Lessons from a Divorced Prophet

Soooo…anyone else surprised to find out a LDS prophet was divorced? It’s not exactly the kind of information that makes it into a Sunday school lesson about church history or a Sacrament meeting talk about marriage or even a RS/Priesthood combined 5th Sunday lesson. Why not? Divorce happens. People suffer. Why pretend the truth of life didn’t happen to someone we in the church hold up as an example to follow? I believe there is more to learn from understand our church leaders are human with real life problems rather than the cute habit we have of sanitizing all the ‘icky’ stuff out of our collective history.

For those of you who don’t know/ weren’t taught/ didn’t know which non-church authorized books to read, here’s the straight poop:

Joseph F. Smith, at nineteen, married his sixteen year-old first cousin, Levira Annette Clark Smith. Joseph went on a three year mission after less than one year of marriage. He returned home to find Levira in a severe state. She had a lot of physical and emotional struggles. Levira was not a well person. Joseph couldn’t handle it. He wanted a wife who was healthy and able to support his efforts in the church. They were married eight years (during which time another wife was added to fulfill Joseph’s responsibility to plural marriage and also in the hopes that the new wife would be able to whip Levira into shape. It didn’t work.) Joseph and Levira had no children together.

“On June 10, 1867, they filed a legal separation that ended in a bitter divorce. This was perhaps the most painful period of Joseph F.’s life, for family was second only to God…and he knew his quick temper had played a part in the failure of his first marriage.” (1)

Levira died on December 18, 1888 at age 46.

Joseph felt badly about his relationship with Levira. He was shocked when he received notice of her death because he and other family members were convinced she was a hypochondriac. There are no medical records of her symptoms, just records stating her constant complaints of ill health.

Joseph F. Smith went on to marry in total 5 wives, had 43 biological children and adopted 5 others. He enjoyed an excellent reputation as a loving, attentive husband and father.

If Joseph F. was with us now, what do you think he would say he learned from his first marriage and why isn’t this part of his life acknowledged in any church lesson manuals?

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1. The Story of Joseph F. Smith by Blaine M. Yorgason. Page 247.

I read a ton of online and book sources to prepare this post. I was gonna do it up right and site every fact, etc. But here is the deal: I am old, tired and not getting paid for this fun. If you want the info. on my sources, tell me that in the comments and I will email them to you. Maybe. When I get around to it. Or just do your own internet search. It isn’t rocket science anymore.

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Christmas (in America) is one of Satan’s best tools…..

I’m not a big fan of Christmas. Not having much of a Christmas, mostly, as a kid made me indifferent to the holiday. I made sure my kids had “good” Christmases, with the requisite decorations, festive baking and nice (not lavish) gifts. They never woke up Christmas morning to a cold house and nothing under the tree, or no tree at all.

But I’m sick of Christmas. I hate Christmas now. I’ve been noticing all the advertising “you MUST buy this to have a happy Christmas!” crap—-even Lexus has an advertisement for Christmas! And how many of us can actually buy somebody a new car for a Christmas present. Companies make a mint off Christmas—-Betty Crocker, Norbest—Hershey!!! Read more »

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Christmas Gift Giving – The Jesus Way

As inspiration for you Christmas slackers, I am sharing our family’s way of keeping the gift-giving season sane. For the first 10 years of our kid’s lives, Christmas was an event. I strove to fill to overflowing the space under the tree. My husband had memories of mounds of presents from his childhood and I wanted to recreate that for our children. Before you are horrified at our decadence, you must know that until our kids hit double digits in age, they had no experience with store packaging for any gifts, including birthdays. I bought everything for them from garage sales, an easily accomplished feat outside of Utah. So we are not talking about cash value, we are discussing sheer volume.

How much is too much? Too much for us was the Christmas our children attacked the gifts, ripping the paper off, glancing at the present and tossing it aside looking for the next package. There was so much loot that in the end it cheapened all of it. I was horrified at the mini-monsters I created. It wasn’t they were selfish, materialistic kids whinnying about not getting a particular brand of something. It was just that Christmas was a game of excess.

I pondered our Christmas situation for few months, trying to figure out how to change the focus from piles of stuff to valuing the individual gifts. I don’t remember if someone gave me the idea or I read it somewhere. This was pre-internet years, so there wasn’t instant solutions to life’s problems at my fingertips. Since I can’t recall who/how I came up with the game-changing idea, I am giving myself full credit for this spark of brilliance.

Christmas is about Jesus. Jesus was given gifts to celebrate His birth. That is the why of gift-giving at Christmas. But how much was Christ given? The bible tells us that three wise men each gave Him a precious gift. Three gifts. Why would we expect to get more at Christmas than Jesus got? So, to my children’s dismay, we instituted the Jesus Three Gifts Rule. What changed was that I no longer wrapped socks, underwear and little trinkets as gifts. I made sure the three gifts were meaningful. The trinkets were put in their Christmas stockings, and they still got gifts from grandparents and others. It is just that Santa brought only three gifts per child and that was enough.

The change made the whole Christmas season less stressful for me. I could focus on buying things people really wanted, not just stuff that was at a good price and might do. I became excited at finding one awesome thing, instead of trying to fill a room.

I’m sure this is not a new idea. I am positive I stole it from someone else. But in terms of ideas that really work, I have to say this one is at the top of my list.

What has worked to keep your Christmas sane?

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What is Your Holiday Tune?

Holiday music doesn’t do a thing for me. I don’t listen to it on the car radio or play it on my CD player, even though I have several respectable holiday collections. I don’t hate it, I’m not a grinch. It just doesn’t excite or move me.

To be completely honest, I don’t like Christmas hymns, either.(1) As a teenager my adoptive parents tortured us kids by forcing us to attend a music concert of The Messiah. People all around me wiped tears away, feeling the Spirit from the choir’s soaring voices. I watched the clock, counting down the minutes until I was freed from the cacophony. That was the last time I attended a Messiah performance, which is a lot harder to avoid than you would think. I have lived in areas with church music leaders who esteemed themselves Mormon Tabernacle worthy, where The Messiah was a required yearly performance, which includes weeks of badgering to attend the aforementioned awesomeness.(2) Blech.
Read more »

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Announcements You DON”T want to Hear at Church

“A ward member has had a bedbug infestation and bedbugs have been seen in the Chapel. We’ll try to get that taken care of this week. Please let me know if you see any elsewhere.”

This was an actual announcement at my ward today. Bummer.

What announcement would you most like NOT to hear?

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Friday Morning News

I tape both morning news shows—-oh, poor Channel 2, they don’t even count—-and scan one later. Sometimes the (false?) cheer bothers me, and both seem biased against conservatives. I watch Good Morning, America more often because I think George Stephanopolous is more balanced. At least he manages not to look nauseous when reporting on Republican politics.

Several items caught my attention this morning. First, I betcha somebody got to Newt and Mitt and told them “play nice” because according to the news, they’d toned down at the latest debate. This means a deal has been reached and while we’ll watch and wonder for the next six months until the convention, the Republican machine has decided who the candidate is going to be. Will one be the vice-president? Hmmm……. Read more »

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An Open Letter to Illinois ex-governor, Rod Blagojevich

Dear Mr. Blagojevich,

I read in the newspaper that you recently got sentenced to fourteen years in prison for your acts of corruption while serving as governor of Illinois. No reason for me to list all your illegal activity here, it is recorded in the public records for posterity. It is a shame that the good people of Illinois have to suffer the humiliation and expense of two governors serving prison terms for corruption. Who knows, maybe you and your predecessor, George Ryan could end up as cellmates. You would have a lot to talk about.

I read with interest that at your sentencing hearing your lawyer pled on your behalf for a lesser prison term, not because you weren’t guilty, but because of your children. I thought that was a nice touch. “Please, think of the children!” Too bad you didn’t consider your children or anyone else’s children in the state while you were robbing the citizens of Illinois. Read more »

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Praise to the Manatee…

We had our Ward Primary Program a few weeks ago. We worked hard teaching our six year old the words to the songs. Our three year old also learned them since she would listen as we sang the songs together. I love how three year old minds work – since some of the words were new to her, she filled in the words that were either too complicated or unknown to her with words she knows. For example, “Praise to the Man”, is now “Praise to the Manatee … Kings shall tightrope and nations severe…” The other song that is just too cute is “I’m trying to be like Jesus”. When she sings the second verse it is “I watch for the day of breakfast, when Jesus will come again…” I must admit, I do like some of the primary songs – the messages are very simple and resonate with me.

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Reflections from the life of F. Enzio Busche: “Yearning for the Living God”

Elder Busche has always been special to me because he was called as a general authority during my early “formative” years of activity and as I recall, he was the first general authority from outside the United States. He gave a talk at a singles conference in Vegas that I attended and became one of my favorites.

I think I might have known his story at one time, but I can’t remember anything anymore, so I’ve really enjoyed reading this book. I browse the non-fiction racks once in awhile and choose whatever looks interesting. Sometimes cookbooks, sometimes biographies, sometimes medical books…..anything’s possible.

He’s led a pretty fascinating life—a member of Hitler youth and then as part of the German army during WWII (at the age of 14, he was given a gun and sent to war). He suffered greatly as the war ended. He reports that he began smoking during the war—a very real struggle when he joined the church. Read more »

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Bannination by Bishops

There is something happening in my ward that I can’t quite wrap my head around.  In fact, I can’t tell if it is past tense or not.

Like many (most?) wards, we have a crazy lady.  She is homeless (by choice, it seems), mentally ill, alcoholic (in recovery for many years), and excommunicated.  Read more »

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Even the Angels Sung for Us

On the first Sunday in December Rob and I will be celebrating the 25th anniversary of our engagement. He didn’t mean to propose, it was a horrible accident he tried to take back three times during our six month engagement but I wouldn’t let him out of it. I am spiteful like that.

We had dated casually for months but Rob was a recently returned missionary who was determined to get the first college degree in his family so I understood there was no immediate future with him. I dated him strictly because he was cute.

I went away for the fall school semester so we lost contact until Halloween. We ran into each other at a Regional Young Adult Dance. Rob describes our meeting as a highly-charged encounter. All I know is the guy I went to the dance with got his nose out of joint over the attention I was paying Rob and almost wouldn’t let me into his car for the three hour drive back to school. He then loudly told the whole student ward we attended that I was the biggest flirt and tease he had ever seen. I was shocked. I didn’t know he was interested in me. I thought we were just friends. But it didn’t really matter because after that dance Rob was smitten. He came to visit me on the weekends and we talked on the phone nightly. There is a price for romance. My long-distance phone bill was over $300.

All along Rob kept telling me that he liked me but that marriage was out of the question until he got his degree, at least three years away. I was fine with dating. I was living in a dorm away from home for the first time, going to school myself so our long distance arrangement was working for me, other than that pesky phone I couldn’t afford.

On the first weekend in December Rob once again came to visit me (staying with mutual guy friends). We ate at Denny’s on Friday night. After our meal we went back to the apartment. In a gentle way, with trembling hands, Rob produced a ring box. I was surprised. For a guy who protested he didn’t want to get married, he was moving fast. In what can only be described as the work of angels, for the only time in my life, I let Rob speak without interrupting him. Good thing I did. He showed me a simple gold band with intertwining hearts and a tiny diamond chip. He once again reminded me that he was in no position to marry, but that he was offering an exclusive friendship. Would I consider being his friend? Accepting the ring would mean we would date exclusively but with no other long-term attachments until after college graduation.

I was smiling so big my mouth almost cracked. I was laughing on the inside but I didn’t want to hurt Rob’s sincere attempt at landing his first ever girlfriend. He was trying SO hard to be true to his heart and his head at the same time. I accepted the deal. I went back to my dorm and showed all the girls on my floor my official friendship ring. Everyone was very confused as to its meaning.

For the next 24 hours as Rob and I hung out, I proudly showed off my ring, explaining each time that it signified Rob’s and my friendship. It was corny, but very sweet. The girls in my student ward were happy for me because that meant I was officially off the market for the rest of the boys.

We attended church together on Sunday morning. During the opening hymn of “Hark ! The Herald Angels Sing” Rob leaned over and whispered in my ear, “ Will you marry me?” I didn’t immediately reply. We continued singing until last stanza of the song. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Yes.” He looked at me and while closing the hymn book he responded, “Oh shoot!” The church service began and we sat together in silence, pondering what had just happened. I was wondering what the “Oh shoot” was about. I assumed he regretted his proposal. After the Sacrament was passed I couldn’t stand the silence anymore. I whispered, “What do you mean, “Oh shoot?” Did you make a mistake?” He put his arm around me and said in my ear, “No! I wanted to ask you, but not like this. I wanted to wait and do something really neat. I just felt compelled to ask. And now I have ruined my chance to do something unique and I will be forever stuck with this.”

I love that every year we get to celebrate his mistake. I will be calling the ward chorister tonight to make a special request for the opening hymn on Sunday. I do it every year and no music leader has ever turned me down. And every year as the ward unknowingly sings “our” song, Rob sheepishly sings along, waiting for the critical part when I lean over and whisper “Yes” in his ear.

Whenever I have the chance, I also tell anyone who will listen that Rob and I were only friends for 24hours before he proposed. It explains a lot about our marriage.

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