Pt 31-A: Esther LeBaron Spencer,
the Mexico LeBarons, and Mental Illness

grandma-and-grandpa
Grandpa Alma Dayer LeBaron and his second oldest daughter Lucinda LeBaron Butchereit

“No influence is so powerful as that of the mother.”
Sarah Josepha Hale

As I said in the previous blog, both my mother and maternal grandmother Maud LeBaron believed the cause of mental illness in their immediate family was mainly due to the townspeople who ostracized and persecuted them incessantly.


But I believe people need to take a good look at what part they, themselves, played/ play in what happens to them and the lives of their children. My opinion as to what caused the mental illnesses includes the following list:

But I believe people need to take a good look at what part they, themselves, played/ play in what happens to them and the lives of their children. My opinion as to what caused the mental illnesses includes the following list:

1-  The genes for susceptibility to a number of mental illnesses runs in both of my maternal grandparents’ family lines! That’s a biggie!

2-  There were some huge problems in my grandparents’ household and in the upbringing of their children — problems that affected their mental well-being from the womb to the tomb. 

3-  Enduring their whole life the small-town Mormon venom, denigration, and ostracism definitely played a large part in my grandparents’ children’s succumbing to multiple mental and emotional illnesses. Especially damaging to the LeBaron children was being shunned by the most influential people of their own religion and community.

4- In hindsight, and judging by my own personal sight, my grandparents’ choices greatly affected their children. I’ve listed some of those choices here:

     A-  Staying in the Mormon colonies to raise their children, despite the devastating effects ostracization and persecution have on especially sensitive children .

     B-  Taking a plural wife, thereby ignoring their church’s Manifesto of 1890 that outlawed polygamy. This not only compounded the familial problems that already existed, but forced my grandparents to move to Old Mexico to raise their family — a place where Grandfather Dayer was not allowed to earn a living. So he had to leave his family for months at a time to work in the United States.

     C-  Living polygamy multiplied the poverty, stress, deprivation, and emotional upheaval, not to mention that it brought on ostracism and persecution BIG-time. All these things lead to stress—and stress helps lead to mental illness, especially when it already exists in the genes.

     D-  Sticking to Mormon fundamentalist beliefs and values, come hell or high water, meant having all the children they could possibly have — whether it was healthy or not — which also meant much greater poverty and far less time, money, attention, food, and love for each child.

     E-  Having lots of kids meant the older children, especially, had to work far too hard to help raise all those babies. Since the oldest child born to my grandparents was a girl (Irene), she suffered the biggest brunt of having to play mommy to the huge family born to Grandpa Dayer and Grandma Maud. (Orthodox Mormon beliefs put quantity ahead of quality … and their beliefs ahead of common sense and the needs of their babies, children, and themselves.)

(Continued January 7, 2019, in Pt 31-B: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, the Mexico LeBarons, and Mental Illness)

4 thoughts on “Pt 31-A: Esther LeBaron Spencer, the Mexico LeBarons, and Mental Illness

    1. Wow! Just when life was about to get me down you reminded me what Nietzsche said: “If it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.” I tend to think it killed me but I guess you are right–I’m wiser and stronger than people who never survived my experiences. And how about you? Can you see where your hardest hours have made you stronger–given that you were strong enough to survive them in the first place?

      Liked by 1 person

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