Monday, June 9, 2008

James K. Seastrand and Me: The North Las Vegas Connection Personal Remembrances

This is another in my series of personal historical remembrances. It is both autobiographical and gives a flavor of people that shaped my life. Even though James K. Seastrand played an important role in my life my autobiographical posts are about my interactions with them or really about me. My posts have historical facts about the people I am interacting in that are true as the sources I find or my memory. But now that I am a half century old some things are a little fuzzy. Some may argue with the facts but they are as true as I remember them. Orson Scott Card said once "History is a creative reconstruction of the past." My lawyer also says "if you always tell the truth you can not lose a slander case. Truth is the only defense for slander." Russell Ballard will tell you some might think me a loose cannon but no one thinks I'm a liar. As my Mormon friends say the "truth shall set you free." This is one of my personal stories.

James K. Seastrand may not have been perfect but he sure was a nice guy and a good LDS leader. I am sure the general Mormon reader outside of Las Vegas will wonder who is James Kent Seastrand. He was born 24 Jun 1929 in American Fork, Utah to Ernest Jeakins Seastrand and Myrtle Robinson. For those outside of the Las Vegas area James K. Seastrand was an influential LDS leader in Nevada from the 1960s through 2 Nov 1997 when he died at the age of 68. He collapsed while speaking to a religious conference. He was the stake president of the North Las Vegas Stake when I joined the church in 1974 and he was instrumental in my going on a mission.

In appearance he was a small man who was thin. He had brown hair. I think he had piercing blue eyes. He looked like more of a professor than a business man. He was a cheerful person that liked people and most people liked him. He wore metal rimmed glasses that had small frames. He wore nice business suits with conservative ties. He had a strong handshake and would talk to you with his hand on your shoulder or a pat on the back. He had a natural talent for putting people at ease. He walked the block through the back fence of the parking lot and lived close to the church so he could be in a position to come to the church day or night if necessary. I think he told me he used to live several blocks away but built his house behind the chapel to be closer. He told me he took calls no matter what time of the day or night. He carried his scriptures with him and liked to study LDS Church doctrine and history. He would stop me in the parking lot and ask me a question from the scriptures to make sure I had them. He loved to socialize and actually liked church activities like Roadshows and even allowed singing groups like Rainbow's End in his stake. They sang at my missionary farewell "He Who Hath Clean Hands and A Pure Heart." He encouraged all young people in his stake to go on missions or get married in the temple. He must have liked to eat because every time I saw him he invited me over for dinner. I am probably the only person who never took him up on his offer.

His wife on the hand was very flamboyant. I remember one time she had really really bright red hair. She was in to the artistic things in life. She was always busy doing things from quilting to performing to domestic things. She was a whirlwind of activity. I remember her blowing up balloons one time for a Gold and Green Ball. She was very gracious and would invite you in. She also was no scriptural slouch I think she did the major part of their book. She told me about how she got it published and how hard she worked to get people to buy it. You can still buy it by the way at the site below.

The Foundation for Apologetic Information & Research (FAIR) website gives a brief biography about Brother Seastrand and his wife Rosel's book Journey to Eternal Life & Distractions Along the Way: Scriptural Answers to Challenges of LDS Church (Las Vegas, Nevada: Newmark Publishing, 1990):

"James K. Seastrand received his Honorary Doctorate from National University and B.S. Degree from Brigham Young University. He served many years in religious and civic capacities including as a Chaplain in the United States Air Force. During his lifetime, he also served as a Bishop, Stake President, Regional Representative of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and chairman of the Las Vegas Nevada Temple Committee. He served for 16 years as the mayor of North Las Vegas before his death. These positions gave him insight into the challenges presented by those questions asked about beliefs of the Church. "We felt a need to write a book that gives full scriptural answers to many of the basic teachings of our Christian religion.

Rosel Ruesch Seastrand was a Valedictorian of Dixie College, a religious teacher, and served in many Church organizations." Sister Seastrand passed away in January 2001 at the age of 69. Her obituary says: "She was born Dec. 20, 1932, in Hurricane, Utah. A homemaker, she was a 42-year resident of North Las Vegas and a member of the board of directors of Jim Seastrand Helping Hands."

In 1989 a Nevada State Assembly Resolution after his death added a few more details. Jim graduated from American Fork High School. He attended L.D.S. Business College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and graduated in 1954 from Brigham Young University, earning a degree in marketing and business administration.

He served as an officer and Morman Chaplain in the United States Air Force during the Korean War and attaining the rank of captain. He was owner of Vegas Village for many years. He was appointed to the North Las Vegas City Council in 1973 and served for six and half years. In 1980 he was elected Mayor, and served the city for 16 years in that office. He also assisted in community service by being the chairman of board of the Lake Mead Hospital Medical Center.

He held the LDS Church positions of District President in the British Mission, Bishop, President of the North Las Vegas Stake, Regional Representative of the Twelve, Chairman of the Las Vegas Temple Building Committee, and a ward mission leader. He also received the Silver Beaver Award for scouting.

He was is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Rosel, his daughter, Pamela Shelline of St. George, Utah, his sons, Scott, Douglas and Russell Seastrand, all of Las Vegas, and 15 grandchildren."

Senator Ray Shaffer said at the time of the resolution:

As mayor, his office was in City Hall where I worked for the City of North Las Vegas. Many times I went to Jim to discuss issues that were common to our constituents. We both represented North Las Vegas, and we had many things going for us so that we had to share a lot of time. I remember when I first decided I was going to seek the Senate office (the Senate seat), I had to go through the chain of command to get permission because actually Jim was one of my bosses; there were four councilmen and a mayor. I had to take a poll and if any of the council or mayor were going to seek that office, I would naturally step aside. But after going all the way through the four council people, the city attorney, the city manager, I came to Jim and Jim said, “Not only would I approve of it, but I’ll help you.” We helped each other through the many elections after that, and we became very close. I can recall several times when I would be in my office down the other side of the building and he would give me a call. He said, “Put your Senate hat on, I want you to come up to my office. I have someone here that maybe you can help.” I would go up, and he would have one of the constituents in his office, and he would say, “Here’s the problem. I thought maybe we could deal with it this way but, perhaps, you have an idea, or maybe there is something we need to do at the legislative level.” We shared a lot of time working on behalf of the people in North Las Vegas. Jim was a persistent person; he never gave up; he never turned his back on a soul. It didn’t matter what your party affiliation was, or anything else. If you came to Jim Seastrand, he would go all out to help you, no matter what. He served his people very well, and I look at him as a great statesman. . ."

I also went to high school with Pam Seastrand (I liked to call her Pammie it drove her nuts) his daughter who was a very attractive blond with incredible blue eyes. She was both smart and beautiful. She was I believe president of the National Honor Society. For some reason I was nominated and given membership with a key my junior year. I guess it was the 3.66. My sister was the salutatorian her senior year with one A-. Pam and I had a political science class together our senior year. She was one of the top three students in the class in my opinion. We had a mock murder where a hand came in the door of the classroom someone shot a student with a blank pistol than we had to solve the crime. I suspect she knew who it was but she wouldn't fess up. The funny thing was that we all sat there and didn't catch the culprit because it took us several seconds to register what happened. I learned how slow people are to react in a crisis. I was the prosecuting attorney at the mock trial. It was kind of fascinating learning about ballistic reports etc. and military justice since it took place at Nellis Air Force Base.

If I had had more confidence I would have asked Pam out on a date but I figured I was socially below her even though she was an unpretentious type despite the fact her dad was rolling in the dough. Also I wasn't a member back then. Most of those Mormon girls like Pammie, Karen Andrus, Sonya Anderson, Shauna Harper, etc wouldn't give a non-Member boy the time of day. It was the time of Spencer W. Kimball and he told young women to only date those who could take them to the temple preferably returned missionaries. The funny thing was after I joined the Church President Seastrand tried to invite me over for dinner saying his daughter was a good friend of mine but I declined knowing she was dating some returned missionary or a guy going on one I can't remember any more. I looked her up on the Internet and saw that she runs a Massage Therapy Academy in St. George. I guess I missed out there. I could have had free back rubs for life. She didn't last long after high school and was married right away. I think even before I got back in 1977. What a lucky guy. Also it took me several years to mature (28) and be available to marry my wife a returned missionary who is also beautiful and spiritual so it worked out for the best. Plus I doubt Pam would have wanted twelve kids which was my goal in life. We had to settle for eight.

As a teenager in the early 1970s before I joined the Church I worked at Vegas Village which was the first all-in-one shopping center in the Las Vegas Valley. I worked at the original store on Las Vegas Boulevard which was just below Bunker Brothers Mortuary. It was starting to become run down and was on the edge of a poor Black and lower White class neighborhood. It was very ghetto. We had pretty tight security but the shoplifting was making the store insolvent. I worked there from the age of fifteen until seventeen in the grocery department. Although I wasn't a Mormon I watched my manager Jim Smith and his boss Jim Seastrand as they came in from time to time. I knew they were all Mormons. I judged Mormons by them since I knew so few.

The ones at school never discussed religion once with me in four years. I knew Pam was a Mormon because I knew her dad was a Mormon. The other Mormon kids I knew like Jay Ashton were on the wild side. I only went to two parties in four years but he out drank me at both plus he did some things I know he wants to forget that I saw. I remember he was the reason I even drank he challenged me to a chug contest. He always attracted the best looking girls. I met him in the ninth grade. He was in my P.E. class that is why I was surprised to find him at the parties. I learned a lesson in the Word of Wisdom from watching him use substances that made it impossible for him to have children. I know he paid a heavy price in his youth. I am glad to see he was a bishop and he married an exceptional woman Sharon Cooper. She was as sweet as they come. He was blessed that she loved him. I only liked her as a friend but I could see that in their case they were soul mates. Jay is a very likable guy and will always be a leader in the church. In his positive qualities he reminds me of his father Sam. Sam wasn't totally perfect but he was still a righteous dude. I haven't seen Jay for fifteen years I hope he adopted or had a medical breakthrough. Even if he didn't have any kids he has a lot to offer in church service. I just remember that watching his life as a kid taught me some hard lessons vicariously. We all have problems but the Word of Wisdom was just not one of mine even as a non-member before I joined the church I tried alcohol three times and pot once. I didn't like the loss of control so by eighteen I was stone cold sober. I only had to give up Pepsi Cola when I joined the church. I equate beer to drinking piss and pot is harsh and nasty it gives you bloodshot eyes. You have to force yourself to do them. With eight kids you have to be pretty direct in your telling of these tales. I wish both of us had never broken the word of wisdom but we did so we have to own our sins. I am of the Talmage school that the nail prints are always there even when you repent. For those who don't know what I am talking about Widtsoe argued your totally washed clean Talmage argued your washed clean but it leaves an imprint.

I think the Vegas Village headquarter offices were down at the Sahara store which was a newer store in the affluent part of town so we only saw them a few times a month. Since I didn't know much about Mormons I judged Mormons based on how they treated me. For the most part they were friendly and nice. Seastrand always had a twinkle in his eye he genuinely liked people and was a born politician asking how you were doing and remembering you later. He really liked me and would tell me stories about his philosophy of customer service. He liked to shop there and buy things in the produce department. I occasionally saw his wife and sons Scott, Doug and Russell. I worked 32 hours a week which was a lot of hours for a sixteen year old.

I do have to admit when I later joined the church in the Summer of 1974 and I discovered the Word of Wisdom and that an active member couldn't work in gambling I wondered why Vegas Village, which was Mormon owned and operated, sold alcohol and had slot machines in our stores. I later interviewed Jim Seastrand for the same business class that I had interviewed W. Brent Hardy in the Fall 1974. I had to pick a second business person to find out about operating a business.

Jim Seastrand told me that if he didn't have those things his customers would go some place else. He told me he didn't personally like having them and didn't agree with using them for himself or anyone but there wasn't much he could do about it or they would go some place else to shop. I learned a lesson in ambiguity from him. I asked him if he thought that was hypocritical. He told me there were some grey areas that you could personally hold a recommend and be active but not everyone shared our beliefs and unfortunately that was the majority of our customers.

It helped me later in life as a library director to handle patron requests in a Utah library when they wanted a slimy TV show like the Sopranos. We were supporting the American Library Association Bill of Rights and Freedom to Read policies which allowed for differing viewpoints. I would tell my uber-Mormon staff of righteous Mormon women we may not agree with this kind of show but the majority of the people in our county seem to want to watch it including supposedly active members. If you went down to the Vernal theaters half of them were playing R-rated movies. I told them they could go home at night with a good conscience as long as they didn't watch it and still hold temple recommends. Even though TV shows weren't rated we proudly placed an R-rated sticker on it so unsuspecting people wouldn't get it by mistake. Once or twice when a parent complained I would ask did you see the sticker. When they would admit it I would say then why did you give it to your teenage children. That usually ended the argument. I would tell them do you still want to fill out an exceptions form to take it off the shelf. No one ever did. For the most part we didn't buy too many sexually graphic things but every now and then when one slipped by me I remembered James K. Seastrand and Vegas Village experience. I figured that if a righteous man like Jim Seastrand could handle worldly things than so could I.

In July 1974 when I joined the Church I requested that Scott Seastrand should baptize me. But due to some minor personal problem he was unable to do it. I knew him and David Hollingsworth from Mormon youth dance and playing Church softball. They were a couple of years below me at Rancho. Scott was a pretty nice guy like his dad so when the missionaries asked me who I wanted I suggested him. I know that his father was involved in my baptismal service and confirmation.

At my baptism President Seastrand told me I reminded him of his dear old dad who was a Swedish immigrant. He told me his dad was a tailor and worked fourteen hours a day. He said I looked like his dad as a young man and had the same kind of work ethic. He told me I should go on a mission in a year.

After several months in June 1974 I decided to go on a mission. My bishop was not too keen on me going unless I could pay my own way. I knew that the young men in my ward were being hired by men like Frehner, Huntsman, or O. C. Loveland for $9 or $10 per hour. O.C. Loveland told me "I could hire you but I don't like you so I won't help you." I had to go down to the LDS employment and get two jobs. I worked in cleaning houses for millionaires like Jay Sarno and in the evening I worked in a bank building. I ended up working twelve to fourteen hours a day to help pay for my mission. After my mission Charlie McKnight convinced O.C. to hire me to unload a few of his trucks in the summer. I remember unloading cases of Jim Beam to take to the hotels. I came to like O.C. but he was a bit of a devil and had a wicked sense of humor. Once I got to know him better I came to like him. He really did help out a lot of people especially guys going on missions and coming home from missions.

One day in the spring of 1975 I saw President Seastrand coming in to the Civic Center building he asked me if I was going on a mission. I told him my experience with Brother Loveland who was a counselor and that my bishop wouldn't let me go unless I had all the money. He again told me I reminded him of his dead Swedish father and as far as he was concerned I was to go on a mission right away and not worry about the money. He told me he would talk to my bishop and make sure my papers would be put right in. Within a couple of weeks my bishop called me in and told me President Seastrand told him to have the ward help me since I was a recent convert.

The Elder's Quorum was to help me out. I was to use the money I made which ended up being about two thousand for transportation to the LTM and to buy my clothes and take care of my medical and dental needs. President Seastrand arranged so my Elder's Quorum would support me giving me $160 a month. My bishop was unusual. He actually recommended to the missionary committee where he thought all the boys in his ward should go. He had eight going out within months of each other: Doug Atkin, Charlie McKnight, Brad Bergquist, Alan Pulsipher, Ron January, Alan Harper, Richard Lang, and me. He told them to send Charlie and Ron to South America, Brad to Austria, and me to Italy. I don't know if he suggested the other guys missions also but I suspect he did. Brad claimed he wanted to go skiing. I used to laugh because I knew missionaries couldn't ski or swim for that matter. Since I had an Italian name he thought I should go to the home of my ancestors which was Sicily. The missionary committee sent every one of us where Bishop Bergquist recommended. I wonder if he also knew it was only $160 month one of the cheapest missions after South America to go to Italy?

When I went on my mission I sold my 1967 Chevy Impala and my stereo for about $600. I sold the car to a pimp from the West side of Las Vegas and made the mistake of not taking off one of the plates. The guy actually told me at the time I sold it that he was a pimp and had a lady friend with him. He was dressed all snazzy with his bling on and a cute little hat with a feather. He had a ten dollar gold piece on a chain and gold capped teeth and wore a white frilly shirt. I later found out a year after my mission he ran up 100 parking tickets. When my father went to court the judge reduce all but one saying who would be stupid enough to leave the plate on a car owned by a pimp and I was lucky I didn't have to pay them all. My friend Steve Wing saw the car drive by one day and followed it home. Then he told my father and brother Gary where it was located. My dad went over to the West side and literally stole back the plate off my former car. My brother stood by the door of the man's house with a pipe wrench but no one came out.

I had a poor baptismal interview and it didn't cover any former transgressions other than lying. Pressley Driggers did a poor job. He asked me you don't steal do you. Never once did he ask were morally clean. Having had the missionary discussions all in two days I missed concepts in the discussions. I had a brief relationship with a girl before I was baptized which lasted about eight weeks. I learned on my mission that I should have cleared it up before going. I figured it was washed clean at the time of my baptism. Anyway I was on my mission and learned of my oversight so I wrote to my mission president Leopoldo Larcher. He was only a convert of four or five years himself. He wasn't older than his early 30s. So he didn't have a lot of experience at that time in such matters. He sent my letter on to the missionary committee.

I also had some serious financial problems as my ward was three months behind in sending the monthly payments. I learned later my father was giving Max Rosenhan the elder's quorum president twenty-five bucks a months but I guess he couldn't get the other $135. So my companion Giorgio Dal Pozzo supported me for a couple of months but the mission president thought it shouldn't be that way. So the mission president contacted Thomas S. Monson the head of the missionary committee who decided to send me up to Toronto Canada since they had a million Italians. He had been mission president there himself and knew Elder Ballard would make sure I never had another financial problem again. The truth was Ballard would have paid it out of his own pocket if he had to that is why kind of a nice guy he really was down under the tough guy exterior. In addition President Seastrand was his former companion from his mission in England. M. Russell Ballard told me he would call up his old buddy if there was ever a problem again.

They figured Ballard could get the money on time one way or the other. When I got there President Ballard told me that my mission president in Italy mustn't have been in the Church long since I should have never been transferred but everything else was water under the bridge. Now that I was in Canada we needed to make the best of the situation. He also told me he had talked with my non-member father who he said was so impressive that if he were a Mormon he would definitely be a stake president. I finally baptized in the temple last year my father who died, who knows maybe he will be one in the spirit world now that he has accepted the Gospel.

After my mission I came home to report my mission to President Seastrand and the High Council a week before going to Provo to attend BYU. I could tell it wasn't a happy event as the men were kind of cold toward me. Murray was there. I told of the few families I baptized but I didn't get a warm and fuzzy feeling of welcome, none of that what a great job you did just thanks for coming by. President Seastrand was nice enough but it was not one of my memorable Mormon moments. The fact that I was the only member in my family didn't seem to mean much to them. Nor the fact I overcame a family where my father was an adulterer, recovering alcoholic and compulsive gambler that physically and emotionally abused his wife and children virtually their whole lives.

I was assigned on my mission to one of the young women in the ward as a service project to make sure I didn't go home early. Every few weeks I received a letter from Shauna Harper. She even sent me her picture. I showed it to all the missionaries who found her to be quite a babe. She wrote me fairly regularly keeping me up on what was happening in the ward, in her life, and in the life of her brother Alan who I knew from school and about the ward and some of my other missionary peeps. I had a serious crush on her and to be honest her writing me helped me through my mission. I gave a thought or two to dating her and marrying her. I had locked her in my heart even before I went on a mission. I thought at the time she was serious with Brantley Gubler and I didn't know if I stood a chance of dating her or even marrying her. He didn't pan out though. I learned on my mission that you needed to try or you would never know. I have always lived my life so as not to have too many regrets due to being afraid to confront a matter.

I mean after all she was a spiritual and sensitive girl. When she was 15 and I was 17 I danced with her at most of the Mormon youth dances. She was the same age as my sister Nancy. I had an idealized view of Shauna. Even her aloofness was attractive to me. When I first met her I wasn't even a member. She told me one time she would only date and marry a returned missionary that was very attractive to me. It wasn't the reason I joined the church but I respected her standards. A couple of other Mormon girls I knew would have done anything I wanted including one or two cheerleaders but I wasn't in to that after a bad relationship my senior year. I graduated even before I turned 18.

Shauna represented everything I felt a young Mormon woman should embody which included spirituality and sweetness. The only reason I went to LDS Church dances was to see her. I even hung out at a couple of high school football games after I graduated to see her. My buddy Steve Wing was always with me. After games the group would go to the Pizza Inn. I didn't enjoy some clown on the team who would moon us as we went in a convoy. His was the whitest butt I have ever seen. The guy had bright red hair like a wood pecker that matched his letter jacket. She and Jackie Loveland thought it was hilarious. It was anal retentive. Jackie was also a babe but I didn't like her like I did Ms. Shauna. I gave Shauna a ride a few times as I was cruising home in my '67 Impala when I saw her walking her sophomore and junior year. I bet she thought she was being a naughty girl to take a ride from someone as dangerous as me. Plus it got hot walking that couple of miles from Rancho.

Her father Murray Harper was on the High Council. I guess he heard about my earlier experience before I joined the church. So he wasn't my greatest admirer. When I came off my mission I didn't expect to marry her because I knew it was a very long shot she would even go out with me. I just wanted to see if she would give me a chance to date her. I did want to thank her for caring enough about me to go and see her and express my appreciation. I called her since I only had a week until I had to go to BYU where I was accepted after my mission. When I called I caught them during family prayer. Alan Harper answered the phone and told me Shauna can't come to the phone. I asked when I could talk with her and that I really wanted to let her know how I felt about her. He told me not to call back that he had never heard his father cuss before but he had when I called. He told me I should try to contact her later when she went up to BYU.

I felt really bad. I didn't want to cause her any trouble. When I went to the Y I saw her once or twice the first semester but she was always too busy to talk with me. One day her brother saw me and told me that he sister was hurt that I had never contacted her after my mission. I knew she roomed with Sheri Campo. I had actually gone out with Sally Hansen to homecoming. I was buddies with Charlie McKnight and he convinced me and Sally to go as friends since we both wanted to go and didn't have dates. I knew Shauna didn't have any problem going out. Sally would give me occasional reports on Shauna and a few of the people from home. She knew that I liked Shauna. A few weeks later I heard Shauna was getting married.

I figured I better tell Shauna how I felt about her since it was now or never. I ran in to her coming out of a class but she was too busy she said to talk with me and had another class. I agreed to meet her in the Eyring Science Center a few days later. I was hoping to have a private moment with her. I probably would have told her I loved her and always would and was she sure she should marry David Meacham. I knew Meacham he was a nice guy who was actually in the very same ward I was in. Shauna was afraid to meet me alone and Sheri Campo stood in the room. Like she couldn't stand outside and what could I do any way with an open door. I am sure I was going to grab her and kiss her or declare my love. It was a little hard with Campo there so I couldn't say what was in my heart or on my mind. I told Shauna I appreciated her writing and I wished her happiness in her life. It was a big disappointment but what can you do. I could tell Shauna wasn't interested in me or she would have met me alone or call me or talked to me when she saw me on campus or told her father to give me a chance.

The funniest thing happened when I visited the Thirteenth Ward in the summer after she was married. I saw her dad and said I know you don't like me much because I heard you cussed when I called Shauna after my mission but now that your daughter's married you don't have to worry about me any more. Murray Harper looked me in the eyes and said "I am sorry I treated you the way I did if Shauna had married you at least we would have seen her more often."

I looked her up on the Internet and see she only had a few kids which is good for her since her mother suffered from varicose veins and that she only lived in three or four places. If she had married me I would have wanted twelve kids and I don't know if she would have handled that many or the twelve places I have lived in my married life. I am sure Meacham being an engineer is more stable so Murray didn't know it but I bet she saw him more married to Meacham. I move every few years to exotic places like Hawaii and Saudi Arabia. In fact now I'm moving to another place.

I will always be grateful for Shauna Ann Harper's kindness to me on my mission without her I would have had a lonely time. Since my family were non-members I think I got two letters in two years. I wouldn't have had my own cherub brightening my weeks with snapshots of her happy smiling face and happenings from my peeps. I bet Brantley Gubler felt the same way. We were both casualties in the game of love. In hindsight it probably wasn't ethically right for her to lead me on knowing I liked her but her heart was in the right place. She was just doing her missionary effort.

Over the years I occasionally saw Brother Seastrand when I visited my folks in North Town. I ended up working for Richard O. Cowan, a blind religion professor who was working on a book called Temples to Dot the Land. James K. Seastrand was made the vice-chairman of the temple committee. Shortly after they dedicated the temple I went with my wife and interviewed him about his experiences in building the temple. He told me how they patterned the Las Vegas Temple after the Salt Lake Temple with the moonstones, and sunstones. I had spent four years researching temples by this point and had read all the literature on every temple. I asked him if he knew about the symbolism of the SL temple being that you could trace the seasons of the year and had he ever read Duncan McAllister's treatise on it. He said he had not and then he told me a very startling thing. He told me that since their temple was on a smaller scale and they had construction overruns they had left off one or two panels. So it is not truly a miniature version of the Salt Lake Temple. Even though that was an interesting point of minutiae it doesn't take away from his accomplishment of being the builder of the temple. I credit James K. Seastrand with playing one of the major roles in the building the temple on the location on Bonanza. I know he faced a lot of opposition and that he was successful in every step of the process seeing it to completion. Men with his set of skills are not easy to come by.

When the temple was announced in 1984 the Ensign said: "James Kent Seastrand, a Regional Representative from the Las Vegas area, said that through the announcement of the temple there, “we are sending a signal not only to that valley and the people there, but to the world, that our Savior loves every soul.”

He expressed gratitude to the Church leaders, on behalf of stake presidents he represented, for the opportunities a temple will bring. Then he pledged that Church leaders in the area would “put foremost in our minds” service to “our Savior, Jesus Christ, and Heavenly Father, and that we truly will be a light to those around us in that great valley.” (“Church Announces Five New Temples,” Ensign,May 1984, 102–103).

They couldn't chosen a more experience chairman than Jim Seastrand. After his kids missions he set them up in the building industry. They built some of the housing tracks around the area. I noticed they even named a street after him--Jame K. Seastrand Lane. He knew a lot about construction and politically he had all the connections having been mayor of North Las Vegas. He gave a lot of LDS men jobs over the year in both capacities. I think his father would have been proud of him. I even had an interview when he was in office as the Director of the North Las Vegas Library. I didn't want the job at the time. Lots of LDS guys like Vern Pulsipher worked for him over the years. Jim was well-liked throughout the Vegas region and throughout the state of Nevada. He was a trusted leader and well-respected by the General Authorities.

The 2 September 1989 Church News reported:

"With white cast stone towers and a copper roof, the Las Vegas Nevada Temple is nestled against the mountains on the far east side of the city. The edifice is at the foot of Sunrise Mountain on the outskirts of a residential area and faces the easterly mountains. Visible from most of Las Vegas Valley, the temple has become a landmark even before its completion.

Both members and non-members are eagerly watching the progress of the temple, said James K. Seastrand, vice chairman of the temple committee.

"The Lord has not overlooked our valley. There are many great LDS people here as well as many God-loving people who live apart from the lifestyle that many tourists engage in when they come here for entertainment," he commented. "They accept the temple here as a strong religious testimony of God."

The presence of the temple sends a message to the people of Las Vegas that the "Church of Jesus Christ is vibrant and alive, and is making a statement for good."

Seastrand once observed to city engineers and inspectors who were visiting the temple that the statue of the Angel Moroni, facing away from the city, "is facing eastward to announce the second coming of our Lord, and perhaps to announce the temple eastward to the world."

"My personal non-member friends have asked me to be sure to invite them to the open house," he continued. "That seems to be the most common reaction among non-members."

Visitors to the well-known gaming city are looking at "the magnificent white temple with its spires reaching into the air, and they are also attracted to it," he added.

The temple will be open on Thanksgiving Day to accommodate the many visitors and because "the completion of the temple has been a thanksgiving festival for the members of the Church in the Las Vegas temple district."

During the Temple's open house nearly 300,000 people toured it. James K. Seastrand said:

"Before the temple opened, we felt that if we had 200,000 visitors, we would be very successful," he said. "This was beyond our projection."

He explained that people were encouraged to come during the first days of the open house to avoid big crowds at its conclusion. So many people did that, as a result, crowds were expected to lessen during the last week. However, lines increased steadily until the last Saturday, Dec. 9, when 21,500 attended.

"It is a wonder to have this many people receive some understanding of the purpose of the temple," he said. Most visitors mentioned the beauty of the building, and added that they were yet more impressed by the warmth and friendliness of the members of the Church they met.

And nearly 100,000 of the visitors stopped in the temporary visitors center adjacent to the temple to learn more about the Church. Many saw Church videos about the Savior. (Church News, [Saturday, 11 December 1989).

Andrea Morgan Densley in the December 1989 Ensign said: "James K. Seastrand, the mayor of North Las Vegas, served as the first chairman of the Las Vegas temple committee, and now serves as its vice chairman under the direction of Elder H. Burke Peterson. The temple has proved to be a unifying factor for Las Vegas members and nonmembers alike. “Many nonmembers see it as a spiritual image-builder for the city of Las Vegas,” says Brother Seastrand, “and it’s been well received by the nonmember community.” (Andrea Morgan Densley, “Las Vegas: Also an Oasis of Faith,” Ensign, Dec. 1989, 68–69).

An interesting thing is that the two missionary companions Jim Seastrand and Russ Ballard were united at the temple dedication as M. Russell Ballard attended with President Howard W. Hunter, and Elders Russell M. Nelson, Joseph B. Wirthlin, and Dean L. Larsen observing ceremonial cornerstone laying.

In 1996 Sister Rosel Seastrand was named Nevada's National Mother of the Year and represented them at the national convention in Lincoln, Nebraska. The funny thing was that Carolyn Shumway, wife of Eric Shumway former president of BYU-Hawaii,was VP of Academics when I worked with him at BYU-Hawaii from 1988-1990. Sister Shumway whom I also knew was named National Mother of the Year at the convention Sister Seastrand attended. Carolyn and her husband Eric helped me to put on an Island-wide Mission Fireside in 1989. Sister Seastrand deserved the award for her service to the community. and she was a great mother.

James K. Seastrand's obituary in the Las Vegas Review Journal on Saturday, November 08, 1997 said:

""To the church, he was a dedicated servant of Christ," said former Clark County Commissioner Jay Bingham, who looked to Seastrand as a role model. "In the community, he always worked to change things for the better. And to his family and everyone who knew him personally, he'll be a hero in their eyes forever."

Seastrand died Sunday, after collapsing during a religious conference at the Las Vegas Baha'i Center. His family said it was a fitting end--Seastrand was deeply religious, and represented his faith in several ways. He had served as a bishop, president of the North Las Vegas Stake, a regional representative of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and chairman of the Las Vegas Temple Committee. At the time of his death, he was the mission leader for his ward.

"As a young boy he committed himself, and mother did too, to serving the Lord," said Gareth Seastrand of his younger brother. "Jim was born well, lived well, and died at the will of a loving, heavenly Father."

"A lot of times, people will ask me if I'm related to Jim Seastrand," Russell Seastrand said. "I'll say 'yes, I'm his son.' And they'll go on to relate some experience they had with him that we had never heard about. He was always the kind of man who looked out for the underdog. He'd find the people behind the VIPs to thank them or say something nice."

. . . In their home, the Seastrand family had an open place for someone at the dinner table every Sunday, which was usually filled.

"We never knew who was coming to dinner," said son Scott Seastrand. "The world needs more Jim Seastrands. I hope to be more like him."

The Seastrands were very generous and helped out people over the years. Rosel set up the Rosel Seastrand Arts Foundation which every years puts on a family theater production that nets around $10,000. The money is used to support the the James Seastrand Helping Hands of North Las Vegas, a nonprofit troupe of volunteers who drive seniors to doctor's appointments, the grocery store and other errands as well as supply them with household items. In 2007 Marcia Blake requested approval to build a dedicated theater in Rosel's name next to the Clark County Library District's Centennial Hills Library at 1804 Firefly Ranch Lane, North Las Vegas which was approved in October 2007 since there was no community theater other than the community college's theater which was hard to book. The seven-acre site located on Buffalo Drive at the intersection of Deer Springs Way, in a generally residential area with the land donated by the developer. The 32, 431 ft. library is scheduled for completion in 2009 with a 17,700 SF, 300-seat theatre.

In 2000 the City of North Las Vegas built the James K. Seastrand Park a 22.3 acre site that has two lighted baseball diamonds and three lighted soccer fields. It is located at 6330 Camino Eldorado Blvd. It is a fitting tribute since he liked softball and baseball.

I remember it was under his leadership as stake president that they developed the softball fields over on Carey Avenue behind the chapel complete with a snack bar and three softball fields. I spent many a pleasant night talking with President Seastrand and his wife when I played on the Thirteenth Ward's team with Brad Bergquist, Charlie McKnight, Jay Ashton and friends. I remember old Sam Ashton, a former bishop as a pudgy old dude whiffing guys more than half his age. He was a character. I went over his house one time and he was sitting in his recliner reading the Book of Mormon in just his trousers with no shirt just his garment which looked like a BVD. I swore I wouldn't do that as an old man. Chris Loveland could sure knock the ball out there and was a pretty good tennis player. I had two good memories one was after my mission I played on the Twentieth Ward's A team against the Thirteenth Loveland a lefty hit a line shot that should have cleared the fence but I reached up and robbed him and the other was my bragging I was a good tennis player and he trounced me good. I remember playing Scott Seastrand and his friends David Hollingsworth who had a distinctive pitching style. President Seastrand even occasionally pitched a game for the Seventh Ward. I still remember he wore his hat pulled down on his head with those ears sticking out. He would lick his two fingers and hold them up before wiping them on his pants. Playing on the 13th Ward and the 20th Ward after my mission we sure liked to beat them and it was very competitive back then. He went to a lot of games as we went through softball, volleyball, and basketball back then year round.

My best friend Steve Wing and I were both nonmembers when we started playing we fooled the Mormons in to believing he was my brother. Steve told them that. When they asked what his name was he told them he was my brother. They didn't realize he was joking since Mormons call each other brother. He didn't live in the ward or stake either and didn't want missionaries to come calling on him. I met Steve just after I graduated from Rancho H.S. He was a year old and had graduated from Valley. He was attending Clark County Community College where his step father Nicholson was President. Scott and Doug Seastrand had a T-Shirt Shop in the Mall that their dad set up to help them finance their missions. Steve lived about two miles from the Mall. He went down there because he liked this gorgeous girl named Lisa with jet black hair and baby blue eyes with a killer body who worked at J.C. Penny's. She went to Western and was a senior. He really wanted to date her so I went with him as a wing man. He would call her up at night or go by her store but he was shy about asking her out. One time we went with Lisa on their senior ditch day out to Lake Mead.

Steve told them the first time he saw them at their shop that he was my brother and he would stop in their store and chat with them. He thought they were cool. It was awkward later for me to tell them what my brother Steve was doing since when I went on a mission he dumped me as a friend. Steve's step-father was the president of Clark County Community College and he lived across from Valley High School with a swimming pool in one of those fancy house. One day his step-day left and didn't even tell his wife and kids where he went. Steve told me the guy made off with some paintings and had run away with a secretary. Steve always liked the Seastrand boys. It was Steve's idea that we go to the Mormon Church since it was a requirement of playing softball that you had to go once during the season.

I remember he wanted to shock them and make a grand entrance so we wore Panama hats, Hawaiian shirts, and blue jeans with sneakers. I think Steve was wearing jeans with holes with a red bandanna in the butt hole. He and I coordinated our wardrobe. I was actually wearing his hat and shirt. Steve knew I had a crush on Shauna Harper who was in my sister grade. I thought she was the most beautiful and righteous girl on the face of the earth. It was love at first sight for me but not her. I pictured one day being married to her but that was not to be. Murray Harper, her dad, was unimpressed with me. Steve told me she would definitely notice us and he thought we would give the Mormons something to talk about. Shauna Harper, Jackie Loveland, Barbie Loveland laughed at us because we were so outrageous. Steve was a true Renaissance man he played a Gibson and sang like Arlo Guthrie. I on the other hand sang like a frog so when we tried singing the Mormon hymns we were pretty funny. They were really in to welcoming you back then so everyone treated us normal and nice. No one mentioned our clothes or the fact we took the Sacrament despite not being members.

Steve thought Barbie Loveland was cute and he liked to get her boyfriend at the time ruffled. She actually threatened Steve with her boyfriend one day when he talked to her at the ball field. This kid was a whack job that drove a GTO and threatened anyone that even looked at his fifteen year old girl friend. Steve goaded him every time he saw him not because he was jealous but just because he wanted to see how far the kid would go. Steve convinced me to tell Jackie every time I saw her that she was cute because he knew for some reason I could push her buttons. He also knew she would tell her boyfriend any time I spoke to her which she did. Steve told me to say "You are as cute as a bug's ear." She would turn bright red and would go on about how if her boyfriend heard me he would deal with me. I would just smile and laugh.

Steve told me to keep doing it. He knew her boyfriend would eventually call me out. One day the guy called me out. Steve acting heroic said he would met him instead and that the boyfriend was a bully and needed someone to kick his butt. He put him down saying I would let you fight Frank but I know he can beat you but you're such a wuss I can even take you. The guy really lost it and set a time to fight him. Steve showed up with steel toe shoes and a buck knife but the guy didn't make the fight at the Mormon parking lot. We actually cruised the neighborhood trying to find him that was how certain Steve was he could beat him. I personally thought the guy was a psycho and I wouldn't have wanted to met him in a dark alley. Later Barbie came to her senses and broke up with the guy. The guy ticked off too many people some guys beat him up and threw him in the trunk of his car that is how popular he was. I felt sorry for the guy but he really was a hot-head with no control. I ended up in his ward and discovered under the bluster he wasn't really such a bad guy. He cried like the rest of us over loves lost. I hope he grew up and became a good Mormon.

Steve on the other hand ended up in construction despite having a college degree as a carpenter and builder. He had something in common with the Seastrand boys who went on to build several housing tracts throughout the Las Vegas area. Who knows maybe he has worked in some of the same tracts. The funny thing is that the Seastrand boys always ask me about my brother Steve whenever they see me telling me what a great guy he is. Until now I never had the heart to tell them he isn't my brother.

I didn't know the Seastrands' son Russell very well since he was older. I found out that he is married to Shirley and they have at least two sons Russell and Bryson who were both Eagle Scouts. His son Russell served a mission in Indianapolis, Indiana Spanish Speaking Mission from March 2005 to March 2007. Russ and his brother Scott run Newmark Development a land development company which does custom home construction.
Scott Seastrand has been a stake president for five years since 3 May 2004 in the Las Vegas Nevada Central Stake. He is the owner of Newmark Development which is a land development company that builds commercial buildings and single family housing. He married his father's counselor Theron Swainston's daughter Lora. I know he is a fine man just like his father. I haven't seen him in over twenty years.

Douglas Seastrand had a computer consulting firm and ended up working at UNLV as a Principle Computer Scientist in the Institute for Security Studies. He graduated from UNLV in 1988 in computer science. He served from 1998 until 2005 when he resigned his position as a member of the Board of Regents in Nevada to avoid any conflict of interest. At the time of his appointment he said something that would have made President Ezra Taft Benson proud: "I'm a patriot at heart, and this is an opportunity to support anti-terrorism and homeland security," said Seastrand, a computer scientist and software engineer." I believe his wife Margie (Margie) is still in to performing and being involved with her mother-in-law's foundation. She has produced and been in the annual shows. She runs Holywood Kids Academy for the Performing Arts to help young children gain musical confidence. They have four children: Beth, Daniel, Melany, and Melissa.

When Doug Seastrand first became a member of the Board of Regents he said something his father would have been proud of:

"To me you must first be true to God, then your family, followed by work and community service,” he says. “It’s a difficult balancing act. Sometimes you want to spend more time at work or community service, but you can’t let go of your responsibility to your family.”

The reporter who wrote the article said: 'Seastrand’s ability to seamlessly weave together family, business and political responsibilities has enabled him to devote time to community service.' Seastrand said: “At times, it can be thankless, it can be frustrating, but it’s also very rewarding and necessary.”

I am sorry that James K. Seastrand didn't live longer. I think 68 is much too young to die today. I think he would have probably been an area seventy or in one of the Seventy Quorums. I will always be grateful that I reminded him of his Swedish father. He will always an inspiration to me. I know his three sons and daughter will turn out to be just like their father and mother always serving faithfully and seeing the good in others. They truly were born of goodly parents. Rosel and Jim Seastrand were good people.


Stephen said...

I knew Pam Seastrand, Sonya Anderson and Lori Swenston along with Daniel Hollingsworth.

Great people. I didn't realize that James K. Seastrand had died, my father liked him.

Time keeps flying along.

Did you go to Jim Bridger or Rancho? I was in the 18th ward in North Las Vegas, lived there for two years before the Air Force sent my dad to Mtn Home.

Anyway, that was an interesting post.

I'm on facebook at if any of the North Las Vegas Stake people are around.

Keryn said...

That was an awesome post--thanks for writing it. I grew up in the old Redrock Stake and the old West Stake (that soon became the Meadows Stake). In fact--half of the ballfields on Carey (Smoke Ranch and Jones) became my ward building in the early 90s. It was fun to hear the stories and memories from home, even if I am a bit younger than you. (I graduated from Western in 1995.)

Dr. B said...

Stephen: I went to Rancho H.S. I'm glad we could travel back in time in this post. Those were some gorgeous girls you remember. They are great people even if we are older.

Dr. B said...


I forgot I went to Von Tobel so I knew Jay Ashton, Alan Harper, Nick Sorenson and that crowd. The funny thing was that Nick married Evelyn Mills. From 2002 to 2005 he was my bishop in Houston. He is a high powered lawyer making a half million a year with box seats to Astros, Rockets etc. My daughter even dated his son before her mission but that didn't work out. It is a small world and the North Las Vegas connection is alive in the world today.

Stephen said...

I now know where most of them went. Hope the Anderson kids did well (Kevin, Sonya, and all the rest).

Haven't heard from Daniel Hollingsworth for such a long time.

Makes me want to pull out my year books.

I don't place Nick Sorenson, though I suspect he is in the JRCLS, so if I run into the Houston chapter again I'll try to remember the name.

I'm 52 now, so there are all sorts of people I overlap with, and people I don't.

Neat to remember them all.

Didn't realize you had been to Houston too, along with all your other travels.

I was fifteen years or so in Wichita Falls, Texas, far out of the way.

Anonymous said...

Frank Bruno you're killing me! I can across this blog to find after a short time reading I knew instantly it was you. I loved the honor you’ve given to James Seastrand. Those of us who grew up in the North Stake love him and his sweetheart. I still live in Vegas and get to visit with the sons from time to time. I spent my youth in the 7th and 13th ward. I am very familiar with those you have mentioned. I would have expected a little more discretion while rambling, uh, I mean reminiscing. Honestly my good friend you are not known for your subtleties, perhaps it’s one your endearing features. Good memories! I wish you well and hope you don’t write about me, as if you could find anything! LOL!
Dare you to post my bud!

Dr. B said...


This is my personal blog where I post whatever I feel like. As to my rambling style that is just my way of therapeutically dealing with my past. Believe it or not hundreds of thousands of people read my blog. One liberal Mormon said Dr. B. might be whacked out but reading him is like crack candy. "I can't believe the General Authorities let him say what he does." The funny thing is that they do because for the most part I tell the truth and do a lot of good in my various projects from compiling the Teaching of Erza Taft Benson to working with hundreds of online missionaries.

Like my good friend Reed Benson used to say when I worked with him for three years and someone would criticize him. "God bless you dear brother or sister."

I wrote the piece on James K. Seastrand as a tribute to him for the influence he had on my life. It is not strictly a piece about him but his interacting with me. I still have a few pieces to write.

As to whether or not I have any dirt on you as you think I am just in to that why didn't you sign your name at the end of the comment. When I worked with Elder Kikuchi on a book several years ago he used to say we need to walk in the light of the sun in our lives. I frankly don't like anonymous commentors but I will allow them to be posted. Controversy is good for getting a lot of readership. In a few more years I will pass the million hit mark which is pretty good results.

Most of the North Las Vegas crowd have identified themselves here and on FB so why don't you.

Cliff W said...

I found your comment regarding Scott's inability to baptize you very tasteless. If Scott wants this information about his past to be aired over the Internet, let him share it himself. Controversy for sake of more readership on your blog is not worth degrading a great man.

Dr. B said...

My comment was a factual detail. I didn't really consider the LDS propensity to sanitize. We are all human beings who overcome and go on to other things. It is nice the Seastrands became church leaders I guess there is hope for the rest of us. I am sure they are top notch like their father. I am of the James E. Talmage school he and John Widtsoe got in a debate. Talmage said the nail print was still there and Widtsoe said it was not. Since I don't know you and just related my experience I am not going to edit one iota. I was as honest about him as about myself. I don't have a double standard.