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Posted by: Fetal Deity ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 06:29PM

This was one of the most impressive cases of prophetic inspiration that I can recall being told in my TBM childhood. For those of you who have never heard it, or might need a refresher, the story goes as follows (as related by an eyewitness to the events):

"It happened in 1921, while President McKay and Elder Hugh Cannon were making a tour of the missions of the world. After a day of inspiring conference meetings in Hilo, Hawaii, a night trip to the Kilauea volcano was arranged for the visiting brethren and some of the missionaries. About nine o'clock that evening, two carloads, about ten of us, took off for the then very active volcano.

"We stood on the rim of that fiery pit watching Pele in her satanic antics, our backs chilled by the cold winds sweeping down from snowcapped Mauna Loa, and our faces almost blistered by the heat of the molten lava. Tiring of the cold, one of the elders discovered a volcanic balcony about four feet down inside the crater where observers could watch the display without being chilled by the wind. It seemed perfectly sound, and the 'railing' on the open side of it formed a fine protection from the intense heat, making it an excellent place to view the spectacular display.

"After first testing its safety, Brother McKay and three of the elders climbed down into the hanging balcony. As they stood there warm and comfortable, they teased the others of us more timid ones who had hesitated to take advantage of the protection they had found. For quite some time we all watched the everchanging sight as we alternately chilled and roasted.

"After being down there in their protected spot for some time, suddenly Brother McKay said to those with him, 'Brethren, I feel impressed that we should get out of here.'"

"With that he assisted the elders to climb out, and then they in turn helped him up to the wind-swept rim. It seems incredible, but almost immediately the whole balcony crumbled and fell with a roar into the molten lava a hundred feet or so below.

"It is easy to visualize the feelings of those who witnessed this terrifying experience. Not a word was said . . . the whole thing was too awful, with all that word means. The only sound was the hiss and roar of Pele, the Fire Goddess of old Hawaii, screaming her disappointment.

"None of us, who were witnesses to this experience could ever doubt the reality of 'revelation in our day!' Some might say it was merely inspiration, but to us, it was a direct revelation given to a worthy man."

[As related by Sister Virginia Budd (Jacobsen) in "Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay, Revised and Enlarged," Clare Middlemiss, comp. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), pp. 52-53.]


So what are your impressions of this anecdote? How would you explain it? Does it make you wonder if you jumped ship too soon?



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2010 02:27AM by Fetal Deity.

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Posted by: wine country girl ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 06:46PM

I was in the church for nearly 45 years. David O. McKay was the president of LDS, Inc. when I was young. I read a book about McKay. I have never heard this story before. Knowing LDS sheeple as I do, I doubt its veracity.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 06:51PM


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Posted by: wine country girl ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 06:56PM


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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 07:01PM

"In 1921 Elders David O. McKay (who later became the ninth President of the Church) and Hugh J. Cannon visited missions around the world. While in Hawaii, they visited the Kilauea volcano, the largest active volcano in the world, with some of the missionaries. They discovered a natural balcony just inside the volcano, and Elder McKay and several of the missionaries climbed down to stand on it. On this balcony they were out of the chilly wind and had a marvelous view of the inside of the volcano. After a while, Elder McKay said, 'Brethren, I feel impressed that we should get out of here.' Almost immediately after they climbed back to the rim, the balcony on which they had been standing crumbled and fell into the molten lava below. (See Cherished Experiences from the "Writings of President David O. McKay," comp. Clare Middlemiss, rev. ed. [1976], 51–53.)"

That's from the LDS Church's “Lesson 15: Recognizing Personal Revelation,” in the "Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual," p. 80, as cited on the Mormon Church's official website for all to read and believe, at: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=3dff767978c20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=32c41b08f338c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD

So, if you're a Mormon, it must be true. :)

If, however, you're a critical thinker, it probably isn't. See my post lower down in this thread regarding David O. McKay, his personal office secretary Clare Middlemiss and the propagation of the "volcanic miracle" story.



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2010 06:36AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: LonelyHusband ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 07:08PM

Wait, so if I decide to act like a jack-ass and walk onto an overhang 100 feet above a lava pool I'll be saved if I'm good?

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Posted by: freedomissweet ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 06:37AM

If I can butt in here - stories/pictures in church magazines have been known to be untrue. I doubt very much this story is true, but then I am now a non-believer in the morg.
Lets just take the pictures/lessons in Primary that show/teach JS sitting at a table translating the BofM. Do we accept that is true - I don't think so knowing all the info about the head in the hat. The list could go on and on with untruths. Why don't the profits have these sort of things happen all the time. There's no new revelations so I stick with what I think - Its all lies.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 06:47AM


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2010 06:47AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: loveskids ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 01:11AM

I heard it too.And as a kid,I certainly believed. I'm sure it was in the Friend too.

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Posted by: readthissomewhere ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 06:49PM

Yeah, like it takes some kind of divine inspiration to get the hell out of a volcano {giant eye roll}!

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Posted by: Wilford Dandruff ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 07:48PM

Anyone could have been so "impressed" that the ledge was unsafe. Common sense ≠ Divine revelation

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Posted by: nanoron ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 07:38PM

This miracle story is so powerful that I am to understand the Pope himself is championing the sainthood of D.O.McKay. That way, this miracle can take it's rightful place next to all the other miracles in the canon of completely true, unexaggerated, and inspiring stories!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/16/2010 07:39PM by nanoron.

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Posted by: DNA ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 07:48PM

It's a load of crap. And even if it was true, the message should be that a prophet and some missionaries show extremely poor judgment, and were actually very stupid.

If that's not the message you get, then your indoctrinated by the cult to see positives about the leaders everywhere.

And further proof that it's bull shit... Go to youtube and find a video where some guys escape death by inches, and see if they don't say a word. Nope, they scream OMG, Holy Shit, or other such stuff. I've seen amateur video of the World Trade Center falling, and people screamed. I've seen video of car wrecks, people scream. Avalanches that aren't even close to getting them, and they scream. Etc. Etc.

But in this case of total stupidity, they just miss death, and watch a noisy, destructive, awesome site and just because it's a faith promoting lie, they all don't say a word as it happens. Bull shit. Lying for the Lord.

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Posted by: wine country girl ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 12:45AM


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Posted by: Nealster ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 08:14PM

Now imagine if it was some youngsters who had stood there and one of them urged the rest to get off the ledge etc, the story wouldn't be about inspiration, it would be about obedience. Or how stupid folk can be. But NO! If it involves the 'leaders' then the shit smells sweet all of a sudden.

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Posted by: Rebeckah ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 10:27PM


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Posted by: anagrammy ( )
Date: November 16, 2010 11:50PM


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Posted by: libby ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 12:51AM

I would assume that any monkey could figure out if a balcony is on the verge of breaking.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 01:29AM

In the original post in this thread, “Fetal Deity” recounts a harrowing episode allegedly involving divine intervention where David O. McKay, said to have been prompted by the Spirit, warned his fellow sight-seers to step away from a precarious vista at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, moments before the hanging balcony on which they were said to be standing reportedly gave way and disappeared into the mountain’s molten mouth.

“Fetal Deity” (hereafter “FD”) describes this reported episode as “one of the most impressive cases of prophetic inspiration that I can recall being told in my TBM childhood.“

“FD” then asks a pointed question: “So what are your impressions of this anecdote? How would you explain it? Does it make you wonder if you jumped ship too soon?”

The anecdote, which “FD” both cites and sources, is found in the account of Sister Virginia Budd (Jacobsen), published in "Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay,” revised and enlarged, Clare Middlemiss, comp. " [Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1976)], pp. 52-53.

It reads as follows (repeated here for immediate reference purposes):

"It happened in 1921, while President McKay and Elder Hugh Cannon were making a tour of the missions of the world. After a day of inspiring conference meetings in Hilo, Hawaii, a night trip to the Kilauea volcano was arranged for the visiting brethren and some of the missionaries. About nine o'clock that evening, two carloads, about ten of us, took off for the then very active volcano.

"We stood on the rim of that fiery pit watching Pele in her satanic antics, our backs chilled by the cold winds sweeping down from snowcapped Mauna Loa, and our faces almost blistered by the heat of the molten lava. Tiring of the cold, one of the elders discovered a volcanic balcony about four feet down inside the crater where observers could watch the display without being chilled by the wind. It seemed perfectly sound, and the 'railing' on the open side of it formed a fine protection from the intense heat, making it an excellent place to view the spectacular display.

"After first testing its safety, Brother McKay and three of the elders climbed down into the hanging balcony. As they stood there warm and comfortable, they teased the others of us more timid ones who had hesitated to take advantage of the protection they had found. For quite some time we all watched the ever-changing sight as we alternately chilled and roasted.

"After being down there in their protected spot for some time, suddenly Brother McKay said to those with him, 'Brethren, I feel impressed that we should get out of here.'"

"With that he assisted the elders to climb out, and then they in turn helped him up to the wind-swept rim. It seems incredible, but almost immediately the whole balcony crumbled and fell with a roar into the molten lava a hundred feet or so below.

"It is easy to visualize the feelings of those who witnessed this terrifying experience. Not a word was said . . . the whole thing was too awful, with all that word means. The only sound was the hiss and roar of Pele, the Fire Goddess of old Hawaii, screaming her disappointment.

"None of us, who were witnesses to this experience, could ever doubt the reality of 'revelation in our day!' Some might say it was merely inspiration, but to us, it was a direct revelation given to a worthy man."
_____


Another version of the same reported event (also repeated here) is found in the Mormon Church’s educational publication, “Preparing for Exaltation" (Teacher’s Manual), Lesson 15: “Recognizing Personal Revelation,” p. 80 (published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, copyright 1996, printed in the United States of America, 
English approval: 9/95, at: http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?hideNav=1&locale=0&sourceId=3dff767978c20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=5158f4b13819d110VgnVCM1000003a94610aRCRD).


The LDS Church’s condensed lesson manual version of the story proceeds thusly:

"In 1921 Elders David O. McKay (who later became the ninth President of the Church) and Hugh J. Cannon visited missions around the world. While in Hawaii, they visited the Kilauea volcano, the largest active volcano in the world, with some of the missionaries. They discovered a natural balcony just inside the volcano, and Elder McKay and several of the missionaries climbed down to stand on it. On this balcony they were out of the chilly wind and had a marvelous view of the inside of the volcano. After a while, Elder McKay said, 'Brethren, I feel impressed that we should get out of here.' Almost immediately after they climbed back to the rim, the balcony on which they had been standing crumbled and fell into the molten lava below. (See “Cherished Experiences from the Writings of President David O. McKay," comp. Clare Middlemiss, rev. ed. [1976], 51–53.)"
_____


--Just How Plausible is This "David O. McKay vs. the Volcano” Tale?--

Is the story believable, particularly the version of events presented by Clare Middlemiss, David O. McKay’s long-time, devoted secretary, as found in her compilation of “cherished experiences” from the life of McKay?

That question is a legitimate one for two reasons:

1) Questions of factual accuracy surround the story itself; and

2) Questions regarding Middlemiss’s compiled version of events may have been unduly influenced by her close personal relationship with McKay.
_____


--Issues Regarding the Historical Accuracy of the “David O. McKay vs. the Volcano” Story--

Richard O. Cowan, professor emeritus of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, points out what could be a major synchronization problem between David O. McKay’s (along with that of fellow sight-seer Hugh Cannon’s) version of events at the volcano, when compared to the account provided by Virginia Budd (Jacobson )--the latter found in Middlemiss’s compilation of “cherished experiences” from the life of McKay.

The lack of correlating confirmation between the two accounts arguably strikes at the heart of the “guided-by-divine-inspiration” theme of the faithful Mormon-preferred version.

Recall Budd's description of what supposedly happened when God is said to have intervened in order to save the observing party from certain death:

"After being down there in their protected spot for some time, suddenly Brother McKay said to those with him, 'Brethren, I feel impressed that we should get out of here.’

"With that he assisted the elders to climb out, and then they in turn helped him up to the wind-swept rim. It seems incredible, but almost immediately the whole balcony crumbled and fell with a roar into the molten lava a hundred feet or so below.”


Yet Cowan, in his article “An Apostle in Oceania: Elder David O. McKay’s 1921 Trip around the Pacific,” notes that neither McKay or Cannon mentioned the inspirational moment of divinely-guided escape that makes Budd’s account so moving for those who read and believe it on face value.

Writes Cowan:

“Cited in Middlemiss, “Cherished Experiences,” [pp.] 52–53[,] both McKay and Cannon described visiting Kilauea Volcano during the night of February 10–11 [1921], BUT NEITHER MENTIONS EITHER THE ‘BALCONY’ CRUMBLING OR THE PROMPTING [BY THE SPIRIT] TO MOVE OUT OF HARM’S WAY AT THIS CRITICAL MOMENT.”

(Richard O. Cowan, “An Apostle in Oceania: Elder David O. McKay’s 1921 Trip around the Pacific,” published in “Pioneers in the Pacific,” ed. Grant Underwood (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005) pp. 189–200, emphasis added, at http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/pioneers-pacific-memory-history-and-cultural-identity-among-latter-day-saints/16-apostle-oc
_____


--What Accounts for This Major Difference in the Two Accounts?--

Could Budd have simply embellished the story, adding dramatic elements designed for inspirational effect--ones that, in fact, never took place? That certainly seems like a possibility worth considering.

But what about Middlemiss’s decision to include Budd’s now-suspect and possibly-exaggerated version of events in her “Cherished Experiences” compilation? Could Middlemiss’s choice to do so have had something to do with her desire to present McKay in the best, most impressive light possible--a desire driven on Middlemiss’s part because of her close personal attachment to McKay?
_____


--The McKay-Middlemiss Connection--

Authors Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright, in their book, “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism”(Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 2005), write about the long and close relationship between Middlemiss and McKay.

They note, for instance, her unique role as a groundbreaking female personal secretary to a Mormon Church president:

"McKay was not a conventional thinker [and made] . . . many unconventional moves . . . after becoming president. . . . McKay retained his personal secretary of sixteen years, Clare Middlemiss. Never before (or since) had the private secretary to a church president been a woman. During the subsequent nineteen years, Middlemiss would become arguably the most powerful woman in the history of the church, and would chronicle McKay's activities in unprecedented detail."

(Prince and Wright, "David O. McKay: The Rise of Modern Mormonism," p. 2)


Historian D. Michael Quinn, in his book "The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power," describes the unparalled and significant influence of Middlemiss over the operations of McKay's First Presidency office:

" . . . McKay's secretary Clare Middlemiss 'draft[ed] suggested answers to letters for [his] consideration before he had even read the correspondence.'

"Middlemiss also decided who saw her employer and who did not. When A. Hamer Reiser began his ten-year service as an assistant secretary in the First Presidency's office in 1956, he 'observed with disbelief the power exercised by Clare Middlemiss.' She gave instant access to McKay for her favorite general authorites and department heads but put off the less favored, including members of the Twelve. Being on good terms with Middlemiss was necessary to achieve sucess with McKay. Flattery become the administrative lubricant of the McKay presidency.

"One of McKay's biographers referred to this 'watchful diligence of the hovering Clare Middlemiss.' A mixture of devoted friend, confidante, and executive secretary since 1935, Middlemiss said, 'I have devoted my whole life to President McKay--I want nothing more.' During McKay's presidency (1951-1970) she had her own private secretary, and Middlemiss was a force to be reckoned with. For example, one church administrator noted in 1962 that 'through arrangement with President McKay's secretary whom I had converted to my side of this issue also, I went in to see President McKay.' For almost two decades after 1951, Middlemiss was a crucial ally, since McKay often made promises or decisions with those he met privately.

"In 1966 general authorities informed Utah's senator that 'one of the problems we have is that Miss Middlemiss runs the office of President McKay and often calls in his name to order things done.' A First Presidency secretary acknowledged that the administrative power of Clare Middlemiss 'created some unintentional problems' involving 'the historic differences between line and staf personnel.' In other words, she rivaled the authority of the Presidency counselors and this created 'problems' between Middlemiss and Counselor Hugh B. Brown."

(D. Michael Quinn, "The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power" [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1997], pp. 157-58)


Book reviewer Gary James Bergera, in “Sunstone Magazine,” further lays out the basics of Middlemiss's relationship with McKay, describing her as McKay’s “loyal personal secretary” who kept “McKay’s voluminous diaries” (she not only kept them, but actually wrote them, given that McKay did not himself keep a personal journal).

Bergera notes how Middlemiss’s deep devotion to McKay leads one to wonder to what extent she wrote about McKay’s experiences through her own personal prism and not through the microscope of objective fact:

“As keeper of McKay’s diaries, Middlemiss looms large in [Prince’s and Wright’s] book, her ghostly presence a constant reminder of our debt to her contribution to Prince’s reconstruction. In fact, Middlemiss as creator of McKay’s remarkable diaries causes one to wonder to what extent any introspection contained in the diaries reflects more of Middlemiss, and of her own ‘construction’ of McKay, than of McKay himself.”

Bergera then enters even greater speculative territory, where he subtly suggests that Middlemiss and McKay may have had a bond, if you will, that was deeply personal--and beyond the office.

Complicating that premise, however, is the fact that little of the Prince/Wright book is devoted to examining McKay’s personal life. Still, Bergera hypothesizes about the possible nature of the relationship between Middlemiss and McKay:

“ . . . [E]xcept for a page or two, there is almost no mention [in the book] of McKay’s private, or intimate, life--no detailed discussion of his relationship to his wife, Emma
Riggs, nor to his children. Given his consuming involvement in the Church, if I were to base my judgment on Prince’s account alone, I would conclude (perhaps incorrectly) that McKay was largely an absentee husband and father. In view of McKay’s well-known, oft-repeated dictum, ‘No success can compensate for failure in the home,’ I wonder how the McKay marriage and family operated on a daily basis. Assuming that
Emma McKay acted as the primary parent and caregiver, I wonder what role(s) David O. McKay actually played in his own marriage and family.”

“I also wish that more discussion had been possible of McKay’s, his wife’s, and his children’s relationship(s) to Clare Middlemiss.”

Bergera goes on to observe that, following McKay’s death, the single Middlemiss never married and, in fact, spent “her final years alone as the president’s ‘de facto relict’” [defined in broad terms as a survivor who, akin in this case to a “widow” of sorts, exercised power or served her function as the keeper of McKay’s flame/legacy without necessarily being legally or officially authorized to do so).

Finally, Bergera suggests (in a short, one-sentence footnote at the end of his review) that Middlemiss may have been romantically drawn to McKay, to the point of perhaps desiring him as her husband in Mormon eternity:

“One wonders if Middlemiss, who never married, in life or death, was ever sealed to McKay.”

Bergera ultimately leaves such questions unanswered, observing that the complication of family realities may have affected the writing of the Prince-Wright book:

“Given that Prince’s co-author [Wright] is Middlemiss’s nephew and executor, perhaps a more probing discussion of the dynamics of her relationship to the McKays, and vice versa, was not feasible. After the opening to the public in September 2005 of Middlemiss’s copy of McKay’s diaries, now house--thanks to W[illia]m. Robert Wright--in the Marriott Library’s Special Collections department at the University of Utah, attempts to address these and similar questions may [now] be a little less complicated.

(Gary James Bergera, “A Book of Revelations: ‘David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism“ book review, “Sunstone,” Issue 38, September 2005, pp. 65-67, at: https://www.sunstonemagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/issues/138.pdf))
_____


Another book reviewer agrees that Middlemiss’s long and loyal service to McKay could have clouded her ability to be objective about him--possibly leading Middlemiss, as I am offering here, to portray her “bosom boss” (my term of endearment) in ways that exaggerated his life experiences in an excessively-positive and -inspiring manner (perhaps via an enhanced “volcano” story)--and all due to her deep admiration and affection for him.

Middlemiss certainly embarked on a devoted, deep and life-long commitment to McKay, perhaps marked by a strong inclination to embellish his stature, as the reviewer suggests:

“Claire Middlemiss served as personal secretary to David O. McKay from 1935 until he died in 1970. Shortly after she started working for Elder McKay, she began keeping a diary of his daily activities that eventually ran some forty thousand typescript pages. . . .

“ . . . Middlemiss[‘s] . . . vision, arguably, is not always 20/20. Her admiration for her subject is obvious, and her portrait is perhaps more flattering than one would expect from an objective chronicler.”

(“Objective History? Diaries and Observations from Afar?,” book review of “David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism,” by “Shirt Wearer” Moreno Valley, California, 8 December 2008, at: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3L8LE07JDGOEC/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R3L8LE07JDGOEC)
_____


--Conclusion: A Fanciful Disruption of the Eruption?--

In the end, could Clare Middlemiss’s strong attachment to David O. McKay have triumphed over her attention to historical accuracy? She obviously was devoted, in life and death, to McKay. She loyally defended him, highly regarded him, worked tirelessly for him, never married after he died and compiled a book of “cherished experiences” from his life—which may have included at least one story that had been exaggerated but that she nonetheless allowed to stand.

Could that have been because Clare was determined to stand by her man?



Edited 23 time(s). Last edit at 11/17/2010 08:22AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Apatheist ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 01:41PM

I've heard (from a polygamist source) that McKay was a polygamist and married to a secretary. I don't think the source is credible, but this post makes one wonder if it's true. The woman certainly seems to have had some issues.

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Posted by: brett ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 02:00PM

This is rediculous. Their faces were almost blistering from the heat of the lava, so they decide to go down into the crater because their backs are cold?

If the heat was that intense on the rim, there's no way they would have survived in the crater itself even with a "railing of lava" in front of them. And that's not even taking the poisionious gasses into account.

This is pure BS as most of these "inspirational" stories are.

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Posted by: bignevermo ( )
Date: November 18, 2010 11:08AM

well this is something to consider... while the Mona loa mountain reaches close to 14,00 feet and is snow capped part of the year.... the cauldron is at 4,000 feet... and so the wind traveled 10,000 feet and was still cold enough to force people onto a ledge inside the wall of the volcano?? that lava is between 560c and 1150c... which on the higher end is around 2,000f.... fat chance they went into the cauldron...for any reason....unless you want BarBQued Mormon meat!!

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Posted by: hello ( )
Date: November 17, 2010 03:49PM

I love the part about "satan" (Pele) screaming her disappointment at not being able to kill the profit. Uhhh...right.

If Pele had really wanted to kill McKay (and I can't think of any reason why she would wish to, but then she is a goddess, and her ways inscrutable), she didn't need any poor judgment on his part to accomplish it. She could have shrugged the rim in a small quake, and dumped the whole party into the pit if she had wanted to. Or she could have blasted them with a gust of sulfur dioxide.

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Posted by: bignevermo ( )
Date: November 18, 2010 11:14AM

i have visited that area.... and i saw a rainbow lit by the light of the moon!!! no....really... it had no color in it though.... what a sight....and walking on the lava fields above the molten lava rushing to the sea was adrenaline pumping.... it is surrealistic!!

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