Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

Mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa.

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 22, 2013

Some of the more successful Keepa posts have been those where tangled historical claims have been sorted out:

What George Washington Didn’t Say about Barack Obama in the Relief Society Magazine, the Saints’ Herald, or Even the Millennial Star

Moroni’s Purported Rambles

“Concocted in Some Corner”: A Bogus “Vision” Surfaces Again … and Again … and Again

[And while we’re at it, Grant has a corrective post at Passionate Moderate Mormon [LINK NOW FIXED], concerning a misquotation that has been bouncing around Facebook recently.]

Let me tell you, it feels good to be so wicked smart that I can correct what others have got wrong!

But what about when I get it wrong?

When I learn that I’ve gotten a little thing wrong – a typo in a date, a misspelled name, referring to George A. Smith when I mean George Albert Smith – I usually correct it silently, whether on the day a post goes up or a year later when it comes to my notice … unless one of you has already commented on it, in which case I make the correction obvious: “North South Temple” or “Stonewall Andrew Jackson.” (I don’t want to leave a reader’s comment hanging out there making no sense by my having corrected the error he pointed out.)

But then there are the bigger errors where it isn’t a matter of one word gone wrong. As careful as I try to be, I’ve gotten it wrong sometimes. This post is intended to correct the three biggest errors (at least, the three biggest of which I have become aware) in Keepa stories.

“The Mountains Shout”: Evan Stephens and the Recording of Mormon HymnsThis one tells about Tabernacle Choir Director Evan Stephens and two of his projects to record music produced by the Choir: the earliest recording in 1910, and a 1923-24 trip to Camden, New Jersey to record a set of Mormon hymns, sung not by the Tabernacle Choir but by an eastern studio’s house choir (or mixed double quartet). So far as I am now aware, everything in this post about those two events, and about Stephens’ background, and everything else is correct.

But I linked to two sound recordings, saying “There are a few recordings that are sometimes mistaken for these original 1910 numbers” and I claimed that those linked recordings dated to 1924 rather than 1910, speculating that when digital recordings were made those recordings somehow became separated from their cataloguing and people began to assume that because of their obviously early origin they must be the 1910 recordings. Also, the Church History Library has only one of the three 1924 records – the one with the two hymns sung in those linked recordings.

It now appears, though, that those sound recordings are, in fact, from the 1910 recording session, and that it is a coincidence that the only two surviving 1910 recordings are of the same hymns as the surviving 1924 record. So listen to the music in those links, and let them take you back more than a century to hear the Choir as it then was.

Two Presidents Meet, 1919.  This story concerns a visit by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to Salt Lake City, and his request to meet Relief Society President Emmeline B. Wells. In that story I wrote:

During their ride, Secretary McAdoo told President Grant that President Wilson was ill and would not be attending any of the entertainments planned for him, nor would he be able to meet with any of the local dignitaries. He would give his speech in the Tabernacle as planned, but otherwise he would need to rest. There would be only one exception to his no-visitors request – one that Mr. McAdoo hoped President Grant would be able to arrange. President Grant assured him it would be done.

My source did indicate that Wilson’s only meeting beyond his public speech in the Tabernacle was with Sister Wells. That turns out to have been incorrect – Wilson did attend a few other public functions and met with others. He attended a small Boy Scout function, for instance.

It may be that my source was correct in that his only personally requested meeting was with Sister Wells, but I cannot be sure of that. A little of the drama of this story melts away by our knowing that hers was not an exclusive meeting, but otherwise, so far as I can tell, the rest of the story happened just as reported.

Eleanor and Emma. This is the big one. This story concerns Samuel and Emma Adams and their poverty in the early days of the Salt Lake Valley. When their first child turns out to be twins, it takes every stitch of clothing the Adamses have gathered to clothe the girls, with not a single spare diaper or nightgown. The family’s plight comes to the notice of the women in a neighboring family, who stay up all night sewing for the babies.

That part of this post comes from personal writings of Samuel Adams, in possession of descendants. He clearly identifies the younger women as the daughters of Hyrum Smith, brother of Joseph Smith. He refers to the older woman, though, only as Auntie … and in my failure to check the records adequately, I assumed that “Auntie” was a reference to Mary Fielding Smith, Hyrum’s widow and the mother/stepmother of the three younger women.

Mary Fielding Smith had died a year before the events of this story, however; she clearly cannot be the heroine of the Adams family history. Descendants of the Smith family have told me that “Auntie” was probably Hannah Wheelock Woodstock Grennell, sometimes known as “Granny Grennell,” who came into the Valley with Mary Fielding Smith and lived on with the three daughters after Mary’s death. (Alternatively, reports one, “Auntie” may have been Mercy Fielding Thompson, who lived nearby and was the girls’ literal aunt. But since “Auntie” appears to have lived with the Smith girls, I lean toward identifying her as Sister Grennell.)

Beyond this misidentification, and allowing for the normal minor faults to be expected in any reminiscent sources, the story as I have told it appears to be true. We just need to give credit where credit is due, in this case to a woman who was unknown to me before this.


As of the moment of posting this, I have not yet corrected the three published posts. I’ll get to that today or tomorrow.



  1. Whatever the beneficial effects of confession, this post was worth it just for the link back to George Washington and his “vision” and the comments on that post!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 22, 2013 @ 9:46 am

  2. Hannah Wheelock Grennell? Who’s she?? Botherations. I thought I’d tracked down all the Wheelocks in Utah. This could mean I was wrong about the identity of the second Wheelock in the handcart rescue companies.

    Whew! Crisis averted. “Granny Grennell” was named Hannah Woodstock Grennell (1783-1853), at least according to the Pioneer Overland Travel database. That’s a relief. I didn’t have time to be wrong today. :)

    Family Tree has an entry for her (I think; it has her name spelled Grinnell) but it doesn’t show a death date, and her children don’t seem to have crossed the plains with her.

    Comment by Amy T — January 22, 2013 @ 10:43 am

  3. Botherations indeed!

    I did not intend this post to be a living demonstration of my carelessness, but there it is. Hannah’s name is corrected in the post. I really owe the poor woman an entire post dedicated solely to her, in recompense for having botched her story and her name twice now!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 22, 2013 @ 11:18 am

  4. Ardis, this post just shows me how intellectually lazy I really am. Discipline and discipleship indeed!

    Comment by Aaron R. — January 22, 2013 @ 1:00 pm

  5. I stand (sit actually–the standing is simply figurative, so far as this lazy old man is concerned) in awe of you two women!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 22, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

  6. Wow! Thanks for pointing this out with a new link as I haven’t been a Keepa’ninny that long. Although I did like that Angel with “Union” on her forehead. And of course, thanks for the link to my George-Washington-“quote”-debunking exercise. I’ve had a couple of thousand hits on that since the whole well-regulated debate got going with the recent shootings.

    I have been to Valley Forge, and I agree it is a great place. Maybe those who are unimpressed should spend a winter there.

    Speaking of Valley Forge, the Father of our Country was a deeply moral man, frequently referred to Providence, and was sort of a Deist. So while nobody except maybe the Angels saw him in the woods, I’m not sure he got off his horse and kneeled in the snow. Sorry, Arnold Friberg. See also, James Thomas Flexner, George Washington, in four volumes, (Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1967).

    And I don’t think Deists generally had visions of angels as a rule.

    Comment by Grant — January 22, 2013 @ 2:34 pm

  7. Being relatively new to Keepa, I hadn’t read the links to the posts above before.

    The comments on the Moroni article were fun to read through. One suggestion that came up a few times in those comments was to have an official church debunking site. I wonder though if that might not have the unintended consequence of encouraging certain myths if it became a common snopes-like stopping place. I can almost hear people in my mind saying that some outrageous story must be true since it wasn’t listed on what would by nature be an ongoing and incomplete reference. It would be a helpful resource for many, but I can also see it adding to the fervency of those who have a greater propensity for passing on doctrines or stories without thinking to verify them first.

    Hopefully this isn’t too tangential to your post.

    Any thoughts on potential drawbacks of an official debunking website?

    Comment by Kurt — January 23, 2013 @ 1:56 pm

  8. Kurt, I don’t care what it is, I’m sure that some member somewhere could find a convoluted way to do exactly what you think they might do, and worse!

    Just thinking with my fingers here, but maybe the most difficult thing about an official debunking website (the Newsroom maybe fills that function for current events) is the kind of questions people would ask that wouldn’t really be appropriate for such a site (unless, perhaps, the Q12 were charged with manning the website?). Questions wouldn’t be limited to “Nephite coins” and “did X really prophesy Y?” but would tend toward demanding answers that just haven’t been given. I’d guess that the top question would be some version of “I’ve always been told X about polygamy in the next life. What’s the real scoop?”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 23, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

  9. I agree. I think even if there was a disclaimer at the top of a website like that it wouldn’t stop those who didn’t want to be stopped.

    Comment by Kurt — January 23, 2013 @ 2:54 pm

Leave a comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.
TrackBack URI