In 2017 I bought and read, on Kindle, “Maud’s Story,” a 2013 self-published “Vanity Press” book written by my Aunt Charlotte LeBaron (My Uncle Verlan LeBaron’s first wife).
It’s a short biography of Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron. that consists mostly of a published collection of letters supposedly written by her* — and some run-together, often hard-to-decipher paragraphs/vignettes “in Maud’s own words.”
It appears, at the time of this book’s writing, Aunt Charlotte still belonged to “The Church of the First Born.” Her “Maud’s Story,” contains a revised version — a rewrite of the history of the Joel-LeBaron-Prophet saga, wherein she turns the tale upside down — and him into a martyred Prophet. Thus, she shows, though not intentionally, how religious myths are made.
As a word of clarification, Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron is my maternal grandmother, of whom I am “the spittin’ image” (I was always told this while growing up). In fact, the above photo of her looks so much like me at that age, I look at it and think it’s me. I can’t tell the difference!
Needless to say, Grandma Maud LeBaron was special to me. So when I saw, on Amazon.com, Aunt Charlotte had published her story, I spent $4.00 … and three hours reading it. Such was its brevity. That includes the many times I had to re-read parts, attempting to understand what the heck had been said.
Suffice it to say, the book was no bargain. And left me wanting more. It is supposed to be Grandmother LeBaron’s story but many of the tales Grandma used to tell me about her life are not in the book.
Nevertheless, nobody else has published anything about my Grandma Maud. So I’m glad Aunt Charlotte wrote as much as she did. “If you don’t like how the story was written, write it yourself,” they say.
Still, I resent she used my Grandmother matriarch Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron’s story to draw in Grandmother’s progeny, relatives, and others, so as to promote her’s (Charlotte’s) and Uncle Joel’s Church of the Firstborn doctrine — a la Charlotte LeBaron’s viewpoint. In that sense, “Maud’s Story” really should be “Charlotte’s Story.”
But to give Aunt Charlotte some credit, though I was disappointed “Maud’s Story” wasn’t imbued with more of Grandmother’s colorful history, she includes in her booklet numerous short vignettes which I’ve coined: “Quotes from Grandma’s Notes.”
Perhaps, to get more of Grandmother’s history, Charlotte expects us to read “The LeBaron Story,” a manuscript largely written by MY mother Esther LeBaron Spencer — though Charlotte helped her husband (my Uncle Verlan LeBaron) compile, finish, and publish Mother’s work. Nonetheless, this book strikes me as an apologists’ story and is also largely written to preach the Church of the Firstborn doctrine.
Other criticisms I have are: The book’s general flavor is biased and provincial. It appears to me to have been written with an attempt to whitewash and glorify the Alma Dayer and Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron family and to make “The Mexico LeBarons” look like “a Godly family with a saintly mission.”
I find its covert preaching of the Church of the First Born dogma distasteful — especially the revising of its doctrine and history to make it more palatable than it was when my Uncles Ervil and Joel LeBaron first spawned this sect/cult in the early to mid-1950s.
To be sure, Aunt Charlotte has rewritten history in “The LeBaron Story” and “Maud’s Story” so as to turn Uncle Joel into a Prophet, Saint, and Martyr — And his untimely murder into “A Modern-Day Cain and Abel Story.” But there is a lot more to this dirty tale than meets the eye. So “Charlotte’s Story” is as much myth in the making as it is history.
My final thoughts on “Maud’s Story” are: Grandmother should have given a sermon or two in church if she was as well-versed in the cult’s dogma as she appears to be in Charlotte’s short biography where she uses Grandmother Maud to preach Joel’s dogma.
In truth, Grandmother was a musician and homemaker… no Scriptorian! She left the preaching and proselytizing up to leaders in the cult. Preferred to be in the kitchen cooking.
Perhaps Aunt Charlotte doesn’t know it (?) but William Preston Tucker (my husband at the time) and my uncle Ervil LeBaron put their heads together to write a good part of those letters Charlotte says Grandma wrote to Spencer W. Kimball!
I was there, at the time, and recall these two leaders of the LeBaron Church/ cult talking about how they could use Grandma Maud as a ploy to get the President of the LDS church to read their [LeBaron cult] literature because she had grown up with Spencer W. Kimball.
They figured he would read a letter from her, though not literature from her sons and their LeBaron dogma. (So they were sneaking up on Pres. Kimball by way of his old friend Maud.)*
Suffice it to say, Aunt Charlotte wasn’t honest about the story of how my Uncle Joel became the self-proclaimed “One Mighty and Strong.” Therefore, I can’t trust anything else in her book. I know for sure, for example, Grandmother Maud DID NOT write most of those letters Charlotte credits her with.
You only have to look at Grandma’s “Notes ‘n’ Quotes” Charlotte wrote “in Grandma’s own words” to get a good example of how Grandmother wrote. When you compare “Grandma’s words” to those eruditely-written letters to Spencer W. Kimball, you can easily see they were NOT put together by Grandma LeBaron.
Though I could say more, I’ll close with: Should anyone ever do a reprint of “Maud’s Story,” please get a good Editor to go over it beforehand. And also, do not run Grandmother’s “Notes ‘n’ Quotes” together as if they were one organized piece. They’re not!
They are short vignettes and should be separated as such. That way, the reader isn’t hoping to find the rest of the tale/”tail” in the next paragraph, only to find themselves hanging — for a whole new tale has taken up!
*”Ghost writing“/ deception was the name of the game when I was sequestered in the LeBaron cult in the 1960s: The sect’s two leading Scriptorians, My Uncle Ervil LeBaron and William Preston Tucker (my former husband) would write the exposé or such. Then publish it with whatever name or signature they thought would most impress and be most likely to convert those receiving the literature or letter.
(Comments transferred from Facebook”:)
Says Moira Blackmore:
I knew Maud, she went out of her busy days by visiting me all alone in Galeana with my 4 baby girls, and when their were shooting guns in my back neighborhood… thank you Steff … I love you, Maud, I love Charlotte as well, years later …
The BIG question: “Will what you are going to say improve the world by being said?”