"So many gods, so many creeds! So many paths that wind and wind, When just the art of being kind Is all this sad world needs."
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
THE shot does not leave the gun unless there is a powder charge behind it. The
things which I have noted before and behind the Curtain of Events in Utah, could
not arise without a sufficient cause.
That cause is found in the creed of the people who settled the Territory while yet a wilderness, the hunting ground of nomadic Indians.
A history of world populations records the shedding of much human blood at the behest of creeds. It is the easy mistake of earnest faith to follow the path of intemperate zeal. Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Rome, as nations, saw the priests of religion offering the blood of human beings to the gods, on splendidly built , altars. The same is true of the New World. Cortez and his men-at-arms, great shedders of human blood, beheld the Aztecs of Anahuac, ancient Mexico, offering human sacrifices at the altars' steps; yet these Spaniards in the retreat of "Noche Triste," the Doleful Night, shed as much blood of the Aztecs as religion had done in a score of years; since that older Doleful Night, when Caiphas, the High Priest, spoke concerning Jesus of Nazareth, "It is expedient that one man die for the people."
In every land and clime, human blood has been offered in religious sacrifice. In Jewish ancient days, in Classic days, in the days of Nero, in those of the Inquisition, in Auto-da-Fe's, on St. Bartholomew's Eve in Paris, at Smithfield fires in London, in Protestant and Catholic revenges, in Florida and Louisiana,-on to the days of the Missouri mob-violence, when the two Mormon Smiths fell, the holocaust of blood for religion's sake was continuous, until the slaughter in the lonely wastes of Southern Utah showed the error of it all.
To use a theologic term, the Mormon creed is Anthropomorphic. It teaches a materialized Deity with body, parts and passions as a man. Here we have the key to this creed of strangely mixed theory and practice. I do not go into the matter of the credibility and genuineness of the Mormon books of belief. A war of words has raged since 1827, and there is no need of another syllable on the thread-bare subject. What I say here I have gathered from the printed sermons of such leaders as Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, and Lorenzo Snow; all discourses published by the press of the Mormon Church, between 1855 and 1860, in Salt Lake City. In these discourses I found the doctrines really preached to, and accepted by, the people. These rough, and often rude, pulpit teachings were subsequently withdrawn by the Church authorities at Salt Lake, and at the time of my sojourn in Utah, it was difficult to purchase the volumes. However, a friend of mine in Provo, a county seat overlooking Lake Utah, loaned four of the volumes to me for examination, but would not sell them at any price, and after returning them I was unable to secure other copies. As I remember these sermons to the people, they seemed to teach that Adam was the only God of this world; and he was also the God of Jesus Christ. It was admitted that Christ had a previous era before appearing in this world, and that he is to have a future era of Millennial Triumph in Salt Lake City. This is affirmed with strength.
There is a strong tinge of Millennialism and of modern Russellism in these teachings. But Christ is as God to Joseph Smith, and so this first prophet of the Faith called the Church he established "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." Now follows the nut of all this. It is this. That Joseph Smith is the god of this generation of men, and so the Latter Day Saint regards his assassination with the same feeling that orthodox Christians regard the crucifixion of Christ by the Jews.
According to these sermons, Joseph Smith, when living in Wayne County, New York State, was visited by the angel Moroni, son of the prophet Mormon, who revealed to him the ancient history of America. He showed him the written plates, whose hieroglyphics were interpreted by the stones, called the Urim and Thum-mim.
He learned that America was first peopled by Noah, and later by the family of Lehi, a remnant of the Jews who had escaped from captivity m the days of King Zedekiah. These came across to Chili, and then traveled north by the Pacific coast, and so became the progenitors of the Red-men. Eras of faith and apostasy followed to the year before Christ 500, when the prophet Mormon was slain, and these record plates were hidden in the hill Cumorah in Wayne County, there to remain until time was ripe to reveal them to Joseph Smith by the visit of the angel Moroni. This angel further revealed that this book of Mormon was to be added to the scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The Faith, founded on the whole of these books, was to be preached until the Millennial Dawn of Christ's Triumph. This Triumph should be reached in the interior of North America, in the tops of the mountains. Moreover this Latter Day Faith was to be the recipient of everyday revelation from Heaven to its leaders. As an organization, it was to include all the ancient orders of priesthood.
It had two kinds of priesthood: The Melchi-zedek, which included the Prophet, the First Patriarch, the Twelve Apostles, the Seventy Councillors, and the whole body of the High Priests; and the Aaronic priesthood which included the Bishops, Lower order of priests, the Elders, Deacons, and Ward Teachers without number.
When I was a resident of Utah, it was claimed that there were 7,234 religious offices in the Church, whose membership was then estimated at 100,000 people. This creed claimed to possess the powers of revelation, inspiration, miracles, prophecy, visions, tongues, and healing gifts. All these were in active use, and all this was supposed to be resident in Salt Lake City in the Church, called the "Latter Day Saints."
You can see at once how unlike any other new western city this one was. It was another Jerusalem brought down to date. Welded to these strange doctrines and excessive claims, were the following very practical, and sensible teachings:-
"We believe in being honest, virtuous, and upright; in doing good to all men, and that an idle or lazy person cannot be a Christian nor have salvation." You see in this the powder that had explosive force enough to make a telling shot, with the multitude of half taught and visionary people found all over the world of to-day.
There is no place here for the grafter, the boodler, the promoter, the liar, the bum and the tramp. In fact I did not find that type of humanity among the Mormons. I had to go into the gentile mining camps to come across that kind of human trash. If my reader wants a full, detailed account of this strange faith, let him read one of the many worthy and competent authors who go into this subject exhaustively, such as Burton, Robinson, Dickson and Stenhouse.
Polygamy, so prominent, when I was in Utah, was really an afterthought of this faith, and came into prominence through Brigham Young, as a new revelation in 1857.
The two Smiths, Joseph and Hyrum, the martyrs to Missourian violence, did not proclaim polygamy or practice it, if their family descendants are to be credited. The Josephite branch of the Mormon Church repudiates the doctrine, and the practice to this day.
So much in the Bible seems to condone if not permit polygamy from the days of Abraham, the father of the Jewish race, with his Hagar as well as Sarah for a wife; to the times of Jacob-and his concubines with two sisters for wives. Then uxorious David and his still more wived son Solomon, whose glory so much bespoken was not seemingly dimmed by his harem of one thousand concubines.
It is not to be wondered at, that a certain type of mankind should revive the polygamy of the ancient world, give it standing by claiming a revelation permitting it among the faithful, in order to build up Zion with a seed of true believers.
It was not so difficult for a born leader and master of assemblies like Brigham Young to rivet this practice on a credulous people. He saw if he succeeded in getting a good many good people and leading men committed to this practice, that he had them bound tight in a bundle of life from which there was no escape and which would make them stick together against all opposition.
He saw how it would make the people singular, and keep them intact from the seductions of the world. He saw that it would prevent the social evil of great cities, and, as a matter of fact, Utah had no white slavers in those days.
He knew the Moslem element was strong in many men, that a sensualistic God and carnal pleasures as a reward would win with such men, where the more spiritual and monastic teachings of historic Christianity failed.
So with these factors at work, and the apparent sanction of Old Testament scripture, to give authority to a new revelation, Brigham Young, a genius for religious leadership, proclaimed polygamy as a doctrine of the Latter Day Church.
Yet polygamy has its horrors, and they were constantly out-cropping in domestic circles.
I will relate a few instances that came under my eyes.
While staying in American Fork, I met Professor Orbs, of the town schools. This school covered the educational ground from the elementary to the academic. It was all under one roof. The higher branches were but poorly attended. The young men and young women could not come regularly to the school, since their services were more needed in the homes and the fields. Orbs was a scholar, and a graduate of old Bowdoin College. After the Civil War was over, he went west like many of the enterprising young men of that period. He was finally invited to teach in Utah Territory, and was offered a principalship by the Mormon church authorities. He was not then an announced convert, and his wife, to whom he had been married only a few years, made him promise solemnly never to become a Mormon. On his agreeing to this, his wife consented to go to the Territory.
When I knew them, they had been in the Territory some ten years, and Professor Orbs was ranking high among the Mormons as one of them. He had not kept faith with his wife, and she was full of fears about the future. They then had four children.
Mrs. Orbs came to me one day in great mental distress.
"My husband is really going into polygamy."
The tears were in both eyes and voice.
"He promised me years ago never to do it. Now the Church authorities have pursuaded him. He says it is a step up, and will better his finances. Oh! will you not go and see him; urge him to give up this thing?"
"He is not sincere in thinking it his duty, is he?"
"He says he is, but the girl he is going to take is but eighteen, and has been one of his scholars. She thinks it is a promotion to be a wife of a professor."
I did all that I could to comfort the poor lady and promised to see her husband. I did this some days later. He was quite abrupt with me, and said:
"I think that this is no matter of yours. Our Church believes in plural marriage. It is my own matter."
I could see at a glance he was fully committed to grieve his wife. It was the old incentive. A new young wife was attractive to a middle-aged man. He was ready to put aside his promise, the society of his faithful wife, the children she had raised in their home. The rosy young girl, offered him by the Church, was irresistible to a mind coarsened by the Mormon inoculation.
The next I knew of him was a new house he had built for the new wife, adjoining his family home. He left for Salt Lake City, and the Endowment House, where he went through the ritual of taking another wife, and returned with her, and the Church's approval of living his religion.
His wife was broken-hearted, and the condolences of other polygamous women did not give her any comfort, since she was not of Mormon stock, and kept intact her old Eastern views of life.
Eliza Snow came down with several of her associates. She was the great woman of this social horror. In public she spoke eloquently in its favor. Quoted the Old Testament times, and characters. She trotted out Abraham, Jacob, David and Solomon, all men approved of God she said, and whose polygamous children became the ancestors of Israel.
"There is a higher exaltation for the women who aid in building up Zion; who do their zealous part to populate this territory for the Saints.
"We must occupy the land. We must keep out the Gentiles. We must give him no place of rest for the sole of his foot. Women only fulfill their end when they bear many children. Children are the great asset of the Church. It is the prophecy of the scripture that 'in Zion the streets shall be full of boys and girls playing.' "
Such teaching as this was given to, and received by, a great audience in every town on Eliza Snow's tour, in the interests of polygamy. I was surprised at the audiences she drew.
My early opinion, that all women were opposed instinctively to this doctrinal horror, was upset when I heard these leaders, among the women of the territory, thus advocating polygamous marriages. They were women of good education and were apparently refined, both in their manner of speech and dress.
I felt sure that if it had not been received so meekly, and willingly by the women of the Church, and if it had been stoutly and socially resisted by them as a body, that the practice of polygamy would never have existed in the Mormon Church.
That Church would then have stood on the same basis for criticism as those other religious denominations of America, that meet with no overt opposition or persecution. By this doctrine it stands alone, singular, as an anachronism; as a reversion to the type of Old Testament days, and is unfit for a place in these later days of higher ideals for women.
While I was in San Pete County, I called at the residence of the Bishop of Mount Pleasant. It was not a pleasant errand I was on. It was to make complaint of the hoodlumism of the youth, supposed to be under his control, in stone throwing at the hall where the Liberal school, and its meetings were held.
The Bishop was not an imposing sight. There was nothing stately about him, nor did he wear anything like canonical robes, such as we associate with the historic bishop. He was in his shirt sleeves with slop pants and was carrying swill for his pigs. He was evidently an industrious man, a practical character. He had need to be. His house was wide and big in style, since his family was large. He had five wives and fifteen children, and there was, of course, a financial side to this establishment, which made the Bishop a rustler.
While I talked, I stood before the front porch, which was a long, low screened affair, shadowing the whole front of the house. There were dark shadowy corners in it, but not sufficiently dark to hide the array of womankind seated along its length. Five women occupied as many chairs, all busy with their hands at woman's tasks. All, did I say? No, I must omit the fifth, the youngest looking, who had nothing to do but look about. She also was the best dressed. She evidently was . the favorite wife of the Bishop.
The oldest woman was grey, with eyes that had in them a look of shyness, as well as pain. What a history those eyes had seen in that household. She was the wife of the Bishop's youth, and by her age she must have seen something of the earlier history of the territory.
The other three women were stout and healthy looking and graded in their ages from the first to the last wife; for no new wife, added to the Mormon household, is older than her predecessor on the polygamous list. This is so common, that it is of the nature of a rule. It is the way also of human nature, the way of the world, and may I say, the way of foolish womankind; for without woman's consent, this matrimonial horror could not exist in a land of laws and freedom.
The wonder to me was the placidity of these wives. The situation was accepted. What Moslem ideas were growing up among the younger generation, as they advanced in years and became familiar with such a scene as I have described. They had to recognize, from their infancy almost, the many mothers of a Mormon home. There was no fear of racial suicide in these houses. Children were all around, playing in the dust, before their homes, or out on the squares or streets of the town, in fact visible everywhere.
The advocates of polygamy claim that for health and growth they outdo the children of monogamy, since they say that the mothers have more time and leisure to fulfill their maternity.
It is a subject that has its physical and medical side, as well as its sociological one, but hardly fit for discussion in a popular book for all sorts of readers. I must say that I never saw healthier, sturdier young ones than the Utah children.
Of course the splendid climate and the air of these valleys, sheltered from the chilly blasts of the eastern Rockies, with easy temperatures and generous sunlight, accounted for much of the rude health that I saw.
Also the outdoor life and the frugal food, due to limited circumstances, together with the active labor in the gardens and the field, from early childhood, wrote health on the cheeks, put good blood into the arteries, and a firelight and snap into their eyes. Yet I also saw how this anomalous state of matrimony coarsened the speech and habits of young Utah, both girls as well as boys.
Next: Chapter XII: The Passing Prophet