Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pioneer Day: looking back

It's been a backward looking week for me. On Sunday night, in response to my post on Sts. Martha and Mary, Norm, commenting on his visit to the beautiful Cathedral of the Madeleine, mentioned the Servant of God Cora Louise Evans, who, like me and many Roman Catholics throughout my diocese and elsewhere, was a convert to the Catholic faith from Mormonism. One of the best ways to facilitate her canonization is to invoke her intercession for various needs. The post I linked to above will tell you how.

Then yesterday I finally took the opportunity to read a New York piece, "Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt." As I pointed out to one LDS friend, who insinuated that what one might find on the worldwide web cannot be relied on, the title does not really do the content of the article justice. While he is correct in a general sense, access to information leads to questions and questions lead a person to seek answers, to either disprove or verify things they have encountered.

This prompted me, as is my wont every few years, to go back and start looking at some LDS issues, like the website that provides information on Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Jr.'s 34 wives, Remembering the Wives of Joseph Smith. Of the 33 women Smith married after marrying his first wife, Emma Hale, 11 were married to other men at the time Joseph "married" them and ten were teenagers, the youngest two, Nancy Winchester and Helen Mar Kimball, were 14 at the time of their supposed marriage. But it was Lucinda Morgan Harris whose story caught my attention perusing the website this time around. This is one of those websites that provides information that is at variance with the official LDS Church line on both the origins of Mormon polygamy and their founder's personal practice of it.

Lucinda was 37 and married to George Harris when she spiritually married the self-proclaimed Mormon prophet in 1838. She and her husband had joined the LDS Church in 1834 in Terre Haute, Indiana. Apparently she married Smith in Missouri, but, like many other women who became his spiritual wives, she continued to live with her husband, making her a polyanderer, that is a wife with more than one husband. After Smith's death, according to Todd Compton in his book In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Lucinda divorced her husband and "joined the (Catholic) Sisters of Charity, and at the breaking out of the civil war, was acting in that capacity in the hospitals at Memphis Tennessee..."

There is some convergence in all of this. Cora Evans was born and raised LDS here in Utah. When the time came for her to marry, she married her husband in the Salt Lake LDS Temple. After this experience, she wrote, "I was a true loyal Mormon at the hour of entering the temple, but nearly a confirmed atheist when I left the temple building after the marriage ceremony." Her biography, which can found on The Mystical Humanity of Christ website, also records how Cora summed up her feelings after that event: "I was without a God and religion, but had gained a very wonderful husband. As I looked at him and learned to love him more and more I resolved to help find a God for him." Indeed, years later Cora's husband followed her into the Catholic Church.

Today in Utah we celebrate Pioneer Day, our state holiday to commemorate the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in Salt Lake Valley.

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