Thomas Monson’s Friend, Arthur Patton

In 1969, Thomas S. Monson told a story of a friend named “Arthur Patton” and his sad widowed mother.

The story is reproduced in full here.

Thomas gives some very detailed info about Arthur in this talk.

  • He had blond, curly hair.
  • A smile as big as all outdoors.
  • Arthur stood taller than any boy in the class.
  •  Enlisted in the Navy at the tender age of 15.
  • He wrote lots of letters to his mother.
  • Mrs. Patton, (his mother) was a cleaning woman for a downtown office.
  • Arthur was killed in the Battle of the Coral Sea, the sinking of the Lexington did not occur then, but the ship did participate and was crippled. It was scuttled (intentionally sunk) on May 8th.

This message was reprinted in the New Era, in 1991.

In 2007, now as Prophet of the LDS Church, the tale was told again:

Details that changed:

  • Arthur was transferred from the USS Dorsey, a destroyer, to the USS White Plains, an aircraft carrier.
  • While at Saipan in the South Pacific, the ship was attacked. Arthur was one of those on board who was lost at sea.

The USS White Plains was not sunk. However, for the remainder of the war, she carried out the relatively tame assignment of ferrying replacement aircraft from their factories in the United States to bases in the western Pacific.

A quicker review of all Navy casualties from Utah in WWII shows that no one by the name “Arthur Patten” or “Arthur Patton” died on either of these ships, or any other ship in WWII.

According to the ship’s own “Report of Changes of U.S.S. White Plains (CVE 66) for the month ending 19th day of July 1944,” Patton was declared as “missing” on 4 July 1944, not in March 1944. Moreover, that “missing” designation was ascribed in Patton’s case to the “result of own misconduct.” In other words, Patton was not classified by his ship’s crew log as having been killed during, or as a result of, battle action.

Also reported “Missing as result of own misconduct” on the same day as Patton was a fellow shipmate, Blake Lewis Pauley.

the U.S.S. White Plains left the combat zone off Saipan on 2 July 1944–meaning that (contrary to Monson’s story) Patton was not killed in combat within that zone or time period because his ship was, in fact, steaming to and/or arriving at an atoll outside the combat zone before Patton was declared “missing as result of own misconduct”

a WW II combined task unit casualty list (one that included the U.S.S. White Plains) reveals (contrary to Monson’s claim) no–repeat, no–“Arthur Patton” listed as killed or missing in action. Accompanying that list is the note that “KIA/MIAs are verified via the MEN LOST IN ACTION FROM THE CVE/DD/DE’s OF TAFFY III monument at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA”

(“Crew Lists of Task Unit 77.4.3: U.S.S. White Plains {CVE 66) and Composite Squadron VC-4,” at:, original emphasis).

Original leg work on this section of research was found here.

Please note that the accounts do not indicate that the U.S.S. White Plains suffered significant casualties or damage as a result of the Saipan operations.

It appears that Patton was not killed in battle at all:

Moreover, Patton vanished completely from U.S. military in-service and out-of-service records after July 1944. His mother, according to Monson, eventually informed Monson by letter (after Monson had falsely declared in his 1969 sermon that Patton died in 1942 in the wrong sea and on the wrong boat) that her son was “killed” on 5 July 1944. Monson, however, has not publicly claim that Patton’s mother informed him of how Patton was “killed.” — ibid

The California Department of Health Services, Office of Health Information and Research Vital Statistics Section, declares that Patton’s friend died on the death date given to Monson by his mother:

Last Name: PAULEY
First Name: BLAKE
Middle: LEWIS
Birth Date: 02/16/1927
Mother Maiden: CRANE
Father Last: PAULEY
Sex: M
Residence Death Date: 07/05/1944
Age: 17 yrs

Monson then reveals that the mother had written him a letter:

During the first week of May 1969, to my astonishment and joy, I received a letter postmarked Pomona, California, and dated April 29, 1969. It was from Mrs. Terese Patton. I share with you a part of that letter:

“Dear Tommy,

“I hope you don’t mind my calling you Tommy, as I always think of you that way. I don’t know how to thank you for the comforting talk you gave.

“Arthur was 15 years old when he enlisted in the navy. He was killed one month before his 19th birthday on July 5, 1944.

“It was wonderful of you to think of us. I don’t know how to thank you for your comforting words, both when Arthur died and again in your talk. I have had many questions over the years, and you have answered them. I am now at peace concerning Arthur. . . . God bless and keep you always.


“Terese Patton”

It seems odd that Monson wouldn’t mention the letter for 38 years after receiving the letter. Despite that, a postscript was added to the 1969 talk, but with no dates or locations corrected.

Another point to consider:

As the years lengthen, Monson’s knowledge of Patton’s military circumstances curiously appears to be expanding–meaning, that Mrs. Patton wasn’t helping him accumulate facts but someone else was. (Indeed, in his 2007 sermon, Monson declares, in essence, that he doesn’t know where Mrs. Patton is and dramatically speaks to her in abstentia). –ibid

Steve Benson provides the following details:

Name: Terese Patton
DOB: 11/28/1894
Place of Issuance [of SS #]: UTAH
DOD: June 1980
Last Residence: Visalia, California

More information from the state of California Death Index:

Name: Terese Patton
Last Residence: 93277 Visalia, Tulare, California, United States of America
Born: 28 Nov 1894
Last Benefit: 93277 Visalia, Tulare, California, United States of America
Died: Jun 1980
State (Year) SSN issued: Utah (Before 1951)

Arthur Patton’s mother’s maiden name was Teresa Loikits.

His father’s name was Louis Albert Lee, or just “Lee” Patton.

The Pattons tied to Arthur came from their Chicago line. This particular Chicago family tree indicates that Terese Patton died in Ponoma, CA (which is where Monson says he received a postmarked letter from her).

Interesting factoid: Arthur’s father died on 8 December 1941, one day after Pearl Harbor and two days before Arthur enlisted in the Navy in Salt Lake City.

Arthur Patton’s father was still in Chicago at the time of Arthur’s father’s death.

Another poster points out:

No mention by Tom of Arthur joining up just two days after Arthur’s dad dies–who had died just one day after Pearl Harbor was attacked.

Makes one wonder just how close Tom and Arthur really were.

TL;DR: Although it is possible that Thomas Monson didn’t remember the details of Arthur’s service when he gave his original talk, and that the mother was miraculously invited to watch the conference talk, she did not provide the details in the letter that Monson later corrected himself.

It is far more likely that he told the story, was caught in a lie, and had church researchers look up details so that future tellings would not be as embarrassing. Perhaps someone on the correlation committee caught it as he planned to simply re-tell the same 1969 story.

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Last edited by EmmaHS on May 17, 2013 at 4:11 am

6 Responses to Thomas Monson’s Friend, Arthur Patton

  1. Vajra says:

    There’s a current FB meme that has Mormons babbling about the “wisdom” of Gordon Hinckley. He is quoted as saying “Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed…”. Unfortunately, Mr. Hinckley made unattributed use of the quote from Jenkin Lloyd Jones, a Unitarian minister, a pacifist, and a liberal. Plus ca change…

  2. Vajra says:

    One Mormon site does say that Hinkley quoted Mr. Jones, but given their propensity to change post hoc, I doubt if Hinkley actually gave credit in his talk.

    • Mithryn says:

      Exactly. At the time, there is no evidence of it. In the book published from what Hinkley said, Jones was credited in the back.

      But in the dozens of reprints I’ve seen, no citation.

  3. Pingback: 51 Questions That Might Lead You to Mormonism | Runtu's Rincón

  4. William York says:

    Does anyone know the exact service dates for Thomas Monson. He says he entered the navy “near the end of the war”. It seems this statement is at least miss-leading. He most likely entered the service at most a couple months before the surrender of Japan. My father joined the navy about a year before Monson and was careful never to put himself out there as a WWII veteran. I think he felt that distinction whould be left for those who actually fought in the war. I have goggled the service dates for Monson without success.

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