THE MECCA OF MORMONISM.
BY REV. DWIGHT SPENCER, OF UTAH.
Salt Lake City is the rallying-point of Mormonism. What Mecca was to the de- voted followers of Mohammed, Salt Lake City is to the disciples of Joseph Smith. Here the semi-annual conferences are held, and during these seasons the city swarms with strangers from all parts of the Territory. The spring conference, which has just closed, has been one of un- usual interest. The plain language of President Garfield upon polygamy, together with the general tone of the religious and political press upon the same subject, have opened the eyes of the leaders of the Mor- mon Church to the dangers that threaten them. Perhaps I can not better give the readers of the JOURNAL AND MESSENGER an idea of the make-up of this assemblage of the Latter Day Saints than by taking them with me, and letting them see it as it ap- peared to me.
Salt Lake City.
And first we will look at the city where the conference is held. Great Salt Lake, from which the city takes its name, ex-tends north and south about seventy-five miles, and in its widest part has a breadth of forty miles. It is situated in a valley which has evidently been scooped out of the Wasatch Mountains, and has an alti- tude of more than four thousand feet above the ocean level. Its waters are so salt that nothing can live in them, and its shores in some places are literally incrust- ed with rock salt. If a stick or twig comes in contact with the water, the salt at once begins to crystallize upon it, and in a little while you have a cluster of crys- tals so pure as to be almost transparent. This body of water bounds the city on the west, while to the east the Wasatch Moun-tains lift their snow-clad peaks from five to six thousand feet above the level of the lake. Imagine a level plateau of land laid out in blocks of forty rods square, with streets running toward the four points of the compass, and you have the ground plan of Salt Lake City. The streets are well shaded by the box, elder and willow, and the large gardens and yards abound with fruit trees. All the streets have irrigat-ing ditches, so that wherever you walk, you hear the ripple of running water, and in the summer this is not only pleasing to the ear, but, acting upon the imagination, gives one a feeling of coolness and com-fort.
The Temple Block.
The city has many fine buildings, but to the visitor the chief interest centers in the Temple Block. The streets all num- ber from this—those running east and west being numbered first, second and third South Temple, on the one side, while those on the other side take the name of North Temple, and are numbered in the same manner. Then the streets running at right angles with these number east and west from Main Street, which is the principal business street of the city. And now, keeping in mind that this is confer- ence time, and that we reach the city at twelve o'clock of the second day, we will take a look at the celebrated Temple Block. The streets that bound it are filled with teams hitched up, teams unhitched, foot people hurrying to their homes, foot people chatting with their friends, and people sitting upon the curbstone prepar- ing to take a lunch in real primitive style. Here you meet with people from almost every nation under heaven. Now you pass a company of good-natured Germans, telling each other the news from father-land; now you meet a family of serious-looking Swedes, and now a thoughtful Norwegian. The Englishman you know by his self-satisfied air, the Scotchman by his straightforward, business-like look, and the Welshman by the large number of con-sonants that characterize his speech.
And now, while the people are at din- ner, we will look at the buildings; and first the Temple itself. This was com- menced more than twenty years ago and it is not half completed yet. It is built of granite which is quarried out of the mountains about twenty miles from the city. It is very elaborate in its design, and if ever completed will be an imposing structure. According to the report read to the conference, it has already cost over a million and a half of dollars, and wheth- er another million and a half can be raised for its completion seems somewhat doubt- ful. This building is designed exclusive- ly for the secret rites of the Mormon Church, and no Gentile foot will ever be allowed to tread its sacred courts. An- other noted building is the Assembly Room. This is also built of granite, and is used for business meetings, and for reg- ular Sabbath services in the winter, when (the Tabernacle can not be used, as there is no way of heating it. Then there is the somewhat palatial residence of Brigham Young, the Endowment House, the various tithing houses, the church printing-house, book-store, etc. Now we will take a look at the Tabernacle. This has the appear- ance of an immense arched roof set upon stone piers. These piers are about twen- ty feet in height, and eight feet apart, the lower part of the spaces between them be- ing filled in with doors, and the upper part with windows. The building is oval in form, having an extreme length of 350 feet by 250 feet in breadth. Devout Mor- mons tell us that the plan was handed down from heaven to Brigham Young, and the fact that nothing like it was ever seen on earth would seem to support the state- ment. Bu twhile we have been looking at this strange structure, the people have been pouring into it from all quarters, and we will now step inside. The first impres- sion is one of vastness; and such a crowd of people! Think of it, twelve or thirteen thousand people in one building! Not only is the main floor all occupied, but the broad gallery (which extends clear around the building save a space at the east end) as well. This space at the east end is oc- cupied by theorgan, of which the Mor- mons are very proud. They tell us that it was all built in Salt Lake City, and that no Gentile assisted in the work. It has fifty stops, three banks of keys, and is really a grand instrument. Immediately in front of the organ are the musicians, and these are flanked on either side by singers, of whom I counted sixty. Among the musicians I noticed one that played a double bass viol, two violinists, two clar- ionet players and one cornet. In front of the musicians is a seat with a kind of pul- pit or reading-desk in itscenter. This is occupied by President John Taylor, the highest dignitary in the Mormon Church, and his Council. In front of this, and a little lower, is another seat just like the first, which is occupied by the twelve apos- tles. In front of this, and still lower, is another, occupied by the bishops. Then comes the last of these seats, which is only a little above the main floor, and this is occupied by the Presidents of Quorums of Seventies. The Mormon Church is re- markable for the number of its officers. Including apostles, bishops, seventies,high priests, priests, patriarchs and presidents, about one- half of its male members are in office.
And first the fact that it is made up of people of widely differ- ing nations impresses us. From the pale-faced Scandinavian of the East to the swarthy Indian of the West, almost every type of character and com- plexion is represented. Then it is evident that it is made up of working people, and as the services go on we shall become con- vinced that they are very earnest and sin- cere. But they are not an intelligent peo- ple. Studying their heads, we notice that they are largest behind the ears. Then we are impressed with the number of babies present, and but little effort appeared to be made to keep them still. All through the service there was a concert of screams, ranging from the angry yell to the plaint- ive moan, which seemed to say: "Please put me in my little bed." All styles of dress are seen. Some of the men are tol- erably well dressed; some are in their working clothes, and some in their shirt- sleeves. Here you will see women with dainty bits of hats stuck right on the tops of their heads, women with hats that turn up in front, hats that turn up behind, hats that turn up on one side, and hats that turn down all around like an inverted milk-pan.
In point of power President Taylor un- questionably holds the chief place. I heard him speak upon the corrupting influence of the Gentile population. He handled Government officials, visitors, teachers and missionaries without mercy. I was so in- terested in the way he warmed up and glowed over his subject, in his masterly use of invectives, and in the native elo- quence he exhibited, that I never once thought of being hit. Next to him in point of talent is George Q. Cannon. He is the most finished speaker. I heard him speak on education and could take no exception to what he said. Apostle Erastus Snow resembles in his style some of the earlier Mormons. Speaking of Mormons who were too much in the company of Gentiles, he said that "there were some folks who were never happy only when they were getting themselves into trouble and acting like the devil." Then speaking of the charge made by the Gentiles that Mormons did not dare to vote contrary to what their priests told them, he inquired: "How can they, if the priests tell them to vote for their friends? They would be devilish fools to vote for their enemies." Brigham Young, Jr., de- livered a kind of Jeremiade on the divis- ions existing in the church, and warned his brethren that if they did not come to- gether, the Lord would visit them in judg- ment and drive them together. There were several other speakers of lesser note. All appeared to speak without previous prep- aration. When one speaker had said his amen, President Taylor would go and speak to another and he would at once take his position behind the pulpit and begin. Excepting John Taylor and Geo. Q. Cannon, the men sitting upon the four elevated seats were very common- looking men, and at almost any time during the service you could see apostles and bish- ops fast asleep. In conclusion, I would say that after being in their meetings three days, I made up my mind that whoever thought that Mormonism could be put down by a resolution or proclamation had made a grand mistake.
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