The St. Louis Intelligencer of the 17th inst. contains an interesting article upon the spread of Mormonism. The subject is introduced as follows:
“A Mormon Elder has been elected chaplain of the Legislature of the State of California. It is well to make a note of this, as one of the way-marks which indicate the progress of Mormonism in our minds.”
We have been so little accustomed to candor, courtesy, and respect from the Intelligencer, that any favorable expression concerning us from this source is considered worthy of note, being another of the way-marks that indicate the progress of Mormonism.
The Intelligencer, in his description of the progressive character of Mormonism, says:
“Very young men recollect the first publication of the Book of Mormon; in the boyhood of the youngest citizen that has a beard on his face, the Mormons were a sect too contemptible to excite even curiosity; now the Mormons have already in our midst a large independent community, purely Mormon, and which, before long, will be demanding admission to the Union as a Mormon State. In California, their Elders have a position and influence; the Christian ministers there cannot afford to treat them with contempt, but are compelled by force of public opinion, as well as by a sense of duty, to meet them in public debate and attempt the serious refutation of errors, which, five years ago, were met with a smile of pity or a sneer of contempt, and which, unless they were actually gaining considerable ground, it would be, of course, the worst policy to treat with the consideration and respect of a reply.”
It would appear that things are assuming their proper character in some degree. The affected smile of pity and the bitter sneer of contempt, so long indulged in by Christian ministers and pious editors, are found too piteous and contemptible for anything in creation but themselves. Mormonism is made of sterner stuff than they imagined, and those who fight against it will soon be confounded, and fall into the shade and be forgotten, or miserably suffer the pity or well-merited contempt of those whom they have ingloriously sought to injure and destroy.
It is not a little humbling to the opponents of Mormonism to be compelled to admit that “the smile of pity and the sneer of contempt” are ineffectual arguments; that Christian ministers are compelled by public opinion, as well as by a sense of duty, to meet us in public debate. It will be pleasing to our numerous friends to learn that the Christian ministers are at length brought to a sense of duty concerning us; but we are still skeptical upon the subject; however, if it be so, we shall be glad to witness its development. It must be admitted by every candid and honest man that if it is the duty of Christian priests now to meet us in fair and open combat, to investigate and discuss our respective doctrines and creeds, and our relative claims to divine authority; it was their duty five, ten or twenty years ago, and the fact that they have not done so until dragged forth by public opinion, to say the least of it, is mean and cowardly, and proves to us that “something is rotten in Denmark.”
We are willing to give our contemporary credit for all he has said, but we are not prepared to give the Christian fraternity the credit he has given them. We have seen no symptoms indicating a reformation among them, and our daily correspondence proves that there is no more disposition among that class of community to deal honorably with us than formerly, except in a very few instances.
The Alta California, speaking of Mormonism, says “Mr. Pratt has advanced in person even to our church doors and pulpits to proclaim himself a defender of a new faith, flinging the gauntlet into the minister’s desk. Up to the present time we believe no David has gone forth against this Philistine, to meet him on either point of law, morally or religious, all of which he declares himself ready to meet an enemy upon.”
The Intelligencer goes on to say, as matter of surprise, that—
“At a time when every one knows that it would be impossible to elect a Catholic priest to a similar office—when the fact that Bishop Fitspatrick got one single vote for the chaplainship in the Legislature of Massachusetts—a Mormon minister is selected over his Christian competitors to the position of chaplain of the Legislative body of one of the most flourishing States of the Union, and the fact hardly elicits comment. It is accepted as the most natural thing in the world. These are signs of the times, rather humbling, perhaps, to the patriotic American, who has been accustomed to boast of this as an age and country of progress, social, political, and religious; they are signs, at least, that the dangers which have ruined society in the past still exists in full force among us.”
Our friends need not be surprised at this little event, for greater things than these shall be seen before the world is much older. Indeed, if Mormonism should continue to progress during the next ten or twenty years as it has during the last five or ten years, it will no longer be a wonder for a Mormon to be elected to offices of State, the only wonder then may be that any other should be elected. These signs of the times are rather humbling, perhaps, to lying editors, mobocratic priests, and foul-hearted apostates who have boasted of this as an age and country of progress and freedom, whilst their hands have reeked with the blood of prophets and saints and while they have robbed, plundered, and driven many thousands of patriot Americans whose only crime was that they were Mormons. These are signs, at least, that the dangers that have ruined society in the past still exist in fall force among us.
“Mormonism,” say the Intelligencer, “now counts amongst its defenders men of cultivated intellect, and who shall say that, in the lapse of the next ten years, it will not number in its ranks men whose social position shall be such as to do away with the reproach which the low condition of its professors in the social scale has so far brought upon it? When there is question of error in matters of religion, no amount of intellectual culture is a preservative. As far as that goes, it is a well known fact, that the great body of Joe Smith’s disciples so far, have been Englishmen, of the lower classes indeed, but not of the lowest division of that class; persons intelligent, instructed more or less in the doctrines of Christian sects, shrewd enough in the every day affairs of life, and of respectable common school education.
The writer of these lines does not hesitate to avow his belief that there is a good deal more in Mormonism than people have supposed. The opinion may go for what it is worth, but it is founded upon some consideration of the subject, some acquaintance and conversation on the matter of their superstition with the better sort of Mormons, and a well grounded conviction that the vast majority of deluded creatures that pass through St. Louis to the Salt Lake, are perfectly sincere, and as ready to die for their creed as the Christians by whom they are surrounded.”
We are quite willing that the writer’s opinions should go for what they are worth, but to me the opinions of men are a very trifling consideration, conscious that we can live down their crude and false opinions; and fully satisfied that one revelation from the Almighty is worth more to us than the hypotheses and opinions of the world. We are fully prepared to confirm the writer’s belief that “there is a great deal more in Mormonism than people have supposed.” We could have told him so years ago; and we would moreover suggest that he be more respectful in his language when speaking of his superiors, and particularly of the honored dead, or his name shall be handed down among the execrable murderers and defamers of the righteous. The day is not far distant when such characters will be compelled to observe good manners and due courtesy. If they have no sense of duty upon the subject, they will be dragged to it by the force of public opinion, or will otherwise, like perverse, obstinate, ignorant, and deluded creatures seek to hide their heads in shame.
The writer next sings his old song, “Mormonism is a delusion” to which we answer as chorus that the Intelligencer has not sufficient intelligence to prove it such. And we are told in the following sentence that “those who believe Mormonism to be simply a human delusion have to account for its spread.” Then we say, Mr. Intelligencer, for conscience sake, if you have any, or at least for the sake of consistency, prove your charge or hold your peace.
In the following paragraph the Intelligencer says:
“These Mormons have nothing to gain and everything to lose by embracing the Sect. Most of them were well enough to do in the old country, and they expose themselves to hardship, to profess their religion. To say nothing of the abandonment of home and friends, they have stood already more than one persecution with a courage worthy of a better cause; and neigh the threats of the civilized communities from which they have been driven, nor the horrors of the wilderness into which they have penetrated so far, daunted their resolution or turned them from their purpose. To say that they are led on by the mere hope of sensual indulgence, is absurd; for polygamy can be practiced only be the very few, and implies even the celibacy of the many. Then, it offers no temptation to the female part of the Society, but is contrary to all their habits and natural instincts. The sensualist need not become a Mormon to gratify his appetites. Concubinage is cheaper than polygamy, and involves no unpleasant responsibilities, and the practice of concubinage exists—in secret, to be sure—but it exists almost unchecked throughout the civilized world.”
Whether the above is given with intent to bless or to curse, we will leave our readers to judge for themselves; but we are forcibly reminded of a celebrated prophet, who was sent for by Balac, king of Moab, to curse Israel, but when the old man had done his worst, the king in a rage said: “I sent for thee to curse Israel, but thou hast blessed them altogether.”
“Mormonism,” say the Intelligencer, in conclusion, “is rapidly growing to be one of the great isms of the day. It is advancing now with rapid strides, and it would be well enough for some of those who sneer at it and shut their eyes to it, and who, whilst set up as the defenders of Christianity, know nothing of this new enemy of their religion, the nature of its arts or the method to be adopted to deliver its unhappy victims from the snare, it would be well for them to give the subject some attention, for it is becoming, and will soon be, a very practical one, especially in this part of the United States.”
The writer appears to have discovered at last, the fact that Mormonism won’t be crushed, ore remain in the back ground, but will advance to the front ranks in spite of all that is said and done to prevent it; but we consider it rather too bad to lay all the blame on the poor clergy, they can’t help it or they would have done so years ago. Is not the press equally to blame? Then why not equalize the burden, and give to the editorial fraternity their quota of the reproach? we go in for equal rights, and for giving even the devil his due.
In conclusion, we will say for Mormonism, that is has never yet shunned investigation, criticism, nor debate—confident in the potency of its principles, and the perpetuity of its organization; it has thrown the gauntlet to the smartest among all nations, and “whoever knew it put to the worse in a free and open encounter?” It has for twenty-five years boldly contended and grappled with falsehood, and is better prepared for a rough encounter today than at any former period.
[St. Louis Luminary, Feb. 24, 1855]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Feb. 27, 1855, 3-4]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, July 2006]