W. Fraser (William Fraser) Rae.

Westward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons online

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questions of the moment with perfect coolness.
For my own part, I am sceptical as to the har-
mony which is said to have prevailed among the
Mormons. I have conversed with some who have
been excommunicated, and with some who have left
the Church in disgust, as well as with firm believers
and good Mormons. The doubters having proved
rebellious, were summarily dealt with. In their
case rebellion meant a disinclination to submit to
the arbitrary sway of Brigham Young. The latter
is at once despot and high priest. He interprets
the law as written in the Book of Mormon, and he
compels the acceptance of his interpretation. To
Mormons, freedom of thought or of action is as
impossible as to idiots or slaves. Their whole duty
consists in thinking as they are enjoined, and doing
as they are told. When the Mormon Gospel is
preached in Europe, little is said about dogmas, and
much is said about farms. The believers arrive at
Salt Lake in the hope that they will soon attain
independence by the sweat of their brows. A piece
of land is made over to them on conditions which
they deem light. The price is to be repaid in


instalments ; and one tenth of their earnings is to
be handed over to the Church. Assistance is af-
forded them to build a house of wood or of sun-dried
brick, here called ( adobe,' and to stock and culti-
vate their land. For all this they have to pay in
money or in kind. If things go well with them,
they soon succeed in placing themselves in a posi-
tion of comparative comfort. They can live on the
produce of their land ; possibly, they may be able
to take unto themselves several wives and to main-
tain a numerous family without apprehending bank-
ruptcy or the workhouse. Yet, despite all this,
they do not grow rich. Of food they may have
abundance while continuing destitute of money.
Here it is that the shoe pinches. The arrange-
ments of Brigham Young are admirably adapted
for keeping the majority of his followers obedient to
his will. So long as they can neither buy nor sell,
but must supply their wants through the primitive
agency of barter, it is hard for them to become
strong enough to challenge his claims. The pay-
ments he makes are calculated in dollars ; but in-
stead of paying his creditors in cash, he hands them
orders on the Tithing-office, where grain, firewood,
flour, or other necessaries of life, can be had at the
option of the holders. Some payments are made in
Salt Lake notes, which are current in the Territory


only. Men who nominally receive so much a day
for their labour have told me that the very sight of
United States money is a rare one to them. They
get wherewith to sustain life, but they cannot lay
up that store against a rainy day which the thrifty
labourer loves to accumulate. These persons are
virtual prisoners in Utah Territory. Without
money they cannot escape from the house of
bondage, and of money they are almost bereft.
Now and then one of the dissatisfied class does
that which leads to his excommunication and the
practical confiscation of his property. As soon as
he is cast out of the Church or voluntarily secedes,
the whole power of the Church is exerted to crush
him. Good Mormons are forbidden to give him
shelter, to associate with him, to trade with him.
The great object is to expel him from Utah.
Should this end be attained, then the outcast is
obliged to begin life again, after his hopes have
been blighted, with his labour expended in vain,
and his experience gained to no good purpose.

If there be one point on which Americans and
Englishmen are thoroughly agreed, and about which
they are justly entitled to boast, it is that their
homes are sanctuaries, and their houses castles ;
sanctuaries into which no stranger can enter un-
bidden ; castles into which no stranger can demand


admission. To the true Mormon, this notion of
home is foreign. I do not now allude to his do-
mestic arrangements, nor shall I allege that happi-
ness is wholly impossible where polygamy is the
rule, or maintain that filial duty and parental love
are virtues which never flourish where several
wives contend for a husband's affection, and flocks
of children have claims on his tenderness. How
these matters are managed, and what is the actual
result, a stranger may imagine, but cannot discover.
As far as he can ascertain, a Mormon household is
in no respect exceptional ; the wives appear to him
the same as the ladies who preside over the house-
hold of a Gentile, while the children are as great
torments or as great pets as the children whom he
has seen elsewhere. The fallacy to which several
writers have succumbed consists in supposing that,
because nothing in such a household grossly offends
the eye or shocks the senses, therefore the system
of polygamy is unobjectionable, and that the Saint
whose ( creed is singular and whose wives are
plural,' is a personage worthy of unstinted praise.
As well might the inference be drawn that, because
man and wife usually say smooth things to each
other in the presence of third parties, and because
children sometimes conduct themselves with pro-
priety in the presence of strangers, the former have


no private differences of opinion, and the latter are
never unruly and disobedient. Frankly admitting
the domestic affairs of the Mormons to be mysteries
which none but the initiated can fathom and into
which strangers have no right to pry, let me confine
myself to that part of their social arrangements
with which all the world may become acquainted,
and let me repeat that a home, in the English and
American sense of the word, has no existence
among the Saints of the Great Salt Lake. For
example, should a Bishop or other person in autho-
rity knock at the door of a Mormon house in his
diocese, he must be admitted without question, and
his orders must be obeyed without hesitation, under
a heavy penalty. Should he think that the floor
ought to be scrubbed, or the kettle polished, or any
alteration made in household arrangements, he has
but to give the order, and the command is obeyed.
The despotism of Mormonism, as taught by Brigham
Young, is temporal as well as spiritual. Nothing
is left to the free will of the people. Everything is
done in obedience to a decree. The phrase ( Thus
saith the Lord ' is always uttered by the leaders
when they desire to impose their decisions on their
credulous followers. Marriage itself is not always
an affair of choice and inclination. If it be thought
expedient that a man should add to the number of


his wives, he is advised to take another, and advice
of this kind cannot be disregarded with impunity.
President Young tolerates no differences of opinion
between himself and his flock. He has been elected
by them, and he considers it his prerogative to
govern them with a rod of iron. Universal suf-
frage, exercised by the ignorant, has placed him
where he is, and he interprets universal suffrage, as
others have done in Europe, to mean the preroga-
tive to act without scruple in pursuance of his per-
sonal ends.

With the Mormons, Sunday is emphatically a day
of rest. Every shop is closed. The Tabernacle is
filled with worshippers. There is a morning and
an afternoon service, and in the evening each ward
has its meeting, over which the ward Bishop pre-
sides. The service begins with a hymn, sung by
the choir with an organ accompaniment. In the
singing the congregation does not join. The ma-
jority turn in their seats and stare at the singers.
A prayer is then offered up. The prayers which I
heard consisted of the invocation of blessings upon
the Mormons, their rulers, their homes, their fields,
and their families. A special blessing was invoked
on behalf of Brigham Young and other Mormons
in authority. Not a word was said on behalf of
the Government and the President of the United


States. I heard two sermons, both of which were
harangues about things in general ; the only special
doctrines enunciated and enforced by repetition, not
by argument, being that the Mormons were God's
chosen people, and that Polygamy was a divine
institution. Mormonism has now entirely resolved
itself into preaching that polygamy is the one thing
required in these latter days to regenerate and
sanctify a world steeped in wickedness. If the
Mormons are in the right, then none but the
followers of Mahomet and Brigham Young deserve
the title of civilized beings, and enjoy the privilege
of counting upon entering and reigning in Heaven.
It must be allowed that their religion is a bold
attempt to make the best of both worlds.

On the same day that I heard religion preached
according to Brigham Young, I also heard an ex-
position of the doctrines of pure Mormonism as
revealed to Joseph Smith, proclaimed by him to
the people, and now upheld and inculcated by his
sons. David and Alexander Smith are here on a
mission to rescue the Mormons of Salt Lake City
from the hands of President Young. They stated
openly in a crowded hall that the doctrines of the
latter are 'foul, false, and corrupt.' They de-
nounced him as an impostor; they charged him
with usurpation. No Gentile has ever uttered more


stinging phrases against the chosen leader of the
Saints than were given vent to in the course of an
hour by these two men. Moreover, they cited
authentic documents in support of their statements.
They proved, from the accepted Mormon books,
that polygamy, instead of being enjoined as a duty,
was formally condemned as a crime. While Joseph
Smith was yet alive certificates to that effect were
signed by men and women of influence in the
Church. Some of these men and women are now
among Brigham Young's staunchest adherents.
Judging from remarks openly made by some of the
Mormons present, it appeared that these facts were
alike new and puzzling to them. They were evi-
dently at a loss what to think and whom to trust.

In a conversation which I had with one of Joseph
Smith's sons, the following was the explanation
furnished of the apparent contradiction. Nothing
in the Mormon Scriptures can be interpreted as
sanctioning polygamy. The assertion that Joseph
Smith had more wives than one is a calumny pro-
pagated by those who wish to have a religious
sanction for the gratification of their lusts. Emma
Smith, who was the Prophet's wife, stoutly denies
that she ever had any rival in her husband's love.
In opposition to this, Brigham Young offers to
prove that the murdered Prophet had several wives.


Furthermore, he cites a revelation made to Joseph
Smith on celestial marriage, which certainly charac-
terises a plurality of wives as the great privilege of
the Saints. But, then, dense obscurity surrounds
the transmission of this important document. Joseph
Smith may have received it from Heaven ; but how
did Brigham Young get it from Joseph Smith ? It is
said that the paper on which the Prophet inscribed
the revelation was snatched from him and burnt,
but that Brigham Young was so fortunate as to
have procured a transcript of it prior to its destruc-
tion. Be it noted that President Young makes no
formal pretensions to the office of prophet. He is
too much occupied with other matters, to have any
leisure for prophesying. Besides, some experiments
he once made as a prophet proved very disastrous.
He has benefited by the lesson. What he now
preaches is preached on the authority of Joseph
Smith. The responsibility is thus shifted on to the
shoulders of the deceased. It is obvious that the
living priest has a great advantage over the dead
prophet ; because, while the latter printed his doc-
trines, the former claims to have been the recipient
of other doctrines to be spread abroad at a con-
venient season. Several years after the Prophet's
murder, Brigham Young thought that the con-
venient season had arrived for proclaiming polygamy


a dogma of the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
Accordingly, in 1852 he told the people that he
had in his custody a revelation sanctioning plural
marriage. The statement was accepted with satis-
faction, and from that date uncompromising Mor-
mons have regarded polygamy as the basis of their
creed and the best part of their system.

I anticipate the query: 'How can liberty of
speech be pronounced impossible throughout the
Territory of Utah when two sons of Joseph Smith
are thus permitted to beard President Young in his
stronghold, to repudiate his doctrines, to denounce
his conduct?' The answer I return is that which I
have received from more Mormons than one. By
Brigham Young, the sons of Joseph Smith are
intensely hated. He would rejoice if they could be
removed out of his path. He has refused to allow
them to officiate in the Tabernacle, while according
this privilege to the preachers of every other reli-
gious denomination. Indeed, one of the brothers
told me that on the very Sunday when the pulpit
of the Tabernacle was formally closed against both
of them,' it was occupied by a Methodist minister to
whom free scope was accorded as an expounder of
the Christian Gospel. Others, far less obnoxious
than these two men, have disappeared in a mys-
terious way, or have been found shot to death by


bullets, or beaten to death by clubs. Mormons are
pointed out to whose charge these murders have
been publicly laid, but no one has ever been
brought to justice, nor is it believed that the cul-
prits will ever receive the punishment they deserve
so long as crimes committed at the instigation of
Mormon leaders, and in furtherance of the Mormon
cause, are regarded as highly meritorious. But
the Destroying Angels dare not serve David and
Alexander Smith as they served Dr. Robinson.
As the sons of their revered Prophet, the people
look upon them with respect, and listen to them
with attention. That these men should go about
unmolested, and preach undisturbed, is the only
proof I have discovered of the existence of a public
opinion in Utah. This discovery would have been
far more welcome and valuable had the manifesta-
tion of opinion given token of a latent love of fair
play and free speech, instead of proving the exist-
ence of an undercurrent of superstition in the un-
cultured and fanatical Mormon mind.




IN FEW American cities are the nationalities of
England and Wales so largely represented as in
the city of the Great Salt Lake. The English
visitor who makes the ' acquaintance of Mormon
bankers, merchants, journalists, and hotel-keepers
is surprised to find them well versed in the do-
mestic affairs of the Old Country, and he learns
with increased surprise that by birth they are his
countrymen. Nor are his countrywomen less nu-
merous, if far less fortunate. When questions are
asked about the wives of distinguished and poly-
gamous Saints, one of the answers is that most
of them are Englishwomen. Of other European
nationalities there are several representatives,
those from Denmark and Norway being in the
majority. Out of the 150,000 citizens of Utah
Territory at least three-fourths have emigrated
from Europe. As many as 4,000 European Latter
Day Saints are said to cross the Atlantic yearly,
in order to cast in their lot with their brethren


beyond the Rocky Mountains. In no country has
the success of the Mormon missionaries been so
great as in England, because in no other country
has the like liberty of action been accorded to
them. Elsewhere, they have fared badly on ac-
count of the obstacles put in their way by intole-
rant mobs, or despotic Governments. The record
of their missionary enterprise is a chequered story
of struggle and failure.

Regarded as a whole, the labours of the Mor-
mons to win proselytes supply the strongest proofs
which can be desired of their indomitable energy
and steadfast endurance. No sooner had the Church
of the Latter Day Saints been established in the
United States than missionaries were despatched to
make converts to the new religion. England was
the earliest field wherein Mormon missionaries la-
boured, and is the one in which they have reaped
the richest harvests. In 1837, no less than eight
Mormon Elders went forth to preach to the English
people. They began at Preston, in Lancashire.
Before many months had elapsed, they had dissemi-
nated their views throughout the United Kingdom,
the result being that 1,500 persons were baptized
into the community of the Saints. Three years
afterwards, others, of whom Brigham Young was
one, took part in advancing the mission on English


soil. They preached for upwards of a year and
founded branches of the Mormon Church in all
the more important cities from London to Edin-
burgh ; they set up a printing press ; they esta-
blished an emigration agency; they published the
Book of Mormon, the Book of Doctrines and Cove-
nants ; they issued 60,000 pamphlets and the first
volume of the Millenial Star.

The next experiment of a like kind was an
attempt to bring the Children of Israel within the
fold of the Church of the Saints. With a view to
effect this, a mission was despatched to Jerusalem,
but it had to be abandoned in despair. The Isles
of the Pacific were next selected as the theatre of
a missionary crusade. Upwards of 1,200 natives of
the Society Islands were baptized in 1843 and the
prospects were hopeful, till the French assumed the
Protectorate over these Islands. In 1851, not only
were the Mormon Elders expelled and forbidden
to return, but the French also f compelled the
native converts to discontinue their worship.' The
Sandwich Islanders are said to have been as trac-
table converts and firmer adherents ; yet, as no
statistics are given, the actual results in their case
must be left to conjecture. Among the French,
the work of conversion received a check from the
police. The Elder who went to Paris in 1849

K 2


complained that his hands were tied owing to the
stringency of the laws. Eventually, the Prefect
of Police forbade the preaching of the Mormon
gospel. Nor was Germany a land in which the
Elders received a welcome. One of them was
f expelled by the authorities of the Free City of
Hamburg.' In Prussia, the missionaries fared very
badly. Two of them, who arrived at Berlin in 1853,
' found that it was impossible to preach or publish
the truth of the Latter Day Work in consequence
of religious intoleration. These Elders wrote to
the King's Minister of Public "Worship for per-
mission to preach, but were immediately summoned
before the police court and catechised as to the
object of their mission. They were ordered to leave
the kingdom next morning, under penalty of trans-
portation.' The opposition in Austria was equally
bitter. After spending some months in learning
the German tongue Elders Pratt and Hitter had
to relinquish their undertaking and leave Vienna,
because they found themselves unable, ' in conse-
quence of religious intolerance,' ' to open the door
for the proclamation of the Gospel ' in Austria.
In Denmark, a missionary was more fortunate ; but
one who f proceeded to Sweden, and endeavoured
to introduce the work there ' f was summarily
banished.' The Swiss looked askance at Mor-


monism. The Elders were non-plussed by a twofold
hindrance to their progress in Switzerland. ' Some
of the cantons would not allow publishing, but
allowed preaching ; others prohibited preaching,
but would allow publishing, and some would not
allow either.' Only one attempt was made to
convert the inhabitants of South America from the
errors of their accustomed ways to the errors of
the Mormon creed. Two Elders went to Chili in
1851, ' where they remained several months, not
having the opportunity of even teaching in private,
except in violation of the most rigid laws.' Being
obliged to return to California, one of them re-
mained there for some time and, with a result which,
as it is unrecorded, cannot have been wholly satis-
factory, f continued to preach and teach until he
returned to Utah.' The Chinese were appealed to
in April, 1853. The Mormon missionaries to
China did not get farther than Hong Kong. They
decided that, as a civil war was raging, it would
be unwise to undertake a journey into the interior.
Moreover, the Chinese with whom they conversed
did not appear to be a promising people on whom
to expend their energies. ( The inhabitants told
them that they had not time to " talka " religion.
The way soon opened for them to return to San
Francisco, which they did in August.'


Very interesting and not a little instructive is
the tale of the attempts made in the colonies and
dependencies of Great Britain to gather in converts
to the Mormon fold. In South Australia, New
South Wales, Tasmania and New Zealand the
success seems to have been most complete. On the
other hand, the missionaries met with palpable re-
buffs in Hindostan, Ceylon, South Africa, and the
West Indies. They went up the Ganges, visited
Simla, laboured in Bombay and the adjacent coun-
try, but without effect. The zeal they displayed
failed to produce the expected impression. Their
explanation runs thus : ( Finding the Hindostanees
destitute of honesty and integrity, insomuch that
when converted and baptized they would for a few
pice join any other religion, and finding the Euro-
peans so aristocratic that they were hardly ap-
proachable, they left the country, after having
travelled to all the principal stations of India,
where frequently they were ordered out of canton-
ments and had to sleep in the open air, exposed to
that sickly climate, to poisonous reptiles and to
wild beasts.' In Ceylon they suffered severely not
only through the unwillingness of the people to
hearken to them, but also because the people and
the priests refused to open their doors, or give them
food, unless they were well paid. At Cape Town,


rioters broke up their meetings, but in the country
districts ' they obtained a foothold and commenced
to baptize.' What they endured in Jamaica cannot
be better told than in their own words : e They
called upon the American Consul, Mr. Harrison,
who advised them to hire a hall and announce
public preaching, as the laws extended toleration to
all sects, which they accordingly did ; but a mob
numbering one hundred and fifty persons, gathered
around the building and threatened to tear it down
were these Polygamjsts, as they termed the Elders,
permitted to preach therein. Unless the Elders
could give security for the price of the hall the
landlord objected to their holding meeting. The
Elders informed him that they were not there to
enforce their principles upon the people to quell
mobs, nor to protect property, but to preach the
Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who were willing to
hear. The Elders got away from the Island safely,
though while they remained they had to run the
gauntlet, and two of them were shot at by a negro.'
Two missionaries to British Guiana were quite as
hardly dealt with, for they were refused passages
by the shipping agents and had to return to the
United States without even setting foot on the
shore which they desired to reach. The authorities
at Gibraltar treated the Elders as if they were


persons of bad character, and summoned them to
appear in the police court as soon as they landed on
the Rock. Elder Stevenson who had been born
there maintained his right to remain ; Elder Porter,
however, was ordered to leave. The Governor pro-
hibited Elder Stevenson from preaching Mormon-
ism. ' He, however, remained over a year and
baptized several amidst threats, prohibitions and
constant opposition. He also endeavoured to open
up the work in Spain, but was not permitted by
the authorities.' In no British possession does the
success of the missionaries seem to have been
greater than in Malta. What the Mormons say
about their doings in that Island has a special in-
terest for English readers. As the official account
is not long, I shall give it unabridged: ' In 1853,
Elder James F. Bell was sent from England to
Malta, where several were baptized. Upon the
breaking out of the Crimean war, the interest in
the work was broken off, still a few of the soldiers
in the British regiments that landed there obeyed

Online LibraryW. Fraser (William Fraser) RaeWestward by rail : a journey to San Francisco and back and a visit to the Mormons → online text (page 9 of 27)