Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Setting the record straight

I got an interesting communication asking me if I, or anyone else related to Thomas B. Marsh, had ever contacted the Church on "setting the record straight."
Hi Stephen how are you? We haven't had any communication in years. I have always wanted to ask you if you were a distant relative of Thomas B Marsh. If you are and knowing what you know have you or any Marsh's asked the church to set the record straight.
Tradition is that the Marsh's in the United States who were here before WWII are related, descendents of John Marsh. cf  Marsh Genealogy Giving Several Thousand Descendants of John Marsh of Hartford, Ct. 1636-1895 Or of his brothers who he helped bring over.

John came over as a bond servant (a slave) and became free March 4, 1633.  His brothers came over later, as bond servants as well (Samuel, for example, was made a free man May 2, 1647).

That said, none of them have done much to "set the record straight" on Thomas B. Marsh, and you might wonder why.

Well, the problem, as it surfaced when my brother Mark was researching it, was that Thomas B. Marsh returned to the Church after he had a stroke and was convinced death was near.  At that point, he repented, gave up everything, and moved to Utah to be with the Church.  In Utah, he was castigated rather mercilessly by Brigham Young.

In response, he preached a few times in public, and talked widely in private, a number of times which were recorded in journals.  Therein is the problem.

He agreed with Brigham Young. He stated that he had left the Church foolishly, over petty personal pride, that the narrative everyone wants to correct was true and that his life was an example of what happens when you let pride and foolish hurt feelings dominate.

Which makes "setting the record straight" problematic in the extreme.  You have to conclude that Thomas was lying about what happened, his life story, and the lessons of his life story.  That when he gave his initial public address (and later ones) "Ascribing his apostasy to his own hubris, jealousy, wrath, and hypocrisy" that really is not what happened.

Now yes.  Brigham Young got rather personal in some of the things he said, and he did that more than once.  But as Thomas perambulated about Utah, Thomas B. Marsh appeared to actually embrace what was said, both as it was his personal narrative and as a sign that he had returned to the Church out of faith in the gospel, not for personal gain, recognition or benefit other than reconciliation with God.

It was important to him to both acknowledge his past faults and to emphasize his motivations.

I do not feel comfortable making an effort to deprive him of that narrative posthumously. 

Which is how I responded to the initial link sent me at the time (see here).  You can see others quoting to some of Thomas B. Marsh's later comments here

I think it is important to correct records, but I also think it is unfair to try to usurp someone's life story and their own narrative, trying to hijack it so to speak, to make a point alien to the one they espoused and contrary to their own story.  Which is what, with good intentions, some attempt to do with Thomas B. Marsh. (Not what the person contacting me was trying to do, they were just curious).

So I thought I would address the theme, in response to the invitation I received this month to "set the record straight." The record is straight, I have no desire to make it crooked.

1 comment:

grego said...

Thank you for putting this up.

Having read a few blog posts and numerous, mostly negative comments about the LDS Church's simplified version of the story, this is one of the few posts/ comments that doesn't ignore the many facts on the side most don't want to agree with.

Hopefully others will see it and be open to the idea that while the simplified version is likely not perfectly accurate and detailed, it's not wrong, either.