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1905_02_04--013_SP [The Mormon System]

THE SATURDAY EVENING POST 1.3 DRAWN 1. 4AMES PRESTON A C©m Bela een Oockalikm a ncol Xofing-aitock Company Ho Co WitLILJAMS MORMONISM comprises a system of religion, a system of ethics and a system of politics so closely interwoven that there can be no clear conception of the workings of the institution without a consideration of all its parts. During the generation of practical isolation between the exodus in 1848 and the build- ing of the Union Pacific Railroad the crude religious con- cepts of Joseph Smith had been developed into a creed consisting of elements borrowed from every religion, and some ingredients that have no genesis save the cataleptic or hys- terical visions of Smith and the Prophets who succeeded him. Into this heterogeneous mass of phantasy the practical genius of Brigham Young injected a system of ethics, moral and political; a system that was exactly adapted to the abnormal and difficult nature of the problem that confronted a poverty-stricken people in the midst of the inhospitable deserts of the Utah of 1848. It was a strange mixture of the spirit of adventure and religious fervor that led this people across the arid deserts that reached a thousand miles from the Missouri River to the Great Salt Lake. Chicago was then merely a growing town. The border States of Kansas, Iowa and Minnesota were only in the beginnings of settlement. Viewed with an inverse perspective, it seems no idle dream of the daring leader to carry a chosen people through the wilderness, into the land of promise, there to found an empire dedicated to the Lord, and to be administered by His vicegerents, the Prophets. But an empire demanded a population, and the adoption of a polygamous code would supply this ad libitum. It was supplied by Brigham Young and his lieutenants with an ingenuity that included every subjective emotion of the human mind, and nowhere, save perhaps by the Egyptian priesthood, has more effort been applied in systematizing superstition than is displayed in the details of the Mormon creed. Looking forward from the vantage of 1848 it would seem that a century must elapse before civilization could overtake these sojourners, secure in the isolation of the easily-defended mountain fastnesses, and that the peculiar system by that time would develop the imperial dream. But the gold hunters had begun to trouble the system in a decade, and in less than thirty years the locomotives of the Union Pacific were screaming in the city of the Saints. The Gentile invasion which immediately followed destroyed the isolation, and then the conflict of two systems, in complete antagonism, had begun —a conflict that apparently ended polygamy in 1892, and changed the dream of imperialism through the powers of an autonomous theocracy to a conspiracy for political control through the quasi autonomy which the American Constitution confers upon an American state. That the Mormon system must be political was the first condition enforced upon it when it left the confines of organized society in 1848, .I.nd that it must be hierarchical followed because the religious code, and the Prophets who were assumed to be inspired by the will of the Almighty, were the only forces that the rank and file would obey. Religious fervor generally conceded a willing obedience, but this was supplemented with the sternest discipline. Brigham Young to the end of his days remained autocrat, and his successors have fully maintained his pretensions. In theory the constitution of the Church is democratic. At the general conferences the selection of officials, from the First President down, originally made by appointment, is ratified by a popular vote, and the same process includes their acts, and on its face it looks perfectly fair. But throughout the whole of this democratic fabric run the fine wires of autocratic control, and this control is the infallibility of the priesthood and the assumption by the chief priest or Prophet that his acts and words are inspired by the Almighty. To deny this, or to act contrary to such inspired advice, is the great heresy, to be followed by excommunication, or such punishment as the priesthood is able to inflict. In the old days preceding the " Gentile invasion " the punishments were severe, and in a few instances capital. Now they consist of ostracism, and boycotting in business and political life. This control reaches down into the smallest precinct and into every Mormon household. The Prophet and the apostolic board hold the presidents of the stakes to JOSEPH F. SMITH, HEAD OF THE MORMON CHURCH strict accountability, the presidents of stakes hold the bishops of the wards, and the bishops hold the " teachers," while the latter go from house to house instructing the laity in its duties, religious, political or financial, according to the wishes of the apostolic board or the policy of the hour. As the assumption of inspiration is the cornerstone of the system, and belief in it is sincere in the minds of eighty per cent. of the Mormon population, democratic ideals and practice are reduced to nothingness, and assertions that Utah is governed by American political institutions are mere sham. As the doctrine of inspiration is the crux of the system, the following excerpts from the highest church authorities are given. They present the assumption from its objective and subjective sides, and could be indefinitely multiplied : Men who hold the priesthood possess Divine authority to act for God . . . Men who honor the priesthood honor God, and those who reject it reject God.—New Witnesses for God, by B. H. Roberts. All other authorities or offices in the Church are appendages to this priesthood.—Book of Doctrine and Covenants. The priesthood gives them the right to advise and instruct the saints, and their jurisdiction extends over all things, spiritual and temporal.—Sermon by Doctor Gowans, May, 1898. The Lord has not given the members of the Church the right to find fault with or condemn those who hold priesthood. —Apostle George Q. Cannon. The priesthood has the legitimate rule of God, whether in Heaven or on the earth, and is the only legitimate power that has the right to rule on earth. —Apostle John Taylor. The question with me is . . . when I get the word of the Lord as to who is the right man (to vote for) will I obey it, no matter whether it does come contrary to my convictions ?—President Joseph Smith. If a man should offer me a bribe to vote for him I should be inclined not to vote for him unless directed to do so by the Prophet of the Lord.— Apostle Brigham Young. These are not merely the theoretical assumptions of a creed, but are statements of the forces that govern Utah to-day, and in contiguous States where Mormons exist in any considerable numbers. The question of polygamy was socially and morally offensive to the ,country, but the political results of such concepts have been to reduce Utah and Idaho jo a shambles. They are a menace to American institutions because they are completely subversive; and because they are firmly rooted in the mental habit of the Mormon popufation, and are applied behind the powers the Constitution has conferred, they constitute a problem of the utmost difficulty. The hold of the hierarchy upon the laity extends beyond the conscience, into the pocket of every member, by a form of tax, called tithing, which at present produces about $2,000,000 annually. This tax is in the absolute control of the Prophet as trustee-in-trust. It is invested in all sorts of industrial and commercial enterprises, and its visible result is a series of large fortunes accumulated by the members of the hierarchy, which, in spite of the delusion of popular ratification, is a self-appointing and self-perpetuating institution.


1905_02_04--013_SP [The Mormon System]
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