After all, the "Mormon" people regard the advent of the Buchanan army as one of the greatest material blessings ever brought to them.
The troops, once in Utah, had to be provisioned; and everything the settlers could spare was eagerly bought at an unusual price. The gold changed hands. Then, in their hasty departure, the soldiers disposed of everything outside of actual necessities in the way of accouterment and camp equipage. The army found the people in poverty, and left them in comparative wealth.
And what was the cause of this hurried departure of the military? For many months, ominous rumblings had been heard,--indications of the gathering storm which was soon to break in the awful fury of civil strife. It could not be doubted that war was imminent; already the conflict had begun, and a picked part of the army was away in the western wilds, doing nothing for any phase of the public good. But a word further concerning the expedition in general. The sending of troops to Utah was part of a foul scheme to weaken the government in its impending struggle with the secessionists. The movement has been called not inaptly "Buchanan's blunder," but the best and wisest men may make blunders, and whatever may be said of President Buchanan's short-sightedness in taking this step, even his enemies do not question his integrity in the matter. He was unjustly charged with favoring secession; but the charge was soon disproved.
However, it was known that certain of his cabinet were in league with the seceding states; and prominent among them was John Floyd, secretary of war. The successful efforts of this officer to disarm the North, while accumulating the munitions of war in the South; to scatter the forces by locating them in widely separated and remote stations; and in other ways to dispose of the regular army in the manner best calculated to favor the anticipated rebellion, are matters of history. It is also told how, at the commencement of the rebellion, he allied himself with the confederate forces, accepting the rank of brigadier-general. It was through Floyd's advice that Buchanan ordered the military expedition to Utah, ostensibly to install certain federal officials and to repress an alleged infantile rebellion which in fact had never come into existence, but in reality to further the interests of the secessionists. When the history of that great struggle with its antecedent and its consequent circumstances is written with a pen that shall indite naught but truth, when prejudice and partisanship are lived down, it may appear that Jefferson Davis rather than James Buchanan was the prime cause of the great mistake.
And General Johnston who commanded the army in the west; he who was so vehement in his denunciation of the rebel "Mormons," and who rejoiced in being selected to chastise them into submission; who, because of his vindictiveness incurred the ill-favor of the governor, whose posse comitatus the army was; what became of him, at one time so popular that he was spoken of as a likely successor to Winfield Scott in the office of general-in-chief of the United States army? He left Utah in the early stages of the rebellion, turned his arms against the flag he had sworn to defend, doffed the blue, donned the grey, and fell a rebel on the field of Shiloh.
Changes many and great followed in bewildering succession in Utah. The people were besought to take sides with the South in the awful scenes of cruel strife; it was openly stated in the east that Utah had allied herself with the cause of secession; and by others that the design was to make Salt Lake City the capital of an independent government. And surely such conjectures were pardonable on the part of all whose ignorance and prejudice still nursed the delusion of "Mormon" disloyalty. Moreover, had the people been inclined to rebellion what greater opportunity could they have wished? Already a North and a South were talked of--why not set up also a West? A supreme opportunity had come and how was it used? It was at this very time that the Overland Telegraph line, which had been approaching from the Atlantic and the Pacific, was completed, and the first tremor felt in that nerve of steel carried these words from Brigham Young:
Utah has not seceded, but is firm for the constitution and laws of our country.
The "Mormon" people saw in their terrible experiences and in the outrages to which they had been subjected, only the mal-administration of laws and the subversion of justice through human incapacity and hatred. Never even for a moment did they question the supreme authority and the inspired origin of the constitution of their land. They knew no North, no South, no East, no West; they stood positively by the constitution, and would have nothing to do in the bloody strife between brothers, unless indeed they were summoned by the authority to which they had already once loyally responded, to furnish men and arms for their country's need.
Following the advent of the telegraph came the railway; and the land of "Mormondom" was no longer isolated. Her resources were developed, her wealth became a topic of the world's wonder; the tide of immigration swelled her population, contributing much of the best from all the civilized nations of the earth. Every reader of recent and current history has learned of her rapid growth; of her repeated appeals for the recognition to which she had so long been entitled in the sisterhood of states; of the prompt refusals with which her pleas were persistently met, though other territories with smaller and more illiterate populations, more restricted resources, and in every way weaker claims, were allowed to assume the habiliments of maturity, while Utah, lusty, large and strong, was kept in swaddling clothes. But the cries of the vigorous infant were at length heeded, and in answer to the seventh appeal of the kind, Utah's star was added to the nation's galaxy.
But let us turn more particularly to the history of the Church itself. For a second time and thrice thereafter, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been deprived of its president, and on each occasion were reiterated the prophecies of disruption uttered at the time of Joseph Smith's assassination. Calm observers declared that as the shepherd had gone, the flock would soon be dispersed; while others, comparable only to wolves, thinking the fold unguarded, sought to harry and scatter the sheep. But "Mormonism" died not; every added pang of grief served but to unite the people.
When Brigham Young passed from earth, he was mourned of the people as deeply as was Moses of Israel. And had he not proved himself a Moses, aye and a Joshua, too? He had led the people into the land of holy promise, and had divided unto them their inheritances. He was a man with clear title as one of the small brotherhood we call great. As carpenter, farmer, pioneer, capitalist, financier, preacher, apostle, prophet--in everything he was a leader among men. Even those who opposed him in politics and in religion respected him for his talents, his magnanimity, his liberality, and his manliness; and years after his demise, men who had refused him honor while alive brought their mites and their gold to erect a monument of stone and bronze to the memory of this man who needs it not. With his death closed another epoch in the history of his people, and a successor arose, one who was capable of leading and judging under the changed conditions.
But perhaps I am suspected of having forgotten or of having intentionally omitted reference to what popular belief once considered the chief feature of "Mormonism," the cornerstone of the structure, the secret of its influence over its members, and of its attractiveness to its proselytes, viz., the peculiarity of the "Mormon" institution of marriage. The Latter-day Saints were long regarded as a polygamous people. That plural marriage has been practised by a limited proportion of the people, under sanction of Church ordinance, has never since the introduction of the system been denied. But that plural marriage is a vital tenet of the Church is not true. What the Latter-day Saints call celestial marriage is characteristic of the Church, and is in very general practise; but of celestial marriage, plurality of wives was an incident, never an essential. Yet the two have often been confused in the popular mind.
We believe in a literal resurrection and an actual hereafter, in which future state shall be recognized every sanctified and authorized relationship existing here on earth--of parent and child, brother and sister, husband and wife. We believe, further that contracts as of marriage, to be valid beyond the veil of mortality must be sanctioned by a power greater than that of earth. With the seal of the holy Priesthood upon their wedded state, these people believe implicitly in the perpetuity of that relationship on the far side of the grave. They marry not with the saddening limitation "Until death do you part," but "For time and for all eternity." 3 This constitutes celestial marriage. The thought that plural marriage has ever been the head and front of "Mormon" offending, that to it is traceable as the true cause the hatred of other sects and the unpopularity of the Church, is not tenable to the earnest thinker. Sad as have been the experiences of the people in consequence of this practise, deep and anguish-laden as have been the sighs and groans, hot and bitter as have been the tears so caused, the heaviest persecution, the cruelest treatment of their history began before plural marriage was known in the Church.
There is no sect nor people that sets a higher value on virtue and chastity than do the Latter-day Saints, nor a people that visits surer retribution upon the heads of offenders against the laws of sexual purity. To them marriage is not, can never be, a civil compact alone; its significance reaches beyond the grave; its obligations are eternal; and the Latter-day Saints are notable for the sanctity with which they invest the marital state. It has been my privilege to tread the soil of many lands, to observe the customs and study the habits of more nations than one; and I have yet to find the place and meet the people, where and with whom the purity of man and woman is held more precious than among the maligned "Mormons" in the mountain valleys of the west. There I find this measure of just equality of the sexes-- that the sins of man shall not be visited upon the head of woman.
At the inception of plural marriage among the Latter-day Saints, there was no law, national or state, against its practise. This statement assumes, as granted, a distinction between bigamy and the "Mormon" institution of plural marriage. In 1862, a law was enacted with the purpose of suppressing plural marriage, and, as had been predicted in the national Senate prior to its passage, it lay for many years a dead letter. Federal judges and United States attorneys in Utah, who were not "Mormons" nor lovers of "Mormonism," refused to entertain complaints or prosecute cases under the law, because of its manifest injustice and inadequacy. But other laws followed, most of which, as the Latter-day Saints believe, were aimed directly at their religious conception of the marriage contract, and not at social impropriety nor sexual offense.
At last the Edmunds-Tucker act took effect, making not the marriage alone but the subsequent acknowledging of the contract an offense punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. Under the spell of unrighteous zeal, the federal judiciary of Utah announced and practised that most infamous doctrine of segregation of offenses with accumulating penalties.
I who write have listened to judges instructing grand juries in such terms as these: that although the law of Congress designated as an offense the acknowledging of more living wives than one by any man, and prescribed a penalty therefor, as Congress had not specified the length of time during which this unlawful acknowledging must continue to constitute the offense, grand juries might indict separately for every day of the period during which the forbidden relationship existed. This meant that for an alleged misdemeanor--for which Congress prescribed a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment and a fine of three hundred dollars--a man might be imprisoned for life, aye, for many terms of a man's natural life did the court's power to enforce its sentences extend so far, and might be fined millions of dollars. Before this travesty on the administration of law could be brought before the court of last resort, and there meet with the reversal and rebuke it deserved, men were imprisoned under sentences of many years' duration.
The people contested these measures one by one in the courts; presenting in case after case the different phases of the subject, and urging the unconstitutionality of the measure. Then the Church was disincorporated, and its property both real and personal confiscated and escheated to the government of the United States; and although the personal property was soon restored, real estate of great value long lay in the hands of the court's receiver, and the "Mormon" Church had to pay the national government high rental on its own property. But the people have suspended the practise of plural marriage; and the testimony of the governors, judges, and district attorneys of the territory, and later that of the officers of the state, have declared the sincerity of the renunciation.
As the people had adopted the practise under what was believed to be divine approval, they suspended it when they were justified in so doing. In whatever light this practise has been regarded in the past, it is today a dead issue, forbidden by ecclesiastical rule as it is prohibited by legal statute. And the world is learning, to its manifest surprise, that plural marriage and "Mormonism" are not synonymous terms.
And so the story of "Mormonism" runs on; its finale has not yet been written; the current press presents continuously new stages of its progress, new developments of its plan. Today the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is stronger than ever before; and the people are confident that it is at its weakest stage for all time to come. It lives and thrives because within it are the elements of thrift and the forces of life. It embraces a boundless liberality of belief and practise; true toleration is one of its essential features; it makes love for mankind second only to love for Deity. Its creed provides for the protection of all men in their rights of worship according to the dictates of conscience. It contemplates a millennium of peace, when every man shall love his neighbor and respect his neighbor's opinion as he regards himself and his own--a day when the voice of the people shall be in unison with the voice of God.
:3 For treatment of Celestial Marraige and other Temple ordinances, see "The House of the Lord," by the present author, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1912.