Joseph’s Remnant: Lamanites in Today’s America

Allen C. Christensen

Allen Christensen’s new book (2019) titled, Joseph’s Remnant: Lamanties in Today’s America, involves biographical sketches of a number of Native American Latter-day Saints. Their lives and their struggles to achieve are many and varied. Aspects of their several tribal cultures are also considered as well as their long overlooked contributions as America’s first citizens. He includes real stories about Elder Larry Echo Hawk, Franklin Keel, Betty “Red Ant” LaFontaine, Delores Kahkonen and many others. 240 pages

Featured Image above, “Willeto Honor” by Shannon Christensen See her art here!

Joseph’s Remnant: An Introduction by Allen C. Christensen

“Would you please permit a background statement regarding some experiences that have led to that which I have written? The title of my book reflects the language of the Book of Mormon. Lehi was a descendant of Joseph. Various passages reflect that a remnant of Joseph of whom Lehi is a significant branch is to be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God (see 3 Nephi 5:23). Despite the bitterness of their quarrels, a remnant of the seed of Joseph was to be preserved. One finds some interesting parallels to Book of Mormon practices. No nation under the Iroquois Confederacy was ruled by a single leader, although one chief might hold an honored station as the keeper of the sacred artifacts. Is that a similarity to the fact that principal Book of Mormon prophet-kings and chief priesthood leaders were the keepers of the sacred objects such as the Plates of Brass, the Liahona and the sword of Laban (see Mosiah 1:16; Mosiah 28:20; Helaman 37:1-4)? It is an awesome responsibility to be trusted with sacred records that could cause people to ponder and repent. Records and correct traditions are vital in reminding individuals as to who they really are. The title page of the Book of Mormon identifies the Lamanites as a remnant of the house of Israel. Joseph, the birthright holder, is also the heir to the title Israel.

Looking to the Future Through the Past by Shannon Christensen. Click painting to see her other art

While my interest in Native Americans began at an early age, three years old to be exact, that which I have written in Joseph’s Remnant began one evening in Chinle, Arizona in March 2009. I sat in my hotel room reflecting on a study that my colleague, Richard Brimhall, and I were conducting regarding the efficacy of a food production project among the Navajo and Hopi peoples on behalf of the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute and LDS Humanitarian Services. We had met with a number of men and women, who had been participants in the Indian Placement Program sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Essentially all of them were much better off financially than had been their parents, yet few were active in the Church. One fellow who had been a placement student said he was not active in the Church, because his wife did not like Mormons. I said: “That is not exactly true, because she clearly likes you.” He smiled and sold me a ring that I had been considering at a discount that I had not even asked for. I remember asking one fellow, who had been 10 years on the placement program and a college graduate, why he was no longer active in the Church. He said, “I missed the stories of my people and I wanted my children to have that knowledge or perhaps get those special feelings.”
As I reflected on those interviews, this question surfaced: “How can we make tradition an ally rather than an adversary?” It also seemed that every culture, every society, indeed every family, all need to have their own heroes. At the Canyon de Chelly visitors’ center, I purchased Navajo Weapon a book on the Navajo Code Talkers. The very next day (March 18, 2009) I had the good fortune to meet one of them, Teddy Draper, Sr. He had been one of 15 US Marines who had been a part of the second, much larger flag raising on Iwo Jima’s Mt Suribachi. The thought came, “There are heroes—what is needed is to find them and tell their stories.”

Teddy Draper-Navajo Code Talker

Teddy Draper had been part of the US military campaigns on Bougainville, Guadalcanal, the Marshall Islands and Saipan as well as Iwo Jima. He said he was wounded by an artillery shell the second day on Iwo Jima. He took shrapnel between his eyes, and on his right thigh was a wound that was ten inches long, and a piece of shrapnel had cut the muscle atop his left shoulder. He kept fighting. The outcome of the battle for Iwo Jima was in serious doubt. There are those who say the United States would not have prevailed on Iwo Jima had it not been for the Code Talkers. Ammunition ran low on both sides. Fighting became hand-to-hand. A Japanese soldier was poised to throw a grenade at him. He said: “I was good with a knife, which I threw at him striking him in the neck. That caused him to drop the grenade which exploded and took the other man’s life.” Once in the heat of a firefight, Draper threw himself between the bodies of three dead Marines, an action that saved his life. I asked if he had trouble sleeping after the war. He answered, “Yes!” Draper had already won the Silver Star and would be awarded the Purple Heart. When the 22-year-old Marine was asked by his commanding officer what medal he wanted for his heroic valor on Iwo Jima, he replied: “I have enough metal already. What I want is a promotion.” The promotion was granted, and he sent the money home to his family.
Native Americans have a wonderful sense of humor. I have a great uncle, who had been a teenage cowboy in the semi-wilds of the Tetons of Idaho and Wyoming in the late 1890s. One evening at dusk, he realized he was too far from camp to make it back that evening. He came upon an elderly man, probably a Shoshone, for he was in their territory. He asked the old fellow, “Is this a safe place to camp?” The man replied: “Heap safe—no white man in fifty miles.”
I have not written about Teddy Draper, Sr. in Joseph’s Remnant, but I have written about John Brown, Jr. a Latter-day Saint Navajo, one of the original 29 Navajo Code Talkers who developed the original code. Our foster daughter, Joella Barlow, said they were punished for speaking Navajo at the government boarding school. In their youth, the Code Talkers had been similarly disciplined. They understood the irony of being asked to use their sacred language to develop a code to help win the war. That code was very sophisticated. It was a code within the Navajo language itself. For example, the words of the code were spelled out. However, if the letter to be used appeared more than once in a word, it was spelled or pronounced differently the second time and then still differently the third time. For example, the first A was the Navajo word for Ant, (Wol-la-chee); the second was the Navajo word for Apple (Be-la-sana) and the third was the Navajo word for Axe (Tse-nill). If there was a fourth A, they would start over. The code was not written. It was the most confidential of top secrets. It had to be memorized perfectly. And to their credit, the code talkers kept their pledge of secrecy until years later, when the government determined to reveal their heroics.

President Donald Trump (R) with, from left to right, Fleming Begaye Sr., Thomas Begay, and Peter MacDonald, each of whom served as Navajo Code Talkers in World War II. Susan Walsh/AP

Among those initial 29 Navajo Marines were young men of unique, perhaps even profound insights. Regarding the role they were to play in this desperate fight for freedom was one Dennie Hosteen. He paraphrased the Prophet Jeremiah as follows: I am bringing a nation against you, an ancient and enduring nation. A people whose language you do not know, whose speech you do not understand. The exact language from the King James Version of Jeremiah 5:15-16 reads: Lo, I will bring upon you a nation from far, O house of Israel saith the Lord: it is a mighty nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language thou knowest not, neither understandest what they say. Their quiver is an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men.
Fascinatingly, neither were the cryptographers of that ancient nation, reportedly the best cryptographers in the world, able to break the code or understand the language that young men in their teens and twenties had developed to help defeat them. Importantly, other regular Navajo Marines could not understand the code either. It was a remarkable feat. Yet, lest we forget, the Book of Mormon was translated by a 23-year-old young man through the gift and power of God. Inspired young people can and have accomplished great things.
I have written of the faith of John’s mother and the testing trials for others of his family. John Brown, Jr. was the spokesman for all of the Code Talkers in the US Capitol Rotunda when President George W. Bush presented them their gold medals. Those who developed the code were recipients of Gold medals. All others were awarded Silver medals. During his acceptance remarks, John Brown paused and then spoke briefly in Navajo. After a moment or two he paused again, and with wry humor said, “Japan may be listening.” The sources of my information concerning John Brown, Jr. were primarily his son-in-law, Edward McCombs, a son, and a senior missionary, Darrall Jensen, who became John’s fast friend. On one occasion when Darrall and John were visiting, Darrall said to John: After I die, within three months, people will have forgotten about me, but they will still be talking and writing about you a hundred years from now. Elder Jensen said, John smiled humbly and quietly said: “Yes, I know.”
As an aside, Howela and Catharine Polacca were the parents of John’s wife Loncie. It was to their place, about a 100 yards downhill from their large hogan, that Elder Spencer W. Kimball came to recover from a major heart attack. The apostle pitched camp with a borrowed tent trailer under some pines. Elder Kimball wrote his wife “that he liked Navajo land, far from the haunts of the white man with all [of its] noise and chatter.” The Hopi community of Polacca was named for Loncie’s grandfather. There is a lovely chapel, meetinghouse in Polacca with some adjoining acreage that the Benson Institute used for a demonstration garden when the Institute and local priesthood leaders initiated the intensive gardening effort.
Regarding the importance of heroes, mentors, role models and a history of one’s people, I share the following. On May 16, 2011, my wife, Kathy and I and President Larry J. Justice of the Tuba City Arizona Stake had a 105-minute conversation with Peter and Wanda MacDonald in the stake president’s office. Peter MacDonald had been raised among traditional shepherds. He had been groomed to become a medicine man. Incidentally, all of those ceremonies have to be memorized. He became a Code Talk and a four-term tribal chairman of the Navajo Nation. He holds a B.S. degree in engineering from the University of Oklahoma. Mr. MacDonald requested that I provide 10,000 LDS couples to mentor what he said were 30,000 dysfunctional Navajo families, who were dysfunctional families because of drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual abuse, physical abuse, etc. He said, “The Mormons know how to raise good families.” He then shared that in the days of his youth, the Navajo were an independent people. They had their sheep, corn, squash, etc. Everyone in the family had assigned tasks. The completion of those tasks such as gathering firewood, herding sheep, cooking the food, hauling water, and other duties were essential to the survival and welfare of the family.
I shared with Mr. MacDonald that I had neither the authority nor the influence to promise him 10,000 Latter-day Saint mentoring couples. We did show him the demonstration garden at the Tuba Stake Center and shared with him our cooperative activities with Sister Margaret Louise, the Catholic nun who we had helped establish next door a large garden in which at-risk youth could perform public service and the commodities produced in that garden were used in her food bank. Mrs. MacDonald, who is Catholic was pleased about that joint effort.
Peter MacDonald said a helpful activity for them was in the evenings they sat by the fire and told the stories of their family and the history of their people. Clearly, family stories of faith and devotion have the capacity to bind generations together and to intensify feelings of affection. Hopefully, Joseph’s Remnant will make a contribution to that discourse which binds families and communities together and lifts the aspirations of the youth. One of America’s current challenges seems to be too much purchased entertainment, and that tends to get in the way of such intimate family conversations. Regarding family mealtimes, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said to the December 1980 conference of the Chino California Stake, “That we needed fewer calories and more conversation.”
At a May 18, 2011 breakfast, Tod Schulthess, who had served as a Latter-day Saint missionary among the Navajo people in the later part of the 1970s reported to me that a Navajo Medicine man had shared with him a remarkable, though not widely known incident that occurred in the early 1960s. One night all Navajo medicine men had dreamed the same dream. In essence, they were shown that a giant would come among the people. The giant would promise the Navajo people that he would take care of them; that they would never have to work again. That he (the giant) would always be there to see to their needs. The medicine men were given to understand that they should warn the people against following the giant, for he would sicken and die and the Navajo people would then be left in difficult straits that would leave them far worse off than where they had been before.
Considering this dream, I wondered, “What it could mean? “Does the giant represent the love of ease, the love of self-gratification? Are those among the factors that have led to the dysfunctional Navajo family? I thought of Leo Muir’s counsel written in 1928: “The pursuit of easy things makes men weak. Catch that warning, young man, and heed it. Are you trying to avoid the drudgery of work, the weariness of toil, the burdens of responsibility? You may succeed [in avoiding such] but you will be weak. The penalty is certain. Society has fashioned a thousand exemptions from work, but not one immunity from the penalty of indolence and irresponsibility.”
Regarding the dream received simultaneously by the Navajo medicine men, perhaps we should ask, “Is that a forewarning of the impact of big government programs?” Consider this: In 2011, we were hurting economically as nation. We could not meet the promised entitlements without borrowing trillions of dollars. Food prices were rising. Gasoline was at $4.00 a gallon. Food stamps and other governmental programs appeared less likely to keep pace with inflation. Elected officials seemed inadequate for the challenges that confronted us. As a nation, we too had become comfortable with a serious addiction. We were failing to acknowledge that printing money had become for us as a nation a serious addiction.
In that economic climate, the Benson Institute and local Latter-day Saint priesthood leaders made a splendid breakthrough with its intensive gardening approach among the Navajo and Hopi. We had families that from July 1 to the first frost in October were only going to the grocery store for sugar, salt, butter and flour, and furthermore, a part of that gardening production, such as banana squash and potatoes, could be stored for winter consumption. Importantly, both the diet and the work habits of families were improved. The children loved working in the garden and then eating that which they had helped to grow. From its founding at BYU in 1975, a principal objective of the Benson Institute had been the development of sustainable nutritional self-reliance programs among the world’s small, land-holder families.
Regarding the dream received by the Navajo Medicine men, I have wondered, “Are such dreams, in part, an indication of what the Prophet Joel had in mind when he prophesied: And it shall come pass afterward that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; And also upon the servants and the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. (Joel 2:28-29)

The portrait artist of the President Benson painting in the picture above was Robert Tree, a Navajo. The background scene was at the Kayenta LDS Ward meetinghouse in spring 2010.

Interestingly, in connection with the work of the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute, there were 13 senior missionary couples involved in that 2011 effort. Eldon Povatah, the second counselor in the Tuba Stake presidency, said that his grandfather had told him that one day white men would come among them and teach them how to garden. President Povatah saw this gardening program as at least a partial fulfillment of that which his grandfather said would occur.
In Joseph’s Remnant, I have written about John Bluesalt, a legendary Navajo Medicine man, who became a Latter-day Saint convert. At the point of his conversion and ordination to the Melchizedek Priesthood, at the counsel of his stake president, Harvey Gardner, he stepped away from functioning as a medicine man and gave blessings and performed service strictly in his capacity as a worthy bearer of the Melchizedek Priesthood. And he had been viewed as a medicine man of special abilities and talents.
As mentioned previously, Tod Schulthess served a mission among the Navajo people in the later 1970s. He said one day that he and other missionaries saw their mission president, George P. Lee, come out of his office, looking as white as a ghost. President Lee informed them that he had been visited by Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull and a number of important Native American chiefs, and that he, George Lee, had been given their genealogy. President Lee received permission to leave his mission. He spent three days in the St. George Temple where he worked all day long doing the ordinance work for these Native American leaders. At this point, however, I have not been able to confirm that the temple work was done.
I have not written about George P. Lee, but I have written about one of his missionaries, Ollie Whaley, and Ollie’s wife, Aneta Talker Whaley (Photograph on the right). Both Ollie and Aneta are converts to the Church. Both serve on the committee charged to complete the translation of the Book of Mormon into Navajo. They say it is an interesting challenge to find Navajo sounds that fit spoken English words or vice versa. On April 15, 2018, Ollie Whaley  was sustained and set apart as the new president of the Tuba City Arizona Stake. Theirs is a wonderful romance and they have raised a family of devoted Latter-day Saints. The pathway that brought them together is unique. There is power to be found in not overlooking those who have been overlooked. Remember, do not discredit those of humble beginnings, for the greatest life ever lived in mortality began in a stable in Bethlehem.
I have not confined my effort solely to the Tribes of the West. There are things written about the Native Americans of the eastern United States. The eastern United States is where the first mission to the Lamanites began in response to a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith. That revelation is now known as Section 32 of the Doctrine and Covenants. I have written some things about that mission in a chapter called “Beginnings.” Also written about are the different attitudes toward Native Americans as voiced by George Washington and by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson favored assimilation. Washington did not. I am partly a product of assimilation. I have a 6th great-grandmother who was a member of the Iroquois Confederacy. It is probable she was a Mohawk. In the early 1700s, her tribe lived along the Mohawk River. Her tribal name was Josnorum Scoenonti—her English name, Running Deer. White men came among them. Her husband, Charles Crosby, was one of them. Three centuries later, she has a large Latter-day Saint posterity, some of whom have been General Authorities.
As an aside, I have more proven Native American DNA than one of the announced presidential candidates. This statement should not be taken as a hint of any announcement of candidacy on my part. As they say in New Zealand, I am past the “Use by Date.”
Attitudes toward intermarriage have varied. Native Americans have not only married whites but also black people, slave and free. While serving as president of the Philippines San Fernando Mission, I met Calvin Lee, a retired American serviceman. Brother Lee served as the executive secretary in the Olongapo Philippines District. He said that on his father’s side he descended from a brother of Robert E. Lee. On his mother’s side were Native Americans and African slaves.
Attitudes concerning intermarriage are not static. People are more accepting now. However, there was a period when intermarriage was decidedly frowned upon. For example, in 1860, a California-bound English woman somewhere along the Mormon Trail in the vicinity of present-day Wyoming wrote: “There is a French trader not far from our camp, who has two squaws [Indian women] as wives—the French go for amalgamation.” Part of her disdain may have been a cultural antipathy toward the French, for in another place she had written: “Our encampment was visited yesterday by several Indians who amused themselves by shooting at a mark, and they could hit the target in the center nearly every time. They were Cheyennes & were stalwart looking fellows nearly all of them standing six feet in their stockings or rather moccasins.” Obviously the erudite Englishwoman had been impressed with both their physique and skill as archers. Seemingly, it was the practice of intermarriage that distressed her. In a hope to broaden understanding, such vignettes are mentioned in Joseph’s Remnant.
There is a book chapter entitled, “Northeastern Nations.” It is a historical background regarding things of interest about the earliest English and French encounters with Native Americans. School children have been taught something of the Mayflower and the Pilgrims and the help that Squanto gave them that enabled their survival in what is now Massachusetts. At Thanksgiving-time remembrances, school children have been known to dress in Pilgrim costume and to commemorate the feast. There is much more to the story. Those English colonists had planted peas and wheat, which did not grow under Massachusetts’ conditions. Crops bred for one environment do not necessarily adapt and grow well in a new environment. [For example, I seem to recall that ten different strains of high-yielding wheat varieties that had been developed in Mexico by Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug were taken to and planted in Israel. Four of the ten varieties showed promise of being productive under Israeli conditions.] The English colony may well have perished had it not been for the assistance given by the local people.
Squanto, (His picture on the right) taught the Pilgrims to plant corn, several seeds to a hill, about three feet apart, at the time “when the leaves of the white oak were as large as a mouse’s ear.” The leafing oak was a reliable weather signal that they were beginning the frost-free season. Corn is susceptible to frost damage and is easily destroyed. Herring swarmed up the brooks and were trapped in large numbers. Three fish were then buried at equal distances around each corn hill. The fish heads were pointed toward the planted corn seeds. At first glance, this might be assumed to be a peculiar superstition. In reality, it was sound soil science. The acidic soils of New England require lime or calcium for proper crop growth. The calcium of the fish is largely concentrated in its bony head. As the corn seedling becomes established and begins to grow, it can then effectively use the nitrogen being released by the decomposing protein from the more fleshy parts of the fish’s body. Forty tons of herring were used to fertilize 20 acres of corn that cropping season and the harvest was good.
Other facts of Native American history are part of that chapter. Some of the practices of those people, especially the Iroquois Confederacy, seemed to have influenced America’s Articles of Confederation and the impeachment provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Mentioned also are some of the contributions made to the American colonial cause by other tribes as well as individual Native Americans, a cause that commenced in deadly earnest when “once the embattled farmers stood and fired the shot heard round the world.”
Should you decide to read Joseph’s Remnant, I suggest that you also read the chapter endnotes. In other books I have written, readers have reported they found the endnotes fascinating and helpful. Let me share an example. In footnote xiv of Northeastern Nations is this statement: British officials frequently referred to themselves as “fathers.” However, the Iroquoian peoples addressed the British as brothers meaning equals. The Iroquois addressed weaker men as nephews. The person held in greatest esteem, or the most authoritative in station, was addressed as uncle. Those familiar with the 1800s history of American officialdom’s relationship with Native Americans may recall the general tendency on the part of U.S. treaty makers to refer to the President of the United States as the Native American’s Great White Father in Washington. Diplomatically, from an Iroquoian perspective, such a designation must have been unpalatable.
I turn next to Michalyn Steele (Photograph on the right), who presently serves on the faculty of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at Brigham Young University. Her professional and Church accomplishments are impressive and the experiences and history of her ancestral family are fascinating. Her mother, Carolyn Seneca Steele is also an attorney. As her mother’s name indicates, she is a Seneca, one of the tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. Her father, Lynn Hoagland Steele is of early-day LDS pioneer stock. His ancestor, Abraham Hoagland, had come to Nauvoo and had farmed land purchased from the Prophet Joseph Smith. Abraham married Agnes Taylor in the Nauvoo Temple. Agnes’ brother was John Taylor, who became the third president of the Church. Two of Abraham’s grandsons, Abraham Hoagland Cannon and Sylvester Quayle Cannon, became members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Another of her father’s ancestors that I find particularly fascinating is Eli Wiggill, who at one time was a Wesleyan or Methodist minister in South Africa. After preaching for 17 years as a Methodist minister, he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After receiving the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, Eli said that after receiving those ordinances it was as though the Bible had become a new book. The congregants was so taken with Eli’s new messages that they concluded he had received the spirit of John Wesley. Eli and Susannah Bentley Wiggill and their six children sailed from Port Elizabeth, South Africa on February 20, 1861. They also brought with them an orphaned African boy called Gobo. They hid the little fellow under Susannah’s skirts when they passed through customs at Boston, where they docked April 19, 1861. Stealth had been required to get Gobo through immigration, for war had broken out beginning with the rebellion of South Carolina. Susannah had also used her dresses in another way. She had sown diamonds in the hem of her skirts. It was the safest way to protect valuables.
In the late 1940s, Latter-day Saint missionaries came again to the woodlands of western New York. Among those they found and taught were Michalyn’s great grandmothers. These women and their families lived on the Cattaraugus Reservation some 35 miles or so south of Buffalo. It is about 100 miles northeast to the sacred grove at Palmyra. Sound familiar? Of course in does, for it was in 1830 that the missionaries had first come to the Seneca at Cattaraugus, New York. Joseph’s Remnant tells the fascinating story of Michalyn’s Seneca family as well as her own unique journey.
One fascinating friend that I have made along the way in this effort is Franklin Keel (Photograph below), a Choctaw-Chickasaw. Of his beginning years, Franklin has said, ‘Once upon a time, I was a skinny little Indian kid with no future, but many dreams. Perhaps your book can touch some boy or girl like that and give them hope for a brighter future, both spiritually and temporally.” It seems that all of us ought to be involved in encouraging and helping make possible the development of many little kids. The dividends for society will be great.
Franklin has not only shared his personal story, he has also enlarged my understanding and increased my sensitivity to Native Americans and especially the depth of their spiritual nature. Franklin has said to me that he has never met a Native American who does not believe in God and essentially all of their meetings begin with prayer.
His ancestors include two prominent Choctaw-Chickasaw chiefs, Edmund Pickens and Cyrus Harris. As an aside, after the Civil War, Edmunds Pickens was one of eight Chickasaw delegates who rode horseback to Washington, D. C. to sign the treaties that readmitted the Chickasaw back into the Union. Pickens County, Indian Territory was named for this legendary leader.
His father was Guy Keel, a Senator in the Chickasaw Legislature in Indian Territory before statehood. His mother was Christine Keel. Her parents were Rosa Lee Jefferson a full-blood Choctaw from a family of medicine women and Sweeny Jefferson, a full-blood Choctaw-Chickasaw, who spoke no English and was a devout Christian. Franklin’s mother, Christine, spent her early years in Oklahoma. During those years her father would walk seven miles to church each Sunday to make certain the fire was started in the wood-burning stove, and the small Indian Baptist church was clean and ready for services. Before Sweeny Jefferson began his 7-mile walk to church, he would hook up the team of mules to the wagon so that his wife and children could ride to church. Franklin has written: “That it still amazes me that my grandmother, who was a traditional Indian, part of a long line of Indian medicine women, married a man who was a devout Christian.” Sometimes the cultural gaps to be bridged may seem more like chasms.
Franklin said: “My mother told me a few of the stories about some things my grandmother used to do. My Choctaw grandmother died when I was very young, but I still remember how wonderful it felt when she held me in her arms.” He has further said “that a knowledge of those healing arts are closely held.” His statement seems to have relevance to a passage from Alma 46:40 which reads: And there were some who died with fevers, which at some seasons of the year were very frequent in the land—but not so much with fevers, because of the excellent qualities of the many plants and roots which God had prepared to remove the cause of diseases, to which men were subject by nature of the climate—
Various scientists are looking for the next generation of medicines in the rain forests. In the history of my own family, my maternal grandfather, George A. Allen, was the beneficiary of the fact that Ute Indians had some of their own cures. For five years he worked for a Nephi, Utah cattle company, Schofield, Reid and McCune. Once, he had accidently cut his toe with an axe. He was unable to get his toe to heal. A Ute woman saw him hobbling about and asked the nature of his difficulty. She had him removed his boot. She rubbed the cut toe with a preparation she had made and bound up his toe. In a few days, his toe was completely healed. Clearly she understood the nature of George’s problem and she successfully treated it with local medicinal materials. Her name was Mountains.
The story of Franklin’s search for religious truth is as inspirational as has been his remarkably successful professional career. He has been a Foreign Service officer, a congressional liaison officer and an executive with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Among little known facts in American history is that during the closing days of World War I, a group of Choctaw U.S. Army soldiers serving in France used their language as the basis for communications among the American Forces. That language was not understood by the German military and it helped the American Expeditionary Forces win several key battles during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign in France. Within 24 hours after the Choctaw language became the basis for secret communications, the tide turned against Germany, and within 72 hours German forces were retreating and the American forces were in full attack.
When Franklin served on the BIA Congressional Staff, a bill was introduced in Congress to recognize the Navajo Code Talkers. Franklin Keel was given the assignment to do the review on the bill and to conduct background research. During the course of that research, he found that in addition to Marine Navajo Code talkers, there were also Choctaw, Chippewa, Creek and Comanche and others who were code talkers as far back as World War I.
While serving with the Benson Institute, I learned there had also been Hopi Code Talkers, the last one of whom had just died. My father said upon occasion, that history is not history until it is written, that far too much is taken to the grave that should have been written. In my exposure to American history at both the secondary and collegiate levels, I did not hear anything about the unique contributions our Native Americans had made to the war effort. Non-Indian America does not really know the contributions of our Native American citizens, who at the highest level of Christian discipleship have prayed and served those who despitefully used and persecuted them.
I leave it to you to read the stirring account of Franklin Keel finding the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Franklin said: “The first time I opened the Book of Mormon and read the first verse from 1 Nephi, I knew the Book was true.”
Time has not permitted that I speak of everyone. For example, Latter-day Saints know of Elder Larry Echo Hawk’s service as a General Authority Seventy. Relatively fewer know salient facts about the pathway that brought him there. His conversion is told along with experiences at BYU, in the US Marine Corps, Attorney General of Idaho, law professor at BYU and his appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Interior. (Elder Echo Hawk and his Great Great Grandfather shown above).
James Cooper of the Eastern Cherokee would not allow me to write about him alone. He required that I tell the experiences of others. I discovered genuine modesty and humility among people that America has long overlooked.
The accounts of two individuals have been written by themselves, Betty “Red Ant” La Fontaine (Picture to the right), and Delores Kahkonen. Their experiences are unique. There are others who have compelling stories. Time restraints have permitted only glimpses of those who have been spoken about during this presentation.
Perhaps it would be appropriate to conclude with a statement made by President Russell M. Nelson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, on June 23, 2016 to the New Mission Presidents’ Seminar.
The Book of Mormon reveals that Joseph, the son of Jacob who was once sold into Egypt, foresaw the Prophet Joseph Smith and his day and noted there would be many similarities in their lives. Centuries later, the Prophet Joseph stated, “I feel like Joseph in Egypt.” The Book of Mormon reveals that the inheritance of Joseph, son of Israel, was not forgotten when land was distributed to the tribes of Israel, as promised in the Abrahamic covenant. Joseph’s inheritance was to be a land choice above all others. It was choice not because of beauty or wealth of natural resources, but choice because it was chosen to be the repository of sacred writings on golden plates from which the Book of Mormon would one day come. It was choice because it would eventually host the world headquarters of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in the latter days. And it was choice because it is a land of liberty for those who worship the Lord and keep His commandments.
As an agricultural scientist, I have found an additional element that, for me, also makes America precious. While in Zambia in 2012, I observed the corn or maize harvest. They were cutting the corn stalks with the ears attached and placing them in shocks that looked like small Indian wickiups. I asked, “Why not just leave the ears on the stock and then harvest the corn when it is fully mature?” They replied they could not do it that way, because they had termites in their soil that destroyed the roots of the corn plant, which then fell into the soil. The soil was contaminated with Aflatoxins, which are serious molds that render the corn unfit for human consumption and problematic for simple-stomach food animals. That is especially so where the human body has been weakened or sickened with HIV/AIDS. Then I thought of Moses’ declaration regarding the land of Joseph found Deuteronomy 33: 13-17. I quote only fragments: Of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven [that seemingly fits President Nelson’s statement precisely] for the dew [a wonderfully refreshing difference from the 40 years of wandering in the desert]. . . . And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun . . . And for the precious things of the earth and the fullness thereof, and for the good will of him who dwelt in the bush, let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph. . . .The written record never forgets. In a small way, Joseph’s Remnant is a personal attempt at helping correct that oversight. There are marvelous people, wonderful heroes among the great-grandchildren of Father Lehi. They are those who have been asked to forgive and pray for those who have despitefully used and persecuted them. Such a requirement is one of the most rigorous demands of Christian discipleship, and wittingly or unwittingly, that has been a rigorous requirement that has been imposed upon them. May we, who are citizens of the land of promise, never forget that others have paved the way for us, and that among those pathfinders and their descendants are many remarkable people who long have been overlooked. And that oversight has lessened the richness of our own mortal journey.” Joseph’s Remnant: An Introduction by Allen C. Christensen

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