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Another most excellent report. This is so much better than actually going! Are you going to look into the Brother Johnson legend for details? If so, I look forward to reading...the rest of the story.

Dave, who gave the talk that mentioned the Johnson story?

Justin, I follow the general practice of not naming the speaker when I make what would generally be considered to be critical comments. This is my way of bending over backwards to distinguish discussion or criticism of ideas from personal criticism. I assume that if people really want to know who the speaker is, they can go find out.

Of course, some chip-on-their-shoulder Mormons insist and construing any serious discussion of LDS history, doctrine, or current pronouncements as personal attacks or as disloyalty. I can't do anything about that kind of attitude, but I will make efforts to avoid that kind of reaction, at least by reasonable readers.

No problem. In any event, I've now answered my own question. I'm also looking at other accounts of the same story.

Looking forward to hearing about some of the other accounts...

The source of the aforementioned story seems to be a conference talk given by Elder Faust in the April 1992 General Conference. Elder Faust's source is a 1971 Utah Historical Quarterly article on Warren M. Johnson.

Spiritual Healing

Do you think that the story is a 19th century account is a mitigating factor? I do. And childhood mortality was such a fact of life then...the parents probably expected that they'd lose a child just as part of the normal course of events. That they lost four is tragic. That they found comfort in God is a blessing for them. But I don't know that, from what little data we have, we can call their behavior irresponsible, else the whole Pioneer Adventure would be irresponsible.

Thanks for the links and comments, folks. I did some major edits to the text of the post and added several links, so you might want to reread it. When transcripts of the Conference talks are released on Thursday, I may update it again.

I should add that I now have a copy of the Utah Historical Quarterly article on Johnson. I can email it to anyone who is interested.

Yes, Justin, I would be happy to get an email copy. Part of my inadvertent quest to become a certified expert on the life of Warren Johnson. Click on my name for this comment or go to the bottom of the right sidebar for my email. Thanks for the great detective work!

I sent it off, Dave. One thing I can say: Warren Johnson had a tough life.

A LOT of the 19th and early 20th century saints had a tough life. There were the lucky chosen few who got to stay in Salt Lake City, and then there was everybody else.

That said, a multi-billion dollar corporation has a lot less reason to put people in harm's way than a pioneer church in the middle of nowhere.

A young man I know spent the first six months of his mission in Colombia almost never leaving his apartment, because he was terribly ill. (I don't remember what he had). His letters home said almost nothing except "I love you." His parents were very, very worried, but because he didn't tell them what was wrong, they didn't follow up on their concerns. Apparently, he did not ask to go home, and nobody suggested it.

If he had died, his faithfulness would have been praised by the powers that be, his parents would have been guilt-stricken and heart-broken, and nobody would have taken responsibility. So, I know where you're coming from with your original comments, Dave.

Alright, I read the transcript of the Sunday afternoon session talk that recited the story of Bro. Johnson now that it has been posted at LDS.org. The speaker took excerpts from the 1891 Johnson letter to Wilford Woodruff (presented more fully in the Faust 1992 talk and probably presented in full in the 1971 Utah Historical Quarterly article, which I haven't read yet). The excerpt given in Sunday's talk unfortunately gives the impression that the Johnsons knew their children were being exposed to a disease but didn't know it was diphtheria (which I have now learned to spell correctly as a result of this investigation). However, the full text of the letter indicates the Johnsons did NOT know the visiting family was still contagious or even that they were exposing the Johnson children at all. Hence my initial confusion.

I agree, Dave. They didn't know the visiting family (who were making a stop along the way to their home in Tuba City, Arizona) was exposing them to the disease.

Yes, the Utah Historical Quarterly has the full letter. (I erred in identifying Elder Faust's talk as the immediate source for Sunday's talk.)

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