“Who Do You Think You Are?”

Sharing Family Stories

The television show, “Who Do You Think You Are?” (sponsored by Ancestry.com), is currently airing Friday nights (8:00 Eastern & Pacific; 7:00 Mountain & Central) on NBC. Although a show by the same name has been enormously popular on BBC for a number of years, this is the first season for the American version. I recommend it highly to anyone who enjoys learning about history with a personal touch.

“Who Do You Think You Are” falls into the “reality show” genre. Each week it features an American celebrity who wants to know more about his or her ancestors. Ordinarily the show looks at just one ancestral line and focuses one or two individuals from that line. This is understandable—the producers have only 45 minutes or so (after commercials) to tell each story and they want to be sure to select an ancestor whose story will create drama. Continue reading

A Trip to the Anza Borrego Desert

Yesterday Dawn and I drove to Anza Borrego Desert State Park on the way to spend several days at the Lawrence Welk Resort in Escondito. We traded a Marriott week for this one because it was reasonably close and we’d never stayed there before. As often happens, we missed out on the first few days because we both had obligations that conflicted.

Dawn at Anza Borrego

Back to the desert. We’d never been to Anza Borrego and had heard that the wildflowers were beautiful this time of year. I learned, to my surprise, that this is the largest state park in California, stretching across a broad swath of Southern California between Palm Springs and the Mexican border. Continue reading

Reviewing an Icon

I’ve been asked to review a book for the Journal of Mormon History—and it’s not just some yawn-inducing tome exploring another arcane cranny of the Mormon past.

No siree.

I’m to review the eagerly-awaited latest novel by perhaps the most beloved of all Mormon novelists, Gerald N. Lund. As you may know, Lund is the author of seventeen books that have sold nearly three million copies! His output includes the nine-volume Work and the Glory series that traces the fictional Steed family through the various phases of early Mormon history, and The Fire and the Covenant, a fictional account of the Willie and Martin handcart company tragedy of 1856.

It has been said that most Mormons have learned more of their Church history from Lund’s novels than any other source—and I have no reason to doubt it. Lund’s special gift is being able to turn history into a page-turner. He even includes footnotes—not enough to scare anyone away—but just enough to let you know when he’s not just making something up.

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Saturday at the Little League Ballpark

Noah Thurston backThis morning Dawn and I went to a Corona community park to watch our grandsons, Quade and Noah, play Little League baseball. It brought to mind the hours and days we spent watching our own sons, Matt, David and Tyson, play a couple of decades ago.

It was usually great fun, though sometimes it could get long. When your kid is the pitcher you have no problem paying attention, but when he plays one of the other positions (especially right field), you seldom see much action. You just wait patiently until he gets his chance to bat. That happens three or four times a game, if you’re lucky. Whether he actually hits the ball is another matter. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be the father of one of the kids who could crush the ball to deep centerfield, but I never found out.

My oldest son, Matt, was a nifty fielder. He could scoop up ground balls like a vacuum cleaner. I always admired this because I was an awful ground ball fielder. I loved playing the outfield and running down fly balls. There was something about the geometry of the ball, the arc and my running path that intrigued me. I could usually manage to arrive at the proper place when the ball came down and snag it. Ground balls, however, were my bugaboo. You could never be sure what angle the ball would take—there was always the possibility (and on some fields, the likelihood) that the ball would hit a rock on the last bounce and go through your legs or, worse, smack you in the face. I stuck to fly balls whenever possible—there were no rocks in the air. Continue reading

Uncle Bruce Thurston’s World War II

In an earlier blog entry I told of my father’s experience during World War II. In all, seven of the ten sons of Elroy and Martina Thurston served in the Great War; no family in Utah surpassed them. My Uncle Bruce was the ninth of the ten in birth order and the last to enlist—which he did the day before he turned eighteen. (The youngest Thurston boy, Robert, served later in Korea.)

Bruce Thurston I asked Bruce to write about his experience and he complied. I have edited his story, shortened it a bit, corrected some punctuation, revised some of the sentences—things an editor does—but the story is Bruce’s.

I thankful that Bruce took the time to do this. Not only will it add to the great body of stories about the war that are preserved in written form, but it will serve as a lasting source for his many descendants.

There are several things I especially like about Bruce’s story. I like that he is honest enough to mention some of his failings. This can be difficult for many of us. We want to be remembered as paragons of correctness, but to err is human. Bruce tells us of getting fired from his first job because he was caught sleeping and later of being fearful of his ship leaving port while he was visiting overnight with a friend on another ship—without authorization. Still later he was reported AWOL when he failed to call in and check after receiving an empty envelope that should have contained his orders to report. After telling of each of these instances Bruce reports, “This experience taught me a lesson.”

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