My Book Review of My Aunt Charlotte LeBaron’s “Maud’s Story”


It’s supposedly a short biography of Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron. But it 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,” is largely a revised version —  a rewriting 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 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!

Still, I resent she used 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. “Maud’s Story” really should be “Charlotte’s Story.”

But to give Aunt Charlotte 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 that are: “Quotes from Grandma’s Notes.”

Perhaps, to get more of Grandmother’s history, Charlotte expects us to read “The LeBaron Story,” which she also penned with her husband, my Uncle Verlan. (This book is another apologists’ chronicle largely written to preach the Church of the Firstborn doctrine.)

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 1953.


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 … 

 Steph Spencer

Steph Spencer: I appreciate your feedback, Moira, and your attempts to always be positive and loving. That’s what makes the world go around. I’m so happy Grandma visited you and helped lift your spirits during a very bad time.

She seems to have been there, often enough, for visitors and people she was trying to help convert to the cult. Converts to the cult meant more tithing money and consecrations of all their wealth, too, to the Bishop’s storehouse!

This was largely how Grandma and her sons managed to survive down there in the Mexico LeBaron cult — especially as each of her sons married more and more wives who then bore them infinite amounts of children. 

Given her help with the church’s conversion of new members, it seems Grandma Maud had no energy and time left over for her own many hundreds of grandkids, great-grandkids, great-great, and great-great-great-Grand children, and so on and on … not to mention her thousands of other relatives ad infinitum.

I recall only two times she came by Mother’s place, during the two years I lived at home before I was married off — even though we lived within walking distance of Grandmother Maud in the LeBaron colony.

And my grandmother Maud never once visited me or even my mother, in our hours of need and desperation — while lived in the LeBaron colony. I may as well have not had a grandmother. Grandmother did help Mother out a lot later on after my father died. But that was years after I left/ escaped the cult.)

When I was fourteen and we moved from the United States to where Grandmother lived in Mexico, I thought, “Now I will finally have one of those grandmothers I have so often read about in children’s literature and longed for as I was growing up.” 

But Grandmother Maud, though she had favored and spoiled Mama when she was raising her, was never emotionally there for me or the rest of my mother’s thirteen other children — certainly never was she a grandma that made cookies for her grandkids, let alone did she give us grandchildren any other gifts. Not even ever any hugs.

The lack of hugs and kisses was not just because she did not get along with my father — her son-in-law Floyd Otto Spencer! Our Family was not a hugging-touching family. But pioneer-woman Grandmother was also simply overwhelmed and overworked given all her duties that included her exponentially growing progeny.

I had always lived within walking distance of her, while in the LeBaron colony, so she did visit me twice, after I was married, to give me a couple of piano lessons. But other than that, in the four years I lived there on my own after I was married at age sixteen, Grandmother only dropped by one another time — but not to see her new grandchild I had almost died giving birth to at age seventeen. My baby and I were simply taken for granted!

 She came by to take back a piece of sheet music she had given me that she now wanted to turn around and give to an investigator of our cult who was also a pianist! I told Grandma, “No! You gave the music to me!! So it’s mine now! And I want it. So you can’t take it back … only to turn around and give it to somebody else you hardly even know, besides!”

Grandmom was furious with me for not giving it back to her so she could impress and influence the newcomer — if you can believe it! The newcomer was more important than I, her granddaughter. And she treated me as if the music still belonged to her … though she had given it to me the year before. This was “Indian trading” if ever I saw such. 

Now I know where my own mother learned this taking-back of what she had given me — as if she still owned it and had power over it so could turn around and take it back whenever she pleased, so as to give it to somebody else “more important” who wanted it — even though I still very much wanted it! I never knew what to depend on! Then you wonder what causes schizophrenic kids? I’m at least sure this behavior did not help any. 

The bottom line: When there are lots of kids and relatives, they are not highly valued. They get taken for granted. They are pawns in the hands of the powers that be and regularly sacrificed for “the cause”!


Rachel LeBaron Anderson:
Steph Spencer
Steph Spencer Good question, Rachel! I ask myself that important question all the time as I write my Memoirs!
Rachel LeBaron Anderson
Rachel LeBaron Anderson You are bringing healing to the younger generations trying to make sense of everything, building strong roots, many generations will be glad someone wrote things down.
Steph Spencer

Steph Spencer Thanks so much for this insightfulness and the feedback! As always, Rachel, you show great wisdom and intellect. Your response is much appreciated and will help me a lot as I take the time to “make sense of everything” on my end. That is certainly one of my goals!

Dena McLean I enjoyed reading this book, not only to learn about family but specifically learn more about my Great Grandmother Maud. I know the story is all in perspective but I like to hear all perspectives. Even if I don’t agree with the religious views I find it fascinating how they chose Joel LeBaron, Alma’s priesthood keys and all the people connected to each story and then trying to find them in genealogy. Right now, I’m trying to discover if the man who baptized Maud was John Smith, as in Joseph Smith’s brother’s son or another John Smith. I hope to find some truth.
Steph Spencer
Steph Spencer Thank you for this valuable feedback. And as always, I’m impressed with your scholarliness. To be sure, Charlotte’s “Maud’s … Whoops! This post posted without my finishing my comments so I’m sending you the one below also.
Steph Spencer
Steph Spencer As always, your feedback is so appreciated, and so is your scholarliness. “Maud’s Story” is skewed to convert people to Joel’s being a” true Prophet,” etc.
She was there pretty much from the beginning but chose to change how Joel got the “priesthood keys,” et cetera. Newcomers to the story believe her fabrications, and that’s how myths are built.

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