An Interesting Meeting

The Ladies’ Mass Meeting, in Salt Lake City, on the 6th ult., was one of the most interesting ever held in Utah. It was attended by representative women from many places and more than two thousand were present, the large building in which the meeting was held being crowded in every part. An excellent opportunity was afforded our sisters to truthfully represent their feelings and position in relation to the persecutions now going on against the Latter-day Saints under the specious guise of law, and that they did so with spirit, earnestness and ability is very evident from a report of the remarks made and the resolutions adopted. The speeches were eloquent, truthful and impressive, and if our space permitted we would gladly publish the proceedings in full, knowing they would be of great interest to our readers. As a fair sample of the whole we reproduce the speech of Mrs. Romania B. Pratt, whose ringing sentences and noble sentiments were in perfect unison with the spirit that inspired the meeting, and gave a faithful exposition of the feelings of the very great majority of the ladies of Utah. Sister Pratt said:

Mrs. President and Ladies:

It is our best policy, as it is our duty, and in accordance with our religion and the counsels of our leaders, to meet all afflictions with patience, and to “suffer wrong rather than do wrong.” “Defense should be our motto,” and it is the motive power of this meeting today. The mountain of evil that has been and is in prospect of being heaped upon our people, the real brunt and heft of which falls on the devoted heads of women and innocent children, has put it into the hearts of the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protest against such unjust and unnecessary proceedings, and if possible to make a plain statement of our principles and opinions; for be it known to all the world we most assuredly possess both, and are neither slow nor weak in making them known and felt as far as we can, in a righteous way. One of the most irreparable evils with which we are endangered and against which we most solemnly and earnestly protest is the ruthless and inhuman invasion of the sanctity of the marriage relation and the destruction of the home circle. It has been said by a prominent Federal official that “The American idea of government is founded on the Christian idea of home, where one father and one mother, each the equal of the other, happy in the consciousness of mutual and eternal affection rear about the hearthstone an intelligent and God-fearing family. Patriotism springs from love of country, which is born of love for home; virtue and morality are the flowers which adorn the hearthstone of the true family.”

This word picture is as true as it is beautiful. We wish to deal with stern facts today, and we therefore ask if the majority of monogamous families of the United States, or even the world are very profusely adorned with the flowers of virtue and morality. The above quotation, in point of actual fact, we unhesitatingly assert, and with a profound feeling of positive knowledge, to be the very ideal and inspiration of the majority of “Mormon” plural families. Can a true and veritable marriage which receives the divine sanction be immoral or the issue illegitimate? Certainly at this point the bone of contention is made bare, and the question is asked, “Is it of divine origin?” Who but the individual can decide this for himself? The things of God are only understood by the Spirit of God, and when you rob the individual of his right of conscience by legislation, the greatly to be mourned nuptials of church and state are celebrated and the worm of destruction has entered the heart of the constitution of our beloved home of liberty. All honor be given by the Latter-day Saints to Senators Morgan, Call, Teller and others for the unanswerable resolutions and arguments they have laid before the Senate in our behalf. And also to Mrs. Belva A. Lockwood, who has had the moral courage to speak the truth as she found it when with us, and in a most able manner has raised her voice to stay the flood of prejudice which is surging over our people.

Chancellor Kent, who has been quoted as an authority on law, says: “It is within the legitimate scope of the power of every civil government to determine whether the plural marriage or monogamy shall be the law of social life under its dominion.” Now who is the higher authority—Chancellor Kent or any earthly law-maker, or the God of the universe who created all things and has the right to command in the affairs of earth? Give both systems a fair and patient trial, and let the results be proved by the “survival of the fittest.”

A true marriage cannot be productive of evil, for it is the perfect union of heart and soul, sanctified by mutual consent and sealed by God’s holy ordinance. The “Mormon” marriage covenant is as binding on the man as the woman, for any departure from the marriage law is a deadly sin, and is punished with us by excommunication from the Church, which we regard as spiritual death. And it is dependent upon the covenants the sinner has made whether he can ever be re-admitted as a member again. The Latter-day Saints regard plural marriage as an extension of all the privileges and good results arising from single marriage. Has not every woman the undeniable right to be an honorable wife and mother—of fulfilling the end of her creation, and do not the circumstances of life and statistics prove this to be impossible under the monogamic system? And were this the acknowledged law of the land, would it not lay the axe at the root of the greatest evil that has ever cursed the earth? If the same ceremony seals each wife to her husband, may not each family be a realization of the beautiful picture of one father and one mother, each the equal of the other in that family, happy in the consciousness of mutual and eternal affection, rearing about the hearthstone an intelligent and God-fearing family? The raising of an intelligent and God-fearing family is the very essence of the reason for the revelation of Celestial marriage, for God has said “He will raise up unto himself a righteous seed.” Can the children of men who daily pollute themselves in the society of abandoned women be a righteous seed? Can wives love, honor and be faithful to husbands they absolutely know are faithless to them? Thank God that in virtue of woman’s inherent goodness, wives in the monogamy of the world are more faithful a thousand to one than the husbands!

And a pertinent question arises in speaking of abandoned women. It if had been possible for them to become loving and beloved wives, would there be so many abandoned! The fidelity—the hallowed sacredness and dignity of each wife’s family hearthstone can be abundantly verified among this people. The marriage covenant is eternal, and is equal to each wife in all its blessings, powers and privileges, as each is equally faithful and worthy. The union for all eternity is the keystone sentence of the ceremony. The bonds, then, of these plural families are true, virtuous, eternal; welded by power given of heaven, and what “God hath joined together let no man put asunder.” It has been offered to this people to permit without further molestation all those plural family relations which had been formed up to a certain date if valid promises would be given that all further relations of this kind would cease. This is generous from one standpoint, but the grounded and fixed faith in the divinity of the origin of the commandment—the blessings and power expected as results in future eternal existence, are of such a nature that every mother who is willing to grant the privilege to her husband will be anxious for the same blessings to descend to her sons and daughters. Our faith and confidence in the chastity and pure motives of our husbands, fathers, brothers and sons are such that we challenge the production of a better system of marriage and the records of more moral or purer lives. Hand in hand with celestial marriage is the elevation of woman. In Church she votes equally with men, and politically she has the suffrage, raising her from the old common law monogamic serfdom to political equality with men. Rights of property are given her so that she, as a married woman, can hold property in her own individual right. Women are not thrown off in old age as has been most untruthfully and shamefully asserted. There is nothing in our plural marriage system that countenances any such thing. The very nature of the covenant forbids it. It is binding through all time and lasts throughout eternity. If any woman at an advanced period of her life wishes in a measure to retire from her husband’s society, with his consent, this is her own individual privilege, with which no one has the right to interfere. Instances of wrong-doing may be found in families of plural household, but the exceptions are not the rule; the weight of good results of the majority should be the standard of judgment. It cannot be true, as asserted, that plural marriage is entered into, as a rule, from sensual motives. It is self-evident that it is not the case with the woman, and it is unreasonable to suppose that men would bring upon themselves the responsibilities, cares and expenses of a plural family, when they could avoid all this, yet revel in sin, and, in the language of a distinguished man of the world, “be like the rest of us.”

The Supreme Court in the Cannon case declared that the Edmunds law was not designed to pry into the secrets of the marriage chamber. What exhibitions of despotism can be more absolute than the compelling of the legal wife to testify without her husband’s consent against him. In Utah courts the construction of the law is of such a chameleon nature that the people are fain to believe they live in a world of chaos. It is changed with every different case. It has also been shamefully perverted. Chaste and honorable women have been taken alone into a room with fifteen men and been baited and badgered by prosecuting officers and forced, on pain of imprisonment, to answer the most insulting and indecent questions concerning their personal condition, their expected maternity, and their private relations with their husbands. Children of tender years have been snatched from the pure home circle and plied with questions concerning their father’s marital relations quite beyond their years, until they tremble with open-eyed wonder. Thus the sanctity of home is desecrated and the secrets of the marriage chamber are dragged into publicity by those who pretend they wish to preserve the home and promote the integrity of the family relation. Some noble women, rather than reply to these improper questions, have submitted to imprisonment under the most trying circumstances. One became a mother within a few days after leaving the penitentiary; another was imprisoned with a babe in her arms; another with a babe at the breast, passing months under the same roof with the most degraded felons.

We do not believe that with all the prejudice, mostly formed by misrepresentations of enemies, that the interpretations and administration of the laws as carried on in Utah would, if understood, be approved or sustained, except by a small minority of the fifty millions of people of this Republic. We will not yet believe that justice and equity for want of a resting place have forsaken this glorious land. Therefore, we, the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once more make a plain confession of our faith and principles—of convictions formed by the unfettered conversions of conscience, that we do firmly believe in the divine origin and the eternal benefits of celestial marriage—that this system conduces to the elevation and independence of women—that the men of this faith, who are guided by the spirit of the Gospel, have the highest regard for virtue and morality—are the most to be trusted and the most loyal citizens of any men who live upon the earth. We believe the interest and welfare of this nation demand a fair test of this principle of marriage if sufficient proofs are not already on record before the people. Therefore, in the name of justice, equity and conscience, we protest against special legislation which inhibits the conduct of our lives according to our best judgment of this life and most especially for the future, when our domestic relations do no injury to those who do not agree with our system. We appeal to the honest-hearted of this nation, from President Cleveland to the least one who will raise a voice against oppression to use their influence as the constituencies of Congressmen and demand a say in the proceedings against this people, and suggest that the time would be better employed by the legislators of the nation in making laws for the purifying of their own environment. And also suggest that Utah has attained her majority and is capable and willing to do her own work, earning her own living and paying her own bills, and ready to assume the dignity of Statehood and take her place in the galaxy upon our noble flag of stars and stripes.

The Resolutions adopted by the meeting protest against the women of Utah being deprived of the right of suffrage, and emphatically deny that they vote otherwise than according to their own free choice. The injustice of denying the right of suffrage to non-polygamous women is particularly noted as being without any excuse.

The practice of asking indecent and insulting questions, before grand juries and in open courts, of women whose husbands are marked down as victims of special law, is most emphatically denounced, and honor is awarded those noble women, who, standing upon their rights and refusing to answer such questions, have gone to prison and suffered punishment without crime, rather than betray the most sacred confidence and yield to the brutal mandates of a little brief authority. The action of the District Attorney and the Chief Justice of Utah, in compelling a lawful wife to testify for the prosecution in a criminal case involving the liberty of her husband and in face of her own earnest protest, is rightly proclaimed a violation of law, contrary to precedent and usage for many centuries, and an invasion of family rights, and of that union between husband and wife which both law and religion have held sacred from time immemorial. Profound appreciation is expressed for the moral courage shown by Senators Call, Morgan, Teller, Brown and others, also by Mrs. Belva H. Lockwood, who, in face of almost overwhelming prejudice, have defended the constitutional rights of the people of Utah. Thanks are extended to the Woman Suffrage Association assembled in Boston, and in conclusion, an earnest appeal is made to the wives and mothers of the United States to come to the help of the women of Utah in resisting these encroachments upon their liberties and outrages upon their peaceful homes and family relations; and it is determined to appoint a committee to memorialize the President and Congress of the United States in relation to these wrongs, and to take all necessary measures to present these views and feelings to the country.

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mar. 6, 1886, 12-14]
[Millennial Star, Apr. 5, 1886]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, May 2006]


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