A VISIT TO THE MORMONS.
BY REV. J. C. HOLBROOK, D. D.
ON my return from a recent vacation trip to California, by the Pacific Railroad, I diverged from my course for a brief visit to Salt Lake City, where I learned some facts concerning that remarkable people, the Mormons, that I think will interest the readers of THE INDEPENDENT.
Religious imposture is no new thing under the sun. It always has existed in [......] worId, and always will until the day comes when the pure light of the Gospel of Christ shall shine upon and pervade all lands. It was foretold both by Christ and his Apostles that there should arise false prophets, who should deceive many; and the prediction has been abundantly ful-filled. But one of the most glaring and stupendous impostures of modem days is Mormonism.
It originated, as is generally known, with one Joseph Smith, in this state, who, we were publicly told by speakers in the Tabernacle, while at Salt Lake City, is venerated by the Latter Day Saints equally with Isaiah and the Old Testa-ment prophets and the Apostles of Chris-tianity. He professed to have found at Palmyra, Wayne County, N. Y., a set of brass plates, covered with inscriptions in an ancient tongue, which he translated, and which now constitute the Book of Mormon. They consist of a series of puerile Eastern romances, full of names, but without localities or dates, or anything to connect them with sober history.
The society— or, as he called it, the “Church of Latter Day Saints"— has had three migrations: one from Ohio to Mis-souri, thence to Illinois, and thence to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, where is now its grand center. There are said to be about 150,000 members of this so-called church; some 20,000 of whom are in the metropolis, ethers in various parts of the Territory of Utah and parts adjacent thereto, with some congregations in the Eastern States, in England, and a few on the Continent of Europe.
Salt Lake City is situated about twenty miles east of the southern extremity of the lake from which it derives its name, at the western base of a spur of the Wasatch Mountains, midway between Omaha and the Pacific, and contains about 25,000 inhabitants, of whom about one-fifth are Gentiles. It is reached by the Utah Central Railroad, a little over thirty miles in length, from Ogden on the Pacific Railroad. Its altitude is about 4,000 feet above tide-water, which, of course, gives it a mountain air and insures a considerable amount of snow and cold weather in winter. Snow is always vis-ible there upon the lofty peaks (10,000 to 14,000 feet) of the Wasatch range. It is the capital of Utah Territory, and the governor and secretary and United States judges reside there.
The impression made upon visitors by its appearance is very favorable. After having passed over the arid alkali plains west of Ogden, it is a great relief to enter upon the valley in which it lies, rendered green and fertile by abund-ant irrigation; and when the eye first catches sight of the city, with its houses embowered in fruit-trees, it seems an oasis in the desert, and one almost feels that it is Eden restored. The streets are broad, 132 feet, and the original lots upon them were ten acres square, while at immense expense water in abundance has been brought in from mountain streams at a considerable distance, and flows down in large rivulets in the gutters on each side, from which, under certain regulations, the inhabitants are permitted to draw supplies for the irrigation of their grounds. This is necessary because of the want of rain in the summer months.
A large proportion of the dwellings are low and inexpensive, and it is said that the number of a man's wives can be determined by the number of his chimneys, each separate apartment occupied by them sev-erally having one. There are some fine resi-dences, however; chief among which is the palatial one of President Brigham Young, or rather the cluster of dwellings in which his harem is kept. His grounds, which are very extensive, are enclosed by a high wall, the gables of the "Lion House" and the "Beehive House" being visible above It from the street.
The city hall is a fine structure, used also for a capitol, and cost about $70,000. There is also a large theater, and the found-ations are laid for a magnificent stone temple. The religious services of the Sab-bath day are held in the two large taber-nacles; in the forenoon in the old and smaller one, and in the afternoon in the new and more pretentious one. Both are oval shaped, having the organ and choir at one end and the raised circular seats for the president, bishops, and elders at the other. The women occupy the center seats, and abundance of room is reserved for strangers and visitors, to whose accom-modation great attention is paid. The new tabernacle is an immense structure—250 feet long, 150 wide, and ninety feet high from floor to ceiling, with galleries—and will accommodate 12,000 people. It has an organ said to be the third largest in the country. The vast roof is so con-structed as to need no posts for it’s support. It resembles an egg in shape, as seen from a distance.
The main street of the city, on which the chief business is transacted, has an appear-ance of stir and life; and the shops and stores are stores of them very respectable in size and well supplied with goods. Much of the business is, however, done on the co-operative principle, and you see every where inscribed over the doors: "Holiness to the Lord," "Co-operative Millinery," or "Co-operative Mercantile," or Coopera-tive Boot and Shoe," and other establish-ments.
The appearance of the people both in the streets and in the public assemblies is not favorable. True, you see but little evidence of abject poverty, or drunkenness, or other vices; but there is also little mani-festation of intelligence and Yankee "go- aheadativeness." The costume of the peo-ple generally is very cheap and plain, with little regard to fashion or taste. In short, there is a marked want of refinement, both in manners and general appearance. A large proportion are foreigners, and those originally of the lowest classes; many nationalities being represented. In-deed, it was the boast of the speakers that I heard on the Sabbath that the mass of the people had been taken from their low estate, in the mines, etc., of Europe, and brought hither to be bettered in their con-dition. And no doubt, multitudes have been thus benefited greatly. But the in-habitants of the city are quite in contrast in apparent intelligence, dress, and appear-ance generally with those of any place of the same size in the Eastern States.
The hotels of the place have been here-tofore very ordinary in their accommoda-tions and uninviting in appearance; but this season the Townshend House has been opened and is very comfortable. The charges, however, are enormous—four dol-lars per day and fifty cents each way for hack-fare to and from the railroad station. Mr. T., the proprietor, is a Mormon, and has three wives: one somewhat advanced and infirm; the second in middle age, vig-orous and energetic, has the charge of the house; while the third and younger lives in a cottage near by and takes charge of the child; so there is a division of labor and a private co-operative society!
It is a luxury, after several days' dusty railroad travel, to take a bath or plunge in warm sulphur-spring water at the estab-lishment just on the outskirts of the city. An immense stream of hot water, strongly impregnated, gushes out at the foot of the hill, which is conducted into the buildings. The water is soft and produces a delightful sensation, and has great me-dicinal properties. Rheumatic and neu-ralgic patients have had wonderful cures wrought upon them.
In another article I propose to speak of what we heard and saw in the tabernacles on Sunday, where we attended service twice and listened to five speakers—elders, bishops, and President Young himself. From these we gained much information as to the doctrines and system of Mormon-ism generally. For the information of some who may desire to know the facts, I will add that the railroad fare from Ogden to Salt Lake City is $2, and trains run night and morning, connecting with the Pacific Railroad.
HOMER, N. Y., August 15th, 1870.
Click tabs to swap between content that is broken into logical sections.