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Looking back at 2017: Top 20 Moments

Happy New Year. I’m your host of Gospel Tangents, Rick Bennett.  We’re counting down the Top 20 Moments that were most surprising moments in 2017 here on Gospel Tangents.  I’ve learned a lot over this year.

1. Let’s start with some scoops!  Paul Reeve told me he participated in writing the Gospel Topics Essay on Race and the Priesthood at  Unfortunately, I had some camera problems, but the audio worked just fine.  This is still my most downloaded moment of 2017!

GT:  Very good.  Now I want to ask you another question.  I’m hoping you’ll answer.  I’ve heard rumors, and that’s all they are is rumors that you played a role in compiling that essay [Race and the Priesthood].  Do you have any response to that?

Paul laughs:  I did help with the essay. Yeah, Yeah.

GT:  So was it, can you describe your role?

Paul:  Well the Church History Department invited me to write an extended essay. It ended up being about 55 pages long with footnotes and everything like I would produce as an academic essay.  Once they were satisfied with that it was sent up the line, several layers of approval process and then the Church History Department actually boiled down that longer essay to what got posted online so I had no say over what got posted online, what eventually appeared as Race and the Priesthood, but it was a condensed version of the longer piece that I produced for them.

2.  What other scholars participated? I asked a similar question to Dr. Brian Hales regarding the polygamy essays

Brian:  Yeah, I gave them a very long essay, and then maybe a couple of years later they sent me the Gospel Topics essay that was similar to what we have today.  I went through it all.  I think we had one other meeting in the interim, maybe two.  I just went through and made recommendations on it, and every recommendation I recommended in the text they accepted.  There were some outside comments that I made some recommendations they did not, but they were very generous to allow me to do that.  They do quote from the trilogy a number of times and an article I wrote was also referenced.

GT:  So that took a few years for that whole process to go through?

Brian:  Yeah, you know originally they were thinking of doing long answer, medium answer, short answer.  That was the first thing that was asked of me on the topic of polyandry.  Then I just sent them some general stuff, and I don’t know how many iterations it went through there.  Again I was excited to contribute to that.  I only looked at the Nauvoo material.  I know they had Kathryn Daines help out, and Kathleen Flake I think also are the other two that did the input on plural marriage.  I hope they don’t mind me saying that but they wanted outsiders to critique it.

3.  That wasn’t all. Ugo Perego was involved in the Book of Mormon essay

Ugo:  Yeah I helped writing that… it wasn’t only me.  I actually took the lead on the project of writing that.  I wrote a much more extensive paper which has been published as well in the Interpreter, the online Mormon journal.  It’s about 40 pages long and then from that the Church condensed it down to what is the in Gospel Topics today.

4.  Since we’re on the Book of Mormon, we had some interesting conversations. David Rosenvall had an interesting theory on how Asian DNA ended up in America.

David:  our hypothesis is that you have at least everyone that came over with Jared and his brother who dispersed for thousands of years, and if you assume that there are some that didn’t come across the ocean who were also related to them, who may have been a big part of how Asia became, there’s a good chance that the people of North America and the people of Asia are going to have the same DNA.  The difference is they used boats to get them across and maybe the Bering Sea but at least the boats according to the Book of Mormon.  So I always say DNA is the best evidence that the Book of Mormon is true because in there is the Book of Ether that talks about a group that was in Asia and a group that’s in North America that are related.

5.  Perego didn’t necessarily agree with Rosenvall, but he noted another group of people who had disappeared from America.

Ugo:  Do you know the Vikings were in Greenland from 1000-1400 A.D., 400 years?  We have written documentation that they were here, the Icelandic woman actually kept their record of their voyages.[1]  We have villages, remains of Viking villages in Greenland that around 1400, they just left.  They just left.  We also have DNA from Native Americans in Iceland, which pre-dates Christopher Columbus, that’s been there.  So we know probably these Vikings took some women to Iceland, and that’s why we have their DNA there.  But where is the Viking DNA in America?

GT:  That’s a great question.  I have no idea.

Ugo: Well I’m sure it’s there, but there is not enough time for the post-Columbus DNA, to differentiate it from the pre-Columbus DNA.  So whenever we find European, Middle Eastern, or African DNA in the Americas, even among tribes, native tribes, by default, scientists always say, we think this is post-Columbian admixture.

6.  He also did an interesting study with regards to the Mountain Meadows Massacre that I had never heard before.

Ugo:  the U.S. government made an investigation on what happened that some of that truth came out, and it was about two years at this time.  The records said that only 17 of these 18 children were identified and returned to relatives in Arkansas.

So who was the 18th child?  What happened to this child?  Who was it?  As years went by there had been rumors that one of these children was the oldest daughter of Bishop Klingonsmith who was involved with the massacre.  He’s there.

GT:  So the daughter was essentially adopted by Bishop Klingonsmith.

Ugo:  That’s what the claim was.  The 18th child was the one that was not returned.  So it’s making something bad into something worse because now you have a child that doesn’t belong to you… So the conclusion from the paper was that probably Priscilla was the biological daughter of the Klingonsmith family, and not the surviving child.

7.  Of Course Perego worked with Brian Hales on the paternity tests with Joseph Smith. Brian had some interesting things to say with regards to polygamy.  Who was more believable:  Joseph Smith or Fanny Alger?

Brian:  the people that Joseph Smith told about Fanny Alger as a plural wife, they didn’t believe him.  But most of the people that learned it from Fanny did believe which is interesting.

8.  Anne Wilde had some interesting things to say about Jesus regarding polygamy.

When Jesus Was Married came out in [19]69, it was in February of ’69.  That was Ogden’s first book, and he knew that Joseph F. Smith was president of the Quorum of Twelve at that time.  He knew his belief that Jesus was married, so as soon as the books came out of the bindery, we took the first copy up to Joseph Fielding Smith and got right in.  The secretary was there at that time, you know you could walk right in practically and see a general authority.  The office door was open.  Here was the receptionist.  Could we give him this book?  She motioned us in.  We gave it to him and then we said, “What do you think?”

He said, “Oh, absolutely he was married.  His account of his marriage is right in the New Testament.  It could be no other way.  The account of his marriage is in the New Testament, referring to the Marriage at Cana…”  GT:  Who did he marry?

Anne:  Probably Mary.

GT:  Mary Magdalene?

Anne:  He had at least three wives.

GT:  Three wives?

Anne:  Uh huh.  Mary, Martha, and Mary Magdalene that we know of; there’s a quote that kings’ daughters were among his honorable wives.

9.  But how did polygamy originate in the LDS Church? Mark Staker has an interesting theory!

GT:  So wait a minute.  You’re telling me that Black Pete may have been responsible for introducing polygamy into the Kirtland community?

Mark:  I believe so… I believe that Black Pete introduced that idea to him.  Now is there really a step by step process to the doctrine as how that happened?  No.  It’s a circumstantial case.

10.  Dr Staker had another interesting note regarding the first black Mormon!

GT:  So is this something that you think Black Pete may have introduced the Mormons in Kirtland was speaking in tongues?

Mark: I believe he did.

GT:  Oh wow.

Mark:  I believe it’s a circumstantial case.  There’s nobody that says that but as you look at the evidence as to where it comes from and these early attempts to practice it

11.  In talking about early black Mormon, Margaret Young surprised me with this concerning Jane Manning James!

Margaret:  Jane had been raped by a minister in Wilton, Connecticut, so in the first book [I wrote, One More River to Cross], I kind of identify him.  There’s pretty good evidence of who it probably was, so she had a son, Sylvester when she first came to Nauvoo and Sylvester was there with them on the trek.

12.  Moving to more modern times, Darron Smith had some interesting things to say about black athletes at BYU.

Darron:  The federal government keeps graduation data from over a six year period.  If you started this fall, 2017 in the fall, that will follow you for six years, that cohort of thousands of students all across the country will follow that cohort for six years.  You can see within that six year period at each institution the percentages of students that actually complete within that six year period and those that don’t… The lowest [black graduation rate] in the state?  I was surprised to see that, very surprised to see that.  The data, all of that data, plus the GSR scores, the story is becoming clearer.

13.  Since we’re into modern history, let’s talk about the Mark Hofmann bombings. Who did Curt Bench call when he heard about the first bombing?

Curt:  That day I talked to Mark on the phone, the day of the bombings.

GT:  Oh really.

Curt:  Several times, probably six or seven times.  I called first to warn him about the bombings, well bombing at that point because there was already a lot on the news.

14.  Shannon Flynn told how Hofmann beat the lie detector test

Shannon:  he hypnotized himself the night before the polygraph, and then again in the morning, and just told himself over and over again, “I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it, I didn’t do it,” and then describes the test being administered.  When they got to the questions:  did you cause the death of Kathleen Sheets?  Did you cause the death of Steve Christensen?

… He was able to not produce any significant physical response to that, and said that he was aware of the questions but could just let his subconscious come forward, that he had convinced, hadn’t done it.

15.  Of course, that wasn’t the only crime issue in Mormonism. Anne Wilde had a surprising encounter with a murderer!

Anne:  Ogden[2] was introduced to him one time under a fictitious name and so we went out to a meeting and thought this was this guy’s name, Stilson, and lo and behold shortly after that we saw a picture, “Wanted: Ervil LeBaron” but was a picture of this guy that we had met.  He even stayed in my home under that other name.  Then when I found out who he was, I was a little concerned, but fortunately I didn’t know who he was at the time he stayed in my home.

16.  Anne remains unaffiliated with any polygamist groups. We also discussed another Mormon group, the Remnant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and spoke with a member of the First Presidency.  I was surprised to hear when Jim Vun Cannon joined that church!

Jim:  I started attending the Remnant Church in 2012 I believe is when I started.

GT:  Oh really, just that recently?

Jim:  Yes, that recently, yes.

GT:  Wow, and you’re in the First Presidency now!

Jim:  Yes, it was an experience where the Lord told me to go and join this church, and I was just told to go and worship with these folks and ministered with these folks and I really wasn’t told much more than that.  At the time I did not even have a testimony of President Larsen and his calling to be the prophet of the church, but that came very shortly afterwards.  I felt like it was one of those stepping out of the boat moments.  You know the water was a little squishy underneath your feet and trying to look forward, but yes, yes.

17.  In talking with Jim, I learned they would like to build a temple. But Dr. Richard Bennett told me something about our own temple worship that really surprised me!

Richard:  Spiritualism, the practice of communing with the dead, adulterated today by Ouija boards and things like this and telekinesis and paranormal, but Spiritualism is well-known in American history as flowering after the Civil War with so many dead and lost and the great desire of many families to know what happened to their sons or their fathers or their brothers…

Was that a factor in the beginning of endowments for the dead for the church in 1877?  I claim that it may have been one of the factors to begin to address how we really think about them.  There is redemption for the dead but it’s not that way.  So was it a factor?  I argue that it probably was one of the factors.

18.  Speaking of surprises, Dr. Greg Prince surprised me with this nugget on the Word of Wisdom!

Greg:  You will hear people still who say the Word of Wisdom proves Joseph was a prophet because it was a hundred years ahead of its time.  It wasn’t even a day ahead of its time.  It reflected what everybody already knew.  This was the air that they breathed.

The Temperance Movement kicked in in 1826 because there was an epidemic of drunkenness in the United States.  The consumption of distilled liquor over a 30 year period had tripled on a per capita basis.

19.  David Conley Nelson surprised me when I discovered church leaders weren’t happy with a play about a Mormon who fought against Nazis

David:  Elder Monson, he’s in the Quorum of Twelve at the time.  Elder Monson arrives and he takes in the play and he just doesn’t seem to be as happy according to other witnesses as the rest of them.  Word comes down two days later through Dallin Oaks, there will be no more productions of “Huebener Against the Reich.”

20.  What surprises are in store for 2018? How about an interview with an apostle, and what constituted the first temple recommend!  This is Lachlan MacKay, an apostle for the Community of Christ.

Lach:  My sense is that in Nauvoo, the thing that is going to be true that you did see that you start to have to have, I believe, a receipt that said you a tithe payer in order to gain access to the baptismal font, and they didn’t welcome non-members into the temple in Nauvoo while they were performing ordinances, but it was still a public building.  That receipt, I think, is what many generations later would become the idea of a temple recommend.

Thank you so much for listening.  I know 2017 was a year of surprises and I’m sure 2018 will be as well.  I’ve already lined up interviews with John Hamer, Matt Harris, Michael Quinn, Simon Southerton, Russell Stevenson, Newell Bringhurst, and Sandra Tanner.  I’m sure we will have many others, so please tune in and subscribe to our page so you don’t miss any of them.  Make sure that you Like our Facebook page at  You can subscribe on YouTube at, Tweet us @gospeltangents.  Make sure you subscribe on iTunes to be sure you don’t miss anything.  Share as much as you can with your friends and family!

[1] Her name is Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir.  Basic information is found at

[2] Anne was the second wife of polygamist Ogden Kraut.

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CSI: Mountain Meadows – Using DNA to Solve 2 Mysteries

Many of you remember the dark day of September 11, 2001 when Muslim terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  It was a dark day in U.S. history.  160 years ago this September 11th is another dark day in Mormon history as Mormon settlers in southern Utah attacked and killed 120 men, women, and children known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.  Can DNA help solve the Mountain Meadows Massacre?

Mountain Meadows Massacre

It turns out that there has been some DNA tests done to answer some questions about that horrific incident.  It’s a pretty interesting conversation.  Dr. Ugo Perego will introduce a little bit of the massacre, and talk about his tests to answer questions about the DNA of certain people in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Ugo:  The claim was out of this party of 120 people that left Arkansas and were moving to California as they went through the Salt Lake Valley and then down all the way through Fillmore and Cedar City and out into the Mountain Meadows area.  After the ambush was done by local Mormons, local people that lived in the area and Native [American]s, there were 120 people that were exterminated.  They were all killed except children age 8 or younger.

But the number of those children that were spared has never really been confirmed.  That was some early sources.  The first sources say 17, but soon that number became 18, and most documents and books that have been written on the subject carry on with this 18 number.  Why is this important?

The records said that only 17 of these 18 children were identified and returned to relatives in Arkansas.

So who was the 18th child?  What happened to this child?  Who was it?  As years went by there had been rumors that one of these children was the oldest daughter of Bishop Klingonsmith who was involved with the massacre.  He’s there.

GT:  So the daughter was essentially adopted by Bishop Klingonsmith.

Ugo:  That’s what the claim was.  The 18th child was the one that was not returned.  So it’s making something bad into something worse because now you have a child that doesn’t belong to you.  Give it back to the family, right?  So there were all these controversies surrounding [the incident.]  The people involved have already been dead.  Bishop Klingonsmith has been dead.  The daughter died.

So what we have are people in this century in this past 150 years trying to collect information and putting pieces together.  So what we have is rumors that the child, Priscilla was her name which by the way the massacre took place as you say on September 11, 1857.  Priscilla was born in 1855 which placed her at the age group of two being one of the children that could have been spared.  So we have her born in 1855, Bishop Klingonsmith being involved with the massacre, being there so he could be one of the people that took a child in, and there is no birth certificate for this girl, nowhere to be found.

Listen to find out what the results of the test were.

DNA Test #2

But that’s not the only question Dr. Perego answered.

Locals claim, and that’s what’s in the record, the party that was going through poisoned the springs which caused some of the animals to die in an attempt to actually kill the people there.  Now this is absurd because to put poison in a spring, which is running water to the extent that it the poison stayed there, you need a tremendous amount.  At that time there was folk magic, these ideas that things can actually happen without being able to test the possibility that you can actually do something like that.

But the problem was that they gave this cattle that were dead as a gift to the local natives as a right to pass.  Native Americans do accept gifts of dead animals.  They are a little bit, at least this part I’m not an expert in anthropological and cultural Native Americans, but from what I read, they’re kind of a little bit like scavengers.  They will eat whatever they could eat.  At that time it seems like it was an acceptable thing.  They received these dead animals, and the natives died.  They got really sick and they died.

A local child from a family, as he was trying to take the skin off of one of those cows; what’s the name, hive?

GT:  The hyde.

Ugo:  The hyde?  As he was trying to take the hyde off, scratched his face, and within a few days he was dead, devastating dead.  His whole face blew out, really swollen and blood coming out everywhere and he died.

GT:  This was a Mormon child.

Ugo agrees:  A Mormon child in Fillmore.  It was Proctor Robinson, and I think he died at age 16, just a few days after the massacre as the disease developed.  Because of these things, the theory is that escalated the conflict between Native [American]s, Mormons, and the party.

Rick Turley believed that anthrax could have been the reason why these animals died.  That’s just his idea.  He asked me if I could look into that from a scientific point of view.  What I did was I gathered some information with regards to, first of all how anthrax is manifested, how it affects individuals and animals, because at that time anthrax was not known.  It was probably endemic in America.  There were many cases of it but people just didn’t know the cause of it.  It was not yet identified and classified as a pathogen.

Dr. Perego got permission to dig up the bones of Proctor Robinson to try to determine if he died of anthrax!  Check out our conversation…..


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Was Emma Licentious? Would it matter? Addressing Ugo’s DNA Critics

In this episode, we’ll discuss Ugo’s DNA critics. Of course there are critics of Dr. Perego, as well as Joseph Smith.  At Wheat & Tares, commenter Mike posed a question wondering if Emma had sex with one or more of Joseph Smith’s brothers, would that affect Dr. Ugo Perego’s test results?  (Apparently he is parroting questions popping up in ex-mormon rumor mills.) The simple answer is it would have zero impact on Dr. Perego’s results.  Here’s why.

For the record, I don’t like Mike’s assertion, but for a moment let’s assume that Mike is right:  Emma was fooling around with Joseph Smith’s brothers.  Even if this were the case (and there isn’t a hint of historical evidence to think this was remotely true), it simply wouldn’t matter with regards to Dr. Perego’s DNA test results, which state that 0% of Smith DNA has been found in any of the potential children.

Let me repeat, even if Emma had sex with Joseph Sr., Hyrum, Don Carlos, William, Samuel and gave she gave birth to a child of Joseph’s brothers (or even father for that matter), all the while Joseph Smith is completely clueless (or somehow didn’t care) to this improbable scenario, 0% of Smith DNA was found in Josephine Lyon, John Hancock, Oliver Buell, etc.  That rules everyone in the Smith family out.  It simply doesn’t matter if Joseph’s DNA is confused with his brothers because 0% of Smith DNA is in the suspected children.  None.  Not only has the entire Smith family been ruled out as father of the potential children in Dr. Ugo Perego’s test, but the real father has been identified (Parley P. Pratt, Levi Hancock, Windsor Lyon etc.)  It is not simply ruling Joseph or the Smith family out, it is ruling Parley in, Levi in, etc.  It simply doesn’t matter if Emma had sex with anyone outside of Joseph.  Smith DNA is nowhere to be found, and the father of Josephine Lyon has been identified, and it is Windsor Lyon.  The father of John Hancock has been identified as Levi Hancock.  The father of Moroni Pratt has been identified as Parley P. Pratt.  Cases closed.  There is no question about who the fathers are.

So even if this highly unlikely scenario is true, Emma’s sexual habits simply don’t matter at all since the entire Smith family has been ruled out and the real fathers have been ruled in and identified.

What’s bothers me that most in this ridiculous conspiracy theory is that it seems to be an attempt (1) to discredit Dr. Perego’s results by throwing up a diversion while (2) impugning the Smith family as sexually licentious.  I know that several in the ex-Mormon community have no problem throwing Joseph under the bus, but it seems especially insidious to accuse Emma of being licentious as well.  There isn’t even a hint of Emma having sex with any of Joseph’s brothers (or anyone else) in any journals, records, newspapers, etc.  None.  I find such “brainstorming” extremely distasteful and beyond ridiculous.  The science is settled.  If you don’t understand the issues, read them.  They are published and these questions are not only distasteful, but the issues are completely settled.  If you still have questions it is because you are too lazy to read the articles.  (I posted links in my previous show notes.)

Ugo Discusses Smith’s Critics, and his own

This leads into my next episode.  Dr. Perego discusses a particular critic who said several derogatory things about Dr. Perego, as well as the Smith family.

Ugo:  You have to understand that there are people here.  No matter how curious you are about history, and how much of a National Geographic experience it is for you, or a Discovery Channel, whatever it is, there are real people involved.  People that are alive, people that are descendants of these individuals, and they have a relationship with their ancestors that is a lot different than you have with them.  You look at them as historical figures that you can trash, play with, speculate, say whatever you want about them.  But to some people, that’s family.  They feel very tender about their ancestors.  They are here on the earth because these people existed.  You have to have that respect.  You have to build that trust.

Very likely I met individuals who introduced me to other individuals to be able to—and I feel very much part of the family with regards to [be] more than a friend.  They welcomed me with regards to Josephine descendants and the trust that they had bestowed on me, but also with Joseph Smith descendants.

I always try to be very respectful and think about besides the DNA that you see on a computer or the kit, or the history that there are actual real people alive with sentiments, with feelings, with concerns, with worries about privacy, about misuse of data.  All it takes is one bad example or occurrence and then you kind of ruin their trust, and I value that.

So when Scott was working and had this approach, his approach, and this is what the Josephine descendants told me, his approach totally turned them off.  They were absolutely not interested in working with him because of the way he approached the research, the project.

Find out more of who Scott is, and what his issues were with Dr. Perego.  Check out our conversation…..