Escape of Pleasant Grove’s Turkey-Shoot Flock

Thanksgiving in Pleasant Grove has always been a time of family gatherings, joyous feastings lubricated with good gravy, and parades and football games on TV. Except the year that Maple Shepherd stopped the annual turkey shoot with her crazy notion that turkeys deserved to die with dignity—by which she meant a hatchet. That year, all 4’10” of her skinny meanness stood on the old stump out under the trees in the little park on the corner of Main and 200 South and shouted to all who would listen that shooting turkeys wasn’t right. No sir. Her grandmother taught her that a turkey had to die on a cottonwood chopping block on the very week of Thanksgiving, because that’s the way the Pilgrims did it. To do otherwise was an offense to their memory and to yea, even God Himself. Harken even unto Him who hath ordained it such, she would cry. We paid no heed. We all knew Maple. She was always as angry as a badger with the clothespin on its tail, and we took a don’t-get-too-close-or-you’ll-get-bitten approach.

Well of course we were used to her rantings—she did it every Thanksgiving. Nonetheless, the turkey shoot went on year after year and neither God nor the ghosts of the Pilgrims appeared to have a mind to put a stop to it. Until that one fateful day that permanently ended that which had gone on since pioneer days. And those of us that were there, who saw what happened . . . well we won’t forget.

It was one of those warm years. Here it was, near December, and Timp had not a lick of snow on her sides. The news was reporting every night about the ski resorts being downcast and troubled about the weather, but we who had neither the money nor means to hit the slopes were enjoying every minute of the extended fall.

The shoot was a tradition I enjoyed. I kept my 12 gage shotgun all oiled up just for this event because I was getting too old to go out after ducks any more and pheasants required a good dog to flush them out and mine was a lazy dachshund that would have died of a heart attack if it ever met a pheasant, so my gun was kept around just for the turkey shoot. And not to brag, but over the course of my life I’d won the event a time or two.

That year, on the day before the shoot, however, crazy Maple went out to the fairgrounds where we held the event and let all the turkeys go. Every one. All two hundred+ of them. They put out a call for the volunteer fire department, of which I was a proud member, to come and round them up.

We all had walky-talkies that we set on the same channel and started trying to round them up, but it was strange, the turkeys didn’t scatter like turkeys should. No. They all made a run for it up Battle Creek Drive. All of them stampeding like a herd of miniature buffalo. And more strange still, they were running along at a good clip. I’d never seen the like. Their heads were bobbing and their waddles swinging with a hypnotic rhythm—you know how their red waddles can set you in a trance.

Anyway. We tried to stop them. Waving our arms and shouting, trying to steer them away, but they weren’t scared of anything. And there was Maple, skinny as a winter cutthroat in a brown trout stream, jogging in the center wearing a housecoat and her fuzzy pink slippers, calling out encouragement and cadence to the turkeys. Someone tried to talk to her, but she just flipped them off and gave them a look that would have frightened a mama grizzly bear.

Well more and more of the town’s folk joined in the chase until we had about as many people as birds. We tried to set up a human chain to herd them back but every time we thought we were making progress, one of them would just make a jump and give one of those noisy, wing thumping, short flights right over people’s heads and the rest of the turkeys would do the same.
Well, they turned up the gravel road that runs alongside the Murdock Canal and we knew we had them if we hurried and surrounded them completely. If they jumped one way they’d end up in the waters of the canal (which was still flowing because the warm weather was keeping some people’s tomatoes alive even though it was that late in the season). If they leapt to the other side they would be met by the Benton’s three fierce Mastiffs, which were running back and forth behind the wire fence making such a fuss at the two hundred birds they would be crazy to fly that way. And we owned the road with a good bunch of Pleasant Grovers ready and willing to capture the birds with nets and hands if necessary.

Now, this next part you will not believe. No one does that wasn’t there that day. They’ve called it ‘Mass hysteria’ as if that explains what we saw. What more than two hundred of us saw!

The birds all of the sudden got real quiet. And started all staring up towards the mountains. All of their eyes and beaks directed the same way. Watching. Their waddles as still as death. All of them intent on something we could not see. Even Maple, still standing in the center of the birds, was peering out shading her eyes with her hand, trying to see what the fowl were attending to. Then we saw it. Flying low toward us was a flock of Canadian geese, winging it south in a well-formed ‘V’. All of them honking to one another as they do. The turkeys (and everyone was watching and we saw it) all of the sudden exploded into the air with their feather rattling racket and joined those fast-flying geese in their V. Six of them grabbed Maple with their weird feet—two toms on her boney arms, two on her knobby legs, and a couple clutching her housecoat. With extraordinary effort, they pulled her skyward. She looked at us and gave a big smile of surprise and delight, then flapped her little hands at the wrist as if she were trying to help achieve liftoff. As her feet left the ground, she angled her face toward the wind and grinning like a bear in a beehive left the confines of the earth.

Now all of us knew turkeys can fly only a short spell, not like geese, but there they were powering their way South as awkward as my dachshund trying to swim in a pool of Jell-O. Some of them holding onto an adult-sized woman! We chased them a bit but soon they disappeared in the distance with Maple’s pink slippers bobbing along behind like a couple of giant pink bumble bees. We could could see them bouncing behind the graceless flock of fowl for a long while. It was the last we would ever see of Maple.

Now I know you don’t believe me. Or any of the many people there. You’ll make up some story about a conspiracy among us. Or something. I’ve had a BYU biologist patiently explain why turkeys can’t do what we saw them do, telling me that the wild ones are only good for a few hundred yards, but these domestic turkeys would be lucky to make it 50 yards with a hurricane pushing them from behind.

Yet they did. And those of us who know it, call it ‘The Day the Turkeys Flew.’ After that, we didn’t hold the shoot anymore. Most of those who were invested in it, were there that day, and we haven’t had the gumption to go against whatever it was that let those birds do what they did that Thanksgiving Day.

So now every year I raise a glass over our store-bought oven-roasted Butterball, and toast Maple and the ones who got away and wish them happy trails wherever they finally landed.

Were I Ever to Leave the Church…

The recent explosion of commentary on the new Handbook policies at some point put me in a reflective mood, in which I pondered, in a fairly abstract way, what it would be like to actually leave the Church. Let me hasten to clarify that such pondering did not crystallize into an actual resolution to that end; rather, it led to some personal musings on the subject. Although I’m not actually leaving any time soon, even to engage in abstract pondering about such a matter was a completely unprecedented  experience for me. [Read more…]

On The Courage Needed For the Present Moment

I’ve been talking about virtue ethics in my bioethics class. This is, in part, the view that what matters in developing an ethical framework is to focus on developing good character, rather than constructing either rules of conduct honored by a sense of duty to God or reason, or in attempting to achieve good outcomes for the majority of the people. Virtue ethics was first articulated by Aristotle as part of his view that to live a flourishing human life is to achieve an excellence of virtues. [Read more…]

The line

I hear a bit of talk of late regarding the line: the event that would be sufficient to push someone out of the church. As in, what would cross the line for you? Where do we draw the lines? Sometimes also referred to as a camel-back-breaking straw, the line is supposed to be some objective standard. Once the line has been invoked in real life, then it will mean [the church is false; Joseph Smith was a very, very bad man; my tithing was wasted; or some other such]. I think the existence of the line should be taken for granted; it is relatively easy to imagine circumstances where your faith in the church would be sufficiently shaken to question its nature or to go further and decide that you were mistaken about it. The harder question is what does the existence of the line mean? [Read more…]

A Chance to Atone


He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.–John 21:17

Peter did not understand why his resurrected Lord asked him three times to affirm his love. He thought that the Saviour was chastising him. Christ knew, though, that the man who had denied Him three times on the night of His crucifixion needed to affirm Him three times to atone for his actions. [Read more…]

One Ordinary Guy’s FAQ On Polygamy

I get a lot of questions about polygamy.  Here is my personal bent.

1.  Do Mormons believe in polygamy?

Depends on what you mean. 
[Read more…]

Financial Planning for Children With Disabilities

Hoffer family pictureWe’re honored to have a guest post from Stephanie Hoffer. Stephanie is a professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She is an educator, a scholar, and an advocate, and arguably the preeminent authority on the ABLE Act. We’re excited that she’s agreed to introduce us to this important new law.

My son George is a bright shining star. He is almost five, and he loves to read out loud, play the harmonica, and paint. He also happens to have Down Syndrome. He is smart, funny, and loving, and I can’t imagine life without him. I am grateful every day for the privilege of being his mom. And like any other mom of any other child, I worry every day about his future.

Our life with George hasn’t always been easy. On the day that he was born, a social worker came to our hospital room and told me that we should do two things right away: apply for Medicaid and write George out of our will. I was stunned. I choked back the inevitable tears and asked why. “Because,” she replied, “they are really expensive.” Stung by the label “they,” and hurt by the thought of not being able to save for my precious baby’s future, I asked her to please leave.  [Read more…]

Don’t reap me bro!

Some notes on the parable of the wheat and the tares: [Read more…]

Continuing Revelation

Gregory A. Prince is the author of several articles and books, including Power from On High: The Development of Mormon Priesthood, and co-author of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. He is president and CEO of Virion Systems, Inc. and he is a board member of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and The Journal of Mormon History.

In the late 1970s, while serving as an Elders Quorum president, I witnessed what may have been the only same-sex wedding (same-sex in the sense that both partners had Y-chromosomes) ever to be performed in a Latter-day Saint temple. A year earlier, a woman who had undergone transsexual surgery was baptized in our ward. Leaders in the mission and the ward were fully aware of her status—indeed, the baptism recommend (which the bishop later showed me, since the subsequent wedding involved a member of my quorum) bore the words, “She is a transsexual.” Several months later an elder moved into the ward, the two of them fell in love, and they announced their engagement. They expressed to the bishop a desire to be married in the temple, and after he and the stake president interviewed the couple, the stake president wrote a detailed letter to the General Authority who supervised that area of the country, explicitly stating that the bride-to-be had undergone transsexual surgery. [Read more…]

Be Still My Soul: the Tallis Fantasia

When I am anguished of mind and soul I consistently turn to a piece of music that speaks to my heart.  I have started to joke that it is my personal ctrl+alt+delete.  It provides a reset button that lets me regroup and move forward.   [Read more…]

Speaking of the well-being of children…

By now I’m sure many of you have read the heartrending account by a mother whose 3-month-old son died just hours after she had left him in a day-care center so that she could return to work. [Read more…]

Endureth or Resisteth?


This coming Sunday I’ll be teaching Lesson 42 on James. As I reviewed the lesson manual, I was intrigued by this additional teaching idea:

[Read more…]

Who We Cast Away


The word “ostracize” comes from a practice of the world’s first democracy. Each year, the citizens of Athens could vote to conduct an ostracism—a writing on shards of pottery, or ostraka. Citizens would write the name of a man considered a potential threat to the state, usually somebody with enough power to become a tyrant. A person named by a sufficient number of citizens would be banished for ten years, not punitively, but preemptively. Such was the fate of the great military hero Themistocles, who defeated the Persians and saved all of Greece. In Athens, they did not take chances.

[Read more…]


 There is something truer than truth and it is love.

-George Handley (Mormon scholar and friend)

What being an ally this week has taught me:

[Read more…]

As a Little Child

Elijah (age 4) is one of the blog’s younger friends. He likes Star Wars, superheroes, and Thelonious Monk. He gave this talk in Primary today. We share it with his (and his parents’) permission.

When we serve others, we serve God. Serving other people means being nice to them. When people are sad or lonely, I can be their friend. I can be silly to help them be happy. When they fall down and are bleeding, I can get them a band-aid. I can give people hugs when they need them, or I can share my stufties* to help them feel better. If someone is being left out, I can ask them to play with me. We should love others. That is part of God. Jesus would help people who are left out or alone. That is important! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

*stuffed animals

Where Can I Turn for Peace?

Christian Harrison is a longtime friend of the blog (see his recent post here) and an active gay Mormon. He gave this talk in his ward this morning.


Good morning, brothers and sisters.

Before I dive into the meat of my comments, I’d like to ask you to do something with me. I’d like for you to close your eyes for just a moment and to keep them closed until I ask you to open them…

Please close them now.

With your eyes now closed, I’d like for you to imagine that you’re at the ballet… you have the best seats in the house… the lights dim… and a small troupe of dancers come on stage. They’re strong and graceful. They take their places as the orchestra cues up, and they begin to dance…

[ Hum one verse of “Where Can I Turn for Peace” ]

The music ends, and the dancers exit the stage. [Read more…]


Amanda is a longtime reader and lurker on BCC. She received a BA in French from Yale University and now lives in a Paris suburb with her husband Didier and son James. She is currently working on a law degree while working in a law firm in Paris. We have been shocked by this and other recent attacks by religious extremists around the world, and mourn with Paris, the West Bank, Egypt, Nairobi, Nigeria, Bangkok… and the list continues.

For the second time this year, my country is reeling under the shock and grief of a terrorist attack. [Read more…]

Music for Sunday

I just came back from my ward’s Primary Presentation sacrament meeting based on the 2015 Sharing Time theme, “I know my Savior Lives.” The children opened their presentation by singing I Know That My Savior Loves Me: [Read more…]

The Third Scout

Image by Jerilyn Hassell Pool

Image by Jerilyn Hassell Pool

Alan B. is a long-time friend of the blog. His experience resonated with many of us.

In the wake of the recent changes to LDS Church policy regarding LGBT people and their children, I made a donation to the Utah Pride Center as a way of showing love and support. A childhood friend, who is gay (as I learned a few years ago), expressed appreciation. To explain why I donated, I recounted an experience I’d had with him.

Once there were three Boy Scouts. One day at Scout Camp, two of the Scouts played a trick on the other, as Scouts do. While one of the Scouts was in his tent, the other two detached the tent poles from the tent. The tent collapsed and the two pranksters laughed as the other Scout flailed about, struggling to find a way out. It was harmless fun. [Read more…]

The Worth of Sparrows


“Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?”

“But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

—Luke 12:6–7

[Read more…]

Despise Not the Revelations

This guest post comes from Jon, who is a friend of the blog. He’s a student of statistics and son of parents who follow the admonition of Paul.

I saw this phrase first on the door of a Catholic parish in Santa Fe, Argentina: “Every child that is born is proof that God has not yet given up on human beings.” The idea appealed to me at the time, both because babies are adorable and because as a missionary I had a daily habit of giving up on humanity. An element of that phrase has been working on me in the nearly 10 years since: the idea that people enter the world bearing divine information—that we are each a revelation. [Read more…]

The Elements of Testimony

Eric D. Snider is a film critic, author, humorist, and gay Mormon. We’re glad to have his voice here.

(A talk I gave in sacrament meeting in Portland, Ore., on Oct. 18, 2015.)

To talk about “the elements of testimony,” I decided I had to talk about the elements of MY testimony. Elements are building blocks. They’re the parts of a thing that, without them, the thing isn’t the thing. [Read more…]

It May Take a While

Over the summer I read Charlotte’s Web to my four-year old son, Remy. After we finished, we rented the movie and watched together. Near the end I got a call and had to leave the room for a moment. I didn’t know it was the part where Charlotte would die, even though I knew it would happen, it still seem sudden, surprising. From the back room I heard my son sobbing and I quickly hung up the call and ran down the hallway. For the rest of my life, I imagine I will regret that I wasn’t sitting right beside him when the wave of sadness came. I am indebted to his strong spirit for allowing me to be privy to one of the most real displays of human emotion I have ever witnessed. His sadness was not attached to anything at all except human empathy, from one creature to another. [Read more…]



The Stakes of Zion

Let me start with three points of cultural context:
  1. I’m a believer, I’m not going anywhere, and this isn’t intended to be a radical post.
  2. I live in a big city, and work in the ad industry in close proximity to gay people. They’re my friends, neighbors, employees, coworkers, and ward members.
  3. I was born the year after the priesthood ban was lifted. Mine is the first generation to have grown up in a Mormon church without false doctrinal cover for racism.

Let’s just call things what they are, at least for the moment. Because we need a moment of honesty right now, to clearly consider what’s at stake.

If this policy and our anti-gay views (again, calling things what they are) are somehow cemented as doctrine, in time we will be labeled a hate group, and no amount of Mormon bloggers and commenters and online missionaries and ad campaigns will sway that opinion. It will be our brand identity. Within 10 years we’ll be seen as a fringe group. In 20 years we’ll be a bigoted, extremist anachronism.

[Read more…]

On Persuasion and Love Unfeigned

“No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” (D&C 121:41)

“Why do the Members of Christ tear one another; why do we rise up against our own body in such madness; have we forgotten that we are all members, one of another?”–Pope St. Clement of Rome

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”—Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address


Things are more than a little bit slippery on the deck of Good Ship Zion these days. Responses to the new policies have been strong and divisive—and not only among the usual suspects. People we know and love are fighting with each other, and with us, and positions are getting more and more entrenched. [Read more…]

Correlation and the Preference for Bright-Line Rules

One of the Church’s greatest problems of the 20th century was its substantial growth. We went from being a small, peculiar sect hunkered down in the Great Basin to becoming a world-wide church, far-flung with different cultures and languages, and we did it very quickly. The Church’s overarching response to that problem was Correlation. Largely independent auxiliaries were streamlined under priesthood lines, things were simplified, extraneous things were jettisoned. We sometimes lament the things we have lost with Correlation, but at this late date there is simply no turning back the clock, it is a fait accompli. [Read more…]

How Many Days It Will Take Until It Feels Okay To Crack A Joke Again, Ranked

As always, these rankings are authoritative.
[Read more…]

Some Spiritual Guidance

Whenever I rank the seriousness of sins, I like to start with mine first. Those are the lightest sins, easy to forgive. Not much to see here. Next are the sins that I have not personally struggled with – but mostly because I haven’t had the chance to. They are bad and people who commit them should be shunned, but if one day it is I who commits them, I do think they are ultimately forgivable and deserve mercy. Finally we have the most egregious sins. Those are sins I have never struggled with and almost definitely never will. They are abominable and unforgivable. Those people will go to hell and rightfully so. That was their choice. They should have chosen instead to commit my sins and they too could go to heaven with me and God.

Paths Forward

There has been a lot of talk about the policy change and what it means for the Church and for each of us. I deplore the policy change. But guess what — I’m not going anywhere. This is my church and my people. [Read more…]


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