people away from the opposition. Note how Harry Reid recently noted that he lied about Mitt Romney’s taxes simply because no one else wanted to do it. This is no different than the promise that you can keep your doctor and medical plan, or that Benghazi was all about a video.

So it is in Chicago. Gun violence has been blamed on Indiana’s pro-gun laws. In reality, a 2013 CDC study showed that greater gun control leads to greater gun violence, and lesser gun control dramatically reduces gun violence.  It also noted that legal gun owners stopped crimes over 2 million times a year.  But this is an inconvenient truth.

Progressives push global warming/cooling/change, and insist we spend trillions of dollars to save the earth, even when such efforts will not really make a difference to global temperatures between now and the year 2100. The only thing such efforts does is turn Al Gore and other progressives into multi-millionaires.

And so, the problems of Chicago is a progressive problem. It has created a toxic environment for minorities, especially blacks. The culture that has been created places them between a rock and a hard place. Poor schools that focus on progressive agendas, fatherless homes, and government bureaucracy that promotes unwed pregnancy as a subsidized way of life, lead to young men with no role models and no hope for a decent life.

Progressives teach minorities to hate those that supposedly enslave them: whites. Sadly, most progressive leaders are whites that either hate themselves, or love lying to the poor blacks – trying to create a tension that falls just short of a race war. Charles Manson would be proud of them.

The only way to save Chicago, before black kids kill each other and anyone else they become angry at, is to take over the city. We need to kick Rahm and the city council out on their back sides, bring in Rudy Giuliani, and return order back to the chaos in the city. It took tough guys to stop Al Capone. It will take tough efforts to make Chicago safe again.

Sixty years ago, the president sent troops into the South to desegregate schools, and stop local political thugs (Democrats involved in the KKK) from lynching black people. It is time to do this again.

I did not vote for Donald Trump. I am not a Trump fan. However, I hope that he can send in some smart people, who believe in rescuing the people from corrupt politicians, gang members, and progressives; so they can live in peace. Thankfully, we won’t have a radical progressive like Pres Obama sitting in the White House much longer.

I am liberated in the Gospel of Christ

Today, the Indianapolis West Stake received a new stake president. It is also the 200th anniversary of the statehood of Indiana, so the new stake president will lead us into the next century.

I was fortunate to know the previous stake president well, having served with him for about 6 years on the high council. I am amazed at the love and devotion this man (and his wife) have given to the stake over the past 9 years.

Recently, I rediscovered some old friends from the late 1980s while looking on Facebook. Over the years, she and her daughters became disaffected from the Church, and eventually left it. She told me that she felt “liberated” at leaving the Church.  For her, the Church had become too restrictive. I think she was tired from trying to earn her way into heaven, and so chose an easier path.

Sadly, many do not understand the gospel of Christ. We do not earn our way into heaven. We cannot earn our way into heaven. Unfortunately, previous statements from old LDS books suggest that grace doesn’t go much beyond resurrection, and obedience is the first law of heaven.  Happily, the recent teachings from the Brethren focus on grace, atonement, and the peace the gospel brings.

I know when I am properly focused on these things, the gospel is liberating for me. Not as the world offers freedom, but as God offers it. Not the peace the world offers, but the peace Christ gives.

I cannot explain to others the joy and peace I’ve felt serving in the temple.  To ponder upon the promises made in the initiatory, endowment and sealings.  There is great power and hope in those words.

And the things I’ve learned from my stake president over the past years are priceless. I have not found anything on earth that can match the wonders. Yes, being a Mormon can be challenging. It requires time and effort. It requires all of one’s heart and soul. But the spiritual rewards just cannot be compared.  All other things pale.  Fun times are passing, but the spiritual experiences I’ve had carry me through all the difficult times, with hope that I will be together with my loved ones in the Celestial Kingdom.