"Mind is the great lever of all things; human thought is the process by which human ends are ultimately answered."
IN this age of applied psychology it is interesting and educative to note the
mastery of mind ' over matter in the settlement, by civilized people, of the wild
wastes of Utah at the time of the great Mormon trek across the plains. Mind was
dominant, later, in the scientific search for, and recovery of, the mineral values,
so long hidden and useless, in the mountains of the territory.
The interaction of these two forces, the mental and the physical, produce the evolution and thereby the development of a country and its people. Then comes wealth, comfort, ease, and further exercise of mind to its higher possibilities. When life is low-graded and the human mind content to grub in the ground or to hunt wild animals for a living, a land remains the habitat of wild people.
A mind of a higher grade was the main asset of the white discoverers of America. Their superior weapons, skill and transportation were entirely due to the advance of mind from the times of the dark ages. The early voyagers from Norse-land, in their open-decked ships, were hardy seamen, but they brought no advancement to the new continent, since these rude warriors had no mind above fighting and despoiling their foes.
All that was unfamiliar to them in human life was regarded as an enemy to be overcome by force. It was the Era of Might, and the one of the most Might was Right, because he won. The barbarian era has, at all times, been hard to supersede, and even in these days of supposed "Kul-tur" there are strong advocates of a reversion to type of the old Norse Vikings, Attila the Hun, or Caesar and his legions.
We do not affirm that the mentality of the Mormon leaders was very high. These leaders were men of keen wit but of little culture, judged by their speeches and writings, while the people in general were very commonplace. They had a few scholars who occupied a back seat, for the men of action and administration were the real shapers of history in Utah.
Of course the mentality found in the religious faith of the people was due to a religious genius like Joseph Smith. If you consider a moment this young man at the beginning of his mission, unknown and obscure, yet possessing an inner mental purpose and power sufficient to win over by words, declarations, arguments and exhortations a host of hard-headed Eastern and Western people, you will see at once the power of mind when it is illumined by a purpose born of faith in a revelation from a higher Power.
The emerging of Joseph Smith from obscurity to notoriety, as the American Prophet of a new faith, reads like that of the emerging of Mohammed, an uninfluential and epileptic young man, amid the turbulent tribes of Arabia when he became the Father of the Faithful, to the Arabians, as Abraham became the same to the Hebrews. All three characters are graphic illustrations of the mastery of the mind.
It does not follow that an enthusiasm and devotion which carries one to the death is proof of the cause advocated. It does prove the sincerity and earnestness of the advocate making the sacrifice.
Many good people have perished in a poor cause which they thought sublime. Delusions of mind distort its visions, but not its powers. It is for this reason that the exalted fanaticism of the early Mormons carried them on to strenuous deeds, and yet did not impair their powers of common sense. They could subdue a wild country and learn to utilize its hidden wealth.
We are prone to think it all bad, when some part of a delusion obsesses a race or generation. If this were true the Mohammedan illusion would be rotten from core to circumference. Some intense people so assert, but such is not true, as calm reflection shows. A fine civilization existed in Spain under the Mohammedan Moors for seven centuries, superior in art and science to the ruder life of both Franks and Teutons.
So, while the products of Joseph Smith's visions and declarations were often erratic and fanatic, nevertheless much honest-hearted goodness in word and deed is in evidence if you are fair enough to look for it. I found it to be so, and I affirm that the mental influence of this Latter Day faith had a constructive power to establish on barren ground and amid the rude forces of nature, a settlement of homes and firesides devoted to religion and to an honest life. Putting by the extremes of an ecstatic people, it is undeniable that they excelled in usefulness as light excels darkness the roving Indian aborigines.
When I walked about that modern Zion of Salt Lake, "and told the homes and streets thereof."
I could not fail to read the evidence of the power of mind over matter which had built a city where the Indian's wikiup had stood and had made farms out of land whose only products once were sage-brush and reptiles.
Still, the Mormon mind was not scientific, but ecstatic, and walked by faith, although it had the common sense to work by sight. It was a fine motive force to lift to higher levels the lives of multitudes otherwise inert, and to put the spade or hoe of industry into idle hands. It redeemed a waste.
Utah would not have advanced to her present prosperity and power had not another kind of mentality sought out its treasures. It may seem a sordid motive to seek for gold and silver in place of seeking for the sanctuary and salvation. Yet such a sordid search has invariably preceded the higher development of a country. Trade has its argonauts and argosies which in the end serve for higher things.
With minds alert for mineral treasure, men drifted into the Territory, at first a few, and later on with a rush to supplement the civilizing work of the Mormons. To some their advent seemed a destructive one, for they were not religious, and scoffed at the religion of the Mormons. They pointed out its weak, if not wicked elements, and laughed in derision of such a faith. They were a rude lot of humanity, and the Mormons countered back with accusations of their profanity and immorality. These rough-living miners, unknown to themselves, were the advertisers of a coming superior mental culture, which would do much for Utah's future.
When I saw the skilled miner, and the skilled mineralogist at work with their machinery, as nicely fitted for its task as a watch's mechanism, I saw the mastery of mind over minerals, as I had seen it over men. Whose eyes saw and whose purpose sought out this secreted wealth? It was the scientific miner, the chemist, the mineralogist, the capitalist, the economist and publicist. One and all, they united their heads and hands to do it. Of the wealth that they won from the rocks, some of it is in banks, some in ships, some in newspapers, some in books, and some in great industrial plants. Little of it is lying idle, for the men who made this wealth were not idlers. Both Gentile and Mormon have had a hand in the making of a State and a Star in the constellation of the Union.
Next: Chapter XX: A Latter Day View of a Latter Day State