A road not taken

A road not taken October 30, 2023


St. Paul's, London
Aerial view of St. Paul’s Cathedral, in London, by Mark Frosh
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Just back in from a leisurely stroll with my wife along the south bank of the River Thames near Blackfriars Bridge and the Tate Modern.  As the evening came in and the lights went on, the view across to St. Paul’s Cathedral and to the new skyscrapers to its east was absolutely gorgeous.  I love this city.  Even more than I don’t love New York.


Baron Olivier
Curiously, I never actually met Lord Laurence Olivier, aka the Right Honourable Baron Olivier (1907-1989)  [Wikimedia Commons public domain image]

It was just a few minutes’ walk from where we’re currently staying that I had my debut in a London stage production.  It occurred many years ago in the Old Vic Theatre, during a performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by the Royal Shakespeare Company,

My still fairly new wife and I had managed at the very last minute to secure two tickets to the performance, on the very front row at dead center.  During one of the scene changes, the play’s fool came out onto the stage and sat down right in front of us.  Looking at me, he said, “Knock knock!”  I didn’t answer.  He moved closer.   His look bored right into me.  “I said ‘Knock knock!”  I responded, hesitantly, “Who’s there?”  “It’s a Yank!” he said, dancing around the stage.  “It’s a Yank!”

Out of modesty, I’ve never included on my resumé the fact that I had a speaking role in Macbeth with the Royal Shakespeare Company in London.  Self-aggrandizement isn’t really my style.  But I have to tell the truth.  I believe that history should be accurate.

Like me — although I had had some very limited theatrical experience in high school (to wit, as a muscle-flexing strongman in the play Li’l Abner) and as a mustache-twirling, baby-kidnapping, maiden-tied-to-the-railroad-tracks villain at a Thanksgiving event at the Embassy of the United States in Cairo — Dame Judi Dench, Sir Michael Gambon, and Dame Maggie Smith also began their theatrical careers at the Old Vic.  And Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Sybil Thorndike, Sir John Gielgud, and Sir Ralph Richardson did some of their best work on the Old Vic’s stage, with Olivier actually being the theater’s leader for a number of years.  Sometimes I wonder what might have been.  But I’ve never really regretted turning my back on the stage.  And, moreover, my stint as the Snidely Whiplash character in that embassy melodrama — afterwards, Warren Christopher, who was then serving as the Department of State’s chief negotiator during the Iran hostage crisis but whom President Bill Clinton would later appoint as Secretary of State, praised me as “an excellent villain” — prepared me better than anything else possibly could have for the role that some of my critics claim to see me playing as an apologist for the Restoration.


Parliament, Thames, and Bridge
A view across the River Thames to Westminster Bridge and, behind it, the Houses of Parliament
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


By sheer chance, I ran across a name today that I had not thought about for quite a while — that of the late Wayne L. Cowdrey.  He was an advocate of the notion that Sidney Rigdon was the real author of the Book of Mormon, and the person mentioning him said that his views carried particular weight because he was a descendant of Oliver Cowdery, the principal scribe for the dictation of the Book of Mormon and one of its official Three Witnesses.

Now, why merely being a descendant of a particular historical figure should be thought to carry special authority or to confer special knowledge or insight is, I confess, more than a little obscure to me.  But was he a descendant of the former Second Elder?  Even cursory thinking about the matter suggests that he almost certainly was not.

Oliver Cowdery and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Whitmer, had six children, of whom only one — a daughter — survived to maturity.  It seems unlikely that any of the five children who died in childhood had any children of their own.  And, as I recall, the one surviving daughter died childless herself.  In any event, had she married her name would no longer have been Cowdery, so any child of hers would not have had Cowdery as a surname.  Moreover, please note the spelling of Wayne L. Cowdrey’s last name, and compare it to the last name of Olver Cowdery.  When challenged on his genealogical claim, Wayne Cowdrey explained that his own last name represented a mere spelling variant within the family.  But it should be obvious that the spelling of his last name was the least of his worries, as far as the credibility of the genealogical claim goes.


Big Ben, with Westminster Bridge in the foreground
Westminster Bridge and Big Ben, in London.  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


I’ve been remiss in sharing items with you from the inexhaustible Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File™.  Here, though, I make an attempt to catch up.  Please don’t read more than two of these at one sitting; medical research has demonstrated that, for some individuals, the resulting outrage and indignation can be unsustainable.  And, of course, it is always prudent to have a cardiologist and a licensed professional counselor in attendance whenever items from the Hitchens File are read:

“The World Food Programme and the Church of Jesus Christ Are Blessing Lives”

“The Church of Jesus Christ Helps Restore African American Schoolhouse in Louisiana”

“The Church of Jesus Christ Gives Nearly US$1 Million to Florida Food Bank”

“The Church of Jesus Christ Expresses Support for Those Affected in Mexico by Hurricane Otis”

“Church Donates 33,000 pounds of Food to 20 Kentucky Organizations: The donations ‘are bringing the name of the Church … out of obscurity here in eastern Kentucky’”

“Nigerian Stake President Named Eminent Ambassador of Peace by United Nations Organization: President Jonah Akekere Lauded for Peace Building Efforts in Nigeria”

“Oklahoma Latter-day Saints Strengthen Community Relationships Through Service: JustServe volunteers and members of the Church take part in several service projects to help those in need”

“Three Choirs Come Together for Special “Music and the Spoken Word” Broadcast: Glee clubs from Morehouse College and Spelman College from Atlanta, Georgia, join the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square”


Posted from Bankside, London, England



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