A Letter to the Editor from the One Mighty and Strong

It is to be noted that Dialogue receives fewer letters to the editor than it formerly did. Is that because we have gone totally stuffy, as some notable frequenters of Mormon weblogs have claimed? Or is it that blogging drains off the kind of energy that used to go into writing letters to the editor? I could hold to the latter explanation more easily if the blogging opportunities on Dialogue’s own website had an abundant clientele. Ironically, the Dialogue website now offers a letters section where you can post responses to the most recent issues of the journal in a blog format. Unfortunately, user statistics are light. Exactly three persons have posted letters for the spring 2006 issue, two for the summer issue; and two for the fall issue. However, numbers alone don’t tell the entire story.

For example, consider the last two. Both strike me as exceptional. One of these letters is from the artist whose art we featured in color on the cover of the fall issue. Conservative writers don’t want to appear in Dialogue because it might brand them as unfriendly to Mormonism. This writer holds an opposite view. He is afraid that his art on the cover of Dialogue may indicate that he endorses Mormonism, and he wants it known that he doesn’t. So if you happen to be convinced that Dialogue is unfriendly to the Church, just be advised there are a lot of people who feel that it isn’t unfriendly enough.

The other letter grips my interest even more. It is from a man whose encounter with deity has informed him that he himself is no less than the One Mighty and Strong spoken of in the Doctrine and Covenants–a figure of great importance among virtually all Fundamentalist Mormons. That figure is important because it is his role to correct the Church in the multiple errors it has fallen into since the Manifesto. I respect this man in his claim of an anointed role. I have visited his website and found it loaded with scriptural arguments for his position. Nonetheless, it is a fact that never in my career as an editor or as a reader of letters to the editor have I found one quite like this.

I invite you to read these letters for yourself at the Dialogue website.

Comments

  1. Jonathan Green says:

    If I were the editor, I guess I would be reluctant to do business in the future with an artist who is not content merely to be paid for his services. If he isn’t comfortable with the market, he shouldn’t be submitting work to it. (“But I didn’t know there would be naked women on the next page when I sold that story to Playboy!”) There are plenty of other artists who would be happy for the money and the exposure. It seems like a pretty crummy move to take the money, and then let everyone know you don’t care to associate yourself with the people who are paying you.

  2. I think people are commenting on other blogs, which fulfills the need to comment.

  3. Levi Peterson says:

    Unfortunately, Dialogue does not have the means to pay contributors except in a limited number of free copies of the issue in which they appear. The artist in question permitted us to print his images without charge.

    Levi

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I enjoyed the “One Mighty and Strong” articles in the latest issue. It was a topic ripe for consideration.

  5. a random John says:

    Well he isn’t the only one. I believe that Sterling D. Allan has claimed to be the Davidic Servant on his wacky website and in Yahoo Groups discussions. In fact, I saw a discussion once between him and another guy, both claiming to be the Davidic Servant.

    Oddly I became of Mr. Allan because of an article on Slashdot about a “free energy” Delorean at the Indy Speedway, which turned out to be a scam. I noticed that Mr. Allan lived in Manti at the time (I think he’s in Eagle Mountain now) and had some odd ideas.

  6. I agree Kevin, I was only peripherally aware of how loaded that term actually is before reading the articles. I have actually sat down to write several letters to the editors over the years, but the inevitably grow to be mini-articles and no longer fit for the letters genre. If you are going to be in print, you want your words to be substantive.

    I’ll tell you what though, Kevin’s letters to the editor in the last couple of issues have been wonderful and represent a the perfect moderate voice (in my opinion) that Dialogue needs.

  7. Steve Evans says:

    Levi, congratulations on the great spectrum of people you’re getting. If you take the mean of the two you cite, I think you’re probably right on track!

    You’re in a difficult spot: you want lots of reader interest and response, but at the same time you want to print quality responses, not just the blah-blah-blah of blog comments such as mine. I am not sure that you can have it both ways.

  8. I thought of writing a letter to Dialogue once, about this statement from Gregory Prince’s The Red Peril, the Candy Maker, and the Apostle: David O. McKay’s Confrontation with Communism (Excerpt):

    McKay initially greeted the Russian revolution of 1917 with optimism, telling a general conference audience, “It looks as if Russia will have a government ‘by the people, of the people, and for the people.'”

    The footnote shows that Elder McKay made the statement Prince quoted in April conference of 1917, one month after the first Russian revolution of 1917, which resulted in the provisional government led by Kerensky, but almost seven months (blasted Julian/Gregorian calendar change makes it hard for me to remember off the top of my head) prior to the Bolshevik revolution.

    The timing of Elder McKay’s comment and of the two revolutions shows that he was not saying anything about the Bolshies–so much for his initial “greet[ing of] the Russian revolution of 1917 with optimism”–yeah, he did, but not that revolution.

    But, I figured that surely one of Dialogue’s readers would have (1) wondered if any church leader, and especially Elder McKay, would have been optimistic about Lenin and his gang and (2) checked the footnote to discover that he wasn’t talking about the Bolshevik revolution at all and (3) written a letter saying he was shocked! and appalled!! that Prince could write and Dialogue’s editors could let pass a laugher like that one. [I don’t have the book, so I don’t know if those editors missed it too.)

    I don’t subscribe to Dialogue, so I don’t know if anybody else said anything. And I know this has nothing to do with Mormonism–just with sloppiness. So I didn’t write that letter.

  9. Isn’t this the second time Twitchell’s work has appeared in Dialogue? I thought I’d seen his “In our lovely deseret” cut paper piece there a couple years back.

    He’s not in the index, but does the index include the artists?

    I always look forward to the art in Dialogue.

  10. Okay, I went to the website of “One Mighty and Strong.” My, my. I believe Bruce and I stumbled into his complex when we were in Mexico. We were looking for a place to go to Church and found a town called Zarahemla. Strong hint. We were pretty sure we’d find an LDS Church there. A man told us, “Yeah, they’re Mormons here. That guy there has three wives. One of them left, though.” (We decided to skip church that day.)

    I have to admit I feel guilty that I haven’t contributed more to _Dialogue_ recently. I hereby apologize and commit myself to at least write a letter to the editor. I am a bit intimidated that the bar seems to have been raised for such writers, though. But if Dorothy could answer the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz with “I am Dorothy, the small and meek…”, then maybe I can write something–even after One Mighty and Strong has articulated his rebuke.

    Levi, doesn’t that letter make you want to write a story? I’d like to compose a fictional resume written by One Mighty and Strong.

  11. Levi:
    Thanks for the heads-up on the letter. It’s been more than two decades since Steven Shields book on LDS splinter movements was updated, so it’s been hard to keep up on what Ogden Kraut called “the continuing flow of claimants to the One Mighty and Strong title.” To me, it is a fascinating side-bar to the restoration.

  12. Molly Bennion says:

    Margaret, Levi won’t publish his stories in Dialogue while he is editor, so you have the inside track to compose the resume for us. And we couldn’t ever raise the bar too high to exclude anything you would write!

  13. As one of the 7 people to post on the Dialogue paperless letters to the editor page, I can testify that it is really easy. Shame on the rest of you.

    Levi,

    One thing I have never been clear on is what kind of discussion you are hoping for on those pages. Are you more interested in the kind of well reasoned and insightful comments you can publish in the paper version, or would you be pleased if BCC-like discussions broke out there?

  14. Levi Peterson says:

    Thanks for some very good feedback above.

    Mark B., we stand corrected. I think we should publish your letter about the mistaken revolution in our next available issue. Are you amenable to the idea?

    Johnna, thanks for the lead on a prior publication of art by Twitchell. I have the back issues of Dialogue in my garage. I’ll go out and hunt for his piece.

    Margaret, how about a story developing what might have happened if you and Bruce had walked into a worship service in Zarahemla in Baja California? I hope you will submit it to Dialogue. And I would indeed appreciate a letter to the editor from you from time to time.

    Jacob, I wouldn’t mind if some BCC style exchages broke out in the Letters and e-Papers sections of the Dialogue website. However, I don’t think Dialogue should try to turn its website to full scale blogging. Our relationship with BCC is useful in more ways than one, and we see some evidence that as BCC flourishes, so does Dialogue. You’ll notice that BCC mainstay, J. Stapley, is Dialogue’s chief web editor.

    Incidentally, for whatever it is worth, as if in verification of my initial statement, just yesterday we had a letter from a thirty-year subscriber refusing to resubscribe on the grounds that we have swung too far to the right. He didn’t name specific articles.

    Levi

  15. Twitchell was the featured artist in the Winter 1997 issue. His portrait of Joseph Smith also appears on the cover of The Prophet Puzzle.

  16. Levi,

    OK if I put it in English and take out some of the gratuitous insults?

  17. Twitchell’s work was also featured in the October 2002 issue of Sunstone.

  18. Well, Levi, now you’ve really gone and done it. I am so busy with documentary making and other stuff, but since reading your suggestion, I haven’t been able to get the story possibilities out of my mind. But I already know it won’t be a husband and wife traveling together, just the wife, trying to get a hold of herself, and then finding Zarahemla and One Mighty and Strong–who has, of course, already seen her in vision and who lets her know that it would be very bad for her to leave. I even know how it ends. How on earth am I going to find the time to write it all down? What have you done?

  19. Levi Peterson says:

    Mark B: By all means take out the gratituous insults, and standard English is always welcome. I look forward to your letter.

    Margaret: I’ve done the world of letters a great service if I actually have turned you to writing another story. Obviously, you tempt easily. There’s a born story teller in you.

    Levi

  20. I’m not writing any letters to Dialogue because I’m in enough trouble with my stake president already.

  21. An independent journal within a community of faith will feature material reinforcing the viewpoint of faithful members defending a position of Middle Ground (between disgruntled factions on its the Doubtful Left and its “alternatively inspired” Right)…However, regardless of ground, all readers will benefit to the extent a scholarly journal determines to examine facts and to relate true stories. Such as, to refer to two out of innumerable possible examples: The Brooklyn artist’s issues encountered upon the journey of doubt or the Mexico-based claimant biography and expressed motivations upon his “journey of faith”…)

  22. a random John says:

    Is Nobody a bot?

  23. Yes.

  24. Please enlighten me. What is a bot?

    Levi

  25. Steve Evans says:

    Levi, “bot” = robot, i.e., some kind of automated comment from a spammer. Comments from spam bots usually will barely make sense and scarcely relate to the topic at hand.

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