Correlation: An Uncorrelated History (Part 26 — “Courts of Love” Redux)

Previous entries can be found here. For those of you who have fixed your gaze upon this post, we thank you for your diligence and patience. In Section 1 part we track the Underground and the discursive splitting it generated within Mormonism. From there, Section 2 casts the expansion of Priesthood Power in light of the possibilities for excellence in athletic competition capacitated by that discursive rupture and semiotic fragmenting. This led, eventually, to strategies for curtailing what was emerging as an ecumenical outreach in Mormon basketball populations, as we discuss in Section 3. The formal division between Mormon university athletics and professional hoops in Utah is shown to be merely a façade in Section 4, as the bannination of rogue recruiters takes place, most prominent among them Roger Reid. Discussion of the future, changing social and athletic pressures among California Mormons, especially regarding SSM, are considered in Section 5. If you like quantitative social scientific research, I heartily recommend that you read part of J. Nelson-Seawright’s dissertation, or maybe a paper or two he wrote. You’ll have to pay read them, but all proceeds will help sick kids in Ogden.

Section 1: “Courts of Love”

Scott B: I guess that, to start off this discussion, we really need to go back to the beginning–the very beginning. How exactly the “Courts of Love” came to exist in the LDS Church; their exegesis, their evolution, and their role in modern Mormonism.

Right. I believe it was Joseph Smith, in the King Follett discourse, who said that, “There is the starting point for us to look to…If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong we may go wrong, and it will be a hard matter to get right.” I believe the same principle applies here: if we are to wrap our minds around the true nature of this controversial subject, we have to start off on the right foot.

Scott B:
So given that, it seems that we should probably first note the early chance interaction that Wilford Woodruff–way back in the late 1800s–had with James Naismith.

JNS: At this point, we must remember, Naismith was a figure of little repute. He was known as a Canadian collegiate athlete and a skilled player of duck on a rock, but he had not yet invented basketball. Woodruff and Naismith can now be shown, based on secret documents that I found in the First Presidency Vault, to have sat next to each other on a train running through Canada during 1889. Unfortunately, the documents — basically just ticket stubs with a few notes scribbled on them and a mysterious, seemingly Masonic symbol embossed on them in beeswax — do not detail the contents of their conversation. However, it seems significant that Naismith publicly announced the invention of basketball a mere two years later.

Wilford Woodruff was the 3rd President of the Church, but He was the 1st Point Guard

Scott B: So, with the blessing of Woodruff, we see the introduction of basketball to Utah Mormons. Now, while most contemporary Mormons are aware of the sanctioned basketball leagues in the Church, many are unaware of the origins of the leagues themselves—as it constitutes something of a darker area of Mormon history. The leagues we see today find their beginnings in an unsanctioned, or uncorrelated, “Underground” form of basketball that arose—and was initially embraced by the Church during the polygamy days. In symbolic fashion, men began joining several leagues simultaneously, playing for many teams at once, each on a different night of the week. The idea was basically that, the more teams, the more glory in the hereafter. However, the Church quickly realized that it was losing control, and men were neglecting less-skilled teams in favor of the league contenders. Ultimately, the leadership of the Church declared that basketball was no more.

JNS: Instead they encouraged a correlated substitute sport called “Beehive Ball” which outsiders find hard to distinguish from basketball, but insiders know by the Spirit, and the fact that technical fouls spark a worthiness interview.

Scott B: That brings up another misunderstanding, actually. Many people incorrectly believe that the term “Court of Love” actually referred to this interview, in which local authorities determined whether or not a player would be allowed to return to the court after demonstrating uncharitable conduct. While this is on the right track, it’s been twisted over time. The Church actually wanted basketball itself to be played on a “court of love” because it was seen as a possible extension of the missionary program.

JNS: Right. “Basketball Baptisms” was the original idea. Unfortunately, it never really materialized because Mormon basketball leagues were so rough that they drove investigators away. A shame, really—there was certainly potential for using athletics as a conduit for missionary work, but it was not to be. Subsequent iterations of this concept found that it was far more effective to tie the baptismal effort to the treats and socializing phase after the game. For example, red punch spilled on a uniform could be used to discuss Isaiah’s metaphor for the atonement.

Scott B: Eventually, of course, the Church realized that it couldn’t control the Underground, and decided instead that men’s basketball leagues, fully sanctioned and correlated by the Church–with high councilmen officiating–would be the solution.

JNS: This was an example of controlling the symbol to control the substance, because what was banned was not the act of throwing a ball through a hoop. No church could hope to control such realities. They are subtle, physical, and slippery, resistant to authority. Instead, the church rations access to “basketball,” i.e., the word itself. Thus we have an instance of tyranny from the inside out, literally controlling people’s minds in order to modify their play in casual leagues.

Scott B: Of course, it’s important to clarify that women’s leagues were out of the question–they were allowed to play in the early days, but eventually it became apparent that the women were too violent, even on the “uncorrelated” courts of love. It’s just their nature.

JNS: Many throughout the church continue to regard the sanctioned leagues as inauthentic, preferring to continue a pale imitation of the old Underground days by getting together informal pickup games early Saturday morning. Even these participants largely realize that the Underground game is deeply diminished compared with the glory days, but they regard the effort as essential.

Scott B: Sprained ankles are uncommonly common in such games, though–demonstrating the utter lack of Spirit attending such events, though.

Section 2: The Expansion of Priesthood Influence, or the Rise of Correlation Coefficients

JNS: Few if any participants manage to play in as many as two different pickup games a week, clearly violating the spirit if not the letter of the old Underground. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize how three tracks of basketball in Mormonism interact:

  1. The BYU/professionalizing track
  2. The sanctioned league track
  3. The pickup game track

None would function properly without the shadow of the others.

Scott B: There are other hints of the influence of the Church on basketball in and around Utah–the U of U plays basketball, for example, in the Huntsman Center. Utah State continually fields teams that are all white and 90% LDS.

JNS: One might even describe them as mutually constituting. What would the Church be without basketball? What would basketball be without the church? And of course Mormon influence in basketball radiates outward in a subtle network. Mormons play at Stanford, in the NBA, and in the management of the Boston Celtics. It’s impossible to watch the ferocious intensity of Kevin Garnett in the Celtics’ championship season without being reminded of Porter Rockwell and the B’Hoys, spectral ancestors of Mormon basketball.

Scott B: I don’t think we’ve given enough attention to the “Jerry Sloan/John Stockton” model of basketball–cheap, dirty, hard-nosed, and with a lousy tan resulting from garments. With Larry Miller continually renewing his contract, it is akin to Church sanction. How natural, then, that young teachers and priests attempt to emulate that very model by transforming church sanctioned leagues into, well, jungle ball. Of course, it sends another mixed signal–as you noted–that ruffians are frequently sent to the Bishop’s office for technical fouls and fighting.

JNS: Absolutely. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this. The Stockton-Malone connection. The symbolic resonance is so immense as to defy articulation. Consider: Stockton assists Malone, just as counselors assist a bishop.

And we can’t neglect the economic influence of that tandem on Utah and the broader Mormon world.

Scott B: Buying an automobile from somewhere other than Stockton to Malone Honda, or Larry H. Miller Toyota shows a lack of loyalty to the Church, really.

JNS: Of course, the fouling only becomes more serious under Sloan in the post-Stockton/Malone period. In some seasons, the Jazz foul on something like half the opponent’s jump shots.

Scott B: Yes–you bring up statistics, I see, which is a vital component of modern Mormonism.

JNS: Partly it’s statistics, but partly it is the difficult problem of succession. After the waning of the near-championship teams of the 1990s, the Jazz enter a period of confusion. Who will lead us now? The signs are mixed. Kirilenko shows moments of brilliance. Other players step up briefly, for a run of a few games or a few weeks. But I think it is safe to say that a general state of confusion reigns.

Scott B: You mention Kirilenko–the stat-sheet stuffing capability he showed was heartening to Mormons who thrive on baptismal stats, home teaching stats, activity rates, etc…

JNS: Absolutely! The Jazz turn to an emphasis on made-up numbers like 5x5s to make up for a deficiency of charm, of charisma, of talent.

Scott B: In fact, during Kirilenko’s peak year, Mormon sacrament meeting attendance increased 12%. Of course, the increase was only among “active” Mormons—they were simply attending 12% more meetings, or in some cases just lingering 12% longer. Essentially a corollary of Kirilenko’s made up 5×5’s.

JNS: Well, it was easy to do – nobody was watching the games, after all. The sad result of these unreasonable expectations is that Kirilenko – a talented player in his own unusual way – is never given a framework in which he can really succeed. Everybody wants him to become an All-Star in the Stockton or Malone mold. Whereas what he really needed was a system like that in Phoenix that creates space for a high-activity defender, rebounder, and garbage-shot player like him. But the Sloan system lacks the capacity to envision such an alternative. There is only one plan.

Scott B: One plan—just as there is one faith, one baptism, one team, and one church. Unity.

Section 3: Ecumenical Outreach and Mixed Signals

Scott B: We were talking about the relationship between Andrei Kirilenko, Statistics, and Mormons. But the real interesting issue here, JNS, is that Kirilenko has that infamous “once a year” clause in his marriage covenant–and thus we see, that wickedness truly never was happiness.

JNS: Quite right! I see the once a year clause as parallel with the on-the-court inflexibility. It’s not enough to just win, we have to win with righteous players, and with a game plan from the 1980s.

Scott B: Naturally, this caused problems when Kyle Korver–a 3 point shooter who couldn’t guard a chair–showed up in town: a righteous evangelical on a Mormon team known for being hard-nosed.

JNS: Absolutely! And one of the best shooters in the league. What can a Sloan make of such a thing?

Scott B: The stress in Mormon fans is apparent–they are not sure whether to cheer for him, or invite him over for FHE and offer him a Book of Mormon.

JNS: Right, it creates a symbolic dilemma. He defies the black-and-white paradigm. He is neither hot nor cold, and yet we don’t spew him from our mouths.

Scott B: And then suddenly, in the middle of a playoff run, Sloan gives Korver the green light to shoot. This represented an ecumenical outreach unseen since the Underground played a pickup game against RLDS missionaries in the early 1900s.

JNS: It’s one of these rare moments where the overt and covert transcripts visibly diverge. Sloan still talks about playing hard-nosed basketball. But he’s de facto recognizing that his players’ talents point toward a faster-paced game. He’s reinterpreting the scripture to suit a changed reality; continuing revelation, as it were.

Scott B: By way of another example, the signing of Rafael Araujo caused great consternation among the Saints–it was a very mixed signal because here you had a BYU graduate, a Jerry Sloan-style enforcer, and yet, he was tattooed from head to toe. There was a subtle shame associated with cheering for him, and yet most LDS refused to publicly express their dismay when he was not resigned.

JNS: Ironically, this very tactic would be adopted decades later by David Stern, when he imposes a dress code on NBA players in order to get them to stop releasing terrible rap albums.

Scott B: It’s interesting to think about how the early church leaders would feel if they knew that a tattooed rap-lover named DWill was being called the “Next Stockton”.

Section 4: Families, Adoption, and Scapegoats

Roger Reid--Defender of the 'Courts of Love'?

Scott B: Now, we’ve touched a little bit on BYU, but we didn’t really get to Roger Reid–who was known for using phrases like “the Lord’s team” in his recruiting pitches. Of course, when this was made known publicly, Reid took a fall, but I always kind of felt like he was just a modern-day J.W. Taylor–essentially just taking the fall for repeating what he believed to be the company line.

JNS: That’s right, the Lord’s University houses a basketball team, that must be the Lord’s Team. Protect the team at all costs, even if it means sacrificing the innocent. Reid, of course, was no stranger to scandal. The whisper campaigns when he would play his own son longer minutes than people thought he deserved.

Scott B: But of course, his son was a point guard, JNS–a leader. and Mormon leadership has a bit of history with that sort of thing, right? Believing blood.

JNS: Indeed! Many people see these tensions, between family lines and the anti-nepotism emphasis of the broader society, as the root of the recruiting scandal. They say that Reid felt he would lose his job to placate worldly alumni who didn’t recognize the true spiritual basis for playing his own sons – unless he managed to recruit Chris Burgess.

Scott B: Being recruited to play for BYU is really about families–it’s about being adopted—adoption into the correlated basketball world in Mormonism.

JNS: Quite so! When Burgess instead declared for Duke, he was opting out of the plan.

Scott B: (coincidentally, Paul talked about adoption frequently, but that is ignored, mostly during Sunday school in recent years, since he shares a name with D-Will’s primary rival.)

JNS: Choosing the broad and easy path of playing at a successful, institutionalized basketball program rather than staying in Zion where we have an honor code and related markers of the True Path.

Scott B: Of course, we see that Reid was right all along–the abject failure of Burgess to find success at Duke, and his relegation to (gasp!) Utah, is evidence enough of the spirit being grieved and withdrawing. Not to mention the fact that after firing Reid, BYU lost the rest of their games that year.

JNS: Indeed! In a way, Reid spoke for Basketball Zion as a whole when he said Burgess was “letting down all 9 million members of the church.” But such things, true as they may be, cannot be said in unholy places. When such texts escape the control of the editors, someone must pay.

Scott B: Somebody had to take the fall, and it wasn’t gonna be Cosmo.

Section 5: Correlation, SSM, and the Future of Basketball

Scott B: That really just brings it full circle, I think. We see Reid as the epitome of correlated basketball: there is only one team: the Lord’s team, administered by a board of trustees who have placed apostolic authority in the hands of a basketball coach; this image stands in stark contrast to the Underground days, wherein men (but not women) were allowed to join any (and as many) teams as they wanted, in righteousness.

JNS: Quite right. We now stand in a moment where the sport is now ruled almost entirely by the norms of the Gentile world, which ironically enough parallel those of the Underground. Of course, some Mormons rebel against the tensions inherent in the way(s) of Mormon basketball, seeking satisfaction in support of outside teams. Thus we see the rise, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, of the scandalous image of Northern California Mormons supporting the Sacramento Kings over the Utah Jazz. Never is this more glaring or more painful than in the 1999 first round of the playoffs, when Mormon Kings fans reportedly went so far as to ring cowbells at Stockton and Malone, thereby pitching their tents far from the center of the basketball camp.

SSM, After Retirement

Scott B: That really was the height of Mormon shame and self-loathing—a true “great and spacious building” kind of moment. While on the surface, there was continued support for Sloan, Stockton, and Malone (or SSM, if you will), inwardly there begin to be serious doubts about whether or not SSM was a match made in Heaven after all.

JNS: Exactly! Mike Bibby, Chris Webber, and Rick Adelman appear as a polar alternative to SSM: They play fast, with an emphasis on offense and consistently less priority on physicality (notice the very real echo of Satan’s fate in the war on heaven — less physicality = no body). But ironically, this temptation is eventually destroyed by a conjunction of events that can only be described as miraculous.

First, the Kings are denied a chance at a nearly-sure-thing NBA Finals in 2002 when the LA Lakers (with Mormon Mark Madsen on the roster as a symbolic avenging angel) pull out a seven-game series, requiring approximately 350 free throws in game 6 to make it through. Then the next year, Chris Webber’s knee all but explodes on court, marking the definitive end to the Kings’ period as a legitimate challenger to the Jazz in the eyes of most basketball Mormons. Sadly, a few vagabonds at the fringes of basketball Mormonism still hold out hope for a revival. Martin? Evans? Casspi? But in their hearts, they know those days have passed.

Scott B: Yes, that period has come and gone, but I think you may overstate the confidence of Jazz fans–really, Mormons everywhere except California–at the demise of the Kings, because the Lakers–with Kobe Bryant, who we all know, well, you know…wickedness, happiness, etc…And Shaq was there, too. Shaq, you recall, played for the LSU team that knocked Shawn Bradley and BYU out of the NCAA tournament.

JNS: Indeed! But supporting the Lakers is a clear sign of apostasy in a way that supporting the Kings never was – there was some ambiguity involved in supporting the Kings who after all play near Sutter’s Mill where Mormons once helped discover gold. Not so with the Lakers, who clearly represent the World.


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  1. The church is true. That is all.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    I don’t have time to leave a long comment, but suffice it to say that I disagree with your points in paragraph 8; it shows an popular view, highly influenced by contemporary idealism, but yet ignorant of the legal definition.

  3. Steve, you’re so simple minded. I’m pretty sure the cardinality of the set of all countable ordinals is aleph1 which is surmised to be isomorphic to the set or reals. The fact that you can’t see this just speaks volumes.

  4. W. V. Smith says:

    Scott B. I think I love you.

  5. I’m not sure I like the phrase “symbolic drama”; I’ve never heard that from my stake president, and I know you never have either, or you either, for that matter. And also, I remain doubtful of Woodruff having any time for basketball, given the amount of time he devoted to cross-dressed fishing expos.

  6. W. V., I don’t earn any love???

  7. Daymon, just look — the post includes a picture of Woodruff in a basketball uniform. Don’t you believe your own eyes?

  8. You guys are a sad lot. I sped-read the title and clicked on this hoping for Part 8 of the “real” Correlation dissertation discussion, which has been very enlightening.

  9. Man, this is great.

  10. W. V. Smith says:

    JNS, ok. xxxoooxxxx.

  11. W.V. Smith,
    Thanks, but JNS deserves love, too. This was a joint venture in every way.

  12. kevinr (8.)
    So you’re saying that this wasn’t very enlightening? Sheesh. This took hours!

  13. kevinr, I’m sorry you were not amused. Please believe me when I state that this post was offered up to you in the most solemn and brotherly trust.

  14. Fascination post.

    A few questions:

    1) Why is it that the term “Cultural Hall of Love” never took hold in the Church or adopted through correlation since the games are held in the “Cultural Hall” rather than on a court?

    2) Did the use of carpet on the court -er- I mean Cultural Hall cause the rumored decrease in participants? How many members left the church entirely due to torn ACL’s because of the carpet?

    3) Can you shed some light on the history and status of church members who shouted for joy when Michael Jordan scored his last points as a Chicago Bull against the Jazz and winning the ’98 NBA Title. Were they fence sitters in our ante-mortal existence? What is their best hope for an eternal reward?


  15. Greg, it seems to me that the cultural hall has a sort of secret second life as a court in Mormon life. In addition to serving as the court of love on which Mormon basketball is prototypically played, it also for example is a typical venue for Scouting Courts of Honor.

    Carpet on the court is indeed an issue, one for which I know we all await further light and knowledge.

    Regarding “Mormons” who favored the Bulls during the 1990s, what can I say? All communities, and all soteriologies, have to draw a boundary somewhere.

  16. Interestingly, there is one certain photo of Jordan–just as he pushed off on Bryon Russell and hit the game winner in ’98 in SLC–which captured the “fallen countenances” of several such fans. They were wearing Jazz shirts, but were cheering nonetheless. Apostates, really.

  17. I fear you’re conflating Utah court culture with Mormon court culture–while it is true that most Utahns support the Jazz, this support is a regional, rather than a religious, court culture. After all, not all Utah basketball fans are Mormon, just as all Mormon basketball fans are not Utahs. Your assertions that Mormons cheering for Jordon in ’98 are apostates clearly devalues the experience of faithful Chicago Mormons, who have never even dreamed of eating green jello as part of their Navajo tacos.

  18. Sam B.,
    Just keep that thought fresh–we’ll address it in Part 27, along with an analysis of Dallin H. Oaks’ ascendancy to the Supreme Court of Utah, without ever having even played college ball.

  19. 14, you will notice that carpeted courts only exist in buildings built or remodeled during the 80’s. Normally these type of courts aren’t full courts anyway, but 3/4 courts. This aberration was corrected as the Church Building department became correlated with the church basketball department and hardwood floors were again made a top priority. Sadly Full courts though ideal, are still not being given a priority except in Stake Centers and courts within the Lord’s University.

  20. On further thought, I wonder if the 3/4 courts we see in so many meetinghouses is a just holdover from underground days. Certainly the pickup games so often played during that time didn’t rely so heavily on having a regulation court, but just needed some simply markings and a basket. In that case maybe correlation is something to be embraced because playing on a nonregulation court can be frustrating for players who need the visual cues that the interlaced basketball/volleyball floor markings give. How does one know where to stand if the markings are different on every court?

  21. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    The cultural hall could also be considered an informal court of love when the Justice of the Peace/Bishop is presiding over a legal ceremony. I believe correlation initially led to the installation of those iron rings (now break-away) in order to hang celebratory streamers, but they have now been re-purposed.

  22. I just want to echo what Sam B. has said. While not a Chicago Mormon, I grew up south of I-80, and therefore felt a closer regional claim to the Chicago area than to SLC. This post completely neglects the effects of the tension between Chicago Mormons and Utah transplants living in Illinois in the mid-1990s.

    I distinctly remembering one of my brothers calling our EQP (a Utah transplant) after the ’98 win of the Chicago Bulls and asking if he had seen the game. Our EQP tersely responded, “I don’t want to talk about it” and hung up the phone.

  23. This was awesome. Thanks, guys.

  24. Also, neither Sacramento Mormons or Chicago Mormons have ever had their team owner actively solicit Mormon support like Dallas Mormons have.

  25. Helen Wheels says:

    Oh my, I seem to have saturated my knickers. Please pardon me as I leave to find a fresh “depends”. I’ll be back to study more of this testimony-strengthening discourse in a few minutes…

  26. Brethren, I’m appalled. Not everything true is useful, you know.

  27. In the late 1990’s I was a Chicago Mormon married to a more traditional Utah Mormon. I shouted for joy when Jordan fouled Byron and scored and was shunned to outer 1 bedroom apartment darkness.

    Thanks you Sam B for the kind words of support. I actually called my grandma in Ogden right when the game was over and she actually swore at me when I made fun of the Jazz and the Mailman not delivering on Sunday

  28. What connection is there, if any, between The Underground development of these “Courts of Love”, and the “Holy Wars” waged on the fields (painted white, ready to harvest?) every fall? It seems these two movements grew in parallel, but I wonder if there was any mutualistic relationship between the two.
    I know the latter hasn’t had the correlated presence that the former has, never being adopted as a church-sponsored program on a ward level. But the church sponsorship of the collegiate program is intriguing. And perhaps even moreso the similar underground movement that football has even today. I remember my young men’s group always gathering unofficially after mutual every Tuesday on the church lawn to participate in this long overlooked ordinance.

  29. This was the perfect mix of satire and nonsense. Thanks.

    (And 28 comments (and counting) for a sports-related post at BCC?! Wow! Miracles never cease.)

  30. I should add that I’m surprised this conversation failed to touch on several important developments in the history and ethos of the Courts of Love:

    1) The section of the Book of Commandments (recently discovered in the FP vault) which actually directs that all basketball courts be placed at the very center of meetinghouses (center = heart)
    2) The recent discovery by LDS historians of a parquet patterned hard-wood floor under the carpeting of the Assembly room of the SL Temple; also, the discovery of the frames for basketball rims on both lecterns of the rostrums;
    3) The history of how women in the early church were authorized to administer the Icy Hot ointment by the laying on of hands to the various sprained ankles, etc.

  31. I believe it was ETB who said that the US Army, or possibly the NBA, will always go before the Mormon missionaries in opening new fields -I mean courts- for spreading the gospel. The rise of Yao Ming will certainly lead to renewed rumors of “sealed mission calls” inviting missionaries to brush up their ball handling and take their gospel “skills” on a mission to China.

  32. I think it was the CIA. By the way, the Mormon basketball team at Langley kicks ass.

  33. 1) The section of the Book of Commandments (recently discovered in the FP vault) which actually directs that all basketball courts be placed at the very center of meetinghouses (center = heart)

    Hunter, I’m surprised that you’re so easily taken in. That section is actually one of the last remaining Hoffman forgeries. As shown in the OP, basketball wasn’t invented until Wilford Woodruff and James Naismith collaborated in 1889, and the Book of Commandments was written much, much earlier.

  34. I just wanted to express my appreciation for this post, very well done! And I don’t even like basketball! (Don’t tell my bishop!)

  35. I you may have missed earliest reference to the Courts. Kolob= Akkadian for “pass the ball, sucka !”

  36. “I think”

  37. Steve Evans says:

    hi, Kolob!

  38. So I’m assuming this is a smart ploy to label the previous posts as unsubstantiated bunk? At least that was my thought while reading over the correlation series. Not that they must be wrong, but that there is a lot of interpretation there that just gets dumped out there and we’re supposed to take it at face value, and move on as the discussion continues to build on a shaky foundation.

    This post clearly seems to call that series junk fiction. It may have some truth. A lot of falsehoods are certain.

    And why anyone would take it as any kind of authority is beyond me. Especially on this site which seems to be more rigorous at times with its… err… truthiness.

  39. Chris, your interpretation is quite incorrect. If you have issues with some of the fact claims in the correlation posts, you’re free to raise them there, and in fact you should. But this post does not call the series junk fiction.

  40. chris, it is more nuanced than you realize–it’s not about calling the other series junk. Rather, it’s about calling the authors themselves junk.

    That, or maybe it was just about a few friends having a good time with a term (“Courts of Love”) that caused, in our collective opinion, far more outrage in an earlier thread than was probably justified.

  41. Part 26? what happened to parts 6-25? ;)

  42. Scott is being indirect to salve feelings. It’s my job, as always, to be brutally direct. The intent of this post is to call for Brad Kramer to be stricken from the record. It’s there in an anagram.

  43. Mark Brown says:


    How can you be so blind as to not see the truth that is right in front of your faces?

    In our tradition, the person who bestows keys on another still retains those keys. You correctly note that fateful train ride in Canada when we assume that Naismith secretly ordained Wilford Woodruff, but your lack of follow-up is unbelievable, to state it frankly. Please do your homework and report back to us concerning what became of coach Naismith after that train ride, and where he coached and won championships. There is a book-length work to be done on this topic, (you might even call it Rough Train Rolling) and I’m sure the BCC community would be edified by your research.

  44. Mark, you raise one of the major ironies of this history: various Mormons would have far more success in the sport James Naismith invented (with the help, obviously, of Wilford Woodruff) than Coach Naismith himself had. He coached for nine seasons at the University of Kansas, but his overall record was a meagre 55-60 with only two winning seasons.

  45. Mark Brown says:


    Can you explain why he chose to move from New England to coach at a school that is located only 30 miles from Jackson county, MO?

    Coincidence? I think not.

  46. I just want to say I really enjoyed this post – I am learning a lot and it’s really making me think about some new things. Keep up the good work!

  47. I have heard a rumor that the design of the first basketball was based on the Liahona – without the needles, of course. That would lend credence to the Woodruff / Naismith meeting.

  48. Chris,
    I think it would be illuminating to us all for you to elaborate on shaky foundations and numerous falsehoods you have uncovered in Daymon’s research. And you shouldn’t just waste your efforts on some halfassed blog post either — you should publish a paper, a thesis, even a dissertation that reveals the true history that we, as ones lacking authority, have buried beneath our unsubstantiated interpretations.

  49. And, despite how sobering and humiliating it has been to have our unsubstantiated bunk exposed by Chris here, this is outstanding, boys.

  50. Brad, I man-love you.

  51. Chris,
    I await your corrections.

  52. Scott,
    I am, as ever, your humble and faithful servant.

  53. JNS,
    regarding the ‘photo’ of First Guard Woodruff (Trustee-in-Trust of da Rock), I can suggest that perhaps he was but playing at playing a guard, most likely for the sake of a ‘smoke-screen’ to conceal his real purposes, which I leave for Chris to unveil, at his convenience. Clearly the metapragmatics of the photo are not essential to the photo’s being, but rather a relationally emergent phenomenon vis-a-vis the contextualized viewer. I also suspect that Obama had something do with the trickery you have here attempted to foist upon us with this entirely uncorrelated correlation of historicorrelationism.

  54. Your April 1 post got on-line a little early ;)

  55. Not a servant, but a brother. May we rejoice together when the restoration of all things comes to pass, and the Lord seeth fit to bless our Jazz with a title in these latter days.

  56. It was the revelation of basketball that led to some church authorities determining it was time to abandon polygamy.

    Getting permission from one wife to attend sacred Wednesday night ward basketball gatherings was already an insanely complicated matter – often requiring that the brethren make great sacrifices in regards to childcare on other nights of the week.

    Mistakenly using the term ‘babysitting’ for ones own children, even once, with more than one wife present, would of course be fatal.

    Since this is an argument that would take place four or even five times in a given month, such inevitable instances of verbal slippage would devastate the priesthood and the world would be utterly wasted.

    This inevitably spelled the end for polygamy.

    Also, it was around this time that the federal government had used polygamy as a pretext to confiscate the LDS churches in Utah, a move that mainly intended to gain control of more basketball courts.

    There raised a great amount of suspicion amongst those who participated in the sacred courts of ward basketball – they were afraid that government spies were participating. While it was possible for the Mormon “mind your business” mantra to function in daily life – it was almost impossible to maintain suitable space when Brother so-and-so was hand-checking you while you were trying to get open to the basket. In this context of paranoia and suspicion – such hand-checking (particularly the monkey stealing the peach variety of hand-checking) naturally and sadly led to a greater use of profanity and violence.

    While other aspects of this early church culture have since been completely abandoned except by peculiar fundamentalist groups – the profanity and violence in ward basketball have remained an integral and unique part of LDS cultural practice.

    There has also been, from time to time, an attempt by some fundamentalist groups to discover one who is the Mighty and Strong – a Mormon Shaq, if you will …

  57. No corrections are needed.

    Are you a historian? Surely you understand how writing a mere 3 sentences about a historical fact can tweak it. Reading page after page of dialogue presented as fact, with a lot of facts thrown in and a lot of interpretations about those facts is just not something I would read as “fact”.

    I’d say there were some historical observations presented, with a lot of interesting dialogue that represented opinion. Just because you line up a string of items from a historical record doesn’t mean everything played out the way you said it did and it would be a mistake for anyone to conclude that.

    It’s your view of history, and no doubt much more informed than mine. I just don’t take it as face value and I recall thinking to my self at several instances I have little way to validate the web that’s being spun here. It just moves on as quickly as the next line break with another saying.

    Give me the same dialogue about the run up to the Vietnam or Iraq wars and tell me a lot of it, other than the verifiable historical occurrences, wouldn’t be open for debate.

  58. Kristine says:

    chris, I would think that the informal personal dialogue format and the fact that this is a BLOG, not a refereed journal, would tip people off to the fact that personal opinions were being offered. I don’t think there was an attempt to claim otherwise. Daymon, like most historians of the last several decades, would surely acknowledge that there’s no such thing as “objective” history, and that alternative narrative trajectories for the events he described are possible.

  59. So if indeed basketball is integral to the development of modern mormonism why then in the PH session always on top of the final four? Is this why BYU folds so easily in the tourney? To avoid playing during PH meeting on Sat nite?

  60. chris, the reason you’re ruffling feathers has little to do with what you’re saying in number 57 — nobody’s really going to argue with the essence of what you’re saying there, though I think you overestimate just how much of history can be considered indisputable “fact” to begin with. All history is interpretation, and you’re well within your rights to take it with a grain of salt.

    The problem is that you came out of the gate calling the other series “junk fiction” and “unsubstantiated bunk,” when, as you have already admitted, you really aren’t informed enough to know for sure. You may have little way to validate the “web that’s being spun,” but the inverse is equally true; so, without any real, concrete, specific criticisms to make, dismissing it out of hand as “bunk” just because it may not entirely jell with your pre-existing interpretation of history makes you come off as ignorant.

  61. Mark, to be fair, the coaching job at Kansas was initially secondary; he was hired as a professor of physical education in general. However, I take your very astute point regarding the deeper semiotic aspects of his spatio-mythic transmigration.

    Daymon, quite so. And yet, one must consider the performative aspects of the photo as icon/relic. Note that Woodruff’s body posture is a natural fit with the uniform and the sport of basketball, and that he holds the ball with the practiced grace of a lifelong player. Surely you recognize that the physicality of these postures cannot be donned and doffed like a simple hat, but instead ineluctably represents the cumulative corporeal result of an extended exposure to the discipline of the sport?

  62. My uncle is said to have in his possession a daguerreotype that shows a young Joseph Smith and what appears to be a ball spinning on the young prophets index finger. My uncle has been reluctant to show this publicly because the name “Spalding” can be clearly seen written on the ball and is afraid of impact this will have on those whose testimony of basketball is already fragile.

  63. I was more than amused, I laughed all day long and into the night. Everytime I’d remember this, especially the picture of Wilford Woodruff, a big grin would overwhelm my face. My wife thought I was going crazy because I was smiling so much. The combination of surprise at my finding this instead of the real correlation dissertation made it even funnier.

  64. What about the quotation from the Journal of Discourses? And I quote:

    For, lo, and verily, two teams shall arise from Kansas, a land of bounteous wheat and fertile plains. And lo, their seed shall be endless, or at least a 1 and 2, while BYU gets a freakin’ 7, regardless of a top-15 season-long ranking, for it is written, ‘the Mountain West doth choke in the tournament.’ And Kansas shall fall, and great shall be the fall thereof, but Kansas State will defeat BYU, and there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth, and great shall be the affliction thereof, as a suckling child torn from its mother’s breasts.

    It really kind of irks me how this SSM era waters down words of true knowledge from Brother Brigham

  65. imagine a “close italics” tag at the end of “JoD,” and a “quote” tag around the quote.

    ALSO, why are the Lord’s University’s fans being lured to Satan’s sport, football? Clearly, if God wanted his Saints to toss around pigskins and tackle each other, he would have fashioned them with shoulder pads and the after-effects of concussions AT BIRTH, people. I can’t find a single reference to football in the Book of Mormon. And it offends my RM-from-Brazil sensibilities.


  66. Mark Brown says:

    Upon close examination and scrutiny, I declare the picture of Wilford Woodruff to be a fake.

    I do not take this position lightly, and have consulted with several people in the Salt Lake City area who are known to have experience in determining the veracity of claims concerning old documents.

    1. The NBA logo looks like the silhouette of Jerry West at first glance, but in this picture, if you look closely, you will see a salamander winking at you.

    2. Tattoos. There is no such thing as an NBA player without tats. This is a very clumsy forgery.

  67. I agree with # 62 — this can all be explained so easily with the Spalding Theory. That daguerrotype surfaced at the Smithsonian in the 1970s only to be forgotten in the Wake of the Watergate Scandal. And it borders on outright obfuscation that your post covers up the excellent work of Shawn Bradley relating to Thomas B. Marsh’s clandestine activities laying the foundation for this great work of the Courts of Love while away from the Church between 1839 and 1857.

  68. John,
    I realize that the temptation is great to link the Courts of love to Thomas B. Marsh, as this would provide incontrovertible proof that basketball was indeed part of the Restoration itself and not simply a passion discovered by Woodruff through Naismith.

    However, I have to draw a line somewhere. The fact is, no church records from the Missouri or Nauvoo periods–including those related to the apostasy of Marsh–mention hoops, dribbling, or reversible jerseys. It is a well known fact that TBM became a bitter apostate because of milk strippings, and milk strippings alone.

  69. You cannot DENY that reversible jerseys played a significant role in his apostasy. We know that without your DENIAL of Marsh’s early discovery and work on that front, your whole argument would just fall APART, like a house of CARDS.