On Brigham Young and Violence (2)


The Bush family compound on Walker’s Point, in Kennebunkport, Maine. The property was purchased in the late 19th century by David Davis Walker and his son, George Herbert Walker – the latter being the maternal grandfather of George Herbert Walker Bush (the forty-first President of the United States) and the great-grandfather of George Walker Bush (the forty-third president). The house served served as the family’s summer residence for over a century and, when applicable, summer “White House”.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain photograph)

I recently read Paul Alan Cox, “The Orchid and the Missile: Reflections on MX”, BYU Studies Quarterly 2/61 (2022): 31-50. His entry on my Latter-day Saint Scholars Testify website can be found here, and I add immediately below the relevant part of the short biography given for him by BYU studies:

Paul Alan Cox received the Goldman Environmental Prize, sometimes known as the Nobel Prize for the Environment, and was named one of TIME magazine’s eleven “Heroes of Medicine.” His conservation foundation, Seacology, has set aside more than 1.5 million acres of rainforest and coral reefs in sixty-six countries around the world. After serving as a professor and dean at Brigham Young University, he became the first King Carl XVI Gustaf Professor of Environmental Science in Sweden. Currently, he is director of Brain Chemistry Labs in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This article is based on a lecture presented at BYU’s David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies on January 18, 2017.

“The Orchid and the Missile” is an interesting, even entertaining autobiographical account of Professor Cox’s involvement, right out of his doctoral studies at Harvard, with the ultimately aborted MX missile proposal, which had been proposed by the Jimmy Carter administration and continued by the first administration of President Ronald Reagan. The MX missile project was a very big deal at one time, and it would have been based in eastern Nevada and western Utah, bringing huge investment and jobs to an otherwise desolate and sparsely populated as well as, it was argued, countering a serious Soviet threat. (Vladimir Putin’s recent nuclear rumbles are, sadly, a no-regrets reminder of those times.) Many (including myself) were utterly surprised, and some were even deeply shocked, when the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on May 5, 1981 in formal – and perhaps even, ultimately, deadly – ​​opposition to the project. (At some point in a future entry, I will briefly recount my exchange with the late William F. Buckley Jr. over this opposition.)

My wife's work
My wife took this photo with her iPhone from a bridge over the Kennebunk River.

Anyway, here’s a passage from Dr. Cox’s article that lines up pretty well with what I posted yesterday on Brigham Young and violence:

Like most Latter-day Saints, I pay close attention to the statements of modern-day apostles and prophets of the Church. There seemed to me to be a strong historical sentiment from Church leaders against total war in general, especially the use of nuclear weapons.

“I am sure of one thing,” said Prophet Brigham Young. “God never institutes war; God is not the author of confusion or war; they are the results of the deeds of the children of men. Confusion and war necessarily come as the results of the foolish acts and policies of men; but they don’t come because God wants them to come.

“When nations have for years turned much of their attention to making instruments of death,” Brigham Young said on another occasion, “they sooner or later have used these instruments. . . . On the authority of all history, the lethal weapons currently stockpiled and manufactured will be utilized.

Professor Cox then goes on to quote two similar very eloquent statements by Presidents Joseph F. Smith and Spencer W. Kimball. But back to Brigham Young:

In his book Brother Brigham, which I have quoted here, Eugene England cites another example—one of many, in fact—of Brigham’s forgiving and charitable nature despite his harsh speech. In this one, the decision has just been made to abandon Nauvoo as soon as possible, even immediately, to escape persecution and violence:

But the day after the February 2 decisions, despite Brigham Young’s announcement that there would be no more administration of temple ordinances, many gathered at the temple, eager to receive their individual endowments and marriage sealings. Brigham told the Saints that if they tarried any longer, their path would be blocked and their enemies would intercept them, that they would build more temples elsewhere, and that he would take his chariots and go – and he walked away from the temple . . But when he checked later, the temple was still “full to bursting,” and therefore, “watching the multitude and knowing their anxiety.” . . we have labored diligently in the house of the Lord. That day they performed ordinances for about three hundred people, and more than five hundred each of the following days. (119)

Fall is coming to Kennebunkport!
Fall colors are beginning to appear in Kennebunkport. We walked by this tree and my wife couldn’t resist. A small monument to George HW Bush and Barbara Bush stands just to the right of the image.

Some time ago my wife and I visited the Kennedy family compound at Hyannisport, Cape Cod, Massachusetts—as much, anyway, as we peasants. permit “visit” such places. To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed. There are other places that I like much, much more. And now I can add the Bush family compound in Kennebunkport, Maine to that list of my favorite places. What a wonderful and dramatic place! The house is far less grandiose than the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island – which, frankly, is a more for me. It is surrounded on three sides by the sea, on the Bush family’s private promontory, which extends into the Atlantic Ocean from a rocky and rather wild stretch of Maine’s coast. I understand why they loved this place. Quite frankly, if the Bush family offered to trade their summer home directly for my home, I’ll take it. No questions asked. Should I include my phone number here, in case they read?

Sent from Portland, Maine


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