Chapter One

Buff speaking into tape recorder June 4, 1978

Testing one…two…three. This is Buffington Journeycake PhD., former professor of anthropology at Mountain State University, La Plata, New Mexico.

I slept under a bridge last night and walked into Sante Fe to get a bite to eat and see if someone I
knew was around the plaza. There usually is every time I come through here. I’m hitching on my way
to see Bishop Louie and his wife Liz to record their memories of how he became leader of the church
in Zarahemla Valley and how the movement of the Circle began.

Today about two in the afternoon I was standing in the plaza with my bedroll on my back. All of a
sudden a shadow fell across from the northwest to the southeast corner of the plaza with a wavy
outline, like between yin and yang. I was standing just inside the brilliant sunlight of the yang half –
the southwest. I looked up and saw a huge cloud with a black belly and white fluff clinging to its
purple back. The line between yin and yang began to quiver. In a few seconds I would be in the deep
yin shadow. Then I saw on the north side of the plaza, well inside yin, someone I knew well was
walking along under the porch that shades the sidewalk of the old Spanish Governor’s palace, l
ooking at the jewelry the old Indian women sitting on the sidewalk were selling.

“Hey, Nephi!” I hollered, waving my hand high.

“Buff!” he called back. In a couple of seconds we were dancing around with our arms on each other’s shoulders in the yin that now covered the plaza.

I’m a mixture = Cherokee and Delaware Indian and some mysterious nationality people call Black
Dutch where I come from – apparently meaning people of northwestern European ancestry who
happen to be dark brunet. I’ve also got some Black Irish thrown in – more of the same dark ancestry.

But Nephi looks more Indian than I do, although he was born Bill Altdorf – his father’s parents were
from Germany and his mother’s were from Norway. He’s five foot eight, about four inches shorter t
han I am. His skin is several shades browner than mine. He has straight, dark brown hair that hangs
down his back. Where I am thin, Nephi is gaunt with deep-sunk eyes.

More than his nose or ears, his smell is distinctive. If you put a piece of old leather in the back
pocket of your jeans and never take it out, and you travel across a thousand miles of desert and
sleep in your jeans every night and never take a bath – then, at the end of your journey, pull that
piece of leather out and smell it you will know what Nephi smells like. Not bad, but a strong smell for
a strong personality, something of his very selfhood.

At once the rain started and we ran under the porch of the Governor’s Palace.

“Would you like something to eat?” I asked.

“Sure, Buff,” he said. “But we’ll have to get away from the plaza. It’ll cost you too much in these high
class places.”

So we started running hard. I didn’t want the rain to soak through my bedroll because I keep my
tape recorder rolled up inside my sleeping bag. My bedroll kept bouncing against my back as we
hurried along a couple of blocks and ran into a little café that smelled like chili powder and onions.

Nephi took a look at the menu and said, “They’ve got menudo for only a dollar. Let’s get two bowls
of menudo and some coffee.”

So that’s what I ordered when the waitress came.

Menudo is a soup of tripe and posole – in other words cow guts and what most people call hominy.

But back in the state of Sequoyah where I come from, my kinfolk around Tahlequah say, “That stuff
you buy in cans ain’t no hominy. That’s what you call skinned corn. You got to beat the grain down
and break it up before it’s properly hominy/”

Cow guts and skinned corn, it’s still a great tasting soup. It warmed us up quick, so we forgot the
splash of cold rain water we had just run through.

Right then I had an idea.

“Say, Nephi,” I said, “You’ve been around the Circle from the very beginning.”

“Almost seven years now,” he answered. “Since I was fourteen years old.”

“I’m on my way to see Bishop Louie and Liz before we make the Circle again,” I said. “I want to
interview them about the history of the Circle and write a book about it. So I’ve got a tape recorder
in my bedroll and I was wondering if I could record you. I’ve heard you tell a lot of stories around the
fire when we were out in the open and I was hoping…”

“Buff, I’ve got a whole story I’ve been waiting for years to tell,” Nephi said. “This whole one-third of
my life. Just get your recorder and let’s get a refill of coffee.”

I untied the twine around my rolled-up sleeping bag and blanket. I reached in and got my little tape recorder out with the little plastic baggie containing some cassettes. And as I turned the recorder
on, Nephi put his arms on the table, clasped his hands together and stared straight at me, like he
was looking into the lens of a camera.

He talked for eight hours, pausing only for my questions and occasional drinks of coffee (we had
seven refills each.) We filled a lot of tape and I jotted down notes in a spiral notebook. Part of what
Nephi said is here, but the spirit will be on every page of the book I am writing.

Nephi Speaking

I, Nephi, having been born of goodly parents…Those are the opening words of the Book of Mormon,
where I got my name. I was Bill Altdoraf first. I said I would tell you the story of the last third of my
life, but to make things clear, I have to begin before my parents with my grandfather, Nils Lindquist.
He died before I was born, so all I know of him is what my mother told me. He grew up on a farm in
Norway – the main crop was rocks. I couldn’t support him and his brothers and sisters, so somebody
had to leave. He come to this country in 1892 when he was seventeen. He traveled in what they
called steerage, the hold of the ship, the cheapest place to travel. Everyone was crowded together,
no separate rooms, everybody getting sick and throwing up.

When he got to this country, he was big and strong enough where he could tell the immigration
people that he was 21 and they believed him. He traveled across the country as a farmhand and a
logger. He worked his way up, went into business, made a lot of money. He was elected mayor of
Portland, Oregon, in 1916.

Then all the Socialists and Communists and Wobblies started making strikes and demonstrations.
My grandfather had them rounded up – filled the jails with them, a couple of thousand. They all
called theirselves by the name of the People’s Party, but my grandfather said they was nothing but
Red Radicals.

They all said how much they wanted to do for poor people, but he said that was just bullshit. He had
been poor, but he had made his way up. He made everything he had his own self and he didn’t need nobody to help him – especially not the Red Radicals.

Then he come down to Southern California and made a million dollars around LA selling real estate
in the twenties. He put his money in the stock market. He got wiped out completely when the stock
market crashed in the fall of 1929. Right after that his youngest child, Elsa – my mom – was born in
January, 1930. Here he was 55 years old and broke with two daughters to support. He got so
stressed out, he died of a heart attack when my mom was 10 years old.

My mom went to work as a waitress when she was 16, but really she depended on her mom and then
when her mom died, she depended on her older sister in the suburbs north of Los Angeles.

I’m not very political, but you know how it was when Robert Taft got elected president in 1952 and
he died. Vice President Nixon became president. Youngest president we ever had, but he made life
hard for people who worked – especially women.

My mom was making three dollars an hour as a waitress so she became a stripper = that was six
dollars an hour. My dad was a guy named Frank Altdorf who was a drummer in the band where she stripped. I believe he’s alive somewhere.

As soon as I was born, 1957, me and my mom started spending most of our time staying with her
older sister. We rented a room by ourselves sometimes, but we always ended up back with my aunt
and her husband. We spent our lives on couches in their living room.

I always knew that somebody didn’t want me around, though I didn’t know where else to be. From
when I was a little kid, I was pissed off at the world. I was in fights on the playground at grade
school. There are mountains to the north and east of LA. On bright clear days when the sun was
going down I’d stand in my aunt’s back yard and see the gold evening light on the mountains and I’d
wish I was on the other side.

The first time I ran away from home was 1970. I was twelve years old. Actually I didn’t run like on my
feet. I swiped a dollar from my mom’s purse and took the inter urban train to downtown LA and
transferred to a streetcar. I took it to the end of the line, as far east as it would go. By then the sun
was going down and the shadows was getting long. I walked along until it got dark. There was
orange groves here and there, but there was still a lot of houses.

“Hell, I’m not running away from home, I’m walking away.” I grumbled to myself. My feet was sore. I
had heard from other kids that the Peoples Party youth group had houses where runaway kids could
stay. I supposed I could look them up in the phone book, but I didn’t want to. My mom had warned
me about them people. I didn’t want to stay with a bunch of Red Radicals.

I sat down under a telephone pole which had the last light on the road. Up ahead it was all orange
groves and darkness. I was sitting there in that little circle of light. My eyes started closing now and
then and my head was nodding. A voice up above me said, “Hey, fellow, whatcha doin’? Need a place
to stay?”

I looked up. A big, broad-shouldered red-headed guy about 16 was standing over me. I stood up as
best I could. I was a little creaky in the knees.

“You one of them Red Radicals?” I says back.

“Hell, no!”

“What’s the deal, then?” I asked.

“Nationalist Youth Corps. The Ku Klux Kan started us. My uncle’s the Grand Dragon. We hate them
People’s Party ass holes.”

I was a bit suspicious. I didn’t know what this was, but I was tired and hungry and it wasn’t Red
Radicals, so I said “OK, I’ll go with you.”

“The name’s Clark Forrest,” he said, stretching out his hand and shaking mine.

“I’m Bill Altdorf,” I said, which was my name then.

We walked down a street away from the road until we come to a little white frame house in front of
an orange grove. Light was streaming out the windows into the yard. Clark knocked at the door. A
man about 40 opened the door. His eyes seemed froze up in a squint and he looked me over.

“This kid looks awful young, Clark,” the man said.

“Oh, let him stay for the night and have something to eat, Jim,” Clark said. “We can figure out what
to do with him tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, sure,” the man called Jim said. He got a big grin, but I noticed he was squinting all the time, like
he didn’t want to look straight at anyone. He was shorter than Clark and his hair was a dark reddish brown.

“Jim Einkorn,” he said, sticking out his hand and shaking mine. His hand was red and thick like a

He led me to a table and went into the next room, which was a kitchen. He opened up the
refrigerator and got out a plate which he brought in and set in front of me – spaghetti and meatballs
and onions. It was cold and greasy, but I was hungry. As soon as he gave me a fork I stuffed myself.

When I’d had enough to eat, I noticed there was a painting hanging on the wall overlooking the
table. It was a man with thick dark hair that hung down over half his brow. Under his nose was a
little square mustache. His lips had this expression – kind of nobly sad, I’d say.”

“Who’s that, Jim?” I asked.

“That’s Adolph Hitler,” Jim said. “Ever hear of him?”

“Nope,” I says.

“He was the leader of the National Socialists movement in Germany,” Jim said. “It wasn’t bullshit
socialist like the Communists in Germany or the People’s Party in this country, but real socialists. He
could have been the great leader of the whole German people, but the Jews and Communists
cheated him out of the election in 1932 and he sacrificed himself – shot himself in the head. He was a martyr – a victim of the International Jews and the International Communists.”

“You mean like the Red Radicals?” I asked.

“That’s exactly what I mean,” Jim Said. “He’s still got millions of followers in Germany and there’s a l
ot of us in this country too. I made the pilgrimage to his grave, a marble shaft 20 feet high,
thousands and thousands of people there to lay flowers on the anniversary of his death. Oh, just
think how the world could have been if he had lived!” Jim shook his head, still squinting as much as
ever. “Maybe, Clark can go over there to Germany to see it some day.” Jim went on. “Maybe you can.”

“I guess I’d like that,” I said and I put my hand in front of my mouth and yawned.

“Clark go get this kid something to sleep on,” Jim said. Clark come back with a quilt which he spread
in a corner of the living room. Over that was a thin fuzzy blanket. I curled up under it and conked out.

Late that night a bunch of other young guys come into the house making a lot of noise. I woke up for
a minute. Then they went to the room where they slept and I passed out in a deep sleep.

Chapter Two - Nephi Speaking

Next morning when I woke up I could see Clark in the kitchen at the stove fixing scrambled eggs in a
big skillet. These young guys was waiting in line with plates and Clark loaded each of their plates
with a big load of scrambled eggs. All of them who could set around the table. Some were in chairs
with plates of scrambled eggs in their laps, but some had to sit on the floor. I noticed that every one
of them set up stiff and straight like soldiers do in the movies.

Their clothes was like a uniform too – khaki trousers, khaki shirts and ties. Their hair was cut almost
 to the scalp like soldiers except some of them had a lock in front that they let dangle over their
forehead like that Hitler guy in the picture above the table.

But I noticed Clark didn’t dress like them. He had on blue jeans and a red and green cowboy-type
shirt. His hair was short – shorter than mine is now, of course, but it was a regular haircut, not
shaved down close like the others.

Jim walked over, still squinting away, and handed me a plate of scrambled eggs. He had khaki pants
like the young guys, but just a sweaty old T-shirt instead of the rest of the khaki outfit.

“We pay these young men 75 dollars a week to spread the truth,” Jim said, sweeping his hand
around to include all these fellows eating scrambled eggs.

“I regret we can’t pay them more,” he went on. “We pay them only half the wages our Communistic government pays the kids in its shitty little government jobs – like the Conservation Crops. But some
day these young ones will make what they are worth – many times more than they would get paid in
the government busy-work jobs for unemployed youth.”

There were smiles on all the young pink faces around the room. Jim pointed his left forefinger in the general direction of the picture on the wall. The man with the little mustache. He swept his right arm backwards with his right fist doubled up. It was a grand statue-like posture.

“The mayor in LA is named Gonzalez!” he bellowed. “Can you imagine a Mexican mayor of Los
Angeles” And worse than that, the President of the United States is a Jew – Sidney Lens! And the
Vice President is a nigger woman, Ella Little! How low can a white man go?” It was clear Jim enjoyed making speeches. All around the room these young guys was going, “Yeah! Yeah!” from deep in their throats. “Let’s give it to ‘em!” All the time Jim was still squinting.

“OK, fellows, that’s enough of a pep talk for today!” Jim said with a smile. “And get your dishes
cleaned up and get out there and give them Jews what’s coming to them!”

In a couple of seconds they got lined up into the kitchen, taking turns washing their plates at the
sink and stacking them. Then they went back in the living room-dinging room to a big stack of
leaflets. Each one grabbed some leaflets under their arms. They then fell into formation and Jim
opened the door and they ran out in formation shouting “Hut-two-three-four!” They sounded proud
– and like they was having fun. They ran out and got in a little yellow but in the front yard and drove

I could see why they was only getting paid 75 dollars a week if they wasn’t getting anything from the government. One of those little busses was expensive to run with gas costing #3.12 a gallon. Jim
couldn’t afford to spend too much with the kids and the bus both.

After the young guys was gone, Jim plopped down in a chair. He leaned forward. His squint opened
up a bit. He had dark, glittery eyes that stared at me.

“Now, young fellow,” he said, “how old are you?”

“Sixteen,” I said.

“I’ll bet,” Jim answered. “You look about eleven.”

“I’m twelve!” I spoke up, kind of huffy.

“Be that as it may,” he said. “We’ve got friends in the police departments around here, but if your
mother makes too much of a fuss, they won’t be able to do very much to help us. We’ll be in trouble
and we don’t want trouble – not now, at least.”

“Clark!” he said loud.

Clark lifted his head from washing the skillet in the sink. He blinked and said, “huh?”

“You take my car and take the kid to the nearest streetcar stop. Do you have any money?”

“A dollar fifty,” Clark says.

“Give it to the kid so he can get home. Get his address. It’ll be good to have a contact who can reach
other kids in the grade school. You got to catch them young.” I didn’t bother to tell Jim that I wasn’t
very popular in grade school. I probably couldn’t spread his ideas or anybody else’s.

Clark led me out to a garage and we got in a shiny new car.

“I don’t think Jim wants you around here,” he said as we was backing out.” And it’s not the cop
problem. There’s only 2,000 cops in all of Los Angeles and these little piss-ant suburban police f
orces only have about 15 or 20 cops each. Hell, there ain’t enough cops to bother much about all the runaway kids. The kids go to the People’s Party or the labor unions or the government programs or
the missions – or us. It’s just that, uh…”

“What?” I asked.

“Jim’s good at sizing people up,” Clark said. “And there’s something about you – and he don’t want it around.”

“How about you?” I asked.

“I was glad to see you,” Clark said. “It’s good to have somebody new to talk to. You see, after they’ve
been around Jim a month they all sound just the same – like recordings of him. Jim may be right
about the Jews and the coloreds and the Communists, but I like to hear something different now and
then. So I’d like your address. When I first ran away from home, I was almost as young as you are. My parents are in the Klan, so they think it’s all right for me to be with Jim. But look in that glove
compartment – there’s pen and paper.”

I opened the glove compartment and got out a pen and paper and wrote down my aunt’s address.
We drove to the streetcar stop, talking all the way. He was telling me about deer hunting, which I
had never done, and we both agreed about TV shows – what a crock of shit they was. We had a good
laugh about TV. He let me off and we shook hands and soon I was on the streetcar and then inner
urban train back to my aunt’s place.

I got a pretty hard talking-to from my mother and my aunt and her husband, but after that I
didn’t go to school no more that spring. I ran away again.

This time I hitched into LA. I got as far as a mission in the Main Street area of LA. There was a bunch of old winos in long, dirty coats singing hymns in their off-key voices, but there was a bunch
of runaway kids like me. I read some of the Bible there, and it was beautiful. I felt something like it
again when I fell in love with a girl for the first time. It’s the feeling of wanting to believe – one of the deepest feelings I know.

The preacher at the mission told me I could only stay there three days and then I would have
to call home or leave. I begged him to baptize me before my stay was up. Me and my mom sometimes
went with my aunt to the Christian Science Church and they don’t have baptism. Christian Science
was the only kind of church I had known about before.

The preacher had me put on a white robe and we waded out in this tank full of water, up to
my armpits. He grabbed me by the back of my head and plunged me under that cold water and I felt
a shock run all through my body when I stood up again with my head out of the water. I closed my
eyes and I seen a bright flash of light. I shouted, Oh God! Amen!”

Then I called my mom and the preacher let me have some money to take the inter urban train
back to my aunt’s place. This time I got less hassle about running away.

On the living room couch at night, I thought a lot about the baptism. I would close my eyes
and see the light again, but as days went on, it got fainter and farther away. Still I felt that real
intensive wish to believe in God. I wondered if that was what Jim could see in me so that he didn’t
want me in his Nationalist Youth Corps.

That fall I started to school again, but I stayed away a lot. I ran away again to another mission
and I begged the preacher there to baptize me – I wanted that feeling back so bad. And he did.

Pretty soon I was simply wandering all over the LA area and staying with friends or in the
missions and coming back to my aunt’s house. I would be gone a week at a time. No one was
complaining. My aunt’s husband kept getting temporary layoffs form his job, so there wasn’t much
money in the house. My aunt must have figured that the less I was around, the less of her food I’d
eat up I got where I knew every alley in LA, all the places where they gave away food and old clothes
and blankets and what stores leave the best day-old food out in the back.

Then one evening I was standing in my aunt’s back yard, looking at the gold light form the
sunset touching the eastern mountain range. All of a sudden I heard this high, shrill whistle behind
me. I whirled around and I seen Clark jumping over my aunt’s back fence into the yard. He had this
big shit-eating grin on his face.

“Howdy,” he says. “Thought I’d come by and see how you’re doing.”

“What are you doing around here?” I asked.

“I’m on an intelligence mission,” he said. “That’s what I like to do for Jim. I like to run around
free. I couldn’t wear a khaki uniform and stand with my back stiff as a board like them kids at Jim’s
place – and they couldn’t do intelligence missions looking the way they do. Besides, the way gasoline
costs, I’m the only one Jim could trust to drive around in his car and not waste money.”

“What about the bus?” I says. “Don’t them kids waste money driving around giving out

“Well-uh-take my word for it. We get money for that. Enough said about it,” Clark answered

We both stopped talking a few seconds and looked east at the last light touching the tips of
the mountains from the sun going down into the ocean west of us.

“I want to go over to the other side of them mountains soon,” I says. “See the rest of the

“Me too,” Clark says. “I’m gonna try to get Jim to send me on intelligence missions way off
there in other places. There are Nationalist groups scattered all over the desert country and the
Rocky Mountains who hate the People’s Party President – that Jew, Sidney Lens. I could make
contact with them for Jim and see what the rest of the country looks like. It would be great to climb a mountain some day.”

Then he looked at his watch and added real quick, “I gotta go now. He swung hisself back
over the fence and ran down the alley before I could say goodbye. I heard his car starting and taking

The spring and summer of that next year, 1971, I spent a lot more time on the street, a lot of
nights away from my aunt’s house. School was already out of my life. I got baptized a couple more
times. I always wanted to talk to Clark again, see if he felt as much interest in spiritual things as I
did. I think he always wanted to sit down and have a good talk with me. But I didn’t see him again as
long as I was in LA.

My fourteenth birthday I was hitching on the freeway. That’s a big four=lane highway all
around the edge of LA to keep the traffic from clogging up the streets in the middle of town. They’ve
built freeways around the edges of big cities all over the country now to give jobs to the unemployed,
but in LA we had the first one. It was built in 1969, so it was just two years old then and the glare
from the sunlight hurt my eyes. I closed them for a second and put my hand over my eyes.

When I opened my eyes again, I seen this skinny blonde girl up ahead of me walking along the freeway carrying a bedroll with a knapsack on her back. It was Twyla, a girl I knew from around the missions. She was a year older than me and a little bit taller.

“Hey, Twyla!” I hollered. “Wait up!” She stopped and I ran up to her.

“Your name is Bill, isn’t it?” Twyla says. “I think I seen you get baptized twice. You know you shouldn’t ought to do that, Bill.”

“Aw, Twyla,” I said. “I just wanted to have the feeling, to know I’m right with the Lord.”

“It would be good to have a guy to walk with me for protection,” Twyla says, “Even if you are
kind of little.”

“Where are you going, Twyla?” I says.

“New Mexico – the valley of Zarahemla, way back in the mountains,” Twyla says.

“What’s supposed to be there?” I asked.

“Another kid I met around the missions told me they got a new prophet there named Bishop
Louie,” Twyla says.

“God spoke to Bishop Louie about everybody coming together and having a new home,”
Twyla went on. “He’s supposed to be some kind of Mormon. I don’t know a thing about Mormons,
but I’m ready to get out of LA anyways.”

“But Twyla,” I says, “I was just on the way to Lakewood to see a friend. I didn’t bring a

“Don’t worry,” she says. “I’ve got enough covers for both of us.”

So I was ready to go to Zarahemla. It sounded like the name of another planet. We caught our

firstride and we was gone.

Chapter Three - Nephi Speaking

An old lady took us where the freeway joined Highway 99 and there we got a ride in a truck east all
the way to Phoenix. The truck driver talked with us for a while, but it was hard for him to hear us.
Besides, after you get east of San Bernardino, Highway 99 turns from four lane to two lane. You
cross some mountains and the road curves a lot, so the truck driver had to keep his eyes on the road.
He couldn’t talk to us, so mostly it was just me and Twyla talking to each other.

Twyla’s mom and Dad come out to California from their farm in Texas as back in the Thirties when it
got too dry and dusty to farm. She had some of that accent like they did, like all these people who
come out to California from Texas and Oklahoma and Arkansas. In Los Angeles we call them folks
cornballs. A lot of us kids around the missions used to tease Twyla about the way she talked.

“My daddy was a big man in a Pentecostal church,” she started, but then she looked to see if the
truck driver still had his eyes on the road and wasn’t listening to us. Then she put her hand to my
ear and whispered, “He was in the church, but sometimes since I was twelve, he’d come home drunk
 and smooch around on me and put his hand in the wrong places and stuff, I’d tell him that it was
sick and we’d pray about it together, and we went to church a lot – I really like singing hymns loud
and speaking in tongues. But then it would happen again and I started leaving home and hanging
out in the missions. The preachers know me. They let me stay around longer than they let the other
kids and I’d help them sweep the place up and cook meals for the people coming in. And I’d try to
forgive my daddy and go back home again and things would be OK for a while – then he’d be like
that again.

“Why didn’t you tell the cops?” I asked.

“What?” she says, “and have my daddy in jail? Look, he’s got a good auto mechanic job. Who would
support my mama and my two little sisters if he went to jail? My mama don’t want to go on welfare.
She don’t trust these People’s Party Communists and their youth programs to take care of my little
sisters. She heard the People’s Party don’t believe in God and she don’t want my little sisters where
they would have to hear all that Communist stuff.”

“Could you just stay at the missions all the time?” I asked.

“I thought about it,” Twyla said, “But I found out the preacher at one of the missions where I hung
out is the same way my daddy is. So I decided to get out of LA when I heard about a lot of people
getting together at Zarahemla. Like I told you, it’s Mormon. I have a Book of Mormon in my knapsack
now. I want to read it as soon as I can to see if it agrees with the Bible.”

The truck driver let us off on the freeway around Phoenix. We had a long, hot dusty walk on the
freeway. With gas costing as much as it does, mostly there’s just rich people and truck drivers on the highways. Most of the rich people won’t give you a ride and a lot of the truck driver’s companies
won’t let them give rides.

Finally it was dark. Twyla unwrapped her sleeping bag and she handed me a blanket.

“Look,” she said, “Don’t try to do anything. I’m a Christian girl and I’m bigger than you.”

I’d never been in this kind of situation with a girl before in my life. I was real curious.

A lot of people say Twyla is bucktoothed and homely but to me she will always be beautiful from
when I first seen her lugging her gear along the freeway. But she was right. We didn’t hardly know
one another except for seeing each other in church. Still it was kind of awkward, me trying to go to
sleep three-legged, if you know what I mean.

“Twyla got in her sleeping bag and I wrapped myself up in the blanket she gave me a few feet away
from her. We got up at day break. We was pretty lucky. We only waited a couple of hours before a
salesman picked us up.

“How far are you going?” Twyla asked.

“To El Paso,” the salesman says.

“Then let us off in La Plata,” Twyla told him.

So we got out in La Plata, a little town in the bottom of a deep, bowl shaped valley surrounded by
pointed hills. The weather was a good deal cooler than Phoenix.

Twyla started walking fast, away from the main highway, following a smaller road that led northwest.
I practically had to run to keep up with her.

“Come on!” she hollered at me. “We gotta get to Zarahemla.”

We followed the road up to the top of the ridge overlooking the valley where the town was. We only
had to wait an hour before a pickup stopped for us and we got in. An old man in a cowboy hat was
driving. His face was all wrinkled and red-brown from years out in the sun and wind.

“Ain’t you kids awful young to be a-hitch-hikin?” he says.

“Just take us to Zarahemla,” Twyla says back.

“Zarahemla?” the old man says, “Hell, the bus driver’s too scared to stop his bus there anymore.”

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“People been a-shootin’ at each other up there,” the old man says. “They got two churches fightin’
it out.”

“But I thought there was just one church there,” Twyla said. Her mouth was open and the corners
turned down, kind of surprised and disappointed. “I mean, the only church I heard of there was the Mormons.”

“Well, they got two kinds of Mormons there now,” the old man answered. “This new guy Bishop
Louie said God was a man and a woman both and the other church started shootin’ at him.”

“Man and woman both?” Twyla said, and her mouth and eyes got even wider. “I never seen that in
the Bible.”

“Well, actually the Mormons have always believed God was male and female,” the old man said back,
“Only they always worshipped the man and didn’t talk much about the woman. Then Bishop Louie
split his church away from the other and said they should give equal honor to both the male and
female. He made his wife Bishop along with him. Then about a month ago, she run away with this
other man. She went to Santa Fe and her and this other man got their own church up there. She’s
lucky she got out when she did, because after she left, the other Mormon church up the valley
started shootin’ at Louie and his friends. A couple folks been hurt, but ain’t nobody been killed as I
know of yet. But still it’s got folks plumb scared, like I told you, and the bus won’t stop at Zarahemla.

The old man looked us over and chewed on his tobacco kind of thoughtful. “Funny thing is,” he went
on, “the more dangerous it gets, the more of you young folks there is showin’ up to see Bishop Louie
 at his church.”

Twyla cleared her throat- “Hmm!”

“I just want to see it,” she says, “to see if it’s God’s work or not.”

“How would a young thing like you know?” the old man asked.

“I’ll know,” Twyla said, and she pulled her lips together tight.

The road curved around the side of one mountain after another. Finally we come to where a
small gravel road led away from the pavement and down into the valley of a little river. From way up
on the ridge where our road was, you could see it was a shallow brown river running over a rocky
bed, every now and then flashing in the sun. Along the river was grove of cottonwood trees and
meadows and cornfields with light brown adobe houses here and there among the green.

“That’s the Pobre Clara River and the Zarahemla Valley,” the old man says. “You kids are
lucky. The first houses you’ll get to if you walk that road are Louie’s people, so I guess you’re safe
still – no telling what them folks from the other church further on up the river will do.”

He let us out – I says “Thank you” and Twyla says “God bless you” and we started along the
gravel road down a steep slope into the valley. All the way down the river, Twyla had her head bent
down and she was muttering under her breath, “A man and a woman both.”

Pretty soon we could hear the Pobre Clara River rushing over the rocks. It’s a peaceful sound
and it fills the whole day and night wherever you are in the valley.

When we got to the first houses, we could see lots of tents in their yards. Some of them
wasn’t regular tents, but blankets over frameworks of branches. There was campfires burning and
lots of people standing around them. They was cooking up food and coffee. Then I really stopped and stared – A lot of the people – men and women both – was naked as the day they was born.

“Don’t stare at that,” Twyla says. “That’s only the flesh. That’s not important. What we’ve got
to find out about is the teaching.”

“But Twyla,” I says. “It’s kind of chilly up here after Phoenix. I want to know what kind of
teaching can make them folks run around bare-assed when it ain’t even warm.”

“We’re not yet at the place to find out anything,” Twyla says, touching my wrist with her
fingertips. “Come on, let’s keep going.”

We come to a place where there had been a big frame building – but it was burnt down in
ruins, nothing but black planks. A bunch of people was standing around, looking pretty sad. And
that’s where I seen Bishop Louie for the first time. He was a short, scrawny guy about 26, barefoot, bow-legged, wearing a leather loincloth and a leather vest and he had a cowboy hat on his head. He
was shaking his fist at this blond guy about a foot taller than him and he was raging at that big guy,
going on like Donald Duck, “Wak-wak-wak!” And the big guy, who could have broke Louie in two was
just hanging his head kind of sheepish. I supposed he must be one of Bishop Louie’s assistants.

And right then Twyla called out clear and strong and calm, “Bishop Louie!”

He forgot that big guy and wheeled around and started walking over the gravel road towards
 us. He had two or three days growth of scraggly fuzz on his face and a big pair of glasses on, but a
spark went out from him that hit me right between the eyes. You could tell no one would ever dare
ask him by what authority he did things.

“What is it, sister?” he says. He had a rough, gravelly voice, not very deep.

“I’m here to ask you about your doctrine,” Twyla says like he had nothing to do but talk to her.

“The doctrine I speak is not my doctrine,” Louie says. “To understand it you must live among
the people who are gathered here until you feel the leading of the Spirit. However I do intend to say
some words tonight to the people to give them some encouragement, now that our church has been burned down. Meanwhile, I suggest that you two go over to that campfire on the other side of the
church and have some food and coffee.”

Then he turned away from us and went striding right back up to that big guy and started
shaking his fist and yelling at him again.

We walked around to the other side of the ruins. A woman with long light=blond hair was
there. She was naked to the waist, but she wore a skirt that reached to her ankles. She was dishing
food out of a kettle on a fire to a bunch of little kids – all of them naked.

“Excuse me,” I says,, “We’re kind of hungry.”

She turned around and looked hard at us and says, “Why didn’t you bring your own bowls?”

“We just got here,” I says back.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she says, looking a little softer and kinder, “It’s just that so many people come
who have been here a while and should know better.”

She turned back to the kids and says, “Have any of you finished your dinner?”

“Me!” “Me!”

She picked up a couple of battered old tin cans the kids held up. They was both still about
half full. She poured what was in them into a bucket that must have been meant for trash. Then she
took a ladle and got food out of the kettle and poured it in the cups and handed them to us.

“Now keep these cups,” she said.

The food was boiled squash and rice – no salt, no pepper and no more taste than a mouthful
of boiled cardboard. But we gobbled down every bit of it. Then the half-naked woman said, “Do you
want some coffee and me and Twyla both said “Yes!”

She got a big black coffee pot from beside the kettle and poured our cups full. The surface of
the coffee was speckled with ashes and it tasted like it had been strained through an old sock five
or six times, but I drank all mine down.

“Now wash your cups,” the woman said.

I looked around. Twyla had unwrapped her bedroll and was curled up sound asleep on top of
her sleeping bag. I took Twyla’s cup and mine and went where the woman pointed, to a bucket full of gray-brown, greasy lukewarm water. A rag was on the edge of the bucket and I washed and wiped
the cups – really the cans, I mean.

“Remember the rinse water,” I heard the woman say from behind me.

I went over to another bucket full of water that was just as gray-brown and greasy and
lukewarm as the first bucket. I dipped the ‘cups’ in and sloshed them around. Sure enough there
was a rag on the edge of this bucket too. I wiped off the cups. Then I took Twyla’s cup and left it next
to her. I found the blanket she had let me use by the side of the Phoenix freeway the night before. I wrapped myself up and started to go to sleep.

Then I heard a little kid pipe up in a high voice, “Why did you let that guy have my cup?”

“Shh, don’t worry,” the woman’s voice said, “He didn’t bring one. He’s just learning how we
do things here. I’ll get you another cup tomorrow.”

Then I was out like a light.

When I woke up, it was dark. I looked over and I seen Twyla was gone. Then I could hear
singing. I looked back and seen a red glow on the other side of the ruins of the church.

I walked around what was left of the church. I found a big circle of people standing singing
and half-dancing but not moving from their places. In the middle of the circle was a great big bonfire.
The stars looked like sparks form the bonfire going up into the sky. I could see Twyla by the light of
the fire on the opposite side of the bonfire from me. She had pulled her blouse off and now she was half-naked too.

Everyone was singing a song I used to hear in the missions in LA:

“I’ve got a joy, joy, joy deep down in my heart

deep down in my heart

deep down in my heart

I’ve got a joy, joy, joy deep down in my heart

Deep down in my heart to stay.”

Then Bishop Louie, still bare legged in his leather loin cloth stepped to the center of the
circle with his knees sticking out in his kind of bow-legged walk. He held out an open book in his
hand and started to give his message.

Chapter Four – Nephi Speaking

“Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit says to the churches!” Louie shouted in his harsh
 voice and the singing died away. All I could hear was the firewood crackling.

“We are being persecuted,” Louie started. “Our church building has been burned because
some of us come to church in the only clothing God gave them – not the clothing for sale in human

All around the circle I could hear “Yipee!” “Yahoo!” I looked around and I could see some of
the people was still naked, though most of the naked ones had blankets around their shoulders.

“The people up the valley,” Louie went on, “they burned our church building down because
they don’t like the color of the clothing that God gave some of us. Some of us here are Lamanites. To
those who have not read the Book of Mormon, Lamanites are Indians! God gave them a red clothing!
The s0-called church up the valley will tell you that the Book says that this red clothing, this dark
skin is a curse from God. They say it is a shame to those who have it. Our new message from God is
that the days of punishment are over! The red skin is not a punishment anymore, but an honor to
the Lamanites!”

Everybody cheered again.

“We have a brother here who got a black suit of clothing from God,” Louie said.

A tall black man in the circle, naked and no blanket, raised his face to heaven and smiled with
his eyes closed and his fists in the air.

Then Louie started up again.

“The people up the valley,” he said, “will tell you no black man can be a priest. But we have ordained Brother Maceo here as a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek! And our sisters can be
ordained priestesses forever after the order of Melchizedek!”

The circle started cheering so much that it took five minutes for Bishop Louie to get them to calm
down. He held his empty hand up and held the hand with the book forward as he went into a kind of crouch. Then he bounced up all of a sudden. The fire reflected whirls of flame in his glasses.

“They say we break the Word of Wisdom,” Louie said, “the Word that was given to Brother Joseph
the Prophet long ago. It is true the Word of Wisdom says it is wrong to drink coffee and smoke
tobacco. It is true it is harmful.”

A few boos.

“Yes,” Bishop Louie said louder, “It is indeed harmful. But we have brothers and sisters who have
just joined and have not yet learned all that the Spirit has to tell them. These brothers and sisters
are harming their flesh – but not their soul.

“What goes into the mouth does not defile! What comes out of the mouth, that does defile!” Applause
all around the circle and cheers.

“We want to say to the red Lamanites – and to this dark child of Egypt who is with us!”

Brother Maceo, the black man ducked his head and grinned, kind of shy. Then Bishop Louie started
up again.

“We want to say! They have destroyed only the church building, not the church in our hearts! God-
our father in heaven above and our mother in the earth below…” and Louie reached down and
grabbed a handful of dust from near the fire and let it sift through his fingers. “God is protecting us!”

Another five minutes of noise.

Then Bishop Louie said, “And now I will read some words of comfort from the Book of Mormon.
Remember when the first followers of the Prophet Joseph came here, they named this valley
Zarahemla for a city in the Book. Well, in Third Nephi, chapter eight, verse eight, we read, ‘And the
city of Zarahemla did take fire – and so it has.” He waved his hand in a tired limp way towards the
ruins of his church. Louie continued:

“Now I want to read Fourth Nephi, the first chapter, starting at verse two and I’ll kind of skim over,
but you’ll get the gist.

“And it came to pass…that the people were all converted unto the Lord…both Nephites and
Lamanites and there were no contentions and disputations among them…And they had all things in common among them: therefore there were not rich or poor, bond and free, but they were all made
and partakers of the heavenly gift.”

People started to whoop so loud that Bishop Louie couldn’t keep going. He stopped a few minutes.
Then he started reading and I could hear laughter in his voice that kind of softened it so it didn’t
grate so much.

“And there still continued to be peace in the land. And there were great and marvelous works
wrought by the disciples of Jesus…and all manner of miracles…Yea, even that great city Zarahemla
they did cause to be built again!”

At that point the cheering got totally wild.

I heard a “Bonk! Bonk! Bonk”. I seen the black man was squatting on the ground beating on a drum
made out of a section of hollow log. Everybody was singing, but I couldn’t catch the words and we all started dancing around the fire. People put their arms around my shoulders and we was racing
faster and faster and my feet seemed to go off the ground. But I looked out of the corner of my eye
and I could see Bishop Louie wasn’t dancing. He was just standing there by the fire with his head
hanging down and a tired, sad expression on his face.

Seemed like we just flew around the fire in a blur forever. Then I started getting dizzy. I suppose
everybody else did, because the circle started breaking up. People was plopping on the ground. I
plopped too. I felt warm inside and I knew what was keeping the naked people warm. I gasped,
catching my breath and smiled.

Just then I felt a finger tapping on my shoulder. I looked up. It was Clark from the Nationalist Youth
bunch back in LA!

“Surprise,” he says and started to get that big grin for a second. Then he set down beside me and
the grin faded and he looked troubled.

“I don’t know what to think of this place yet,” he said. “I was on an intelligence mission for Jim. There
re a bunch of Nationalist churches that have split off from the big Mormon church in Salt Lake City.
We heard about one in Zarahemla Valley and Jim wanted me to make contact. So I drove here. I was
at the other church up the valley.”

“What are they like?” I asked.

“Oh, really they ain’t bad folks,” Clark said. “But I didn’t know anything about Bishop Louie’s church
till I got to La Plata. The whole town is talking about all the naked people here.”

Clark grinned again for a second only.

“Well,” he went on, “I drove by Bishop Louie’s people on my way up the valley to that Nationalist
Mormon church. All I seen of Louie’s folks was kids, kids who had even littler kids. And when I got to
that church in the upper valley, they was going crazy because all that was going on down here – the nakedness and the coffee drinking and tobacco smoking and that nigger beating a drum. Fuck man,
like to drink coffee and smoke tobacco! Then they said they was gonna burn down this church, so I t
ook off in the middle of the night to warn the people here. Say – you know it’s trickier to get through
this country than it looks.”

Clark rolled up his pants leg and I could see cuts and scrapes and bruises all over his calf.

“I had some good falls,” he says. “By the time I got here, the church was burning. But I talked all this morning to Bishop Louie about what they’re doing back at that other church up the valley. It seems
like now I’m doing intelligence for Bishop Louie instead of for Jim. And that’s weird, because they got
a nigger here and now I’m on these people’s side.” And Clark started shaking his head.

“Man,” he went on. “I don’t know what I believe no more. Up the valley they believe all the things Jim
says are right – except I wish they’d let me have coffee and cigarettes. They believe white people are
the true Israel and the Jews are from the Devil. They believe the niggers are cursed by God and now
here I am on the side of a nigger,” He said the word in a long, loud whisper.

“I just learned about this place,” I says. “It’ll be several days before I can tell you what I think of it. All
I can tell you is Bishop Louie has some kind of power.”

“He sure does, man,” Clark nodded. “When he talked to me I wanted to do anything he wanted me to
– even to save that nigger’s life.”

All of a sudden Clark threw his head back and growled from down in his throat- “Owwh! What am I supposed to tell my parents and my uncle with all of them in the Klan?”

“I don’t know,” I says. “I don’t know where my dad’s at and I have an aunt that I kind of stay away
from. I kind of miss my mom, but it’s better to be on the road now. I don’t know much about family

We both just sat there quiet by the fire for a few minutes. There was a good smell of sweat and wood smoke in the air around the circle. My sweat was part of it. I breathed it in deep. I could see specks
of light from the fire weaving over little groups of people sitting on the ground in the shadows
talking in low voices like Clark and me. I didn’t see Bishop Louie no place. He might have some kind
of power, but I seen in his face earlier that he could be sad and lonely. I worried a little about how he
was getting along.

All of a sudden I felt a big wave of tiredness flow from the bottom of my feet all the way up into my
brain where it beat against the inside of my skull. I tried standing up and staggered a little.

“Excuse me, Clark,” I says, “I just gotta go to sleep. Do you have bedding?”

“Oh I had bedding, a down sleeping bag,” Clark answered. “I left the bag in Jim’s car near the church
up the valley – the Nationalist church. When I got here, Bishop Louie made sure that they gave me a blanket. No one does without here. You may not get the best, but you get something. But shit – I left everything I own back up the valley and everything of Jim’s that was with me, to be down here with a
bunch of naked kids and a nigger. It’s like I gave up my whole life. I got a blanket but I can’t go to

I grabbed both of Clark’s hands in mine – the first time I ever done that in my whole life to anyone. I
held them for a minute or two. Then I said, “Good night,” and headed back around the ruins of the
church, weaving like I was drunk. I found Twyla still awake, sitting on her sleeping bag, looking up
at the crescent moon. She had her blouse back on and a wind breaker over that.

“What do you think now, Twyla?” I asked.

“Oh,” she says, “I think they’ve got some kind of righteous power, so they must have the right
doctrine even if they don’t express it in the correct way always.”

“You know, Twyla,” I says, “I never thought I’d see you bare chested like that.”

“I didn’t think about it at the time,” Twyla said. “The fire was too hot and a lot of people had all their clothes off, so I took my blouse off. I didn’t feel lust of the flesh from any of the guys. I think Bishop
Louie has a problem with lust of the flesh, but he wasn’t throwing it at me. I took off my blouse
because that was just the way it was. Now that you brought it up, I like being free like that.”

By then I was wrapped up in the blanket and the sound of the Pobre Clara River was sending me off
to sleep.

Next day when we got up there was oatmeal for breakfast. It tasted just like the boiled squash and
rice the night before – that is, it didn’t taste. A bunch of us sat in a circle eating the oatmeal around
the heap of ashes where the bonfire had been the night before. Some guy in the circle stood up and
said the trench where people went to shit was about full up. He said we should cover the shit with
dirt and ashes and dig a new trench.

So some of us got together, mostly guys, but some girls. We got a shovel and a coffee can full of
ashes from the bonfire place. We went and filled in the old shit trench and put ashes in it. Then we
went over and started digging on new shit trenches. The ground was real rocky. We was lucky Clark
 was there. He was strong as an ox and he could dig into that rocky ground like a knife into hot
butter. Then all of a sudden Bishop Louie showed up – said he wanted to talk to Clark and I didn’t
see Clark again that day. The rest of us had to work pretty hard without him. I got blisters all over
my hands. When I got back to my blanket around supper time, Twyla told me she had been out all
day long dragging in big dead firewood branches and cutting them up with a hatchet.

That’s how our life went for the rest of the week, all of us in the camp working together to feed
ourselves wit more and more people coming in all the time. I lost the can I had been using for a cup.
I went to see Ivy, the woman with the long blond hair who had fed me and Twyla when we first got

“Can I have a new cup?” I asked.

Ivy gave me a big talking-to about being careless, but another woman said, “Calm down, Ivy,” and ran
to her tent and got me a bowl with a big ship out of it – but still good enough to eat out of.

One day Bishop Louie baptized three people in the river. I t was such a shallow stream he had to get
Clark to dig a little hole in the gravel of the river bed. The people would take turns getting baptized.
Each one would kneel in the hole Clark dug out with just their head and shoulders sticking above the water. Then Bishop Louie would duck their head in the river. Each person told Bishop Louie a new
name they wanted when they got baptized. Like a boy named Henry, about my age, got down in the
river and whispered the name he wanted in Bishop Louie’s ear.

“Brother!” Louie shouted, “I baptize you Eagle!” and ducked him under. The boy walked back on
shore grinning proud and happy like he had just become a man.

Then I felt that wish again like I had long ago at the mission in LA. I turned to Bishop Louie with
tears in my eyes and said, “Please baptize me!”

“What name do you want?” Bishop Louie asked.

Now all these days in Zarahemla I had been reading Twyla’s Book of Mormon. Nephi was the first
hero in the Book of Mormon. He had a father who loved him the way I wished I had. Nephi’s father
told him a wonderful dream – that he had led his whole family to the tree to eat this wonderful fruit
like no one had ever ate before. And it was the greatest tasting, most nourishing fruit in the world.
They ate it, including Nephi, even though the people who didn’t eat the fruit made fun of him. And
Nephi stood up to his older brothers when they tried to push him around – the way I always wished
I could stand up to my mother’s older sister. Then Nephi took his whole family in a little wooden ship
across the dangerous ocean to America, to the wilderness.

So I cried out, “Nephi!”

“Come on in the river,” Bishop Louie said.

I walked out and got down on my knees in the spot Clark had hollowed out. I was naked. By that time
I was running around naked all day. The river was cold to my bones. It meant more to me than being baptized in a robe.

Bishop Louie said, “I baptize you Nephi in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – and
the Mother – which is all one God,” and splash! He put me under. I stood up and walked back to the
shore dripping icy cold water with a fire inside me. I was holding my hands over my head hollering “Hallelujah! “I'm Nephi! I’m Nephi!”

I knew that was the last time I would ever get baptized. I didn’t know it was the last time Bishop

Louie would ever baptize anybody.

Chapter Five – Buff Speaking

This is Buffington Journeycake PhD again. Nephi had stopped talking in my tape recorder. He took a
drink of his coffee. Outside the rain was pouring down on Sante Fe.

“Didn’t Twyla get baptized?” I asked.

“No,” Nephi said. “She told me, ‘I was baptized once and that was enough; I have faith in my baptism’.
Then she pointed at me and said, ‘What you need more than baptism is faith – not just in God, but in yourself.’”

“What about Clark?” I said.

“Oh, I says ‘Come on Clark, get baptized with me’, but he shook his head. Here he was, this big,
strong guy and he was shaking and stuttering. He just says, ‘I dug out a hole for other people to get baptized in. I done them some good and that’s enough. I-I-I just ain’t sure of what I believe. I want to
be with this think but don’t know if I want to be part of it yet.’ – That’s what Clark told me. So I got
the last of Bishop Louie’s baptizing before he quit doing it.”

Nephi went on telling me his story long into the night. I intend to use some of the rest of his account
later in this book, but I also want you to hear the voices of some others.

When I finished taping and writing notes of Nephi’s memories, the little restaurant was ready to
close. We walked outside. A strong chilly breeze was blowing, tearing the clouds to pieces so that
the stars showed through again, like bright fruit hanging almost low enough to pick. Still the ground
in Santa Fe was cold and damp and there were pools of water under the bridges and culverts.

“Where did you stash your gear, Nephi?” I asked.

“At the Maria Russell Mission, where else?” he answered.

“But they lock the door at eight. How can we get in?” I said.

“Ph, they’ll open for me,” Nephi said with a firm nod of his head. Twyla might think Nephi didn’t have enough faith in himself, but about some things he was absolutely sure.

We walked a few more blocks – Sante Fe is a big small town and nothing is very far from anything
else. We came to a one-story red-brick house, maybe almost a hundred years old. The porch was
white painted wood, with a lot of Victorian gingerbread carvings. We walked up on the porch and
started banging the door with all his might.

Finally a sleepy young man in underwear opened the door and said, “Look, you can’t come in. Come
back tomorrow morning before eight o’clock.”

“Go back to Taze and Rivka, whichever one is easiest to get up. Tell them Nephi and Buff are here,”
Nephi said with calm arrogance.

The young man disappeared down the dark hallway. About 15 minutes later a tall woman about 30
was coming out of the dark towards us, putting a red imitation satin house coat over her yellow
night gown. She had long wavy, glossy black hair, uncombed and flowing down her back and down
front of her housecoat.

“Buff, it’s good to see you,” she said, attempting a smile.

“Nephi, you should know not to come so late. You should have brought Buff earlier.”

“It’s my fault, Rivka,” I said. “I kept Nephi up till midnight recording what he has to say about the
history of the Circle. Hey – you know, I’d like to record what you have to say.”

“Tomorrow, tomorrow, we’ll think about it tomorrow.” Rivka had a noticeable New York accent, but
her voice was soft and lilting. “We won’t think about doing anything tonight,” she added.

She hurried back down the hall to her room and I followed Nephi to one of the dim rooms that
opened off the hall. We could hear the soft whistle of breathing an occasional snore from the
sleeping bodies that covered the floor around us.

I followed Nephi around the edge of the room to the corner where he had his bedroll. We unwrapped
our sleeping bags and soon I drifted off. I woke up out of a complete blank to the noise of people,
mostly young, talking to each other as they lined up in the hall in front of the bathrooms where they
would pee if they had to and wash their hands and arms – which in the Maria Russell Mission they definitely had to. There was a men’s line and a women’s line. Nephi and I got at the end of the men’s
line and went through the routine. Then we joined the line going into the dining hall, showing our
hands to a young woman who stood at the door, examining for cleanliness. She only sent a couple of
people from the line back to the bathroom to do their washing over.

We stood at the table and a tall young man with big ears said a brief prayer. Then we sat down and
other young people brought in breakfast – bowls of yogurt with strawberries in it – big, juicy bits of strawberry. The tall young man who had said the prayer mounted a high stool and announced, “I’m
Brother Malachi. I shall read from Studies in the Scriptures by Charles Taze Russell. He began to
read in a high, clear monotone.

Because I have studied anthropology and psychology, almost any book interests me – to learn how
the author’s mind works or to figure out his unconscious assumptions about society. However I have
tried reading Studies in the Scriptures several times and I have had it read at me at Maria Russell
Missions around the US, and it never fails to bore me. So I was doing what everybody else did –
eating my breakfast and talking in a low voice to my neighbors. It was no disrespect to the young
man. He had already had his yogurt, so he had enough energy to plow through plenty of old Russell’s endless pages.

Just then Taze and Rivka walked in. Rivka had her hair combed and brushed smoothly down her back
now like an ebony waterfall. She had a strong face with a proud, sweeping high nose.

Taze was originally Thomas Tazewell, PhD. I was in his seminars on the Anthropology of Religion at
the University of New Mexico when I was getting my doctorate there. I had always wanted to pull my
shoe off and throw it at him.

Taze was 40 years old, about as tall as Rivka. He was bald-headed and with glasses over a pair of the sharpest little eyes I have ever seen. He had shortened his last name from Tazewell to Taze to be like
the prophet Charles Taze Russell who had written Studies in the Scriptures. Taze was all anybody
ever called him anymore. He had the same crackle of authority around him that Bishop Louie did,
only not as much. Nobody will ever be like Louie.

“Buff! Glad to have you back with us!” Taze boomed out over the reading of Studies in the Scriptures, which continued unabated. He came over and pumped it. He was wearing a turtleneck sweater and
slacks – he looked like he was still a professor.

Taze and Rivka found empty folding chairs at one of the tables and scooted in next to me.

“I shall now read from the Commentary on Studies in the Scriptures by Taze,” Brother Malachi
announced. One thing you could say about Russell. His Studies in the Scriptures was more i
nteresting than Taze’s commentary on it. But I had a purpose in being here now.

“Say, Taze,” I said. “I’m starting a history of the Circle. I was thinking at first of just interviewing
Louie, but Nephi here told me such interesting material last night, I want to record the memories of
a bunch of different people. I was thinking about interviewing you and Rivka.”

“Taze’s face started flickering back and forth between a smile and a frown. He settled on the smile. “Uh-yes,” he said. “come back to my bedroom after breakfast and we’ll talk into your tape recorder.
But we’ll have to make it brief – no more than an hour. And Nephi, you can’t be there!”

“Ok,” Nephi said and turned to me. “buff, he said, “I’ll go around town and see if I can get together
enough money to buy some cigarettes. I’ll be back by the time you finish with Taze and Rivka.”

In a little more than an hour, I thought Taze and Rivka had said all they were going to say. I went out
in the front yard of the mission and found Nephi there smoking a cigarette. We walked with our
bedrolls on our backs under the cottonwood and sycamore trees in the park along the Acequla
Madre – the old Spanish irrigation ditch. All of a sudden I heard a voice behind us calling “Buff!
Nephi!” I turned around. Rivka was running after us in her long purple skirt.

“Taze just got a call,” Rivka said. She took a few deep breaths. Then Rivka continued:

“Taze had to go right away to meet with some politician at our ranch outside of town. I’ve got all the
day’s plans made for the Mission – Brother Antonio will read from the Spanish translation of Taze’s Commentary on Studies in the Scriptures at the noon meal.”

She gave a little laugh with an admixture of tiredness and bitterness. Then she sat down on the
thick green grass under a tree and looked up at us with a real smile.

“Go ahead, sit down!” she said. “So record me! I can take a couple of hours off. I might as well say a
few things. It may make Taze mad, it may make Louie mad, but isn’t this a time of revolution

We sad down and I switched on my recorder. In what follows, I have tried to splice together things
that Rivka told me there in the park with what she said back at the mission. I am also including
Taze’s remarks. The explanations he taped for me on the beliefs of the Maria Russell Missions are
briefer, clearer and more to the point than those he gives in his monumental Commentary on Studies
in the Scriptures.

Rivka Speaking

In my family Social Consciousness was our religion. My parents were such good people I could
scream. We went to a Reform Jewish temple twice a year, but we had Social Consciousness for
breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year.

My father was a bureaucrat from the New York City Public Housing Authority. Hell, he lived the
Public Housing Authority. And really, I can’t blame him. They have replaced most of the worst slum firetraps with good, sturdy brick buildings. It’s true the rooms are small and over crowded, but for
only a hundred and fifty a month in New York, most poor people can have a good sanitary room – no
rats, it won’t burn down. I’m sounding like my father now.

In the fifties when Nixon was President, he cut the funding for public housing. It meant more
homeless people sleeping in alleys, more crime. Nixon talked like he wanted to do away with public
housing completely. Fortunately, some of his advisors must have explained to him how crazy that
would be. He kept funding public housing or we’d really have a mess on our hands now.

And my father went to bat for every one of the people in his public housing that were in danger of
being kicked out because of the cuts. He bled for them, man. He would stay in his office on the phone
for them any night till midnight. He wasn’t home for me. And if they had a place to stay, he was on
the phone to make sure their heating worked and there were flowers planted around their buildings.
And God forbid anybody should find a rat in his public housing. He never got overtime for most of this.

My mother was a social worker the same way = always bringing home some complicated soap opera
her clients were going through. She put herself through the mill for them.

Then when Nixon got impeached for all those corruption scandals and Robert Kennedy got elected
the first People’s Party President in 1964, my mom and dad danced around our apartment. I tell you
every day was Hannukah. And when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1965, my dad flung himself
on the bed crying – big heaving sobs.

The doctor kept him home from work for a month – too much danger of a heart attack. Most white
collar workers, you know, voted Republican, not People’s Party. When you find office workers like my parents who are strong People’s Party, very often they’re Jewish. And it’s not just because Jews are idealistic. Out here in New Mexico people think all Jews are rich, but in New York you see Jewish
beggars all the time. I have a bunch of relatives living in public housing. My father would take me to
visit my old great-aunts in these little cramped apartments and he’d talk Yiddish with them. I can’t understand Yiddish very well, but I could gather my aunts were full of praise for public housing after
the dumps they had rented in the slums.

My father would work some nights till midnight; when my mother got home from work, she would go
off to meetings of all sorts of causes and movements. When I was a kid I was left with baby sitters.
Later when I became a teenager I was left alone a lot of nights. I became interested in religion, which
my parents talked about very, very little. It was my way of youthful rebellion and besides, in my
loneliness I wanted the companionship of spiritual beings.

I told my father, “Dan, I think there might be a God.”

And he said, “Yah yes, often in history religion has played a progressive role in organizing the
oppressed to struggle for their rights.”

And I just went “Aaagh!” and went to my bedroom. He called after me, “What did I say, honey?”

By the time I was the age to go to college, I was reading a lot of library books on American Indian
Spiritual beliefs – especially the Pueblo and Navajo Indians of New Mexico and Arizona. I was really interested in the Navajo goddess Changing Woman.

So I decided I wanted to major in anthropology and study Southwestern Indian religion. The
University of New Mexico at Albuquerque had a good anthropology department; it was out there
close to the Indians and what’s more it was just as cheap for me as most of the colleges in the New
York City area..

When I told my college plans to my parents, they said what I expected – ‘We think it’s a good idea for
you to study anthropology, honey. It’s good for you to learn about the culture of oppressed peoples.
It might help in organizing them and…”

Once more I went “Aaagh!”

So I came out to the University in Albuquerque in 1968 and that’s how I met Taze – and Louie.

Chapter Six – Rivka speaking

Buff, when you were in a graduate seminar with Taze I was taking an undergraduate course from
him. A lot of people get one look at Taze and he doesn’t seem that attractive. They read what he has written and that leaves them cold. But it’s when you actually hear him speak – he can even make
Studies in the Scriptures
sound interesting! And he’s so convincing. I never met anyone so
convincing in my life – until I met Louie in the spring of 1969.

The first time I ever met Louie, I was sitting in a student hangout in the university area, drinking a
cup of coffee and studying my lessons. Louie came walking up to me with a glass of orange juice on
a tray.

Of course he wasn’t wearing that leather loincloth. He had jeans on and an old Future Farmers of
America jacket. But he was wearing that battered old felt cowboy hat.

“Excuse me,” he said. “All the other tables are taken. Do you mind if I sit here with you awhile and
put the make on you?”

I really believe he said that. I tried to laugh and said “OK.” Now that I think about it,, I had seen
Louie in different coffee shops in the university area, putting the make on various women.

I’m fairly sure that if Louie took his glasses off, he would walk straight into a wall two feet in front of
him. But the way those blue eyes sparkle! He has a real prophet’s eyes.

He sat there across the table from me grinning with those sharp teeth. I had to let him sit there to
show him – and myself – that he didn’t spook me. I picked up my cup and gulped down my coffee.

“You shouldn’t drink that stuff,” he said. “It’s against the Word of Wisdom.”

“The what?” I said.

The word God gave to Joseph Smith,” Louie answered. “He’s the prophet of our faith – the Mormons.”

Since I moved out west I had already heard a good deal about the Mormons, who are big in this part
of the world. I knew that they were a very American religion – they followed a prophet named Joe
Smith who taught that the Garden of Eden was located near Independence, Missouri, and the United States Constitution was written under divine inspiration. And most Mormons believed that God was physically a male Caucasian. No thanks. I preferred the Changing Woman of the Navajos.

“But isn’t the Mormon church awfully patriarchal?” I asked. “Everything’s so oriented to males.”

I could see Louie’s eyes narrow behind his glasses and get little thoughtful crinkles at the corners.

“I’m afraid you’re right,” he said, “at least that’s the way they teach it now. But the early Mormon
teaching says there is a divine Father and Mother. They are-quote-alike in glory–unquote. An early
Mormon named Eliza Snow – the rumors I hear say she was one of the wives of the Prophet Joseph –
she wrote a hymn to the Mother. It goes like this.”

And he began to sing tunelessly:

“In the heavens are parents single?

No! The thought makes reason stare.

Truth is reason! Truth eternal

Tells me I’ve a mother there.”

“By the way,” he said, “My name is Louie McGowan.” His face broke into this big natural smile and
he reached his hand across the table and shook mine. It was one of the few times I have ever seen
Louie when he wasn’t on stage and it impressed me more than any of the wonderful things I have
seen and heard from him since then. Louie can tell the most fascinating stories I have ever heard. He
is one of the wittiest people I know. But he’s always putting the make on everybody he meets – if not
for sex, it’s to use them in the plans he always has in his head. Just to see him with his guard let
down, not playing an act – that’s a very rare and precious gift.

Comment by Nephi

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized there’s a big sex competition between Louie and Taze. They both
always have big crowds of females following them with their tongues hanging out. There’s been lots
of times I’ve heard Louie preaching to the females and all he’s saying is “Follow my whanger!” But I’ll
say this for Louie – he’s got a heart as well.

Now Taze, he preaches for hours, he writes books, he builds communities, he gives away huge
amounts of stuff to the poor – but all Taze has got is whanger.

Rivka Speaking

I asked Louie, “What do you come to town for?”

“I come to town a lot to buy supplies for our United Order in Zarahemla Valley,” he answered. “We
have community fields of crops, a community herd of cattle. We broke with the main Mormon Church
in Salt Lake City like a lot of Mormons up in the mountains have in the last 30 years. We’re trying to
get back to the way the Mormons were in the early days – communal enterprises, what we call the
United Order. I want to keep in mind what you said about women,” and he looked me straight in the
eye and went on. “I hope that someday we can introduce the worship of the female side of God like
they really talked about doing in the old Mormon times.”

He finished his orange juice in a few gulps, gave one last grin and said, “See you soon.” Then he was
lost in the crowds pouring out the restaurant door.

I didn’t think about Louie any more for a month. Then I saw a big photo of him on the front page of
the Albuquerque Journal – in a hospital bed in La Plata. He had bandages wrapped around the top of
his head and his arm in a sling. He’d been in a big fight – about 50 people on each side, some of them swinging fence posts. The barn of the Zarahemla United Order had been dynamited. It all started
because Louie had a revelation that baptism should be in the name of the Mother as well as the
Father and also that Louie’s two wives and some other women should be ordained as Mormon
priests. The Zarahemla community had split wide open over that – and so almost did Louie’s skull.

At the end of the story there was a big denial by the Mormon church in Salt Lake City that they had anything to do with anybody in Zarahemla Valley or any of the other Mormon splinter groups that
still practiced polygamy. The Salt Lake City church insisted that they had banned polygamy many
years ago.

I have seen Louie since then when he has a revelation. He does go into a trance. I believe him when
he says he sees a light and hears a voice. I’m sure that happened when he had his revelation about
women. But I like to think that I started the whole process, that the Mother was speaking to Louie
through me that day in the restaurant.

Also I was kind of disappointed to find out that Louie already had two wives.

As soon as the news of the religious war in Zarahemla broke, Taze talked about it in our class. He
said he was taking some of his graduate students in Anthropology of Religion and he wanted some undergraduate volunteers. I was one of two in our class that held up our hands. The state police had
been to Zarahemla and made some arrests on both sides, but there was still a lot of fear that it might
be dangerous down there.

Taze was anxious to get down to Zarahemla, danger or no danger. I was just beginning to realize the jealousy and competition of those days between a lot of anthropologists. Taze had a reputation for a
good book-knowledge of anthropology. He knew the already existing literature well and was able to develop some very interesting theories, but he hadn’t done much in the field since his doctoral
dissertation from Berkeley for his work at Santo Toribo Pueblo. Some of the professors who had been around the pueblo whispered behind Taze’s back that the Indians at Santo Toribo wouldn’t talk to
Taze, so he had to make up a bunch of stuff for his dissertation.

Taze was eager to prove he was as good as anybody at field research. I was pretty eager to see what
the field was like too. But I didn’t tell Taze about my conversation with Louie at the restaurant. I
never have told him.

As soon as Louie got out of the hospital, Taze called him asking for permission to come down and
interview him. As always when it was a question of publicity, Louie said yes.

Taze says he invited you to come along, Buff. It’s a shame you didn’t. There were three carloads of us,
and with the way gasoline costs, we were glad the university was paying the bill. We had a big picnic basket full of sandwiches. We stopped to eat by the roadside, looking up at the mountains. The
branches of the pine trees near us were singing a chorus in the breeze. I gave my heart to that whole Southwest New Mexico country then.

When we got to Zarahemla Valley, we found Louie and his two wives standing in front of the
framework for his new church building. The faction further up the valley who wouldn’t accept
Louie’s teaching on women had seized the old church. Louie’s new church which was under
construction is the one that was burned down by the upper valley people shortly after I left Louie in

But on this bright clear day, the church framework stood against a deep blue sky with huge drifts of
white fluffy clouds. Louie’s two wives stood behind him, along with another woman with a worried
look on her face who kept shifting from one foot to another.

All around Louie – as usual – there was a big crowd applauding him. On this day he was to be
ordained Bishop of the new church – the ward as Mormons call it.

Taze told all us students to take notes of the procedures. What’s to say? There were some prayers,
some hymns, some words said – not really too different from the sort of stuff you read in Studies in
the Scriptures
, only these words were supposed to be Mormon. Louie, as he often does, tried hard to
look modest and as always, it was difficult for him. I was standing straight in front of Louie, but he g
ave not a single flicker of recognition to indicate that we had ever met before. Louie always was able
to keep a good poker face.

As soon as Louie was installed as Bishop, we were bracing ourselves for the ceremony to ordain his
wives and free other women as priestesses. We all knew that this might be a long, tedious one, since
the women were to be given the two grades of the Mormon priesthood in the same day, the Aaronic
 – which most Mormon males get at puberty = the Melchizedek, which males get upon reaching
adulthood and preparing for marriage.

We hadn’t even gotten through the Aaronic, and it was already getting pretty wearisome for me,
when the women were kneeling before Louie and he was supposed to put his hands on their heads
in blessing. All of a sudden, the fidgety nervous-looking woman who had been with Louie and his
wives when he got there, stoop up and ran away from the others like a frightened sheep.

Louie ran after her, but he called instructions back over his shoulder to his elders, who began
leading us in the hymn, “We’re Marching Upwards to Zion.” Louie always did have a good sense that
the show must go on.

He caught up with her when she stopped to lean against a big cottonwood tree and gasp for breath.

Then Louie actually got down on his knees in front of her and begged her to come back. This is
another time I have seen Louie when I believed he was not putting on an act.

Finally she followed Louie back to the ceremony. Louie raised his hand and we stopped singing in
the middle of the fourth chorus of “Marching Upwards to Zion.”

“Folks!” Louie said. “Sister Zerena here” – he indicated with his hand the woman who had run away
– “she tells me there are some special circumstances that might make it difficult for her to become a priestess. So there will be a private ceremony to prepare her for the priesthood and then we will
give her the full ordination – as we will now proceed to do with these sisters here.”

Then he laid his hands in blessing on the heads of the other six women and we got to the end of the Aaronic ceremony. Then we waded through the Melchizedek ceremony – while Zerena stood all the
time off to one side. She was still looking as uncomfortable as ever.

Taze was busy taking notes as all this was going on. I think one thing he learned from Louie was how
to conduct a religious ceremony in grand style and not sweat the small shit. For me though, religion
has mostly been a personal thing of my relationship to the deity.

From my first introduction at Zarahemla, I have found I don’t care much personally for ceremonies, although I have conducted a lot of them since then.

At night fall we of the anthropology tribe set up tents and built a fire, which we sat around and
conducted our own tribal ceremonies – a seminar out here in the mountains. Taze was at his best. He
was drawing people out. So many were telling him how the fervent singing of these old hymns
produced a warm, folksy feeling and they envied the sense of community these Mormons seemed to
have. I put my hand up. Taze called “Rivka!”

“I agree to an extent,” I said. “There were times I got a little bored. Let’s be honest. There were a lot
of times I got a lot bored. But sometimes during the hymns I had a sense of what I was looking for in religion. In New York all my amusements were alone – reading, listening to records, going to movies.
In a movie theater you’re alone in the dark with a crowd. This was the first time I’ve ever come close
to feeling what it might be to have a link with people”

“I hope you do find out some day,” a rough, grainy voice – by now familiar – said from behind me.
 Louie, who was now His Holiness the Bishop came and sat down by me at the fire. I didn’t know that Mormon Bishops are just plain Brother. But Louie will always be Bishop Louie.

“My dad,” Louie began, “and his brothers, they went from ranch to ranch on foot carrying their
saddles on their shoulders. They broke horses, built fence, fed cattle, but to do cowboying and not
own your own horse? That’s poor. They was what you call Jack Mormons. They got baptized in it,
even went to church a few times, but it was so people would accept them as fellow human beings. A
lot of places in the Rockies, if you’re not a Mormon you’re plumb froze out.

“They did like a lot of Jack Mormons, obeyed some of the rules – like you couldn’t pay them to touch
coffee. But they’d get out behind the barn and really get after that moonshine.

“I was the first male in my family to graduate from high school. But I found myself like my dad and his brothers, throwin’ the houlihan – that’s going from ranch to ranch looking for work. I was alone. But
then I found this community in Zarahemla Valley that had broke away from the main Mormon church
in Salt Lake City.

“The Zarahemla Community was trying to find the true United Order of the time of the Prophet
Joseph – a community like a big family raising crops and cattle together. It was the first place I could
hang my hat. Then I had the revelation that women should be as much a part of the community as us
men – and you see what happened.”

When Louie finished, Taze began to talk about the political and social background of break away
Mormon communities like Zarahemla. I could almost see Louie’s ears prick up like a coyote’s ears in
the firelight. I could fee; it in the firelight at a distance.

“The General Authorities,” Taze said, “that’s the leaders of the Mormon Church – they ran their
flocks to vote Republican like putting them through a sheep dip. That was OK from the Civil War to
the Depression when the Republicans almost always had the Presidency. Then in 1932 the
Democrats with 80% of the vote and the People’s Party with 30% of the vote made a coalition and
elected Franklin Roosevelt president.”

Taze looked around the fire with a grin. He wiggled his eyebrows with an unspoken “Aha!”

“Ever since then,” he continued, “Mormon churches have been breaking loose from control of the
General Authorities, because the Depression has never really ended. First young, low-income urban Mormons started voting Democrat and People’s Party. When the General Authorities insisted on the Republicans, these young urban people broke away.

“And up here in the mountains there are lots of little Mormon communities that are horrified if the
General Authorities even try to get along with the People’s Party. All these small ranchers and
farmers are afraid the People’s Party will communize their little bits of property. So they do their own communization – only they control it, not the government. They bring polygamy back in the open.
And they have fifty dozen splits – often with violence – like you’ve had, Louie – only your split is the
first one I’ve heard of that tries to give more rights to women.”

Then Taze stood up and yawned. Everybody else started getting ready to go bed down in their tents.
And I was left alone at the dying fire with Louie.

Chapter Seven

Rivka Speaking

I looked at the outline of Louie’s face in the light from the glowing ashes.

“Hey,” I said, “you didn’t explain why that woman named Zerena ran away from the ceremony.”

“You promise you won’t tell?” Louie asked.

“OK,” I answered.

“Keep your word. Remember that life’s not an assignment in anthropology. Zerena is the wife of one of the elders up the valley that we had split from. She ran away from her husband and joined me.”

“As one of your wives?” I asked.

“Not quite,” he answered.

“Well, can’t you marry her?” I said.

“Not exactly,” Louie said. “See, Zerena is not just married to Brother Bob – she’s sealed to him for all eternity. There’s this little Mormon temple in Arizona not far from here that broke away form the General Authorities in Salt Lake City. It does services for a lot of us folks in what Taze calls the breakaway Mormon groups. That’s where I got sealed to my two wives. Regular marriage is only for this world like the Aaronic Priesthood you’re supposed to get when you’re a teenager. When you get sealed it lasts forever like the Melchizedek Priesthood. So Zerena’s pretty anxious.”

Louie paused and stared at the fire.

“Let’s say she spends her life with me,” Louie continued. “At the resurrection Brother Bob is supposed to say her secret sealing name and call her from her grave to spend eternity with him. He can either leave her in her grave – or he might give her a pretty rough eternity.”

“And you believe this, Louie?” I asked.

“In some ways I do,” Louie answered, picking his words slowly and carefully. His hands were imitating the motions of feet stepping on a path.

“Are you having sex with her?” I said.


“And all these women I see you flirting with in Albuquerque?” I asked.

“With them too.”

“Louie,” I said, “how the hell do you justify it?”

“I always said it was like courtship,” Louie answered. “I thought I might get sealed to them some day. But with Zerena it’s sort of different. The Prophet Joseph was married to women who were sealed to other men. And the men were his friends and they had passed away. But Zerena’s husband, Brother Bob up in the valley, he’s alive and you better believe he’s not my friend. And there’s something even worse.” Louie’s head hung down.

“What’s worse?” I asked.

“Since I performed the priestess ceremony today,” Louie said, “I know that temple in Arizona will never let me or my wives in again. Oh man, I just gotta have a revelation of what to do about all this mess!”

Louie’s predicament sounded just as exotic as anything I had ever heard in class that occurred among some tribe on a Pacific island.

Now I understood for the first time that people in a culture different from mine really felt those things. Louie was crying a little. I put my hand on his shoulder. I will give him credit as everlasting as the Melchizedek Priesthood that he didn’t try to do anything else. It was a beautiful moment.

“Say, I never did get your name,” he said.

“Rivka – that’s Hebrew for Rebecca.”


“Yeah, Rivka a Kaplan. I’m Jewish.”

“I think you’re the first Jewish person I’ve ever met,” Louie said. “A lot of these mountain Mormons don’t like Jews. They say us Mormons are the True Israel and the Jews are Gentiles like everybody else who’s not a Mormon. And they’re afraid of the People’s Party. They say it’s all full of Jewish Communists like President Lens.”

“I hope you’re not afraid of me, Louie,” I said. “My parents back in New York are the most People’s Party Jews you’ll ever meet. I’m not so political myself.”

“Me neither,” Louie said. “I learned more about politics from Taze in a few minutes tonight than I learned before in my life.”

I noticed Louie’s voice actually sounded softer. It didn’t rasp as much.

“I’ve got to get back to my wives,” Louie said. “And Zerena.”

“They don’t know about what you do?” I asked.

“They figure,” he said. “But they don’t like it when they have to know.”

I clasped his hand briefly, then headed for my tent and Louie walked off in the dark. The Pobre Clara River was low that year, but there was a steady melodious gurgling as I went to sleep.

I promised Louie that night not to tell that conversation and now I have, but a lot of things have changed since then and there’s enough stuff Louie has done…

The next day Louie showed us the community fields of corn and beans. Louie’s church had one tractor which ran on a corn alcohol/gasoline mixture. The rival church up the valley had two tractors. Louie’s church had another tractor which had been smashed up in the fight. The other church had kept most of the cattle.

“There’s a dirt road from their end of the valley,” Louie said, “that leads to the highway that goes to Arizona. They’ve got people with guns coming down that way to join them. That’s why we need you all here to witness for us.”

On the third day we went back to the university in Albuquerque. We wrote up papers in Taze’s class on what we had seen in Zarahemla. I was thinking less about Louie as days went on and I was having to study for my exams.

I wasn’t in Zarahemla when Louie’s second cousin Aries John arrived there in June. I was taking summer courses. During finals week I got a letter from Louie care of Taze at the Anthropology Department. He wrote that Aries John had come in an old pickup with a tipi and a stack of books on spiritual subjects. John’s books were a real inspiration to Louie. IN the month after John arrived, Louie had 20 new revelations. In one of these revelations, Louie was told to re-seal his wives and Zerena over to Aries John, who had just been baptized and given the priesthood. This remarkable piece of celestial repair work had been approved by both God the Father and God the Mother. Louie had given John the secret names of his wives so John could call them out of their graves at the resurrection. The Father and Mother had given Louie a new secret resurrection name for Zerena, which he had whispered in Aries John’s ear. Louie, John and the women involved were all enthusiastic about these changes and Louie wanted me to hurry down to Zarahemla. I wrote him what day I would be there.

As I have said, Louie was persuasive. I tried to tell Taze that I was going down there to get material for a term paper in anthropology that fall. For that matter, I tried to tell myself that I was going back to school that fall. But I knew better. There was no place as interesting as Zarahemla.

I loaded up all the stuff I could take in my suitcases and stashed the rest with friends. I took the bus from Albuquerque for La Plata. Thank God for government subsidies to buses and passenger trains, when you consider what the price of gasoline is. The trip to La Plata cost only eight dollars. Then I took the Rural Service to Zarahemla. As a big city person, I had never been on one of these before. To go one way, no matter how long or short, the distance is a flat rate of $10 – unless you have a season ticket. At each little village or group of farms and ranches or gyppo logging operation, every household pays five dollars a month to have the Rural Bus Service stop at their settlement. It’s worth it. There are large empty areas with maybe only one or two gas stations which are often closed unpredictably. And in back country areas, gas can cost four dollars a gallon. It’s not as far from La Plata to Zarahemla as from Albuquerque to La Plata, but it costs more.

The Rural Bus service vehicle was painted in multicolored designs like a lot of them are in this border country. The driver was an elderly Mexican man. On his bumper was painted CON EL FAVOR DE DIOS, meaning BY THE GRACE OF GOD.

As GRACE OF GOD rolled along, I could see people along the road traveling free – hitching. Not only the young men you usually expect to hitch but women – even one woman over 60 years old.

Finally we stopped where the gravel road forked off the highway and plunged into Zarahemla Valley. The driver let me off with my suitcases. There was a battered old red pickup at the side of the road. A man was leaning against it. He looked like Louie stretched out to maybe a head taller than Louie, and older – over 30. His face and hair and beard were all variations of the same reddish-brown shade – the color of the cliffs on the other side of the valley. Above his high cheekbones, his eyes were bright blue=green and good-humored. He walked over to me and stuck out a big, red-brown weathered hand and shook mine.

“Good to meet you,” he said. “I’m John Miles. They call me Aries John.”

“Uh - I’m Rivka Kaplan.”

“Well,” he said, “let’s load your stuff in back and you can hop in the pickup.”

His voice was low-pitched and much softer than Louie’s. Everything about this man seemed to indicate someone who wanted to blend quietly into the background – even his soft, faded blue jeans jacket and pants.

As we drove down into the valley, I noticed some tents in the yards of the houses where the original settlers lived. There were new inhabitants walking around, most of them young.

“What are all these new people doing here?” I asked.

“OH,” he said, “it started when Bishop Louie had the revelation that he could unseal his wives and unseal Zerena from Brother Bob and seal ‘em all to me. A bunch of young Mormon folks showed up. They wanted to know if Bishop Louie could have a revelation that could unseal them from somebody so they could get together with somebody else.”

“Did he have the revelations they wanted?” I asked.

“Usually,” Aries John answered. “Then they seen this was a nice place and they told their friends and their friends told their friends – so more people been comin’ in here all the time. And a lot of women want the priesthood. We got priestesses runnin’ around all over the place.”

“Who did you get the name Aries John?” I asked.

“Born in April, the month of the ram jumping forth, the leader.” He took one hand from the steering wheel and made gentle, waving gestures, imitating an animal leaping along. I couldn’t see this man with his soft voice and his easy-flowing gestures as a leader.

“How do you lead” I asked.

“The books, the knowledge,” he said. “I only have an eighth grade education, but I’ve traveled all over, met many spiritual teachers and the books started coming to me. Louie comes to my tipi and talks to me and then he knows what to ask God for.”

“Why don’t you ask God?” I said.

“Louie is the one,” John answered. “He’s the one the people will listen to and trust. I don’t follow him. I don’t follow no man. But I kind of walk along by his side and give help. That’s a leader, ain’t it?”

“Mmm,” was the best answer I could make, but John didn’t notice as the gravel roared under the pickup wheels. We drove up to Louie’s church, which was more than half built. Next door stood a large white tipi. We went in and Aries John introduced me to his three wives – I had not spoken to them when I visited Zarahemla before. There was Emma, tall, gaunt and red-haired,’ Cassie, short and dark-aired with obviously Indian features and Zerena, blonde and starting to show a pregnancy. Cassie offered me some of her green corn tamales.

But Aries John couldn’t lie back and relax as lord of the harem. We had only been there for a few minutes when Emma stuck her head out the tipi entrance and then said in a low voice, “John, you better go out and put tarps over the corn that’s hung out to dry. I don’t like the looks of the clouds that are blowing in.”

John got up and went out to do just that while Emma went on boiling coffee. “I don’t drink it myself,” she told me, “but John only got baptized and received the priesthood a short time ago, so he’s not used to the way we do things here.”

Within an hour John was off on half a dozen more errands from his other wives, all requested in the same low voices. After all, they were his seniors in the Melchizedek Priesthood.

At last Louie came into the tent with a tall, well-built very dark black man, about 40 with graying hair. Louie introduced him as “Brother Maceo, the latest person here to receive the priesthood.” I know that blacks had been traditionally forbidden the Mormon priesthood. Brother Maceo shook my hand and said, “Pleased to meet you.” I realized he was the first black person I had seen in New Mexico outside of Albuquerque.

“Brother Maceo’s a skilled carpenter,” Louie said. “He came here to help us finish the church. Thanks to him we’ll have it done before the weather gets cold.”

“I am indeed rejoicing in God,” Brother Maceo said with a smile showing that his upper front teeth were missing.

There was some take with Brother Maceo about the technical aspects of building and then the feeling fell over us all like shadows getting longer- outside it was getting dark.

Aries John came back from another errand and went outside abruptly and brought back some long sticks which he broke up into a little pyramid on the tipi fire. Then he sad back and drank the coffee Emma had made. Although his only sound was the sipping of coffee, his intense enjoyment could be felt – somehow it was a part of the flames going upward.

Finally a troublesome little thought became clear in my mind.

“Un, where do I sleep tonight?”

“Oh, you can stay in here with Emma and Zerena,” John said. “I’ll be in back in my little pup tent with Cassie.”

I let out a breath of relief. I had a pretty good idea of what Louie wanted when he wrote me such an enthusiastic letter, but at least his desires were long range. I would have a chance to look things over and make up my mind.

If only Louie had always been so reasonable.

Chapter Eight

Rivka Speaking

That night two more people showed up from off the road and went to sleep near me. Aries John’s tipi was apparently one of the main temporary shelters for pilgrims and new inhabitants of the Zarahemla community. Emmy and Zerena had a pile of extra blankets ready.

Next morning I found myself involved in the whole business of getting firewood and cooking breakfast. Still more new people were coming in. Aries John and Bishop Louie had both gone off early for reconnaissance along the frontier between their territory and the rival church up the valley.

I found myself with plenty of time on my hands, so I began looking through Aries John’s spiritual books, which were stacked neatly on a Navajo rug on the side of the tipi opposite the entrance. I was struck most by the covers of three large volumes. They were bound in thick leather, gilt and elaborately carved. One of the volumes had at the bottom of the front cover a small circle containing – oh, what do you call a cross with lines sticking out of the ends? A swastika.

All three volumes were by the same author, William Dudley Pelley. I started leafing through the volume with the swastika. This volume and the others consisted largely of the travels of Pelley’s soul in the astral plane and his conversations with the spirits of the departed about the world beyond death and what should be done in this world. I remember one spirit of a Cherokee Indian princess who expressed herself in a very flowery way, something of a bore=Taze gets on my nerves now when he starts going on and on in the same sugary way the princess in this volume did.

Then I turned to a long, rambling discourse by another departed spirit. The spirit’s name at the top of the page startled me a second- Adolf Hitler. I remember hearing my parents tell about him – the nut right-wing politician in Germany who got millions of votes by screaming that the Depression was all the fault of the Jews. Then he shot himself in the head when he couldn’t get elected Prime Minister. My parents started talking about him when we first got a TV in April 1968, shortly before I went to college in New Mexico. There was a report on the news about the pilgrimage on Hitler’s birthday to his grave, which was a big, tall marble monument. All around the monument, shrieking mobs from rival right-wing youth groups were trying to get through police lines to battle each other. The youth wanted to fight each other over which organization was the real heir of Adolf Hitler.

My mother turned the TV off.

“Hey!” my father said, “I want to see the rest of the news!”

“I wish we hadn’t gotten the TV,” my mother said. “It gives me the creeps to see things like that.” Then she turned and stared at me with her large, dark eyes. “Rivka, did you see the hatred in those young people’s faces?” she asked. “If that man under the monument hadn’t killed himself, that hatred would have turned against you and your father and me.”

Tears showed in her eyes. That’s when she and my father told me about Hitler. Now I was reading what William Dudley Pelley claimed that Hitler’s ghost told him.

“I was not only a political leader of men,” the late Hitler told Pelley. “My movement was also a spiritual movement and the spirit is confined to no one land. It flames wherever there are folk of noble race. Someday the spirit of my cause will bloom in the great Rocky Mountains of your country and grow into a great spiritual civilization which will replace the materialism that has cursed our century.”

There were a good deal more of the same sort of messages from Hitler in the volume with the gilt swastika carved on it. The other two volumes, which had been printed earlier, were accounts of experiences of the spirit world with less famous ghosts. I found myself breathing deeply. Hitler stayed on my mind and I could barely taste the bean tacos we had when Aries John showed up for lunch.

“Did you ever hear of a man named Adolf Hitler?’ I asked John.

“No,” he said, “can’t say as I have.”

“Well, “ I said, “Hitler’s in one of the volumes you have by someone named William Dudley Pelley.”

“Oh yeah, Pelley,” Aries John said nodding. “I got them three books by Pelley from this old man I took care of.. It was last fall in this little village in a valley on the west slope of the Rockies – beautiful place, too,” Aries John smiled showing that about half his teeth were gone.

“Cliffs all around there,” he went on, “sharp and steep like a knife cut through the granite, snow on the top peaks all year and the whole village under the aspen trees with silver leaves shivering every time there’s the slightest breeze. Oh man, it was a beautiful place.”

“What about the old man?” I asked.

“He was real, real sickly.” John said. “He had wanted to set up a spiritual community there in the mountains. He had some younger folks there around him, his followers, but they had to go away to Denver and places to get jobs – wasn’t nothing for them in that valley. They sent me money to take care of the old man. I stayed there with him, hunted deer so we both ate venison. I hauled in firewood from the slopes where there was juniper. I called the old man Dad. He told me he had been a follower of this guy Pelley in an organization called the Silver Shirts. He had a photo of hisself and Pelley in their Silver Shirt uniforms. Then Pelley went to prison for fraud. Old Dad said it was a big frame up. Anyways Dad said, “I know I’m gonna die, John. You could be the one who sets up the great spiritual movement. These mountains where we are will be the center of the movement. When I’m gone, I want you to have my books by Pelley.’ That’s what he told me. I stayed with him all through the winter and the spring. Then I come here to be with my cousin Louie in June, after old Dad passed away.”

“Have you read any of Pelley’s books yet” I asked.

“Naw, John said, “I got too much wood to chop, too much other stuff to do. I’m still getting’ through all the other books I have – when I get time to read them.”

I was worried about the Hitler stuff. Like Taze said – the Depression never really ended. There were still all these unemployed young people on the road – and a lot of them seemed to be headed to Zarahemla to hear what Louie had to offer. What if Louie and Aries John got together over Pelley’s books and absorbed the left-over wisdom of Adolf Hitler? What if they got in contact with the Pelley followers up in Colorado where John had lived? What then would they teach all the young people who were pouring in?”

I know this sounds like a whole bunch of “what ifs.” But I’m Jewish and it was pretty personal to me. I knew it would simply irritate John and Louie if I tried to make a big speech to them about – Watch out for this Pelley and Hitler stuff!” Still it was one of these things that wouldn’t let me go.

So I made up my mind – no matter if I got together permanently with Louie or not, I would always stay in touch with whatever went on in Zarahemla Valley. I would always try to be the best person I knew how – not only because I should anyway, but to make the best possible impression as a Jewish person on all these half-educated young people who were coming in. Something was starting to happen here and I wanted to have influence on it for the good.

That was the first major spiritual commitment I ever made – and also my first major social and political commitment. All my parents’ preaching on the side of life which had bored me so much finally had some effect. Zarahemla – and the Circle that came out of it – are still always in my heart.

That evening, Louie showed up for supper after his innumerable errands. A lot of other people crowded into the tipi. It was all Louie’s night. Aries John just sat somewhere in the background and smiled faintly. Louie told stories about his adventures for hours.

Louie at a fire telling stories. There’s no way I can reproduce that. No way you could transcribe them into print on paper. His rough voice all of a sudden turning into so many different voices – what a mimic the man is! The subtle overtones, the pauses – what a sense of timing!

Louie’s incredibly mobile face contorting itself into all kinds of expressions – into the faces of everyone Louie was describing. The gestures! All of us around the tipi fire were laughing or staring at him, eagerly waiting for more. I laughed till I cried – how can I sum up Louie better than that?

Finally the stories were over and all the visitors in the tipi were going back to their own tents. Louie touched me on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go for a walk.”

We walked eastward out the tipi door into the dark. Louie cleared his throat a couple of times trying to figure out where to start. For someone who had been so ready with words in the tipi, he was having a hard time finding them now. We walked out under tall, thick cottonwood trees, the trunks leaning at an angle. And the stars – I have seen the stars now so many nights in that high desert country and still every time they amaze me.

“Uh–“ Louie attempted to begin, “I’m really surprised how peaceful it is in John’s lodge with Emma, Cassie and Zerena all together. They never argue with each other, they never nag at John. It’s so quiet. When they was with me, I had to break up fights between them all the time. I’d be the judge when they had some quarrel or other.”

Well, I thought, we’ll start in this direction and see what we get at. We walked further along the riverbank. I could hear the river waters chuckling under the stones.

“Yeah,” I said. “I see Zerena’s pregnant. I wonder in the resurrection, who will the child belong to – her first husband or you or Aries John?”

Louie hung his head down. When he spoke again, I heard the undertones of a growl.

“That’s where you’re wrong,” he said. “You don’t understand the scriptures or the power of God. In the world to come, that child won’t belong to anybody. It will be its own free person like one of God’s angels.”

Then he lifted his head and turned to me and said, “I need a child.”

His mouth and his eyes were both wide open. He was looking at me like a worshipper gazing at a miracle.

All of a sudden his face changed completely. His eyes got a fierce glint. His teeth sparkled in the starlight like the fangs of a shark or a wolf. He reached out and grabbed my writs.

“Louie! Let go right now!” I was firm as I could be. I couldn’t let him see any fear. He let go and backed off from me a little. Now his mouth turned downward like a hurt four-year-old boy.

I knew definitely what I wanted by then.

“Louie, I’ll be with you,” I said. “But first I have to go back to Albuquerque one more time to take care of some things. You have to wait till then.”

“What things?” Louie muttered. “I could take you up there.”

“I have my things to do first, Louie.”

“You don’t trust me enough to tell me?”

“IN some ways, Louie, I trust you more than anyone I’ve ever met. But these are my things.”

“OK,” he said.

He turned away from me and trudged off in the dark. I headed back towards Aries John’s tipi. It got cooler; a breeze started blowing. On the ridge to the east of the valley a chorus of coyotes started on a high, high note that drifted down the scale.

Next morning I walked with one suitcase to where the gravel road forked from the highway and I caught the southbound Rural Bus service. There were several red-faced, work-worn old farm people on the bus going south to La Plata. Some were probably going to the farmers’ market there. They had crates of tomatoes, green peppers and other garden produce they had grown.

One old woman had a wire cage with a couple of hens in it, lined at the bottom with newspapers. Another woman had a young pig. As the bus went around the curves, my stomach got queasy. I found that pigs can control themselves in situations like that. Chickens can’t. The wire cage smelled terrible and the nervous hens squawked and flapped.

These farm folks had Rural Bus service season tickets, good for six months, so they got on and off without paying. I still had to pay the flat ten dollar rate. I made up my mind to get a season ticket as soon as I could.

In La Plata I paid eight dollars to take the bus back to Albuquerque. When I got there, I went to the house of my friend Lucy Walton where I had stored a lot of my stuff. I called my parents and said, “Hello, Mom, Dad, I’m withdrawing from school at least for this fall.”

I could hear little gasps of astonishment from the other end of the line.

“What is it?” My father finally said. “Do you want to go to school back here in New York?”

“No,” I said. “I want to go stay in the Zarahemla Valley. Zarahemla, that’s spelled Z-A- Oh, forget it. I
was down there this spring with an anthropology class studying a social movement. It’s the kind of
thing you told me about, Dad, a social movement that has a religious surface form, but it really has potential as a progressive social and political movement.”

“But can’t you stay in school and study the movement from there?” My mother asked.

“Mom,” I said. “Do you remember when once you took me to meet your old Uncle Zev? And he told me there’s an old Jewish saying ‘ “If not now, when?”

“And so?” My mother said.

“Mom,” I said with pleading in my voice, “I’ve realized life only lasts so long. If I want to know what’s
going on in life, I’ve got to go there while I’m still young and strong enough to get around in the
mountains and see for myself.”

“Young people don’t know,” I heard my father’s voice. “You have much more time now when you’re
young than you realize. It’s when you get older you find out what little time you have. It’s now you
should study.”

“I’ve decided, Dad,” I answered.

“OK!” he said with a blast of exasperated breath.

Many things that I have disliked have happened to me because of my decision, but I have not
regretted it. It is the decision that I have built my life upon.

The next day I went to a doctor and got a prescription for birth control pills. I knew that whatever happened, I did not want to get pregnant until I was absolutely sure I was ready. I also know that
Mormons did not believe in birth control. I was determined that Louie would never know I was taking
birth control pills.

Chapter Nine

Rivka speaking

I didn’t tell my parents the next part of my plan, which I carried out as follows.

As soon as I got back to Zarahemla, I asked Aries John, “Where’s Louie?” He pointed to the small
adobe house where Louie slept at night. I walked over there and knocked. When he opened the door, before he could say a word, I told him, “All right, Louie, “I’ll marry you right away but I want some
time to think before I decide if I want to be stuck with you for all eternity.”

Sealed is the proper word,” Louie said grimly. “I accept your offer.” That evening we took the Rural
Bus service down to La Plata and stayed in a motel there. I have read in romantic fiction how two in
the intensity of the act of sex lose their egos. That is not what I felt with Louie. I felt his ego
pounding against mine, like he was preaching to me with his body. If so, he was preaching to the
already converted. I had already decided that Louie was a great historical figure. My ego
appreciated his ego.

You could say I even loved the man.

Incidentally at this stage, Louie was still a very orthodox Mormon. He still wore at all times the long underwear embroidered with sacred symbols which he had received when he was admitted to the
temple in Arizona. When he got into bed with me, he unbuttoned the underwear and peeled it off his
body, but kept it hanging from him by one ankle.

Next morning when he took a shower in that motel bathroom, once more the sacred long underwear
hung from his ankle out through the shower curtain onto the bathroom floor.

That day we were married by a justice of the peace. Then we went to the Rural Bus service window
at the bus station. I bought a six month season ticket for $30. I knew it would be useful and also that
I would need a certain amount of space away from Louie now and then. Then we took the bus back to Zarahemla.

That Sunday Louie baptized me as I knelt in the Pobre Clara river in a hole that had been dug out in
the shallow river by Brother Maceo, the black man. Then we went in the church and Louie put me
through both grades of the priesthood. It was one of the best ceremonies I have ever seen him do. I
was very moved. At the end, Louie opened his Bible and said, “I’ll read from the Forty-fifth Psalm:

“Hearken, o daughter, and incline thine ear

Forget also thine own people and they father’s house

…Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children

Whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.”

I felt a sudden shudder. What would my Orthodox Jewish grandparents in “my father’s house” think
of this whole procedure? And I was more determined than ever to keep taking my birth control pills
until I was absolutely sure I wanted to have Louie’s children – whether or not I might make them
“princes in all the earth.” I never told my family I was married to Louie.

From then on more and more young people came flooding in to camp around Louie’s church. Louie
put them to work planting and harvesting the community’s crops, but he didn’t need to give many
orders. The young people farmed crews on their own. Each crew had its own way of working
together. They set up their own kitchens with their own crews for cooking and getting firewood.
Louie made sure that they formed crews for digging slit trenches for toilets. He even had one deep outhouse dug, but so many people were coming, there was always need for more.

The young people would leave for a while, but many of them would come back usually bringing more friends. Soon most of the people there were not of Mormon origin. Louie performed many baptisms,
many ordinations to the priesthood, a couple of funerals. Sometimes he married a young man to two
young women, a few times to three. Once he married a young woman to two young men – tall,
freckled identical twins. The only way I could tell them apart was that one of them had a burn scar
on his stomach.

By this time, the summer of 1970, everyone was running around naked for days at a time. Louie said
that the skin of a baptized person was as good as a temple garment – his own sacred long
underwear. Aries John made a leather loincloth for Louie with all the designs on it in beadwork that
were embroidered on Louie’s sacred underwear. Louie took off his temple garment underwear. He
folded it up reverently and put it in a box. From then on he wore the loincloth Aries John had made.
Louie was getting less strict – he took off the loincloth when we were in bed.

Young people would bring us boxes of food. Some of it, they bought and some they found in the trash behind grocery stores in La Plata or as far away as Albuquerque. People were always donating
money. I had a lot of work with a note pad, keeping up with the finances of the community. Louie still wanted me to be sealed to him for eternity. I still said, “No, I’m not ready yet.”

Then Louie said, “At least let me make you co-bishop with me. We need a woman bishop to be in the
 image of God – male and female.” So I went through a long ceremony for him. After that a lot of
people addressed me as Bishopess.”

Most days Louie worked at keeping his community together from day break until late at night. Then
he would dump his tiredness onto me and everybody around him in the form of anger. I admired his
hard work, but got tired of him raging at me. Aries John could usually calm Louie, but often John left Zarahemla Valley on mysterious errands and then I had to put up with Louie’s tantrums to the bitter

And when Louie was in a good mood it was often even worse. Louie didn’t take any wives besides me
in those days, but he acted like he was married to every woman for ten miles around. The first
couple of times I caught him in bed with somebody else, I yelled and screamed at him, but after that
I’d just go out in the yard and drop myself down on a bench and sigh, “Oh, what’s the use?”

I wrote my parents about the great social movement under the bizarre Mormon beliefs – the strong democratic spirit of the young people camped in the valley, their comradeship, the way they shared
their possessions and worked together as teams of equals. But I never told my parents that I was a
wife or a Bishopess.

As Bishopess and keeper of the church’s accounts, I could skim a little off the church funds to go
down to the clinic in La Plata to keep myself in birth control pills. Thanks to the People’s Party, a lot
of medical care is free, but birth control pills still cost a little something.

There were always burns and cuts among the young pilgrims in Zarahemla. I figured out how to
treat those things with band aids and mercurochrome. But I had no idea what to do when there were broken bones. And when Zerena had her baby that winter, all I could do was stand there in the tipi
beside Emma and Cassie and Aries John and hold Zerena’s hand and try to stay calm while she
screamed. None of us any training in what to do, but Aries John and his wives had a good instinct for keeping everything clean and sanitary. It was a girl and she lived. Zerena named her Sariah, after
the mother of Mormon prophet Nephi.

I realized that someone had to have some kind of medical training to take care of the growing
number of young people – and some old – camped out in Zarahemla. I enrolled in nursing courses at Mountain State University in La Plata in the fall of 1970. I also took a course in anthropology from
you, Buff. That was when you first started teaching at Mountain State and I first really got to know
you well.

My parents paid for my nursing studies. They were overjoyed that I was going back to college. I
sub-let space in a run-down old brick mansion.

The mansion had once belonged to a mine owner’s family. A woman named Zephyr, in her fifties was renting the place and she sub-let all the rooms except her own, mostly subletting to college
students. I paid Zephyr 60 dollars a month to sleep on a couch in a big empty hallway. She was good company. I was there five days a week, not having to put up with Louie’s rages and adulteries. Then
I would use my Rural Bus service season ticket and go back to Zarahemla for the weekends and
Louie would be pretty decent.

It was in the winter of 1970-71 that Taze started showing up again in my life. I came home one
weekend and found Taze talking with Louie. Louie gestured at me and said, “Rivka’s been installed
as co-bishop with me, you know.”

But all Taze said to me was, “Oh, hi. Gotta get more material for my paper on new religious
movements that I’m gonna deliver at the American Anthropological Association Convention. He t
urned back to Louie and ignored me completely.

He talked to Louie about an hour more. Then he said, “Well, gotta go see the folks up the valley so I
can get a complete picture of the situation here.”

Then Taze jumped in his car and tore down the gravel road to the rival church at the upper end of
the valley. He stayed up there overnight. He drove back to our place on Sunday morning just as
Louie was getting ready to preach in church and I was getting ready to take the bus to La Plata.

I took more courses at Mountain State that spring of ’71. That’s when I got to know Manny Zamora,
the drama instructor at Mountain State. Manny worked with chapters of the People’s Party Youth
Alliance around the region. He was a tall, lanky guy with a beaky nose. What amazed me was – he
was a New Yorker like me, here in the middle of nowhere!

And there was Taze again. He said he had come to La Plata to see you, Buff, as his former graduate student, to help him with a paper he was writing on Chicano folk religion.

How well I remember the day when you and I and Manny agreed to walk with Taze on a pilgrimage to
La Capillita, a little church in the village of El Arado – the Plow.

La Capillita means the Little Chapel. A priest shows up there once a month, but pilgrims are there
all the time. The Holy Mother appeared there a hundred years ago. The Catholic Church hierarchy
does not recognize this officially as a valid appearance of the Virgin, but the Chicanos go there on
foot anyway to fulfill vows that they made when a child was born or someone got well of a sickness
or any other miraculous good fortune.

Buff, I remember how you and Manny and I met on the porch at Zephyr’s where I slept on the couch.
The sun was just coming over the eastern mountains. We waited an hour, but Taze didn’t show up.
We finally started without him, so we would have some time to walk the 15 miles to La Capillita, take
a good look at what was there and walk back.

It was just past the spring equinox. The buds on the trees had opened into pale green feathery baby leaves. The apple and pear trees were wrapped in dreamy clouds of pink and white blossoms. We
trudged on the road up the ridge eastward from La Plata. You started singing, Buff, singing
alabados – old Spanish folk hymns from New Mexico. Then you sang some Cherokee and Choctaw
Indian Baptist hymns from your own state of Sequoyah.

After that Manny started singing songs he had learned when he did street theater with his parents
in New York, songs from the many nationalities of the great city – Italian songs, Polish songs,
Ukrainian songs. Finally he threw his head back and started singing a Hassidic Jewish song full of nonsense syllables. He flung his arms out and started whirling in a dance the way the Hassidic Jews
dance in the streets on Simchas Torah – the holiday of Rejoicing in the Law. There was Manny,
dancing up the steep hillside with all his might. It’s wonderful to have all that energy.

I started singing:

“We’re off to see the Wizard

The wonderful wizard of Oz”

And I was Dorothy skipping down the yellow brick road with Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman.

Before we knew it, we were at La Capillita. We looked at the many vivid drawings of miracles in
colored pencil on sheets of paper taped to the walls – The Holy Mother at the bedside of a sick child,
the Holy Mother rescuing a miner from a rockslide and many more.

An old woman who took care of the shrine sold us sopapillas – the puffy New Mexico hollow rolls, 30
cents each. They were special. The old woman called them sopapillas de la Virgen – The Virgin’s
sopapillas. They were the most delicate, flaky sopapillas I have ever tasted – with a flavor so good
they didn’t need dipping into the bowl of honey the old woman held out to us. But the honey was
from her own bees and flowers and had its own special nectar.

Walking back was mostly downhill, but it seemed like a slower, harder walk. We walked down the
main street of La Plata past Kadderly’s, the coffee shop of the local elite. I looked in the window and
saw Taze at a table with a couple of men I didn’t know.

Manny identified them as two men who worked in the security departments of the local copper and
zinc mines.

We walked in Kadderly’s and I said, “Hi, Dr. Tazewell!”

He looked nervous enough to swallow his teeth. The other two men said goodbye and left. Taze got a
quick, sickly grin. “Won’t you sit down?” he said, waving at the vacant seats.

Buff and I sat down and Manny pulled up a chair from an unused table. “Uh, excuse me,” Taze said,
“for not going to La Capillita with you today. I really want to do a thorough job studying Chicano folk religion. That means I have to have a complete grounding in the economic life of this area, which is
the context in which the folk religious life occurs. Mmm, uh, that’s why I was talking to those two
Anglo fellows who work for the mining companies. The mines are the main employers of Chicano
labor around here. We have to see these things from all sides.”

As Taze talked he kept focusing his little dark eyes on me like he was trying to hypnotize me. “Why
don’t we all go over to Zephyr’s?” I said. “She usually leaves some hot tea on the stove for me when I
come in at night.”

So we went over there and we were sitting around the kitchen table drinking hot tea and Taze was
telling us stories about the strange ways of human beings in their various cultures. I was even
enjoying him and laughing. All of a sudden Zephyr walked in the kitchen. She took a long look at
Taze. Then she shot me an angry glance and strode out of the room with a grim frown creasing her

Late that night as I was lying on my couch, Zephyr walked up beside me and said in a low voice.
“Don’t ever bring that man in my house again.”

‘Why?” I asked.

“His energy is wrong for my place,” she said.

In those days I thought of Zephyr as a woman who was growing older who had been disappointed in
love when she was young. I had seen her have strange reactions to other men, so I didn’t think much
of it. Taze kept coming back that spring and taking me for coffee to Kadderly’s. And he would be all
the time at Zarahemla Valley talking with Louie. Now he had more to say to me than he did at first.
He was realizing that I was the Bishopess and people looked up to me, maybe I was still sort of a

Then it was in the early summer in Zarahemla. Taze was visiting us. I was packing to go visit my
parents in New York who I hadn’t seen in over two years. I had my stuff scattered all over the
bedroom. I was sitting in the living room with Taze.

“I’m sick of teaching about religion and writing about religion!” he said. “You and Louie have helped
me understand – I want to do something in the realm of the Spirit! I’m quitting my job as a professor.
I’ve talked with the board of the Maria Russell Missions and they want me to manage their missions
in this area. Did you know they believe that…”

Right then I heard Louie screaming in the bedroom. “Rivka! What’s this?”

He stormed into the living room carrying my birth control pills. “Oh, no,” I said under my breath.

“Louie, I have a right…” I started.

“You never told me!” he screamed even louder. And on and on and on for an hour.

I had been away from Louie long enough on my own where I wouldn’t put up with him yelling at me.
Finally I stood up and said, “Look, don’t talk to me like that anymore.”

He slapped me so hard I stumbled. When I stood up again I had tears in my eyes.

“Please,” I said to Taze, “when you go back to Albuquerque, could you take me to the train station? I
might as well go visit my parents early.”

“Uh-sure,” he said. “Louie, excuse us please.”

And that was the last I saw of Louie for some time.

Chapter Ten

Buff Speaking

Buffington Journeycake PhD once more. When I finished recording Rivka there in Acequla Madre
Park, I hugged her and Nephi and said goodbye. I put my tape recorder back inside my bedroll and
hung my bedroll across my back and headed out of Santa Fe. I started hitching down through
Albuquerque south and west towards La Plata, where in long past ages I had been a professor of anthropology.

At night I would unroll my sleeping bag in the desert by the roadside. I would put my tape recorder
by my head and turn it on and listen to the voices of Nephi, Rivka and Taze talking to me out there in
the middle of the dark.

Their words led me along the curve of the Circle around Bishop Louie. Although I had known Louie
for seven years, he still seemed to be far away.

In the daytime as I waited for rides, sometimes I would take my tape recorder out of my bedroll and
copy the words into my notebook, editing them into some coherent form as I went along. At this
moment I am looking at the words of Taze, now and then turning on the tape recording I made of him
at the Maria Russell Mission in Santa Fe, to make sure I got his words right.

Taze speaking

What can I say about my childhood and youth? Just wasting my time in one of those pleasant tree-
shaded college towns around the Great Lakes.

To compound the stupidity of my upbringing, I was a professor’s son. I was really locked into academia.

My father was a professor of sociology. Since all I know of the world was university life, the only way
I could think of doing my youthful rebellion against him was to become an anthropology professor.

Besides that, I went to Berkeley, far beyond the mountains and deserts, beyond the edge of the
universe as far as my parents were concerned. There at the University of California anthro
department, I went through the intricate ritual flapdoodle of graduate school, bowing and scraping
before the professors in my doctoral program.

Al this time I wanted to transcend these graduate school ego games. At night after my official
classes I enrolled in Eastern religious studies. Some of the biggest names in mysticism from India
and Tibet and their most outstanding American disciples taught at our ashram. I’ll bet we had more
highly realized souls in our ashram than any other ashram in the state of California. Why, I could tell
you about how…but we don’t have time to go into everything.

Anyway, being an eager pupil of these great masters, I decided to specialize in the anthropology of religion. Which brings us to one of the most controversial episodes in my career, my doctoral
dissertation on factionalism among ceremonial leaders at Santo Toribio Pueblo.

The first thing to consider is this: I have known one breatharian in my life, who claimed to live off
smelling the fragrance of roses and lilacs. But he wasn’t a graduate student in anthropology. Even if
they don’t eat meat, young anthropologists have to have their beans and potatoes, you know.

Also, Santo Toribio is one of the Indian communities which are most closed off to outsiders. I couldn’t
stay there. I had to rent a room in Gallup and buy a Rural Bus service season ticket to go 50 miles to
Santo Toribio and back every day. A month of that and I was only spending four hours a day in the
pueblo, not enough to learn anything before I had to take the bus back to Gallup. So I bought a car.

In the traditional anthropology ceremony of listing credits, I claimed that all the money to support
me in Gallup came from Mrs. Pauline DeVenter, and elderly widow who also supported the ashram in Berkeley where I drank of Oriental wisdom. What I didn’t mention was that Mrs. DeVenter was a
major stockholder in the Thunderbird Oil Company. And the money to support me didn’t come from
her stock; it came from the Pristine Foundation, a tax-free trust fund set up by Thunderbird and
other oil companies. The Pristine Foundation supported me as it has a number of researchers into
spiritual things. I just didn’t want to list Pristine at the time. Mrs. DeVenter arranged for me to get a
grant from them so I sued her name and let Pristine be silent partners.

Well what of it? Some of the people who are the most deeply concerned with spiritual things that I
have ever met have been oil company executives. The problem is that most of the traditional
ceremonial leaders at Santo Toribio Pueblo believe that oil companies – especially Thunderbird – are
trying to get mineral rights on their tribal lands for as cheap as possible.

There is a lot of paranoia that the oil companies want to drill at the sacred spots where the Kachinas
– the spirits of the forces of nature – land when they come down from the sky to visit their children,
the people of Santo Toribio. So they couldn’t know where my money came from.

Paranoia about oil drilling is the main reason for the factionalism at Santo Toribio. Traditionally the
pueblo is led by 20 hereditary clan chiefs. There is also a little group of principal chiefs over the 20 –
but no one in Santo Toribio will tell an outsider like me who the principal chiefs are or how they are chosen.

Then in the thirties, the Roosevelt administration set up elected tribal governments so Indians could handle jobs that were once done by white government agents. Every place the administration tried
to get the support of traditional Indian leaders, but at Santo Toribio, only two of the 20 clan chiefs
would support the new elected government. Three fourths of the tribe refused to vote in the
elections. Those who voted were called the Lightning Faction because of the check marks they had
to make on their ballots to vote.

The biggest faction among those who wouldn’t vote was the Little Mustache Faction. They got their
name from Adolf Hitler, the German right-wing leader who killed himself in 1932.

The Little Mustache Faction think that Hitler is the True White Friend who was prophesized to come
to them. They believe he will rise from his grave some day and walk across the ocean to rescue them
from oppression by the whites. They probably got these ideas from the polygamous Mormon splinter groups who live in the mountains near Santo Toribio. Several of the splinter groups think Hitler was
a prophet.

The Little Mustache people are afraid that the Lightning Faction – that is, the elected tribal
government will grant oil leases to companies like Thunderbird. The Little mustache Faction and the dissident Mormon sects all want to keep out Thunderbird Oil and the other oil companies, most of
which are very close to the big official Mormon church in Salt Lake City.

As long as less than a third of Santo Toribio votes for the tribal government, any oil leases the tribal government might try to contract are invalid.

A few months before I started to work on my doctoral dissertation, the Little Mustache Faction
received a terrible shock. The oldest of the 20 clan chiefs – everyone calls him Uncle Denny – was one
of the big leaders of Little Mustache. He had his birthday dinner of angel food cake and strawberry
soda pop with the two clan chiefs who supported the Lightning Faction.

You see, until then none of the other clan chiefs would even speak to the two Lightning Faction
chiefs except on urgent business about planning ceremonies. Usually if they see the Lightning
Faction chiefs coming, they will turn and walk the other way so the shadow of the Lightning won’t
fall on them.

After the birthday party, the rumors started – “Uncle Denny has lost his mind in his old age.” But he
led a lot of people – strange to say, including many younger people – out of the Little Mustache and
started his own faction who were called Cake-Eaters. Uncle Denny sent world around the pueblo –
“Don’t vote in the election. But Little Mustache from Germany is not the True White Friend in the prophecy. Some day soon, a lot of people will come together – white people, Indians, Mexicans, black people. When they all get together in one place, maybe we will know who the True Friend is.”

One of my main purposes in coming to Santo Toribio was to find out – what were the plans of the Cake-Eater Faction? Did they plan to co-operate with the Lightning people? I think it is possible that
the Pristine Foundation financed my studies because they wanted to know what the Cake-Eater
policy toward oil leases would be. Later, I had people throw that up in my face a lot.

But back then, when I first came to Santo Toribio by Rural Bus services, I fell in love with New
Mexico. High above the village are cliffs with horizontal strips of white limestone and pale gold
sandstone, as sharply defined as the stripes on a Gila monster’s back.

The village is on a small, pointed hill at the base of the cliffs. A river runs between the hill and the
cliffs among dark green peach orchards and cornfields. At the top of the hill is a small white Spanish-
style church which a priest visits maybe six times a year. On the sides of the hill are adobe houses,
some of them painted pink or pale green like houses in Mexico. Most of the houses are the natural
tan adobe color with strips of blue paint around the windows and the doors to keep out evil spirits
and oil companies.

Naturally I was most eager to see Uncle Denny. But I asked eight people, “Where’s Uncle Denny?” –
or Dennis García, his official name, or El Tío (The Uncle) which is what the local Chicanos call him.
Finally the ninth person pointed out the house. Uncle Denny’s wife, who was about four foot ten
inches tall, with long gray hair, opened the door and told me that Uncle Denny was in the kiva – the
sacred underground chamber – helping to plan a ceremony.

Every time I came after that, I had plenty of other people to interview (or more often to try, to
arrange an interview with). Each time I would ask, “Where’s uncle Denny?” And the answer was
always, “Uncle Denny’s in the kiva. He’s got a big dance to get ready.”

After a month and a half, I was driving from Gallup to Santo Toribio in my own car, paid for by the
Pristine Foundation. One day I was at the pueblo and I had parked my car at the head of what
possibly you could call a street. It was so bumpy, I was afraid I might tear up my muffler if I drove on

I was walking down this rugged lane on my way to visit a member of the elected Tribal Council – the Lightning Faction – when a 12-year-old boy came running after me shouting, “Hey, mister, “I’m Uncle Denny’s grandson! He wants to see you right now!”

I ran after the boy to Uncle Denny’s house. The boy knocked and a cracked old voice said,” Come in!”

I opened the door and saw Uncle Denny and his wife standing by a table with three big plates of
fried chicken on it and three bottles of strawberry soda (many old-time Indians didn’t recognize the existence of any other kind.)

Uncle Denny was about five foot two. He had a big grin, almost toothless, and good-humored
wrinkles all over his face – especially around his big, thick glasses. He word a blue bandanna for a headband, faded almost to dark gray and he had silver hair tied up into a small bun at the base of
his neck.

“Sit down here!” he said in a surprisingly loud voice. “Sit down and eat with us!”

After years of vegetarianism, my stomach gave a heave at the thought of all that greasy fried
chicken, but – anything for a cause. Every time I started to ask him anything he’d say, “No talk right
now! Let’s eat all this good food first!” and I had to gulp down more of the stuff.

When we finished the chicken, we started on the strawberry soda pop. Uncle Denny drank slowly
with now and than a little “Ahhh!” of satisfaction like he was sampling a fine wine.

Finally I was able to put my most important question to him. “Uncle Denny, do you or the other Cake-
Eaters plan to hold a big meeting somewhere to greet the True Friend of your prophecy?”

“Us?” Uncle Denny said, grinning as ever. “No! No! It won’t be our tribe that does it. Someone else
will call the people together and then we’ll join them.”

“Who will call it?” I asked.

“I don’t know yet,” he said, “but I’ll live to see it and I’ll be there.”

“Young man!” he said. “You’d better find out what the Creator’s plan is before that day comes.”

And from that point on, he wouldn’t say anything important. All he wanted to talk about was how the corn crop was doing.

In the next six months, I interviewed leaders of the Little Mustache Faction and the Lightning Faction. I met with any of the clan chiefs who would speak to me and I interviewed every member of the elected Tribal Council. Everyone – including the most white-oriented tribal council members – was very smiling, polite and evasive. I got no information of any value from them – except Uncle Denny’s statement that his Cake-Eater Faction would not begin the great assembly he had prophesied where the True Friend would reveal himself.

I interviewed Anglos and Chicanos in the surrounding area, such as storekeepers who had a lot of customers from Santo Toribio. But my most important help came from the Pristine Foundation. They told me how to locate a young Indian man in Santo Toribio who from time to time gave the oil companies information they might be interested in for about 50 dollars a session. All this provided his name would be kept in secrecy.

The Pristine Foundation gave me money for 12 sessions at 60 dollars each- 720 dollars in all for the young Indian. This young man was the main source of my dissertation. Of course he was biased, but I could make allowances for that and figure out what the truth probably was.

In the fall of 1962, I handed in my dissertation on “Religious Factions and Apocalyptic Expectations at Santo Toribio Pueblo.”

And then, in words I have not used since I became part of the Maria Russell Mission, two pieces of shit hit the fan.

Chapter Eleven

Taze speaking

Somehow the word got around the University of California administration that I had been funded by the Pristine Foundation and hadn’t reported it.

Then, the day after I got called on the carpet for that, a letter came to the Anthropology Department from Santo Toribio Pueblo signed by every member of the elected Tribal Council and every clan chief – except one. The letter said that none of these people had given me any of the information I wrote in my dissertation and that they were not aware of any of the things that I had alleged about factionalism in the pueblo.

Uncle Denny didn’t sign the letter. Instead, he wrote a letter of his own to the anthro department – as follows:

“I spoke to this young man. I may have told him some of these things, but I don’t remember for sure. He could be a good young man someday if he is willing to learn”

I have heard that Pristine and some of the other big business foundations offered research grants to some of the professors on my committee to get them to let me off the hook, but I didn’t ask the foundations to intervene. Buff, I’m telling you all this stuff because you’ve probably heard a dozen different versions a lot worse than what I’ve said. It’s standard university gossip.

I still don’t know to this day how the Indians in Santo Toribio got a copy of my dissertation.

As I said, New Mexico had become the great love of my life.

I applied for a job as a professor in the anthro department at the University in Albuquerque. There was some suspicion of me at first, but one member of the Board of Regents was also a trustee of the Pristine Foundation and he put in some good words for me. So I got the job.

A couple of years later, 1964, Bobby Kennedy was elected the first People’s Party president and then in 1966, New Mexico elected its first People’s Party governor.

After that, instead of all the big ranchers and oil men on the Board of Regents, leftists just blossomed all over the place on the Board – not to mention all the left-wing administrators and department heads. I was an object of hostility from a lot of these people. I would never have gotten my professor’s job under the new regime. But by 1966 I had tenure.

Buff, you know I’m not that down on leftist. Just admit it – it’s fashionable with young people to talk left-wing, but their commitment is really pretty shallow. I was good at taking arrogant leftist kids apart in my classes. One of my deepest longings is for a new, higher spiritual civilization. I think that’s beyond mundane economic things like capitalism and socialism.

I know you’re sort of socialistic, Buff, but a new civilization can use your knowledge and
enthusiasm. And it can also use good old capitalist money like the Pristine Foundation to get it

Year after year I waited for the great assembly Uncle Denny spoke of, where the True Friend
would reveal himself and transform the world. It became the core of my faith. I remember once I
checked into a motel room and there was a Gideon Bible upon the chest of drawers. I went over and glanced in it. The first words that caught my eye were, “What I say unto you, I say unto all. Watch.”

In 1969, seven years after I met Uncle Denny, I heard about Bishop Louie’s new movement in Mormonism down in Zarahemla Valley. I felt that the time of my watching was coming to an end and fulfillment was near. And then one of those miraculous coincidences happened. Mrs. DeVenter, who
had gotten funding for my dissertation, phoned me and told me the Pristine Foundation would really
like a copy of any scholarly paper I wrote on what Louie was doing. I took that as a divine sign that somebody up there was really interested.

Everything was coming together. I had been reading ancient Gnostic tests about the female
aspect of God, and then here was Louie, the back-country ranch hand coming up with the same
thing. God the Heavenly Cowgirl? I’m glad that out of 14 students who came along with me the first
time to Zarahemla, six were women – including Rivka. I have always appreciated the physical and
spiritual flow of male-female energy – like in the Tantric writings of ancient India. I tried to show this appreciation to my female students. People around the University who didn’t understand called me
“The Old Goat.”

From when Rivka was first in my classes, she has meant more to me than that, although there
 was no physical contact between us in those days – and she ended up with Louie for a while. After
Rivka married Louie, she was kind enough to write me a few times. She would tell me how difficult
her life was sometime when Louie was in a quarrelsome mood. But she was enthusiastic about all the young people pouring into Zarahemla Valley. She told me about this whole new psychological and
spiritual quality of the way they organized themselves to do the necessary work – no hierarchy of

I would hold her letters in my hand and scratch my head and ask, “What is this new mental
quality these young people have? How is it produced? What is the secret of Louie’s leadership?

I felt this was like the first tiny sprout of a plant peeping above the ground that would flower
into the coming together of multitudes – just as Uncle Denny had prophesied. And you’d better
believe the Pristine Foundation was interested. They jangled my phone every other day, encouraging
me to do more papers on Bishop Louie’s movement and offering me money to cover my incidental
expenses – as long as I didn’t list Pristine in my credits.

I am always gratified that wealthy people like Pristine have such humility to be concerned
with things beyond material goods – and flattered that they would consult me. I bet by the time my research was over, they had paid me almost as much money as they gave to some of the biologists
who sent them reports on hallucinogenic plants in the South American jungles.

I also sent Pristine a copy of a neat little paper I did in La Plata about the relationship of
Hispanic folk religious customs to labor union activity among Chicano copper and zinc miners.
Employers could use such information as was in my paper to help encourage their workers into
alternative activities besides labor unions. Pristine wrote me in so many words: “Great stuff! Let’s
have more of this!”

By this time I had spent so much time on anthropology field work, I was getting bored to
death with university work, I wanted to do active work in shaping the spiritual development of the
masses. About this time I read a really unusual leaflet from the Maria Russell Missions. It was about
the female aspect of God and in some ways was close to Bishop Louie’s teaching.

Mrs. De Venter of the ashram and Thunderbird Oil sent me the leaflet. In one corner f the
leaflet she scribbled, “Thought you’d be interested in this.”

I drove from Albuquerque up to Santa Fe to visit the Maria Russell Mission where we are
sitting now. It was a much smaller operation at that time than it is now. I got more leaflets and all the volumes of Studies in the Scriptures, the founding document of the whole Russellite movement that
the Missions are part of.

To my delighted surprise I found that the Pristine Foundation makes generous contributions
to the Maria Russell Missions. They spoke with the Missions board about making me director of
mission operations in the Southwest Region – Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California.
Within a year I became National Director of the Maria Russell Missions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After I applied to the Maria Russell board for a job, I made
one last visit to Bishop Louie at Zarahemla. That’s when I saw Louie come stomping out of the
bedroom waving Rivka’s bottle of birth control pills and screaming, “Why didn’t you tell me you use
these damn abominations?”

He knocked her to the concrete floor. I stood there staring with my mouth hanging open and
my knees bowed out. My glasses slid to the tip of my nose. It was the first time I had ever seen an
act of violence in my life.

Rivka told me, “Please, get me out of here at once.” She threw all the scattered stuff she had
been packing into a bed sheet and flung it over her shoulder. I pushed my glasses back into place
and picked up her suitcase and we fairly ran out of Louie’s house while I shouted, “I hope we can
still be friends!” over my shoulder at Louie.

Rivka speaking

Taze drove me to the train station in Albuquerque. He kept chattering at me a lot about the beliefs
of the Maria Russell Mission. I think he made a couple of passes at me, but I didn’t notice. I really
hated leaving Louie – that was all I could think about.

When I got to New York, I called from Grand Central Station – “Hello Mom? I decided I’d surprise you
 and Dad by coming home early.”

I had a very pleasant two weeks with my parents. Now that they had grown older, I knew I would
have to keep more in touch with them than before, but the distance between us that had begun in
my childhood was still there. I had lots of stories to tell them about the young people camped at
Zarahemla and I painted the most beautiful word pictures I could of the New Mexico countryside but
 I never said one word to them about being the Bishopess or about the rise and fall of my marriage
to Louie.

My father said, “Can’t you get an apartment in New York and go to school around here?”

“And you know you can always stay with us,” my mother put in.

I just said, “I’m sorry. New Mexico is my home now. Don’t worry. I will write and phone.”

I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was going to do when I got back to New Mexico. When I
arrived in Albuquerque, I stayed in the backyard of my former fellow anthropology student, Lucy
Walton. I slept there wrapped up in a rainbow-like Mexican sarape under a big cottonwood tree. I
stayed to myself and cried. I didn’t want to talk to Lucy about what had happened with Louie. I was
there for two days when Lucy ran into the back yard and shouted in a loud, cheery voice, “Hey Rivka!
The Goat’s here to see you!”

Taze followed Lucy into the backyard. He was grinning from ear to ear at me.

I quit grieving about Louie on my sarape and stood up.

“How did you find out I was here?” I asked.

“Ahh,” Taze purred, focusing his eyes on me.” There are so many psychic messages in the air.”

“Bullshit!” Lucy blurted. “Wanta know the truth, Rivka? This guy was calling me every day from
Santa Fe to see when you would bet back. He told me not to tell you.”

“Could you leave us alone, please?” Taze asked, waving his hand at Lucy.

“OK! OK!” Lucy said, heading back into the house. “Rivka, have fun with Big Chief Hand on the

“Now, Rivka,” Taze said, taking a deep breath. He stood there, his feet wide apart, his hands clasped together and hanging down. No doubt his posture had some kind of significance in the transmission
of psychic energy. But I was too tired and headachy to be very psychically receptive.

“Rivka, listen!” he went on, going back into a more natural posture when he saw I wasn’t impressed.
“I want you to see the Maria Russell Mission,” he said. “You don’t have to sleep with me. You can
have your own room. I want you to see what we’ve got there. I want you to look over our doctrine. We
also teach that God has a female aspect.”

“I’ve already been a Bishopess,” I answered. “I don’t care if a woman is God if she can’t be treated
ike a human being on earth.” Taze was silent a minute.

“Rivka,” he finally said. “I just want to have someone to talk to at the end of the day. And I will listen
to what you have to say in reply.”

Why is it that Taze – or anybody else – makes the best impression when they’re trying the least?
Besides, I couldn’t stay much longer at Lucy’s. Even if I decided to go back to college at La Plata – so
close to Louie – it was still over a month before school started up. In two hours, I was packed up and driving with Taze from Albuquerque to the Marie Russell Mission in Sante Fe.

Chapter Twelve

Taze speaking

The Maria Russell Missions, like all the so-called Russellite Bible Student denominations, originate
with the teachings of Pastor Charles Taze Russell back in 1880’s. So I consider that my original name, Thomas Tazewell, is a miraculous sign from Heaven because it was so easy to shorten to Taze, which
is Pastor Russell’s middle name.

Pastor Russell left us a tremendous revelation – his multi-volume Studies in the Scriptures, which
explains the meaning of all human history. Pastor Russell was an expert on how the dimensions of
the inner passages of the Great Pyramid reveal the dates of the fulfillment of Bible Prophecy. It is for
this reason that I often wear a pyramid-shaped headdress when I am teaching Bible study classes.

However Pastor Russell made one fatal mistake. His wife Maria also had the gift of prophesy, but
Pastor Russell would not acknowledge it. Many of the women in his church rallied around Maria
Russell as a true prophetess, but the male elders assured Pastor Russell that he alone was the p
rophet in the family. At one point one of Pastor Russell’s female supporters held Maria Russell as a prisoner, but she escaped and divorced Pastor Russell, which was a very messy business in those

Comment by Rivka

Pastor Russell once told Maria, “I have 15 women, who if I say I want pumpkin pie, they will give me pumpkin pie.”

I started having sex with Taze after I had been at the Mission in Santa Fe for two weeks. Then in a
couple more weeks I found out Taze was almost as much into pumpkin pie department as Louie. This
after I’d moved all my stuff into Taze’s room and then I couldn’t use it because another woman was i
n there with him. Aaagh!

One thing I’ve found out after knowing a number of prophets – they sure are a horny bunch.

Taze speaking

Pastor Russell died in 1915 during the Great World War of Europe. After his death, his movement
split into a number of different denominations. One of the most important, led by Judge Rutherford,
was called the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They predicted that there would be a Second World War, which
would turn into the final battle between Christ and Satan. But in spite of intensive missionary efforts,
the Jehovah’s Witnesses have lost many of their converts because there has never yet been a Second
World War.

Other Christian denominations call most of the churches that come from Pastor Russell, “Soul
Sleepers” because they believe that the souls of the dead are all unconscious until the Day of
Resurrection. They call the Maria Russell Missions “the Half-Asleepers” because we believe that the
second coming of Christ occurred invisibly and secretly in 1881. At that time all the souls of the
righteous dead were caught up to him and since then all souls of true believers have gone at death immediately to their reward. This means that the souls of Pastor Russell and his estranged wife
Maria have been reunited and she is instructing him now in a fuller comprehension of the truth.

Comment by Rivka

When I first heard this doctrine, I had a flash of Maria Russell with a rolling pin in her hand waiting
at Heaven’s door for Pastor Russell to show up.

Taze speaking

Since Maria Russell’s spirit is alive, she sends messages of all kinds to the true followers of Pastor
Russell on earth. She told earlier leaders of the Maria Russell Missions that God is both male and
female. I had chosen to emphasize the female side of God more than any of my predecessors in the leadership. I have received messages from Maria Russell which I have incorporated into my
Commentary on Studies in the Scriptures.

Rivka had only been a few weeks with me in Santa Fe when we heard that people from the rival
Mormon group had fired into Louie’s community and burned his church down. Then, all of a sudden,
two young men, Clark and Nephi, showed up at our Mission with a message from Louie. He had a
revelation that the burning of his church was a sign that he should go beyond Mormonism. He would perform no more baptisms or sealings or ordinations to the priesthood.

Louie’s message said he was going to call together a great circle of all people and wished it to be
there somewhere in the Colorado mountains. And Louie had gone with Clark and Nephi and some
other people to meet up with Uncle Denny in Santo Toribio Pueblo and invite him to take part in the

When I heard that I had to brace myself against the table. I sat down slowly in a chair, stunned.

The Circle would form in the summer of 1972, ten years after I had met Uncle Denny.

Clark and Nephi, the two young men, handed me a scroll in beautiful calligraphy inviting me to camp
in the mountains with Louie and the others and join them in a giant silent circle on the Fourth of July.
After they gave me the scroll, they explained in so many words that Louie would need a lot of money
for food and medical supplies for all the campers in the mountains and would I please…?

I phoned up the Pristine Foundation at once. They said they’d be glad to help out and they added,
“Please be sure and keep us informed of any developments out of this whole Circle thing.”

Nephi speaking

Twyla and me got married. Here’s how it happened. Manny Zamora and the People’s Party Youth
Theater Group come up to Zarahemla from La Plata one Saturday. They had to come in a truck
because the bus was still scared to stop in Zarahemla after the people up the valley shot at our
people and burned our church down.

Manny hung a string of bright-colored Japanese paper lanterns between two big cottonwood trees.
He powered the light bulbs in the lanterns from the generator in the back of the truck. Everybody in Zarahemla who had a house used kerosene lamps – after their Rural Electric Co-op came to an end
when Bishop Louie and the other people split their church in two.

That night Manny stood under a string of Japanese lanterns and said:

“We heard about you people having trouble. We brought our show up here to let you know we’re on
your side. We’ll be with you no matter how many are against you.”

Then they put on the funniest show I ever seen. They had signs hanging around their necks telling
what character they was and they wore masks and wigs and the craziest costumes.

Me and Twyla held hands and laughed so hard. When it was over we spread Twyla’s sleeping bag
over my blanket and we got under and spent the night. What we done then, I never done before.
Seems like it was all bumping each other with knees and elbows until we got to the fascinating part.
We woke up next morning when it was all still and cool and gray. Twyla said, “We got to get married,
now as soon as we can if we go on like this.”

That morning was Sunday. Everybody come together in front of the ruins of the church to hear
Bishop Louie preach. He held his hands up to heaven and said, “I have had a new revelation from
God. I will not baptize anymore. I will not ordain people to the priesthood anymore. I will not perform weddings or funerals. I will not seal for eternity anymore. This church was burned down as a sign
from God. It is time to go beyond Mormonism – time to bring people of all religions together. There
may be a war in this country soon. We don’t want war, we want peace.”

Twyla nudge me in the ribs and whispered, “How do we get married if Bishop Louie won’t do it for

I just went, “Shhh!”

“Next summer,” Bishop Louie went on, “we will camp with people of all religions in the mountains.
On the Fourth of July we will all join hands in a great circle of silent prayer for peace – in our country
and in all the world. The fire that burnt our church could be one of the first fires of a new civil war.
But I have told you – Zarahemla will be rebuilt as part of a new Circle for Peace.”

Everybody was silent for a few minutes when Bishop Louie finished. Then a buzz started – everybody talking low, “What does he mean, there might be a war?” and “Where do we make this circle?” and
so on.

Manny and his theater group stayed at Zarahemla overnight. He come walking through the crowd
with his short black beard and his hair like a black haystack. He reached out his long arm and shook Bishop Louie’s hand. Bishop Louie flung his arms around Manny’s shoulders. Then Aries John
howed up with his three wives – Emma, Cassie and Zerena. Clark was there too. All seven of them
went into Louie’s house and the rest of us headed back to our camps.

Me and Twyla stood with the others in a circle around our campfire and Ivy, the tall blonde woman
said a blessing. Then we ate our lunch. It was still just rice and beans, but it seems like with all of us working together for days and days, we had learned how to make it taste better.

We had all about finished when Aries John come walking up and asked, “Have you all got anything
left to eat?” and we said, “Sure!”

He held out his bowl and Ivy put rice and beans in it. I asked him, “What was going on in Bishop
Louie’s house?”

“Oh,” John says, “I was just showing them on my National Forest map of Colorado where we might
make the Circle – over near the little village where I used to take care of the old man. He always said
that part of the mountains would be a great spiritual center.”

“What about weddings?” Twyla says. “Who’s gonna do a wedding for me and Nephi if Bishop Louie
won’t marry people no more?”

“I think I can do it,” Aries John said, “You see, the Father and the Mother speak to Bishop Louie, but
they don’t speak to him all the time. I give him spiritual advice. I think the Father and Mother will understand if I perform the ceremony.”

So after Aries John finished eating, he led me and Twyla out by the Pobre Clara River. Ivy and all the
others from our campfire gathered around us. Aries John raised his right hand over our heads.

“God brought you two together,” Aries John said. “I want all the people here to help you in your life together. And stay together as long as you love each other.”

Then he hugged both of us and everybody cheered and whooped. I kissed Twyla. I had to reach up a
little, I was 14, and she was 15 and she was still a little bit taller than me. We have traveled far away
from each other at times since then and I have run around on her a few times, but we always get
back together, like Aries John put us.

A few days after me and Twyla got married, Clark come over to our shelter, which was a couple of
blankets over a framework of willow poles.

“Bishop Louie’s looking for people to go visit the Indians,” he says. “He wants people to tell them
about the Circle. I said I wanted you to come with us.”

“I sure want to go!” I says, and I could just feel my whole face get warm and light up. “But Twyla has
got to go too cause she’s my wife.

“I might be awful crowded on the trip,” Clark says. “But you and Twyla should come meet with Louie
to see what he has to say.”

When we got over to Bishop Louie’s house, we found Louie and Aries John and his three wives and
Manny Zamora and you was there, Buff. I remember that was the first time I ever seen you. You told
about how you was a professor in the college down a La Plata. You said you had been in touch with
the Indians at Santo Toribio and you wanted us to go meet them and tell them about our circle in the Colorado mountains.

The way it ended up, it wasn’t so crowded, but damn, it was cold. You and Manny in the front of
Manny’s truck and Aries John and his wives in back, at least there was a roof over them. But Louie
drove Aries John’s pickup with Brother Maceo, the black man, sitting beside him.

In back it was me and Twyla and Ivy from our campfire and Clark and the cold air just blasting us!

When we got to Santo Toribio, we drove to the house of an old man named Uncle Denny. Bishop
Louie and Manny and you, Buff, went inside with a paper rolled up and tied with a ribbon. Manny
had wrote this invitation on it in letters that flowed like looking at them through ripples in a pool of
clear water.

The rest of us sat outside in the yard in a half-circle facing Uncle Denny’s door. Then you guys come
 out with this little old man – that was Uncle Denny. Uncle Denny looked at us and said, “Everybody
get up and come with me.”

He led us on foot through the village. It was a chilly day, but people run out in their yards to stare at
us. He led us to a circular adobe building that stood about as high as your waist above ground. A
ladder stuck out of a hole in the roof. Uncle Denny walked up some steps to the ladder. Then he
pointed to the hole and said, “Everybody come up here and go down the ladder.”

We walked up the steps and climbed down the ladder through the hole into a circular underground
room with walls and floor of tan plastered mud. Then Uncle Denny climbed down after us.

“This is our kiva,” he says. “No one from outside our tribe – and no woman – has ever stood on this
floor before. I brought you here to show the people of this village that I am on your side. I am the
chief of the Gourd Clan and the people who support me are called Cake Eaters. We know that there
is a great trouble among the white people and it could lead to a war in this country. I brought you to
this sacred place to show everybody that I want to be part of the circle you are making for peace -
and all the people who support me are on your side.”

Then I noticed that in a shadowy part of the kiva there was an old man and a couple of teenage boys.
They just looked hard at us and never said a word. Uncle Denny walked up to each of us and shook
our hands. He had a big smile on his face.

“All right, folks,” Uncle Denny said. “Now let’s go.”

We followed him back up the ladder and walked with him back to his house. He motioned to us to
follow him inside. His little old wife was there. She told us, “Sit wherever you can find a place.”

Some of us sat on a couch. Others sat in chairs around the dining table. Me and Twyla sat on the
floor. Then Uncle Denny’s wife brought us cookies and strawberry soda pop.

Me and Twyla sure was hungry. We gobbled down the cookies and gulped the strawberry soda pop
while Uncle Denny and his wife stood there smiling at us.

They are always in my dreams now like the grandparents of my family.

Chapter Thirteen

Nephi speaking

It was even colder on our way back to Zarahemla that evening. All of us that had been up to Santo
Toribio laughed and called ourselves the Twelve Disciples.

Louie gave me and Clark another copy of the invitation to the Circle that Manny wrote. He told us,
“Take this one to Taze and the Maria Russell Mission in Santa Fe. Let him know that we need money,
but don’t just tell him “Gimme, gimme!”

Clark laughed and said, “Don’t worry! When I was with the Nationalist Youth Corps I used to go to
rich people for Jim, our leader, and I’d ask them for money. I know how to do it”.

Aries John loaned us his pickup. Clark was real proud of that, see, Clark was only 17, and he knew
how much Aries John cared for that pickup and how much he was Trusting Clark not to waste gas.

When we got to the Maria Russell Mission, Taze looked at me and said, “You gotta take a bath.”

I says, “Hey, wait a minute. Let me get my breath.”

He says, “No, you gotta.” Then he looked over and flicked his finger in the direction of this guy s
tanding in the corner. He called out, “Hey Brother Power!” (Taze gives a lot of his people names like
that.) “Show this brother the way to the showers.!”

So Brother Power, this big guy, muscles all over him, come walking over to me. You just know he’s
the bouncer. He led me into the bathroom, pointed to the shower stall and said “There!” I pulled off
my clothes and got in and turned on the water while Brother Power stood outside with his arms

I got myself clean as a whistle, the way everybody else is at Taze’s place, but I felt sick the rest of the
time I was there. It’s too much away from the land. Everything at the Maria Russell Mission smells a
little bit like bleach.

Brother Power led me into the dining hall. It was before all the poor people who spent the night at
the Mission would come in to have their meal. But all the believers in Maria Russell who work at the mission was sitting at a table eating their meal – just a bowl of oatmeal, no sugar, no nothing.

I heard a voice say something like “Hee-hi!” from a corner of the room. I turned and looked. It was
Clark with his mouth full trying to yell “Nephi!”

He was waving a piece of cheese at me. I run over to his table and I found he had a great big silver
 platter full of every kind of cheese I ever heard of and most of them there I ain’t never heard of.

He gulped down his cheese and then he hollered, “Sit down and dig in!” I reached onto the platter
and grabbed both hands full of cheese and started stuffing myself. Then Taze come in the dining hall
and whispered to a woman at the table where they was eating oatmeal. She got up and went to the kitchen.

She brought back two big silver goblets full of wine and put them in front of Clark and me.

Clark picked up his goblet and just barely sipped it. He tossed his head back and closed his eyes.
Then he said in a low voice, “It’s fine wine, man! Sure enough expensive booze! I can tell!”

I tried to imitate Clark. I took a little sip and tossed my head back and closed my eyes and smiled.
But I hadn’t never drank wine before. It tasted to me like fruit juice that went sour. But I kept on
sipping and smiling like Clark until I got down to the last third of the goblet. By they I was kind of
tired of drinking wine, but I was getting where I liked the feeling it gave me. So I turned the goblet
up and swallowed what was left.

Like I said, that shower I took made me feel a little sick. After I drank the wine I felt way, way sick. I
said, “Excuse me, Clark!” Iran to the bathroom and threw up the wine and all that cheese.

When I got back to the dining hall, I seen Rivka for the first time. She is so tall and beautiful. She told
 me and Clark, “The people will be here soon to eat lunch. Why don’t you two come with me to the
sitting room?” So we did.

Rivka speaking

Buff, I remember when you recorded Taze, he said he was so stunned by the news of the Circle, that
he had to grab the table for support. I think he was even more stunned by Nephi’s body odor. He
made Nephi take a shower and then Clark and Nephi got the deluxe treatment, the kind of stuff we
 handed out to our elders at Maria Russell. The ordinary followers who were just starting out only
got oatmeal. I didn’t like that. Back when I was a Zarahemla, there was no doubt that Louie was the
 leader, but everybody got as close to equal treatment in food as we could.

I practically dragged Clark and Nephi to the sitting room. They had come to Zarahemla after I had
left, but I was hungry and thirsty to hear everything they had to say about things back there.

I asked about so many people, I don’t think Clark and Nephi knew half of them. I was overjoyed when
they said that my dear friend Ivy and the other four women were able to go to Santo Toribio and
enter the kiva. I’m grateful to Louie for taking them there. He’s very strongly for the rights of all
women except those who are too close to him.

As Clark and Nephi talked, I had my mouth wide smiling, but I had tears in my eyes. I knew I could
never be together with Louie again. But maybe I could be in Zarahemla?

The authority system at the Maria Russell Mission was much too rigid for me and as far as my life
with Taze was concerned, he had far too much pumpkin pie going on. Finally I said to Clark and
Nephi, “If I pack up tonight, can you take me to Zarahemla?”

They said simply, “Oh sure.”

I wrote a note to Taze, “Have gone to Zarahemla. I’m not getting back with Louie, but I want to help
put the Circle together.”

Next morning Taze had gone to a restaurant to talk to some politicians. I dropped the note on his
bed and headed off with Clark and Nephi.

Nephi speaking

Early that morning when everybody was asleep, I had just opened my eyes when I heard Clark
whisper, “Nephi! Come outside with me!”

I was kind of groggy. It took me a while to get to my feet and get all my clothes on. Clark grabbed my shoulder and whispered, “Hurry!”

Finally I followed Clark out into the front yard. I was still half asleep.

Clark turned to me and said, “You know, I seen that guy Taze before.”

“So what!” I says.

“Don’t you understand?” Clark says. “I seen him when I was doing intelligence missions for Jim –
back when I was in the Nationalist Youth Corps!”

Clark squinted his face up a second and scratched his head. “Dammit!” he went on. “I wish I could
think of where I seen him. Oh, it was some place I was supposed to go get money for Jim. I only seen
him for a few minutes then. Anyway – that’s why I’m glad I’m getting Rivka out of here. Taze is one of
Jim’s kind of people and Rivka don’t belong around them people.”

We went back in the mission. Taze come in the sleeping room where we was and told us to come with
 him to the dining hall. We sat down at a table with him. Taze motioned with his hand and a couple of people come over and put plates full of cantaloupe slices and big glasses of orange juice in front of

Taze started talking – more to Clark than to me. He told Clark that he had phoned up some rich
friends of his about getting money for Bishop Louie and the Circle. He said he would meet with some politicians he knew that morning about getting more money for us. We left the dining hall and went
back to the sleeping room and rolled up our bedding. A little later Rivka come in looking so happy –
like she could fly.

“I’ve got all my stuff packed out in the hall,” she said. “Could you please help me with it?”

She took one big bundle, Clark took another one, I picked up her suitcase. We put all in the back of
the pickup and headed off to Zarahemla.

When we got back, we took Rivka to the tipi that belonged to Aries John and his wives. Emma, Cassie
and Zerena was all there. They flung their arms around Rivka’s neck and hollered, “Wow, Bishopess!
 It’s good to see you!”

They started talking over old times when all of a sudden Bishop Louie stepped into the tipi. He froze.
 Then he shot me and Clark a hard look and said, “You guys! Come on outside! I want to talk to you.”

We went outside with Louie. He was holding his arms stiff down at his sides with his fists clenched. I
could see the veins trembling in Louie’s forearms. He started off in his low-pitched growl, real slow:

“How…dare…you!! I thought I could rely on you! Do you realize what you’ve done?”

Clark was nine years younger than Louie, but he was taller and bigger in the shoulders. He just stayed completely calm and said, “Louie, I know she used to be your wife, but…”

“That’s not it!” Louie snapped. “Though that’s bad enough. Don’t you understand? She’s with Taze
now. If you help her leave him, he may not give us no money!”

“Easy,” a soft calm voice behind Louie said. It was Aries John. He stepped up to Louie and put his
hand on Louie’s shoulder.

“Don’t worry,” he says to Louie. “Taze and the people with him want to give us the money as much as
we want to get it.” Then Bishop Louie walked back to his house.

Rivka speaking

Pretty soon I knew I could give up any romantic fantasy of staying at one end of the Zarahemla
community and Louie staying at the other. As soon as Aries John had to go to La Plata to get
supplies, I had him take me to Zephyr’s rooming house, where I used to stay. I knocked on the door
of Zephyr’s room. She came running out. I felt a great warmth – her arms covered with her shawl
were flung around my shoulders.

“Is there still an empty couch in the hallway for me?” I asked.

“Always!” she said.

I called my parents and told them I would go back to Mountain State University. They were glad to
send me money.

And all this time my parents had never heard that I had been a wife or a Bishopess or Taze’s

But there in La Plata I could work with my good friend Manny Zamora and you, Buff. We would be
Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman all together helping make the Circle. Then Zephyr
got in on it too. We knew the Circle would need many more workers than just in Zarahemla.

I remember that winter how Manny’s drama office at the college became the de facto office for the
Circle. When Manny’s office filled up with Circle work, the overflow went into Buff’s anthropology
office. Manny ran off thousands of copies of his invitation to the Circle. He and Buff and Zephyr and I
found ourselves addressing and stamping countless envelopes for the invitations. We sent
invitations to President Sidney Lens, Vice President Ella Little, every member of Congress, every
New Mexico State legislator (and all the others we could find), the tribal councils on every Indian reservation, every denomination listed in the Yearbook of American Churches, every member of the American anthropological Association, all our friends…and on and on and on. My tongue tasted like
stamp envelope glue for days at a time.

We would stay up with Zephyr in her kitchen until three in the morning coming up with new ideas –
which Manny and Buff would take to Zarahemla – I didn’t want to risk a confrontation with Louie.

Nephi speaking

Around March, 1972, me and Bishop Louie and Aries John went to Denver in John’s pickup. We
phoned up the office of Governor Hass of Colorado – said we wanted to meet with him about working
out co-operation with state officials for the Circle. It was a real cold day – pale blue sky, gray clouds –
when we parked our red pickup in front of the state office building.

We went up to the room number they give us. We opened the door and seen a big long table of dark
wood, polished where you could see your face in it. A bunch of men sat at one end. They stood up
and walked over and shook our hands. Their hands was like the hands of a stone statue. They was
all suit and ties, shiny black leather shoes, no smiles.

It turns out Governor Hass didn’t come. These people was just from his staff. They sat back down at
their end of the table and we sat at the other end. One of these guys says, “Just how can you keep sanitation in the camps of the people who come for your circle? We hear you plan to dig trenches in
the ground. How would you sue such a trench?”

Bishop Louie says, “You want to see how?” He got up and walked over beside the table. He had his
leather loincloth on over his jeans. He squatted beside the table with his knees wide apart.

The Governor’s guys told us, “You can’t make your circle in our mountains under any circumstances.”

Comment by Rivka

The People’s Party controlled the state government in New Mexico. But the government and most of
 the legislature in Colorado were Republicans. Louie kept telling the Colorado state government, “We aren’t pushing any religious or political philosophy. We’re just trying to promote peace between all
the factions.”

It didn’t matter. Simply by organizing all these unemployed youth drifting along the highways to do
some common action – even if they all just sang, “Yankee Doodle” together – we were taking a side,
and that side wasn’t the Republicans.

Taze speaking

When I found Rivka’s good-bye note on my bed, I gasped. Her note shook me up, but it would never
make me give up helping prepare for the circle. I had dreamed of it for ten years, ever since I talked
with Uncle Denny.

I made sure that checks from the Pristine Foundation got to Louie. Of course the checks weren’t in
the name of the Foundation. They were supposedly from the accounts of various individuals – all of
them connected in one way or another with the Foundation. Pristine likes to be very discreet about
such things.

Louie phoned me that Governor Hass was trying to stop the Circle. I couldn’t believe the governor
would be so stupid. I called up one of the big shots in the Pristine Foundation about it. A few days
later he called me back and said:

“I had several friends in the Republican Party of Colorado try to pull every string they could. It was
no use. The Republican leaders are worried about the State Legislature elections this fall. They’re
afraid that the hick voters will think that the state government is permitting some kind of heathen ceremony – maybe even Satanic. And folks are scared of being robbed by mobs of young road people pouring through the countryside going to the Circle.”

After I hung up, I sat with my elbows on the table, my head in my hands, muttering, “What to do?
What to do?” I said to myself. “There are things that even the Pristine Foundation can’t do.”

Chapter Fourteen

Nephi speaking

On the trip up to Denver, me and Bishop Louie and Aries John spent most of our food and gas money.
We didn’t have enough to check out the Colorado mountains and drive back to Zarahemla. Bishop
Louie got on the phone to Taze, hollering for him to wire us more money.

But it was Friday and Taze said he couldn’t get the money together for us in time that day. He said
he’d send it to us Monday.

We was lucky. Aries John knew a man in Denver that we could stay with. His name was Fred Zeller.
Aries John knew Fred in a village on the west side of the Rockies where an old man John took care of
tried to set up a spiritual community. Aries John knew of a valley near the village where he thought
we could make the Circle. The valley was on National Forest land and Fred owned some land a few
miles away where the people coming could park their cars.

Fred was a tall, strong-looking blond-headed man in a blue work shirt. He told us, “A few months ago
 I had this dream. I walked up to a movie theater. There was ads in front for a movie called The Circle
– ads in all kinds of bright, shiny colors. It made my head swim to look at them. I just knew it would
be the greatest movie ever.

“I walked up to the woman at the ticket counter. I asked her, “What’s the movie like?”

“She said, ‘It’s a great movie, all right.’

“So I asked, ‘How much does it cost?’
“She said, ‘Everything you have.’”

We stayed at Fred’s house even after we got Taze’s money. We waited there for the snows to melt so
 we could go look over the valley where we wanted to make the Circle. Every day we walked around
Denver handing out invitations to people, especially to all the poor, ragged people we saw – asking
them to come make the Circle.

Around the beginning of April, we drove into the mountains as far as we could go in a dirt road and
we hiked into the site. It was a long valley with bright green meadows, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, beautiful as a dream. On one side of the valley was a broad, low flat-topped mountain
with no snow.

“Flat mountain there was a holy place to the Indians who used to live here,” Fred told us.

“That’s where we make the Circle,” Louie said.

We walked up Flat Mountain to see that it was easy to get to the top. Then we drove back to Denver.

There was always cops hanging around across the street from Fred’s One day I was on my way to
the grocery store. Two cops stopped me. One of them says, “Boy, are you out of the first grade yet?”

I said, “I’m Nephi and I’m seventeen.”

They both laughed and put me in a car and took me to the station. I spent the night in a cell and I
hated it. I was scared of going to reform school and spending a long time in them gray cells. Next
day when they took me to the desk I said, “My name’s Bill Altdorf.”

They looked through a big book of missing kids and found my name. Then they called the Los
Angeles Police Child Services who said they’d send someone on the train after me. They put me back
 in the cell two more nights. I was sick of the place, wondering if I’d ever get out. Then the Los
Angeles children’s cop got there and took me back to LA. My mother held me close and cried and
kissed me. In all this time I had sent her just one post card telling her I was in New Mexico and doing
all right. I never told her I was a married man.

But there was no more space or food for us in my aunt’s house than before. After a month, my mom
wrote a statement for me that I had her permission to travel on my own. She signed it and put down
my aunt’s address on it. She cried a lot and I kissed her and run out of the house and hitched to

One of the reasons, I think, for our Circle is that there’s always more kids than there are homes for

When I got back to Denver, Fred’s house was locked up and deserted and all the front windows was smashed out. I went to the biggest mission in Denver where we had gave out lots of invitations to
the Circle. I seen this kid named Duane who hung out there. He used to come over to Fred’s a lot
and help us give out invitations.

“Where did Fred and all the others go?” I asked.

“Oh,” he says, “a bunch of people come up from New Mexico to help Fred and the others. One of the
people from New Mexico was a nigger.”

“His name is Maceo and he’s my brother!” I says.

“OK!” Duane says. “This colored man! Anyways, some folks didn’t like a colored man being there and
they throwed rocks in the windows, so Fred and all your friends left. Then went to Fred’s land on the
other side of the mountains.”

I hitched west across the Rockies to Fred’s farm. It was just a log cabin and a pasture with a barn
and five horses and some woodland that stretched up the slopes of the mountains. There was five
cars in front of the cabin, people who had come to help make the Circle. Brother Maceo was there
with Cark and some others from Zarahemla, but Bishop Louie and Aries John had gone off to work
on the Circle somewheres else.

“Why didn’t Twyla come up?” I asked.

“She says he’s not feeling so good,” Clark told me.

I seen Fred Zeller looking awful sad, “I was in the Rocky Mountain League of the Spirit,” he told me.
“It was set up by this old man, Dad McPherson. Aries John took care of Dad when we had to go to
Denver to work. But all the people in the league are real down on Jews and the colored. When I took Brother Maceo into my home, my own friends kicked me out of the league! They broke my windows,
they made threatening phone calls all night, so I had my phone disconnected. I had to leave my
house and my job. I think I’m right, but I hope it all turns out to be worth it.”

Me and Brother Maceo and most of the others hiked into Flat Mountain Valley to set up the camp to
get ready for the Circle. Fred and Clark stayed behind to meet all the people that showed up at the
cabin. One night Clark walked up to our cabin, shivering from the cold.

I had to sneak in here,” he whispered. “Oh, hell, it’s hard to remember I can talk in a natural voice
now! The Governor sent the National Guard and the Highway Patrol to block all the roads that come
near this valley. No more food or medical supplies allow in.”

Rivka speaking

After classes ended in early June, I came up to Colorado in Manny Zamora’s truck with him and
Zephyr. We had six students from the college in the back of the truck and a couple of Chicano
miners’ kids who were in the People’s Party Youth Alliance. All eight people were jammed in there so
with their gear that they couldn’t wiggle their toes.

Louie had given Manny directions and we followed this two lane blacktop road to a log cabin. There
must have been 50 vehicles – cars, trucks and pickups, parked in the front yard and there were tents
and campfires all over the pasture – somewhere between 200 and 300 people. A teenage boy and girl
ran over and directed us where to park the truck.

When we got out, I walked into the pasture among the tents. I looked around to see if I could find
anyone I knew. I dreaded to see the one person who had done the most to bring this all about, but
when I didn’t see him, I felt strange and uncomfortable.

Finally I saw Ivy from Zarahemla with her kids. We ran up to each other and hugged. “Where’s
Louie?” I asked her.

“He’s off seeing a lawyer. The governor has gone completely wild,” Ivy said. “The governor sent the National Guard and the Highway patrol to set up road blocks all around here. The National Guard
has camps in the hills above here. They’re stopping cars all around here and checking license plates.
No telling how many kids hitching around here have been arrested for vagrancy. We pass the hat
every night and take up collections to get as many out of jail as we can.”

“We got through with no trouble,” I said.

“That’s just it,” Ivy said, reaching down to grab the hand of a three-year-old son who was starting to wander off.

“”You seen: she went on, “they’ve tried to block so many roads they don’t have enough people to
stop everybody. The Governor told the newspapers he wanted to stop Rural Bus services into this
area. Louie’s trying to get a Federal court order to call off the National Guard and the Highway
Patrol and let us into the valley.

“But you know what?” Ivy went on, shaking her head with some regret. “Like I said, people get in
here in spite of the blockade. So many people, I feel sorry for the guy who owns this land – more
people piling up around his cabin every day. It must be driving him crazy. We’ve got to get a court
order soon so these people can go to the valley and let him have some peace.”

All of a sudden I heard Manny call, “Rivka!” from the back door of the log cabin. I ran there as fast as
 I could. Manny motioned to me to come inside. On a table next to the wood stove in the kitchen, a
large Forest Service map on the area was spread out. A big broad=shouldered man about 40 – he
was Fred, the owner of the cabin – was pointing out to Manny a way to get around the roadblock
and hike into Flat Mountain Valley.

“Now you go up the right fork of Antler Canyon,” he said, sliding his forefinger across the map, “then
climb this ridge and go down the Crazy Creak drainage. I’ve been that way elk hunting before.”

So Manny practically shouted, “Let’s try it!” He looked around at me and a few others standing at
the table. “Wow about it?” he said, his eyes wide and eager. “Would tomorrow be good?”

Next morning a group of us walked to the back of Fred’s pasture, then up the slopes through the
woods. We had packs on our backs. Manny had a copy he had made of Fred’s map with a pen on a
piece of brown butcher paper.

The slopes turned downward into a little dent of a valley. We came to a barb-wire fence, the
boundary of the National Forest, and climbed through. We walked on, about 100 feet. All of a sudden,
four Highway Patrolmen were right ahead of us, holding shotguns within inches of Manny, Zephyr,
me and another woman with a blonde, blue-eyed girl about seven. I gasped in fear. The seven-year-
old girl never showed a flicker.

“Excuse me,” Manny said and we backed up, climbed through the barb wire-fence and went back to
Fred’s cabin.

“Listen folks,” Manny told us at the cabin, “there’s more than one way to get from hither to yon. Why
not let’s start about midnight tonight.”

So that night we walked three miles along the two-lane blacktop road, staying in the shadows of the
trees as much as possible Manny had a flashlight which he focused onto his butcher paper map.

“If all else fails,” he said to me, “I’ve got a compass in my pack. But I used to go to camp every summer when I lived in New York. I got a prize one year for canoeing. My sense of direction in the woods is infallible.”

I was sure we went in circles several times. Bushes were scratching at my legs. My sandals came off.
I couldn’t find them in the dark. We went into a clearing where Manny looked at his compass in the moonlight. I’m convinced that he led us back into that same clearing a couple of times. Nevertheless
I could tell we were going higher and higher up the slopes. It was very cold. The altitude slowed me
down As the sun came up, we were heading downward into Antler Canyon. Suddenly a helicopter
flew over the canyon ahead of us.

“The National Guard!” Manny whispered loud. We scattered into the trees and bushes. It seems like
we waited there for hours before the helicopter left.

We went on like that for three days. Every day Zephyr made two bread and butter sandwiches for
each one of us – that’s all the food we had. Although she was in her fifties, I never once heard Zephyr complain of the difficult hike. She showed no sign of falling back.

Allison, the seven-year-old girl, was the same way, never complaining, sometimes dancing ahead of
Manny up the trail.

Finally we came to the top of a steep ridge and stared down into Flat Mountain Valley. Pine trees
like soldiers marching down the slopes and than a long, long green and gold meadow stretching to
 Flat Top Mountain. From the border between the forest and the meadow, a wisp of smoke drifted
upward over the treetops.

We were all so tired, we sat down and looked down into the valley for maybe half an hour. The valley seemed to be turning slowly, offering us new views of itself. At last we got up and walked downward through the forest to the smoke where we found the camp with Brother Maceo, Clark, Nephi and the others. They cooked up the mush and coffee we had brought and wolfed it down – there supplies
were getting low.

Manny ate some and took a nap. Then he hugged as many of us as he could and said, “So long, folks,
gotta go back and get more people and more supplies.”

And he took off through the woods.

After a while it wasn’t just Manny bringing more people and supplies in. Soon other people were
leading in the newcomers and bringing us more things. I remember after a while in that valley, what
 a luxurious taste grape jelly had!

I lost track of what day it was, but we couldn’t have been there more than two weeks when we
looked up one evening and saw what looked like an endless stream of people, thousands and
thousands, flowing downhill on the main trail that came from the dirt road that had been blocked.

As they came winding along the edge of the meadows towards us, I saw Louie in front. Not far
behind him I saw you, Buff, and next to you Fred Zeller was leading a fuzzy brown pony that
belonged to him. On the pony was an old Indian man, his face splitting in a big toothless grin. That
must have been Uncle Denny. As they came close, I felt a little jab of pain and reluctance, but I said,
“What the heck!” and ran up and put my arms around Louie.

“Did you get the court order?” I asked.

“Not at all,” he said in a voice as impersonal as if we had never been married. “We had so many
people finally that Fred’s land couldn’t hold any more. Today we walked up to the road block,
thousands of men, women and children. The National Guard are people like us. They stood to one
side and let us pass.”

His eyes were looking ahead, facing some goal beyond us all. I let my arms drop from him. After he
walked past me, there were countless friends to greet and hug in the procession passing by me.
Soon they were settled in camp circles up and down the valley. There was a low white cloud of
campfire smoke everywhere. We have learned since then that we built too many fires there and lots
 of us didn’t know how to build them well. That night was very cold. I wandered from fire to fire to
greet my friends and huddle by their fires. All of us were too excited to sleep.

In the next few days more and more people kept coming. Finally there must have been 20,000 people
in the valley.

On July Fourth before daybreak, we started hiking up the summit of Flat Top Mountain. It was so
quiet in the dark I thought I could hear the clop of the hooves of Uncle Denny’s little pony on the
trail. I thought I could hear my own breath and the breath of the people around me. It was dark and
cold. I clutched my sarape tightly wrapped around my shoulders.

When we got to the summit, we spread out over the broad flat area and held hands in a circle about
a mile across. I was facing east. I could see the black sky turn pale blue over the main ridge of the
Rockies. At the first flash of the sun, I could feel a gasp from myself and the other people rather than
hear it.

For the next few hours as the sun climbed higher and higher into the sky, the energy of all those
20,000 people holding hands two miles above sea level grew. I never knew that silence could have
such power. As the sun reached the high point at noon, I felt tears go down my cheeks. I knew I was pleading for something – something too deep to say in words, for me and for everybody.

A the sun began to droop from the zenith, a low humming started among us. I felt it well up in me. I
could feel the humming of the people next to me surge up through my wrists as I held their hands.
The humming went on forever, getting louder and louder. Then it broke up in whoops of joy, yells
that seemed to hit the top of the sky, sounds that seemed like the natural noises of the human being before language was invented.

The circle broke up. People were running and leaping, dancing everywhere. I could recognize folk
dances of several different peoples that I had seen in immigrant neighborhoods in New York, but
much of it was pure free-form invention.

Aries John walked up and hugged me. Tears were coming out of the corners of his eyes.

“I seen Christ ascend,” he said.

“You mean descend from heaven?” I asked.

“No – Ascend from the earth.”