Friday, October 25, 2019

The Start of the Troubles

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What caused the start of the troubles in Jackson County?
a.                   The Saints getting on the locals for practicing slavery
b.                   The Saints getting on the locals that they did not belong to the true church
c.                   The Saints getting on the locals that God had given them the county
d.                   The Saints getting on the locals to repent and be baptized
Yesterday’s answer:
C   The Church’s baseball team
Baseball in the South African Mission:   With a season of successful baseball under their belts, Don Mack Dalton and his missionaries set out to capitalize on their new, positive image in South Africa. However, this was not always an easy task, especially when Dalton had only nine new missionaries sent to his mission in 1933 and eight in 1934. To put these figures in perspective, during World War I, only two missionaries were called to South Africa in 1920 and nine in 1921; however, from that point on, the mission had consistently received fourteen or more missionaries annually until this unprecedented low in 1933. Fortunately for the Cumorah’s, one of these elders was Stan Smith, quickly nicknamed “The Bogy Man of Local Batters” by the Cape Argus. Next to Dalton, Stan Smith of Salt Lake City was easily the most influential Mormon in all of South Africa during his tenure in the country. The Cape Times also published features on his baseball prowess. According to an editorial circulated by the Cumorah’s Southern Messenger, Smith’s heroics on the diamond received more attention than Prince George’s visit to the Cape in 1935. While Smith’s pitching arm was undoubtedly his greatest prize, he was no slouch at the plate or on the bases either. In South African parlance, he received one of the greatest honors that could have possibly been bestowed on a player of a non-major sport when the Cape Argus called him “the Bennie Osler of Baseball.” Smith played two and a half years for the Cumorah’s and Western Province and was a key component in the sport’s popularity in those first few years in Cape Town.
To the South African Mission and Mormons in South Africa, Elder Smith was much more than a great pitcher and clutch hitter; he was key in reinventing the image of the Mormon Church in that land. “His prowess has probably brought the South African mission more publicity, and has placed the name of ‘Mormon’ on more lips than any other single thing,” one editorial in the May 1935 Cumorah’s Southern Messenger read: “he has, no doubt, done more to shake the cold unfriendly barriers of distrust and skepticism concerning the Mormons there than any other person, for through his baseball he has moved with ease among the higher social circle and government officials. But more than all of this, he is the friend of more young people, staunch admirers, than any other lad in South Africa.”
With Smith’s help the Mormons became known for something other than emigration and polygamy. This notoriety is perhaps best exemplified by the inclusion of a short chapter on the “Mormons in Africa” in Stars and Stripes in Africa by amateur historian Eric Rosenthal. Rosenthal’s work was designed for the growing tourist population of Americans in South Africa, and it seems safe to assume that, without the success of the Cumorah’s, there would have been no reason to include the Mormon Church in this work. Rosenthal exclaims emphatically: “[They] are the Union’s most successful baseball team!”
The timing of Stan Smith’s mission aligned perfectly with the baseball season. He arrived in November 1932, just a couple of months after the organization of the Western Province Baseball Association and the Cumorah’s and was released two and half years later in May 1935 just over a month after an impressive pitching performance that earned Western Province the national championship. Smith’s departure occurred two months after Don Mack Dalton’s own release that same year. The two made an impressive pitcher/catcher combination in the field, and their two-three punch in the lineup was always difficult to defend. However, their success, to Mormons and their Church, was measured in terms of positive publicity rather than in wins and losses. The Cumorah’s Southern Messenger devoted a major article to bid Smith farewell:
The Press is one hundred per cent, for “Stan.” Here is one of several like announcements; “Hear Stan Smith.” And then this follows: “Baseball players in the Western Province Leagues, and sportsmen as a whole, will rally to hear Stan Smith, the outstanding baseball pitcher, speak. Stan left his home in Salt Lake City some time ago as a Mormon missionary. For diversion and to keep physically fit he began playing baseball and his pitching brought honors. Being young and possessing outstanding athletic ability, Stan has achieved a wonderful degree of popularity which is well deserved. He has consented to lecture for us on Religious Ideals at the Railway Institute on Saturday evening at 8 o’clock. If Stan is as convincing from the platform as he is from the pitcher’s box his success is assured.”
This was exactly the “success” that Dalton and the Mormons were hoping to achieve by organizing and participating in baseball in Cape Town and South Africa as a whole. Without Smith’s “outstanding athletic ability” and Dalton’s leadership, a newspaper article whose reporter seems excited and even anxious to hear the testimony of a missionary could never have occurred.
Unquestionably, the high point of Mormon positive acceptance occurred on March 24, 1934, when an all-star Western Province squad consisting of five Cumorah’s, all Mormons, and elven other players from the various Cape Town teams, once again hosted the unofficial national championship game against an improved Transvaal crew. The Mormon players were Don Mack Dalton, Elders Stanford G. Smith, John J. Bates, and Morris P. Woolley, and a local member, E. E. Seeman. Twenty-five hundred spectators gathered at the Rosebank diamond. As the players lined up along the base-paths, to Dalton’s joy and pride, George Herbert Hyde Villiers, the sixth Earl of Clarendon and South Africa’s governor general, strode onto the diamond. Dalton, as captain of the Western Province side, stepped out first and was introduced to the Kings representative. The two engaged in a brief exchange of compliments and with the governor general commenting on his excitement at the prospect of witnessing the championship game. Dalton then had the honor of introducing each of his players individually and was thrilled with the governor general greeted each of the missionaries as “Elder.” This was undoubtedly the capstone of Dalton’s reign as president of the South African mission. He later wrote that this even fulfilled his ultimate goal of reinventing the Church’s image in that nation:
The best advertising medium in South Africa had freely given his [the governor general] prestige to develop faith and aid the growth of understanding in the hearts of mankind. He had assisted the missionaries in their task to accumulate existent truth in the minds and hearts of the humble but great people of a great and humble land.
The missionaries had done their best to proclaim the Gospel by word of mouth and had prayed to the Lord to help them make their best better by helping others see the Gospel through the sense of sight .The missionaries had prayed that they would be able to let their light SO SHINE so that others could see it and that it might not be kept partly hidden by tradition and the ordinary way of doing missionary work.
These missionaries had feverishly and constantly hoped and prayed and worked so that what others had said couldn’t be done, was done. The governor general had honored Mormon boys before a great throng of people as the missionary [Dalton] had seen in a vision would be done.
Booker T. Alston, The Cumorah Baseball Club: Mormon Missionaries and Baseball in South Africa, Journal of Mormon History, Summer 2014, 110-115.

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