Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Back to the to the Profiles of Leadership in America:
As Americans pushed their way across the continent of North America, they inevitably pushed the Indians along the way, and few of the American Indians were particularly happy about it. Though the outcome was obvious to many, there were some who refused to go away quietly in the night. And, unlike great leaders of Sacajawea’s nature, who embraced the coming Americans, some Indian leaders chose to resist the tide by heroic though futile effort, and by so doing wrote their names in history as great. Thus was Tatanka Iyotanka.

Tatanka Iyotanka (Sitting Bull)
C. 1831—December 15, 1890

Tatanka Iyotanka, or Sitting Bull, as most of us know him from history was the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man credited with providing a premonition of victory over the US Cavalry that resulted in the defeat of George Armstrong Custer and his men at the Battle of the little Bighorn. To many of white America at the time of the Indian wars with the US Cavalry, he was the bad guy. But he was a great leader to his people and later became an American icon and major attraction in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show.

In truth, he spent most of his adult life fighting the American Whites, trying to stem the tide of the white people’s continued incursion into Indian lands. Sitting Bull gained early notoriety fighting the American settlers and soldiers as a result treaty violations by the United States during the 1850s and 1860s. When the Dakota Sioux fled Minnesota into Dakota lands to escape the US forces, Hunkpapa Lakotas, with the young Sitting Bull came to their aid in reprisals against white settlements in Minnesota. In the early 1860s Sitting Bull likely fought in the Battles of Dead Buffalo Lake, Stony Lake, Whitestone Hill, and eventually Killdear Mountain. In each case the Indians were defeated and the majority forced to surrender, but Sitting Bull and other diehards like him continued to fight on, striking immigrant wagon trains and impeding the railroads’ progress through Indian lands. He was again a major player in the Red Cloud War of the later 1860s using guerilla tactics against US troops and whites in general. When a treaty was again reached in 1868, he refused to agree to live by it.

His continued resistance against the whites during the early 1870s gained him much respect among the various Indian tribes and ultimately gained him a leadership role when, in 1876, new hostilities erupted between the Sioux and the United States. After gold was discovered in the Black Hills, Sitting Bull and his followers attacked white settlers and gold prospectors. The US armed forces were sent into the Dakota Territory to capture Sitting Bull and force his renegades back to their reservations. The advance force of the US Army, the 7th Cavalry under the direction of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, caught up to Sitting Bull and his followers on the 25th of June, 1876 at a village on the Little Bighorn River. Unbeknownst to Custer, the holy man, Sitting Bull, had made it known among the Indian tribes of the region that he had had a dream of a great victory over the American soldiers—he saw the soldiers falling into the village like grasshoppers and being killed. The holy vision had convinced thousands from various local tribes to desert their reservations and join in the coming fight. The result was one of the greatest victories of Indians over US forces. Custer and his immediate command were killed, and while the remnants of the 7th Cavalry licked their wounds in retreat and under siege waiting for the rest of General Terry’s command to arrive, Sitting Bull and forces escaped.

Ultimately, the tribes were forced back onto their respective reservations, but Sitting Bull, still not willing to concede defeat and ignoring offers of pardon took his followers into Canada. By 1881, Sitting Bull had had enough and returned with 185 of his people to surrender. He lived without much excitement, going where ever the authorities ordered him to go until 1885, when he accepted an offer by Buffalo Bill Cody to join his Wild West Show. As a member of Cody’s show for almost two years he established himself as a major draw and was paid the goodly sum of $50 per week. People wanted to see the infamous Indian Warrior who defeated Custer and they were willing to pay large sums for his autograph.

During his time with Cody’s show, Sitting Bull gained a new appreciation for the magnitude and power of the American people. When he returned to his home on the reservation, he realized that there was no going back to the old ways. Any new efforts to fight against the Americans would mean total destruction for his people. The few years prior to Sitting Bulls death were largely uneventful; the Sioux tribes tried to make their livings as farmers and struggled with the dry soil of the Dakota Territory. However, by 1890 there began be some interest by younger Indians in the Ghost Dance rituals. It was feared by some in the department Of Indian Affairs, that the Ghost Dances would encourage new uprisings of hostility among the Indians on the reservations, so thousands of additional soldiers were moved into the area. Thinking that Sitting Bull might be influencing this new behavior, the authorities decided to take him into custody. During Sitting Bull’s arrest by Indian policemen, a friend of the holy man fired and killed an arresting officer and further shots were fired on both sides. When the gunfire ended, Sitting Bull and several on either side lay dead.

Though not considered a hero to much of the nation at the time, Tatanka Iyotanka was a hero to his immediate followers and an inspiration to many, to a degree, on both sides of the conflict between the Indians and the Americans. He must be recognized for his leadership qualities and his loyalty to his people and his desire for their protection. In the end, he had come to realize, like other great leaders of his race, that it was fruitless to defy the odds and that the preservation of their people meant eventual assimilation. Like all great leaders he fought the good fight against great odds, and when defeat was imminent he accepted defeat graciously to save his followers from starvation. Sadly, his death was unnecessary and tragic, but his life was to be admired.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


The other day I received an email from a good friend who was talking to another friend about our religion—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, to many). He wanted my opinion, along with others, about a question that arose in his mind. The subject of his question brought to my mind a flurry of thoughts, and I responded. It occurred to me that it would be a nice change of pace from my recent historical vignettes to touch on the subject in a blog on my religious beliefs. The following represents our email exchange.
I am talking about the church with a friend. She realized that due to our belief in the Godhead...Jesus is a God as well as Heavenly Father. I was kinda explaining and then I came upon a question myself.

Why are we cut off from Heavenly Father? I was thinking that if Jesus is a God as well, then why are we not cut off from him as well? I realize that I really don't know why we are cut off. I thought it was because a God could not be in the presence of fallen beings. But I'm not sure that is right. There are several instances of Heavenly Father and Jesus appearing to man. So that leaves me thinking...what is the reason? I always thought that after the fall that man's dealings were only with Jehovah.

Anyway...what do you guys think?
My understanding is just that: The fall separated us from the Father. To live with him, we would need to be like Him, to gain Godlike attributes. We would not be able to be as he is without learning to live by faith. The separation of Man from God was the plan before our mortality began. Adam fell from grace so that we might be born into mortality to be tested and proved worthy by faithfully seeking after our Creator, perfecting ourselves and returning to his presence through Christ (1st Corinthians, 15:22). It seems to me that choosing rightly with free agency is the mark of a perfecting person. Being subject to the Father or being in his presence would not, in my opinion, allow us to be perfected by free choice. But, with free choice comes the obvious fact that we sin and must repent. We are promised, however, by Scripture that if we repent we will be forgiven and allowed access to Heaven. However, repentance is not enough when justice is considered. And if we believe the Scriptures in regards to the nature of God, God is anything but unjust. I think balance in the universe requires justice to be upheld, that the laws of the universe must be followed. It seems logical to me that, if God decided to do other than his purported nature required, He would cease to be God. And, since, as Scripture indicates, that no unclean thing can share the same place as God or enter the Kingdom of God, it would seem to be an injustice to allow even a repentant sinner access to God’s presence.

It seems logical to me then that an equal injustice on the other side of the scales of justice would be needed to offset the obvious injustice of a sinful, yet repentant, man or woman being admitted into God's presence. An atonement would be required. This atonement, or rebalancing of the scales of justice, needed to be accomplished by a perfect individual suffering unjustly. The Father was unable to redeem us Himself—He could not take on mortality again, as we believe he was already in a perfected physical state—so he allowed his only begotten Son in the flesh, who had not yet taken on mortality with the necessary body of flesh and blood, to provide the necessary perfect sacrifice for all.

This is in fact what most of mainstream Christianity believe happened, except they believe that the Father and the Son are, somehow, literally one and the same person, though the scriptures are really very clear that The Father and The Son are separate individuals. Christ prayed to His Father in Heaven, The voice of the Father declared “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Was Christ a ventriloquist? To Mary Magdalene He said, “Touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father in Heaven.” Again, someone who was perfect, who had yet to take on immortality would be needed to suffer the atonement, who could physically suffer and do so through free will. By doing so Christ earned the right as the Savior of mankind to be the emissary of the Father to us. I think it all comes down to the fact that an atonement had to be performed, and a resurrected being was unable to suffer in the right way—he would need to be subject to our same earthly existence and be on our level of feeling.

I believe the crucial thing in understanding the need for a Christ figure is the idea that we would have the opportunity, as we of our faith believe, to be as God is. In essence, most of Christianity rejects the idea that we will be as God is, despite scriptural testimony to the contrary—we will receive all that our Father in Heaven has. They, like Muslims, believe that the righteous will be lesser creatures in the hereafter, simply worshipping God through eternity. Interestingly, Islam rejects the need for an atonement and a Savior, because Allah is all powerful and can forgive anyone he wants. In this, it seems to me, they are more logical then most Christians. Without the possibility of obtaining equality with our Heavenly Father and Christ and being more than worshipper for eternity, the logic escapes me for the necessity of the atonement. Here is where our strong argument for a Savior makes sense. Unlike most of mainstream Christianity, we believe that we are literal spirit children of God and that we are his heirs, if we prove ourselves worthy. We hope to be with and as God in the afterlife—Christ himself commanded us to be perfect, even as His Father in Heaven was perfect (Matt. 5:48)—but we understand that He is just. It would not be just to allow anyone into his existence simply because they repented and had become perfect in keeping his commandments, because they would still have been imperfect in total, because of prior imperfection. We also believe that the universe is governed by law and law would be usurped unless a penalty is paid—enter Christ and the Atonement. For all intents, a repentant person is perfect except for past deeds, which justice is unable to ignore. Christ himself withholds his presence from us until we are ready to receive him, even in the flesh. I also think what makes him more accessible to us is our common nature as the offspring of the Father. It is crucial to remember, or understand, that we lived with our Father in Heaven before coming here and we understood the plan and the need for the fall, and the potential of physical and spiritual death. Free choice and the need to live by faith were from before the creation. If we had no choice in being born or participating in this existence, there could be no justice in God’s commands to us or in His judgments in regards to us. And it would clearly have no logical bearing on any separation between man and God.

When I was about ten or eleven years of age, I asked my pastor, “what happens to people who live on the earth and do not come to know of Christ?” His answer to me was that they would necessarily go to Hell and that that was why it was so important to do missionary work in non-Christian lands. Even at that young age, this did not compute. How could a just God condemn his creation, if not His spirit children, to Hell when they had no choice of when and where they were to be born? The answer is, of course, he could not. Later, I learned the principles mentioned above, that God loves us as a true Heavenly Father and will provide for us to have every opportunity to return to Him and be His heirs. As Peter tells us in his general epistles (1st Peter, 3: 18-29 and 4: 6), if we do not have the opportunity in this life to accept the atonement of Christ, we will be taught the Gospel in the Spirit world and be judged in the spirit as men are in the flesh. The Christians at the time of Paul baptized living people for their dead ancestors (1st Corinthians, 15: 29); just as we Mormons do in our temples today. Our separation from our Father in Heaven need only be for a time, and our Savior and our spirit brother, Jesus Christ, is our ticket home. Though our separation from God is needed for us to live by faith, to overcome the natural man and perfect ourselves through Christ’s atonement, the length of our separation depends on us.

That's my understanding.
I guess where I get confused is that if we are cut off from God because he is God, then how are we not cut off from Jesus, who is a God as well. The fact that they are Gods does not seem to be the reason then.
I believe that that is correct—the fact that the Father and the Son are Gods does not, in itself, cut us off from Them. What cuts us off from God, at least in his willingness to appear to us through a quickening of our bodies to withstand his presence, is our own unpreparedness (ie. unrighteousness), lack of faith, and the necessity of having such an experience to create the faith needed to become as He is. Faith is the crucial element, as I see it. We need to live by faith and perfect our faith, to be faithful or full of faith, obedient to God’s will, to become perfect, to become as God is. When we increase in faith to a degree that an appearance by God to us would not then condemn us--if we were to sin against a perfect knowledge—God the Father and The Son are available to us, as with the demonstration by the brother of Jared in the Book of Mormon. The Lord (Jesus, in his spirit form in this case) was unable to prevent the brother of Jared from seeing him because of his great faith. Just as the Aaronic Priesthood allows us the right of Angelic administrations, The Mechisedec Priesthood allows us the right of personal administration from the Godhead, if we are worthy and we desire it, and if it would be to our benefit. As I understand it, the Second Endowment, mentioned in Church writings, is having your calling and election made sure, which is revelation from the Savior Himself in the flesh. That is my understanding.


Monday, April 21, 2008


There were many leaders in America before our Civil War who worried about keeping the United States together. There were deep differences between the various states and each wanted to protect their individual rights as separate states under the umbrella of the Federal Government. And many feared that the institution of slavery, if were allowed to continue for many years, would eventually tear the union apart. Eventually, it almost did, but for the efforts of some great leaders who filled the void, much as the founding fathers had some four score years earlier. One in particular was a giant of character as well as physical stature; Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln
February 12, 1809—April 15, 1865

Perhaps no one person is more associated with leadership than President Abraham Lincoln. He is considered by many historians to be our greatest President. He certainly experienced the greatest test of leadership of any President since Washington. Without his steady hand and strength of personality during the Civil War, it is likely that our nation would not have survived undivided. Though Lincoln’s leadership qualities were numerous and were all implemented during his Presidency. Two of those qualities stand out to me personally; humility and focus.

Lincoln had been very outspoken in his opposition to slavery throughout his short political career in the Illinois and U.S. congresses, which allowed him to win the anti-slavery Republican Party’s nomination for the presidency in 1860. His ultimate election to the presidency created such displeasure within the pro-slavery South that one after the other, the most strongly pro-slavery states chose to secede from the union and form a new Confederate States of America.

Though Lincoln opposed slavery, he was a pragmatist, and it was not his immediate intention to end slavery. If he could have preserved the union without ending slavery he said he would have. However, it became clear that the Union’s preservation would only be accomplished through our nation’s most bloody and costly war. Ultimately, fearing that Great Britain might enter the war on the side of the South with whom they had important economic ties, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which, by legal decree, freed only the slaves in the rebel states, making it politically difficult for anti-slavery Britain to become directly involved. Later, he promoted the Thirteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution ending the institution of slavery throughout the United States. In so doing, Lincoln did free the slaves while preserving the Union.

My personal interest in Lincoln comes from the fact that my great-great-great uncle John George Nicolay was Lincoln’s private secretary and biographer. A story handed down through the generations of my mother’s family (Nicolay) tells of the meeting of Lincoln and Nicolay. Nicolay, born in 1832, was the youngest son of German emigrants that came to America in 1837, allegedly to escape an edict to always stand and salute passing members of the reigning house. Both of his parents died by the time he was 14 years old and he went to live with newspaperman Z. N. Garbut and was taught the newspaper business. By 1853 Nicolay was owner and editor of the Free Press in Illinois. Cherishing a hope to also practice law, Nicolay sold his business and took a job as a law clerk with his friend O. M. Hatch (Secretary of State of Illinois) under whom he studied. In 1858, then famous Illinois lawyer and Congressman Abraham Lincoln came to visit Hatch to discuss his plans to run for the Presidency. According to family lore, when Lincoln entered the room, all of the young law clerks, except Nicolay, stopped what they were doing and swarmed around the future President. The fact that Nicolay continued his work rather than join in to flatter him did not go unnoticed by Lincoln. Impressed by the young man’s focus on work, Lincoln offered him a job as his personal secretary during his bid for the presidency. Nicolay wrote an editorial article calling for the election of Lincoln for President that was reprinted all around the nation. It was so powerfully written that some historians credit it as the reason Lincoln won the Republican nomination.

Obviously, this story has been passed along through the family to show the strength of our ancestor’s character, but I think it also says much about the character of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, a wise man, was not moved by flattery and not easily fooled. Lincoln was fairly humble for a man with desires to preside over his fellow men, as attested also by his famous self-deprecating humor. With humility came the understanding that a good leader needs capable and focused followers. The focus and work ethic that Lincoln found in Nicolay was what he would similarly find in Ulysses S. Grant just a few years later.

Recognizing that he himself was not a military leader, Abraham Lincoln struggled to find a general to lead his army to victory against the South for the first three years of the Civil War. Many generals, including Winfield Scott, George B. McClellan, Henry W. Halleck, and Nathaniel Banks, had accepted the role of Commanding General over the Union troops only to fail to follow Lincoln’s direction to take the war to the enemy. These generals, Lincoln thought, were too concerned with not losing. Not until Ulysses S. Grant took command, did Lincoln feel satisfied that the war was being fought to win. He was proved right.

Abraham Lincoln was a great leader because he combined humility with tenacity. He recognized his own weaknesses. He understood that good leadership requires capable followers who can also lead. Focus or tenacity, as demonstrated by Nicolay and Grant was a highly prized quality by Lincoln and one that he exhibited himself, working untiringly against great odds until the day he died.

Friday, April 18, 2008


In our great national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, we sing of America as the land of the free and the home of the brave. Many who were born into slavery in the early years of our nation’s history were denied freedom but they lived bravely none the less. Some put their bravery to the test to obtain personal freedom and still others turned yet another page and bravely worked to free their fellows. One of the most impressive of these was a black woman.

Harriet Tubman
c. 1820 – 10 March 1913

Harriet Tubman was born around 1820 into a slave household in Maryland and was given the birth name of Araminta Ross. Her parents, Ben Ross and Harriet Green, were married slaves who had eight other children and served the same master household. In her childhood years Harriet braved the same experiences that most slaves suffered in the Antebellum South. She saw siblings sold to other slave holders and was herself rented out as a servant to others to work away from her family. She was often mistreated, made to do dangerous and unhealthy tasks. When she was deemed difficult to manage by her task masters she was punished, many times by brutal whipping. On occasions she was returned home deathly ill after being rented out to harsh treatment and would be nursed back to health, only to be rented out again. As an adolescent, she was struck on the head accidentally by a two-pound weight thrown by an angry overseer at another slave. The incident left her bleeding and unconscious and she was carried back to her home where she was not allowed to recover, but sent into the fields to work. In later years she would suffer seizures that would continue throughout her life.

Harriet’s father was released from slavery by 1840 due to a stipulation that he be freed at age 45 in the will of a former owner. It was learned a few years later that Harriet’s mother had also been given a similar gift of freedom in her previous owner’s will to be honored when her mother turned 45 years of age and that any children born to her after that age would be free born. However, her owners at the time were unwilling to honor the prior owner’s will. By 1844, Harriet had married a free black man named John Tubman and changed her name to Harriet. When it was determined in 1849 that she was going to be sold, Harriet prayed that her mater’s heart would be softened. When it was clear that his heart would not soften, she prayed that God would let him die. He died a week later, but it was clear that the sale was still going to happen. Harriet decided to escape to freedom in the North. Later that year, she escaped with two of her brothers to Philadephia, but her brothers missed their families and returned and Harriet returned with them. But, Harriet was determined to live free and she escaped again to Philadelphia without her brothers.

Harriet was not able accept just her own freedom, so she immediately returned to help her family to freedom using the famous Underground Railroad. The process was accomplished a group at a time at night and systematically and secretly moving from one safe house to the next until they reached the safety of the northern states where Tubman helped them find work. Eventually the escaping slaves had to go all the way to Canada because of the federally passed Fugitive Slave Law of 1950 that allowed runaway slaves to be returned to their masters. Though she was sought by southern authorities—she was known clandestinely as “Moses” within her organization , but never identified as the runaway, Minty Ross--Tubman was very successful in guiding her people to freedom, never losing one traveler on her underground railroad but bringing over a hundred to safety and freedom. During the years prior to the Civil War, Tubman became associated with other high profile abolitionists like Fredrick Douglas and John Brown. She initially helped Brown in planning some of his operations and helped enlist former slaves to join him in his raids. However she, like Douglas, did not believe that violent acts were helpful and was not with John Brown when he came to his end at Harper’s Ferry.

During the Civil War, Tubman initially worked as a cook and a nurse for the Union Army, exposing herself to small pox treating sickly soldiers. later she worked closely with the Army in the field, placing her self in further jeopardy as a scout and spy and led a raid that freed over seven hundred slaves. After the war she cared for her family and brought her elderly parents back from Canada to be with her. In later years Harriet became involved in the women’s suffrage movement with which she worked until her health failed her. When her health became bad, Harriet was admitted into a home for eldery blacks that she had helped establish in earlier years, and where she eventually died in 1913.

Harriet Tubman was a person that hungered for freedom and craved a meaningful and peaceful life. As a devout Christian, she felt guided by God’s voice—some believed that the injury to her head in her youth contributed to her believing that she heard the voice of God—and she worked tirelessly to help others like herself enjoy the same freedom and pursuit of happiness that all Americans were promised in our nation’s founding documents. Her leadership brought hundreds to freedom and her bravery and selfless example inspired many black and white Americans to believe that America was indeed the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Undoubtedly, the greatest tragedy in America’s history was the initial embrace of slavery. Its cost in pain and suffering is immeasurable. After almost 150 years since the Civil War and the termination of legal slavery in the United States, we struggle with the aftermath. Inspired and untiring leadership has been needed to bring the institution of slavery to an end and heal the terrible damage it had done. Foremost of the leaders who struggled to overthrow slavery were those who had suffered most because of it: ex-slaves who could testify of the immorality and cruelty of an institution that was allowed to exist in a country designed to be a land of freedom for all.

Frederick Douglas
February 1818—February 20, 1895

Throughout the history of the United States, many individuals, both black and white, have struggled with the practice and the legacy of slavery. Many tried to end the practice of slavery before and during the American Civil War and many have tried to correct the evil effects of slavery in its aftermath. However, perhaps no one man in our country’s history has had as powerful an impact on the subject of slavery as Frederick Douglas.

Douglas was born a slave in Maryland around the year 1818 but escaped to the North in his early twenties. An extremely bright and well-self-educated man, he became the voice of the enslaved black man in the North. Through his speeches and written narratives about his life experiences as a slave, he educated northern whites about the immorality of slavery. He was able to give intelligent first hand witness, as no white abolitionist could, of the murders, rapes, beatings, and other various acts of inhuman cruelty heaped upon fellow humans because of their skin color.

The institution of Slavery, according to Frederick Douglas, was destructive for both the black slave and the white slave owner. Slavery reduced the blacks to the social position of farm animals or beasts of burden. Blacks could be bought and sold at the whim of their masters. The slaves life was full of hardship and it was not his own. They might be beaten, maimed or even killed at the slightest provocation. White slave owners, because of their embrace of slavery, were necessarily hypocrites to their professed Christian beliefs. Adultery, rape, and even murder were practices rationalized by some (slave owners) to be within the slave owner’s property rights. Because of the influences of slavery, slave owners became cruel and uncivilized, to the point of treating their own flesh and blood children (products of sexual unions between masters and slaves) as chattel. If not cruel and unfeeling at first, the white master could eventually succumb to the slavery mentality and perform acts of cruelty.

In the Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglas, Douglas describes the misery of his childhood as a slave. Douglas laments the fact that he never knew his birth date and his actual age. This was not uncommon. “By far,” writes Douglas, “the larger part of the slaves know as little of their ages as horses know of theirs, and it is the wish of most masters within my knowledge to keep their slaves thus ignorant (p.1).” Douglas was equally ignorant of his father’s true identity. Douglas was separated from his mother when he was still an infant (not unlike a puppy that has been weaned) so was unable to have his mother clarify the matter. But, he understood from those around him that his father was a white man and it was rumored that it was Douglas’ master.

Douglas describes the insecurity and instabilities of the slave’s life. Slave children on the Farms in Maryland, according to Douglas, seldom had enough to eat or enough to wear. He recites, “I suffered much from hunger, but much more from cold. In the hottest summer and coldest winter, I was kept almost naked (p. 16).” “The children unable to work in the field had neither shoes, stockings, jackets, nor trousers, given to them; their clothing consisted of two coarse linen shirts per year (p. 6).” Slave men and women were allowed a monthly supply of food that consisted of eight pounds of pork or fish and a bushel of corn and a yearly set of clothes consisting of two shirts, two pairs of pants, a jacket, a pair of socks and a pair of shoes. The slave’s allotment of food and clothing, in most cases, was only designed to keep the slave alive and healthy enough to work.

A slave lived constantly under the threat of physical harm or of being separated from family and loved ones. Douglas, as a small child, witnessed the savage whipping of his “Aunt Hester” for disobeying her jealous master’s orders to stay away from a male slave friend. “If a slave was convicted of any high misdemeanor, became unmanageable, or evinced a determination to run away,” writes Douglas, “he was… severely whipped, put on board the sloop, carried to Baltimore, and sold… as a warning to the slaves remaining (p. 6).”

Douglas believes that not only did the slave suffer from the effects of slavery but that the humanity of the white slave holder also suffered. The institution of slavery created a generation of hypocrites through out the “Christian” White South. Douglas explains that it was some how deemed, by slaveholders, to be biblical and thus acceptable before God to enslave a race of people (descendants of Ham). Douglas reported that when one of his masters attended a Methodist camp-meeting, Douglas felt hope that experiencing religion would prompt his master to emancipate his slaves or at least make him more kind and humane. “If it had any effect on his character, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his ways…he found religious sanction and support for his slave holding cruelty (p. 32).”

The institution of slavery suggested the right of the slave owner to do whatever he or she might want with their property. Many slaves, as Douglas suspected he might have been, were conceived by white masters. “I know of such cases;” says Douglas, “and it is worthy to remark that such slaves invariably suffer greater hardships, and have more to contend with than others (p. 2).” The white father, according to Douglas, feared to treat their mulatto offspring as their own children and in deference to the feelings of their white wives would often put their own children on the auction block.

Douglas records several instances of punishment that escalated to murder. In one case, an overseer by the name of Gore whipped a slave named Demby until the slave fled for the safety of a nearby creek. When the frightened slave refused to come out of the water to receive the rest of his punishment the “cool and collected” Mr. Gore raised his musket to Demby’s face and fired, instantly killing the poor slave. In another case, a Mrs. Hicks savagely beat a young teen-age slave girl with a stick, breaking her nose and breastbone in the process, for falling asleep while caring for Mrs. Hicks’ baby. The young slave died within hours of the beating. Douglas allows that these two crimes may have created some sensation in the local community, but he laments that the murderers in both cases were not brought to justice for their crimes.

Douglas believes that the basically kind and humane are equally subject to the corrupting influence of slavery. When Douglas encounters a new mistress who had never previously owned a slave he was impressed with the kindness that she showed him. She seemed disturbed by the “crouching servility” that he habitually exhibited towards her. She patiently taught him to read. She was unlike any other white woman he had known. “But, alas!” declares Douglas, “this kind heart had but a short time to remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage… and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon (p. 19).”

Douglas believed that the practice of slavery inhibited the progress of both Blacks and Whites in America. Douglas’ first hand testimony of the suffering of black men and women trapped in the institution of slavery is a powerful indictment against it. However, he also believed the degradation and suffering of the enslaved was equaled by the degradation, inhumanity, and hypocrisy embraced by the enslaver. Douglas felt that the white slave holders, because of the effects of slavery, had turned their backs on their fellow man and in so doing denied the God that they professed faith in. He compares those that embrace slavery to those hypocritical “scribes and Pharisees” that Christ describes in the Bible “which strain at a gnat and swallow a camel (p.73).” He foresees the time that God will let the guilty be punished. Again quoting the Bible, Douglas declares, “Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this (p. 74).”

During the Civil War, Douglas used his influence as a popular speaker and writer to lobby the United States Government to free southern slaves and to allow his fellow black men to fight for the Union Army. President Lincoln eventually did issue the Emancipation Proclamation and ordered that black infantry units be formed. These black infantrymen fought bravely in several battles that proved to be crucial victories for the North.

During the reformation years and until his death in 1895, he continued to be an important voice in America. Still a prominent speaker and writer, Douglas lobbied the Government to protect the rights of the newly freed Black men and women of the South. Because of the influence of Douglas and men like him, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the constitution, outlawing slavery and recognizing citizenship and the right to vote for blacks, were ratified. Douglas went on to exemplify what blacks, given the opportunity, could accomplish. He was appointed secretary of the commission to San Domingo in 1871, presidential elector in 1872, marshal for the District of Columbia in 1879, and United States minister to Haiti in 1882.

An example of leadership and hero to Americans of all races, Douglas pulled himself up from slavery and ignorance and refused to forget his fellows that still suffered. Before, during, and after the Civil War, his life was spent calling for justice. He clarified, to many blacks and whites alike, the true meaning of the words penned by Thomas Jefferson, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal…”

Monday, April 7, 2008


Back to the Profiles:
It has been said that in order to be a good leader one has to be a good follower. Perhaps there is not a better example of that idea in American history than in the case of Brigham Young.

Brigham Young
June 1, 1801 – August 29, 1877

When Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered in 1844, the enemies of the Mormons were satisfied that the end of “Mormonism” would soon follow. However, they failed to understand the deep conviction and faith possessed by the majority of the Latter-day Saints, and they underestimated Brigham Young. The Mormons believed that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but they also believed in his message of the restored “Kingdom of God on the Earth” or “Zion.” Just as God replaced Moses with Joshua, the Mormon faithful expected God to provide a new inspired leader for them. Brigham Young would lead his people to a new Zion in the Rocky Mountains and build, upon the foundation that Joseph Smith laid, the “Kingdom of God.”

Brigham Young, from the very first time that he met Joseph Smith, was his staunchest supporter and most faithful follower. When his prophet called on Young to join him and 205 other members on a march from Kirtland, Ohio, to Jackson County, Missouri, to give aid to fellow Saints who had been forced from their homes by mob violence, Young happily followed. During this march that was known as “Zion’s Camp,” Joseph Smith watched and evaluated his men. Shortly thereafter, Smith chose many of the next tiers of leaders for his fledgling church. Young was chosen to be a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. Eventually he would rise to be President of the Quorum. When Smith and other church leaders were arrested in Missouri and the Mormons were forced to leave the state under the Governor’s extermination order, it fell to Young to organize the Saint’s removal to Illinois. When called by Smith to lead a mission to England in 1840, Young left his sickly family (he was quite ill also) in the hands of his church and faithfully traveled to the British Isles. Under Young’s direction, thousands of English families converted to the Mormon faith and, as soon as they could, left for “Zion.”

It was on a similar mission to the Eastern United States in the summer of 1844 that Young learned that his prophet and friend had been murdered. Young hurried home to Nauvoo to find the Saints in confusion and many competing for a place as their new leader. As he spoke to the members in a church gathering, many upon hearing him speak thought that they heard the voice of Joseph Smith. Feeling that the “mantle of Joseph” had fallen on him, the vast majority of the Saints accepted Brigham Young’s leadership and followed him as faithfully as they had their beloved Prophet Joseph.

Young was a master organizer. In a few short years, he directed the orderly migration of 10,000 of the Latter-day Saints to the Salt Lake Valley. Amongst the first to arrive in the valley, Young declared that “this is the right place.” From Salt Lake City, he sent pioneers all over the Mountain West to build Mormon settlements. From California to Colorado and from Canada to Mexico, Mormons built towns and cities that would, a short time later, ease the further migration of non-Mormon Americans westward.

Young served as the first territorial Governor of Utah until President Buchanan replaced him with Georgian and Non-Mormon Alfred Cumming in 1857. Young had initially petitioned, the territory having met the Constitutional requirements, for Statehood for the State of Desseret. The petition was turned down, however, because of the Mormon Church’s stand on polygamy. Utah would not be welcomed into the Union until 1896 (after the church repealed polygamy).

Fearing that Mormon Church leaders doubling as territorial government leaders was a threat to the rest of the country, Eastern enemies of the Mormons lobbied the President to install Non-Mormons as judges. When the judges complained that the Mormons were in rebellion (Mormons preferred to turn to their Bishops and Stake Presidents for judgments), Buchanan ordered General Albert Sidney Johnston to march his army to Utah to put down the “rebellion” (Johnston, ironically, fought with the rebellious South in the Civil War). Young, fearing yet another case of government sponsored terrorism against his people prepared the saints to defend themselves. Young planned and directed guerilla attacks on army supply trains as the made their way through the mountains. His “mountain boys” burned the supply wagons but were careful to avoid bloodshed. The Mormons were prepared, under Young’s direction, to burn their own homes and fields rather than to allow them to be taken and enjoyed by their enemies again. When the U.S. army finally reached the Salt Lake Valley, they were hungry and not very eager for a serious confrontation. Governor Cummings, who arrived with Johnson’s army, soon realized that the reports of the federal judges that the Mormons were in rebellion were false and peace was restored. Young had waged a bloodless “war” against the United States Army and the Mormons were able to profit from it. The occupation of the territory by federal troops was a boon to the local economy.

Though Young never again held political office, his was the most powerful influence on his people. The government without his approval could accomplish nothing. It was Brigham Young that directed the vast majority of the pioneer efforts throughout the Mountain West. Indians in the area, because of favorable experience in negotiations with him, trusted Young and preferred the Mormons to others that came to dwell amongst them. Except for the infamous “Mountain Meadows Massacre,” the Mormons, now the decided majority in Utah, lived peaceably with their Non-Mormon neighbors. Although they had rarely experienced religious tolerance at the hands of others, Young taught his people to be tolerant of other religions.

By the time of his death in 1877 he had finally brought the church that Joseph Smith had organized to a place of peace and prosperity. It was now possible for the Latter-day Saints to worship and live as their conscience dictated (except, of course, for the doctrine of polygamy). Just as Joshua finished Moses’ work by leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Brigham Young had finished Joseph Smith’s work and led his people into their Promised Land. Brigham Young must have died satisfied that the enemies of Joseph Smith and “Mormonism” had failed. The last words he spoke as he expired were “Joseph! Joseph! Joseph!” (Allen and Leonard, p. 381)

Allen, James B. and Leonard, Glen M. The Story of the Latter-day Saints. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Friday, April 4, 2008

APRIL 2, 1952

I had my 56th birthday this past week, so I Thought it might be a nice change of pace to take a respite from my historical "Profiles of Leadership in America" and pay homage to my birthdate.

April 2, 1952
Although it is not in the same league of important dates as July 4, 1776, or December 7, 1941, April 2, 1952 is an important date in history none the less. At least, I believe that my wife and children and my parents would think so. My mother, in her autobiography Autumn My Time to Remember, writes,
On April first, Tom came home with his hand all bandaged up. He had cut himself at work. He went to bed with his western magazine. It was about 9:00 (PM) when he turned the light off and had just fallen asleep when I awaked him with the news, “It’s that time again.” I had always been right so far, and not wanting to go through any more of those at “home ordeals,” he was up and ready by the time I was. But this baby was in no hurry. He April fooled us and waited until the next evening to make his entrance into the world. He was a wise little character; perhaps he wanted to take a little more time to survey the situation. He must have decided right then—April 2nd, 1952—“to get this show on the road.” The little ham! He proved never to be in a hurry even to this day. We named him Randall Dean. We had seen the movie, The Hatfields and The McCoys. Tom was impressed with the young Randall McCoy, who said, “By gar, I are a man.” Hence the Randall. As for the Dean, we thought it fit. Randy, as we called him, turned out to have light hair and fair complexion, and resembled his big sister Sharon (more so when he tried on her wig after they had grown up).
Clearly, it was an important date to my Mom.
The weather in northeastern Kansas on the second of April, 1952 was pleasantly mild for a spring day, with fair to partly cloudy skies and temperatures a little above normal. Topeka, the town of my birth, was the third largest city in Kansas that year, behind Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas. Topeka would have a population of just about 100,000 and the state of Kansas about 2,000,000 residents. I do not know who the mayor of Topeka was on this date, but the Governor of Kansas was republican Edward F. Arn.

If one were reading through The Daily Capital, the major daily newspaper of Topeka, they would see that life there was probably about the same as in other Midwestern towns in the United States in the early 50s. Topekans were enjoying the economic growth and prosperity that was enjoyed most every where in America in the baby boom years after World War II. Homes were listed to sell at prices ranging from $6,000 to $12,600 in the real estate section of the paper. A one-year-old used car could be bought for $1,345. At Pelletiers, a department store in down town Topeka, shoppers could find stylish dresses (R&K Originals) for only $17.95, high heel dress shoes for $6.95 and $7.95, quilted rayon satin bedspreads at $10. 95, men’s dress suits for as little as $29.75 and women’s spring ‘blousettes’ for only a dollar. At Ward’s department store one could find push style lawn mowers for as little as $15.97 and powered lawn mowers for as much as $98.44. A table saw could be purchased for $35.88 and a drill kit with a complete set of attachments for $14.44.

In 1952 radio was still the King of home entertainment but it was in the process of being replaced by television. A 20-inch black and white television (color TV was not an option then) could be purchased at Jenkins’ Music Store for $239.95, but most of the biggest entertainers were still on the radio. The newspaper advertised that onWednesday evening, April 2, 1952 at 8:00 P.M. Red Skellton would be live on WIBW radio presented by Blue Star Razor Blades. At 8:30 would follow Bing Crosby presented by Chesterfield Cigarettes. Rex Allen presented by the Phillips Petroleum Company would then come on at 9:00.

As a child, I always enjoyed reading the comics strips in the Capital Journal. It was interesting to see the comics that were in the paper the day I was born. Some of the strips would be very long lived; some are still around after 47 years. “Our Boarding House” (later it was called Major Hoople I believe), “Out Our Way”, “Blade Winters”, “Dick Tracy” (it would become my favorite), “Dotty Dripple” (it looked to me like ‘Hi and Lois’), “Alley Oop”, “Rex Morgan M.D.”, “Mary Worth” and “Gasoline Alley” all graced the comics page on April 2, 1952.

Just as it still seems to be today, movies were the most popular entertainment to be found outside of the home. There were many movie houses (with only one screen each) at this time in Topeka, some of which were quite ornate. There were also several drive-in theaters for the economy minded movie viewers. The biggest movie at the time was Cecil B. Demille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, which had been held over in Topeka for several weeks. It would go on to be a big winner at the Academy awards including the award for the best motion picture of 1951. Other popular movies at the time were Red Skies Over Montana, Decision Before Dawn, The Belle of New York, Little Egypt, Captain Horacio Hornblower (I like this one when I watched it on TV about 10 years later) and Darling, How Could You?, not to mention possibly 15 to 20 “B” or lesser quality productions.

Of course 1952 was an election year and President Harry S. Truman had decided not to run for re-election. Politics was focus of the biggest stories of the day. Front pages of the Capital Journal and the New York Times both carried stories about Senator Taft winning the Republican presidential primary in Nebraska and holding a slight edge over General Eisenhower in the Wisconsin, in what reporters called a “grim see-saw battle”. On the Democrat side, Senator Kefaur of Tennessee was leading Oklahoma’s Senator Kerr. ‘Ike’ Eisenhower was already looking presidential though, as he was, at that moment, returning from Europe where he addressed NATO. On the front pages of both the Daily Capital and the New York Times he is reported as saying, “The tide has begun to flow our way, and the situation of the free world is brighter than it was a year ago. NATO can build strength that the communists would never dream of challenging.” He went on to warn Europe that “America’s resources are limited” as well as the patience of the American taxpayers and that the United States “can’t continue to be the main source of munitions for the entire free world.”

Although President Truman was not running for his own second term, he was none the less flexing presidential muscle. The same papers on their front pages reported that the President was considering the seizure of the steel companies because of failed bargaining attempts during labor strikes. His threat apparently worked, for on the next day (April 3rd) the front pages declare, “Kaiser Signs Steel Wage Agreement.” And President Truman is still popular among Democrats. Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota is leading a drive in the Senate for an enactment of congress to make ex-presidents (including Truman, of course) honorary Senators. They (the honorary Senators) would be able to debate on the floor of the Senate but would not be able to vote.

Other major stories in the news having world wide significance includes Joseph Stalin’s call for a “beneficial” meeting of “Big Powers” in which he urges German unification. “Bomb tests in Nevada” is another big headline of the day, as is “Allied fliers down 10 MIGS over North Korea.” Allied troops repulsed a Chinese attack in the western section of the land front. Cpl. Casper C. Deargelis of 2439 Coney Island Ave. received a gala home coming in Seattle for being the 100,000th Korean Vet. to return through Seattle’s military post. And Jean Letsoureau was named as the new High Commissioner over Indo China (Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos). All are stories of import on the world and national level on April 2, 1952.

Of local interest, it was reported that the Topeka board of education asked the Supreme Court to determine when it could take control of the old Washburn Rural High School building that sat on the site of property annexed by the City of Topeka. Also, it was reported that a drive to return prohibition to Kansas failed in 20 cities where it was attempted. But, the biggest local story, and the most interesting to me as a Jayhawk basketball fan, followed the headline, “Diesels Dump KU 62-60 in Olympic Finals.” I was surprised to learn that the Olympic basketball team and coach were determined by an AAU tournament. The coach of the winning team was the automatic Olympic team coach. Kansas’ great coach, Phog Allen, would not be the head coach, but 7 of his players (more than from any other team in the tournament) were chosen to represent the United States on the U.S. Olympic team. In a related story, Clyde Lovellette, the great Jayhawk center and most valuable player of both NCAA and Olympic tournaments, decides to play AAU basketball rather than play professionally in the National Basketball Association. All in all, April 2, 1952 was a pretty important day if I do say so myself.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Most Americans believe that America is a unique and special place. Some even see it as an especially blessed and “promised land”, believing that our nation was born of Divine intervention, that the founding fathers were inspired by The Almighty, and that our constitution is an inspired document. Perhaps no one was more convinced of that fact than the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith, Jr.
December 23, 1805—June 27, 1844

On the morning of June 27, 1844, a mob consisting of members from the local disbanded militia regiment of Warsaw blackened their faces and stormed the Carthage, Illinois jail and martyred Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his older brother Hyrum. This bloody murder was likely the culmination of the combined effects of the second “great awakening” of the 1820s and 1830s, and the antebellum political unrest in America.

In 1820, fourteen-year-old farm boy Joseph Smith came to local upstate New York prominence when he claimed to have beheld a vision of God the father and his son Jesus Christ. His claim made him unpopular with the local religious leaders. The new spiritual awakening, with its camp meetings and religious fervor, had already begun in this part of the American frontier. Though many believed Smith to be a charlatan, he found that some of his extended family and neighbors believed his story. In 1829, he published the Book of Mormon, which he claimed was a religious history of ancient Americans written on gold plates. He said that he had been given the plates by the angel, Moroni, who had lived anciently as a prophet in America. Again, most passed Smith off as a con man, but many read his book and were convinced of its veracity. In 1830, Smith organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which was known by most people as the Mormon Church.

Joseph Smith attracted hundreds and then thousands of followers who loved him, but he was literally despised by many opposing religious leaders. Because of local persecution, Smith moved his church to Kirkland, Ohio, where after a brief stay and a number of difficulties (he was beaten and tarred and feathered), he moved the headquarters of his church to Jackson County, Missouri.

It was in Missouri that political differences with “old settlers” joined religious intolerance as a source of Mormon troubles. Missouri had been established as a slave state and the older residents did not like to see thousands of predominantly New England and anti-slavery religious “misfits” moving in and changing the political landscape. After a half dozen years of troubled existence at the hands of frontier Missourians (rape, murder, home-burnings, and looting) the Latter-day Saints left their homes, in1838, without remuneration for their properties and moved again to swamp land along the Mississippi River in southern Illinois. Missouri Governor, Lilburn Boggs had confiscated all of the Mormon’s firearms, arrested Joseph Smith and other church leaders on fraudulent charges, and issued an extermination order against all Mormons in the state of Missouri.

After over six months of imprisonment in the Liberty, Missouri jail, Smith and his fellows were found innocent and allowed to join his followers in Illinois. It was in Illinois that Smith accomplished some rather amazing things for a backwoods farm boy with a third grade education. Under his direction, the Latter-day Saints recovered worthless swampland at Commerce, Illinois and built the prosperous city of Nauvoo. He was elected mayor and general of the Nauvoo militia. The city charter issued by the state of Illinois was quite liberal, in that it allowed for a city militia. He laid out the city in grid fashion with wider than normal streets running north to south and east to west and larger than normal building plots for residences. The temple that was built under his direction was a beautiful structure that overlooked the Mississippi from the highest hill in the area.

In the six years before Smith’s death, Nauvoo grew to be the largest city in Illinois, even larger than Chicago. The city was lovely and the people hard working and began to be prosperous. By the late 1830s, proselytizing by Mormon missionaries had moved over seas and was especially successful in England, where virtually whole congregations were converted. European converts were instructed to come to America to help build “Zion.” New members swarmed in to the area in and around Nauvoo.

Initially, the older residents welcomed the “Saints.” Illinois Whigs and Democrats both hoped that they might bring the new Mormon voters into their respective political folds. But, eventually jealousy, fear of the growing political power of an unknown and unpredictable quality, and the ever-religious quirkiness of the Mormons (polygamy was now suspected), began to create friction and suspicion.

The year before he was killed, Smith announced his intention to run for the office of President of the United States. He was dissatisfied with the willingness of the federal government to recover losses suffered by his followers in Missouri. His feelings on slavery were well known. He prophesied in 1843 that a bloody war would start in the state of South Carolina over the question of slavery. He called for the annexation of Canada and Mexico. By June 27, 1844, Smith’s religious and political enemies in Illinois had had enough of him and his followers. Although Nauvoo’s city charter allowed the mayor the right to act against public nuisances, when Smith shut down a critical anti-Mormon newspaper called the Expositor, Illinois Governor Ford allowed Smith to be arrested on charges of treason. While in the Carthage jail and awaiting formal charges and supposedly under Ford’s protection, Smith and his brother were murdered.

Thousands mourned Smith’s death and the church that he organized continued to grow and spread around the world to a membership of 10 million worldwide to date. Smith had many detractors but he had many valiant followers that would, and did, follow him to the death. John Taylor, who was a witness of the murder and later a president of the church himself, wrote of the Smith brothers shortly after the event, “…their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century...” (Doctrine and Covenants: Section 135, vs. 6). It is lamentable that someone with the leadership skills of Joseph Smith, prophet or not, was a victim of his times; a time of supposed spiritual enlightenment, but also of political turmoil and religious intolerance, a time when government officials could turn a blind eye to or even be openly complicit in crimes against human rights. Perhaps, we are still not out of the woods yet.

Source material:
Allen, B. A. and Leonard, G. M. The story of the latter-day saints. Salt Lake City, Deseret Book Company.