I don't watch "Big Love." I've seen maybe a couple of episodes here and there staying in hotels that have HBO, but every once in a while I feel like I've stepped into it.
Late last night, I got a phone call from someone with a decidedly Mormon name in a decidedly Mormon county south of Salt Lake City who asked if I knew about "the One Mighty and Strong."
Ruh-roh, I thought. This man's been reading a book on Mormon fundamentalism, and got my name somewhere. (How he got my phone number, which escapes most people, I will forever wonder.)
Simply by virtue of the fact that I had an ancestor, a great uncle, who happened to have gotten mixed up with Mormon fundamentalism and managed to get my grandparents excommunicated from the Mormon church in the process, I get phone calls. The last one was from an author writing a book on the subject, so I assumed this one was, too. The previous author learned I had a copy of my great uncle's journals in my possession and cited them in his book and in a scholarly article he published on the subject, journal entries that would make a screenwriter blush. "Big Love" had nothing on these folks.
Did I know about the Dream Mine? Yes. The One Mighty and Strong? Yes. The Three Nephites? Yes. Did my ancestor believe that John T. Clark would come back from the dead and still be the One Mighty and Strong? Probably.
The hillsides of Utah are filled with people who dream of silver and wandering spirits and leaders who've lost their way and hopes of the aspiration of Muslim men.
I had ancestors who practiced polygamy, back in the day when it was not only accepted but encouraged by the leaders of the Mormon church including contemporaries of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young who themselves famously practiced it, but I'm quite certain neither my great uncle nor my grandfather practiced it despite the apparent reality that they advocated it. I had ancestors who went to prison for practicing polygamy after it became a problem between the Mormon state and the Union. I did not, like Mitt Romney, have ancestors who fled to the Mormon colonies of Mexico or Canada to continue practicing it in places like Colonia Juarez or Bountiful.
I just have this, one more piece of a colorful legacy.
I picture Harry Dean Stantons everywhere, and want to flash him back to "Pretty in Pink," out of the dust and tumbleweed of Utah and back to the wrong side of Molly Ringwald's tracks, back before I pieced together the puzzle of family history, before serendipity intervened and brought me a long lost cousin and the journals and the filled-in blanks.
And polygamists at my door.
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