My Mama, Esther LeBaron Spencer de McDonald
Juarez Stake Academy
(Jr. High/High School of Colonia Juarez, México)
“My mama is so good to me,
She works for me each day,
So She can buy me food and clothes,
And many toys for play.
I love my mama,
Yes I do, my mama good and kind;
And if I looked and looked,
No better mama could I find.”
(Author unknown — Children’s song)
As a kid, I used to ask Mama what her life was like when she was a kid. Fundamentalist Mormon “Saints” believe they are/are supposed to be perfect. So Mama mostly only told me about the many good things in her life as she was growing up. But she sometimes would admit to some bad things that happened too.
For example: In answer to my questions about her childhood, Mama exclaimed: “I loved my life! It couldn’t have been more perfect! The persecution my older brothers ‘n’ sisters had to suffer had let up a lot by the time I was of school-age. And Pa only gave me one spankin’ in all my life — which I deserved! [She wouldn’t tell me what she did to deserve it.]
“However, I still experienced feelings of low self-worth ‘n’ excruciating shame … which I always worked hard to try to overcome. Even though my siblings ‘n’ I were top students at Juarez Stake Academy [Her High School’s name], it still really affected my self-esteem ’cause I grew up with my family bein’ looked down upon ‘n’ not bein’ accepted.
“The LDS Stake President ‘n’ Superintendent of our school system said my brother Ben was the brightest student ever to have gone through the Juarez Stake Academy!” [It was a very small-town High School, to be sure, in the early to mid-1900s, when Mother and her siblings attended this Mormon colony’s public schools. So not too much competition.]
Mother often talked about “The-best this” and “The-best that!” (This is how I was raised!) The jury is still out on whether Uncle Ben still holds that title — or if he ever held it at all! But I always heard about how brilliant he was — before he had the mental breakdown and schizophrenia/bipolar disease set in.
Mama continued: “So despite how well us LeBaron kids did in school, my parents were called ‘apostates.’ And people in the Mormon colonies were told to not associate with us, other than for doin’ business.
“Ma ‘n’ Pa didn’t, therefore, go to church, though they believed in Mormonism. Even so, us kids went to the mainline Mormon colony’s only Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There, we were taught the revisionist Mormon doctrines: That polygamy was now a sin, for example … ‘n’ they taught me my parents were sinners.
“Yet, since my parents were Mormon fundamentalists, at home we were taught the orthodox Mormon doctrines — The Mormon beliefs lived before the Manifesto of 1890.
“It was confusing to have my ma ‘n’ pa pointin’ out how the Mormon church was now out of order … all the while at the LDS church I was goin’ to, my siblings ‘n’ I were taught our parents were out of order ‘n’ on the wrong path — ‘n’ therefore goin’ against God ‘n’ God’s leaders — so headed for hell!
“But even though Pa had more than one wife, ‘n’ people of my same faith were makin’ fun of our family ‘n’ my father, they respected Mother’s piano teachin’ ‘n’ playin’ … And my own piano expertise, too … ’cause Ma was the best piano teacher … ‘n’ I was the best pianist in the colonies!”
[There was at least one other outstanding pianist back then in the Mormon Colonies in Mexico: The one who taught Mother to play Piano Concertos, etc. (Ione Fenn?) — so Mother could accompany a Symphony Orchestra performing Piano Concertos. I don’t recall hearing much about this expert pianist and piano teacher … or whether she was really “the best”!]
But let’s let Mama continue: *”So I grew up with mixed feelings: On the one hand, I knew I was the best ‘n’ most outstanding girl in town — And for that matter, in all of Mormondom.
*”How could I be sure of this? ‘Cause whenever church Apostles ‘n’ other church leaders visited our colony, they would tell us the Mormons of Colonia Juarez were the very best ‘n’ purest of all the Mormons they met in any other Mormon town or city.
“And I knew I was the best ‘n’ purest of all the girls ‘n’ women in Colonia Juarez. So that’s how I knew I was the best ‘n’ most perfect woman in the whole world — given that Mormon women are better, to begin with, than women of the world …
“So, as you said befer, I knew I was the best ‘n’ purest of all them Mormon women. [I will enlarge upon this in a later blog. Meanwhile, the jury is still out on it. LOL!]
“But on the other hand, I came to feel like my family ‘n’ I were the lowest people in town — due to how so many people talked ’bout us, ‘n’ shamed ‘n’ shunned us.
“Still, when my two older siblings, Ben ‘n’ Lucinda, went crazy, that added more ridicule, ostracization, ‘n’ shame to our family. [In those backwards days, especially in small towns, the mentally ill weren’t looked upon kindly.]
“Even so, and in spite of all our sorrows ‘n’ religious confusion, how I loved playin’ with ‘n’ doin’ things with my half-sisters, Aunt Onie’s children — Barbara, Clara, Verla, and Ilene. And how I loved bein’ the only girl in the middle of my own seven brothers: Ben, Wesley, Alma, Joel, Ervil, Floren, and Verlan.
Please note: When I’m quoting things Mother said, way back when, please don’t think, by any means, that I agree with all her ideas or ways of thinking.
That’s but the way I was raised. However, it was a long time ago, and I have changed a lot since then (Let’s hope!) — not only in my values, but in my lack of prejudice, and in my education, rationality, and understanding also.
I’m sure Mother changed some in her outlook, beliefs, and values, too, over the years. Since I left her cult and moved away, I wasn’t around her a lot in her last forty-six years.
But the few times I had spoken to or seen her during that time of estrangement, I could only wonder how she never saw through the numerous fallacies she preached and believed in so zealously: Things such as polygamy, for example — even though she was too jealous to live polygamy, herself (according to Daddy).