Thomases

February 25, 2008 | 10 comments
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The name Thomas has a tortured history in Mormonism. Thomases were instrumental in the downfall of the church in Nauvoo. Two Thomases in particular, Sharp and Ford, played key roles in the death of the prophet Joseph Smith and the expulsion of the saints from Nauvoo. Thomas Sharp, editor of the Warsaw Signal, participated actively in the process, publishing inflammatory reports and editorials that called for Mormon blood. Thomas Ford’s role was less active but equally crucial in the downfall of Nauvoo. His (relatively) well-intentioned wishy-washiness allowed anti-Mormon sentiment to fester, and his spineless and lukewarm attempts at compromise only resulted in Carthage.

Another Thomas has a dubious place of honor in Mormon history. Thomas B. Marsh was an early church leader, but left the church in Missouri. He was famously used as a cautionary tale by church president George Albert Smith, and his name has since been linked to milk and cream.

Since Marsh’s time, church leadership has been all but devoid of Thomases. Prior to President Monson’s ordination in 1963, there was only one other Thomas general authority — Thomas E. McKay, brother of David O. McKay, who served as an Assistant to the Twelve. And in the past four decades, there has only been one other Thomas ordained (J. Thomas Fyans, another Assistant to the Twelve and later a Seventy.) As Mormons, we seem to be awfully good at doubting Thomas.

Will President Monson’s tenure result in redemption of the name? Will the presence of a beloved Mormon Thomas lead Mormons to start naming their children Thomas, like Catholics name their children after beloved Catholic Thomases (Aquinas and More)? Or will President Monson remain a lone Thomas in a sea of non-Tom-formists?

Is it okay to be a Thomist Mormon now?

Only time will tell.

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10 Responses to Thomases

  1. Margaret Young on February 25, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    May I add another Thomas? Tom Thomas. I have not been able to track him down, because it’s such a common name, but in the lynching of Sam Joe Harvey in SLC, Tom Thomas is specifically named as one of those involved. (Sam Joe Harvey, drunk, had shot and killed a Mormon bishop, Andrew Burt. The history of Bishop Burt’s ward [23rd, I think] says that the first bishop [Burt] was “shot by a Negro” and does not mention the subsequent lynching.)

    But when we think of Thomas S. Monson, we think of the whole name, and a good story. He’s one the kids even enjoy.

  2. Tom on February 25, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    So that’s what’s wrong with me.

    I never noticed my name’s checkered history within Mormonism. Doubting Thomas is the Thomas that looms large when I think of famous Thomases. He was a good guy at least, even if he wasn’t a John the Beloved.

  3. SC Taysom on February 25, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    I can think of two good other Thomases associated with Mormonism:
    Thomas Grover
    Thomas Alexander

  4. Thomas Parkin on February 25, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Our prayers have been answered!

    Let the anti-Thomasites rage: one of our own is finally sitting in the cat-bird seat!
    The dark decades of bigotry and oppression are nearing an end!
    The Repository of Revilement, the Bank-vault of Bigotry, The Fair of Pharisaism are
    giving way to a Treasury of Thomases!

    Mormon Thomases everywhere rejoice!!

    ~

  5. Marjorie Conder on February 25, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Thomas Kane was certainly one of the “good guys” in Mormon history

  6. Hans Hansen on February 25, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Does Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the 12 count as a Thomas or a Tom?

  7. Kevin Barney on February 25, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    No. 3, I happen to be descended from Thomas Grover, so I appreciate the shout out.

    Thomas is a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic word (toma) meaning “twin,” which is Didymus in Greek and Geminus in Latin.

  8. Kevinf on February 27, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    How about Thomas Sasson Smith, a pre-eminent colonizer for Brigham Young of both southern Utah, and Idaho? I know my wife is somehow related.

  9. Bill MacKinnon on February 27, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Marjorie Conder (#5) is wise to include Thomas [L.] Kane on the list eventhough he was not a member, notwithstanding the longstanding debate about his religious affiliation. (David Whittaker’s article in “JMH” earlier this decade about BYU’s Kane Collection puts this myth to rest — or should.) Kane probably did more to help the LDS Church than any non-member in its history and perhaps all but a small number of members. Kevin Barney’s ancestor, Thomas Grover, had the distinction of having a daughter married to a young Nauvoo Legionnaire who was shot off the rim of Echo Canyon accidentally in late September 1857 by a fellow-Legionnaire of Danish origin standing on the canyon’s floor and testing the range of his rifle. By the way, let’s not forget Thomas W. Ellerbeck, Brigham Young’s bookkeeper-clerk and a colonel in the NL who was its chief of ordnance. Ellerbeck’s late 19th-century house now constitutes one of Salt Lake City’s best B&Bs, and I get a kick out of staying there when I visit, having spent many an hour groveling through Thomas’s Legion papers at Yale’s Beinecke Library. Vaguely like bunking at the Plaza Hotel after reading “Eloise” to your kids.

  10. Scott Jacobs on May 11, 2008 at 1:58 am

    Another Good Thomas . . .

    I have to add my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Bullock, who served as the official clerk of the trek west to Salt Lake and whose journal of the trek was publish a few years ago. He first arrived in Nauvoo in 1843, was soon called as a clerk to the Prophet Joseph, and later as clerk of the migration west by Brigham Young.

    It is interesting to note that I had pleasure of serving a mission, and sharing a friendship, with another Thomas Grover — a great-great-(great?) grandson of the Thomas Grover mentioned above.

WELCOME

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