~ Pt 11: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer: Ma Meets Pa

 

My Memoir: My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer: Ma Meets Pa … Or Was It the Other Way Around? — Part 11

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History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
Winston Spencer Churchill



“It was love at first sight!” exclaimed Mama. “When I first met your Pa, he was up on the roof, in sunny Mesa, Arizona, helpin’ my brother Alma reroof my brother Ben’s house. The year was 1943, I was about twenty-three, ‘n’ in my second year at Tempe University — And quite sure I didn’t want to live polygamy. But all that changed when I met yer pa: I knew, the minute I saw him, he was the man I was supposed to marry!”

So it didn’t matter that my future Daddy was twenty-six years her senior, already married to a beautiful woman, Eva Bowman, and together those two had ten gorgeous children — Plus another on the way. None of that mattered because Mama was a Mormon fundamentalist.

What did matter in Mormon fundamentalist eyes is Ma was “an old maid” at the time she met future Pa. Now, how had she, an attractive, gifted, and accomplished young woman, existed so long under the radar without being  “married up”?  For “Plygs” are generally married off as children — because, to them, marriage and having all the kids one can have is what Life is all about; i.e., All that matters to Mormon fundamentalists, in general, is having all the kids and wives they can have — so as to bring all the little spirits they possibly can into good Mormon fundamentalist homes.

These homes are the best homes in the world, they believe. They simply sacrifice their ALL to serve God by bringing as many as they can of these little foreordained spirits down into “good Mormon homes;” i.e., homes that live the “fullness of the gospel,” as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught it — Homes where not one jot nor one tittle of these early prophets’ words and teachings have been changed! (Is that obsessive-compulsive or what?! Well, they don’t think so.)

But getting back to where I got sidetracked, I’ll tell you what Mother was doing still single at twenty-two: This “catch” was “a Mexico LeBaron.” Now if you’re a Mormon fundamentalist, you know what that means: There was mental illness in Ma’s Family; i.e., “The Mexico-LeBaron Family.”

Let me give you some backstory — if I have the story right. (LeBaron stories are/ were wont to change from time to time): Ma’s big brother, my Uncle Ben, was not only bipolar/schizophrenic, but had recently let the various Mormon fundamentalist groups know they were to follow him as their “Priesthood Head,” because he was the “One Mighty ‘n’ Strong.” Uncle Ben further quipped: “I get revelations from God regularly … Thus sayeth the Lord! “

He claimed his father had given him a special priesthood mantle — the “Scepter of Power,” or “The Right of the Firstborn.” (My maternal grandfather, Dayer LeBaron, taught his family this mantle of priesthood power was given to him, Dayer, by his grandfather, Benjamin F. Johnson — who got it from the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith. Crazy? And how!)

 In today’s blog, it’s not my intent to go into Mormon fundamentalist and LeBaron doctrines, other than to say all this above crazy business meant Uncle Ben claimed to hold the priesthood keys to the kingdom of God on earth. So he was, therefore, “The one Mighty ‘n’ strong, come in the last days to set the house of God in order” — as prophesied in Mormon scriptures.

The Mormon fundamentalists believe “The house of God” (i.e., the mainstream Mormon church) had gotten out of order and lost the keys to the priesthood and, thus, favor with God when they signed away plural marriage in the Manifesto of 1890. (For polygamy was the highest commandment their Prophet Joseph Smith had given them.)

Trust me, that’s all we have time to tell about these fundamentalist doctrines and beliefs, at the moment. We’ve already gotten far off the subject of “Ma Meets Pa.” But at least now you know why Ma did not feel she was a home-breaker … Instead, believed she was a “home-maker.”

Continued in: “My Memoir: My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer: Ma Meets Pa … Or Was It the Other Way Around? — Part 12” 

~ Pt 10, My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, Me, and The Perils of Polygamy

My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer, Pt 10 … (And The Perils of Polygamy)

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Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer & grandchild

 


 One-of-a-kind: M-O-M
Out of all the Mothers in the world,
you’re one-of-a-kind; 
So thanks, Mom!
No better mama could I find!
Rebecca Germany
and Stephany Spencer


Continuing where I left off in the previous blog discussing “The Perils of Polygamy,” let’s add to this perilous Mormon-fundamentalist doctrine discussion one of its greatest oxymorons:

Child brides and young women are thrown into idealistic polygamous relationships without the least training or preparation for such difficult liaisons! This is one of the worst ingredients in this stressful and volatile plural-marriage-mess-up.

 And once thrown to the pernicious “polygamy wolves,” it’s “Stink, sink, or swim:” They’re eaten alive, then expected to automatically know how to spit up and live polygamy like a saint … though it’s an altogether unfair and unnatural way to live.

Now add to this pernicious, perilous, presumptuous, and preposterous plural-marriage pot the ever-abiding and overriding following foul-smelling, fallacious, and insidious ingredient: These unfortunate “plygs” believe they are Saints –– but they’re not. Now stir!

A mature couple in a monogamous marriage generally has enough trouble making a go of it. When you throw into a nubile polygamous marriage all the ingredients included in the plural-marriage kit (a kit filled with kinks and sticks that wedge themselves into the spokes of the vehicle’s fine tuning) it’s a wonder the volatile wheel can turn at all!

And a wonder the fire of love isn’t put out altogether. Sometimes it is. But often times there was no love, to begin with — just an arranged marriage participated in out of obligation and belief that that’s what God wants.

Add to this boiling brew that Mormon fundamentalists consider themselves “God’s chosen handful.” So they take for granted they should automatically know how to cook it all up — the polygamous soup recipe, that is — perfectly — even though they got no training in the matter of how to cook it — and ain’t no saints!

Now add to this stew that there are no manuals — no recipes written on the subject of how to live the dastardly, difficult life of polygamy — let alone a Dr. Phil to contact for counseling and guidance — no matter how badly a wife, husband, child, and family needs help and advice.

The end result? You have a cesspool of living hell — not harmony. People have to shut off their emotions to survive! To be sure, it’s a life only true Saints could endure or traverse. Yet, fools wade in where angels fear to tread. I know! I’ve been there, done that … and never want to do it again!

So, I feel for my zealous grandmother, grandfather, and his plural wife, Aunt Onie (discussed in previous blogs). They tried so hard to live their Prophet Joseph Smith’s commandment: “Live polygamy or be damned to hell.

Hell?! They were already in hell! They just didn’t know it! Or couldn’t admit it … because it ran against the grain of their religion to think, let alone dare believe such stuff.

Poor miserable Mama! But as in all things in this world, amidst the bad, there’s always some good. And she attests that her childhood “had many wonderful times.” Nonetheless, she grew up in the polygamists’ barbarous, backward lifestyle laden with deprivation and unnecessary dilemmas.

Monogamous mothers and fathers don’t have enough time, money, and attention to give to their children when they have from five to twenty-five babies — or more! — all born within a year or two of each other — as in the case of Mormon fundamentalist families.

So you know the polygamist father of a huge herd of kids ain’t got the wherewithal to give to his flock — including all his wives. Therefore, Mama and her nineteen siblings and half-siblings, plus her mother, father, and his plural wife suffered a lot of needless hell … and they didn’t have to wait “till death do us part.”

Only it’s considered blasphemous, among Mormon fundamentalists, to think this way. They generally wouldn’t dream of thinking the way I now think — though, let me tell you, it’s far from the way I was brought up to think!

Mormon fundamentalists believe they are doing a glorious and blessed thing when they bring all the children they possibly can into “good Mormon fundamentalist families — and harems.” (I mean, it’s literally quantity, not quality!)

After they’ve produced all the kids and wives they possibly can, they all then swim in their surreal soup, surviving only by living in a dream world where they’re cut off from their real feelings and individuality.

This surreal, sanctimonious soup they manage to sip only by keeping a smile on their face, a prayer in their heart … and a tale in their head that they’re “very, very happy, mightily blessed ... and better/ better off than everyone else.”

It’s a rather ridiculous but rewarding tale; one that assures them they’re going to the highest degree of glory, once they die (the women on their husband’s shirt tails, no less!) … because they lived polygamy and also had all the kids they possibly could.” (All that matters to most Mormon fundamentalists is how many wives and children they have!)

They’re so misled … and reason even less. The truth is pretty much the opposite of what they believe. But they’re taught to follow their patriarchal leaders … not to use their head or heart.

They’re commonly told: “When your leader speaks, your thinking has been done.” And they’re admonished to sacrifice in this life … and live for the hereafter. (Life’s too miserable to live for the here-‘n’-now!)

Living in this illusion — this delusion — they have no idea what real attention and love is.  Nor are they prepared to do as well nor have as good a life as they might have had were they raised normally; i.e., if they were raised to fit into our modern world … not a fastidious foot-washing fantasy.

Sadly, in their religious fanaticism, they pass their masochistic, ignorant, depraved and deprived lifestyle on, generation after generation — a secluded, backward, and lawless lifestyle that perpetrates and perpetuates polygamy and huge progenies of neglected and abused children.

What’s worse, in the name of religious freedom, these children born in the United States to one man and his multiple wives are children born without the protection and rights the rest of America’s children are born with. (That’s another story, but I’ve discussed it, somewhat, in earlier blogs.)

Suffice it to say, “Plural marriage” is nothing but an illegal, insensitive, narcissistic, and irresponsible lifestyle generated by Joe Smith, an uneducated, sense-of-entitlement, self-proclaimed prophet … a “prophet” there for the “profit,” power, and prestige!

Continued in: “My Memoir: My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer, Pt 11 … And The Perils of Polygamy”

~ Pt 9: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, Me, and the Perils of Polygamy

My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer, Pt 9 — And the Perils of Polygamy

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My mama, Esther LeBaron-McDonald de Spencer

“The mother-child relationship is paradoxical,
and in a sense, tragic.
It requires the most intense love on the mother’s side,
yet this very love must help the child
grow away from the mother,
and to become fully independent.”
Erich Fromm



Mother never told me much about how she was affected growing up in the polygamous love-triangle that existed between her parents and her father’s plural wife, Onie.

She was two years old when her parents, who had already been married fourteen years, brought naïve and trusting, pretty,  sexy, eighteen-year-old Onie (thirteen years younger than Mama’s mother, and twenty years younger than her father) into their already well-established family.

Then they lived in the same house altogether (happily ever after?) the first seven years after her pa took his beloved, gorgeous, nubile Onie as a plural wife!

Having, myself, been given away, at age sixteen, as a child bride in a prearranged polygamous marriage to a man ten years my senior, his first wife fifteen years my senior … and so on … I have a very good idea what bedlam innocent Onie found herself in!

No fairy tales or beans about it: You can imagine there were plenty of troubles and extenuating circumstances that reigned in Mama’s immediate polygamous family-of-origin — a salt-of-the-earth family of scrabble farmers, house-painting handymen — and a piano-teaching Mommie (who was pregnant and bearing babies, besides, a good part of the time she was off teaching piano lessons).

Especially must this polygamous arrangement have been difficult, given the triangulated (strangulated?) love affair of three adults all housed together under one crowded roof … a roof falling in on them … figuratively speaking, if not literally.

Add to this hillbilly, barbarous, and backward combination the herd of babies, adolescents, and cantankerous teenagers — And one “priesthood-holding patriarch” — who reigned religiously, ruling the roost with a Mormon fundamentalist’s fanatic, foot-washing, and zealous iron hand:

In orthodox Mormonism, the man has the first, last, and every word in between. So you can imagine, then, there was probably turmoil the likes of which you don’t want to imagine! (I’m just imagining!)

I’m certain it was especially burdensome and difficult when, periodically, Mother’s father, Dayer, returned home after working in the United States for months on end.

His frequent absenteeisms naturally heightened pressures between the two lonely, overworked housewives who had to share him. But it also made it difficult for Grandpa Dayer to discipline his children who regarded their father as somewhat a stranger and only a visitor.

Add to this hot-to-trot pot the deprivation and strain dire poverty presents in the lives of polygamous households and their large, deprived families of children — usually born within a year or two of each other.

In such a situation, you have a volcanic and miserable stew abrew whose loose lid could blow off at any moment. And sometimes it did.

So it had to be a pressure relief — and a welcome relief –– for Grandpa to be gone. At least, he wasn’t torn between trying to spread himself around amongst two wives and his umpteen children — each vying for a part of this X factor’s energies, time, help, money, and affection. (“Everything you own owns a part of you!”)

In the polygamy brew, let’s not overlook, too, polygamist husbands are free to court and hang out with more than a few “Broads” — while away from their lonely wives … And one reason men seek sex is to relieve pressure.

This philandering lifestyle is participated in by polygamist men with gusto and a narcissistic sense of entitlement — all the while their abandoned, put-upon, lonely, loving wives are home alone struggling to keep a meal on the table and clothes on the kids!

Not only that: Polygamous wives are left to be mother and father of their womanizing husband’s broods of babies — children basically abandoned by their father and left to the equally abandoned wives to singlehandedly, dedicatedly, and religiously raise … And most likely in deprivation and poverty! It’s truly slave labor — even if a labor of love. And all in the name of religion (or slavery?)!

Continued in: “My Memoir: My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer, Pt 10 — And the Perils of Polygamy”

 

 

 

 

~ Pt 8: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, Me, and the Perils of Polygamy

My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer — And the Perils of Polygamy — Pt 8

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Grandpa LeBaron’s second wife, Aunt Onie, and their six children


“It is not our exalted feelings,
it is our sentiments that build the necessary home.”
Elizabeth Bowen



We left off where I was querying Mama about her past, present, parents … and the perils of polygamy:

“Sadly,” Mama told me, “Pa ‘n’ Ma failed miserably in their all-out efforts to follow Joseph Smith’s commandment to live polygamy or be damned to hell. Aunt Onie* ultimately left Papa, taking with her, her six children she’d borne him.

Actually, what happened is, while Grandpa Dayer was away on one of his long trips painting houses in the United States, Aunt Onie fell for and had an affair with a handsome and charming young Mexican man. When she became pregnant with his child, her affair was discovered. So Grandpa “put her aside.

But, personally, I don’t blame Aunt Onie for being attracted to another man: She was around thirty years old. Her fifty-year-old husband was gone much of the time. And when home, Onie had to share him with Grandmother Maud (thirteen years Onie’s senior), and a household full of children and chores … plus all the jobs her husband had to do around home, yard, and town.

But even if none of that mattered, it’s hard to resist temptation when you’re young, attractive, lonely, lovelorn, forlorn … and your husband is generally off sowin’ his wild “corn”/oats. And what’s worse, when he is home, sex is only for having children:

[Grandpa believed and held to “The Law of Chastity,” the Mormon fundamentalist doctrine that proclaimed, among other things, that sex was only for procreation. And once the wife  was pregnant (and also while she was nursing) he was to leave her alone and have no more sex with her!]

But note the oxymoron: Aunt Onie’s husband could have a plural wife, but God forbid Aunt Onie had a plural husband — though if anyone ever needed a plural husband, it was she!

Aunt Onie finally solved her love-n-loneliness dilemmas by leaving Grandfather Dayer and polygamy altogether. She simply went to visit her family of origin in Hurricane, Utah, settled near them — and never returned.

Poor, grief-stricken, and emotionally abandoned Aunt Onie was shunned till she was forced, though totally heartbroken about it, to adopt out her beautiful illegitimate brown baby: Adultery and bearing a baby out of wedlock — especially a half-breed  — was simply unacceptable among 1930’s Mormons!

But Aunt Onie lived near and visited regularly her darling “bastard baby,” as they were called back then. How do I know all this? Because Mama told me. And because, between the years of 1955 and 1960, my family lived near Aunt Onie in Hurricane, Utah.

One day Aunt Onie actually came to my school and gave a speech to our Jr. High/High School student body, as part of a Community Outreach Program. The theme of her speech centered on how she, as a young adult, had made some egregious errors she hoped we would not fall into, ourselves.

Among the many things she told us was: “I ignored my parents’ ‘n’ the church’s advice, ‘n’ married into polygamy. My rebellion ‘n’ goin’ against the leaders of the church led me into a life of sin, misery, ‘n’ shame.

“After unbearable sufferin’ ‘n loneliness — which sin always leads to — I eventually saw the error of my ways, repented of my sins, ‘n’ returned to the LDS Church. Then I got rebaptized for the remission of my sins.”

Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she related her painful misgivings, mistakes, and miserable story. What an amazingly strong woman she was to open up and share, honestly, her experiences and lessons with us young people. I was and still am impressed with her show of humility and integrity. Aunt Onie was a wonderful example to us students, that day … and a wonderful public speaker!

Now let’s get back to where Mama was telling me about when she and her siblings lost Aunt Onie and their half-siblings who had been so much a part of their life for around fourteen years — including the two years or so when Onie babysat them and helped care for them before she married Grandpa Dayer as his plural wife:

“Words cannot express the sorrow I felt … our whole family felt,” reminisced Mama –– “upon losing Aunt Onie ‘n’ our playmates — our six half-brothers ‘n’ sisters we’d grown up with.

“We’d shared the same house with them for seven years. And Aunt Onie had taken care of us like a second mother, while Mama was often gone — busy teachin’ piano lessons to help support the family.” 

Mother and her siblings never got over having lost their “other mother,” and six half-siblings. But during the years my family lived in Hurricane, Utah, Mama and Aunt Onie visited regularly. This helped Ma not miss so much her mother and family in Mexico.


*Note: They called Grandpa’s plural/second wife, “Aunt,” as a show of affection and kinship. Though in some polygamous families, the plural wife might have been called “Mama Onie,” or other such.

Continued in: “My Memoir: My Mama, Esther LeBaron McDonald de Spencer — And the Perils of Polygamy — Pt 9”