COL. A. K. MCCLURE AMONG THE SAINTS.
Editorial Correspondence Franklin Repository.
SALT LAKE, June 18, 1867.
I have now spent a week with the Latter Day Saints, admired their green shades, beautiful arti-ficial streams, pleasant homes, and the innumerable evidences of industry and prosperity which appear on every hand. Their markets are filled with the choicest vegetables, and the finest strawberries of the continent are offered every hour of the day at reasonable prices. Stores equal to those of the cities of the Western States are numerous, and business of all branches has an air of system, cap-ital and thrift that is delightful. This is a city of 20,000 population, without paupers, brothels or gambling hells. Among the Mormons, who con-stitute over ninety per cent, of the people, there are none idle, and they claim that none suffer. The bee-hive is found on the dome of the Prophet's house, and frequently on rude business signs, as typical of the habits of the faithful. All must work, and while each owns his property gained by industry, there is still a common store where the distressed and children of want repair. And in-dustry is brightened in every possible way. In the evening the merry dance is to be heard in almost every ward; the theatre is never closed for any length of time, and recreation is devised in every conceivable manner to lighten the burdens of toil.
Salt Lake City is in what is called the Great Ba-sin of the west. A section of country, nearly a circle, with a radius of about 300 miles from the centre, is walled in by the Wasatch mountains on the east, the Sierra Nevada on the west, and their bro-ken spurs north and south. This great valley has no outlet for its waters. The Jordon, Ogden, Bear and Weber rivers, with many lesser streams, empty in the Great Salt Lake, distance about twenty miles from this city. It is 120 miles long, and averages about 20 in width, and is the most briny body of water in the world. So strongly is it impregnated with suit that its shores, when the waters recede in the dry season, are but a bed of salt, and a man in the lake will float like a cork. Sink he cannot, but the head must be kept carefully uppermost, for in whatever position he lands in the water, to remain in the position. If head down, down the head will stay, and it requires almost a super-human effort to reverse the position of the body.—In the Lake are vast islands and high, rugged mountains, some of them covered with nutritious grass and abounding in fresh springs. Cattle and horses are grazed there and thrive better than any place else in the territory. South of this the river Sevier empties into the Lake Sevier, which is also without an outlet, but the waters sink and do not become salt. In the western portion of the Great Basin (now the State of Nevada) there are a num-ber of large rivers, and all sink into the earth at different points in the valley and doubtless find subterranean passage to the sea. The Humboldt, Walker, Carson, Tuckee and other rivers drain Ne-vada, and all are without an open channel to the ocean. Some of them empty into lakes, but none of them are salt, and all doubtless have invisible outlets.
This Great Basin was once regarded as a vast Desert. The Mormons accepted it as their home to escape the antagonism of the Christians, and supposed that here they could remain unmolested for centuries. When they arrived here there was not so much as a trail across the mountains. This valley, as well as all west to the Pacific and South to the Gulf, belonged to Mexico, and one of the chief motives for the Mormon pilgrimage to this place was to escape the hated jurisdiction of the United States. But within a year after they loca-ted here, the territory was acquired from Mexico, and they again became unwilling and disloyal sub-jects of our government. When they arrived here, there was nothing to promise them requited labor and plentiful harvests. The soil was sterile, acrid, full of alkali, and refused to produce anything but the dreary sage and grease-wood; but Mormon industry flooded it with artificial rains, tamed it with corn and buckwheat, and now raise as fine wheat, oats, barley, &c., as are grown in the Union. Not a shrub or tree shaded this vast desert plain when they made it their home, but they had with them the seeds of the locusts, and they gathered the little cotton-woods along the streams, and now the city is one forest of the most heartsome shades and the gardens are covered with the green foliage of every species of orchard fruits. They seemed to have aimed to make this as nearly a paradise for the stranger as human effort could make it, and they have succeeded better than do most Christians in surrounding their homes, from the most humble to the most spacious, with the beauty, fragrance and fruitfulness of nature.
But the peculiar religion, or professed religion of the Mormons, is the most marvelous problem of the age. Here are 100,000 people, the most indus-trious, as a class, on the face of the earth; sober, neighborly, of good repute as a rule, and most of them sincerely and devoutly pious in their way, who tolerate and sustain in their leaders the most arrant swindling and revolting licentiousness, and call it making sacrifice to the Lord. Of the 100,000 Mormons, nine-tenths are ignorant aliens, who were the slaves of the mines or the serf of the proprietors in the old countries. They need but little here to improve their condition, and as a rule they have been made owners of their homes. All they ever did learn they have learned from the Mormons, and it is not so surprising, therefore, they bow implicitly to the teachings of those they believe to be inspired from on high. If I were going to analyze the Mormon population, I would set down nineteen of every twenty as pitiable dupes and the remainder, one-twentieth, as the most ex-pert and successful knaves on the earth. Brigham Young is the spiritual and temporal head of the church. He assumes to be the succes-sor of Christ, and is esteemed by his deluded fol-lowers as of equal power and glory with the Savi-or. They hold that Jesus was the first Messiah, Joseph Smith the second, and Brigham Young the third, and I heard it distinctly taught in the tabernacle that Christ, Smith and Young would come back to the earth together, in the fulness of time, to reign with the people of God. Accepted as of divine anointment— indeed as being in im-mediate communication with the Almighty; as the oracle through which God speaks to His chosen people, it is not wonderful that he can riot in wealth, pick the fairest and tenderests lambs from the flock to gratify his beastly lusts, and have the streets filled with his children, who are fed, clothed and schooled by the labor of his followers.
I spent half an hour with him in his inner sanc-tuary, but it was a mere show, like going to see any other monstrosity. Some half a dozen others were with me, including Mrs. M., and the Prophet was courteous but reticent. He did not know who we might be, and his never failing sagacity made him self-poised and diplomatic in an eminent degree.— He most adroitly warded off several neat strategic movements to get an insight of Mormonism, and kept the party to glittering generalities with mas-terly skill. Whenever the conversation became un-pleasant for him, he would turn to Mrs. M. and address her with great elegance and fluency on common place topics. I had a seat beside his old-est son, who was not so prudent as the father, and had his views of true Mormanism. "Religion," and he, "without plurality of wives in the Lord, the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out," and he gave me a patronizing look as if he pitied my un-belief. I did not venture on a discussion, as we had merely called to see the lions, and could not, in a general conversation, learn much worth know-ing. Around the house, or rather houses, of Mr. Young, there were a score of children, from three to ten years of age, most of them girls, with dif-ferent mothers, but all owning Brigham as father. He has some twenty wives who are named to him in the flesh, and perhaps twice as many who are sealed to him merely to become his spiritual wives in heaven. I need not say that these, as a class are long neglected spinsters and unsightly widows, who have failed to gain a union in the flesh. I saw several of them stowed away in one corner of the theatre, and it was not difficult to determine why they were merely sealed as wives for the spirit land. I noticed that in no instance do the Prophet and Elders seal the young and beautiful daughters of the church as spiritual wives. Severe as they profess the cross to be, they accept them in the flesh, usually to the neglect and sorrow of their older partners. In the theatre were six of Brig-ham's wives in a row, the original wife occupying a comfortable rocking chair as the honored in Isra-el. She looks like at woman of intelligence and refinement, but rude furrows have been plowed in her face by ever visible grief. She lives in a cot-tage by herself, and seldom is favored with visits from her lord. The others are all woman beneath mediocrity, all more or loss faded, and none bear-ing the traces of early beauty. They are the so-bered and practically discarded mistresses of the Prophet, and have served their purpose, while oth-er and fairer faces usurp the favor they each in turn enjoy. They are relics of the past, and seem to have quietly resigned themselves to their fate.—And why should they not? Each one as she be-comes the favorite so-called wife, pushed others aside, and they accepted their degraded position with the full knowledge that the passions which were sated with their predecessors, would in time demand others to take their places. The favorite is, of course, the last wife, and while the venerable, unsightly spiritual wives were huddled in a corner in plainest garb, and those discarded in the flesh crowded each other in a row near the centre of the parquette, the richly gilded and curtained private box, and softly cushioned chair, held the last fair flower transplanted to the harem. She is still gay and festive, has a queenly step, sports her elegant opera glass and the best of ribbons and laces. She is the niece of the first wife, and like most babies in large families, is the spoiled child of the estab-lishment. Notwithstanding the holy sphere in which she moves, she occasionally combs the head of the Prophet with a three-legged stool, raises Hail Columbia in the very sanctuary of the holies, and smashes a chair over the piano to prove her devout affection to the sacred calling she has ac- cepted. So revolutionary has she been in spite of divine commands from the very oracles of heaven that she had to be "corralled" in a house by her-self, and there she rules in her boisterous, obstinate way, and makes the Prophet bow at her feet, in-stead of becoming the meek submissive wife the church demands of all on pain of eternal punish-ment.
According to the Mormon faith, woman have no status in heaven excepting such as is given them by their husbands and as they cannot be given in marriage there, it is of the importance to all woman to become wives. If they become the wife of a man who has many others, and sad crosses and tri-als result therefrom, they thus lay up for themselves bright crowns in heaven. In accordance with this belief, it is not uncommon for dying damsels to send for high officials in the church and be sealed to them before death, so as to gain a high seat with their spiritual husbands; and even the dead are sometimes married by proxy, near friends repre-senting them, to lift them up to a level with their spiritual lords in the future world. This doctrine is preached daily to the woman by men who claim and are believed, to be inspired by God, and as a rule is accepted religiously by the Mormon woman. Yet each one struggles to paint the pollution of her own domestic circle and prays that the bitter cup may pass from her. I hear of one man who mar-ried two wives together who has a peaceful house-hold, but no wife in all Utah has received another to divide or rather to usurp the love of her husband without consuming sorrows. They bow in submis-sion to it, but in spite of their religious infatua-tion, and the promise of a brighter crown above, their womanly instincts revolt at it, and they go in grief the remainder of their days.
I wished to learn of Mormonism from its vota-ries, and of polygamy from its advocates and vic-tims. I have met its advocates, a class confined to husbands, and heard the best defence of that pecu-liar feature of their faith; but its victims are not accessible to the stranger. I met a few Mormon ladies who are wives without presiding over a brothel, and the saddest shadow is brought to their faces by the slightest reference to the plurality of wives. One most intelligent and accomplished wife who with her husband professed the Mormon faith, and have increased in wordly prosperity thereby, advocated the claims of the Morman people to the generous support of the government with much earnestness. I was about to ask her whether she would be willing for her husband to bring another so-called wife into her house, but it would have been too cruel, and I was silent. It would have ended the conversation, and been regarded as a wanton indignity from a guest to a hostess.
I have seen one man who has five wives, a mother and two daughters; others who have brought to their homes children of fourteen years, and made them the reigning queens of their firesides, while their lawful wives, often with children older than their associates, or rather successors, bow in shame with broken hearts. Old men of sixty, dignitaries in the church, have half a dozen or more, from the aged partners of their youth, down to the latest fancy, always of the tenderest years and young girls are thus freely sacrificed by infatuated par-ents, to decrepid lecherous beasts, with the firm be-lief that it is a religious duty, and will be rewarded in heaven. After a careful observation of this po-lygamic people, I must accept the conviction that the leaders teach and practice it simply to gratify their unbridled licentiousness, and they deliberately blaspheme God and his holy precepts to maintain their polluting doctrines. Bear in mind that po-lygamy is not general among the Mormon people. Not over one-third of the married men have a plu-rality of wives, and they are, as a rule, the bishops, elders, councilors and other dignitaries, who handle the tithings and fatten on the toil of their misera-ble duties.
On Sunday I attended Mormon service in the tabernacle morning and evening, and heard four sermons. The high officials do not attend in the morning, and I was surprised at the low grade of faces almost uniformly presented. There were over 1000 women present, and there was scarcely a bright, intelligent, happy face among them. In the afternoon the elite of the church attended with others, the sacrament was administered (as it is every Sunday) and Brigham Young preached. There were 1500 women present, and among them were very many bright, pretty faces, with lustrous eyes, rosy cheeks and pouting lips that might tempt even a Gentile kiss. The choir looked like a country May party—filled with pretty girls, with jaunty hats and feathers, and all most tastefully clad. A crazy cockney opened the service by a rambling harangue, demanding equal division of property and wives, and cautioning, with peculiar fervor, the "ewes and lambs" of the church against Gentile unions. Brigham sat behind him, and wearied of his erratic doctrines. He first tried to stop it by crying out "amen" at an appropriate moment, but the inspired minister rushed on. Fi-nally Brigham's patience was exhausted, and he seized the cockney by the coat tail and jerked him down, when the Prophet ascended the sacred desk and spoke an hour with rare adroitness and perfect fluency. He at once took issue with the man who had preceded him, and declared against an equal division of property. "Equalize to-morrow," said he, "and how long will it remain equal? Not a month, not a week, not an hour. It is folly to talk about it. Not one in forty of you can take care of yourselves, and you must be dictated to by some one who has experience in temporal matters, and is inspired on spiritual matters." After he had shown them that they could not manage their own affairs, he declared that he was their leader, by divine appointment; he would dictate to them and they must obey. He appealed to the women to be true to the faith, and proclaimed it as the will, even the command of the Lord, received di-rectly from Him, that they must not trade with Gentiles or apostates, who refuse to give tithings to the church. His arrogance, profanity, and fre-quent assumption of omnipotent power were shock-ing, but a careful survey of the people clearly de-monstrated that he spoke with much worldly wis-dom to maintain the infatuation and abject sub mission of his people. After which Sunday was devoted to recreation, and the delightful gardens of Salt Lake were filled with pleasure parties.
How long is this indelible blot on the American name to last? It is in open violation of law, and yet the law seems powerless to vindicate its majesty. Congress has enacted that this monstrous crime must cease to pollute the fairest homes of the far west—why does it not enforce its own solemn law? It needs but one season of stern justice to scatter it to the winds and drive the bloated imposters from their sore oppression of a deluded people, and morality and public decency demand that it be speedily done. A. K. M.
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