Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Guest Post: What Mormon Historical Figure Would You Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner?

Guest Post: What Mormon Historical Figure Would You Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner?

By: Kevin Folkman - November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving is a great time for family and friends to get together, eat too much food, and enjoy each others’ company. Every year we have one or two guests, and look forward to greeting these folks we haven’t seen for a while, or to introduce family to new friends. All of which got me to thinking, who from Mormon history would I think would make a great Thanksgiving dinner guest? Who would perhaps be fun to have around, or might be interesting to learn more about?

So here is the challenge. I’m going to suggest a guest or two, and then it’s your turn. Who would you like to invite, and why? And perhaps who would absolutely not get an invitation? Is it because they might not mix well with the other invited guests, or are perceived as a real party pooper? The only restriction is that they have to be legitimately related to Mormon history, and at least somewhat well known to Keepa’s knowledgeable and talented readers.

For my first guest, and a somewhat obvious choice, I choose Parley P. Pratt. Based on his autobiography, he’s a great story teller, sports a fine sense of humor, and lived a huge variety of experiences in the church starting from the Kirtland days, through Missouri and Nauvoo, led the first exploring trip to Southern Utah over a harsh winter, and was a veteran of many missions. I feel he would be a great addition to the dinner table, and keep my family and friends entertained clear through the pumpkin pie.

For my second guest, Jayne Manning James, just because she flat out deserves a seat at the first table. That ought to be enough right there. I would love to get to know more about her and her story.

Now it’s your turn. Who’s coming to your Mormon History Thanksgiving dinner?



  1. I’d choose William Phelps from his later years, just to hear the crazy things he’d say.

    Comment by Ben Park — November 22, 2011 @ 7:35 am

  2. I would go with Elijah Abel, as I have always found his story fascinating, and have so many questions for him.

    Orson Pratt, as I would love to pick his brain on how he came up with so many interesting doctrinal issues, and discuss his ongoing arguments on doctrine he had with Pres Young.

    Finally, Spencer W. Kimball, so I could get detailed information on OD2, the efforts that led to it, and the experience itself.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 22, 2011 @ 7:52 am

  3. I’d want Brigham Young — there are so many things I want to talk to him about. I think he wouldn’t have the patience for me if I landed back in his day, but maybe if he were a guest at my table he would have enough deference for me as his hostess to give me the nerve to press him on those questions.

    And I’d like to invite almost any one of my “lesser-known” Saints, but I’m not sure how well any of them would work at the same table with Brigham Young — would he overpower them by his presence?? Maybe it would be better to invite them some other time … The one I really want to talk with the most is my buddy Ned Desaules, the partially deaf Swiss carpenter from the United Order community. I’m really looking forward to meeting him someday.

    (And I’d probably be hiding behind the door at Ben’s house just to eavesdrop on Brother Phelps!)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 22, 2011 @ 8:03 am

  4. I would invite the Prophet Joseph Smith. It would be an honor to sit at his feet and learn.

    Comment by Harold Bailey — November 22, 2011 @ 8:12 am

  5. Joseph Ridges- who built the Tabernacle Organ and worked on the Gardo House (secret passageways and all) as he was an ancestor of mine. And I would not invite Porter Rockwell because I doubt they would have gotten along. At least I hope not.

    Comment by Grant — November 22, 2011 @ 8:58 am

  6. I always figured Porter Rockwell would not be a good guest because he likely smelled bad and might shoot one of the other guests.

    Another not good combination: Joseph F. Smith and Frank J. Cannon, who likely would be bludgeoning each other with the drumsticks before the turkey was fully carved.

    Comment by kevinf — November 22, 2011 @ 9:03 am

  7. I was also going to go with Porter Rockwell. He and J. Golden Kimball might make a great pair, don’t you think?

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — November 22, 2011 @ 9:18 am

  8. I’m for inviting the obscure–Sarah Ann Nightingale, my great-great grandmother, and her mother, Jane Archer Nightingale, so I can ask them about their experience in the Martin Handcart Company–and why their stories never made it down to their descendants, four generations later. And my great-great grandfather, William Bailey Maxwell, for stories about the Mormon Battalion, settling southern Utah and eastern Arizona, about whether his third wife (my g-g grandmother) was really the wild woman she’s reputed to be, and what he was thinking when he married his second wife when she was so very young–look it up on Family Search if you’re curious. And, just for fun, I think I’d also invite Elizabeth Archer Butler, just to see if she and Jane Archer Nightingale can figure out if there’s any family connection–other than their common descendants in my generation.

    Comment by Mark B. — November 22, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  9. Probably not very original of me, but I’d definitely want Martha Hughes Cannon — or Emmeline Wells (could I invite both, please? 🙂

    From my own family tree Luke Johnson would be my choice, because his complicated life story fascinates me, and because I suspect he’d be hilarious company at table.

    Comment by SLK — November 22, 2011 @ 9:26 am

  10. John Whitmer and his wife Sarah. But definitely the excommunicated version and not the early-member version. I’d love to hear his wife’s narrative of events with John’s interjections (I love to hear couples tell a story–they’re is an interesting dynamic that is added to the story-telling I think).

    And I’ve always wanted to hear Lucy Harris’ version of events in Palmyra.

    I’d also like to gather a group of children/teenagers from Kirtland/Far West/Nauvoo and get their perspective of events. Everyone forgets the history from a child’s eye.

    Comment by Robin Jensen — November 22, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  11. Yeah, Lucy Harris would be great. Especially the long, awkward pause when you ask, “So, what DID happen to the 110 pages of the translation your husband brought home?”
    And you couldn’t go wrong with Orson Pratt either, if only to observe how he managed to keep his beard clean while eating.

    But for my table, I’d invite Isaac Morley, who saw everything from JS rooming at his farm in Kirtland to presiding over the settlement of the Sanpete Valley.

    I’d also love to learn more about why/how polygamy was finally done away with, so for my second choice I’d invite Anthony Ivins. (I don’t think having John W. Taylor and Francis Lyman at the same table would last any longer than JFS and FJC…)

    Comment by The Other Clark — November 22, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  12. Along with many of the others mentioned, I think William E. McLellin would be an interesting person to hear from, especially his take on the different schisms.

    And for a rowdy bunch, I think the writers of the original Keepapitchinin would provide some great entertainment 🙂

    Comment by Meghan — November 22, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  13. Joseph Smith, Emma Smith, Samuel Smith, Hyrum Smith.
    Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, Sidney Rigdon.
    Porter Rockwell, Lyman Wight. Wilford Woodruff.
    Zina D.H. Young. Eliza Snow.
    Moroni. At least one of the Three Nephites.
    Matthew Cowley.

    Comment by Bookslinger — November 22, 2011 @ 11:49 am

  14. If Meghan can get acceptances from her invitees, I’m crashing the party!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 22, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  15. I’d also want to invite my great grandparents, Frederick and Charlotte King, first to hear about how they met on the SS Manhattan when he was returning from his mission to England, and she was immigrating with her family. Then they could tell me all the stuff I still don’t know about the 1873 Arizona adventure they had.

    Comment by kevinf — November 22, 2011 @ 11:52 am

  16. Definitely I would go with Emma Smith since we don’t have much that she wrote (other than hymnbooks.) Not to “diss” any of the men especially the Prophets or the fabulous Lucy Smith and Eliza R. Snow, but we can “sit” at their feet in their books.

    I would love to hear what it was like to be part of the Restoration, the founding of the Relief Society, how she bore up under hardship, and so forth.

    Allison in Atlanta

    Comment by Allison in Atlanta — November 22, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

  17. I would pick two “bridge” personalities:

    Eliza R. Snow — she could bridge both early Church history and the migration to and settlement of Salt Lake City.

    And Reed Smoot — who could bridge late 19th-century Utah, as well as the Church’s progress into the 20th-century.


    Comment by David Y. — November 22, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  18. Solomon Chamberlain. James Covel (Covill).

    Comment by Christopher — November 22, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  19. Bookslinger,

    Which one of the Three Nephites? I didn’t much like the one that I picked up hitchhiking a few years back.

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned J. Golden Kimball. That SOB would be one helluva guest!

    Comment by kevinf — November 22, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

  20. I wouldn’t do this on Thanksgiving, as it would end up not necessarily being a day of giving thanks, but I’d love to have dinner with Elder McConkie, so we could really get down and dirty on many of his writings and teachings that were plain wrong or severely deficient. And I’d like to ask him what he thinks of how the Church’s changes on grace, evolution and a series of other issues have moved away from his strong stance since his death.

    Comment by Rameumptom — November 22, 2011 @ 12:51 pm

  21. Do we get to invite a table full? Since I have a few outstanding questions about the Founding Fathers – Eminent Men and Women – St. George Temple story, I’d invite:

    Wilford Woodruff
    James Godson Bleak
    Lucy Bigelow Young
    Susanna Mehitable Rogers Sangiovanni Pickett Keate (although I probably shouldn’t have favorites from the project, hers is my favorite story so far, and it’s coming up next week (sorry for the series promotion threadjack here : ))
    And the Jarvis family, since they were involved in the project.

    Here’s how I would imagine the dinner happening. Woodruff and Bleak would be off in the corner swapping fish stories. (Seriously! They were fishing buddies.) Lucy and Susanna could entertain the children with stories from their lives and from famous people they knew. And I’d be interviewing George and Ann Jarvis about their experiences in London, Japan, China, Boston, and St. George.

    Comment by Researcher — November 22, 2011 @ 12:52 pm

  22. Michelle, sorry, you did mention J. Golden back with Porter Rockwell. Missed that when I was scanning the comments.

    Also, a fascinating list, and lots of interesting reasons. These would all be Thanksgiving dinners that I would not want to see end.

    Comment by kevinf — November 22, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  23. I think I would like to have Jens and Elsie Neilson of the both the Willie handcart company and the Hole-in-the-Rock expedition. I think they would be respresentative of the many early European saints that came to Zion, then were called (more than once) to pull up stakes and settle a new area. I’d like to get Elsie’s take on the faith and testimony to trade green Denmark for Bluff!

    Comment by Yet Another John — November 22, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

  24. I’d go big on personality. Brigham Young and J. Golden Kimball.

    Besides holding us all spell-bound, like Kimball, I figure Young could give us all some profitable advice on business and practical matters. Plus if conversation lags, we could sound him out on what he thought of the Church’s move away from polygamy and some of his more esoteric theories. I’d ask him if it was really true that he contemplated a grand bargain with the Feds towards the end of his life where his bargaining chip was giving up polygamy.

    I wouldn’t care ask Jesus Christ or Joseph Smith, they’re all too likely to have some revelation for me. 😉

    Comment by Adam G. — November 22, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

  25. I think I’d want to have Evan Stephens to my T-giving dinner. I’d serve a huge meal, and then invite everyone to the family room where we would have a rollicking good 3 or 4 hours with Evan on the piano. By then, everyone would be ready for pie.

    …and if for some reason Evan declined to take the piano bench… No Pie.

    Comment by Chad Too — November 22, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  26. I would invite Sarah Melissa Granger Kimball. In my opinion, she did more and served more time in Relief Society than any other one person. She is one of my favorite people.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — November 22, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

  27. I’ve spent my whole life having Thanksgiving with Mormons. I’d go for someone outside the circle, maybe Abraham Lincoln.

    Comment by Aaron — November 23, 2011 @ 6:24 am

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