A Talk With an ex-Elder of the Latter Day Saints—The Iniquities of Brigham Young—Religious Belief of the Mormons.
From the Cleveland (Ohio) Herald.
W. J. Coggswell, a gentleman of about forty-five years of age, who has spent the greatest part of his life on the stage, and has frequently visited this city as a mem-ber of some traveling combination or other, such as Mrs. Gen. Lander's, Len Grover's, etc., is now the guest, for his summer vacation, of Col. Elmer Warner, who makes the residence of Mrs. H. La-zier, of Liberty-street, Brooklyn, his home. Mr. Coggswell, for some reason or other, was induced about thirteen years ago to forsake his profession, and, in com-pany with his sister and brother-in-law, joined the mormon church at Salt Lake city. He remained a member up to 1874, when, seeing the iniquities practiced by its most honored members and its very head, Brigham Young, he used every means in his power to escape, which he succeeded in doing four years after he be-came a member.
"I really don't know to this day," said Mr. Coggswell to a Herald reporter yes-terday, "what induced me to join that cut-throat gang. At first I felt satisfied; but when I was elected as elder of one of the wards in Salt Lake City, and was ad-mitted into the secret council, I began to see the iniquities practiced there and shuddered at the thought of lending my aid, of being cognizant of the terribly outrageous deeds practiced there, and powerless to prevent them."
“How do you account for the large number of converts to the mormon faith?" asked the reporter.
“They are continually sending mis-sionaries to every portion of the habitable globe. I might say right here that I have seen mormons recruited from the people of England, Scotland and Wales, but I don't think I ever saw one from Ireland. But to continue: These missionaries preach to them the doctrine of mormon-ism, omitting, of course, all ref-erence to polygamy. They, of course, visit the down-trodden, low and ignorant European classes who have been enslaved, you might say, all their lives, promise them property, farms, and hold out the inducement of living under their own fig trees, and all that sort of thing, and these people are so anxious to lead better lives that they grasp at almost any thing, and the result is that they emigrate to America, their fare being paid out of what is known as the emigration fund of Utah. At Castle Garden these people are manipulated by a man named Stearns, the agent of the church, who ships them to Utah. Upon arrival in the land of the saints; they sell them a few acres of land which originally cost them $1 per acre for about $15 an acre, and give them a number of years to pay for it. The head of the family goes to work, tills the soil, digs away—he generally has a wife and a large family depending upon him for support—but he can never get ahead or succeed in paying for his land."
“How do you explain that?"
"In the first place, one-tenth of every-thing he owns in the way of property must go to to the church, and is known as tithing money. The heads of the church have their eyes upon him through the bishops of the different districts throughout the territory, and the very mo-ment that the heads of the church see that he has succeeded in making a num-ber of payments and is going out of debt, the order comes from Salt Lake City that brother so-and-so must take another wife. Should he refuse he would be forever damned. In that manner they crowd him with wives and children, weave the meshes around him to such an extent that he will never leave the church, even if he hates it from the bottom of his heart."
"Should they become tired of it, are they allowed to leave the territory?"
"Not by any means. Only six years ago it was worth as much as your life to escape from their clutches, especially if a man had been behind the curtain; that is, in secret session with the elders."
"In what does the mormon religion dif-fer from that of ordinary Christians?
"They believe in the bible all the way through, from beginning to end, and further affirm that Joseph Smith was a prophet, who appeared in the world for the purpose of populating it in its last days with saints or God's chosen people, to prepare for the second coming of Christ. When he was killed, Brigham Young took his place. Since the death of Young, John Taylor has occupied the position at the head of the church, but he has not been pronounced prophet as yet. The mormons in Utah believe that in course of time they will govern the world. They will first occupy all of the United States and dispense law, counsel and religion from the throne at Salt Lake. They are instilled with an undying hatred to the government of the United States. They are educated in living just inside the laws; they don't recognize the government in their hearts or actions, but being in the territory of the United States they are obliged to behave, so that the law cannot touch them. This rancorous, bitter feeling is intensified and transmitted from generation to genera-tion. They are as busy as bees, while the United States is actually sleeping over this important question. The Indians are all with the mormons. While I was there I assisted in baptizing 300 Piute In-dians, and I can say, without fear of con-tradiction, that the mormon church, in case of necessity, can command an army of 100,000 armed and drilled men at almost a moment's notice. When Brigham Young was confined in jail for only four hours, such a howl was raised that the United States government was compelled to liberate him on short notice. Had they kept him over night, the torches were all distributed and ready to convert Salt Lake City into an ash-pile, and I know that the massacre of between 6,000 and 10,000 gentiles would have followed the conflagration. If the government at this day should send an army fully equipped, they could not enter the city with any force they might bring against it."
"How are the religious services in the tabernacle conducted?"
"The head of the church announces that brother so-and-so will preach today, and the preaching generally consists of a mixture of domestic, religious and politi-cal matter, and to an outsider sounds very much like a business session."
"Have women any rights there?"
"Women have nothing to say, nor the men either for that matter. When the head of the church opens his mouth they must obey. He holds them in submission, under the fear of God's wrath, all, mind you, under the cloak of religion. The president and his three counselors are at the head of everything; below them is the council of seven; then comes the council of seventy; then the council of ninety, composed of the elders, who are distributed in the different wards and dis-tricts. If the president and his three counselors promulgate an idea, the re-maining counselors will invariable agree with them; but that sort of thing looks more honest to the common crowd, and it is done for the purpose of closing their eyes to the real state of affairs. One pe-culiar thing I noticed among the mor-mons, that is, that one person can be bap-tized for his entire family, the person baptized believing that it will lift the people he is being baptized for one step higher into the kingdom of God. The ceremony is very simple, and requires nothing but a simple ducking in cold wa-ter."
"What disgusted you first with the mormon church?"
"I was disgusted with it shortly after I entered it, but what capped the climax was when the bishop of Ogden fell in love with my married sister, and with a stroke of the pen undid the civil mar-riage recognized by the authorities of the United States. He declared my sister di-vorced, and married her as his fifth wife. My brother-in-law was obliged to suc-cumb—the bishop said so, God's repre-sentative on earth, you know. He re-mained in Salt Lake for a while, but the separation from his wife killed him, for he died soon afterward. Shortly after his death I began to air my views in public, and they suspected that I would make an attempt to escape, so Brigham Young's son Joseph called upon me and asked me whether I was discontented with my lot. I told him that the af-fair concerning my sister made me tired of their religion, and he left dissatisfied. Next came a visiting committee of six. They had a long talk with me, and said that as an officer of the church I express-ed myself too freely, and from their warn-ing I gathered that if I wanted to leave them I must do so as soon as possible. Next day a wagon drove up to my gate, I jumped aboard, reached a railway sta-tion outside the city limits, boarded the train and left for San Francisco. I re-ceived a great many letters of warning while there to desist from giving vent to my opinion in public. I met a mormon at Sacramento who gave me to under-stand that if I valued my life any I should leave that part of the country at once."
"Did Danites ever make an attempt upon your life?"
In Chicago, I was followed after mid-night by two men into a dark street. I had been talking pretty loud that day about mormonism, and something pecul-iar in their manner and walk warned me that they were after my life. I whisper-ed my suspicions to my friend; we at once drew our revolvers, turned and faced them, compelling the Danites to beat a hasty retreat. At a Louisville hotel one evening I had a conversation with a man who, I afterwards learned, was a mormon elder. He looked at me in a peculiar sort of a way, and just at that moment I discovered that his face was familiar to me, but could not place him. He called me out doors, and the moment we stepped onto the sidewalk he turned as quick as a flash and made an attempt upon my life. I freed myself and escaped into the saloon."
"Are the Danites still in existence?"
"The name of Danites is extinct, and they are now known as the Nauvoo legion, which is really the nucleus of the mor-mon army. They drill almost daily in the tabernacle, and are a splendid lot of sol-diers."
"How are these mormon murders com-mitted?"
"When the head of the church pro nounces the death sentence of a man, he is called to the door of his house and shot down; or if he makes an attempt to leave the city, he is killed on the roadway. This is called the blood of atonement; it is part of the mormon belief, and a few years ago it was practiced quite exten-sively."
“How do the Kirtland mormons differ from those of Utah?"
"The Kirtland mormons do not recog-nize those of Utah. They believe in the prophet, in the promulgations of Joe Smith, but respect the laws of the United States. They claim to be the original branch of Nauvoo, and abhor polygamy, which was introduced by the Salt Lake branch. I respect the Kirtland people because they disown the thieves and murderers of Utah. All their iniquities in Utah are kept under cover. When the strangers first go there they are only shown the bright side of everything, and are generally there a number of years be-fore they are well acquainted with all the inns and outs of mormonism. There has not been a law enacted as yet sufficiently stringent to keep these people in check. The government does not know that they are growing more powerful every day, and sooner than surrender, they will de-stroy the cities, pillage and murder all the gentiles within their reach."
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