UTAH AND THE MORMONS. The history, govern-ment, doctrines, customs, and prospects of the Latter-day Saints. From personal observation during a six months residence at Great Salt Lake city. By BENJAMIN G. FERRIS, late Secre-tary of the Utah Territory.
In a late number of the Westminster Review there appeared an examination of the rise, history and achievments of Mormonism. It struck us as somewhat singular that the writer of that able review betrayed great ignorance of the history of hallucina-tions, for had he been familiar with that subject, he would not have found the success of Mormonism quite as remarkable as he thinks it. The failure of Joe Smith would have been a marvel. But the lead-ing heresy of the reviewer, according to our judg-ment, was in a curious conclusion he drew from a full survey of Mormonism. He concluded that inas-much as that illusion or imposture had drawn off vast numbers from the various sects of Christianity, that the evidence was conclusive that men were be-coming tired of the old fogyisms of religion and were ready to hail with delight a new transfusion of younger vitalities into the old decaying carcase. The idea was a singular one—the foundation upon which it undertook to rest was yet more singular. There can be no useful vitality in falsehood, for its very na-ture is perishable, and strange must be the halluci-nation that would undertake to compare the paths of christianity with those of Mormonism, and despairing, indeed, must be the sentiment that can hope for any good in such a stupendous falsehood as Mormonism. The fact that Joanna Southcoate, Ann Lee and hosts of such characters who have sprung upon the world as revealers of the will of God, have been able to draw off numbers from the apostacies of christianity is not an evidence of the weakness of christianity, but purely a proof that the mind which admits one imposture may find room for another. There are classes of minds which cannot be filled with impos-tures—the more they receive the more they will hold. The revelations of "the spiritual wife system".—of Joe Smith, at Nauvoo, are in point. The death of "the prophet" was the closing link in a chain of dis-turbances growing out of Smith's revalations on "the spiritual wife system." Higbee, who began the diffi-culty, did so not because there was too much of im-posture in the initial stages, but because he wanted a great deal more of it. And from the time that Joe commenced his "revelations" down to Brigham Young's latest manifestations, the Mormon dupes show that so far from absurdities being objectional to them, they are the aliment upon which they live.
Now it is passing strange that any one should un-dertake for a moment to hint that there was any conceivable relation between the progress of early Christianity and of Mormonism. We select but one point of distinction, which is perfectly decisive. Christianity commenced its ministrations amidst the powers of a most intolerant theocracy, which was armed not only with the power, but the disposition to persecute to the death all who might incline to the new system. The promulgators of the new ideas were perfectly certain that so far as this world is concerned, they would be utterly ruined, so that the chief among them declared that "if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most miserable." There is not to be found in Egyptian, Greek, Roman, or Hebrew morals, anything to be compared to that system taught by the commis-sioned Apostles, and in all that they taught they never claimed any peculiar earthly benefit for themselves. The Apostle Paul labored with his own hands at tent making, rather than accept anything from the hands of those who had been blessed by his ministrations. In plain terms, a set of ignorant Gallilee fishermen, at some time in the history of this world, built up the purest system of morals that is known. Previous to their proclamation of this system, nothing like it was known; even the intellect of Greece had not fathomed its depths. And in the nineteenth century of the existence of that system, the world has made no improvement upon it. If from imposture and charlatanism, which could hope for nothing but earthly misery for proclaiming these things, such a system of ineffable purity and perfectness could spring so infinitely in advance of all previous knowl-edge, is there a recorded miracle that can compete with that? Is there one change of the order of na-ture, recorded as miraculous, that could transcend that, i the christian system of morals originated from imposture? If it did not come from him who "anciently spake to the father; by the prophets, but in these latter days by a son whom he constituted heir to all things, through whom also he made the worlds: Who being an effulgence of his glory, and an exact image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power," pray tell us of a method by which it did come, that is less miraculous than that claimed for it.
If Joe Smith is tested by these criteria he sinks below the most vulgar of imposters. Cagliostro was wisdom compared with Joe. He was the author of a system of delusion which ministered to his earthly wants, by which he created wealth for his own use, without, labor on his part; by which he luxuriated in sensuality, in robberies, murders, adulteries, coun-terfeiting, and every vice and sin known to morals or laws. He who wishes to stand firm in the truths of Christianity should read the History of Mormonism, by Mr. Ferris. It is one of the most complete expo-sitions that, we have seen, and is made from docu-ments furnished by the Mormons themselves. To those who know the philosophy of hallucinations there can be no mystery in the rise and spread of Mormonism, and it is a subject of interesting study.
The reader may be interested in Joe's travails with the polygamy revelation. We quote from the histo-ry before us:
The prophet was aware that he was entering upon a ticklish experiment even with his own disciples, to say nothing of the Gentiles; and he prefaced its recep-tion by pretending to be in great trouble. He told some of his most influential followers that if they knew what a hard and unpalatable revelation he had had, they would drive him from the city. The heavenly powers, however, were not to be trifled with, and a day was appointed when the important mandate was to be submitted to a convocation of the authorities of the church. The time arrived; the priests and elders convened; but Joseph, in virtuous desperation, con-cluded rather to flee the city than be the medium of communicating a matter so repugnant to his mind. He mounted his horse and galloped from the town, but was met by an angel with a drawn sword, and threatened with instant destruction unless he imme-diately returned and fulfilled his mission. He returned accordingly, in submissive despair, and made the important communication to the assembled notables Such is substantially the account of the matter given by simple minded believers at Salt Lake.
Of the plucking system we present the following examples:
"I stand before you to address you on one of the most important acts of life that tends to salvation. Pay your tithing. Yes, from this day, and from this place, let every elder of Israel carry this glad tidings with the gospel of repentance, that all that pay their tithing shall not be burned, if they obey the ordi-nances of the Lord. Let every elder, as soon as a convert to the truth of Jehovah is washed from his sins, teach this standing law." Here he quotes the above revelation, and then proceeds thus: "This is plain language; all the 'surplus property' of a saint belongs to the Lord, or, in other words, to the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints. Then; if an elder baptizes a person worth $10,000, and he only needs $5000 to bring him and his family to the valley, and situate himself with a house and farm, and the neces-sary appendages to obtain his living, $5000 is the amount of his surplus property to be consecrated to the work of the Lord, so with the man worth $100,-000, that needs only $10,000 for himself, $90,000 belongs to the Lord, or to the church for the public works, as directed by the presidency. What next? In the first case of the $5000 for individual benefit, that comes under the head of 'Interest' to be tithed annually, and actually means my portion, my part or lot, and is the 'increase.' Grain, hay, cattle, swine, stock of every description, poultry, fruit, yea, every-thing animal or vegetable, together with all the time not employed in producing these commodities, are to be tithed annually while the saints occupy the earth in the flesh. If he has no property, and is sound in body, then every tenth labor-day belongs to the Lord." (Deseret Almanac, 1852.)
The Great Salt Lake city is full of individual exam-ples of stripping geese. We borrow from Mr. Forris the following facts:
A woman by the name of Vienna Jaques—a square built, angular Yankee, claiming to be a lineal descen-dant of John Rogers, of Smithfleld memory—was a resident of the city of notions, when she was made a hopeless captive by one of the earliest Mormon mis-sionaries. She “gathered," as in duty bound, at Kirt-land, then one of Zion's stakes, with her little fortune consisting of about $1500 in ready money. The prophet Joseph was, of course, always in want of money; and, like the sink of Mary's River, which ab-sorbs the confluent waters, had a ready skill in ex-tracting from his followers both moieties of their goods and chattles. In due time, the treasures of sister Vi-enna were transferred to Joseph's coffers, and she be-came his creditor, and enjoyed the superior unction of becoming a resident of his family. He, however, tired of her presence, and unceremoniously got rid of her and the debt too by one of those celestial responses which never failed him in time of need. The divine rescript ran as follows:
"And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, it is my will that my handmaid, Vienna Jaques, should re-ceive money to bear her expenses, and go up unto the land of Zion; and the residue of the money may be consecrated to me, and she be rewarded in mine own due time. Verily I say unto you, that it is meet in mine eyes that she should go up unto the land of Zion, and receive an inheritance from the hand of the bishop, that she may settle down in peace, inasmuch as she is faithful, and not be idle in her days from thenceforth."—(Doctrines and Covenants, p. 332.)
Vienna, in obedince to this command, straightway gathered with the Saints in Missouri; and, as her health was good and her habits industrious, she managed to gain a livelihood. She has since followed the fortunes of the Saints in all their varying phases, and is now industriously earning her living as a nurse at Salt Lake City—proud that her means have been devoted to Joseph's use—doubly proud that she has been made the subject of a revelation from heaven, and ready to do vigorous battle with any one who ventures to intimate that the whole concern is a veri-table humbug.
The case of Captain R****l attracted some atten-tion in the winter and spring of 1853 This gentle-man had been a sea-captain, was a resident of one of the British North American provinces, and had amassed a large fortune. His mind being afloat on religious subjects, was excited with the idea that the last days were at hand, and that the latter-day Saints enjoyed open communication with heaven, through the medium of their prophet. So rich a galleon was a tempting prize for missionary privateering; and a few extra broadsides, in the shape of miracles, and other et eteera, reduced the gallant captain to sub-mission. Among the many inducements held out for his gathering with the Saints was, that a project was on foot to establish the business of manufacturing su-gar from the beet root, on a large scale, in the valley, which would furnish a favorable opportunity for the profitable investment of his capital. Seduced by these representations, he was induced to make heavy ad-vances for the purchase and transportation of sugar machinery, with the understanding that he was to have a joint-stock interest in the concern, in propor-tion to the amount invested. His advances are said to have amounted to over $20,000. He repaired to the valley in the fall of 1852, for the double purpose of gathering with the Saints, and looking after his in-terest in the sugar business. The machinery came, too, but was unceremoniously turned into the public works as the property of the Church; and the captain was given to understand that, instead of making him-self the member of a joint-stock company, he had only obeyed a law of tithing, which required an appropri-tion of his "surplus properties," This did not at first satisfy him, and it was generally understood that he would leave the valley in the spring in disgust; but as he had other "surplus properties," he was in some way prevented from going; whether by a revelation to suit his case, as in the instance of Sister Jaques, or how, has not been permitted to transpire.
With these specimens we must turn the reader who is desirous of knowing more of Mormonism over to the book of Mr. Ferris. He will find it full of au-thentic material and interesting details, and may learn from it how precious the Bible is which protects the faithful mind from such shocking impostures and de-gradation.
The work on Utah may be found at the book-store of Morton & Griswold.
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