A Glance at the “Mormons,” Their Opponents and Would-Be Reformers!

By Elder Nephi Pratt

One of the strangest things connected with the history of the Latter-day Saints, is the fear which seems to inspire those who seek to oppose and persecute them. People who appear to have sound judgment in the discussion of every other subject, can scarcely talk or write about “Mormonism” without informing the world that something ought immediately to be done with the “Mormons;” that measures should at once be adopted for their suppression; that they are growing in numbers, wealth and power; that they are no longer confining themselves to Utah Territory, but are rapidly filling up the surrounding States and Territories, in which they are growing into a formidable power. Talmage, the great New York preacher, in a lecture against us some time since, filled with the most violent abuse, declared our increased by immigration and births to be something alarming, and solemnly warned the nation that if some measures were not resorted to for our destruction, that in the near future its safety would be jeopardized by us.

Every bigoted and infuriated savage who has sought to lash the nation into a rage against the Latter-day Saints, has raised this kind of a war-whoop, as though a great nation, numbering fifty millions, could possibly be endangered by a people, however treasonably inclined, so few in numbers, so obscure and unpopular as we are! Such driveling and idiotic ideas ought to entitle their possessors to the everlasting obscurity for which they are so eminently fitted. Why do they not argue that an elephant ought to be afraid of a mouse. This is no more absurd than the accusation is untrue that the “Mormons” are disloyal. In 1846-7, we fled from the inhuman butcheries of Christian mobocrats. Pillaged, robbed, homeless, friendless, unpitied, we wandered over the plains, braving the raging storms of winter, and enduring unsheltered, the parching heat of the summer sun. In sorrow and tears we had appealed to courts, to legislative bodies, to Congress, and, finally, to the President of the United States, for a redress of the terrible wrongs which had been inflicted upon us. Our prayers were unheeded, our despoilers unpunished, and we per force driven from homes bought with our money, beautified by our labor, and sanctified by the graves of our dead.

During our exodus under these aggravating circumstances, this government, whose chief magistrate had heartlessly answered one of our petitions with “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you,” solicited us for 500 men to fight the battles of our country against Mexico. We furnished them without a murmur. Was this an act of disloyalty? When the “Mormon” pioneers entered the valley of the great Salt Lake, their first act was to unfurl from a neighboring mountain peak the beloved emblem of our country’s glory—the grand old flag. They even took possession of this land, then in dispute between Mexico and the United States, in the name of their country. Did this appear like disloyalty? When we, in those early days, organized a provisional government, and knocked at the door of Congress for admission into the Union as a State, did it look like disloyalty? If we were disloyal, why did we during the war of the rebellion, at our country’s call, send companies of men to protect the mail route across the continent from Indian depredations? Why are we taught to revere our country next to our God? To look upon our flag as the emblem of liberty? To consider America as the asylum for the downtrodden and oppressed of all nations? Why, if we are disloyal, are we taught from infancy that the Constitution of our country was inspired of God? These are the teachings that the so-called “Mormons” give to their children.

One thing which we are always accused of, we plead guilty to—viz., the crime of increasing in numbers and in wealth. This is characteristic of the Latter-day Saints. They will persist in rearing large families of children, and in emigrating those who receive their faith from every land and from every clime. They seem to have so little regard for people who object to these things, like Mr. Talmage and other Pharisees, that they willfully and with malice aforethought neglect to consult the feelings of such people on these points, and so they continue to purchase land, either from the government or from those who have it to sell, to build homes and to beautify them by unceasing industry, thus turning barren wastes into fruitful fields.

The Latter-day Saints seem to think they have the right to life and the pursuit of happiness just like other people. The older people among them have been gathered out from the multitudinous sects of Christendom, educated in the traditions of various nations, having lived under as many forms of government as there are in the civilized world. Notwithstanding the great variety of traditions, and the antagonistic national prejudices and feelings natural to such a heterogeneous throng, the Gospel, vulgarly called “Mormonism,” has made them one. It has created a harmony among them such as never has existed among the so-called Christian sects. They have “one God, one faith, one baptism, and one hope of their calling.” This feeling of brotherhood predominates in their secular affairs. It enables them, as communities, to turn rivers from their natural courses into irrigation canals; to construct railroads; to erect temples, tabernacles and schoolhouses; to cultivate large tracts of land, and build cities in the midst of desolate, forbidding deserts, such as no other people would ever think of trying to redeem. By such union this Territory has been reclaimed from a desolation indescribable, to a condition of fruitfulness almost unequalled. These things have been accomplished without the aid of capital—by the combined labors of men who have received that spirit which enables them “to dwell together as brethren.” We have built up about 250 towns and cities. In them, with two or three exceptions, there are no gambling dens, no brothels, no traffic in shame. When this Territory was inhabited exclusively by “Mormon” people, such crimes as seduction, rape, adultery, profanity, drunkenness, etc., existed only in name. This unparalleled atmosphere of purity is the result of our religion, which not alone makes us one, but makes us pure.

Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah, contains 25,000 inhabitants, 4,000 of whom are non-“Mormons.” Statistics of courts and prisons prove tat these 4,000 non-“Mormons” furnish 75 per cent of the criminals of said city. The District Courts there are presided over by non-“Mormon” judges, appointed by the President of the United States. If any one imagines that these statistics are colored for use by the “Mormons,” they can verify the truth of them by referring to the records of these District courts, and to those of the Penitentiary, which is controlled by non-Mormon” United States Marshals.

Prostitution in Salt Lake and Ogden Cities is of recent importation. This and the crimes of gambling and drunkenness, as is invariably the case, were co-incident with the establishment of Christian churches and schools among us. These dens of infamy had a hard struggle for existence when first established. The indignation of the “Mormon” people knew no bounds. They were raided by the police time and time again, and their inmates brought before the tribunals of law. “Mormon” justices found ample law for the infliction of punishment, but all to no purpose. An appeal to a high-minded (?) anti-“Mormon” judge, whose pious hands were always lifted in holy horror at the mention of “Mormon” marriage, invariably resulted in setting free the harlot, pimp, paramour and rum-seller. Thus these infamous crimes have been fastened upon us, and that, to, by those who are ambitious to shine as regenerators and reformers of the Latter-day Saints.

Religious bigots, hireling priests, degraded journalists, frantic fanatics, designing thieves, unprincipled beggars in the Territory, who had nothing to lose and everything to gain by despoiling the “Mormons,” worked up a public opinion against us by lying and intrigue, until the Congress of our nation, urged on by an enraged public, passed an ex post facto law against us, the injustice of which has not been surpassed in two hundred years by the most despotic powers of Europe. This law punished people for committing the so-called crime of polygamy, twenty years before the law was made which defined it to be a crime. It politically enslaved people, without giving them a hearing before the tribunals of their country. It placed them in the hands of men who could and did deprive them of that most sacred right of freemen, the franchise, on mere suspicion; in short, this law in its operations upon thousands of our people was not alone a low, but acted to them as jury and executioner. Besides these, it provided for fines and imprisonment.

In the midst of all this the Latter-day Saints, unlike other people, calmly awaited a change of sentiment in the hearts of the people of our nation. They looked forward to their deliverance with the supreme courage and faith that has characterized them in all the hours of darkness and trouble through which they have passed. They implicitly trusted in that God who had never forsaken them. Their faith in Him was not misplaced. An election took place. A Delegate to the Congress was wanted. Our anti-“Mormon” despoilers were jubilant. Were not a part of the “Mormons” disfranchised! Were there not others who were tired of “Mormon” rule! And the “Mormon” women—were they not getting tired of their polygamous bondage? Had not the whole nation turned against the “Mormon” people in fierce denunciation? Would not these circumstances tend to dishearten the most hopeful among that people? Under such pressure, would not “Mormonism” be a thing of the past? Their first blow should be a telling one! They would stump the Territory! They would fan the flame of apostasy! Eloquence should respond in “Mormon” halls, and find its way to wavering hearts, all of which would spread terror through the “Mormon” ranks.

The greatest efforts were thus put forth. Thousands of people turned out to hear them. Thus the expectations of the plotters were raised to the highest pitch.

During these dark and troublous times the voice of the Lord came through our loved and venerated chief, instructing and comforting the Church with a promise that our enemies should not have power over us. The day of election came, the returns of which were for the “Mormon” candidate, in round numbers, 23,000, and for the non-“Mormon” candidate, 5,000. This was a more complete triumph than we thought possible. Our enemies were dumbfounded. Their amazement at the result was only equaled by their chagrin. Following this came the report and recommendation of the Utah Commission, that the Edmunds Bill was doing well, and ought to be further tried before more legislation should be enacted on the “Mormon” question. To make our triumph still more complete, the President of the United States, in his Message to Congress, said in substance that the extreme legislation recommended by some people against the “Mormons,” in his opinion was unnecessary. The recent vile efforts of unprincipled Senators, egged on by disappointed office-seekers late from Utah, to pass more unconstitutional laws against us, have proved abortive. Thus has the word of the Lord been fulfilled to the very letter, and His Saints are again triumphant.

The people of God in this age know beyond a doubt that they belong to a kingdom which “will never be destroyed nor given to another people.” The designs of unprincipled politicians, the venom of religious hypocrites, the loud and vulgar oaths of God-defying infidels, the cruel hatred of the gamblers, thieves, drunkards, busy-bodies and other criminals, who have for years hounded us furious with the spirit of unreasoning vengeance, including all individuals or nations who fight against Zion, shall surely fail, and many shall live to behold the Saints of God triumphant over all their foes, while, in humiliation and defeat, those who oppose God shall fall into the grave, arising in the day of His judgment only to meet eternal disappointment.

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, June 11, 1883, 5-6]
[Millennial Star, June 11, 1883]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


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