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The Story of the Mormons: From the Date of their Origin to the Year 1901 by William Alexander Linn

Part 15 out of 15

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* New York Sun, January 27, 1901.

The Mormons estimate the membership of their church throughout
the world at a little over 300,000. The numbers of "souls" in
the church abroad was thus reported for the year ending December
31, 1899, as published in the Millennial Star:--

Great Britain 4,588
Scandinavia 5,438
Germany 1,198
Switzerland 1,078
Netherlands 1,556

These figures indicate a great falling off in the church
constituency in Europe as compared with the year 1851, when the
number of Mormons in Great Britain and Ireland was reported at
more than thirty thousand. Many influences have contributed to
decrease the membership of the church abroad and the number of
converts which the church machinery has been able to bring to
Utah. We have seen that the announcement of polygamy as a
necessary belief of the church was a blow to the organization in
Europe. The misrepresentation made to converts abroad to induce
them to migrate to Utah, as illustrated in the earlier years of
the church, has always been continued, and naturally many of the
deceived immigrants have sent home accounts of their deception.
A book could be filled with stories of the experiences of men
and women who have gone to Utah, accepting the promises held out
to them by the missionaries,--such as productive farms, paying
business enterprises; or remunerative employment,--only to find
their expectations disappointed, and themselves stranded in a
country where they must perform the hardest labor in order to
support themselves, if they had not the means with which to
return home. The effect of such revelations has made some parts
of Europe an unpleasant field for the visits of Mormon

The government at Washington, during the operation of the
Perpetual Emigration Fund organization, realized the evil of the
introduction of so many Mormon converts from abroad. On August
9, 1879, Secretary of State William M. Evarts sent out a
circular to the diplomatic officers of the United States
throughout the world, calling their attention to the fact that
the organized shipment of immigrants intended to add to the
number of law-defying polygamists in Utah was "a deliberate and
systematic attempt to bring persons to the United States with
the intent of violating their laws and committing crimes
expressly punishable under the statute as penitentiary
offences," and instructing them to call the attention of the
governments to which they were accredited to this matter, in
order that those governments might take such steps as were
compatible with their laws and usages "to check the organization
of these criminal enterprises by agents who are thus operating
beyond the reach of the law of the United States, and to prevent
the departure of those proposing to come hither as violators of
the law by engaging in such criminal enterprises, by whomsoever
instigated." President Cleveland, in his first message,
recommended the passage of a law to prevent the importation of
Mormons into the United States. The Edmunds-Tucker law contained
a provision dissolving the Perpetual Emigration Company, and
forbidding the Utah legislature to pass any law to bring persons
into the territory. Mormon authorities have informed me that
there has been no systematic immigration work since the
prosecutions under the Edmunds law. But as it is conceded that
the Mormons make practically no proselytes among then Gentile
neighbors, they must still look largely to other fields for that
increase of their number which they have in view.

As a part of their system of colonizing the neighboring states
and territories, they have made settlements in the Dominion of
Canada and in Mexico. Their Canadian settlement is situated in
Alberta. A report to the Superintendent of Immigration at
Ottawa, dated December 30, 1899, stated that the Mormon colony
there comprised 1700 souls, all coming from Utah; and that "they
are a very progressive people, with good schools and churches."
When they first made their settlement they gave a pledge to the
Dominion government that they would refrain from the practice of
polygamy while in that country. In 1889 the Department of the
Interior at Ottawa was informed that the Mormons were not
observing this pledge, but investigation convinced the
department that this accusation was not true. However, in
1890, an amendment to the criminal law of the Dominion was
enacted (clause 11, 53 Victoria, Chap. 37), making any person
guilty of a misdemeanor, and liable to imprisonment for five
years and a fine of $500, who practises any form of polygamy or
spiritual marriage, or celebrates or assists in any such
marriage ceremony.

The Secretario de Fomento of Mexico, under date of May 4,
1901, informed me that the number of Mormon colonists in that
country was then 2319, located in seven places in Chihuahua and
Sonora. He added: "The laws of this country do not permit
polygamy. The government has never encouraged the immigration of
Mormons, only that of foreigners of good character, working
people who may be useful to the republic. And in the contracts
made for the establishment of those Mormon colonies it was
stipulated that they should be formed only of foreigners
embodying all the aforesaid conditions."

No student of the question of polygamy, as a doctrine and
practice of the Mormon church, can reach any other conclusion
than that it is simply held in abeyance at the present time,
with an expectation of a removal of the check now placed upon
it. The impression, which undoubtedly prevails throughout other
parts of the United States, that polygamy was finally abolished
by the Woodruff manifesto and the terms of statehood, is founded
on an ignorance of the compulsory character of the doctrine of
polygamy, of the narrowness of President Woodruff's decree, and
of the part which polygamous marriages have been given, by the
church doctrinal teachings, in the plan of salvation. The sketch
of the various steps leading up to the Woodruff manifesto shows
that even that slight concession to public opinion was made, not
because of any change of view by the church itself concerning
polygamy, but simply to protect the church members from the loss
of every privilege of citizenship. That manifesto did not in any
way condemn the polygamous doctrine; it simply advised the
Saints to submit to the United States law against polygamy, with
the easily understood but unexpressed explanation that it was to
their temporal advantage to do so. How strictly this advice has
since been lived up to--to what extent polygamous practices have
since been continued in Utah--it is not necessary, in a work of
this kind, to try to ascertain. The most intelligent non-Mormon
testimony obtainable in the territory must be discarded if we
are to believe that polygamous relations have not been continued
in many instances. This, too, would be only what might naturally
be expected among a people who had so long been taught that
plural marriages were a religious duty, and that the check to
them was applied, not by their church authorities, but by an
outside government, hostility to which had long been inculcated
in them.

It must be remembered that it is a part of the doctrine of
polygamy that woman can enter heaven only as sealed to some
devout member of the Mormon church "for time and eternity," and
that the space around the earth is filled with spirits seeking
some "tabernacles of clay" by means of which they may attain
salvation. Through the teaching of this doctrine, which is
accepted as explicitly by the membership of the Mormon church at
large as is any doctrine by a Protestant denomination, the
Mormon women believe that the salvation of their sex depends on
"sealed" marriages, and that the more children they can bring
into the world the more spirits they assist on the road to
salvation. In the earlier days of the church, as Brigham Young
himself testified, the bringing in of new wives into a family
produced discord and heartburnings, and many pictures have been
drawn of the agony endured by a wife number one when her husband
became a polygamist. All the testimony I can obtain in regard to
the Mormonism of today shows that the Mormon women are now the
most earnest advocates of polygamous marriages. Said one
competent observer in Salt Lake City to me, "As the women of the
South, during the war, were the rankest rebels, so the women of
Mormondom are to-day the most zealous advocates of polygamy."

By precisely what steps the church may remove the existing
prohibition of polygamous marriages I shall not attempt to
decide. It is easy, however, to state the one enactment which
would prevent the success of any such effort. This would be the
adoption by Congress and ratification by the necessary number of
states of a constitutional amendment making the practice of
polygamy an offence under the federal law, and giving the
federal courts jurisdiction to punish any violators of this law.
The Mormon church recognizes this fact, and whenever such an
amendment comes before Congress all its energies will be directed
to prevent its ratification. Governor Wells's warning in his
message vetoing the Utah Act of March, 1901, concerning
prosecutions for adultery, that its enactment would be the
signal for a general demand for the passage of a constitutional
amendment against polygamy, showed how far the executive thought
it necessary to go to prevent even the possibility of such an
amendment. One of the main reasons why the Mormons are so
constantly increasing their numbers in the neighboring states is
that they may secure the vote of those states against an
anti-polygamy amendment. Whenever such an amendment is
introduced at Washington it will be found that every Mormon
influence--political, mercantile, and railroad--will be arrayed
against it, and its passage is unlikely unless the church shall
make some misstep which will again direct public attention to it
in a hostile manner.

The devout Mormon has no more doubt that his church will dominate
this nation eventually than he has in the divine character of
his prophet's revelations. Absurd as such a claim appears to all
non-Mormon citizens, in these days when Mormonism has succeeded
in turning public attention away from the sect, it is
interesting to trace the church view of this matter, along with
the impression which the Mormon power has made on some of its
close observers. The early leaders made no concealment of their
claim that Mormonism was to be a world religion. "What the world
calls 'Mormonism' will rule every nation," said Orson Hyde. "God
has decreed it, and his own right arm will accomplish it."*
Brigham Young, in a sermon in the Tabernacle on February 15,
1856, told his people that their expulsion from Missouri was
revealed to him in advance, as well as the course of their
migrations, and he added: "Mark my words. Write them down. This
people as a church and kingdom will go from the west to the

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. VII, pp. 48-53.

Tullidge, whose works, it must be remembered, were submitted to
church revision, in his "Life of Brigham Young" thus defines the
Mormon view of the political mission of the head of the church:
"He is simply an apostle of a republican nationality, manifold
in its genius; or, in popular words, he is the chief apostle of
state rights by divine appointment. He has the mission, he
affirms, and has been endowed with inspiration to preach the
gospel of a true democracy to the nation, as well as the gospel
for the remission of sins, and he believes the United States
will ultimately need his ministration in both respects . . . .
They form not, therefore, a rival power as against the Union, but
an apostolic ministry to it, and their political gospel is state
rights and self-government. This is political Mormonism in a

* p. 244.

Tullidge further says in his "History of Salt Lake City" (writing
in 1886): "The Mormons from the first have existed as a society,
not as a sect. They have combined the two elements of
organization--the social and the religious. They are now a new
society power in the world, and an entirety in themselves. They
are indeed the only religious community in Christendom of modern

* p. 387.

Some of the closest observers of the Mormons in their earlier
days took them very seriously. Thus Josiah Quincy, after
visiting Joseph Smith at Nauvoo, wrote that it was "by no means
impossible" that the answer to the question, "What historical
American of the nineteenth century has exerted the most powerful
influence upon the destiny of his countrymen," would not be,
"Joseph Smith." Governor Ford of Illinois, who had to do
officially with the Mormons during most of their stay in that
state, afterward wrote concerning them: "The Christian world,
which has hitherto regarded Mormonism with silent contempt,
unhappily may yet have cause to fear its rapid increase. Modern
society is full of material for such a religion . . . . It is to
be feared that, in the course of a century, some gifted man like
Paul, some splendid orator who will be able by his eloquence to
attract crowds of the thousands who are ever ready to hear and be

carried away by the sounding brass and tinkling cymbal of
sparkling oratory, may command a hearing, may succeed in
breathing a new life into this modern Mohammedanism, and make
the name of the martyred Joseph ring as loud, and stir the souls
of men as much, as the mighty name of Christ itself."*

* Ford, "History of Illinois," p. 359.

The close observers of Mormonism in Utah, who recognize its aims,
but think that its days of greatest power are over, found this
opinion on the fact that the church makes practically no
converts among the neighboring Gentiles; and that the increasing
mining and other business interests are gradually attracting a
population of non-Mormons which the church can no longer offset
by converts brought in from the East and from foreign lands.
Special stress is laid on the future restriction on Mormon
immigration that will be found in the lack of further government
land which may be offered to immigrants, and in the discouraging
stories sent home by immigrants who have been induced to move to
Utah by the false representations of the missionaries.
Unquestionably, if the Mormon church remains stationary as
regards wealth and membership, it will be overshadowed by its
surroundings. What it depends on to maintain its present status
and to increase its power is the loyal devotion of the body of
its adherents, and its skill in increasing their number in the
states which now surround Utah, and eventually in other states.

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