Monday, June 8, 2015

Colorful Characters in Mormon History by Kathryn Jenkins Gordon


Most Mormons are mild-mannered, well-behaved, law-abiding citizens who tend to get along well with their neighbors. But every once in a while, there's a renegade. You know the one: a little bit wild-eyed, ready to rumble, out to go where no Mormon has gone before. Face it: we all know one.

Well, if you think you've seen a colorful character or two in your ward, you should check out the colorful characters in this book—some Mormons, some non-Mormons who impacted Church history. These people are a whole new breed of colorful.

You'll meet the guy who is credited with starting the gold rush and putting San Francisco on the map—California's first millionaire, who dies selling pencils on the street. You'll meet the Mormon FBI agent who was killed in a shoot-out with "Baby Face" Nelson, but not before taking out the Baby. You'll gain a whole new appreciation for the General Authority who peppered his sermons with profanity. And that's just scratching the surface.

Most of all, you'll find yourself shaking your head in wonder, having a knee-slapping good laugh, and maybe even shedding a tear or two here and there.


Without the colorful people of the world, life would be a lot more boring, better in some respects, worse off in others.  Like every other group in history, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) have had their share of colorful individuals.  In this book Gordon shares the stories of some of these colorful individuals and their association with the church.  Some of these were members some of them simply had contact or interactions with the church at one time or another.  Some of these people are honored for the good they did, others did harm to the church or her members.  Some were friends, some were enemies.  Some of these individuals have stories that are well known, even legendary, others aren't as well known, but all are fascinating examples.  I'm not sure that I would go so far as to say that I found any of them "hilarious" though.  The 'good' are worth admiring, the 'bad' are sad or infuriating, and the only story that could have been hilarious (that of Mark Twain) wasn't because he used his wit to make fun of sacred church doctrines.  However, all the stories are of interest and I appreciated the author's care to dispel some of the myths or misconceptions associated with some of these individuals.  Some of these stories I'd heard before some of them I hadn't, but I appreciate the author's skill in bringing these stories to the public.

The individuals included in this book are: Samuel Brannan, Mark Twain, Thomas B. Marsh, Jim Bridger, J. Golden Kimball, Lilburn Boggs, Butch Cassidy, James G. Willie, Charles Anthon, Parley P. Pratt, Lewis Bidamon, Edward Martin, Mary Fielding Smith, Martin Van Buren, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Thomas L. Kane, Samel P. Cowley, Ephraim Hanks, and John C. Bennett.

I can easily recommend this book to those like me who enjoy a good story, especially when the stories are true.

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