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Joseph Antley

Thomas Marsh And The Milk And Strippings

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If in Sunday School, the teacher tells the famous story about Thomas B. Marsh and his wife falling into apostasy over some milk and strippings (honestly I don't even know what strippings are), is it appropriate to explain that his leaving the Church was a little more complicated than that?

If you remain silent, are you guilty of spreading falsehood?

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If in Sunday School, the teacher tells the famous story about Thomas B. Marsh and his wife falling into apostasy over some milk and strippings (honestly I don't even know what strippings are), is it appropriate to explain that his leaving the Church was a little more complicated than that?

If you remain silent, are you guilty of spreading falsehood?

I think it can be done with others learning. I'd have to go look up the whole story again, but if you point out that sometimes people don't recognize emotions that build up within them or just gloss over (disappointment, anger) but then one inconsequential thing happens and it bursts out, and then people think they left because they were offended. Perhaps it's a good way to point out that we should be open and Christlike in listening to other's sufferings and also being open enough to share how we're feeling with others, even when we want to punch holes in drywall.

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I don't think there's any question that it was more complicated. However, based on what we have, this was the beginning of his dissatisfaction. In the Gospel Doctrine lesson I taught I focused on how little things like this are catalysts for much bigger changes.

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It isnt a good idea to oversimplify this, but I think the milk and strippings (the good, fatty bits which make butter and cream, IIRC) gave him and his wife an EXCUSE.

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... (honestly I don't even know what strippings are), ...

I lament the passing of family farms and an agrarian culture, evidenced by such rampant lack of awareness.

If you get your milk straight from a cow (as opposed to homogenized and bottled in a grocery store), the cream rises to the top. It can then be skimmed off and used for making butter, cheese, whipped cream, or in recipes calling for cream.

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You are right, it was not just the milk strippings it was the attitude about the incident, but I don't think the instructor was wrong - he or she just didn't go far enough.

One thing I learned that I did not know before this class was that Thomas Marsh eventually came back to the Church, I was not aware of that until the lesson that mentioned the situation a couple weeks back.

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I lament the passing of family farms and an agrarian culture, evidenced by such rampant lack of awareness.

If you get your milk straight from a cow (as opposed to homogenized and bottled in a grocery store), the cream rises to the top. It can then be skimmed off and used for making butter, cheese, whipped cream, or in recipes calling for cream.

Alas I think we have sadly neglected the education of our younger generation.

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So, if the incident with the milk strippings hadn't occurred, would Marsh have ever apostatized?

Here's how the story is told. Maybe it's just me, but the meaning of the story doesn't seem to be that "little things can lead to apostasy" (as used in the recent Gospel Doctrine lesson; this talk isn't about apostasy), but that members should take care of the temporal things, since they are important too:

You may think that these small matters amount to but little, but sometimes it happens that out of a small matter grows something exceedingly great. For instance, while the Saints were living in Far West, there were two sisters wishing to make cheese and, neither of them possessing the requisite number of cows, they agreed to exchange milk.

The wife of Thomas B. Marsh, who was then President of the Twelve Apostles, and sister Harris concluded they would exchange milk, in order to make a little larger cheese than they otherwise could. To be sure to have justice done, it was agreed that they should not save the strippings, but that the milk and strippings should all go together. Small matters to talk about here, to be sure, two women's exchanging milk to make cheese.

Mrs. Harris, it appeared, was faithful to the agreement and carried to Mrs. Marsh the milk and strippings, but Mrs. Marsh, wishing to make some extra good cheese, saved a pint of strippings from each cow and sent Mrs. Harris the milk without the strippings.

Finally it leaked out that Mrs. Marsh had saved strippings, and it became a matter to be settled by the Teachers. They began to examine the matter, and it was proved that Mrs. Marsh had saved the strippings, and consequently had wronged Mrs. Harris out of that amount.

An appeal was taken from the Teacher to the Bishop, and a regular Church trial was had. President Marsh did not consider that the Bishop had done him and his lady justice, for they decided that the strippings were wrongfully saved, and that the woman had violated her covenant.

Marsh immediately took an appeal to the High Council, who investigated the question with much patience, and I assure you they were a grave body. Marsh being extremely anxious to maintain the character of his wife, as he was the President of the Twelve Apostles, and a great man in Israel, made a desperate defence, but the High Council finally confirmed the Bishop's decision.

Marsh, not being satisfied, took an appeal to the First Presidency of the Church, and Joseph and his Counsellors had to sit upon the case, and they approved the decision of the High Council.

This little affair, you will observe,[p.284] kicked up a considerable breeze, and Thomas B. Marsh then declared that he would sustain the character of his wife, even if he had to go to hell for it.

The then President of the Twelve Apostles, the man who should have been the first to do justice and cause reparation to be made for wrong, committed by any member of his family, took that position, and what next? He went before a magistrate and swore that the "Mormons" were hostile towards the State of Missouri.

That affidavit brought from the government of Missouri an exterminating order, which drove some 15,000 Saints from their homes and habitations, and some thousands perished through suffering the exposure consequent on this state of affairs.

Do you understand what trouble was consequent to the dispute about a pint of strippings? Do you understand that the want of fences around gardens, fields, and yards, in town and country, allowing cattle to get into mischief and into the stray pen, may end in some serious result? That the corroding influence of such circumstances may be brought to bear upon us, in such a way that we may lose the Spirit of the Almighty and become hostile to the people? And if we should not bring about as mighty results as the pint of strippings, yet we might bring entire destruction to ourselves. If you wish to enjoy your religion and the Spirit of the Almighty, you must make your calculations to avoid annoyances, as much as possible. When brother Brigham was anxious to have men take ten acres of land each and fence it, many thought that he was behind the times. The result is, from the time I came into the Valleys, in 1849, to the present, I never have been to the big field south of this City, or around or through it when it was fenced, and if any other man has seen it fenced, he has seen it at some time when I did not. The reason of this is, and has been, either we undertake to accomplish more than we can do, or neglect to do our duty in many respects.

A Discourse by Elder George A. Smith,

Delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City,

April 6, 1856.

Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p.284

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To answer my own question, Richard Von Wagoner wrote an article in the July 1981 issue of Sunstone called "The Return of Thomas B. Marsh", wherein he he says the situation with the milk strippings "provoked" his apostasy.

But BCC has a good article on the subject (The Milk Strippings Story), which says this:

History is somewhat different than the fable. Marsh was loyal to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the crises of 1837, which saw the collapse of the church in Kirtland, and Marsh led efforts to expel potential troublemakers (Oliver Cowdery and the Whitmers) from their leadership roles in the church in Missouri. However, just a few months later, during the events of the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, Marsh did voluntarily leave the faith, (along with fellow apostle Orson Hyde who soon returned). As Marsh explained in his October 24, 1838, affidavit, he left because he was alarmed that his fellow coreligionists had formed mobs, expelled all the non-Mormons from Daviess County, stolen their property, and burned their homes and towns to the ground.

So who knows?

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Neither one of the them should have been so greedy. They should have just settled for a small piece of cheese and none of this would have ever happened.

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I will throw in that when we discussed this incident the week before last in Gospel Doctrine class, I wanted to make sure the class did not think this was a stilly trifle of an incident, as it is often portrayed, but that Thomas Marsh was actually "in a straight betwixt two" conflicting covenants; one to his church, and the other to his wife.

The two loyalties could not have been brought into more opposition; one had to give way; and who am I to say he made the wrong choice?

While it is the general LDS consensus that Thomas Marsh made the wrong choice, Mormons tend to laud Adam for choosing to stay with Eve, even if it meant violating his Father's command.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I will throw in that when we discussed this incident the week before last in Gospel Doctrine class, I wanted to make sure the class did not think this was a stilly trifle of an incident, as it is often portrayed, but that Thomas Marsh was actually "in a straight betwixt two" conflicting covenants; one to his church, and the other to his wife.

The two loyalties could not have been brought into more opposition; one had to give way; and who am I to say he made the wrong choice?

While it is the general LDS consensus that Thomas Marsh made the wrong choice, Mormons tend to laud Adam for choosing to stay with Eve, even if it meant violating his Father's command.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

Interesting. But had he been a little more humble (or creative), he probably could have explored less catastrophic options that didn't draw his loyalties in opposite directions. For one, it appears he bolstered his wife's pride by siding with her; that was probably a mistake. He should have worked to repair the situation, and looked for a way to make restitution without humiliating her.

I might even suggest that he seek first to understand, then to be understood. Then go for the win/win.

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Interesting. But had he been a little more humble (or creative), he probably could have explored less catastrophic options that didn't draw his loyalties in opposite directions. For one, it appears he bolstered his wife's pride by siding with her; that was probably a mistake. He should have worked to repair the situation, and looked for a way to make restitution without humiliating her.

I might even suggest that he seek first to understand, then to be understood. Then go for the win/win.

_____________________________________________

I would like to think that such an option were possible for Brother Marsh, but in some instances, there is no other option than to side with one's wife, mistake or no; because the wife dictates it must be so. It is also possible that any repairing of the situation by making restitution on the side would have been viewed negatively by Sister Marsh.

Anyway, it is an interesting episode in Church history, and I hope folks here won't think I am being overly judgmental of Sister Marsh. It could just as easily happen the other way round . . . it's just that it usually doesn't. :P

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I will throw in that when we discussed this incident the week before last in Gospel Doctrine class, I wanted to make sure the class did not think this was a stilly trifle of an incident, as it is often portrayed, but that Thomas Marsh was actually "in a straight betwixt two" conflicting covenants; one to his church, and the other to his wife.

The two loyalties could not have been brought into more opposition; one had to give way; and who am I to say he made the wrong choice?

While it is the general LDS consensus that Thomas Marsh made the wrong choice, Mormons tend to laud Adam for choosing to stay with Eve, even if it meant violating his Father's command.

Not a good comparison. Both Adam and Eve understood the necessity of their choice in order to obey the greater commandment.

Perhaps you're not serious about the above. I hope not.

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Not a good comparison. Both Adam and Eve understood the necessity of their choice in order to obey the greater commandment.

I think it remarkable how much pre-Fall knowledge Mormons are willing to impute to Adam and Eve so long as it makes them look better.

Just my two-cents. :P

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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ByCommonConsent.com had a thread where it was put forward that this story just didn't happen.

http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/01/the-milk-strippings-story-thomas-b-marsh-and-brigham-young/

http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/14/what-should-you-do-when-the-lesson-manual-is-wrong/

I don't know what to think about the specifics, but I'm leaning towards it not happening.

I have found some imperfections in the JS manual too. Luckily, I'm a near apostate anyway and the High Priests still listen to my lessons for entertainment value.

OoooH OOOh. Look at this, my 666th post. coolness. My car just passed 66666 miles too. wow, what a day!

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I think it remarkable how much pre-Fall knowledge Mormons are willing to impute to Adam and Eve so long as it makes them look better.

Just my two-cents. :P

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

I have to kind of agree (sans the insult) considering that Adam and Eve supposedly did not even have the knowledge of good and evil until AFTER they ate the fruit.

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ByCommonConsent.com had a thread where it was put forward that this story just didn't happen.

http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/01/the-milk-strippings-story-thomas-b-marsh-and-brigham-young/

http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/07/14/what-should-you-do-when-the-lesson-manual-is-wrong/

I don't know what to think about the specifics, but I'm leaning towards it not happening.

I have found some imperfections in the JS manual too. Luckily, I'm a near apostate anyway and the High Priests still listen to my lessons for entertainment value.

OoooH OOOh. Look at this, my 666th post. coolness. My car just passed 66666 miles too. wow, what a day!

Better not post anymore hence you lose your coolness! :P

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Darth- there is evidence the milk stripping incident occurred. For one thing, Marsh himself never countered it though he was well aware of it. Further, there are contemporary journal entries that discuss the incident. While we typically afford it more than its due weight in terms of causing Marsh's apostasy, trying to claim it didn't happen at all goes too far. I'm doing more research on this incident but it is far from being ready to talk about.

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I thought that Marsh left the church over his disgust about the raids conducted by some Mormons against Gallatin and other settlements. The milk strippings incident happened about the same time, but its not the reason he left. George A. Smith refered to the incident as causation while exhorting the saints to build some fences, and that is probably the reason for the legend as most members know it now, but that might be akin to saying that Sonia Johnson became a feminist activist and left the LDS church because the Bishop stepped in front of her at the drinking fountain one day.

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I thought that Marsh left the church over his disgust about the raids conducted by some Mormons against Gallatin and other settlements. The milk strippings incident happened about the same time, but its not the reason he left. George A. Smith refered to the incident as causation while exhorting the saints to build some fences, and that is probably the reason for the legend as most members know it now, but that might be akin to saying that Sonia Johnson became a feminist activist and left the LDS church because the Bishop stepped in front of her at the drinking fountain one day.

LOL, I agree. :P

I know why they like to use the Thomas Marsh story about the milk strippings, but I think it's misleading if anyone actually thinks it was as simple as that.

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So, if the incident with the milk strippings hadn't occurred, would Marsh have ever apostatized?

Here's how the story is told. Maybe it's just me, but the meaning of the story doesn't seem to be that "little things can lead to apostasy" (as used in the recent Gospel Doctrine lesson; this talk isn't about apostasy), but that members should take care of the temporal things, since they are important too:

That quote was very specific to time and place.

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I think it remarkable how much pre-Fall knowledge Mormons are willing to impute to Adam and Eve so long as it makes them look better.

I didn't say they had a great deal of knowledge. I said they understood the necessity. Your prior comment implies that Adam chose being with his wife over obeying God. I don't think that conclusion is warranted by what we know about the matter.

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I will throw in that when we discussed this incident the week before last in Gospel Doctrine class, I wanted to make sure the class did not think this was a stilly trifle of an incident, as it is often portrayed, but that Thomas Marsh was actually "in a straight betwixt two" conflicting covenants; one to his church, and the other to his wife.

The two loyalties could not have been brought into more opposition; one had to give way; and who am I to say he made the wrong choice?

This is all very ironic considering the first time George A. Smith relayed the story it was to point out parallels between Adam and Eve and Thomas and Elizabeth.

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