Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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±66 I Dialogue what extent the spare, high-voiced ex-cowboy may have played up to his legend is not considered in this unpretentious but valuable compilation of Kimball's sayings, witticisms, retorts, pungent passages from sermons and talks, and salty stories about him. In his addiction to plain speaking spiced with mild profanity, Kimball posed a problem to Church authorities. But they readily saw his value, for Kimball could reach his audiences, keep them awake where his fellow-elders put them asleep, and arouse the Latter-day Saints to prodigies of giving and working for the cause. To brethren in a ward complaining they had no time to work on the chapel and no money to buy lumber, Kimball admonished, "Now you can't build a church on bullshit. ... If we get this church built, you have got to put your ass behind you and look ahead." According to the yarn the brothers responded vigorously and completed the church. Success in prosecuting the Lord's work and contrition for his human foibles of dropping cusswords and snitching an occasional cup of coffee are two hallmarks of Kimball tales. As Golden reportedly observed," It's pretty hard to ask a fellow to start learning new speech this late in life." So the Church, and his present biographer, a Mormon professor, emphasize Kimball's ^good heart and genuine piety and accept good-naturally his venial lapses. Cheney presents Kimball as a meek repentant saint, assured of salvation by virtue of his humility and dedication to the Church. In terms of folklore, J. Golden Kimball is a local character and the stories about him are classifiable as folk anecdotes. The local character deserves much more consideration than he has received from American folklorists. In brief, the character is an "original," a deviant personality whose quirks, eccentricities, odd mannerisms or behavior patterns clash with accepted conventional norms and inspire talk in the circle of his acquaintances, who repeat little humorous stories about his sayings and doings. Such characters run a gamut of roles, from the village idiot to the elder statesman, but whatever their social status, they are splashed with color. The comic tales they generate are anecdotes, and twice-told anecdotes that show evidence of variation from oral usage are what I term folk anecdotes. An anecdote is told as a presumed actual incident occurring to a real person. In the folk process, a body of anecdotes growing around a character will move toward apocrypha in two ways: by variant tellings of a more or less verifiable incident, and by absorption of wandering tales that get attached to likely figures. Both of these mechanisms operate in the J. Golden Kimball cycle. An example of the first is the anecdote involving Golden and a motorist who knocked him down. Golden's irate comment as he picked himself up and shook his fist at the speeding driver is recounted by Cheney in five forms, from "The son of a bitch, he has no respect for the priesthood" to "They don't know the difference between a Gentile and the Lord's anointed." An example of the second is a story previously linked to Abraham Lincoln and now pinned on Golden. A mad dog rushed at Golden, who jabbed it in the throat with a pitchfork. Its owner angrily demanded why he had shoved the tines down the animal's throat. "Because that's the end he came at me with," replied Golden. Either of these episodes could have transpired, or again neither may have taken place as described. The folklorist depends on the available evidence. Cheney refers the latter anecdote to the Lincoln cycle, without a reference, and nowhere in his volume does he cite comparative examples. Hence his work must be regarded as a source-book rather than a finished product.