Saturday’s agenda continues with a cornucopia of presentations.

Session 301 (8:00 a.m., Saturday, September 22)

Title:William Bickerton Forgotten Latter Day Saint Prophet by Daniel P. Stone

Abstract: Scholars Jill Brim, Steven Shields, and Vickie Cleverley Speek form a roundtable to critically examine Daniel Stone’s new biography, William Bickerton: Forgotten Latter Day Prophet. William Bickerton is the founding prophet of the third-largest Latter Day Saint denomination, known as the Church of Jesus Christ. A follower of Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young before establishing his own church, Bickerton’s life mirrors America’s broader religious history, with an emphasis on free-will, individualism, and determination to know God on a personal level.

Biographical Sketch: Daniel P. Stone is the author of William Bickerton: Forgotten Latter Day Prophet. He is a PhD candidate studying American religious history at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. He has BA and MA degrees from the University of Florida and Florida Atlantic University, has worked as an archivist in Detroit, and has taught history at the University of Detroit Mercy. He has published in the Journal of the American Revolution and Journal of Mormon History. He is a deacon in the Church of Jesus Christ that William Bickerton established.

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Session 311 (9:30 a.m., Saturday, September 22)

Title: A Chaotic Collection of Claims Regarding a Curious Instrument: Interpreters, Urim & Thummim, and Seer Stones by Craig Ostler

Abstract: So much has already been written regarding the instruments claimed to have been used in translating the Book of Mormon that scholars might mistakenly believe that the story has been told. However, a closer and broader examination of the various historical accounts reveals that 70 or more individuals claimed to know how the Book of Mormon was translated, as well as more than a dozen religious and secular journals, newspapers, and scriptural texts. It should not be surprising that the assertions form a chaotic collection of claims that range from “cider, molasses, and water” to “the gift and power of God.” Building upon past research, this paper examines those claims as published according to those that were living at the time of translation and asserted that they had intimate knowledge of that translation. There are more than 30 separate descriptions or names given to the translation instruments and processes. The earliest from Lucy Mack Smith that declared Joseph referred to the instruments as a “key,” when Joseph allowed her to handle them in 1827. Somewhat surprising, the first account of the instruments being termed “seer stones” was from David Whitmer much later in 1879. The more than fifty year story of the chaotic claims between those two declarations reveals that we still have much to learn regarding the Book of Mormon translation instruments and processes in order to come to a unity in better understanding our story.

Biographical Sketch: Dr. Craig James Ostler is a professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, where he has taught for more than 25 years. As a young man he served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the Colombia and later received a degree in Spanish teaching at BYU. He received a MA in Educational Administration and his Ph.D. in Family Studies. He has published extensively on latter-day revelation and history including the 1200-page volume, Revelations of the Restoration: A Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants and Other Latter-day Revelations, which he co-authored with Joseph Fielding McConkie. He has presented at past JWHA conferences and his article, “Missing Competitor: The Influence of the Demise of Nauvoo’s Mormon Community on Warsaw, Illinois,” has been accepted for publication in the forthcoming John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. In addition to teaching and writing, he also produces documentary videos on Church history sites and events, which are available for viewing at

Title: Critical Thinkers, Faithful Disciples: Roy A Cheville and Sidney B. Sperry by Casey Griffiths

Abstract: The lives of Sidney B. Sperry and Roy A. Cheville offer and interesting microcosm of the experiences of intellectuals in the LDS Church and Community of Christ in the 20th Century. In many ways their lives were parallel. Both began as simple country teachers in small communities. Both attended college and became interested in the study of religion. Both attended the Divinity School at the University of Chicago around the same time, and even briefly overlapping with each other. Both became respected scholars and leaders at the leading university of their respective movements, mentoring a number of important intellectuals within their faith traditions. Both ended their service as Patriarchs in their Church, with a legacy of learning and faith.

This paper will explore the shared training and experience of both of these scholars, and the impact their careers had on their respective movements. Cheville and Sperry became institutions of themselves at Graceland College and Brigham Young University. Through their writing, their teaching, and their mentorship Cheville and Sperry dramatically changed the approach of scholarship in their religions, and the role it could play in strengthening faith. Both ended their scholastic careers in controversy. Cheville became Church patriarch in 1958 under controversial circumstances, and Sperry introduced modern biblical scholarship into LDS studies. Near the end of their lives both served as conservative voices as their Churches began to make adjustments to their teachings. Sperry engaged in heated debates with colleagues who advocated a modernist approach to the Latter-day Saint canon. Cheville spoke out again the Position Papers, moving his Church toward a more modernist approach to doctrine and practice. Today both are honored as pioneering scholars who helped move their faiths into the 20th century, and then served as warning voices towards moving too far away from the historic roots of the Restoration.

Drawn directly from the papers of both Cheville and Sperry at Graceland University and Brigham Young University, this paper will capture the changes in 20th century Mormonism and Community of Christ through the lens of these two remarkable scholars. Both men are ideal models for religious educators in both faiths.

Biographical Sketch: Casey Paul Griffiths is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. He is the author of numerous articles on Mormon History, and the author of several books including By Study and Also By Faith: One Hundred Years of Seminaries and Institutes, and What You Don’t Know About the 100 Most Important Events in Church History.

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Session 312 (9:30 a.m., Saturday, September 22)

Title: Minor Deming’s Experience in the Hancock County Militia, 1840-1844 by Bryon Andreasen

Abstract: On arriving in Hancock County in 1838, Minor Deming found Illinois’ militia system in disrepair. Applying lessons he learned as a youth at one of America’s premier private military academies, Deming attempted to fashion order out chaos as Colonel of the 83rd Regiment (eastern Hancock County), then as Brigadier General over regiments from Hancock and surrounding counties. His experience sheds light on aspects of Illinois military history, particularly on the special challenges presented with the interjection of the Mormons into the story beginning in 1840.

Biographical Sketch: Bryon Andreasen is a historian at the LDS Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was formerly research historian at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois. He is working on a biography of Minor Deming.

Title: Brigham Young’s Response to the Burning of the Morley Settlement, 1845-1846 by Bill Shepard

Abstract: On September 10, 1845 anti-Mormons, under the leadership of Levi Williams, began burning Mormon houses, outbuildings and harvested crops in southwest Hancock County and northwest Adams County where some 500 Mormons were clustered. Escalating violence resulted in the Morley Settlement being burnt, the Mormons exiled to Nauvoo, and their property plundered. Brigham Young had to respond to the violence in a manner which allowed the Mormons to continue preparations for the sacred endowments and yet preserve the integrity of the Saints.

Biographical Sketch: Bill Shepard is a long-time member of the John Whitmer Historical Association and is past president for 2008-2009. With H. Michael Marquardt, he has written Lost Apostles: Forgotten Members of Mormonism’s Original Quorum of Twelve which was published by Signature Books in 2014.

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Session 313 (8:00 a.m., Saturday, September 23)

Title: A Longitudinal Study of Explanations of the Origin of the Book of Mormon, 1829 to 2018 by Brian Hales
Abstract:In 1929 Joseph Smith dictated the Book of Mormon, a 269,938-word volume that describes religious themes intermingled with history of ancient American peoples. Even before it was published, alternate stories were issued to compete with Joseph Smith’s explanation of the book’s origin. Five will be examined and tracked chronologically:

  • The original manuscript of the Book of Mormon was written by Solomon Spalding.
  • Collaborators helped Joseph Smith create the text.
  • Joseph Smith’s mental illness enhanced his writing ability.
  • Automatic writing—Joseph function as a spirit-medium while dictating the Book of Mormon.
  • Joseph Smith, perhaps with help from his environment, the Bible, and other books, was capable of producing the Book of Mormon.

Biographical Sketch: Brian C. Hales is the author of the three-volume Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: History and Theology (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2013). His Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations after the Manifesto (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007) received the “Best Book of 2007 Award” from the John Whitmer Historical Association. He and his wife, Laura Harris Hales, are the webmasters of and co-authored Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Toward a Better Understanding (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2015). Hales’s complete polygamy database can be downloaded free of charge at He works as an anesthesiologist and has served as president of both the Davis Hospital medical staff and the Utah Medical Association. He also served as president of the John Whitmer Historical Association in 2015-2016.

Title: The Widow’s House: Confessions of May 1842 by Meg Stout

Abstract: In May 1842 Emma Smith told the women of Relief Society “it is necessary that sin should be expos’d— that heinous sins were among us….” Within days the High Council heard testimony from numerous women describing how they’d been coerced to participate in sexual activity. But when a partial excerpt of these testimonies were published in 1844, Joseph Smith redacted information not related to Chauncy Higbee and Dr. John Bennett. Therefore information that would have exonerated Joseph Smith was also redacted. Though a few researchers have documented awareness of the confessions, the confessions and statements have never previously been discussed in their entirety, much less presented with crucial context.

Biographical Sketch: Meg Stout is the author of Reluctant Polygamist: Joseph Smith Jr. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation.

Meg Stout has a B.S. in Physics from George Mason University. She was the first civilian woman admitted to the Naval Postgraduate School, earning a M.S. in Product Development within the Systems Engineering and Management Master’s Degree Program. She is Level III certified in both Systems Planning, Research, Development and Engineering (SPRDE) and Program Management (PM).

Meg has been blogging at the Mormon-themed website Millennial Star ( since December 2013. Meg currently lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters.

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Session 314 (9:30 a.m., Saturday, September 23)

Title: The Community of Christ and the Decline of American Religion: A Case Study of the Secularizing Consequences of Modernity (RS) by Danny Jorgensen

Abstract: Religious belief and participation in the United States are on the decline. Before the end of the last century approximately 90 percent or more of the American population claimed to be religious in some sense, and about 40 percent more or less regularly participated in organized religious activities. Nothing suggests any recent increase in American religion, and there now are indications that almost a quarter of the population is religiously unaffiliated (“atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular”). This decline in religion, moreover, is most apparent among younger Americans, strongly suggesting that these trends are likely to continue, probably even at a faster pace.

This paper explores the decline in American religion, focusing specifically on the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS)/Community of Christ (CofC). It presents data from a case study of two RLDS/CofC families over four generations. Those data reveal a generation by generation decrease in belief and participation. These findings are interpreted from the standpoint of sociological thinking about the secularizing consequences of modernity for religion in the United States and the Western world generally.

Biographical Sketch:(B.S. Northern Arizona University, 1971; M.A. Western Kentucky University, 1974; Ph.D. The Ohio State University, 1979) is a sociologist. He has held an appointment at the University of South Florida (St. Petersburg and Tampa) since 1978, where he currently is Professor of Religious Studies. He regularly offers undergraduate and graduate courses in American religion and “new” religions in America—including specific new religions, and periodically courses in qualitative research methods, including ethnography and participate observation. A course on the Latter Day Saints and another on American Neopaganism, have been offered since the 1980s, making them some of the first courses exclusive devoted to these religions to be offered at a public university in the United States. He has published extensively on qualitative research methods, new American religions, and the Latter Day Saints, especially the Cutlerites, including regular essays in the John Whitmer Historical Association Journal. Dr. Jorgensen currently is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Mormon History, and he is a past-president of the John Whitmer Historical Association. He presently resides with his delightful spouse, June, on a farm near Lebanon in southern Missouri.

Title: The RLDS Identity Shift: Role of the 1960s Basic Beliefs Committee (RS) by Peter Judd

Abstract: The work of the Basic Beliefs Committee made a significant contribution to the changing identity of the RLDS Church in the 1960s. This paper will explore the committee’s task and makeup (membership), the work of the committee, the results of its work as published in the Saint’s Herald and in the book titled Exploring the Faith, which included the first completely new statement of church beliefs since Joseph Smith Jr.’s “Epitome of Faith” from the 1840s. The paper will also consider available reaction and response to the committee’s work: how it was received by church members and leaders.

Biographical Sketch: Peter A. Judd. JWHA president (2016-2017) and JWHA Journal editor (1986 and 1987). Retired from employment with RLDS Church/Community of Christ, including serving as apostle, member of the First Presidency, and 24 years in various capacities on the church’s international headquarters staff.

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Session 321 (11:15 a.m., Saturday, September 22)

Title: The Independence Missouri Merchants Versus the Saints of the New Jerusalem by Mark Goodmansen

Abstract: In the book, “Merchants of Independence”, the author claimed that “Independence’s Mexican trade merchants led the persecutors of the Mormons,…to ultimately drive the church members from the region.” My own research documents and expounds on that claim. After arriving in Jackson County the saints sought to build their New Jerusalem. As the Church grew very rapidly and began competing with their local Non Mormon merchant competitors in the Santa Fe and Indian trade and with local farmers the Gentile merchants, allied with Lilburn Boggs and other government leaders, sought to force the Mormons from the region to protect their monopoly.

Biographical Sketch: Mark Goodmansen resides in South Jordan, Utah. He graduated cum laude at the University of Utah in accounting, became a certified public accountant, and served as a business and marketing executive for various companies until recently retiring. Author of: Conspiracy at Carthage- The Plot to Murder Joseph Smith published by Cedar Fort Publishing in 2016; Self published a few other family history books; Previously Presented “Francis Scott Key’s Visit to Nauvoo in 1841 and Its Impact On the Saints in the Region” at the 2017 JWHA Annual Convention 2017.

Title: Reflections on a Quarter Century of Evolution of the Community of Christ (RS) by Pat Spillman

Abstract: In the past generation the Community has gone through a radical evolution in its theology and practice. I worked at church headquarters for 25 years during much of this dizzying change. Among other assignments I served as supervisor of training of new full-time ministers, director of adult education for the church, and director of Real Estate Services. I plan to discuss some of the events influencing the church’s shift from a conservative sect of limited influence to a liberal denomination having a world-wide presence and involvement in ecumenical organizations. Another issue having a direct influence on this change is the role of higher education in the church, including the creation of the first graduate masters degree program with Park University, and its evolution into a seminary and “school” of Graceland University. I will try to share some of the humorous and interesting situations and people I have encountered along the way.

Biographical Sketch: Pat was a charter member of JWHA, a member of Richard Howard’s first History Commission, member and officer on the Board of the Community of Christ Historic Sites Foundation for 22 years and was part of the church management team for the sites along with Mark Scherer and Susan Naylor in the 1990s. I serve as a bishop in the church, and was editor of the JWHA Journal for a number of years on two different occasions. I have an MA in history and a PhD in adult curriculum and instruction (concentration in testing and evaluation).

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Session 322 (11:15 a.m., Saturday, September 22)

Title: A Mountain Mormon Becomes Acquainted with Joseph III by Rich Moore

Abstract: Raised in the LDS Church, the only thing I knew about Joseph Smith III was that he was the son of Joseph Smith, Jr., and was the first prophet/president of the RLDS Church. As part of my research in preparation to write a book comparing the LDS Church and Community of Christ, I read a number of books about Joseph III. Although they were helpful for me to gain some understanding of Joseph III, it was when I was scanning documents in the Community of Christ archives that a clearer picture of Joseph III came into focus. His letters to family, church leaders and members, and those outside of the RLDS Church, provided a different view of the man as a Church leader, husband, father, sibling, and grandfather. This presentation will share some insights I gained concerning Joseph III and as an LDS Church member becoming better acquainted with the man who led his church for over half a century.

I believe that my presentation fits into the theme “Our Stories Fashion Order out of Chaos.” This is essentially “my story” of becoming more familiar with the man who led a different church than the one to which I belong, and how it changed my view of the two churches that have often been in an adversarial relationship.

Biographical Sketch: Rich Moore Retired after 38 years teaching for the LDS Church Educational System. He is the author of A Comparative Look at Mormonism and the Community of Christ former JWHA board member.

Title: Moses Chase, Strangite Visionary, and the Civil War Prophecy by Christopher Blythe

Abstract: In 1847, James Strang selected Moses Chase to serve as Patriarch of the Church after the excommunication of William Smith. Chase was an inventor, who had designed medical equipment in Baltimore and had previously served in the Church in the office of teacher. We know very little about Chase except that he published a short pamphlet of ten visions and revelations – the first received in 1849 and the last in February 1861. His pamphlet, which he distributed throughout Baltimore, included no signs that Chase was a Mormon. He identified himself as Patriarch Moses Chase but did not explain how he obtained the title from James Strang, who had been dead 4 years before he published the first edition of his pamphlet. Instead, his writings and visions confirmed and quoted from Joseph Smith’s civil war prophecy (Smith is also not mentioned by name). Chase warned the United States about their forthcoming judgment. This story presents an interesting moment in the history of Strangite Latter Day Saints that has escaped scholarly attention. It also illustrates the extensive influence Smith’s 1832 prophecy had for his theological heirs in making sense of the world in the months and years before the Civil War.

Biographical Sketch: Christopher James Blythe is a Research Associate at the Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship at Brigham Young University. He was a documentary editor for the Joseph Smith Papers between 2015 and 2018.

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Session 323 (11:15 a.m., Saturday, September 22)

Title: Stories of Violence and Peacemaking in the Latter Day Saints Movement by Matthew Frizzell, David Pulsipher, Bryce Taylor, and Katherine Hill

Abstract: This is a panel discussion between four scholars of the Latter Day Saint tradition on violence in the different factions. What are the obstacles in our historical stories that prevent us from following the non-violent Jesus like Anabaptists and Quakers? How does the movement’s birth, early years, and continuing presence in USA culture cause problems for a possible peace tradition? Are there stories of peacemaking, a longing for peace, or mission for peace to recover within the story of the Restoration? What are stories and teachings that could facilitate an emerging peace tradition in the LDS and Community of Christ churches?

Biographical Sketch: Matthew J Frizzell, PhD, is Dean of the Community of Christ Seminary. He is married to Margo E Frizzell (Flowers), and is father of three girls, Katy, Kenzlee, and Kyla. He drives an old Volvo, vacuums with a Kirby, likes tacos, to ride motorcycles and go camping in the woods. Interested in understanding and pursing God’s intention for creation, his favorite color is midnight blue.

Biographical Sketch: David Pulsipher, PhD is a professor of history at Brigham Young University–Idaho. In 2007-08 he was a visiting professor and Fulbright scholar at Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi, India. In addition to authoring articles on the Latter-day Saint experience with nonviolence, war, and nationalism, he also co-edited, with Patrick Q. Mason and Richard L. Bushman, War and Peace in Our Time: Mormon Perspectives. He is currently working with Patrick Mason on a book entitled Weapons of Peace: A Mormon Theology of Nonviolence.

Biographical Sketch: Bryce Taylor, PhD, is Adjunct Professor of Church History & Doctrine and US History at Brigham Young University, and Head Instructor for Immersive Education based in Hong Kong. He is married to Elizabeth Taylor (not the Elizabeth Taylor with purple eyes) and has three boys. He received his PhD in History from Heidelberg University in Germany and previously taught American Religious History at Heidelberg’s Jonathan Edwards Center and at Heidelberg University. His research interests include nineteenth-century interpretations of religious authority, New England non-violence, and all things American Christianity. When Bryce isn’t researching, teaching, and writing, he performs and writes indie rock music for Elaine Bradley (Neon Trees), and tries to travel and fly fish with his sons and wife whenever time permits.

Katherine Hill BA is a 2017 graduate of Graceland University, currently pursuing her Masters in Public History from Georgia Southern University. She has presented papers previously at JWHA on Ed Guy and on Joseph Smith III. Katherine completed historic internships at both Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo, IL and the Kirtland Temple in Kirtland, OH.

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Session 324 (11:15 a.m., Saturday, September 22) 11:15

Title: “Order out of Chaos,” or Chaos out of Order,” a Polynesian Lesson by Paul DeBarthe and Rina DeBarthe

Abstract: Ancient Polynesians represent contrasting ways of life. The heroic discoverers of new lands for growing populations sought fish and coconuts and spread language groups to isolated atolls where people lived amicably. Stratified societies developed and proceeded to build empires, primarily on large mountainous islands like Hawaii and New Zealand. British, American and French incursions into Polynesia introduced Protestantism, Mormonism and Catholicism along with “civilizing” efforts. By comparing native strategies with civilized strategies to provide order we gain an instructive look at our history.

Biographical Sketch:Paul and Rina Fauura DeBarthe are better known for archaeology at the Joseph Smith Historic Site, Nauvoo, Illinois where they have investigated since 1971. represents some of the interesting discoveries of recent years. Rina’s Polynesian background becomes the scene of their current investigation challenging “Order from Chaos!” Her preliterate ancestors recorded 30 generations of kinship. The “civilized” peoples who dominate her land rarely can trace ten generations. Benjamin Gourard baptized John Hawkins who appointed Moe Fauura in charge of the church in Tahiti when the American missionaries were sent home. The Fauura family plays a significant role in church history since 1844.

Title: Weaving Order out of Chaos: One Thread at a Time by Russell Osmond

Abstract:Yes, ALL the “threads” of “How We As Individuals Actually “Mormon”” are now laid bare to any one of us that chooses to explore, discover, jump into a faith journey, or jump off an “obedience” train! Such FREEDOM is Intoxicating and “”Inclusive” and for some has become its own Opioid! So Many Choices Can Be Confusing! This Session Offers Techniques for Making Those Choices In Ways That Minimize Regret.

Biographical Sketch:

  • Native of Star Valley, Wyoming.
  • Only white student in all–Black Junior HS in Alexandria, VA in 1957
  • Undergraduate at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CN) before LDS Mission to Chile then finished at U of Utah where selected as Woodrow Wilson Fellow and first Hinckley Institute Intern in Utah Governor’s Office
  • PhD from Syracuse University, 1979 in International Relations…punctuated by 10 years active duty as one of first LDS Chaplains selected to serve in USAF (followed by 13 more years in USAF Reserve where job was to review all new management and leadership literature every year for USAF Chief of Chaplains)
  • #2 Senior Officer in major New York Mutual Savings Bank where introduced creative behavior change tools/techniques still in use today because the results significantly differentiated that bank from all others
  • Founder of Change Strategies International, Inc in Atlanta, GA in 1984: actively consulted with most of Fortune 10 over next 33 years while pursuing Mormon history as a fascinating adventure in definition of “what is a FACT?”.
  • Published internationally on violence in Mormon history, cross-cultural communication, and Making Change Happen Without Violence
  • 3 Adult Financially and Emotionally Independent Children + 19 grandchildren!

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Session 331 Presidential Banquet & Address (6:00 p.m., Saturday, September 22)
Preregistration Required

Title: Carl Mesle: Pastor in a Time of Turmoil by Sherry Mesle-Morain

Abstract: Carl Mesle’s role during the time he was the Stone Church Pastor from 1970 – 1979 included managing the dissent that was threatening to tear the Reorganization apart. Following the Joint Council Seminars in 1967 with St. Paul Seminary professors, the church leadership made the decision to purposefully lead the institution away from being a church of history and toward becoming a church of mission. Difficult is Change’s first name, especially when it comes to meddling in a religious people’s long-held belief that they belong to the one true church of Christ on earth. This address will explore what it was in Mesle’s developmental years that fostered his suitability for pastoring the Stone Church, the “Mother Church” of the Reorganization, and how he ministered to soften the hard edges created by the tension within this previously conservative but now divided congregation. The chaos that comes of dissent came under the spell of Carl Mesle. He was the rock of stability in the Stone Church.