Pt 32: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer, the Mexico-LeBarons, and Mental Illness
“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.”
As mentioned in previous blogs, there was incest on both sides of my Mexico-LeBaron family: Grandpa Dayer’s father Benjamin Franklin LeBaron married his first cousin Sarah Jane Johnson (daughter of his grandfather Benjamin F. Johnson’s seventh wife).[*1] I’ll tell, in next week’s blog, about the incest on my grandmother’s family’s side.
(Continued February 22, 2019: “Pt 33: My Mama Esther LeBaron Spencer and Mental Illness”)
*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 personally 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