THE UTAH REFORMERS.
To THE EDITOR OF THE INDEPENDENT :
YOUR issue of July 14th contains a com-munication from the Rev. Dr. Hatfield, of Chicago, representing his views of the con-dition of affairs in Utah, the inability of the reform party to effect the needed social and political changes, and urging the Gov-ernment to interfere and abolish the prac-tice of plural marriage.
I had the-pleasure of an interview with the Doctor when he was here; and he knows, as our writings and speeches also prove, that we condemn the abuses which exist here as much as he or any one else. But the great difficulty with most writers on Utah affairs is that they betray an en-tire want of sympathy for and a bitter an-tagonism to the people. They seem to re-gard them as inferior beings, hardly entitled to the commonest rights and cour-tesies of humanity; and, instead of seeking to conciliate them, so far as could be justly done, manifest an utter disregard for their feelings or prejudices. This has been the course pursued heretofore by nearly all who have dissented from the "Mormon" Church. They have gone away from the territory, and done all in their power to injure their former friends and associates. Is it any wonder that the hearts and ears of the latter are closed against such per-sons ? Is it a matter of surprise that super-stitions and wrongs are not corrected by such means? And would any person pos-sessing a correct understanding of and animated by a "pure Christianity" adopt such a course ?
THE CITIZENS OF UTAH A GOOD PEOPLE.
It is true that the people of Utah have fallen into great errors and deplorable su-perstitions ; but this is the very reason why greater patience, love, and tenderness should be exercised toward them, in order to lead them out of those errors and super-stitions.
The man who denounces the citizens of Utah as inherently wicked does not know the people. Their very apparent vices are the offspring of the excesses of certain abstract virtues. I have been in-timately associated with the "Latter-day Saints" for some sixteen years; and my testimony is that no body of people can be found who, as a whole, are more anx-ious to know and do the will of God, or who are more ready to make unlimited sacrifices for what they believe to be the truth. At the same time, I am, perfectly aware that there are many throughout the territory who feel that they would be doing God service to deprive me and my friends of life, and who would do so if they thought they could without injury to their own cause. DIFFICULTIES TO BE ENCOUNTERED.
It is a very easy matter for those at a distance to denounce the evils existing in Utah ; but it is a very different thing to stay here and assist in the correction of those evils. The latter is the position we occupy. We have a gigantic, wealthy, powerful organization to contend with; we have the traditions of ages to combat and the prejudices and superstitions of a whole people to overcome. Few in num-bers and almost destitute of means, we have commenced an unparalleled struggle with theocratic despotism and priestly ar-rogance, which would have seemed hope-less but for the Heaven bestowed assuran-ces of final success. "On this line we propose to fight it out," if it takes a lifetime. But it is unreasonable to expect that the superstitious outgrowths of nearly half a century can be demolished and dispelled in a day or a year. Time, patience, and persevering effort will be necessary.
THE LIBERAL CAUSE
in Utah is, however, making more rapid progress than any superficial observer or transient resident could suppose. Hun-dreds have rallied to its standard, and thousands sympathize with it who have not yet the moral courage to come out openly in its support or whose poverty still chains them to the car of despotism. But, as certainly as the morning light dis-pels the dark shades of night, and as sure-ly as truth will triumph over error, so surely are the foundations of religious superstition sapped, and ere long the whole superstructure will fall, never to rise again. The "Mormonism" of to-day may be perpetuated as a little sect; but as a power in the earth never, unless it be made so by persecution.
Many, both here and elsewhere, urge the interference of Government in the affairs of this territory. It would, of course, be an easy matter for the Govern-ment to destroy the people of Utah; but did any government or can any govern-ment, by the exercise of physical force, ever uproot superstition? The history and experience of all past ages answer, No; never, NEVER.
THE MARRIAGE QUESTION.
Dr. Hatfield is dissatisfied with the re-form party of Utah because "they have not renounced the worst and cunning abomination of Mormonism." Allow a few words on this point. The Church of Zion teaches that all marriages should be the result of pure affection on both sides, and that unions from any other motive are unholy. On this subject she declares:
"We are opposed to the doctrine that plural or any other kind of marriages is required of mankind by a commandment of God. In respect to the propriety of either single or plural marriage, we believe that every man and woman should be left to decide for themselves.
"Above all things, we strongly assert the necessity of the highest appreciation of woman, and of her highest develop-ment and culture, as the only basis of a true civilization."
If the principle or practice of plural marriage cannot stand upon this basis, we say, Let it fall. What we have been opposed to, what we have remonstrated and peti-tioned against, is the forcible separation of families, the punishing and thrusting into shame and suffering of innocent women and children for the presumed transgres-sions of their husbands and fathers. So far as the extension of this practice is concerned, we would, if we had the power, leave it to the ladies to decide, without the influence of priestly coercion and religious fanaticism on one side or of governmental penalties on the other; and, if they decided adverse-ly to it, we should like to see the men who could perpetuate it.
The Church of Zion also declares that "on the great question of civil rule we recognize the National Government as su-preme in its sphere. We, therefore, sus-tain obedience to law, seeking by constitu-tional means to change those which we consider opposed to civil or religious lib-erty."
What more can the nation ask ? What more has it a right to ask ? The Church of Zion declares that it recognizes and will sustain the supremacy of the Government, even though that Government enact and enforce laws which are opposed to its sense of right and justice. Whatever its mem-bers may believe on the subject of marriage, they pledge themselves by uniting with the Church of Zion (and not one has yet violated that pledge) to conform to the law of the land. Is not this sufficient to sat-isfy Dr. Hatfield, or must all people make their belief accord with his in order to be admitted within the circle of "patriotism" and "Christianity" ?
But it is a very different thing to ask a man to cast from him and to expose to all the temptations of a selfish and unfeeling world those women whom in good faith he has sworn to love and protect, and those children who are dearer to him than his own life. No honorable man would do it—no wise man; no just government would require it. There is no law in relation to this subject in God's wide world, either past, present, or prospective, that touches me; there is no woman I need blush to meet. But, had I, as some I know and esteem have, won the affec-tions of more than one woman, and pledged myself in the integrity of my soul to cherish that love and pro-tect its author, while I would not raise my hand against my country, I would lie and rot in its dungeons rather than con-sent to violate my honor or dissolve such sacred ties, unless by the deliberate wish of the parties most interested. Who can-not see that such a requirement would be as impolitic as unjust? It would bring suffering upon the innocent, inflict penal-ties upon some of the most faithful and patriotic citizens of the country, and let the unprincipled sensualist who would discard his wives go free. I will sustain any measure that I am convinced will se-cure increased freedom and protection to woman, whatever her social condition; but must oppose everything which tends to injure and degrade her.
"SKEPTICISM" AND "PURE CHRISTIANITY."
One more point, and I will close. Dr. Hatfield states that our "faces look toward skepticism, rather than in the direction of a pure Christianity."
Skepticism! This is a novel charge, in-deed, to bring against men who claim to be acting under the immediate direction of the immortal and holy ones of eternity—men whose present course, whose every hope and effort and aspiration is depend-ent upon and blended with the facts of a divinely-piritual philosophy, and who stand forth as the personal witnesses of a living Jesus and of a glorious immortality for all men. They have been denounced as impostors and ridiculed as fanatics; but it is something new to charge them with "skepticism." Skepticism, however, in the vocabulary of most men, means be-lieving more or less than they do. In this sense the Utah reformers are, doubtless, skeptics.
Again, if by "pure Christianity" the Reverend Doctor means a belief in the ne-cessity of the death of Christ in order to make salvation possible for man ; if "pure Christianity" consists in believing that God required the commission of the foulest murder that ever disgraced the annals of our globe in order to appease his revenge-ful wrath; and that Christianity would have had no existence without the cross and its bloody and cruel sacrifice, then are we no Christians. But, if there was any virtue in the life of Christ, any influence in his example, any power in his teach-ings; if there he any Christianity in rever-encing the memory of his life when on earth, in loving him as our friend and brother and benefactor in the realms of celestial life, in seeking to practice his pre-cepts and to drink into his spirit, then are we trying to be Christians. Whether is it more in accord with the spirit of "pure Christianity" to "pass by on the other side," and leave the poor victim of error's wounds to perish by the way, or to step and patiently labor for his restoration to purity and health ? When Utah shall have been redeemed from op-pression, rescued from misrule, and brought into harmony with the highest and purest sentiment of the age, then shall this nation answer the question for itself. Respectfully,
W. H. SHEARMAN.
SALT LAKE CITY, July 20th, 1870.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.