One of the great heroes in my family’s history is Mary Lee. She was a famed Southern Utah midwife, saved my father’s life, had none less than Harold B. Lee wish he was half as sure of his own salvation as he was of hers, etcetcetc. There is no question she was a great woman. I look forward to meeting her someday.
In 1955, Gene L. Gardner published 100 copies of an 85-page biography of Aunt Mary called “An Inspired Principle and a Remarkable Lady.” My father owns one of these 100 copies and I hope to have it pass into my hands someday and read it with the care and honor it deserves.
All of which is merely a pious introduction to my real topic today.One of those 100 copies was sent to the then prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, David O. McKay. President McKay’s wife wrote back, offering thanks for the book and making a few comments. A copy of that letter has been tucked inside my father’s copy.
I am going to reproduce the letter here in full. The title of this post makes clear which part of the letter I find relevant for discussion on AMV, but I want to place it in context, both within the letter it comes from and within the life of the decidedly not antiart Emma Ray McKay, who was honored earlier this decade by the University of Utah for being “an accomplished musician and lifetime supporter of musical endeavors at the U” by having their music library named after her.
With that introduction then, the letter:
Salt Lake City
Jan. 10th, 1956
Dear Sister Gardner:
Thank you for sending me the written life of Mary Elizabeth Cox Lee.
I am late in acknowledging the gift because the President and I left for California a day or two after Christmas before I’d had an opportunity of reading the life’s story.
The narration of the many little things that made up life in those old days is very interesting and too sacred to be printed for the public which I hope you will never think of doing. I am so disgusted with the author of “The Giant Joshua” that I can scarcely contain myself. The outside people or rather nonmembers of our church do not understand our life during polygamous days and personal experiences of this kind should never be given to them. The publishers must always have something disgusting to tell even if they have to add something themselves.
The photograph of Sister Lee at the beginning of the story is more like my mother than any other person I have ever seen. I was really startled when I first saw it.
The sweet thing had a most strenuous life but she is a most remarkably strong character partly as a result of all those trials and tribulations brought on mainly by her great service to others. I don’t see how she lived through it all.
Thank you again.
Emma Ray McKay