Eliza Snow Pushed Down Stairs By Emma Smith

MYTH: In a jealous rage Emma Smith pushed Eliza Snow, allegedly a polygamist wife to Joseph Smith Jr., down a flight of stairs causing her to have a miscarriage.


It has been a long standing tradition in Mormon culture that Eliza R. Snow was a polygamist wife of Joseph Smith. Since the mid 1800s a story has circulated throughout the Mormon community that while Eliza was living with the family in the Smith mansion house she was impregnated by Joseph. After discovering the marriage and resulting pregnancy, Emma flew into a rage and attacked Eliza, knocking her down the stairs and causing her to have a miscarriage. This tradition has long been held by many Mormons as proof that Joseph was practicing polygamy, citing Emma’s obvious anger and jealous reaction to the news.

The enigma is that, despite a long standing tradition quoted in many books, the original sources are either unreliable or falsifiable. The Eliza and Emma dispute story allegedly arises from two eye witnesses, brother Foster Solon and Brother Charles C. Rich. (Ironically, both witnesses claim to be the only witness, and both describe separate stories.) These stories are described by Leroi C. Snow (nephew of Eliza and son of LDS President Lorenzo Snow) and recorded by author Fawn Brodie in the mid 1880’s.

Fawn Brodie gave credence to this rumor by including it in her book, No Man Knows My History. She wrote:

There is a persistent tradition that Eliza conceived a child by Joseph in Nauvoo, and that Emma one day discovered her husband embracing Eliza in the hall outside their bedrooms and in a rage flung her downstairs and drove her out into the street. The fall is said to have resulted in a miscarriage. (This tradition was stated to me as fact by Eliza's nephew, LeRoi C. Snow, in the Church Historian's Office, Salt Lake City.) Solon Foster, coachman for the prophet, was present in the Mansion House when the incident occurred. Years later he met Emma's sons, who were then publicly denouncing polygamy in Utah, and reproached them for their attitude: "Joseph, the night your mother turned Eliza R. Snow into the street in her night clothes you and all the family stood crying. I led you back into the house and took you to bed with me. You said, 'I wish mother wouldn't be so cruel to Aunt Eliza.' You called her aunt, because you knew she was your father's wife. He did not deny it."[1]

In 1885, Dr. Wilhelm Wyl, an author and correspondent from Germany, spent six months in Salt Lake City interviewing Mormons for a book which he was writing. In an interview with C. G. Webb the story was further corroborated:

There is scarcely a Mormon unacquainted with the fact, that Sister Emma, on the other side, soon found out the little compromise arranged between Joseph and Eliza. Feeling outraged as a wife and betrayed as a friend, Emma is currently reported as having had recourse to a vulgar broomstick as an instrument of revenge; and the harsh treatment received at Emma's hand is said to have destroyed Eliza's hopes of becoming the mother of a prophet's son.[2]

Clearly these accounts demonstrate that by 1885 the story of Emma throwing Eliza down the stairs at the Mansion House had become a widespread tradition among Mormons. We must note here that this story is a second hand hearsay story. Leroi claims to have been told by Br. Solon, who claimed to have been present. But Br. Solon’s story might have errors in it.

In a confrontation in 1885, Joseph Smith III, the son of Joseph Smith Jr., challenged Br. Solon regarding his account. As a child Joseph both knew and was fond of Br. Solon, but in his retelling of the confrontation says, “In the earlier part of our conversation I had learned that he (Br. Solon) was not at Nauvoo for about two years before Father's death. Therefore he could not possibly have known of things happening in 1843 and early in 1844 up to the time of the tragedy.”[3]

As the conversation continued Br. Solon acknowledged that he never attended a marriage ceremony with Joseph Smith Jr. and a polygamist wife, never saw Joseph alone with any woman but Emma and never saw Joseph act in a “familiar” or intimate manner with any woman but Emma.[4]

Joseph Smith III’s statements are not unbiased and do not conclusively falsify Br. Solon’s statements. Smith III was a leader in the Reorganized Mormon Church and he fought endlessly to prove that his father never practiced polygamy. However, his statements should cause us to reconsider the source. Was Solon telling the truth of an atrocity he witnessed, or relating a story he heard and attempted to claim a degree of fame by saying he was there? To answer that question, let’s examine the case of Br. Charles C. Rich.

As retold by LeRoi Snow, Apostle Charles C. Rich saw Emma and Eliza at the head of the stairs, heard a commotion, then saw Eliza come tumbling down the Mansion House stairs. LeRoi's notes state:

Charles C. Rich called at the Mansion House, Nauvoo, to go with the Prophet on some appointment they had together. As he waited in the main lobby or parlor, he saw the Prophet and Emma come out of a room upstairs and walk together toward the stairway which apparently came down center. Almost at the same time, a door opposite opened and dainty, little, dark-haired Eliza R. Snow (she was "heavy with child") came out and walked toward the center stairway. When Joseph saw her, he turned and kissed Emma goodbye, and she remained standing at the banister. Joseph then walked on to the stairway, where he tenderly kissed Eliza, and then came on down stairs toward Brother Rich. Just as he reached the bottom step, there was a commotion on the stairway, and both Joseph and Brother Rich turned quickly to see Eliza come tumbling down the stairs. Emma had pushed her, in a fit of rage and jealousy; she stood at the top of the stairs, glowering, her countenance a picture of hell. Joseph quickly picked up the little lady, and with her in his arms, he turned and looked up at Emma, who then burst into tears and ran to her room. Joseph carried the hurt and bruised Eliza up the stairs and to her room. "Her hip was injured and that is why she always afterward favored that leg," said Charles C. Rich. "She lost the unborn babe."[5]

Interestingly, when the stairways at both the Homestead and the Mansion House are examined, it is obvious that the event could not have happened at either place. The stairs in the Homestead are very narrow and they turn sharply near the bottom. The top of the stairs cannot be seen while standing in the room below.

Likewise, the hallway at the top of the stairs in the Mansion House can not be seen as Charles Rich described it. The stairway is narrow (only three feet wide) with only a small landing (about three feet square) and at the top, a blank wall on the right, a small door straight ahead, and small hallway on the left. When standing at the foot of the stairs, the small door is the only thing visible. It is straight ahead and it is the door to a small split-level room where the Smith children slept. The door to Joseph and Emma's room cannot be seen from the bottom of the stairs and no other door is visible. Br. Rich testified he "saw the Prophet and Emma come out of a room upstairs" and "a door opposite opened and dainty, little, dark-haired Eliza" came out of it. Historically there was no "door opposite."

A close examination of the structure and shape of the stairways in both the Homestead and Mansion House clearly show that Charles Rich's account did not happen, at least as he claimed. Essentially, we have a second hearsay story from LeRoi Snow describing Emma pushing Eliza down the stairs, except this second story is historically falsifiable. It would appear that either 1) Br. Rich invented the account; 2) Leroi Snow invented the account or 3) LeRoi grossly misunderstood the details of Br. Rich’s account. However, because there are no other recorded accounts of Br. Rich story, its validity has to be suspect.

Additionally, there is a great difference in the accounts given by Charles C. Rich and Solon Foster. Rich asserts that he saw Joseph carrying Eliza "up the stairs and to her room," while Foster declares that Emma "turned Eliza R. Snow into the street in her night clothes." Both men claim to have witnessed this event and mention other people present, but neither man mentioned the other. Both men claimed that they saw Eliza tumble down the stairs at the Mansion House—but, according to Eliza’s own journal, history shows Joseph and Emma did not move to the Mansion House until after Eliza moved away from their home.

According to the now published journal of Eliza Roxcy Snow, she and her family moved from Missouri in March 1839 with her family settling in Quincy, Illinois while Eliza and her sister went to live in nearby Lima, Illinois.[6]

At the invitation of her former Church of Christ minister, Sidney Rigdon, Eliza Snow moved from Lima to Commerce (Nauvoo) in July of 1839. She lived at the Rigdon home and taught the Rigdon family school. She remained with the Rigdons until the winter of 1839-1840 when she returned to the home of her parents.

Eliza then, with her parents, moved to La Harpe, Illinois where they remained for one year until returning to Nauvoo, this time with her whole family, in the spring of 1841. She remained with her family until June 20, 1842.[7]

At this time Eliza's father, Oliver Snow, became so distraught about events connected with Dr. John C. Bennett that he and his family left Nauvoo and moved seventy-five miles away to Walnut Grove, Illinois.[8] Eliza chose to stay at Nauvoo even though no other member of her family was living there.

Because of scarce housing in Nauvoo, on August 13, 1842, Emma Smith sent for Eliza and invited her to share her home. On the 18th of this same month Eliza moved into Emma and Joseph's home (the Homestead). [9]

During this time Eliza taught school at the Red Brick Store with the Smith children being some of her pupils. Eliza's diary clearly shows that she was treated kindly by Joseph and Emma and there was no evidence of either a plural marriage or contention.
On February 11, 1843, after having lived with Emma and Joseph for almost six months, Eliza moved out of the Homestead.

Interestingly, the day after she moved, Eliza taught school as usual. She exhibited no evidence of having received a beating or having suffered a fall or a miscarriage. Surely if Eliza had been injured so severely that she suffered a life-threatening miscarriage, she would not have been able to teach school the next day, but the records show that she did not miss a single day of teaching.[11]

Of further interest, on the last day of school, March 17, 1843, Eliza happily recorded in her diary that she had “the pleasure of the presence of Prest (sic) J. Smith and his lady”.[12] Her "pleasure" at their presence shows a friendly regard for both the Prophet and Emma, and again indicates that there were no hard feelings between the two.

Shortly after the end of the school term, Eliza moved from Nauvoo to Lima to live with her sister, Leonora.[13] Eliza's journal shows that she never again lived with Emma and Joseph, And according to Church history, Joseph and Emma moved into the Mansion House August 31, 1843, several months after Eliza moved from their home at the Homestead.[14]

Eliza's diary never alludes to any intimacy with Joseph and indicates that she most likely was not married to him. Her writings in relation to him were always formal, and though she showed respect for him as the Prophet and President, she did not use any term which a wife would naturally use in referring to her husband. Certainly if she had been his wife, there would have been some reference to the fact in her personal record, or at least terminology depicting intimate affection, all of which are suspiciously absent in her writings. Additionally, there is no hint of any ill will between Eliza and Emma. In fact, every entry in regards to Emma was that of respect. Surely, some indication of ill will would have appeared in her journal if Emma had truly beaten her and/or pushed her down the stairs.

In summary, it appears that the stories of Emma pushing Eliza Snow down the stairs are false. The source of both stories is second hand hearsay. One account was by a man who was out of the state during that alleged occurrence while the second account is demonstrably false in that the alleged “facts” of the story are inconsistent with historical reality. Furthermore, Eliza’s own diary shows that she was never living in the Smith mansion (the location of the alleged attack testified to be both “witnesses”) and her diary shows nothing but respect for Emma.

Ironically, there is no published statement from Eliza herself. Her testimony was of tremendous importance in the struggle between polygamy and anti-polygamy which raged during the last thirty years of her life. Her lack of public denial or public acceptance of the stories is suspicious. By saying nothing she appears to have passively encouraged the allegations of her alleged marriage to Joseph.

Of supreme irony is that this characteristic was not uncommon among those who were accused of being polygamist wives to Joseph, indicating that they possibly swore an oath of secrecy regarding a secret marriage, and despite the later accepted practice of polygamy, they didn’t want to break their oath; or perhaps allowing the allegations to be spread provided a way for some of these women to feel important through an alleged association, such as polygamy, with Joseph while never requiring them to actively lie about it.

[1] Fawn Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 470–471
[2] Dr. Wilhelm Wyl, Mormon Portraits, Page 58
[3] Saints' Herald 83 [March 24, 1936]: 368.
[4] Ibid., 368
[5] Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith, 135
[6] Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Ensign 9 [June 1980]: 66–67; see also Beecher, Personal Writings, 15
[7] Ibid., 52
[8] Beecher, Ensign 9 [June 1980]: 67
[9] Beecher, Personal Writings, 54
[10] Ibid., 64
[11] Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 136
[12] Beecher, Personal Writings, 66
[13] Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Eliza and Her Sisters, 58
[14] History of the Church 5:556

Caffeine and the Word of Wisdom

MYTH: Latter-day Saints are prohibited from drinking Caffeine.


This subject has been hotly debated for at least a century. Some Mormons argue that caffeine is not specifically mentioned in the Word of Wisdom and while some General Authorities have recommended not consuming caffeine, in the end it is a personal choice.

Other Mormons have argued that there has been a consistent and increasing denunciation of caffeine by LDS Church leadership since 1972. So where do these arguments come from and what, exactly, is the Church’s official position?

This debate goes as far back as the 1920s. Representatives from the Coca-Cola Company visited President Heber J. Grant complaining that the state Health Director (a non-Mormon) was attacking the cola company and using the Church teachings to bolster its position because several Church leaders had advocated that members should not drink cola. President Grant admitted that he had counseled members to avoid cola because of its caffeine content, but after a convincing argument by Coca-Cola’s reps, he changed his opinion:

On October 15, 1924, representatives of the Coca-Cola Company called on President Grant to complain that non-Mormon Dr. T. B. Beatty, state Health Director, was using the church organization to assist in an attack on Coca-Cola. They asked President Grant to stop him, but he refused at first, saying that he himself had advised Mormons not to drink the beverage. Beatty, however, had been claiming that there was four to five times as much caffeine in Coke as in coffee, when in fact, as the representatives showed, there were approximately 1.7 grains in a cup of coffee and approximately .43 grains or about a fourth as much in a equivalent amount of Coke. After a second meeting, President Grant said that he was "sure I have not the slightest desire to recommend that the people leave Coca-Cola alone if this amount is absolutely harmless, which they claim it is." Beatty, however, insisted that he would still recommend against its use by children. The question was left unresolved, and evidence indicates that while the First Presidency has taken no official stand on the use of cola drinks, some members urge abstinence.

Though it appears that President Grant no longer personally supported a ban on caffeinated drinks, the Church did not officially take a position on the issue. Then in 1972 the Church released the following Priesthood Bulletin:

With reference to cola drinks, the Mormon Church has never officially taken a position on this matter, but the leaders of the Church have advised, and we do now specifically advise, against the use of any drink containing harmful habit-forming drugs under circumstances that would result in acquiring the habit. Any beverage that contains ingredients harmful to the body should be avoided.
~1972 Priesthood Bulletin

While the Church officially did not spell out the use of caffeine, the leaders of the Church “advised” against “harmful habit-forming drugs” and “ingredients harmful to the body”. This bulletin prompted more explicit interpretations by many leaders as well as members of the Church.

In 1975, Bishop H. Burke Peterson of the presiding Bishopric stated in the New Era:

"We know that cola drinks contain the drug caffeine. We know caffeine is not wholesome nor prudent for the use of our bodies. It is only sound judgment to conclude that cola drinks and any others that contain caffeine or other harmful ingredients should not be used."

In 1980 in the Ensign, Elder Sterling W. Sill stated: "In the Word of Wisdom the Lord so narrowed down the width of the road leading to good health that, among other things, he placed alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine out of bounds."

Additionally, during this time period several official Church publications also specifically denounced caffeinated soft drinks. But the President of the Church, while clearly not supporting the consumption of caffeinated drinks, did not feel that caffeine was on the same level as tea and coffee in regards to the Word of Wisdom. Former Spencer W. Kimball said:

Generally when we speak of the Word of Wisdom, we are talking about tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor, and all of the fringe things even though they might be detrimental are not included in the technical interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. I never drink any of the cola drinks and my personal hope would be that no one would. However, they are not included in the Word of Wisdom in its technical application. I quote from a letter from the secretary to the First Presidency, "But the spirit of the Word of Wisdom would be violated by the drinking or eating of anything that contained a habit-forming drug."

With reference to the cola drinks, the Church has never officially taken any attitude on this but I personally do not put them in the class as with the tea and coffee because the Lord specifically mentioned them [the hot drinks]…. I might say also that strychnine and sleeping pills and opium and heroin are not mentioned in the Word of Wisdom and yet I would discourage them with all my power.

In fact, it was not until 1996 that a President of the Church specifically listed caffeine and caffeinated soft drinks as part of the Word of Wisdom. In an interview with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, the following conversation took place:

Wallace: Mormons adhere to a very strict health code. No alcohol, no tobacco, no coffee, no tea, not even caffeinated soft drinks...
Hinkley: Right.
Wallace: ...eat meat sparingly, exercise...
Hinkley: Right.
Wallace: ...get plenty of sleep.
Hinkley: Right. It's wonderful!

One year later in an interview, David Ransom and President Hinckley had the following exchange in which President Hinckley asserted that coffee was to be avoid precisely because it has caffeine:

Ransom: But you do condemn so many things that are commonly accepted. For example, no sex before marriage. No tobacco, no alcohol, no gambling not even coffee.
Hinckley: Yeah that's right.
Ransom: And very, very strict.
Hinckley: That's wonderful. And you live longer. And you're happier. And you're healthier.
Ransom: What's wonderful about not drinking coffee?
Hinckley: Oh ah coffee has all kinds of caffeine in it.

On the Larry King Live show in 1998, the following conversation took place in answer to a caller’s question regarding the Word of Wisdom:

Hinckley: Oh, I don't know. You've read a part of the word of wisdom. The word of wisdom covers many things. It covers the excessive use of meat, as I see it. It covers, in a very particular way, the use of tobacco and alcohol.
Larry King: By saying no?
Hinckley: By saying, by proscribing those things.
Larry King: No to caffeine?
Gordon B. Hinckley: No to caffeine, coffee and tea.

Although President Hinckley publicly taught abstinence from caffeine as part of the Word of Wisdom, other General Authorities during that same time period were more hesitant in their interpretation. President Boyd K. Packer, senior Apostle of the Church said the following in the May 1996 General Conference:

“Members write in asking if this thing or that is against the Word of Wisdom. It's well known that tea, coffee, liquor, and tobacco are against it. It has not been spelled out in more detail. Rather, we teach the principle together with the promised blessings. There are many habit-forming, addictive things that one can drink or chew or inhale or inject which injure both body and spirit which are not mentioned in the revelation.”

Even the current President of the Church seems hesitant to specifically prohibit caffeine as part of the Word of Wisdom:

“‘The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are’ (1 Corinthians 3:17). May we keep our bodies—our temples—fit and clean, free from harmful substances which destroy our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.”

The obvious intimation about “harmful substances” is that caffeine is harmful and addictive and is therefore covered under the above principle. But the obvious question that invariably arises is: What about chocolate?

Just months after the 1972 Priesthood Bulletin was issued, Lenny and Naomi Hesterman submitted the following letter to the Ensign:

In the June issue of the Ensign, members were advised against drinks containing habit-forming drugs [Policies and Programs, p. 46]. We wondered if many of the Saints were aware of the high caffeine content in chocolate. Even though no mention of it is made on the labels, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported to us that an eight-ounce candy bar has 160 milligrams of caffeine, which is 50 milligrams more than a stay-awake pill. Also, this amounts to nearly twice as much as in a cup of coffee.

We learned from the World Book Encyclopedia that chocolate also contains the poisonous alkaloid theobromine in addition to caffeine. We remember an article in the newspaper several years ago that reported that chocolate had the same habit-forming effect on children as nicotine has on adults….We also recall that President Heber J. Grant advised against the use of chocolate some years back.

Certainly there are many things beyond those mentioned in the Word of Wisdom that wise and prudent Saints will learn are not for the best interests of their health and bodies.[5]

It is logical to conclude that if caffeine in beverages constitutes a "harmful substance," clearly caffeine in chocolate or in other foods is equally harmful and should also be avoided. But surprisingly, several General Authorities have explicitly rejected that logical notion. Elder Mark E. Peterson declared:

"At no time has cocoa or chocolate been included in the prohibitions of the Word of Wisdom, and at no time has the Church said that cocoa is as harmful as coffee. Those who make these claims do so on their own responsibility, and obviously without knowing the facts of the matter."

Elder Bruce R. McConkie also specifically identified chocolate, among other foods, as prohibited specifically by the Word of Wisdom and thus fit to consume:

“There is no prohibition in Section 89, for instance, as to the eating of white bread, using white flour, white sugar, cocoa, chocolate, eggs, milk, meat, or anything else, except items classified under the headings, tea, coffee, tobacco, and liquor."

In the end, members and leaders of the Church have gone back and forth on this issue. But, despite personal statements made by various leaders, the official policy of the Church does not take a stand on caffeine, leaving it to the individual to make healthy choices about what they put in their bodies.

[1] Thomas G. Alexander, "The Word of Wisdom: From Principle to Requirement," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 14:3 (Autumn 1981): 84–85.
[2] The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p.202
[3] President Boyd K. Packer. “The Word of Wisdom: The Principle and The Promises” May 1996 General Conference.
[4] President Thomas S. Monson, “True to the Faith,” Ensign, May 2006, 19.
[5] “Our Readers Write,” Lenny and Naomi Hesterman, on the topic: Chocolate. Ensign, Dec 1972, 88
[6] Elder Mark E. Peterson, Patterns for Living, 1962, pp. 235-37
[7] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p.846

Ancient Steel Knife Found in Tree

: An ancient steel knife found in a tree in California supports the Book of Mormon.


The Book of Mormon is central to Mormonism and so attempting to provide evidence to support it is important to many Mormons. Sadly, it can also lead to hoaxes like this one.

This hoax was spread via email alleging to be a "Newswire" from researchers at California State University, Fresno. It claimed that an ancient steel knife was discovered imbedded in a tree in California. The blade supposedly dated back to the Book of Mormon period and therefore provided evidence for the Book of Mormon.

While the “Newswire” never explicitly mentions the Book of Mormon, it goes to great lengths to mention that Native American were not known to have steel but that the knife is similar in appearance to those found in the Middle East from around 500 BC. It even claims that the knife had Egyptian style symbols engraved on the blade.

And if that wasn’t enough to tip you off that this was a hoax, the email goes on to say that the portion of the engravings that could be deciphered produced the phonetic sounds MO-RO! Come on now, did anybody really take this serious?

Well apparently enough people did to warrant a response from California State University. Shirley Melikian Armbruster, Director of News Services at CSU, Fresno confirmed that the alleged “Newswire” was a hoax. Despite the claims of the “Newswire”, the university has neither Archeology nor Forestry Departments. Additionally, Professor of Archeology, Curtis Johnson, does not exist, at least not at the university.

This story is a complete fabrication and should not be spread by the public.

Here is the original email story:

Subject: Book of Mormon Evidence Discovered in CaliforniaThis is really cool. The "learned" people who made this discovery don't know what they really found, but we do.UNIVERSITY


FRESNO, Calif., July 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Researchers at California State University, Fresno are puzzled over an ancient, man-made artifact discovered by forestry students on a recent field trip in the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains. The artifact in question is a steel knife that was apparently buried deep inside a Giant Sequoia tree and was found between growth rings in the tree indicating that it had been left there around 350-450 AD.

The tree in question is located in the Atwell Grove inside Sequoia National Park. The tree fell in February of this year after several years of erosion had weakened its root structure. National Park Service and CSU Fresno Department of Forestry officials estimate that the tree had lived over 2,000 years at the time it fell. The Park Service gave the university permission to dissect and study the tree, and students stumbled upon the knife while using a metal detector to measure mineral content. The CSU Forestry Department speculates that the knife was left between two trees that later grew together and buried it under centuries of further growth.

The knife was removed and taken to the CSU Fresno campus, where several experts from the Archeology and Anthropology Departments have examined it. All of the experts agree that the knife doesn’t match any other artifacts from indigenous peoples in that area. To date, there had been no evidence of Native Americans using steel tools and weapons at that time. The strangest aspect of the story, however, is that the knife does seem to match artifacts from about a thousand years earlier from the other side of the world. The knife looks like weapons that were common in the Middle East around 500 BC, and has faded engravings on the blade that appear to be Egyptian symbols.

Researchers can’t find any meaning in the engravings, but say that the still visible symbols roughly correspond to the phonetic sounds of MO-RO. Ironically, one of Sequoia National Park’s most famous landmarks is a granite dome called Morro Rock. Since Morro Rock wasn’t named until the last 1800’s, however, the similarity is pure coincidence.

"It’s the damndest thing I’ve seen in my career," said CSU Fresno Associate Professor of Archeology Curtis Johnson, Ph.D. "I’m sure we’ll find an explanation that makes sense sometime. I really don’t think anyone is going to believe that someone from the Old World wandered all the way to California a thousand years before Columbus."

For additional information please see: http://www.shields-research.org/Hoaxes/Steel_Knife_in_Tree.htm

American Combat Unit - Modern Strippling Warriors

The 1457th Engineer Combat Battalion are modern day Strippling Warriors.


This email story has been passed around the internet since the beginning of 2004. It tells the extraordinary tale of the 1457 Engineer Combat Battalion. According to the email, the 1457th, out of Draper Utah, were the first National Guard Combat Engineer Battalion to be called up to fight in Iraq.

According to the email’s author, one of the members of the battalion, these combat engineers captured Saddam Hussein, commandeered Hussein’s palace for church meetings where they taught the soldiers how to pray, were involved in most of the special ops missions – often only lightly armed, and more or less were single handedly responsible for winning the war. And let’s not forget, not a single soldier from this battalion died.

That would be a pretty impressive list of military accomplishments – if it were true. But alas, while some parts are true, the bulk of the story is fantasy.

There have been several official refutations of this story. Lieutenant Colonel Jefferson S. Burton served as Battalion Commander of the 1457th. In response to the faith promoting email he said the following:

It has recently come to my attention that an email describing the service of the 1457th Engineer Combat Battalion as “Modern Day Stripling Warriors” in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom has been mass mailed to many people of faith via the internet.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Lieutenant Colonel Jefferson S. Burton. I am the Battalion Commander of the 1457th, and spent a 15 month deployment leading the great soldiers of this unit. The “article” listed below is a fabrication. To date, my efforts to find the author have produced negative results.

I will refute the lies told in this fabrication point by point:
- We were NOT “sacrifice troops”
- The President DID NOT send us letters of apology as asserted
- SGT Jack DOES NOT EXIST anywhere, but in the mind of the author
- The 1457th DID NOT “engage the enemy from Kuwait to Baghdad”
- We DID fight as a unit, and were NOT “divided up among other units”
- We DID NOT serve with the “3rd Marines, 7th Marines, Rangers, Special Forces, or 101st
- We DID NOT engage in “hand to hand combat with the enemy”
- We DID NOT “find Saddam Hussein” (That was the 4th Infantry Division)
- We DID NOT “rescue the first prisoners”
- We DID NOT “fight ahead of the main force”
- We were NOT considered “Chaplains” by other soldiers
- We held church services in a TENT, NOT in “Saddam’s Palace”
- We had few, if any “visitors” at our Sunday church services
- NO “General Officers” attended our church services
- We held NO “prayer Circles”
- “Pete”, the so called technical services vendor for the Utah Guard, EXISTS ONLY in the
mind of the author
- Senator Hatch DID NOT complain to the Joint Chiefs asking them “if they were trying to kill his Utah Guardsmen”
- We are NOT responsible for the combat operations performed by any other units!
- We were NOT the “spearheads for the 3rd Marines, or the 101st Airborne”
- We DID NOT “teach the Army how to pray”, because they already knew!

I am proud of the actual performance of the soldiers of the 1457th in the field.

The 1457th Engineer Combat Battalion DID receive the Meritorious Unit Commendation for their outstanding performance in a combat zone
For their performance in Baghdad, C Company of the 1457th DID receive the Itchner Award in recognition as the finest Engineer Company in the entire National Guard for 2003

These are the facts. The 1457th did a remarkable job in Iraq, just like thousands of other units fighting in the war on terror. Our service was not particularly unique, but it was honest and dedicated. Our reputation with those that know of us is a positive one. We gave our best to every mission. The fiction expressed in the article below simply serves to cheapen the dedicated service of honest Soldiers, and Marines everywhere.

JEFFERSON S. BURTONLieutenant Colonel, Engineer1457th Engineer Combat BattalionCommanding
Office phone: (801) 523-4517email: jefferson.burton@ut.ngb.army.mil

The officially website of the Utah National Guard also attempted to set the record straight. A news article entitled “Fictional E-mail Does Disservice to meritorious deployment” set the record straight:

Fictional E-mail Does Disservice to meritorious deployment
Written by Maj. Lorraine Januzelli - Published - Nov. 10, 2004

An e-mail fictionalizing the1457th Engineer Battalion's deployment to Iraq has been circulating across the nation in recent months. While embellishments are endemic to war stories, the e-mail-in-question far exceeds the limits of acceptable exaggeration. Its content is primarily fantasy. It tells an astonishing story about combat engineers who single-handedly won the war in Iraq, captured Saddam Hussein, and taught the Army how to pray. Although seemingly harmless, the widely disseminated story undermines the genuine accomplishments of the Soldiers who honorably but humbly fought to preserve our freedom and liberty.

The e-mail originated in Utah, but traveled fast across the country popping up as far east as New York, and perhaps beyond. Since its first appearance in the spring of this year, thousands of unsuspecting internet-users may have read its erroneous content.

The leadership of the 1457th has diligently worked to diffuse distribution of the e-mail and set the record straight, but it continues to flourish via the internet. This article officially refutes a tale spun out of control and clarifies the experiences of a unit that needs no overstatement.

The e-mail contains a few scant facts. The 1457th is part of the Utah National Guard. The Soldiers are indeed "combat" engineers with a distinguished heritage. They verifiably deployed to Iraq for a year and returned home in May 2004. And every single 1457th Soldier came home in one piece. Beyond this, truth and the e-mail part company.
The narrative below juxtaposes erroneous excerpts from the e-mail with the real story of the 1457th Engineer Battalion and their experiences in Iraq.

Myth 1: "Engineers are sometimes called 'sacrifice troops' since they must engage the Army with only small arms, ahead of the main battle force."

Truth: Combat engineers are called "Sappers," a nickname they earned in medieval Europe for destroying rival fortifications. In modern-day battle, they fight alongside the infantry and armor, going forward to clear any obstacles blocking the way. When they go, they are well-armed and well-protected by their fellow combat arms Soldiers. They can reasonably be called the first cousins of the infantry.

Myth 2: The 1457th engaged the enemy every step of the way from Kuwait to the Liberation of Baghdad.”

Truth: The battalion traveled to Baghdad in late May; three weeks after Pres. Bush declared that major combat operations were over.

Myth 3: "Nobody ever heard of the 1457th because they didn't fight as a unit. Once deployed, they were divided up among other units. They became 3rd Marines, 7th Marines, Rangers, Special Forces, 101st Airborne, Big Red One, and others."

Truth: The 1457th deployed to Iraq together as a complete battalion. They were assigned to the 1st Armor Division, the infamous Old Ironsides, and operated nearly exclusively in the Baghdad region. The Baghdad International Airport served as their base camp. The unit slept and ate together as a battalion but typically performed missions as platoons.

A few times, individuals with specialized skills, such as electricians, engineers, or construction planners, were selected for missions away from the unit. Capt. Mike Turley flew with a team of such specialists to Baghdad ahead of the battalion to set-up the 1st Armor Division headquarters. Capt. Mel Anderson and Sgt. Scott Neil worked separately from the unit to manage the construction of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps facilities. No matter what the assignment, though, the 1457th worked for the 1st Armor Division for all their time in Iraq. The only place they joined the Marines was in the chow hall.

Myth 4: It was not a coincidence that a Utah boy found Saddam.

Truth: The Utahns involved in Saddam's take-down were not from the 1457th. However, the battalions' missions were of equal importance. Some were high-profile such as rescue operations at U.N. building bomb site. Others were routine, like constructing building security barriers, but no less essential to the lives those barriers saved.

Their missions varied tremendously. The 1457th traveled into the heart of Baghdad and built security barriers for Iraq’s newly minted and oft-targeted police force. They cleared and mapped a series of interconnected tunnels and bunker complexes beneath the Baghdad Airport. They constructed a rifle range so coalition forces could continue to train while deployed. Typically, the battalion worked numerous missions concurrently, responding to each with meticulous planning and execution. It was not long before the 1457th was dubbed the “911 battalion.”

The 1st Armor Division’s Engineer Brigade Commander, Lt. Col. Don Young supervised the battalion while in Iraq and had first-hand knowledge of their accomplishments. He formally recognized the battalions’ meritorious performance in a memorandum to Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet, the Utah National Guard Adjutant General.
In the memo, he states, “They quickly became my “Go To” unit. I assigned my toughest high-visibility missions to this battalion knowing that they would always succeed in a timely and efficient manner.” (A copy of the memo can be obtained from the Utah National Guard Public Affairs Office.)

Myth 5: "A big smile comes from the fact that on the first Sunday that meetings were held in Saddam's palace, standing-room-only meetings were held every hour on the hour, from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM.”

Truth: Many faiths are represented in the 1457th. In the immediate battalion area, LDS group leaders held at two services a day on Sundays. Protestant and Catholic services were held nearby with neighboring units. Most services were well-attended and lasted an hour or so. 1457th Soldiers only went inside Saddam's Palaces as tourists.

1457th Commander, Lt. Col. Jeff Burton, is especially frustrated by the content and tenaciousness of the referenced e-mail, but he believes he understands the motivation behind its enduring popularity.

"People want to believe in heroes," said Burton. "They pine for good news. And they are anesthetized by Hollywood about the true, more humble nature of heroism. The e-mail tells a story they want to hear. So they forward it along without reflecting on how it takes away from the actual performance of 1457th during their year in Iraq."

“The Soldiers of the 1457th did a remarkable job in Iraq, just like thousands of other units fighting in the war on terror,” Burton continued. “Our service was not particularly unique, but it was honest and dedicated. Our reputation with those that know us is a positive one. We gave our best to every mission. Sadly, the lies and sanctimony expressed in the fictional e-mail cheapens the dedicated service of honest service members everywhere.”

Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Soldiers – from the 1457th or elsewhere – don’t need a fictional exaggeration to validate their service. They raised their right-hand to serve our country and protect our ideals. At the end of day, that is enough. They are all our heroes.

The original email is below:


Text of a High Priests Group lesson given June 13th, 2004, in the Ensign 1st Ward, Salt Lake Ensign Stake. I take no credit for this lesson. I am thankful that it was delivered to me.--- Phil Summerhays

Caution: If you share this with others, please be careful. Not everyone will understand or appreciate. Our Modern Day Stripling Warriors — Recently I sent several friends an email on the history of our military bugle remembrance, "Taps," and one of them, a friend I will call Pete, emailed me back. His report is so extraordinarily special that Bro. Thomson, our group leader, agreed that I should share it with you as today's lesson on the Melchizedek Priesthood. ----Pete's words can speak for themselves.
My oldest son, Jack, just returned from Iraq. He is a sergeant with the1457th Engineer Battalion. They have a most interesting recent history. They were the first National Guard Combat Engineer Battalion to be called up to fight in Iraq. They are one of only two combat engineer battalions in the nation that are national guard units. The reason they had to go was because the eleven regular army combat engineer units were too badly depleted during the Clinton Administration to be combat ready. Just in case you did not know, there are only five types of fighters who really go and get into a fight with the enemy. Assault Marines, Army Rangers, Navy Seals, Delta Force, and Combat Engineers. Engineers are sometimes called 'sacrifice troops,' since they must engage the enemy with only small arms, ahead of the main battle force. On D-Day, June 6,1944, most of the casualties were combat engineers. Jack and his family were shocked with a message they received when he was first called up. They were told to prepare messages and letters to their family and to plan their funerals, since the majority of them would not be coming back.

The President wrote a letter of apology to them. Combat engineers always go first. Never before in American military history has any assault engineer unit gone into war and not suffered heavy casualties-until now. The 1457th engaged the enemy every step of the way from Kuwait to the liberation of Baghdad. Every one of them came home alive. Prior to every attack, assault engineers were dropped into enemy territory at night by helicopter, or sent in by day on foot, blowing up berms and strategic facilities, taking out sentries or in other ways going hand to hand with an enemy, then radioing that the way was clear for the main force. Nobody ever heard of the 1457th because they didn't fight as a unit.

Once deployed, they were divided up among other units. They became 3rd Marines, 7th Marines, Rangers, Special Forces, 101st Airborne, Big Red One and others. When a unit went into action, they took with them as many combat engineers as they needed to get the job done. Jack served with the 101st Airborne as they fought through central Iraq and for the liberation of Baghdad itself. It was not a coincidence that a Utah boy found Saddam.

It was also Utah Guardsmen who threw a rope around Saddam's statue and pulled it down with the world watching. The Special Forces in the North who worked and fought with the Kurds were more Utah Guardsmen. The Utah "Rangers" who rescued the first prisoners were there early to do it because they were ahead of the main force. Jack was able to send an email every week or so. Every time, he wrote that he and the other Utah troops seemed to be on TV every night. Their job led them to take on the enemy first, and then to hold while the heavy force came in to clean up. With the cleanup came the media, shooting tape to send home of the soldiers they found there. Nearly every time, the soldiers greeting them were Utah Guardsmen assigned to whatever unit had had that assignment. More than once Jack came out alive, unscathed, from a destroyed Humvee.

He did not tell me this, and was shocked that I knew, but confirmed it. When a squad took casualties, the ones walking away from it always included the combat engineers they had with them. As that oddity continued during the past year, many times soldiers insisted that they wanted a "chaplain" with them when they went on missions. A chaplain? Does that sound confusing? As time went on, everyone noticed that the guys with the castle patch (Engineer patch) were always holding prayer circles or knew how to pray or something else that took religious training. In time many in their units thought the patch represented a church and not a battlement, the engineer symbol. When asked if they were Priests, they said. . "well, . . . I was years ago, I am an Elder now." Uh--explain that one. Our engineers always held Sunday worship for everybody wherever they were.

Our guardsmen cleaned out Saddam's huge residence, because it was the only building available big enough to hold meeting in on Sunday. Week in and week out they held "volunteer type" Sunday meetings. Thousands of U.S. Soldiers wrote home that they liked the way the army held Sunday worship, everybody taking turns giving a talk, praying and leading the singing. Just that only "those fighting chaplains" were ordained to bless and pass the sacrament for everyone. Returning engineers said they never told others that it was a 'Mormon' meeting. Everyone was welcome, and in war, there are no atheists. Sometimes after being prompted to just "say what you're grateful for," a soldier new to praying would repeat in his prayer, "Say What You're Grateful For!"

One soldier praying did not move as his prayer ended. All waited in silence as he remained with his arms folded and head down, eyes still closed. After a while, the man told his comrades, "Sorry, I had to tell God I was sorry I never talked to Him before, and promised I would again." Everyone understood. A big smile comes from the fact that on the first Sunday that meetings were held in Saddam's palace, standing room only meetings were held every hour on the hour from 7AM to 9PM. At one afternoon service, as they were about to say the closing prayer, a voice called out from the side. It was one of the commanding officers. He wanted to thank the chaplain for holding such a wonderful worship service. A regular army chaplain's voice from the middle of the room spoke up, "sorry general, I had nothing to do with this, the guys from Utah do it. I just come and do my part, .like the rest." For music the most popular songs were "Onward Christian Soldiers," "Give Said The Little Stream," and "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."

A strange favorite that most managed to learn by the winter of 2003 was "I am a child of God." Interesting how that one got to be so well known in Iraq. Jack's most important message to our family was that he knew more than anything that all men are his brothers. As they fought across Iraq, prior to going in to fight, one could see the desert covered with men in prayer circles, arms wrapped around each other's shoulders. And many times the prayer was not just about protecting them from harm, but to allow them to find a way to let enemy soldiers be able to go home to their loved ones. Only the true spirit would lead men to say such great things.

I sent Pete an email back to tell him how special this was to me, because in the '60's, when I served in the Utah National Guard, my unit was the Group Headquarters of the 115th Engineers, and the 1457th was one of our battalions. Pete emailed me back. It seems that in his work he is a technical services vendor to the Utah National Guard headquarters in Draper, Utah.

He has contact with many of the senior people there. He told me something I didn't know-that much of the intelligence for the war comes out of Draper. The translation and analysis comes out of the linguistics group there. They know what is going on-that's how he found out about the humvee incidents.

Pete wrote that his relationship with the guard leaders in Draper changed when he was asked if he was related to one of the noncoms of the1457th, and he told them that sergeant is his eldest son. After that they followed what Jack was doing, and kept Pete up to date. He told me, "It was as if they needed someone outside the military to talk to about their strange boys. I don't remember how many times I have been alone with a senior officer who would break down in tears and ask, 'what kind of people are we commanding anyway?' They knew all these faith-promoting stories... Oddly enough, they knew so much because it was being reported to them by the Inspector General. The Pentagon had ordered the IG to investigate every small thing about particular groups of soldiers, trying to figure out what was different about them-why they were so special.

The more they reported, the stranger it got." Mid way through the war, Senator Hatch had complained to the Joint Chiefs, asking if they were trying to kill off his Utah guardsmen, and reminded them that we are a small state, too small to have so many people in harm's way and to have so many of the dangerous missions staffed from one small state. The Senator was reacting to parents writing him to complain about only Guardsmen going out to do all the dangerous stuff. Not only that, many of the dangerous patrols were being manned not just by the 1457th, but some of their numbers were Utah linguistic soldiers who were not supposed to fight at all-whose job was supposed to be intelligence.

Well, the shock was that it was all true, but for what are rather strange reasons. As the fighting progressed, the commanders in Qatar were keeping track of who was doing what and with what success. They had no idea that the superior soldiers they kept hearing about were Utah Guardsmen. All they knew was that certain squads were hot.

The Airborne, Marines, and Rangers asked for the best men they could get to carry out important missions. Nobody knew that those squads, spread all over the military, were from the same place. Stranger still, some of the engineers would get orders cut to take 'specialists' with them--nobody questioned who these specialists were. But they turned out to be friends of theirs who were in the other Utah Guard unit-the linguistics boys-translated," returned missionaries.

"One story Pete told me was that when the first attacks were made on Iraqi logistics people back behind the lines, a group of Attack Military Police was sent to take out the Iraqis attacking the highway. For hardened support, they asked for the most experienced fighters from the 101st to assist them. Jack's platoon was chosen, and he hand-picked his men. (Want to guess who he put together? Uh, people he knew and trusted?)

The 101st Airborne received a citation for that one. The 101st sent the same group in to rescue captives later on. The whole world did not know they were all just Utah Guardsmen. Even his 101st Airborne Company Commander did not realize they were not the Special Ops people he thought they were. He assumed that a group like that had to have special training to pull off the things they kept doing--succeed under really tough odds and all come back unhurt. When the Joint Chiefs verified, to their shock, that what Senator Hatch was complaining about was true, but for very strange reasons, the questions became why these guys were so good?

It prompted a full-scale investigation into them, without even their knowledge. Jack told me they had no idea. Now regular army spooks were following them around everywhere they went and reporting every small thing they did, and asking other soldiers about them. The general story coming back was that they were essentially extremely religious guys who had close friends everywhere and all of them were afraid of nothing. They must have some kind of unexplained charmed life. There was no logic at all in the way they came back unharmed over and over again. In time, a whole story unfolded. It began with private prayer circles at camp in which other soldiers wanted to join. In time the prayer circles began to include more and more soldiers, and it spread to prayer circles even in battle. As time went on, the prayer circles were held after lights out in tents all over Iraq.

As you can imagine, these reports coming back were odd indeed. Here were tiger fighters who organized prayer circles every day and worship services every Sunday, then would go out on Monday and fight hard again. It was when they were in Kuwait waiting to go home, reassembled from all their temporary units, that the army saw them in one place for who they are, the 1457th Engineer Battalion from Utah. No longer Special Ops, Marines, Rangers, Attack MPs or Airborne. One Battalion, with no casualties, and made up of a majority of the most individually decorated fighters in the whole campaign. The word was shock. The whole army was in shock. Not one killed? They had been the spearheads of the Third Marines and 101st and Rangers? All those Sunday volunteer chaplains? The prayer circle guys? All those men are the same people? How can that be?????? They wore different uniforms with many different unit patches on their arms when they got together to go home. One patch they all wore--the engineer battlement patch. The patch many thought must be a church. The rest of the army will now have to find chaplains with across or Star of David on his lapel. The church patch boys are going home. Combat engineers are not used to mop up, just to take the fightin[g]. Another interesting story, my last. You may recall from our local news the controversy about them being extended just before they were about to come home? Remember that? And how within two weeks they came home anyway? It all began with Fallujah, a major city in Iraq, becoming belligerent and needing experienced troops to go in and retake it.

Orders went out for an assembly of the best fighting units to go in and clean the insurgents out. On paper, the commanders in Qatar assembled successful units to go do it. One at a time, these orders filtered down--to the men in Kuwait, waiting to go home!!! They were not Marine or Ranger squads anymore, but a bunch of Utah Guardsmen who had served with those units. When the realization hit the commanders in Qatar, the orders were changed. The miracle men would go home after all. Field commanders had interceded en mass, reporting back to headquarters that the men Qatar HQ was calling back to fight again had seen more dangerous action already than anyone else in the theater. But the messages coming back were as odd as the whole situation. Commanders who didn't even know each other made similar comments. "Send them home. Tell them we can fight and pray on our own now!" Jack was humbly surprised when I recounted what the people in Draper were telling me. "We all agreed we would keep all that to ourselves," he told me. Then he continued. "You see, Dad, it wasn't just that the president sent us there, at least not the national kind. The Lord sent us to Iraq to start something for Him. Not since the days of Abraham has there been any significant Melchizedek Priesthood presence in Babylon. We talked about it a lot among ourselves. We all knew that the Lord was doing something special, and decided we would keep our mouths shut and get on with it." Jack shook his head in amazement when I told him about the military having all of them studied. There were unexplainable things happening-at least unexplainable in ordinary terms.

No wonder the administrative regular army officers in Draper wanted to know, "What kind of people are these?" But how does one answer without putting it in spiritual terms? Any attempt to respond in any other way only meets with oddity and confusion, and now confusion is the state of the army in trying to understand what they observed. A few, who were in tune, got the message. But along with the 1457th itself, even they cannot tell the world what they saw..... Who would believe them!? Yesterday my friend Dave, who sent me the pictures, called me. He had just returned home from the priesthood session of a regional conference in Utah Valley. The general authorities at the conference were President Faust and Elder Maxwell. President Faust told them that five senior generals had recently met with the Brethren, thanking them for the fine young men from Utah who had served in Iraq, and wanting to know more about them.

I wonder if the Brethren read them the Book of Mormon account of the stripling warriors??? Now, what do we take from away from this?

For me, 1. First, I think, greater appreciation for our blessings. 2. Greater understanding of the words, "The Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform." 3. A hope that the "Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God" has begun to work in the Land of Islam. It is my hope that we will all be greatly impressed by and committed to the marvelous things that the Lord is working to do in the world today; that we, each of us, will take to our hearts and minds this realization, and put our faith, prayers, actions, and the Holy Priesthood that we bear, more fully behind Him in His work. (June 13, 2004)

[1] “Fictional E-mail Does Disservice to meritorious deployment”. Maj. Lorraine Januzelli, Published November 10, 2004. http://www.ut.ngb.army.mil/html/pao/news/10nov04.htm. Retrieved September 15, 2009.

Elder Gene R. Cook Meets Mick Jagger

MYTH: In a conversation with Gene R. Cook, Mick Jagger confessed that his music was geared toward corrupting the world’s youth.


In this myth, Elder Gene R. Cook, member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, meets rock star legend Mick Jagger on an airplane. During their conversation, Mick Jagger allegedly reveals that his music is designed to encourage teens to have sex and that the Book of Mormon is a lie.

There are multiple variations of this myth. Some of the variations include allegations that Mick Jagger was doing drugs on the plane in front of Elder Cook, bragged about the number of woman he had slept with/impregnated, bloated over his efforts to destroy the family and promote rebellion among the youth and even confess that he was working with the devil and singing the devil’s music in exchange for wealth.

This story has two possible points of origin, though the accounts differ slightly. It originally came from a talk by Elder Gene R. Cook at Ricks College on November 29, 1988, in which he recounts an alleged conversation with Mick Jagger. The actual transcript excerpt is provided below. However, another account found under the titles A Conversation with Mick Jagger” or “Elder Gene R. Cook Meets Mick Jagger,” claiming to be an “excerpt” of the November 1988 talk was circulated on the internet, and is the most common version found on the today (A copy of this version is provided below as well.)

Although the talk at Ricks College can be confirmed and verified (I have an audio recording of it), it is not clear where the “excerpt” originated. The “excerpt” claims, “This is an excerpt of a talk given by Elder Gene R. Cook at Ricks College several years ago.[1]

Interestingly, the supposed “excerpt” differs in both order and format from the actual recording. And while the stories are the same, the “excerpt” provides much more detail concerning the conversation and Elder Cook’s thoughts. According the Elder Cook, the details in the “excerpt” are accurate and he believed it was taken from another talk in which he had shared the story.[2] Over the years Elder Cook has publicly shared this story numerous times.

In evaluating this myth, we have to examine several factors. One, did Elder Cook actually sit next to, and have a conversation with, Mick Jagger? Two, what did they actually discuss?

Elder Cook clearly alleges that the conversation did, in fact, take place. In a personal phone conversation with me in the spring of 2009, Elder Cook maintained that the “story was absolutely true.”

However, In 2003 an online discussion board posted a letter from Lucy Hopkins of LD Communications, former publicity manager for the Rolling Stones, allegedly making the following claim regarding to the conversation between Gene R. Cook and Mick Jagger, “I can assure you that this a complete fabrication and nothing more than someone having fun with their imagination![3]

There are numerous problems with this post and its claim. First, the person who posted the claim did not identify himself, therefore it is harder to verify if this is legitimate. Second, the posting was found on the Utah Lighthouse Ministry website, a group that is notoriously known as anti-Mormon, and therefore any undocumented claim must be suspect.

But more importantly, we must ask whether Mick Jagger’s current PR rep would be aware of a non-official conversation her client had on a plane more than twenty years ago? Even assuming that Lucy Hopkins handled Jagger’s PR during the 1980’s, which is a big assumption, would she be aware of every private conversation her client had? The answer – not likely, although there is the barest sliver of a chance that she did, in fact, monitor every private conversation Jagger ever had during that time period. We simply cannot definitively rule it out.

Additionally, in the mid-1990’s Jagger came to Salt Lake City for a concert. Concerned that Jagger would twist Elder Cook’s now famous story to make the Church look bad, Elder Cook provided the details of the story to the legal department at LDS Church headquarters. In the end, Jagger made no mention of the story and nothing came of it.

So ultimately, the only two people who can confirm if the conversation actually took place are Elder Cook and Mick Jagger. Elder Cook maintains that it did occur; Mick Jagger has failed to respond to us.

In regards to the content of the alleged conversation, according the Elder Cook’s actual speech, Jagger boasted, "Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex."[4] Jagger allegedly went on to say, “Of course, it’s up to them what they do. It’s not my fault, I'm just earning a lot of money." [5]

Elder Cook also stated that Jagger gloated over the fact that “the family was being destroyed around the world” and talked about impregnating three separate women (one in New York, one in Virginia and one in England.) Jagger also claimed to have had several LDS missionary discussions while in England but that he thought the Book of Mormon was a lie.[6]

Elder Cook makes no mention of drug use, though he does state that Jagger looked physically sick, possibly because he had several alcoholic drinks. Neither does Elder Cook mention any pact between Jagger and the Devil. However, in prefacing his story about Mick Jagger, Elder Cook stated:

And I might quickly add, there is music of the devil himself. And do not misunderstand that, and try to count it or call it something else. It is music of the devil himself. [7]

In context, Elder Cook was referring to the evil intentions of certain music, such as Mick Jagger’s, which promote behaviors contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ, but did not say anything about Jagger making a deal with the Devil or selling his soul for record sales.

In regards to the two variations of Elder Cook’s story, in a personal phone with me, Elder Cook said that he had read the internet version, and although it is not from the November 29, 1988 talk at Ricks College, Elder Cook believed it was taken from another talk in which he had shared the story.[8] He has publicly shared this story on numerous occasions. He confirmed that the details in the version floating around the internet are correct.

Transcript excerpt of a talk given by Elder Gene R. Cook at Ricks College on 11/29/1988. (Transcript of actual talk, transcribed by me personally from an audio recording.)

And I might quickly add, there is music of the devil himself. And do not misunderstand that, and try to count it or call it something else. It is music of the devil himself.
I have come to mind an experience that happened to me a few years ago with a man whom I would name only to speak evil of what he was doing, not of the man. I would not want to be out of order and speak evil of the man. I suspect there may almost not be anyone here that doesn’t know the man. He’s one of the most famous rock stars in all the world that I spent two and a half hours on a plane proselyting.
His name is Mick Jagger, in the rolling stones.
How many know who Mick Jagger is? Well some of these older fellows over here don’t, but most did. Well when I got on the plane with this fellow I didn’t recognize him right off, and you know I’ll just have to tell you this story in great brevity, because I had two and a half hours with him and it was an interesting experience. I didn’t recognize him right off.
I told him I was an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who are you?
And he told me “Mick Jagger.”
And I said “well I’m glad to meet you to.”
And he was kind of a prideful fellow and again I am not speaking again of the man, but what he was doing. And he told me his name again, and I said, “I’m glad to meet you Mick.”
And it still didn’t totally dawn on me, I just wasn’t expecting to see him there. And then he opened up this big magazine he was reading with all these wild eyed faced and very scantily dressed women to say the least, and said “that’s me.” And of course I recognized immediately who he was.
We began talking. I told him I have opportunity over the years to be with many young people all over the world. I’m interested in a question you can answer for me.
He said “well what is it?”
I said, “Some of the young people I’m with tell me that rock music, the kind you and others are involved in, has no real impact on them, for good or for evil. It has no real impact and others claim that it really does have a bad impact them. You've been in this thing for twenty years, I’d like to know, what’s your opinion?”
These were his exact words, brothers and sisters, an exact quote. He said, "Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex."
I was pretty much floored, I’m sure I must have shown it on my face, and then he kind of rebounded a little bit and said, "of course, it’s up to them what they do. It’s not my fault, I'm just earning a lot of money."
And as the conversation proceeded, and again, there’s not time to o tell you all, even a small part of it. He was delighted at the fact that in his mind the family was being destroyed around the world.
I told him I had eight children. He told me he some too, but no wives. He told me he had a woman pregnant in Virginia, another one in New York, and one in England. He told me he had the missionary lessons, some of them. I didn’t believe that in the beginning. In England is where he said. So I pushed him further, I think he was telling the truth.
After he had three or four drinks he said quite loudly in the cabin, “Anybody who believes the Book of Mormon to be the word of God is a liar. And the Book of Mormon is a lie.”
I remember you would have done prayerfully thinking in my heart “what should I say, how can I respond to that? And I remember saying something like this back to him, "Mick, you are mighty fortunate today."
And he said, "What do you mean?"
And I said, "Because you're sitting next to a servant of the Lord who’s going to correct what you just said, because it isn’t true."
And he said, "What are you talking about?"
And I said, "I happen to have a Book of Mormon in my briefcase," and I pulled one out and laid it on his lap. I think because of maybe the drinking and he also looked sick physically, the book was going about like that on his lap. And I said to him, “I must have missed that chapter, because I’ve read this book many times and I believe it to be the word of God. And if there is such a chapter, I want to see it.”
And of course there was dead silence, he couldn’t say a word and I said, “Well then how about one page? How about one chapter [garbled]? How bout one line? How bout one word?
“Mick I bare testimony you’re the liar. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. And I told him the best I could the Lord would hold him responsible for his acts to degree he understood what he was doing if he didn’t turn his life around.
Now it’s evidence from the following years that followed that he didn’t listen. But that doesn’t change any thing, because that day on the plane he lied about this book.
And I vowed to myself, and I’m thankful my family have abided by it, that we would never have that music in our home or anything like unto it. And we’ve been blessed that way as a family. If you’ve maybe have misjudged music or thought perhaps it wasn’t that bad, believe the brethren.
I bare witness unto you again, there is good music in the world.

“A Conversation with Mick Jagger” or “Elder Gene R. Cook Meets Mick Jagger”

This is an excerpt of a talk given by Elder Gene R. Cook at Ricks College several years ago. He told of an experience back in the 1970's, where he sat next to Mick Jagger on a plane for 2 1/2 hours, discussing the effect of rock music on today's Youth. If you do not yet believe that music can influence them for good or evil, then consider again after you read the following. I get a kick out of this story every time I read it.
Sometimes young people have a feeling that the music they listen to doesn't have anything to do with chastity. And yet, as I've had the opportunity to interview many youth in varying countries throughout the world, I've found that it is just not so. I believe, without any doubt, that there is music of the Lord. I also believe there is good music that men have created--some romantic music, maybe some good cowboy music, and just plain fun songs, etc.

Those can be okay. They can cheer you up and they're fun to be involved with. It ought not to surprise us that the devil has his own music as well. That kind of music is found throughout the world and has a great impact on young people especially. Let me try to bring this principle alive by relating a true story that happened with an individual of whom you have probably heard. How many of you have heard of Mick Jagger? I think almost everyone has as he is one of the most famous rock stars in the world. Well, you might be surprised to know that I had about 2 \'bd hours with him on an airplane and it was quite an experience. I'm going to relate part of that to you to try to illustrate this important point about selecting wholesome music.

Mr. Jagger and I were on a flight that originated in Mexico and were headed, I believe, to either Houston or Dallas. As I sat down in the plane, the seat next to me was empty. Later a man came and sat down by me. I noticed immediately that he was reading a rock magazine. I offered a silent prayer as I often do when I try to talk to people about the Church. I prayed that the Lord would inspire me in what to say as I talked to this man.
After the prayer, I said something like, "My name is Gene Cook. I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. What's your name?"

And he said, "My name is Mick Jagger."

Not realizing who he was I said, "Well, I'm glad to meet you, Mick."

And then he said, "I said my name is Mick Jagger."

I said, "I heard you, Mick."

And then he opened up the magazine and pointed to his picture and said, "This is me." Of course, then I finally realized who he was. I just hadn't ever thought about sitting next to him, but it was so. What I'm going to say is in no way speaking evil of Mick Jagger himself. Please understand that. I'm not speaking evil of the man, but I am of what he represents because it is wrong. It is of the devil himself, in my opinion.

Even before I knew who Mick was, I noticed that his pant leg was pulled up a little on his calf. As I looked at his leg I thought for some reason, "This fellow looks a little sick." I'm not sure why, but that caught my attention before I even knew who he was.

After we visited back and forth a minute or two about what we were doing and all, I finally said something like, "You know, Mick, I have a question for you that I'd like you to answer for me."

He said, "Well, I'll be glad to try."

Then I said to him, "I have opportunity to be with young people in many different places around the world, and some of them have told me that the kind of music you and others like you sing has no effect on them, that it's okay, and that it doesn't affect them adversely in any way. Then other young people have told me very honestly that your kind of music has a real effect on them for evil and that it affects them in a very bad way. You've been in this business a long time, Mick. I'd like to know your opinion. What do you think is the impact of your music on the young people?"

This is a direct quote, brothers and sisters. He said, "Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex."

I'm sure I had a real look of shock on my face in receiving such a bold response. He quickly added, "Well, it's not my fault what they do. That's up to them. I'm just making a lot of money." Then he told me he'd been in Mexico making a video because he could make it for about one third of what it would cost in the United States. He told me this was a great day for them because now instead of just having audio where they could portray some of what they wanted to about sex and all, they now had videos and could have the people both hear it and see it portrayed. He said this would have much more impact on the youth, that his music was selling much more, and thus he was making much more money.

As I said, we talked for a couple of hours. Let me just share a few things that happened because it teaches the importance of what we are discussing with respect to music.

As we chatted, I told him I was married and had eight children. He told me that he was not married but that he had three children and was proud of it. He told me that he had one woman pregnant in Virginia, one in New York, and one in England, as I recall. He told me that it didn't matter what you did in life, that you could take whatever you wanted, and you could do whatever you wanted. He said there were no commandments, there was no God, and nothing really mattered. He indicated there was no judgment day and you could just do whatever you felt like doing. Whatever I told him in our discussion was white he said was black. And whatever he said was white I told him was black.

He indicated that he had had the missionary lessons. In the beginning I didn't believe that, but as we talked further I think he probably had. He told me he had two or three lessons, and I think that was probably true because of some of his responses to me. According to him, he had been taught by missionaries in England.

He said, "As I listen to you Mormons, your problem is that you think you have things all figured out. Life isn't that simple." Then he would go on and explain some complex things, some theory of man. I would answer him in a very simple way from the scriptures, and he would say, "See what I mean?" He was always trying to make things much more complicated than they really were.

Our conversation continued. He told me that he believed in evolution and that he also believed he had descended from a monkey.

I told him, with a smile, "That might be the only thing you are right about."

We pursued the idea of evolution and the fact that if one is going to subscribe to the philosophy that he did, then he'd have to believe there was no God and that he just evolved. And if there is no God, then there are no commandments. There are no rules, and thus you can do whatever you want. He told me the importance, in his view, of freeing up the youth. He felt that they ought to be able to do whatever they wanted in spite of their parents. He said that parents were inhibiting them too much and controlling things and they ought not to be doing that. It was truly astounding to me. He told me that he was thankful the family, as an entity, was being destroyed. And I gathered from what he was saying that he was doing his best to help that along.

I've only been mad at two investigators in my life where I kind of got upset, and he was one of them. As we proceeded in the discussion, he probably had four or five alcoholic drinks. As you know, when one does that one tends to be a little looser in the way he talks and thinks. Finally, in a rather loud voice towards the end of our discussion, he said something like, "Furthermore, about your Book of Mormon-- your Book of Mormon is a lie, and any man that believes it is a liar." He said it in such a way that most people nearby could hear it. That really did upset me.

I thought to myself, here's a man who is representing evil and trying to announce it now to the whole cabin to try to make them feel that the Book of Mormon is not true.

I then felt impressed to say something like, "Well, Mick, you're mighty fortunate today, mighty fortunate."

He said, "What are you talking about?"

And I said, "Because you're sitting next to a servant of the Lord who plans on correcting what you just said."

He then said, "What do you mean?"

I said, "Well, you're really lucky. I just happen to have a Book of Mormon right here in my briefcase," and I pulled out a Book of Mormon and put it in his lap. I told him something to this effect, "Mick, this book has changed my life. I love the Book of Mormon. And I have read it many, many times. It is the greatest book, in my mind, on the face of the earth. In my view it has changed me, it has made me a better man. You say it's a lie. I must have missed that part. Show me."

My young friends, there was just total, dead silence. He didn't say a word. I finally said, "Well, maybe you were offended by the part where Lehi told his sons to be honest men or where he taught them to rely upon the Lord and have faith in God. Maybe you were offended when Alma told his boy, Coriantumr, that he had broken the law of chastity and then he told him what he had to do to correct it. Maybe that offended you. Or maybe it was the part when Christ came to America. Or maybe it really bothered you when he said that one is to love his wife with all his heart and not commit adultery. Maybe that offended you." I carried on a little bit with him that way, and of course again he said nothing. I finally said, "Well, if you can't show me a chapter, then at least show me a page, or maybe a paragraph will do. That would be all right. Just show me one paragraph." And again, brothers and sisters, dead silence. I finally said, "Well, then how about a line, or one word." I finally bore my testimony to him and said something like, "My friend, the lie is not in the Book of Mormon. The lie is in you. And I bear witness to you in the name of the Lord that if you don't turn your life around, you'll be going to hell. The devil himself will come and get hold of you." I bore my testimony to him as strongly as I could about what he was doing, that it was not right, and that it was not according to the Lord's plan. I felt very emotionally involved when I bore my testimony because I thought to myself, "Here I am going about the earth trying to strengthen young people, trying to make them better and turn them to the Lord. And men like this are coming around right behind me trying to tear it all down, destroying the family, and destroying their reliance on God. I bore a very fervent testimony to him and told him that I would be a witness that I had at least given him "the word."

Well, he calmed down quite a bit in that encounter and didn't say any more. That at least quieted him down so he didn't continue in the vein he was in.

Just before our couple of hours together concluded he said, "Oh, now I remember something about your Book of Mormon" (referring to my challenge to him to show me something that was out of order.) He said, "Well, here it is. It's the part about Brigham Young."

Then I informed him that Brigham Young was not mentioned in the Book of Mormon one time. My response kind of took him aback. We talked the last five or ten minutes in a more general way, and then finally bid each other farewell and split up.

As I arrived home from that trip and shared the experience with my family, I was very moved, as you would have been. I was mostly moved by the spirit of the Lord that bore witness to me of the evil nature of that kind of music and the impact it has on people. In our Family Home Evening that night, we made a commitment, as a family, that we would never, ever allow any of that kind of music in our home. Not ever! We had a great spiritual experience together where we felt the Spirit and committed to that decision. Now, as those years have gone by since I visited with him on the plane, I'm pleased to say that that kind of music has never been in our home and I think never will be as a result of that experience. I share it with you to impress upon your minds that there is music of the Lord and there is music of the devil. I would be mighty, mighty, careful with the music you listen to. The Church isn't ever going to publish a list of approved songs and say, "Here are 146 that you can listen to and 246 that you can't." You'll have to choose, won't you? Use your conscience. Use the Spirit of the Lord and have enough sense to make those judgments correctly and don't listen to that kind of music. Just one other comment. A few days after I arrived home, my wife and I were up late on a Friday evening. I turned the television on, or maybe we looked in the paper, and saw that there was going to be a Mick Jagger special on that night. Well, I'd never even watched anything like that before and I thought, well, let's see what it's like. So we sat up for an hour or so and watched this show. I was really taken aback. Not so much by what I saw, as I expected that, but by all the innuendoes sown in the lyrics of which a young person might not be very aware. Lyrics like, "Do what you want. No one can tell you what to do. You're your own man. Take what you want. Pick what you want." It was the same stuff I'd heard on the airplane for two hours-- there were no rules in it, no God in it, no "what's right" in it. It was, do whatever you want to do. You're free, you can take what you want, do what you want. I was very much taken aback by how those thoughts had been sown very subtly in all that music. Many young people would not realize how those thoughts are sown in. However after listening to that music time after time, one can begin to parrot that kind of philosophy and those inward feelings to their parents and not be as obedient as they ought to be.

I bear testimony to you again, that good music can have a great impact on you and evil music surely is of the devil. Think of the great contrast in the lyrics, "I am a child of God, and He has sent me here, has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me, help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him some day." What a dramatic difference. That hymn would lead you to think of the Lord, wouldn't it? It would humble you in your heart. It would lead you to be obedient to your parents. Look at the different impact that would have. What if you sang a song like, "Oh my Father, thou that dwellest in the high and glorious place, when shall I regain thy presence, and again behold thy face?" What if you had that in your repertoire, as it were, of what you sang, of what you thought, of what you listened to. What a difference! Little Primary songs like, "Jesus said love everyone, treat them kindly too, when your heart is filled with love, others will love you." Very simple, isn't it? One of my favorite ones is an easy one, a simple one. "Oh Father, look on us today and bless us with thy love. In Jesus name we humbly pray, O Father up above." So simple, isn't it? I have sung that song to myself many times as I have wandered around alone in airports or other places to keep my mind focused on good, worthy things. Think of the impact on you or your children singing over and over, "I love to see the temple; I'm going there someday, to feel the Holy Spirit, to listen and to pray. For the temple is a house of God, a place of love and beauty. I'll prepare myself while I am young. This is my sacred duty." Wouldn't that have a great impact? It would, and one day your children would end up in the temple. If the music is of this other kind, they may end up somewhere else.--

[1] http://www.moroni10.com/Cook_meets_Jagger.html, “Elder Gene R. Cook Meets Mick Jagger” retrieved 3/20/2009
[2] Gene R. Cook, in a phone interview with me, Jedediah McClure, on April 13, 2009.
[3] Alleged email from Lucy Hopkins, at LD Communications, as posted on http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/letters_to_the_editor/2003/2003october.htm. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
[4] Gene R. Cook, transcript of talk given at Ricks College, 11/29/1988. Attached below
[5] Ibid. See below
[6] Ibid. See below
[7] Ibid. See below
[8] Gene R. Cook, in a phone interview with me, Jedediah McClure, on April 13, 2009.