In my professional life I have observed that real data looks very different than generated data. In my personal life, I have noticed real history looks very different from fictional stories. When I look deeply at the Book of Mormon, I see real data, real history, not something generated by someone’s imagination. I think it is impossible to make up such reality. Let me explain.
The Interest of Real Live Data
Upon a little inspection, real data is completely different from made up data. A few years ago, I recorded a simple description of how data is collected in business, and how difficult it is to do so on my professional blog, LedgerLearing.com. As part of that, I was quoted as follows by a friend in talking about data:
“I have never seen system-generated data that has all the variability of real, live production data. The differences are so stark it is a bit like the difference between a painting of a landscape, and a real, live landscape. The system-generated data is flat; it can give the single image it was intended to produce. But if one walks to the side of the painting, the image is not interesting at all. Whereas if one walks to a different point to view a landscape, it can be just as fascinating and interesting as the original perspective. And one can walk into the landscape, just as one can walk into real production data, and find all sorts of new things within it. System-generated data never has that kind of interest to it.”(“Data: the Strategic Asset: November 2019” Financial Education & Research Foundation (FERF))
The following is analysis of real data, built by Matt Adams in learning data science. This graph shows how state employee salaries in a major state in the US have changed over time, and comparing them with the rate of inflation. The reasonableness of these trend lines and the correlation to real, external data almost never occurs in generated data. This is real data, and real insights from it.
Over the last quarter, I worked on a little history project. In 1895 my grandfather as a boy moved from Southern Utah to the tiny town of Alta, Wyoming, on the west slopes of the Grand Tetons, just over the Idaho border. I found a story about the importance of music to the life of the community when my grandfather arrived that included his uncle.
I noted from analyzing the story that I could walk into the story, and find all sorts of real connections. Here’s the story, recorded by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in “Early settlers of Teton Valley” quoted in it’s entirety.
How the First Organ was Obtained
This story really started in 1865 when Fredrick Willard Morgan was born in Salt Lake City. His parents were English converts and came here for the Gospel’s sake. They made friends with people who loved music. His father and mother both sang very well, and they made friends with people who loved music. Their home was a gathering place for singing practice, and musical activity was their greatest recreation.
So the boy, Fred, besides having in his makeup the gift had instilled into his soul, through environment, a lofty and lasting appreciation for all that was beautiful in sacred music. He studied the violin and took part in choir work as a boy and became a leader in the 15th Ward musical activities.
In 1895, after duly considering the matter, he decided to move to Teton Valley, Idaho, to run a sawmill for T. C. Grigqs. He and his brother, Jos. C. Morgan, and the Griggs boys went by team, taking a load of the household goods. They were new and inexperienced in pioneering, and the two weeks of travel were very tiresome. The horses had sore shoulders and were fagged. The men were tired and jaded, but a[t] last the haven in the Teton canyon was reached. Bro. Morgan’s family came on the to Market Lake and into the Valley with the Griggs women. The beautiful canyon, with its clear stream of water with trout in abundance, and with its chickens and berries were never ending sources of delight
Soon after their arrival Bro. Morgan was chosen as choir leader in the Pratt Ward. His work with the singers was so commendable that he was urged to enter a contest in which all the Snake River Valley people were interested. There was to be a fair in October and an eisteddfod [sic]. Wm. Rigby, being in the Stake Presidency and hearing each of the wards, felt sure that this little ward stood a good chance. The two contest numbers for the contest were Praise Ye the Father, and Do They Ever Pray for Me. There were three prizes offered: 1st, $50: 2nd, $55: and 3rd, $15.
The Pratt Ward Choir was composed of the following officers and members:
- F. W. Morgan, Leader
- T. R. Wilson, Chairman
- Rose Stevens, Secretary &Treasurer
- Elizabeth Pratt
- Sophia Rigby
- Louise Driggs
- Marcia Little
- Zina Rigby
- Eva Sheets
- Susanna S. Wilson
- Hannah Stevens
- David Rigby
- James Rigby
- Rose Stevens
- Charles U. Griggs
- Samuel L. Sheets
- Milton Sheets
- Mathoni Pratt
- Apolos Driggs
- T. R. Wilson
- George B. Green
- George S. Young
- Joe. C. Morgan
- Robert B. Dalley
Some rules of the organization were to meet at the setting of the sun. If anyone were late, he was fined 5¢, if absent, 10¢, and the money was used to buy coal oil for lights. (After forty years the old roll book with the credits was in good preservation.)
The practicing began in May, and all through the summer after long days of toil, these men and women assembled. Besides becoming efficient in singing, then enjoyed themselves immensely.
October 11, 1895 was the day set for the singing contest. These people had to travel fifty-five miles by team, which they did cheerfully, each providing food to last while they were gone. Sister Wilson had packed a large clothes basket of food and in the hurry to get off, the basket was forgotten until they were about three miles on the way, but they returned and got their provisions.
R. B. Dalley said he took both of his families in a wagon. He also took two first prizes at the fair, one for a hand—carved walking stick and the other for a horsehair watch chain.
There were four or six choirs contesting. Each of the other choirs were from large places but the little Pratt choir took the first prize. The money was in silver dollars and was piled upon the table. Of course, there was great rejoicing among the Pratt people and some dissatisfaction on the part of the others.
F. W. Morgan was chosen as s judge for the solo work.
The Pratt people had decided to spend the prize money as a first payment on a church organ, which they did, and it was the first church organ in the Teton Stake. That organ did service in the ward for about thirty years, and the story of how the first payment was made was handed down to me with pleasure by different members of the little choir. They gave the credit for their success to their efficient leader who made a number of outstanding victories. At one time a ladies quartet, under his direction, won first place in a church wide M. I. A. music contest. These ladies, Ira M Wilson, Grace Green, Ida Durtschi, and Luella Dalley, were from the Pratt Ward.
By Isabel P. Morgan
[End of story]
I spent perhaps more than 10 hours analyzing this little story. My Great Grandfather’s biography contained this little quote:
“We had a reed organ long before we had a piano. When the family lived in the Teton Basin the organ was often loaded into the back of the buggy or on a bobsled and taken as far as twelve miles, where mother and father did the chording on it to accompany Ed Beesley’s fiddling for the greatly enjoyed dances. When father called for the square dances, mother would play the organ.”“NIELSON B. DALLEY: A MAN WORTH KNOWING”
I thought based upon this there might be some connection to the story, as they arrived in the valley in June 1895 when the choir began practicing began in May.
For all my analysis, I could find no evidence they were involved in the choir in any way. I might guess that the choir was formed, and adding new people to the perfectly symmetrical groups wasn’t possible.
One point of this post is, even if I wanted a connection to exist, I couldn’t make one appear in the data. There is no direct connection in the data. Truth can be exposed in data, either in its existence or in its absence.
I decided to analyze the members of the choir, to give a picture of what the community looked like at the time. Here is what I can gather about them. I think it gives some sense of what a church choir often looks like.
Bishop [volunteer pastor of the congregation] Mathoni Pratt (39) and his wife, Elizabeth Sheets Pratt (33) participated. Elisabeth’s older and younger brothers, Samuel Leaver Sheets (35), Milton Leaver Sheets(21), and her sister Eva Leaver Sheets (18) also participated. Apollos Pratt Driggs (26) (not Apolos), nephew to Bishop Pratt, and his wife Louise May Jones Cain Driggs (29) also participated.
T. R. Wilson was likely Thomas Ross Wilson (38) (per Teton Basis History by B. W. Driggs 1926), participated with his wife Susanna Musser Sheets Wilson (37).
Rose Elizabeth Stevens was a young treasurer and secretary for the choir at 14, but others in the choir were also that age. She must have been very responsible to hold that position. She participated with her mother, Hannah Elizabeth Wardle Stevens (34).
Zina Rigby (17) and her two younger brothers, David (15) and James (14) participated. The fact that David and James are 15 and 14 explains how they could sing in the Alto section. Their mother, Sophia Eckersley Rigby (47) also participated, and her son-in-law George Spencer Young (27). There is perhaps some family connection to William Rigby the member of the Stake Presidency.
Although difficult to prove, it seems likely to me that the choir director, Frederick Willard Morgan’s (32) brother Joseph Charles Morgan (20) is the Joe C. Morgan listed. There is no evidence on Joseph’s family search site of living in Alta, but he was single in 1895, marrying the first time two years later, and may well have been living in the area during that time.
Robert Bertelson Dalley (33) is uncle to George Bernard Green. He is also likely father to Luella mentioned in the women’s quartet that won the church-wide MIA competition at the end of the article. Others in this MIA women’s quartet include Irma Wilson, likely T.R. Wilson’s daughter (and it was likely Irma Sheets Wilson, not Irma M. Wilson). Grace Hawker Green is the younger brother of George Bernard Green in the choir. MIA was the youth group, Mutual Improvement Association, and probably competed perhaps between 1907 and 1915, as Luella and Grace were born in 1895, Irma and Ida in 1890.
Determining the last women’s quartet member, Ira Aeschbarcher Durtschi’s connection to the community is not clear; Durtschi is a married name (perhaps when participating in the choir she was Aeschbarcher). She was married in Salt Lake City in 1915; there is no clear association with Alta prior to that, only after. Her husband later served at the bishop of the Pratt Ward.
The last member of the original choir, Marcia Alice Little (19) was likely living with her father, George Edwin Little, who had moved to the area around 1890. She was a lone participant in the choir from her family.
Interesting that out of 24 major names in the document, Ira and Marcia are the only two isolated participants. (Posted also as “Teton Valley Pratt Ward Choir and the First Ward Organ” in FamilySearch.org)
Behind those people there are hundreds of individual documents attesting to their lives, where they lived, who they were related to, what they did. The question of why Ira Aeschbarcher Durtschi, born in Switzerland, immigrated to the US without her parents, and ended up in little Alta Wyoming perhaps before her marriage is one area that could consume another 10 hours of time.
The data exposes things one couldn’t imagine would exist there.
The Golden Plates
Richard Bushman in his biography of Joseph Smith “Rough Stone Rolling” says that the distinctive thing about those that knew Joseph Smith while he was translating the Book of Mormon was that they consistently speak of the gold plates from which it was translated as real; everything they recorded about them was about a physical object that actually existed.
I have found through my study of the Book of Mormon that the contents of the book stand up to this test of real data. One can “walk into” the Book of Mormon and find connection, as I explained in analysis of the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon.
One can walk into real history, and find all sorts of connections that do not exist in works of fiction. Not that they could not exist in a work of fiction, but it might take as much time to create the fictional connections as it did to live the real experiences.
We live in a world of data. What an amazing space it is.