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It’s a short book consisting mainly of letters supposedly written by Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron* — letters run-together in often hard-to-decipher paragraphs more akin to vignettes.
It appears, at the time of this book’s writing, Aunt Charlotte still held fast to The Church of the First Born. This I assume because “Maud’s Story” contains a revised version/a rewrite of the history and teachings of the “Prophet Joel LeBaron” saga; wherein she turns the tale upside down and Joel into a martyred Prophet. By so doing, she shows, though not intentionally, how religious myths are made.
Maud Lucinda McDonald LeBaron is my maternal grandmother, of whom I’m “the spittin’ image” — I was always told while growing up. The above photo of her looks so much like me at that age, I look at it and think it is me. I can’t tell the difference!
Still, I resent that Aunt Charlotte used Grandmother Maud: She wrote a book “about” Grandma that was largely meant to draw in Grandma’s progeny, relatives and others; and convert them to her’s/Charlotte’s and Uncle Joel’s Church of the Firstborn doctrine — a la Charlotte LeBaron’s viewpoint, however — if they were not already members of Joel’s church. In that sense, Maud’s Story really should be “Charlotte’s Story.”
I was disappointed “Maud’s Story” wasn’t imbued with more of Grandmother’s colorful history. And disgusted she borrowed heavily from The LeBaron Story — a book my mother Esther LeBaron Spencer largely wrote — without stating she was quoting from that book; let alone crediting my mother.
She includes in her booklet numerous “Quotes from Grandma’s Notes.” Doesn’t write much, otherwise, about Grandma. Perhaps, to get more of Grandma’s history, Charlotte expects us to read The LeBaron Story, a manuscript consisting mostly of my mom’s work that Aunt Charlotte helped her husband Verlan LeBaron compile, finish, and publish.
Both The LeBaron Story and Maud’s Story strike me as an apologist’s story written to preach the Church of the Firstborn/CotFotfot doctrine.
I find this covert preaching of the CotFotfot dogma distasteful — especially the revising of its doctrine and history to make it more palatable than it was when my Uncles Ervil and Joel LeBaron first spawned this sect/cult in 1955—a take off from their older brothers Ross Wesley LeBaron Sr. and Ben LeBaron’s cults, as well as other Mormon fundamentalist cults.
My final thoughts on Maud’s Story: Grandmother should have given a sermon or two in church if she was as erudite and well-versed in the cult’s dogma as she appears to be in Charlotte’s short biography where she uses Grandmother Maud to preach Joel’s dogma.
In truth, Grandmother was a musician and homemaker … no Scriptorian! She left the preaching and proselytizing up to leaders in the cult; preferred to be in the kitchen cooking and feeding people, when she wasn’t teaching piano lessons and taking care of kids and the homestead.
Perhaps Aunt Charlotte didn’t know it but William Preston Tucker (my now-deceased husband) and my Uncle Ervil LeBaron put their heads together to write those letters Charlotte says Grandma wrote to Spencer W. Kimball!
I was there at the time. I recall these two leaders of the LeBaron Church/cult talking about how they could use Grandma Maud as a ploy to get the President of the LDS church to read their [LeBaron cult] literature because she had grown up with Spencer W. Kimball.
They figured he would read a letter from Maud, his childhood friend, though not literature from her sons and their LeBaron cult. (So they were sneaking up on Pres. Kimball by way of Maud.)*
Suffice it to say, Aunt Charlotte wasn’t honest about the story of how my Uncle Joel became the self-proclaimed One Mighty and Strong. Therefore, I don’t trust much of what she relates in her book. I know for sure, for example, Grandmother Maud DID NOT write most of those letters Charlotte credits her with.
You only have to look at Grandma’s “Notes ‘n’ Quotes” Charlotte wrote “in Grandma’s own words” to get a good example of how Grandmother wrote. When you carefully compare “Grandma’s words” to those eruditely-written letters to Spencer W. Kimball, you can see they were NOT written by Grandma LeBaron.
(Comments transferred from Facebook”:)
Says Moira Blackmore:
I knew Maud, she went out of her busy days by visiting me all alone in Galeana with my 4 baby girls, and when their were shooting guns in my back neighborhood… thank you Steff … I love you, Maud, I love Charlotte as well, years later …
My response to Moira:
I appreciate your feedback, Moira, and your attempts to always be positive and loving. That’s what makes the world go around. I’m so happy Grandma visited you and helped lift your spirits during a very bad time.
I remember her being concerned about your being over there alone; and her begging someone to take her over to visit you. I do not remember who she got to do the driving as she could not drive.
And now I’m getting off onto a bunny trail: I know she visited you out of care and concern for you and your situation. But she was also often there for visitors and people she was trying to help convert to the cult. Converts meant more people saved, more tithing money — and consecrations of all their wealth to the Bishop’s storehouse!
Such money was largely how Grandma and her sons managed to survive down in the Mexico-LeBaron colony. Especially was more money needed as each of her sons married more and more wives who bore more and more children.
Given her help with the church’s conversion of new members, it seems aging Grandma Maud had no energy and time left over for her own hundreds of grand, great-grand, great-great, and great-great-great-grandchildren, and so on and on … not to mention her thousands of other relatives ad infinitum.
During the two years I lived at home, before I was married off at age 16, I recall only a few times after we moved to the LeBaron colony that she ever came by her daughter/my mother Esther LeBaron Spencer’s place to visit; even though we lived within walking distance of Grandmother Maud.
Nor did my Grandmother Maud ever visit me, once I was married, even in my hours of need and desperation; although I lived within walking distance of her.
I may as well have not had a grandmother. But she did help Mother a lot after my father died. By then I was 18 and married — no longer living with my mom.
When I was fourteen and we moved from the United States to where Grandmother Maud lived in Mexico, I had thought: Now I will finally have one of those grandmothers I have so often read about in children’s literature and so longed to have as I was growing up.
But Grandmother Maud, though she had favored and spoiled my mama when she was raising her, was never emotionally there for me nor the rest of my mother’s thirteen other children, as far as I know. Not much, anyway.
For me, she never was a grandma that made cookies for her grandkids, let alone did she give us grandchildren any other gifts. Nor even hugs. She always had a big twinkling smile for me and her other grandchildren, though; whenever we saw her at church or elsewhere.
Our Family was not a hugging-touching family. But pioneer-woman Grandmother was also simply overwhelmed and overworked, given her primitive lifestyle and her monumental duties; including being the church pianist and the colony’s piano teacher.
To put it succinctly, there was simply no way my ever-aging grandmother could muster all the time and energy needed to keep up with her exponentially growing progeny. She was already 68 years old when my family moved to the LeBaron colony; I was 14 years old then.
I had always lived within walking distance of her, while in the LeBaron colony; so she did come by three or four times, after I was married, to give me some piano lessons. She was around seventy-three years old then! Thanks, Grandma!
But, other than that, in the four years I lived near her, and on my own, after I was married at sixteen, Grandmother dropped by one other time — though not to see her new grandchild, my first child, that I had almost died giving birth to, at age seventeen. My baby and I were simply taken for granted, as was generally the custom there!
The reason she came by that one other time was to take back a piece of piano sheet music she had given me that she now wanted to turn around and take away from me to give to an investigator of our cult who was a pianist! I told Grandma, “No! You gave the music to me!! It’s mine now! I want it. You can’t take it back to give to somebody else!”
Grandmom was furious with me for not giving it back to her so she could gift it to the investigator of our “Church”! Getting converts — new people into God’s work — was part of her and her sons’ bread and butter. So that investigator was more important than I, her granddaughter. On top of that, she treated me as if the music still belonged to her, though she had given it to me the year before. Such “Indian trading”!
Now I know where Mother learned this taking-back what she had given me, as if she still had tabs on it; so could turn around, whenever she wanted to, and give it to somebody else — even though I still very much wanted it and it belonged to me!
I never knew what to depend on. Then you wonder what causes schizophrenic kids? I’m at least sure this behavior did not help any.
Bottom line: When there are lots of kids and relatives, they are not highly valued. They get taken for granted. They are pawns in the hands of the powers that be and regularly sacrificed for “the cause”!
Rachel LeBaron Anderson:
Steph Spencer Thanks so much for this insightful response and feedback! As always, Rachel, you show wisdom and intellect. Your remarks are much appreciated and will help me as I take time to make sense of everything on my end. That is certainly one of my goals!
Dena McLean I enjoyed reading this book, not only to learn about family but specifically learn more about my Great Grandmother Maud. I know the story is all in perspective but I like to hear all perspectives.
Even if I don’t agree with the religious views, I find it fascinating how they chose Joel LeBaron, Alma’s priesthood keys and all the people connected to each story and then trying to find them in genealogy. Right now, I’m trying to discover if the man who baptized Maud was John Smith, as in Joseph Smith’s brother’s son or another John Smith. I hope to find some truth.
Steph Spencer Thank you for this valuable feedback. As always, I’m impressed with your scholarliness. To be sure, Charlotte’s Maud’s Story is skewed: It attempts to convert people to the belief that Joel was a true Prophet, etc.
Aunt Charlotte Kunz LeBaron was there pretty much from the beginning of Joel and Ervil’s “Church,” but chose to change how Joel got the “priesthood keys,” et cetera. Newcomers to the story believe her fabrications. That’s how myths are built.
7 thoughts on “Review of Charlotte LeBaron’s “Maud’s Story””
Is Charlotte still alive?
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Lynn, I believe she is no longer living, but I’m not positive. I seem to have a recollection that she passed away at around age 92.
I believe she passed away a few years ago but I’m not positive.
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Thank you so much for your feedback. I did not notice your message until today, December 19, 2019. I will have to do a check to see why I am not getting all my messages, except perhaps on my iPhone where I had not realized there were messages until just now. I look forward to further feedback from you in the future, and I’m happy that you are following my blog now. It makes the writing and posting worth the work and time, to be sure. Now you have a good day and a happy holiday season!
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Very kind of you to leave me a response. For some reason I did not see it until today. Here’s wishing you the best in all your goals and projects. I look forward to further feedback in the future.