Thursday, January 24, 2008


Those in the Middle East are culturally much more cognizant of their ancestry than those in the West, especially in the United States. When you delve into it, family history is pretty fascinating stuff—it’s who we are.

The Denning name is Welch. That’s where my roots hail from. There is royalty in my heritage…or some I’m told. And, General Uylsses S. Grant is a distant cousin, along with some other wonderful statesmen and religious leaders. For the most part, though, my Denning ancestors (circa early 1800’s) were coal miners in Somerset, England.

A few summers ago, during the London Bomb Plot days, I traveled to England, rented a car and drove to the home of my father’s fathers as well as my mother’s fathers, ironically. Aside from nearly crashing at every corner observing the south-pawed driving protocols of the U.K., I thoroughly enjoyed the lush countryside and rolling hills.

The clergyman of the old Church of England in the tiny village near Bath (c. 1300), did some illegal things (hard to fathom, I know) and fled the area taking with him all the data and records (births, deaths, baptisms, marriages, etc.) preceding that date. I felt a part of me return, though, as I strolled through the graveside cemetery near the ancient church on the hill and searched for familiar names.

My father’s mother was a Pratt. Her grandfather (my great-great-great grandfather) is one of my heroes. Parley P. Pratt converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the early 1800s after discovering The Book of Mormon. An avid reader and follower of the Holy Bible, he felt the companion volume to the Holy Scriptures was true. He wrote: “I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.” (Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 1985, 20.) Such is the power of that “book of books.”

Later, on a mission to England, as he was eager to share his new discovery, he served as founding editor of a newspaper, the Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star, which continued publication until 1970. (Ensign, “The Extraordinary Life of Parley P. Pratt,” April 2007, 59.) He published many books; he was articulate, eloquent, and was blessed with a brilliant mind and a good heart. Oh, that I could have just a small percentage of his nobleness…

During the days of persecution against the leaders of the newly organized church—for which I’ve already addressed how the states of Missouri and Illinois have in the past few years officially apologized to the said church—Grandpa Pratt was imprisoned with the founder Joseph Smith prior to a transfer. He wrote to his second wife (‘the wife of [his] bosom’ had died), something reminiscent of my own situation. It captures the loneliness most men feel when separated from their loved ones.

“Locks and bars, rivers and distance separate us, and still I love you, but I am doomed to languish out long months and perhaps years deprived of your society while my little ones grow, and change their size and appearance without one sweet kiss or fond embrace from a father who loves them dearer than life.” (Ibid.)

…It sure was nice to go home for two weeks. Yes, the little ones, especially, have changed in appearance and mannerisms. Hopefully, I’ll never have to be torn from them ever again.

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