Thomas Kearns.

Conditions in Utah Speech of Hon. Thomas Kearns of Utah, in the Senate of the United States online

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Tuesday, February 28, 1905.



* * * * *


The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Chair lays before the Senate the
resolution submitted by the Senator from Idaho [Mr. DUBOIS],
which will be read.

The Secretary read the resolution submitted yesterday by Mr.
DUBOIS, as follows:

_Resolved_, That the Committee on the Judiciary be, and it is
hereby, authorized and instructed to prepare and report to the
Senate within thirty days after the beginning of the next
session of Congress a joint resolution of the two Houses of
Congress proposing to the several States amendments to the
Constitution of the United States which shall provide, in
substance, for the prohibition and punishment of polygamous
marriages and plural cohabitation contracted or practiced
within the United States and in every place subject to the
jurisdiction of the United States; and which shall, in
substance, also require all persons taking office under the
Constitution or laws of the United States, or of any State, to
take and subscribe an oath that he or she is not, and will not
be, a member or adherent of any organization whatever the laws,
rules, or nature of which organization require him or her to
disregard his or her duty to support and maintain the
Constitution and laws of the United States and of the several

Mr. KEARNS. Mr. President, I will not permit this occasion to pass
without saying, with brevity and such clearness as I can command, what
it seems to me should be said by a Senator, under these circumstances,
before leaving public life. Something is due to the State which has
honored me; something is due to the record which I have endeavored to
maintain honorably before the world and something, by way of
information, is due to the Senate and the country.

Utah, the newest of the States, to me the best beloved of all the
States, appears to be the only one concerning which there is a serious
conflict with the country. I was not born in Utah, but I have spent all
the years of my manhood there, and I love the Commonwealth and its
people. In what I say there is malice toward none, and I hope to make it
just to all. If the present day does not accept my statements and
appreciate my motives, I can only trust that time will prove more gentle
and that in the future those who care to revert to these remarks will
know that they are animated purely by a hope to bring about a better
understanding between Utah and this great nation.

Utah was admitted to statehood after, and because of, a long series of
pledges exacted from the Mormon leaders, the like of which had never
before been known in American history. Except for those pledges, the
sentiment of the United States would never have assented to Utah's
admission. Except for the belief on the part of Congress and the country
that the extraordinary power which abides in that State would maintain
these pledges, Utah would not have been admitted. There is every reason
to believe that the President who signed the bill would have vetoed it
if he had not been convinced that the pledges made would be kept.


As a citizen of the State and a witness to the events and words which
constitute those pledges, as a Senator of the United States, I give my
word of honor to you that I believed that these pledges consisted of the
following propositions:

First. That the Mormon leaders would live within the laws pertaining to
plural marriage and the continued plural marriage relation, and that
they would enforce this obligation upon all of their followers, under
penalty of disfellowship.

Second. That the leaders of the Mormon Church would no longer exercise
political sway, and that their followers would be free and would
exercise their freedom in politics, in business, and in social affairs.

As a citizen and a Senator I give my word of honor to you that I
believed that these pledges would be kept in the spirit in which
Congress and the country accepted them, and that there would never be
any violation, evasion, denial, or equivocation concerning them.

I appeal to such members of this body as were in either House of
Congress during the years 1890 to 1896, if it was not their belief at
that time that the foregoing were the pledges and that they would be
kept; and I respectfully insist that every Senator here who was a member
of either House at that time would have refused to vote for Utah's
admission unless he had firmly believed as I have stated.

1. Utah, secured her statehood by a solemn compact made by the Mormon
leaders in behalf of themselves and their people.

2. That compact has been broken willfully and frequently.

3. No apostle of the Mormon Church has publicly protested against that

I know the gravity of the utterances that I have just made. I know what
are the probable consequences to myself. But I have pondered long and
earnestly upon the subject and have come to the conclusion that duty to
the innocent people of my State and that obligation to the Senate and
the country require that I shall clearly define my attitude.


This is no quarrel with religion. This is no assault upon any man's
faith. This is rather the reverence toward the inherent right of all men
to believe as they please, which separates religious faith from
irreligious practice. The Mormon people have a system of their own,
somewhat complex, and gathered from the mysticisms of all the ages. It
does not appeal to most men; but in its purely theological domain it is
theirs, and I respect it as their religion and them as its believers.

The trouble arises now, as it has frequently arisen in the past, from
the fact that some of the accidental leaders of the movement since the
first zealot founder have sought to make of this religion not only a
system of morals, sometimes quite original in themselves, but also a
system of social relation, a system of finance, a system of commerce,
and a system of politics.


I dismiss the religion with my profound respect; if it can comfort them,
I would not, if I could, disturb it. Coming to the social aspect of the
society, it is apparent that the great founder sought first to establish
equality among men, and then to draw from those equal ranks a special
class, who were permitted to practice polygamy and to whom special
privileges were accorded in their association with the consecrated
temples and the administration of mystic ordinances therein. The
polygamous group, or cult as it may be called, soon became the ruling
factor in the organization; and it may be observed that ever since the
founding of the church almost every man of prominence in the community
has belonged to this order. It was so in the time of the martyrs, Joseph
and Hyrum Smith, who were killed at Carthage jail in Illinois, and both
of whom were polygamists, although it was denied at the time. There were
living until recently, and perhaps there are living now, women who
testified that they were married in polygamy to one or the other of
these two men, Joseph having the larger number. It has been so ever
since and is so to-day that nearly every man of the governing class has
been or is a polygamist.

Brigham Young succeeded Joseph Smith, and he set up a kind of kingly
rulership, not unbecoming to a man of his vast empire-building power.
The Mormons have been taught to revere Joseph Smith as a direct prophet
from God. He saw the face of the All Father. He held communion with the
Son. The Holy Ghost was his constant companion. He settled every
question, however trivial, by revelation from Almighty God. But Brigham
was different. While claiming a divine right of leadership, he worked
out his great mission by palpable and material means. I do not know that
he ever pretended to have received a revelation from the time that he
left Nauvoo until he reached the shores of the Dead Sea, nor through all
the thirty years of his leadership there. He seemed to regard his people
as children who had to be led through their serious calamities by
holding out to them the glittering thought of divine guardianship. So
firmly did Brigham establish the social order in Utah that all of the
people were equal, except the governing body. This may be said to
consist of the president and his two counsellors, they three
constituting the first presidency; the twelve apostles; the presiding
bishopric, consisting of three men, the chief bishops of the church but
much lower in rank than the apostles; the seven presidents of seventies,
who are, under the apostles, the subordinate head of the missionary
service of the church; and the presiding patriarch. These altogether
constitute a body of twenty-six men. There are local authorities in the
different stakes of Zion, as they are called, corresponding to counties
in a State, but with these it is not necessary to deal.

Practically all of these men under Brigham Young were polygamists. They
constituted what one of their number once called the "elite class" of
the community. To attain this rank one usually had to show ability, and
attaining the rank he was quite certain to enter into or extend his
already existing plural-marriage relations. These rulers were looked
upon with great reverence. Brigham Young, besides being a prophet of
God, as they believed, had led them through the greatest march of the
ages. His nod became almost superhuman in its significance. His frown
was as terrible to them as the wrath of God. He upheld all the members
of the polygamistic and governing class by his favoritism toward them.
He supremely, and they subordinately, ruled the community as if they
were a king and a house of peers, with no house of commons. Not
elsewhere in the United States, and not in any foreign country where
civilization dwells, has there been such a complete mastery of man over
modern men. The subordinates and the mass would perform the slightest
will of Brigham Young. When he was not present the mass would perform
the will of any of the subordinates speaking in his name. Below this
privileged class stood the common mass. It had its various gradations of
title, but, with the exception of rare instances of personal power,
there was equality in the mass. For instance, as business was a part of
their system, the local religious authority in some remote part might be
the business subordinate of some other man of less ecclesiastical rank,
with the result that this peculiar intermingling kept them all
practically upon one level of social order; and the man who made adobes
under the hot sun of the desert through all the week might still be the
religious superior of the richest man in the local community, and they
met on terms of equality and friendship. Their children might
intermarry, the difference in wealth being countervailed by a difference
in ecclesiastical authority.

It was a strange social system, this, with Brigham Young and his coterie
of advisers, to the number of twenty-six, standing at the head,
self-perpetuating, the chief being able to select constantly to fill the
ranks as they might be depleted by death; and all these ruling over one
solid mass of equal caste who thought that the rulers were animated by
divine revelation, holding the right to govern in all things on earth
and with authority extending into heaven.

So firmly intrenched was their social system that when Brigham Young
passed away his various successors who came in time to his place by
accident of seniority of service found ample opportunity without
difficulty to perpetuate this system and to maintain their social
autocracy. As the matter has appeared so fully before the country, I
will not speak further of the method of succession, but will merely call
to your minds that after Brigham Young came John Taylor, then Wilford
Woodruff, then Lorenzo Snow, then Joseph F. Smith, the present ruler.

Under these several men the social autocracy has had its varying
fortunes, but at the present time it is probably at as high a point as
it ever reached under the original Joseph or under Brigham Young. The
president of the church, Joseph F. Smith, affects a regal state. His
home consists of a series of villas, rather handsome in design, and
surrounded by such ample grounds as to afford sufficient exclusiveness.
In addition to this he has an official residence of historic character
near to the office which he occupies as president. When he travels he is
usually accompanied by a train of friends, who are really servitors.
When he attends social functions he appears like a ruler among his
subjects. And in this respect I am not speaking of Mormon associations
alone, for there are many Gentiles in and out of Utah who seem to take
delight in paying this extraordinary deference.

If I have seemed to speak at length upon this mere social phase it has
not been without a definite purpose. I want you to know how this
religion, claiming to recognize and secure the equality of men,
immediately established and has maintained for the mass of its adherents
that social equality, but has elevated a class of its rulers to regal
authority and splendor. Understanding how the chief among them has the
dignity of a monarch in their social relations, you will better
understand the business and political autocracy which he has been able
to establish.

In all this social system each apostle has his great part. He is
inseparable from it. He wields now, as does a minister at court, such
part of the power as the monarch may permit him to enjoy, and it is his
hope and expectation that he will outlive those who are his seniors in
rank in order that he may become the ruler.

Therefore, if there be evil in this social relation as I have portrayed
it, every apostle is responsible for a part of that evil. They enjoy the
honors of the social class; they help to exert the tyranny over the
subjugated mass. Those of you who do me the honor to follow my remarks
will realize how close is the relation between the apostles and the
president, and that the apostle is a responsible part of the governing
power. While I may speak of the president of the church segregated from
his associates and as the monarch, it must be understood constantly that
he maintains his power by the support of the apostles, who keep the mass
in order and in subjugation to his will, expressed through them.


Whatever may have been its origin or excuse, the business power of the
president of the church and of the select class which he admits into
business relations with him is now a practical monopoly, or is rapidly
becoming a monopoly, of everything that he touches. I want to call your
attention to the extraordinary list of worldly concerns in which this
spiritual leader holds official position. The situation is more amazing
when you are advised that this man came to his presidency purely by
accident, namely, the death of his seniors in rank; that he had never
known any business ability, and that he comes to the presidency and the
directorship of the various corporations solely because he is president
of the church. He is already reputed to be a wealthy man, and his
statement would seem to indicate that he has large holdings in the
various corporations with which he is associated, although previous to
his accession to the presidency of the church he made a kind of proud
boast among his people of his poverty.

He conducts railways, street-car lines, power and light companies, coal
mines, salt works, sugar factories, shoe factories, mercantile houses,
drug stores, newspapers, magazines, theaters, and almost every
conceivable kind of business, and in all of these, inasmuch as he is the
dominant factor by virtue of his being the prophet of God, he asserts
indisputable sway. It is considered an evidence of deference to him, and
good standing in the church, for his hundreds of thousands of followers
to patronize exclusively the institutions which he controls.

And this fact alone, without any business ability on his part, but with
capable subordinate guidance for his enterprises, insures their success,
and danger and possible ruin for every competitive enterprise.
Independent of these business concerns, he is in receipt of an income
like unto that which a royal family derives from a national treasury.
One-tenth of all the annual earnings of all the Mormons in all the world
flows to him. These funds amount to the sum of $1,000,000 annually, or 5
per cent upon $32,000,000, which is one-quarter of the entire taxable
wealth of the State of Utah. It is the same as if he owned,
individually, in addition to all his visible enterprises, one-quarter of
all the wealth of the State and derived from it 5 per cent of income
without taxation and without discount. The hopelessness of contending in
a business way with this autocrat must be perfectly apparent to your
minds. The original purpose of this vast tithe, as often stated by
speakers for the church, was the maintenance of the poor, the building
of meetinghouses, etc. To-day the tithes are transmuted, in the
localities where they are paid, into cash, and they flow into the
treasury of the head of the church. No account is made, or ever has been
made, of these tithes. The president expends them according to his own
will and pleasure, and with no examination of his accounts, except by
those few men whom he selects for that purpose and whom he rewards for
their zeal and secrecy. Shortly after the settlement of the Mormon
Church property question with the United States the church issued a
series of bonds, amounting approximately to $1,000,000, which were taken
by financial institutions. This was probably to wipe out a debt which
had accumulated during a long period of controversy with the nation. But
since, and including the year 1897, which was about the time of the
issue of the bonds, approximately $9,000,000 have been paid as tithes.
If any of the bonds are still outstanding, it is manifestly because the
president of the church desires for reasons of his own to have an
existing indebtedness.

It will astound you to know that every dollar of United States money
paid to any servant of the Government who is a Mormon is tithed for the
benefit of this monarch. Out of every $1,000 thus paid he gets $100 to
swell his grandeur. This is also true of money paid out of the public
treasury of the State of Utah to Mormon officials. But what is worst of
all, the monarch dips into the sacred public school fund and extracts
from every Mormon teacher one-tenth of his or her earnings and uses it
for his unaccounted purposes; and, by means of these purposes and the
power which they constitute, he defies the laws of his State, the
sentiment of his country, and is waging war of nullification on the
public school system, so dear to the American people. No right-thinking
man will oppose any person as a servant of the nation or the State or as
a teacher in the public schools on account of religious faith. As I have
before remarked, this is no war upon the religion of the Mormons; and I
am only calling attention to the monstrous manner in which this monarch
invades all the provinces of human life and endeavors to secure his
rapacious ends.

In all this there is no thought on my part of opposition to voluntary
gifts by individuals for religious purposes or matters connected
legitimately with religion. My comment and criticism are against the
tyranny which misuses a sacred name to extract from individuals the
moneys which they ought not to spare from family needs, and which they
do not wish to spare; my comment and criticism relate to the power of a
monarch whose tyranny is so effective as that not even the moneys paid
by the Government are considered the property of the Government's
servant until after this monarch shall have seized his arbitrary
tribute, with or without the willing assent of the victim, so that the
monarch may engage the more extensively in commercial affairs, which are
not a part of either religion or charity.

With an income of 5 per cent upon one-quarter of the entire assessed
valuation of the State of Utah to-day, how long will it take this
monarch, with his constantly increasing demands for revenue, to so
absorb the productive power that he shall be receiving an income of 5
per cent upon one-half the property, and then upon all of the property
of the State? This is worse than the farming of taxes under the old
French Kings. Will Congress allow this awful calamity to continue?

The view which the people of the United States entertained on this
subject forty years ago was shown by the act of Congress in 1802, in
which a provision, directed particularly against the Mormon Church,
declared that no church in a Territory of the United States should have
in excess of $50,000 of wealth outside of the property used for purposes
of worship. It is evident that as early as that time the pernicious
effects of a system which used the name of God and the authority of
religion to dominate in commerce and finance were fully recognized.

This immense tithing fund is gathered directly from Mormons, but the
burden falls in some degree upon Gentiles also. Gentiles are in business
and suffer by competition with tithe-supported business enterprises.
Gentiles are large employers of Mormon labor; and as that labor must pay
one-tenth of its earnings to support competitive concerns, the Gentile
employer must pay, indirectly at least, the tithe which may be utilized
to compete with, and even ruin, him in business.

And in return it should be noted that Mormon institutions do not employ
Gentiles except in rare cases of necessity. The reason is obvious:
Gentiles do not take as kindly to the tithing system as do the Mormons.

The Mormon citizen of Utah has additional disadvantages. After paying
one-tenth of all his earnings as a tithe offering, he is called upon to
erect and maintain the meetinghouses and other edifices of the church;
he is called upon to donate to the poor fund in his ward, through his
local bishop; he is called upon to sustain the Women's Relief Society,
whose purpose is to care for the poor and to minister to the sick; he is
called upon to pay his share of the expense for the 2,500 missionaries
of the church who are constantly kept in the field without drawing
upon, the general funds of the church. When all this is done, it is
found that, in defiance of the old and deserved boast of the
predecessors of the present president, there are some Mormons in the
poorhouses of Utah, and these are sustained by the public taxes derived
from the Gentiles and Mormons alike.

Broadly speaking, the Gentiles compose 35 per cent of the population and
pay one-half of the taxes of Utah. In the long run they carry their
share of all these great charges.

The almost unbearable community burden which is thus inflicted must be
visible to your minds without argument from me.

Let it be sufficient on this point for me to say that all the property
of Utah is made to contribute to the grandeur of the president of the
church, and that at his instance any industry, any institution, within
the State, could be destroyed except the mining and smelting industry.
Even this industry his personal and church organ has attacked with a
threat of extermination by the courts, or by additional legislation, if
the smelters do not meet the view expressed by the church organ.

Mr. President, I ask to have read at this point an editorial from the
Deseret Evening News of October 31, 1904, which I send to the desk.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Secretary will read as requested.

The Secretary read as follows:


[Organ of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.]

SALT LAKE CITY, _October 31, 1904_.


The people of Salt Lake City are waking up to the realization
of the trouble of which our cousins out in the country are
complaining. The sulphurous fumes which have been tasted by
many folks here, particularly late at night, are not only those
of a partisan nature emanating from the smokestacks of the
slanderers and maligners, but are treats bestowed upon our

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Online LibraryThomas KearnsConditions in Utah Speech of Hon. Thomas Kearns of Utah, in the Senate of the United States → online text (page 1 of 3)