In some reading about historical Mormon polygamy, I once came across a reference to my 2nd Great Grandpa Wood and a joke that a bishop in the penitentiary made about George's young and attractive second wife when she appeared upon the wall. I did not keep track of the publication which would not be worthy of mention anyway because the incident was portrayed in a rather salacious tone.
In context, the admitted joke is rather heartbreaking, not at all salacious. Well, you can judge for yourself -- in context. [Spelling as in the original]:
The names at the end are, in order, George's two wives and three daughters by his first wife. To keep in context, I refrained from any highlighting. But I would point out the sentence immediately following the joke:[April] 7 . Thursday. Visiting day. I washed shaved and prepared to meet my family. Then continued my studies with an anxious heart every time the bell was [?]ed listening for my name to be called. About twelve o’clock one of the brethren came in and said they thought my brotherinlaw was on the wall. I walked out and saw my wife Juliaett’s Father and Mother which was a surprise to me this being the first time they had been to see me.They had no pass so could not speak. They stayed on the wall and saw us march in to dinner 2 P.M. I was called, when I reached the outer door I saw my wife Juliaett standing a few yards from me besid her father and mother and my brotherinlaw Joseph Tolman whom I had not seen for 5 years. Dyre the marshel would not give him a pass.The turnkey told me to go in the visiting room I steped in the door then turned round and looking at my folks a moment.I passed in where I saw my ^beloved^ brother Joseph and his little son Isaac. We had a plesant chat and passed out where I again saw my wife and relatives. I asked the warden if I could speak to this girl meaning my wife. said he no in a mild tone I turned round and threw her a kiss and passed through the huge gates.My People again came on the wall. Bishop Sperry came and commensed joking me in relation to my wife said she was well worth coming to the pen for.We can joke an laugh when our wives and children come on the wall, but at the same time there is an under currant of feeling in our brests that no tongue can express.And as I am sitting in my bunk writing while all round me are snoaring. I thank God that I am worthy to be here. My folks brought me a boquet from my own gardin. I ask God to bless Addie, Juliaett, Addie May, Nellie & Naomie.
We can joke an laugh when our wives and children come on the wall, but at the same time there is an under currant of feeling in our brests that no tongue can express.And then this:
I thank God that I am worthy to be here.There was something going on here more than joking about young, pretty, second wives.
It is impossible to ever get inside the head of any other person, but the more context the better in trying to understand another soul. And it's not fair to apply contemporary context and standards to historical figures. I have a lot more work to do to understand Grandpa Wood. I am understanding more all the time - and growing in my respect and appreciation.