Thursday, November 28, 2019


Yes, I make up words now. Grammarians be danged, I'm old enough to set my own rules. "To mission" is now a verb. I go "missioning" on the days I am part-time, home-based, senior-service missionary.

John Needham (1819-1901) Grandma Elinor's Missionary.
And I love the Church History Library! I passed my one-month audition and had the enhanced tour that included the vaults. Pretty cool! And literally so as the sweet-spot temperature for archives is 50° (Fahrenheit) and 30% humidity. Then there's the even colder one at -4° to preserve film and photos.

The highlight was standing next to a stack of boxes that the guide said was full of stones found by the archaeologists while digging for the foundation of the restored Nauvoo Temple. They made up the original oxen supporting the baptismal fount. They have been digitally scanned and so that a replica of the originals can be reconstructed hopefully to be on display in the Nauvoo Visitors' Center. We could see right into the boxes. The urge was strong to reach out and touch as I did with George Washington's portmanteau a long time ago, but I slapped my hand as I don't want to be exiled in more than one way.

The work is challenging but fun as I piece together on my Excel spreadsheet the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called from the field in Britain, especially Wales, back in the early days of the Church. My spreadsheet is not at hand, but here are links to some that I have worked on:

Friday, November 1, 2019

Missionary Update, All Saints Day, The Grail Quest Fulfilled

Yes, I couldn't be happier with my senior service missionary experience. The Church History Library is amazing! I was trained on document delivery which I won't go into as we're all behind security barriers. I can assure you that everything is very well protected to the max. I agree there should be more and easier access to all, but I'm not in charge and I will attempt my long-suffering persuasion to the extent that I can.

It is the greatest joy that two themes in my life have merged and I find myself viewing the Grail after traversing the wasteland of my legal career. I'm finishing up Joseph Campbell's Romance of the Grail and all things become interrelated in his mythic synergy. Outside of his book, I still make connections as I near the Nirvana of the Ten Steps of the Bull. Here, I am at step 7. The Bull Transcended (Bull Forgotten, Self Alone).

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Check out the Early Missionary Database!

This is a great resource I have previously consulted and offered up a couple of corrections or sources. At present, I may or may not be more involved (I'm still not sure what I am allowed to talk about in sharing my wonderful mission experiences on social media as Elder Uchtdorf has encouraged). See link HERE!
This is just a screen-shot of the publicly available site. Check out the link above! (or here)
So, let me say this. The project is now up to 1939, those missionaries having been born from 1914-1919 are up to their hundred-year mark so privacy concerns have diminished and the pictures we use to link up to the other missionaries in photos are already at least in the Church public domain as we get them from FamilySearch Memories pages.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Sort of a Mission Report

Finally made it into the Joseph Smith Papers!

No, that's not my assignment. And training on Monday put the fear of Something into me so I don't know what I can talk about. My assignment is not official and hasn't started yet but I think I will be able to use my Welsh. Yes, the Lord and a few other folk seem to know what they are doing. I've been sort of hyperventilating the past couple of days. I've got to calm down and get to work hopefully to meet my supervisor and work tomorrow. It seems it will not be appropriate to blog about much of it unless I can refer you to public sources of which I'm hopeful we will be producing more.

So, the Joseph Smith Papers. My direct ancestor finally made it! My wife's people and, therefore, my children's have been in since nearly the beginning with piles of stuff. Mine had to wait until Volume 9 of Documents and it's not all good news:

See image at JSPP here.
Yeah, good ol' Daniel!

The good news part is that he did appeal to the Nauvoo High Council and with enough affidavits of his friends to clarify the animosity against him, he cleared his name and was restored in the Church.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Mission Training Days 4 & 5: Go Forth!

Our Group of Senior Service Missionaries with the Mission Presidency front, seated.
Yesterday went well. I was just to tired to blog after a day of training then an evening at the local Family History Library.

It's funny (or not) how they tell you only parts of what is happening when you come to it. They did say there would be a week of training to start. And now we hear that we will need a week of training in our assigned areas. Basic retirement was a lot easier. But this is good. And I'm still done by 4:00 so I can come home and take a nap.

The trainers did really well on "Merging," of all things. No crying or general break-downs. It went a bit slow and steady so I found one of my own to merge thanking the Heavens for good Dutch records. Someone had put in an individual as a female reading "Cornilus" as "Cornilia." I could easily check Dutch sources wonderfully laid out on-line recently by the Dutch government to confirm it was a male. We learned some good search techniques too (surprising me a bit with FamilySearch as I usually search with Ancestry).

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Mission Journal, Training Day 3

This ain't Paradise yet, Baby!

OK. I had church sexual-harassment training, so I'm not supposed to use the word, "Baby."

It had to be done twice, or maybe not. Remember that bureaucracy thing? I was doing just fine with the training on FamilySearch "Sources" and "Memories" picking up a few good tips as I tried showing off my prowess next to the guy who apparently wasn't just in advertising but was a software engineer and a certified genealogist. Sigh. Then the full-time "tech" Elders taught us how to get on to our new church email accounts for the Mission. Only it wouldn't work for the four of us sitting in a row right in front. We went from my buddy on the right to the nice Sister with a Welsh surname on the left and next to her another Sister with a Welsh surname whom I'm afraid to ask how she got it as she otherwise appears to be African-American. And we're all in this tech mess together.

The young Tech Elders took phone photos of our error messages and presumably sent them off to Church IT. When I got home, I had two emails from Church IT. One told me that I had to take annual sexual-harassment training. The other was to get my email fixed. As a former fed attorney that practiced personnel law, I couldn't resist the training. The online course was a little better than the fed courses. And the rules are pretty much the same. The main differences are that the Church can require a temple recommend as a condition of employment and church employees can date but have to report it to HR first. I don't think I'll try it because whatever HR were to say, my wife would likely object. Oh, and the temple recommend thing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Mission Journal, Training Day 2

No notes today because it was all FamilySearch intensive with hands-on work. They have a very good teaching system of group lecture with an active screen showing what the instructor is doing while a couple of roving trainers watch and swoop in to assist those having trouble. Then at the end of a segment, a trainer comes for each of us for a one-on-one check through the concepts just learned. They are mostly friendly, too. Some are a bit harsh as former Jr. High School teachers or something. (Oops!)

In truth it seems so odd to serve a mission from 7:30 to 4:00 and be on pretty much the same commute I was on for work just a few weeks ago. I park on Main Street above the Conference Center where there is some free, all-day parking and I walk down the hill. So I don't cross that dreaded South Temple line into the "Great and Abominable" City. I had joked with one friend that I was joining the GAA CHL, but I think I was too harsh unless they're just being nice at training to suck me in. This just isn't a bad place to serve a mission!

The walk in from parking is pretty nice!

We are only on the Third Floor and looking out the window, I see this:

Monday, September 30, 2019

Mission Journal,1st Day Training

Discrete selfie before devotional.
It still seems so odd to be on a mission without a companion. There was a brief moment where I felt close to my first companion whose funeral I attended last Saturday. I also felt like Grandma Elinor was at my right shoulder. Someone told a story that I can't verify in anyway that a figure from church history was standing over her left shoulder offering spiritual guidance. As I said, Grandma Elinor is on my right.

The setting is much nicer than walking into old Knight Magnum Hall on the edge of  the BYU Campus. The Joseph Smith Building is the Hotel Utah and was quite something in the old days. We opened with the Monday Mission devotional in an old ballroom on the mezzanine level that is now a chapel. The "Elijah" Choir was very good. I could join if I want to hang around Wednesday evenings for practice - and show up for every Monday devotional, I guess.

The message was a presentation on the special projects of the Church History Library that has missionaries assigned. Interestingly, I know three people currently working on three different projects. A woman married to a guy who still works in my old office is on the Emmeline B. Wells project. A guy in my ward is on the Missionary Database, and his wife is on some secret project. I hope I don't get a secret project or these postings will be very short-lived.

Before the devotional, we were handed our missionary name plates and our ID cards. After, we went to the main lobby for pictures with the mission president and then over to the COB ("Church Office Building") for Security to take our pictures and connect them to our cards. Then it was up to the Mission Offices on the 3rd Floor to the training room, a few rows of computers with our name tags on them. I am right up front and center. There's a nice guy on my right, a former advertising man--and a nice sister on my left who apparently has never married because I asked about her Welsh surname. I said I could help her track them down in Wales.

Here are the notes from Sister Sara M. Fenn and then President Jerry D. Fenn of the Mission:

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Mission Journal, Part 2. Trying to Get Set Apart

Don't you just love bureaucracies? OK, I have to be less sarcastic to begin my new mission. And I think it's all working out. It is just a bit odd that this volunteering gets the cart a bit before the horse as the downtown mission is already for me to go with my local leaders still waiting for the paperwork.

With the instructions e-mailed to me from my mission contacts downtown confirming that my Bishop should be receiving instructions to set me apart (the spiritual blessing of laying hands on my head to authorize my work and receive guidance through inspiration), I checked with my Bishop's executive secretary to see if anything had been scheduled. He diligently put it on the Bishop's calendar and I passed that on to my family able to attend. Then the Bishop asked where the paperwork was. Well, no paperwork other than the e-mails.

My friends down the street who already serve with me as ward temple and family history consultants are already on a part-time, downtown mission. They had advised me that the paperwork follows the training, so I was expecting this. I told my Bishop not to worry about it as I would just go start training and let things work out.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Your Friendly Neighborhood Whistleblower

Yes, that would be me. But I didn't work for the State Department or CIA so I'm not that guy (an American Hero! in my book).

At present, I am safely retired with my benefits and most of my faculties intact. My retirement was already planned for the end of June when we were hit by the trump shutdown of 2018-19 over the Holidays and well into new year.

There was a new, temporary or "acting" boss in the office who, in my opinion, was attempting to assert herself as a proactive advocate of the powers-that-be in DC. That is generally our job with the caveat that we are to advise according to the law and we are held to a higher standard to avoid the appearance of partisan politics. Well, that's been a little dicey in the trump administration.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Mission No. 2: Downtown Charlie Brown, Episode 1

There is still a more spiritual, sacred journal that I keep although not very often. Here I can share my general observations and experiences.

This borders on the weirdly spiritual, but my group of nine in orientation this morning gave me that feeling that I knew them already. I don't even think that I'll be with them that long as we will likely be assigned different duties. It gave me memories of my LTM District, a few of them have been a part of my life for many years. All of them are in my thoughts. This new group may become something similar. We were about equally divided between men and women. Most had lost their spouse. Mine is still teaching school and not ready to retire.

Monday, September 2, 2019

A Challenge to our Circumstantial Origins

We have been researching to break through the brick wall of a 1789 illegitimate birth in  Hay, Breconshire. That is our direct surname origin (although the numerous Vaughans in the Middle Wye and Usk Valleys all claim descent from Sir Roger Vaughan of Bredwardine, legitimately or not - and we connect with a few other of those lines).

This weekend, I had some correspondence on with another user who took some umbrage with us naming her direct ancestor as the putative father of John Vaughan (1789-1851). She gave me permission to share it with her Ancestry user name. Here is the correspondence:

Friday, August 30, 2019

The World Is On Fire!

It seems that way when you step out your front door and see this:

It is fire season in Utah. This "Gun Range Fire" completely destroyed three homes up by Cheese Park (Twin Hollows) and damaged several others in the night. We were three blocks West of the evacuation zone but two blocks into the "soft" zone where they wanted no one but residents.

The fire started in the middle of the night. No cause has yet been announced. There were weather warnings about dry thunderstorms and winds last night that could have started fires.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

My Declaration of Retirement

There is a tradition in retiring from our office of federal employees for the U.S. Department of the Interior (National Parks, Indian Affairs, Fish & Wildlife, Public Land Management, Reclamation (western water dams and management), Geological Survey, etc.) to send of a farewell email to All-Employees. They are usually friendly little good-byes with the occasional long diatribe of political sentiment pent-up in the "non-political" civil service until that day of release.

Mine was this:

That was a last-minute and appropriate replacement for my diatribe. I thought it best to save that for this blog. My post-departure comments are in [ ],  i.e., brackets. Here goes:

Thursday, April 25, 2019

"The Ancient Yew" or "Otzi, We Barely Yew Thee"

My photo of one of the yews at St. Mary's Cusop, Herefordshire on the border with Wales.
Many people come to the yew tree with preconceived notions. Modern-day Druids want to believe the yews in British churchyards are from pre-Christian origins as they "return" to the ancient practices that were mostly made up by the Romans in their anti-Celt cultural wars. The author of the yew book* before last tried to convince the reader and perhaps himself that the British yews were all planted in churchyards by the Normans, or maybe the Saxons at a stretch.

My latest dive into yew lore is The Ancient Yew: A History of Taxus Baccata, by Robert Bevan-Jones (Oxbow Books, Oxford 2017). The author is amazing in his comprehensive assembly of the evidence. I think it is all there as well as can be gathered. There are extensive, footnoted sources. However, the writing style is a bit jumpy as is the presentation of the evidence. Bevan-Jones is strongest in his theme that the churchyard yews are "at least" 1500 years old which places them right at the time of the establishment of Christianity in Britain by the Celtic Saints. He first discusses the botanical challenges of the strange growth patterns of the tree and then presents the best estimates by charts and graphs to support his Celtic-Saint-planting theory.

But then came the Iceman. In the final chapter, "Yew: an Archaeological Perspective" (which perhaps should have come earlier at least in a chronological sense):

Sunday, April 14, 2019

I Can't Fix America

Very few people read me. Fewer are convinced by me. That doesn't change the facts that America is corrupt at the top with the trump criminal conspiracy, down through the greedy hordes who want more by denying others, and the hypocrisy of the religious right that deals with the devil to promote its agenda.

Politics may have to do with out me for a while as I concentrate on other things. The fires of progressive rebellion still smolder in me. But with apathy, hypocrisy, and corruption all around, I will shrug off the latest tweets and news of the day and go with my new GIF:

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The Daffodils Are Out!


It is a wet Spring after late snow and we're only a month or so late for St. David's Day (Dydd Dewi Sant). Now I have the opportunity to share a poem I've been saving along with my dozens, if unfortunately not thousands, of daffodils:

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Religion, Superstition, and Rationality in Scotland

Book Report: The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)

Flag of Presbyterian Covenanters, National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
It's great to find a literary classic that I hadn't known before. Reading all I can devour about Scotland helps me be a better tour guide. This one intrigued me as it was listed as an odd book, a religious-psychological thriller that had served as inspiration to another Scot, Robert Louis Stevenson, in writing Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It has sword fights, murder, mayhem, and a couple of strange games of tennis. What's not to like?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Holy Yew Becomes Holier

"That shady city of Palm Trees. . . ."

Palms don't grow in Britain. There are some surprising palmetto-types along the south and western coasts as the temperate climate is warmed by the Gulf Stream. And as Basil Fawlty explains, Torquay is the Riviera of Britain. . . .

So what do they use for Palm Sunday?

Yes, the Holy Yew!

My distant cousin, Henry Vaughan, knew this. And surprised I was to learn that when he wrote of the Palm Tree, it was the Yew! That poem makes so much more sense now so I share it here thinking of that peaceful resting place below the Yew in Llansantffraed Churchyard.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Not Killing Babies

It is burned into my brain what I saw with my wife on that operating table at the end of her sixth planned pregnancy. You were not there and I will not describe it to you. We could have lost either or both lives. Our doctor was brilliant and blessed as she knew exactly what she was doing. Had it come to it and without a moment's hesitation I would have directed the doctor to save my wife, my life-partner, the mother of five living children.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

My Heroes: Widtsoe the Apostle and Vaughan the Silurist

While searching the online version of the British publication of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Millenial Star (1840-1970) for any trace of the Vaughans, I found a couple. Serendipity has its day because it was my distant cousin, Henry Vaughan the Silurist, Metaphysical Poet of the 17th Century. Apparently, LDS Apostle, John A. Widtsoe was a fan.

Just the other day, I was thinking on these same themes, the eternal nature of man and woman and the gift of Agency! And here is Widstoe and Vaughan right on point. I'll just let Dr. Widtsoe take it from here:

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Free-Will Families

One of the things I did right when I was a Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 20 years ago, was to have some really good talks with the combined youth of the ward. One of my favorites was to talk about the joy there is in proper intimate expression between husband and wife and in creating families.

Not everyone has this opportunity due to circumstances of life - and we talked about that. We also talked about how rare it is in the world for a lot of reasons - mostly the unwillingness of males, mainly, to be responsible for sexual expression and the fact of much sexual activity outside of a godly marriage. Even in marriages supposedly done right, there is still a lot of abuse, hurt, and shame. Strangely, while all can sin, most of these are still male-caused problems.

To celebrate the positives and to try and promote agency, responsibility, and the male and female positives in life, I would have a young man stand up and read what Adam said after leaving the Garden and being instructed by the Angel of the Lord:

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Trump Shutdown Update #2


The latest furlough notice that I just acknowledged does not have a requirement of 15-minutes "excepted" work to check emails. Either that fight I had with DC and my dear supervisor (sorry) was irrelevant or it paid off.

Although, it leaves me even more depressed to be cut-off, shut-out, and furloughed completely. There is an HR contact, so I think I will request retirement papers to make sure they can be processed as soon as humanly possible considering the inhumanity of indefinite furloughs with the bare hope of restored pay, someday. . . .


Subject:  Written Notice of Second Furlough Decision

The uninterrupted and unforeseeable absence of either a Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) appropriation, or a continuing resolution for the Department of the Interior, Office of the Solicitor, prevents DOI from incurring further financial obligations, except for those related to performance of excepted duties, functions, and activities as defined in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum for Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies dated November 17, 1981. Because you are not performing excepted duties during the continuing lapse in appropriations, you will remain in a nonduty and nonpay furlough status, beginning and effective at 12:00 a.m. on January 21, 2019, for a period not expected to exceed thirty (30) days. This second furlough notice will accordingly expire at 12:00 a.m. on February 20, 2019. If the length of the current lapse in appropriations for DOI has caused a new contingency to arise relevant to your work, please contact your supervisor or another excepted supervisor/employee for guidance on how to proceed.

During this second furlough period, you may not work at your workplace or other alternative worksite unless and until recalled. You will not be permitted to work as an unpaid volunteer. Any paid leave (annual, sick, court, etc…) approved for use during this second furlough period is cancelled.

Please continue to monitor public broadcasts and the Internet, including but not limited to, for information and public notices relevant to any FY19 appropriation or continuing resolution for DOI passed by Congress and signed by the President. You will be expected to return to regular duty on your next work day immediately after the end of the lapse in appropriations. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Abednego Rising

My order of the great historical losses in the word:
1) the Library of Alexandria;
2) the Library at Raglan Castle, Wales;
3) the 1890 US Census, and;
4) the 1831 Merthyr Tydfil Petition of 11,000 signatures to save the life of Dic Penderyn.

Some of those 11,000 on the petition to Lord Melbourne may have joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the 1840s. We think we know one of them.

There's some irony that during the longest federal shutdown, being locked out of work, I've read The Merthyr Rising, by Gwyn A. Williams (University of Wales, Cardiff 1978). The Rising came about because of the Ironmasters conspiring to lower wages and shut-down work making it very difficult for the families of working poor in the ironworks, the coal, ironstone, and limestone mines, and processing mills to feed their families.

"Bara gyda caws!" was the shout of the crowd for "bread and cheese" in front of the Castle Inn when the 93rd Highland Regiment fired on the crowd killing two dozen and wounding dozens more. It only gave the leaders of the town and small contingent of soldiers an opportunity to escape to Penydarren House, which was more easily defended.

The workers held the town for a few days in June 1831. They even held off the Highlanders' relief troops from Brecon at the steep slopes of Cefn Coed just north of Merthyr Tydfil. However, within a few days, the gentry militias and soldiers of the King converged on the town and the workers went back to the mines and furnaces. The British Parliament and the ironmasters were smart enough to establish some reform.

We found a newspaper article from 1833 that Elinor Jenkins Vaughan's son-in-law, Abednego Jones (1811-1890), appears to have participated in the Rising. The book confirmed my source. Here's how Professor Williams lays it out in his Preface about the stories he heard growing up in Merthyr:
It was astounding to me, or to be more accurate, it became astounding tome in retrospect, how often the talk curled back to 1831. One story lodged in my mind like a limpet intruder. They would shriek with laughter as they told of a young boy, Abednego Jones, who went about Merthyr during the Rising carrying a huge white banner as big as himself (by the end of the evening, it would be twice as big) and piping in a shrill, choir-boy treble: 'Death to kings and tyrants! The reign of justice for ever!'
     I did in the end find one 'huge white banner': it was carried by workers on the  march to the Waun Fair which started the rebellion. The young boy I never found. But once, quite by accident, I came across a court case in the Merthyr Guardian for 1833. A miner sued two others for cheating him out of his stall, won, and was then exposed as a man who had 'carried a banner during the Merthyr Riots'. This phrase recurs constantly in obituary and other notices; it evidently marked a man out. The judge read the offender an appropriate sermon. His name was Abednego Jones. [footnote to the same article that I found.] In 1833, he was no boy. Perhaps he was short. The Merthyr Rising, at 14.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Shutdown Update - 2019

I did go into my work email today. I guess we are supposed to check now and then to make sure our litigation deadlines are met. I don't have any active litigation as I've been working my way out of that in preparation for retirement. I went into email today just to check my calendar. I had the following email which I haven't even read because to me it is a mass of confusion. I only skimmed it to delete any names or personal identifiers. If you want to just skim down to the end for my response, that's OK.

SOL Employees,
As a reminder, all employees must report their time for the current pay period in QuickTime by 6:00 pm EST on Thursday, January 17. Employees may use only the following codes for this pay period:

Code 105 "Government Shutdown - Furlough": Use this code for all Furloughed time, including hours not worked by an excepted or exempted employee. The FAV key for Leave and Holidays is used in conjunction with this work code.

Code 107 "Government Shutdown - Excepted": Use this code for all Excepted time (unfunded work that has been authorized). The FAV key for "Administration" is used in conjunction with Code 107 when checking emails for up to 15-minutes per day. Use the normal appropriate FAV key for all other excepted work.