Pt 33: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer and Family Incest


My maternal great-grandparents Lucinda Mariah Emmerson and William Wesley McDonald

“The heart of the mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
Honore De Balzac
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Incest on my maternal grandfather Alma Dayer LeBaron’s side definitely contributed to the mental illness prevalent in most of my maternal grandparents’ ten children who lived to adulthood!

Grandfather Alma Dayer LeBaron, Sr.’s parents were first cousins: His grandfather Benjamin Franklin Johnson’s seventh wife’s daughter Sarah Jane Johnson married her paternal Aunt Esther Melita Johnson’s son Benjamin Franklin LeBaron—Benjamin Franklin Johnson’s nephew. Incest plain and simple!

The dilemma — and the reason incest is illegal is that when close relatives marry, they compound bad/ recessive genes in their family tree.

Says historian Kris Wray:
Benjamin F. Johnson had a brilliant brother, Seth Johnson, who, he said in his “My Life’s Review,” experienced “mania” and was “weakened in mind” at one time … though he stated he had a “sound” mind later.

“As far as Owen LeBaron, I’d gamble his mental illness came from the Johnson/LeBaron line. His dad’s (William Farland LeBaron) parents were David Tully LeBaron and Harriett Naomi Johnson. Grandpa David Tully’s parents were David Tully LeBaron (Sr) and Esther Malita Johnson (Benjamin F. Johnson’s sister).”

In other words, there WAS genetic disposition for mental illness in the LeBaron AND Johnson lines (NOT just in my grandmother Maud McDonald’s line). Dayer’s dad marrying his Johnson first-cousin magnified it. 

Mania is a facet of type I bipolar disorder in which the mood state is abnormally heightened and accompanied by hyperactivity and a reduced need for sleep.

By contrast, hypomania (often described as “mania-light”) is a type II bipolar disorder which neither has the range nor severity of symptoms that classic mania has. (https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjKv53WyubgAhUUs54KHXqaBBkQFjACegQIBxAL&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.verywellmind.com%2Fsymptoms-of-mania-380311&usg=AOvVaw1rN1sW2GH8_ntXBJYx8aKY)

In my quest to further understand what might have caused the unusual amount of mental illness in my Mexico-LeBaron family, years ago I was told the following by my sister Judith Spencer: “Mental illness ran in the bloodlines of BOTH our Grandma Maud’s parents William Wesley McDonald and Lucinda Mariah Emmerson.

“People TOLD our grandmother’s parents, William Wesley McDonald and Lucinda Mariah Emerson, ‘DO NOT marry!! There’s ‘bad blood’ in your families!’In other words,” she said, “There was mental illness in both their family trees! For them to marry could only compound the problem. They married anyway.” * Love and libido won out!

It is now known Schizophrenia is heritable — AND SKIPS a generation to show up in the SECOND generation of children born into bloodlines where at least one of the parents has the schizophrenia/ manic-depressive/ bipolar gene.

As it turns out, in the Mexico-LeBarons’ case schizophrenia/ bipolar disease/ personality disorders not only ran in BOTH our Grandmother Maud’s parents’ family trees, but ALSO in Grandfather Dayer’s family tree. That would more than double the schizophrenic /bipolar genetics and heritability.

I do not personally know about any mental disorders that ran in my great-grandmother Lucinda Mariah Emmerson’s family line. Only that, though schizophrenia is found in all nationalities and races, Sweden and Ireland rate the highest for this disorder. Norway follows close behind. (The Scots Irish? When history’s followed back far enough, they are Irish.) 

In past decades, schizophrenia was often called “Manic Depression.” Today it is usually referred to as Bipolar Disease. “McDonald” is an Irish/ Scots Irish surname. “Emmerson” is a Swedish surname. I mention this as only one piece of the puzzle contributing to mental challenges in my beloved Mexico-LeBaron family line.

Though my grandmother Maud’s parents Wesley McDonald and Lucinda Mariah Emerson had mental illness running in their family trees (as many family trees do, I might add), out of Grandma Maud’s own immediate family of originnone of her siblings suffered notable mental illness—as far as I know. And none of Wesley and Mariah McDonald’s children exhibited any of the mental illness that existed in their father Wesley McDonald’s later years.

Grandma Maud told me about a number of occasions in her life when she’d heard a voice speak to her “plain as day.” This and other such things may have been mild signs of Schizophrenia in Gramma Maud. But I read in a book on Schizophrenia that eating green potatoes, among other things, could affect a temporary Schizophrenic disorder in at least some people. So you never know.

Case in point, however: The mental-illness gene my great-grandfather William Wesley McDonald carried DID skip a generation! That is, it didn’t show up, as far as I know, in the siblings of my grandmother Maud McDonald’s family of origin. BUT it showed up BIG-TIME in the next generation — Grandpa Dayer and Grandma Maud LeBarons’ children. Most, if not all of their living children had mental problems to one degree or another.

For example, every one of Grandpa and Grandma LeBaron’s seven living sons claimed to be, at one time or another and to one degree or another, “The one mighty and strong”/OM&S (God’s spoke person on earth).** Some of this may have been brought on by upbringing, desires for power and profit, and other such, rather than by defective genes.

But it’s also likely they heard voices, and had revelations, dreams, and inspiration that told them they were “the one mighty and strong prophet” spoken of in Mormon Scriptures.

Grandpa and Grandma LeBaron’s creative and talented daughter Lucinda spent most of her life in a mental institution — as did their brilliant oldest son Ben. And their disturbed son Ervil went clear over the cliff—“was the spittin’ image,” said Grandmamma Maud, of her own father William Wesley McDonald who began to hear voices, get revelations, etc., in his latter years!***

Their gifted and beautiful daughter Esther (my mother) lived in a mild dream world along with other personality disorders. Example: from time to time she/ Mama had manic-depressive episodes/ bipolar symptoms — including a few “nervous breakdowns.” And she had a narcissistic personality disorder, including delusions of grandeur. Paranoia also visited Mama as well as pathological lying; i.e., she believed her own lies.

Nevertheless, many people loved, respected, and befriended my mother throughout her life. In other words, Mother’s mental issues didn’t get in the way of her relationships with most people—though they got in my way!

As a young woman, Mother once told people she was a Hollywood starlet and a Concert Pianist. In actuality, my grandma Maud saw to it her daughter Esther/my mother got piano lessons and the time to practice enough to memorize a number of beautiful Piano Concertos.

But that did not make her a Concert Pianist; i.e., she never held the prestigious position of accompanyig Philharmonic Orchestra’s as their Concert Pianst! Instead, she quit college early on to become the plural wife of an old man, baring him fourteen kids along with six miscarriages within the space of 21 years; i.e., She was a stay-at-home mom.

Mother also told people she and all her kids and husband had their “callings and elections made sure.” (That is to say, HER kids were ALL going to heaven. No question about it!!)

She told people she “knew” HER husband and HER kids were going to “the highest degree of glory” “because they, like her, were so pure and saintly — so holy they were incapable of experiencing even “evil emotions such as envy or jealousy”! (That made them perfectly cut out to live polygamy, right? However, in her 21 years of marriage, Mom was too jealous to share Pop with even ONE other concurrent wife!)

Nevertheless, I don’t believe anybody in the cult ever noticed the inconsistentcies in what she preached and what she practiced. She said her Patriarchal Blessing “said so” and they believed her. This was mostly wishful thinking, exaggeration, and delusions of grandeur. Up until I escaped the LeBaron sect she belonged to, she also told people I/moi was her most perfect and holy child!

It helped cause Ma a nervous breakdown, therefore, when at age 21 I FLED the religion she raised me in — the religion she was SO sure was the ONLY true religion — the one you HAD to believe in to go to the highest degree of glory!

Needless to say, after I fled Mother’s religion/cult, she condemned me to hell, saying I wasn’t as spiritual as she and the rest of her kids were. (She somehow always took it upon herself to be my judge! … I thought that was God’s job!)

Now, back to the subject of mental illness in the Mexico-LeBarons’ immediate family: What further caused the Mexico-LeBaron children’s mental disorders is: There was not ONLY mental illness and personality disorders in BOTH my maternal grandparent’s family trees, but BOTH Grandmother Maud AND Grandfather Dayer, THEMSELVES, talked, not infrequently, about having unusually vivid dreams, revelations, and “hearing voices” — voices that spoke to them and gave them guidance. In other words, this meant double the schizophrenic characteristics in just the Mexico-LeBaron children’s parents, alone!

I know some people are gifted with a high level of intuition, extra-sensory perception/ ESP, and so forth. The gift of inspiration/ “a still, small voice,” etc., runs in creative families like the Mexico-LeBarons. And Poets are said to be prophets. Furthermore, schizophrenia runs high in creative families. Still, Grandfather Dayer’s extra-sensory perceptions went beyond that of healthy and normal.

To sum it all up, my maternal grandparents carried outward signs of mental-illness; e.g., voices talking to them, on TOP of their inner genetic markers for mental disorders. This tally sheet quadrupled chances that at least some of their Mexico-LeBaron children would inherit mental problems—especially given there were other stressors and traumas in their life that helped kick in the recessive genes for mental illness.

*This concludes my comments. Thank you for visiting my blog!
Your feedback would be most beneficial.
Now, till next time, be of good cheer; Spring is here! ~ Stephany

(Continued March 3, 2019, “Pt 34-A: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer and Mental Illness.”)

*My sister Judith Spencer’s oldest daughter was schizophrenic/ bipolar. Because of this, Judy did much research, trying to understand the disease, how it came about, and how to deal with it. I don’t recall, now, the relatives she spoke with on my grandma Maud’s and grandpa Dayer’s family sides. But the information I related above was told to her by them.


** See The LeBaron Story, andMaud’s Story,” on Amazon.com and Kindle. Though these books were written to preach “The Church of the First Born” doctrine, they are all we have of the Mexico-LeBaron Family’s published history — about our only source, though highly biased.

*** See “Cult Insanity” and Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer

Pt 32: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, The Mexico-LeBarons, and Mental Illness

Pt 32: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, the Mexico-LeBarons, and Mental Illness

Pt 32: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, The Mexico-LeBarons, and Mental Illness


three-pictures-of-ervil


“The conscience of children is formed
by the influences that surrounded them;
their notions of good and evil are the result of
the moral atmosphere they breathe.”

Jean Paul Richter



We left off last week with this assertion: People should take responsibility for their actions; not project blame onto the devil nor others for what happens to them and their children.

As we saw in the previous blogs, Grandfather Dayer and Grandmother Maud’s life and child-rearing included plenty of things that could cause mental breakdowns — though they tended to put most of the blame on the persecution and ostracism their kids suffered growing up in the Mormon colonies in Mexico. No question, that took its toll!

But Grandma told us her son Ervil was the “spittin’ image” of her own father: “Even looks exactly like ‘im!” she efused. [*1] But she only divulged this long-held secret after her son Ervil began showing severe psychotic breaks — as in intent to murder his brother Joel, et Al. 

In an afterthought, Grandma Maud added, disconcertingly, “Despite his bein’ highly gifted in art, music, teaching, and other areas, Pa broke in his older years — same as his grandson Ervil.

“But before he became mentally ill, my handsome father taught Art and Music in High School, often delivered sermons in church. And  was a much sought-after Singer, as well as a teacher of church doctrinal classes.

“Him and my ma regularly sang duets in church and elsewhere. Both had perfect pitch … could sight-sing sheet music, so they could do fine when they had no instrumental backup or a pitchpipe. They really knew their Music Theory, too. Music was very important in my home as we grew up.”

Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all Grandma would tell about her father. In fact, as I pointed out, she never, ever let anybody know about her father going off the deep end until she saw her son Ervil, “had the spirit of murder,” as she referred to it in her letters to Ervil. [*1]

Makes me wonder what else my Grandmother Maud never told us about her family of origin. What else was she hiding? For example, why would she marry my Grandfather Dayer when he was an outcast (though she says when she married him she didn’t know he was an outcast).

In the same breath, she claimed her “McDonalds of Arizona” family “were highly respected and well to do—owned a real estate office.” I only know (from personal experience) Grandma, though I love her, was a “storyteller.” [*2]

But I understand her brother Max McDonald (who was a pal of Pres. Spencer W. Kimball in his young years—they played and performed music together, among other things) was a Real Estate broker and owned his own Real Estate office.

Because being “crazy” carried such stigma and shame back in Grandmother’s day, as noted earlier, she only let us know about her own father’s mental breakdown when it became absolutely necessary to do everything in her power to get her dear son Ervil to see the error of his ways … in hopes he would not end up a “Cain.”

In the next blog, I will continue with this mental-illness thread, tying it in with incest in my Mexico-LeBaron family: Grandpa Dayer’s father Benjamin Franklin LeBaron married his first cousin Sarah Jane Johnson—daughter of his/ Benjamin Franklin LeBaron’s maternal uncle Benjamin F. Johnson’s seventh wife).[*1]  

(Continued February 22, 2019: “Pt 33: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer and Family incest”)


*1– See: “The LeBaron Story,” Pages 201 through 210. Also see: “Maud’s Story.” Both books are/ were available on Amazon.com and/or Kindle. Though these books were written mostly to preach The Church of the First Born dogma, they’re all we have of the Mexico-LeBaron family’s published history.

NOTE: For those questioning what I quoted Grandma saying, please check out the following Facebook statement (used without my niece Vicky LeBaron’s permission, as of yet, because I trust she won’t mind): 

2-7-2019: “I heard my grandmother — G.Grandma Maud’s, daughter Esther LeBaron Spencer — say on multiple occasions almost exactly what Steph Spencer is saying. 
I also heard one of G.G. Maud’s daughter-in-laws say the same type of comments about what Maud had told her about Ervil, in various conversations over the years:

“Basically, that mental illness ran in the McDonald family. And that she had been concerned about Ervil because of her father’s mental health struggles, and the fact that Ervil reminded her of her father more than any of her other sons. [She said] ‘He was handsome like her father.’ Or ‘He had a charismatic personality and a way with words.’ If I’m not mistaken her father was rather tall, too [like her son Ervil].

I don’t particularly think uncle Ervil looked like great-great-grandfather Wesley, either, but she may have recognized mannerisms and perhaps his walk or the way he talked etc. as being like her father. Often, I think the way my children act reminds me more of their grandparents and great grandparents, than the way they look. 
And I definitely feel like several of my children are very much like their grandparents and others don’t seem to see it.”

*2– See Cult Insanity” by Irene Spencer