The Mormon leaders were now hurried down their chosen path of dishonor with a fateful rapidity. A reform movement was demanding of Washington the adoption of a constitutional amendment that should give Congress power to regulate the marriage and divorce laws of all the states in the Union. And this proposed amendment-partly inspired by a growing doubt of the good faith of the Mormon leaders-gave the politicians in Washington something to trade for Mormon votes, in the presidential campaign of 1900.
The Republicans had lost the electoral votes of Utah and the surrounding states, in 1896. Utah was now Democratic, and its one United States Senator (who was still in office) was a Democrat. Senator Hanna's lieutenant, Perry S. Heath, came to Salt Lake City in the summer of 1900, to confer with the heads of the Mormon Church. His authority (as representative of the ruler of the Republican party) had been authenticated by correspondence; and he was received by President Snow as royalty receives the envoy of royalty.
Heath negotiated with his usual directness. In the phrase of the time, "he laid down his cards on the table, face up, and asked Snow to play to that hand." If the Mormon Church would pledge its support to the Republican party, the Republican leaders would avert the threatened constitutional amendment that was to give Congress the power to interfere in the domestic affairs of the Mormon people. But if the Church denied its support to the Republican party, the constitutional amendment would be carried, and the Mormons, in their marriage relations, would be returned to the Federal jurisdiction from which they had escaped when the territory was admitted to statehood.
The sentiment of the country was known to be in favor of giving Congress such power. A strong body of reformers was urging the amendment, and the Church leaders had sent Apostle John Henry Smith and Bishop H. B. Clawson to lobby against it. After consulting with my father, I had written to President Snow pointing out the danger to the Mormons of having a lobby opposing such an amendment-for I was not then aware of the secret return to the practice of polygamy, after 1896. President Snow replied to me (in a message of guarded prudence) that although the Church inhibited plural marriage and did not intend to allow the practice, he was opposed to the interference of Congress in the domestic concerns of the other states of the Union!
He made his "deal" with Perry Heath.
Church messengers were sent out secretly to the Mormons in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Montana, Washington, Oregon, California and the territories, with the whispered announcement that it was "the will of the Lord" that the Republicans should be aided. Utah went Republican; the Mormons in the surrounding states either openly supported, or secretly voted for McKinley; and the constitutional amendment was "side tracked" and forgotten.
Utah elected a Republican legislature. Apostle Reed Smoot applied to President Snow for permission to become a candidate for the United States Senatorship, and obtained a promise that if he stood aside, for the time, he should receive his reward later. President Snow had decided that Thomas Kearns, already an active candidate, was the man whom the Church would support-since Mr. Kearns' ability, his wealth and his business connection promised greater advantages for the state and (under cunning manipulation by the priests) greater advantages for the Church than the election of any other candidate. And all this may be fairly said without assuming that there was any definite arrangement between the Church and any friends of Mr. Kearns.
Kearns was associated with Senator Clark of Montana and R. C. Kerens of St. Louis in building a railroad from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, and the Church owned some fifteen miles of track that had been laid from Salt Lake City, as the beginning of a Los Angeles line. It was apparently assumed by President Snow that Kearns' election to the Senate would facilitate the sale of this Church railroad to the Clark-Kearns syndicate. The Church had a direct interest in numerous iron and coal properties in Southern Utah, and many members of the Church also had private properties there, which the Los Angeles line would develop. Some of Kearns' friends were negotiating for the purchase of Church properties, and one of his partners was proposing to buy (and subsequently bought) the Church's "Amelia Palace," a useless and expensive property which Brigham Young had built for his favorite wife, and which the Church had long been eager to sell. My father had been in ill-health for some months and he was away from Utah a large part of the time. President Snow took counsel of his Second Councillor, Joseph F. Smith, and of Apostle John Henry Smith; and to the Smiths, he indicated Thos. Kearns as the one whose election to the United States Senate might do most to advance Snow's concealed purpose. But the Smiths had other plans, that were equally advantageous to the Church and more advantageous to the Smiths; they rebelled against President Snow's dictation, and he ordered them both away on temporary "missions."
As Joseph F. Smith was leaving the President's offices, in a rage, he met an old friend, Joseph Howell, who (at this writing) is a member of Congress from Utah, and was then a member of the Utah legislature. He told Smith that President Snow had sent for him, and Smith, controlling himself-without betraying any knowledge of the probable purpose of Snow's summons to Howell-said affectionately: "Brother Howell, I want you to make a promise to me on your honor as an elder in Israel. I want you to pledge yourself never to vote in this legislature for Thomas Kearns as Senator. I ask it as your friend, and "as a Prophet to the people."
Howell gave his promise, and proceeded to his interview with President Snow. There he received the announcement that it was "the will of the Lord" that he should vote for Kearns, and he had to reply that he had already received an inspired instruction, on this point, from a Prophet of the Lord, and had given his pledge against Kearns.
The incident became one of the jokes of the campaign, for Howell held to his promise to Smith (and was subsequently rewarded by Smith with a seat in Congress), and President Snow was compelled to waive the question of conflicting "revelations."
Kearns was elected. But he had had a powerful political machine of his own, and he had been supported by a strong Gentile vote. He immediately showed his independence by refusing to take orders from the political Church leaders. He declined, further, for himself and his financial confreres, to engage with the Church in business affairs. Many charges were made that he was breaking his agreement of co-operation with the authorities, but there never has been produced any evidence of such an agreement, and I do not believe (from my knowledge of Senator Kearns) that the agreement was ever made.
The railroad into Southern Utah was later built by the Harriman interests in combination with Clark and Kearns; but there, too, Snow was disappointed. The expected development of the Church properties proved far less profitable than had been supposed, and the financial prophecies of the Seer and Revelator were not fulfilled.
By this time it was abundantly evident that some of the Church leaders intended to rule their people in politics with an absolutism as supreme as any that Utah had ever known in the old days. And for these leaders to maintain their authority-despite the covenant of their amnesty, the terms of Utah's statehood and the provisions of the constitution-and to maintain that authority against the robust American sentiment that would be sure to assert itself-it was necessary that they should have the most effective political protection afforded by any organization in the whole country. The ideal arrangement of evil was offered to them by the men then in temporary leadership of the Republican party. The Prophets were able to make the Republican party a guilty partner of their perfidy by making it a recipient of the proceeds of that perfidy, and to assure themselves protection in every religious tyranny so long as they did not run counter to Republican purpose.
For the moment, the Church took more benefit from the partnership than it conferred. The result of the presidential elections of 1900 showed that the Republicans could have elected their ticket without any help from the Prophets. But without the help of the dominant party the Prophets could not have renewed the rule of the state by the Church-could not have prevented the passage of a constitutional amendment punishing polygamy by Federal statute-and could not have obtained such intimate relation and commanding influence with the great "interests" of the country.
Throughout all these miserable incidents, I had a vague hope that they would prove merely temporary and peculiar to the term of Snow's presidency. He was now in his eighty-sixth year. My father was next in succession for the Presidency, and he was seventy-three. He had remained personally faithful to every pledge that he had made to the nation, and though he had been powerless to prevent the breaches of covenant that had followed the sovereignty of statehood, I knew that he had opposed some of them and been a willing party to none. It is true that he had become a director of the Union Pacific Railway and was close to the leading financiers of the East; but his Union Pacific connection had come from the fact that he had been one of the builders of the road that had afterward merged in the Oregon Short Line; and his financial relations had been those of a financier and not a politician. In all the years that I had been working with him, I had never known him to have any purpose that was not communistic in its final aspect and designed for the good of his people.
Up to his seventieth year, he had shown no ill result of his early hardships. Living the abstemious life of the orthodox Mormon, to whom wine, tobacco and even tea and coffee are prohibited, he had seemed inexhaustibly robust and untiring. But almost from the day of President's Snow accession to office-deprived of the sustaining consciousness of the responsibilities of leadership-his physical strength gave signs of breaking. In the fall of 1900 he made a trip to the Sandwich Islands, to recuperate, and to assist at the fiftieth anniversary of the Mormon mission that he had founded there; but the Utah winter proved too rigorous for him on his return, and in March, 1901, he was taken to California-to Monterey. In April the word came to me in New York that he was sinking.
I found him in a cottage overlooking the beautiful Bay of Monterey and its wooded slope; and the doctors in attendance told me that he had been kept alive only by the determination to see me before he died. There was no hope. He had still a clear mind, but with ominous lapses of unconsciousness that foreboded the end; and in these intervals of coma, as we wheeled him to and fro on the veranda in an invalid chair-in an attempt to refresh him with the motion of the sea air-he would swing his right hand upward, with an old pulpit gesture, and say "Priesthood! Priesthood!" as if in that word he expressed the ruling thought of his life, the inspiration that had sustained his power, the obligation that had governed him in his direction of his people.
On the afternoon of the 11th of April, he was lying in a stupor on a couch before an open window, with the sound of the surf in the quiet room. One of the doctors entered, looked at him intently, and said to me: "I can do nothing more here-and my patients need me in San Francisco. He can't last long. Hell probably never recover consciousness. If there's anything imperative-anything you must say to him-any word you wish to have from him-you could perhaps rouse him"-I said "No." We had never intruded upon any mood of his silence during his masterful life; and I felt a jealous rebellion against the idea that we should intrude now upon this last, helpless silence of unconsciousness. The doctor left us. I summoned the other members of the family from the veranda to the bedside. He lay motionless and placid, scarcely breathing, his eyes closed, his hands folded. In accordance with the rites of the Church, we laid our hands on his head, while my eldest brother said the prayer of filial blessing that "sealed" the dying man to eternity.
In the silence that followed the last "Amen" of the prayer, he opened his eyes, and said in a steady, strong voice: "You thought I was passing away?"
We replied that we had seen he was very weak.
With a glance at the door through which the physician had departed, he said resolutely: "I shall go when my Father calls me-and not till then. I shall know the moment, and I will not struggle against His command. Lift me up. Carry me out on the balcony I want to see the water once more. And I want to talk with you."
To me, it was the last struggle of the unconquerable will that had silently, composedly, cheerfully fought and overcome every obstacle that had opposed the purposes of his manhood for half a century. He would not yield even to death at the dictation of man. He would go when he was ready-when his mind had accepted the inevitable as the decree of God.
We sat around his couch on the veranda, and for two hours he talked to us as clearly and as forcibly as ever. He spoke of the Church and of its mission in the world, with all the hope of a religious altruist. From the humblest beginnings, it had grown to the greatest power. From the depths of persecution, it had risen to win favor from the wisest among men. It had abolished poverty for hundreds of thousands, by its sound communal system. In its religious solidarity, it had become a guardian and administrator of equal justice within all the sphere of its influence. It was full of the most splendid possibilities of good for mankind.
With his eyes fixed on the sea-facing eternity as calmly as he faced that great symbol of eternity-he voiced the sincerity of his life and the hope that had animated his statesmanship. In an exaltation of spirituality that made the moment one of the sublime experiences of my life, he adjured us all to hold true to our covenants. I do not write of his personal words of love and admonition to the members of his family. I wish to express only the aspects that may be of public interest, in his last aspirations-for these were the aspirations of the Mormon leaders of the older generation, whom he represented-and they are the aspirations of all the wise among the Mormons today, whatever may be the folly and the treachery of their Prophets.
Ten hours later, he was dead.
I cannot pretend that I had any true apprehension, then, of what his loss meant to the community. I had no clearer vision of events than others. I felt that I had no longer any tie to connect me closely with the government of the Church, and I was willing to stand aside from its affairs, believing that the momentum of progress imparted to it would carry it forward. The nation had cleared the path for it. Its faith, put into practice as a social gospel, had been freed of the offensive things that had antagonized the world. My father's last messages of hope remained with me as a cheering prophecy.
At his funeral in the great tabernacle, President Snow put forward a favorite son, Leroy, to read an official statement in which the President took occasion to deny that my father had dictated the recent policies of the Church: those policies, he said, had been solely the President's. (He is welcome to the credit of them!) Joseph F. Smith showed more generosity of emotion, now that his path of succession was clear of the superior in authority whom he had so long regarded enviously; and he spoke of my father, both privately and in public, in a way that won me to him.
The shock of grief had perhaps "mellowed" me. I felt more tolerant of these men, since I was no longer necessarily engaged in opposing them. When President Snow died (October, 1901), I shared only the general interest in the way Joseph F. Smith set about asserting his family's title to rulership of the "Kingdom of God on Earth;" for, in effect, he notified the world that his branch of the Smith family had been designated by Divine revelation to rule in the affairs of all men, by an appointment that had never been revoked. He has since made his cousin, John Henry Smith, his First Councillor; and he has inducted his son Hyrum into the apostolate by "revelation." This latter act roused the jealousy of the mother of his son Joseph F. Smith, Jr., and the amused gossip of the Mormons predicted another revelation that should give Joseph Jr. a similar promotion. The revelation came. So many others have also come that the Smith family is today represented in the hierarchy by Joseph F. Smith, President, "Prophet, Seer and Revelator to all the world;" John Smith (a brother) presiding Patriarch over the whole human race; John Henry Smith (a cousin) Apostle and First Councillor to the President; Hyrum Smith and Joseph F. Smith (sons) Apostles; George A. Smith (son of John Henry) apostle; David S. Smith (son of Joseph F.) Councillor to the presiding Bishop of the Church and in line of succession to the bishopric; and Bathseba W. Smith, President of the Relief Societies. As Joseph F. Smith has still thirty other sons-and at least four wives who are not represented in the apostolate-there may yet be a quorum of Smiths to succeed endlessly to the Presidency and make the Smith family a perpetual dynasty in Utah.
It is one of the fascinating contradictions of Mormonism that many of the sincere people-who smilingly predicted the Divine interposition by which this family succession was founded-accept its rule devoutly. "The Lord," they will tell you, "will look after the Church. If these men are good enough for God, they are good enough for me. I do not have to save the Kingdom." And they continue paying their devotion (and their tithes) to a family autocracy whose imposition would have provoked a rebellion in any other community in the civilized world!
It is "the will of the Lord!"
1 She has died since this was written.
Next: XII The Conspiracy Completed