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UTAH AND THE MORMONS,
HISTORY, GOVERNMENT, DOCTRINES, CUSTOMS,
AND PROSPECTS OF
T H E L A T T E R - D A Y S A I N T S.
PERSONAL OBSERVATION DURING A SIX MONTHS' RESIDENCE
AT GREAT SALT LAKE CITY.
BY BENJAMIN G. FERRIS,
LATE SECRETARY OF UTAH TERRITORY.
H A R P E R & B R O T H E R S, P U B L I S H E R S,
[ vii ]
The aim has been to give a strictly impartial account of the Mormons as they have been and as they are, without abstaining, however, from a free expression
viii P R E F A C E.
of opinion, whenever the facts seemed to warrant a fair conclusion. To insure correctness, they have been allowed to speak for themselves whenever it has been practicable, and consistent with the brevity of the work. Aside from publications professedly Mormon, much assistance has been derived from a book entitled "The Mormons," recently published in London. The recent and excellent work of Lieutenant Gunnison, entitled "The History of the Mormons," might seem to preclude the necessity of any further publications on the same subject, and it probably would have prevented the present, had it come into my hands at an earlier period. Yet I would fain believe that a more full development of some of the most distinctive features of Mormonism than fell under his ondervation, with the rare opportunity which my position gave me for obtaining facts, will make it acceptable to the public.
It may not be inappropriate in this place to say that I was received at Salt lake City and uniformly treated with friendly courtesy. It was my good fortune, while there, to be domesticated as a boarder in the family of Mrs. Farnham, who, though a Mormon, took unwearied pains to promote the comforts of her "Gentile" guests. Among those with whom I was thrown into frequent communication, I hold in particular remembrance Judge Z. Snow, Mr. H. L. Heywood, the territorial marshal, Mr. William C. Staines, the librarian, Dr. Willard Richards, the postmaster, and his assistant, Mr. Kane, Mr. A. Carrington, of the Legislative Assembly, and Mr. J. Grimshaw, who seemed to take pleasure in rendering polite and kind attentions.
Ithaca, New York, April, 1854.
[ ix ]
29 The Great Basin: its geographical Features and Curiosities. -- Great Salt Lake. -- Utah Lake. -- Iron and Coal. -- Agricultural Capacities and Drawbacks. -- Irrigation. -- Alkaline Salts. -- Scarcity of Timber. -- Political I mportance. -- Business. -- Mt. Livingston. -- Great Salt Lake City. -- "Ensign Peak." -- Cities. -- Health. -- Improvements.
x C O N T E N T S.
81 Mormons quit Clay and remove into Caldwell County. -- Joseph's Journeys into Missouri. -- Sets up a Bank at Kirtland. -- Leaves Kirtland in the Night. -- Troubles in Missouri. -- "Danites." -- Joseph arrested, and Mormons agree to leave the State. -- Murder at Hawn's Mill. -- Mormons remove to Illinois. -- Evidence on the Trial of Joseph. -- His Imprisonment and Escape.
C O N T E N T S. xi
171 Priesthoods. -- The President is Prophet and Seer: his power. -- Tithing. -- Individual cases. -- Tithing-office..
x C O N T E N T S.
246 Prevalence of Polygamy. -- Its Effects on Population. -- Arguments in its Favor. -- Its Effects on Morals. -- Frightful Licentiousness. -- Oys Influence on the first Wife. -- Divisions and Hatred in Families.
CHAPTER XVI.264 Book of Mormon. -- Proofs of its modern Origin. -- Its Style. -- Arguments in Favor of the System.
CHAPTER XVII.284 Efforts to make female Converts. -- Mode of conducting public Worship. -- Sermon by Parley P. Pratt. -- Schools. -- Deseret News. -- Doctor Richards. -- Deseret Almanac, by W. W. Phelps. -- Language used in public Discourses.
CHAPTER XVIII.303 Social Intercourse. -- Governor's Party. -- Influence of Polygamy upon Amusements. -- Style of Building. -- Amusing Scenes growing out of Polygamy. -- Superstition. -- Endowment Robes. -- Initiation Ceremonies. -- The Curse. -- The Patriarch and his Blessings. -- Gift of Tongues. -- Notions on Slavery.
CHAPTER XIX.318 Manner of making Converts. -- Doctor Cox. -- English Converts. -- Cintinual Loss of Members. -- Dissentions. -- Gladdenism. -- Apparent Decline of Mormonism. -- Decrease of Population. -- Present Character of its Missionaries. -- Conclusion.
CHAPTER XX.340 Territorial Changes. -- Young. -- Difficulty with Secretary Harris and other Officers. -- Change of Tactics. -- Colonel Steptoe. -- Efforts of Brigham to retain Office. -- Mormons excite Indian Hostilities. -- Trial and Escape of the Murders of Captain Gunnison. -- Population. -- Decline of Missionary Efforts in the United States. -- Polygamy, &c. -- What is to be Done?
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A person intending to cross the Plains must expect to suffer some inconveniences. In so long a journey, the traveler will encounter the usual variations of the weather: there will be sunshine and storms; he will be too hot, too cold, and too wet at times; he will sometimes be unable to quench his thirst, except from a stagnant pool; and every warm evening he must look for a fight with musquitoes, whose appetites are quite as keen as his own. At first he will feel some anxiety in regard to Indians, and keep his rifle and revolver in proper shooting condition; but this soon wears off, and before the journey is half ended he becomes altogether too careless in this respect. We had, one evening, an Indian alarm, after being four weeks upon the road, when one revolver proved to be the only fire-arm in
14 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
order in the camp; the alarm, however, was occasioned by a gang of famished wolves, trying to form an acquaintance with our mules. With ordinary foresight in reference to the requisite supply of food, a proper selection of animals, and the time and mode of performing the journey, there need be but few hardships. It is easy to fit up a carriage with conveniences for sleeping, which some do, but the majority prefer to sleep on the ground, even in stormy weather. An india-rubber cloth spread upon the thick grass makes a dry and soft bed; at any rate, this kind of dormitory, curtained with heaven’s canopy, generally proves more friendly to sleep than many a bed of down. The fatigue of traveling wears off in a very short time, and there is usually less weariness at the close of the day than is
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 15
felt in traveling the same number of hours by rail-road. In a well-regulated train, the pleasurable excitements of the journey far outbalance all the inconveniences. There is a kind of cutting loose from the business relations and customs of civilized life, which gives new freedom and elasticity to the mind. The traveler feels that he has sufficient elbow-room; he neither jostles nor is jostled by any one; he experiences all the buoyancy of the boy when liberated from the restraints of the school-room. His feelings and ideas expand in view of the boundless plains spread before and around him. There is a grandeur and sublimity in the vast expanse of plains, skirted and intersected by rivers and lofty mountains, which would kindle enthusiasm in the bosom of the merest business drudge of the counting-house who dreams only of prices and profits.
The evening camp, too, has its peculiar pleasures: the rude preparation for, and exquisite relish of the evening meal -- the boisterous good humor of the company, with the usual concomitants of song and anecdote -- and the almost invariable, and, withal, plaintive serenade from a score or two of prairie wolves, produce a wild and pleasurable excitement, which the voyageur is ever fond of calling to remembrance.
There is an abundance of wild game along nearly the whole route: prairie chickens, ducks, hare, antelope, &c., afford rare sport in the hunting, and furnish food fit for an emperor. But the buffalo is the most noted, useful, and interesting of all the wild game to be found on the plains. We saw none until after we left Fort Kearney, after which we met vast numbers along the Valley of the Platte, and very few after leaving
16 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
that river. At a distance they look like herds of common cattle; near at hand they are awkward, misshapen monsters enough -- all head and shoulders, and very little of any thing else. They were very wild, and invariably ran off, as we approached, with a clumsy, lumbering gait. We saw them under a great variety of circumstances. On one occasion, a herd of them were crossing the Platte in single file (the way they usually travel), and appeared in the distance like abutments for a gigantic bridge or aqueduct about being built. At another time we approached nearer than usual to a drove of them before they perceived us, and, as they lumbered off, they produced a stampede of our whole train, and it was with much difficulty we stopped and quieted our mules. At another time a herd of some three thousand were feeding along the banks of the river, and never discovered us until we were passing nearly opposite, when the monsters, in their fright, scampered directly toward us, and actually ran between different portions of our train; two of the teams, less guarded than the rest, stampeded after them. These incidents always furnished subjects for mirth when we found no bones or wagons broken. Of course, the poor brutes are slaughtered without mercy by Indians and emigrants. We had a plentiful supply of buffalo beef during four weeks of our journey. The ravens and wolves that hover over and around every passing train, are the scavengers which clean up all that is left of the slain buffalo after man has helped himself to the choicest portions. The antelope is a very graceful animal, and bounds over the plains with the fleetness of deer, which it very much resembles.
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 17
We saw many of them, but they do not collect in such herds as the buffalo.
The emigration over the Plains to Utah, California, and Oregon, for the last few years, has been immense, and, like the march of armies, each train has left sad memorials of its passage. The wayside in very many places is literally strewed with the bones of oxen and mules, the broken fragments of wagons, and the cast-off implements of agriculture. Sadder still, the road is lined with graves -- some small, showing that there the mother has been compelled to deposit the remains of her infant child, and others of sufficient length to show that the strength of manhood has been brought to the dust. Many of these graves had been rifled by the wolves, and the bones scattered around in confusion:
18 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
these resurrectionists have no fear of penal enactments. Others were protected from these prairie surgeons by logs and rocks (every thing West, from a twenty ton boulder to a pebble, is a rock). In passing these evidences of mortality, one can form some faint conception of the utter feeling of desolation which must overwhelm the poor wife, thus compelled to deposit her husband in a lonely grave, far away from the assistance and sympathy of friends.
“The Plains,” so called, commence at the western bounds of Missouri, and extend to the vicinity of the Black Hills, a distance of about seven hundred miles. These Plains consist mostly of rolling prairies, which are crossed by numerous streams. Some of these streams run through comparatively deep valleys, and have rocky and precipitous banks. Again, the Plains are intersected by numerous gulleys, or “pitch holes,” as they are familiarly called, varying from ten to fifty feet, which contain small brooks in the spring and early part of summer, but the most of them become dry later in the season. These gulleys are troublesome to cross, in proportion to their depth and the steepness of their banks. On the other hand, many of them contain springs of excellent water, and a scanty growth of timber, furnishing to the traveler wood and water, without which he could not long prosecute his journey. At some points the Plains are almost a perfect level, without a tree or a shrub to relieve the eye -- an ocean, in which one seems to be out of sight of land.
“We reached the River Platte a few miles east of Fort Kearney. This fort is commanded by Captain Wharton, a gentlemanly and highly intelligent officer.
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 19
We were received and entertained by him and his accomplished lady not merely with generous hospitality, but with as much warmth as though we had been near relatives. At this point, and for a considerable distance west, the Platte runs through a valley from five to eight miles, bounded by a low range of sand-hills. The country becomes more and more interesting from Fort Kearney westward. The sand-hills, as you progress up the stream, are more bold and irregular, until they run into rugged and rocky ranges, worn and washed into sharp peaks and every variety of outline. One of the most singular of these rocky elevations has been called the “ Court-house,” from its fancied resemblance to a public building; but it is a misnomer to give it so common a name. It is a large mass of reddish sandstone, rising abruptly from the plain in solitary grandeur, and in the distance looks like an immense
20 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
temple, or castle, reared to some heathen divinity, or by some feudal baron in ages gone by, but now in a state of decay.
Some fifteen miles from the Court-house you see the justly celebrated Chimney Rock, pointing its solitary column to the sky, and from which you every moment expect to see issuing smoke or jets of steam from the fancied furnace beneath. Of all the fantastic freaks of Dame Nature in fashioning natural curiosities, this is certainly the strangest. The chimney rises some 150 to 200 feet from the apex of pyramidal-shaped rock, all reddish sandstone. But this curiosity has been well described in many published journals, and I will not, therefore, inflict another description upon the reader. After leaving Chimney Rock, we came very soon to Scott’s Bluffs, which we left to the right, and
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 21
passed up a valley lined on each side with similar curiosities. Here was a castle with its turrets and battlements -- there, an extensive fort, with parapets and bastions -- and yonder, huge, misshapen, beetling crags. One formation excited especial interest. There was first a gigantic perpendicular rock in the form of a cylinder, which served as a foundation, on which arose a smaller rock of the same form, and on that a third, still smaller, but of the same form. It looked like the vast mausoleum of some hero of a past race. The lover of natural scenery feels amply paid for all the dangers, inconveniences, and petty annoyances of such a journey, while viewing these curiosities, scattered, as it were, broadcast, on a scale of such magnificent grandeur.
Near Fort Laramie the highlands commence; the country is broken up into hills and irregular prominences,
22 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
and the traveling becomes more laborious. We left the Platte and reached the Sweetwater, a few miles east of Independence Rock. This is an immense, irregular pile of granite, about 120 feet high, and from one and a half to two miles in circuit, full of seams and fissures. I climbed to the top, and saw a beautiful hare, which soon retreated into one of the numerous cavities. The rock is literally covered with the names of travelers; at a rough guess, there must be 35,000 to 40,000! This is an easy way of handing one’s name down to posterity, and Thomas Noakes stands quite as good a chance in this respect as the celebrated John Doe. Let any one who is puzzled for a name visit this rock.
The Valley of the Sweetwater furnished us a smooth, level road until near the sources of the river. On the
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 23
north side are the Rattlesnake Hills, a range of bare granite, varying from 500 to 1000 feet high, and of precisely the same character as Independence Rock. It is cracked and seamed at all points, and may well be the resort of the rattlesnake for a thousand years to come. For some days before we reached the South Pass, the Wind River Mountains, with their snowy peaks glittering in the sunshine, appeared in view. These constitute some of the loftiest portions of the Rocky Mountains. The celebrated South Pass proved to be somewhat different from my previous conceptions. The word pass induced the belief that it partook of the character of a gorge between lofty mountains; but it is quite different from this. The country from the vicinity of Fort Laramie to the summit is made up of
24 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
ascending highlands; the road is up and down, but there is more of up than down. Some fifteen to twenty miles from the summit, the highlands become more bold and difficult of ascent, and the rocks by the way side crop out in sharp, perpendicular points. As we approach the summit, the surface becomes more even and gently rolling, and the exact dividing point is passed before one is aware of it. The wind was high and cold. Some twenty miles to the right was a ridge of high hills, and further still, in the distance, were the Wind River Mountains. On the left were irregular highlands. There is something exciting in the idea that one is passing over the
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 27
the mountains. One of these, called Echo Cañon, is twenty-five miles in length, terminates on the Weber River, and furnishes a nearly level road the whole distance. This canon is half a mile wide, is walled in by precipitous ridges, and the rocks, in many places, are worn into the same castellated forms so common in the vicinity of Scott’s Bluffs. In one place the rocks were of a bright straw color, and the reflection produced a soft, yellow light. We finally descended into the Valley of Salt Lake, through Parley’s Cañon, a dangerous pass, in places but a few rods wide, and walled in by rocks more than two thousand feet high. In a military point of view, these passes might be defended by a handful of resolute men against a host.
The whole route presents but few difficulties on account of the Indians. They are all inveterate thieves,
28 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
from the Shawnees and Potawatomies, who are partially civilized, to the most degraded Diggers; and the traveler must use a reasonable degree of vigilance for the safety of his property. The Pawnees are the most dreaded of any on the route; they are fierce, active, and disposed to be mischievous when they encounter a small, unguarded party, and can safely gratify their thirst for plunder.
The Indians generally are the most troublesome beggars in the world, and will importune without ceasing, unless repulsed with some degree of sternness. While encamped one day near Fort Laramie, a large, well-formed Sioux, known by the name of “Old Smoke,” stationed himself within a foot of me while eating dinner, and fixed his gaze upon the food with the eager expression of a hungry dog. At every mouthful he would say “goot” “goot.” This was not very appetizing, so I gave the old rat a plateful on condition he would go away. He readily accepted the bribe, and went to another mess, where he played the same maneuver with success.
I must confess I have no very exalted opinion of the whole race. Their broad features, wide mouths, low foreheads, and black, snaky, venomous eyes, make up a collection of disagreeables which they manage to heighten by paint, filth, and outlandish ornaments. Their most stylish dandies might well be taken for escaped inmates of Bedlam. Our train passed two villages of Chyenes, in the vicinity of Fort Laramie -- that is, two collections of lodges, made up of lodge-poles and buffalo robes or canvas. The whole concern poured out, men, women, children, cats, dogs, and
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 29
horses, and surrounded us -- some tricked out in all their scarecrow finery, and others ragged almost to nudity. They followed us, begging, hooting, screaming, howling, and barking, for a mile. It might remind one of Old Picket's denunciation, in which, among other choice things, he hoped the soul of his antagonist might be chased "by a tanner's dog around the ragged ramparts of damnation."
It is no doubt the duty of philanthropists to continue their efforts to elevate the condition of the children of the forest and the plains; yet the task looks well-night hopeless. But few have improved under these benevolent teachings, and the balance seem destined to melt away before the vigorous advances of civilized races.
TERRITORY OF UTAH.
The Great Basin: its geographical Features and Curiosities. -- Great Salt Lake. -- Utah Lake. -- Iron and Coal. -- Agricultural Capacities and Drawbacks. -- Irrigation. -- Alkaline Salts. -- Scarcity of Tinber. -- Political Importance. -- Business. -- Mt. Livingston. -- Great Salt Lake City. -- "Ensign Peak." -- Cities. -- Health. -- Improvements. THE Territory of Utah lies between latitude 37 degrees and 42 degrees, and is bounded by the west by eastern base of the Sierra Navada Mountains, on the east by the summit of the Rocky Mountains, and contains about one hundred and eighty-eight thousand square miles. This area embraces within its limits not only the Great Basin, so called, but that portion of the valleys of
30 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
Green and Grand Rivers and their tributaries lying between the Wasatch and Rocky Mountains. The Great Basin constitutes a large, and decidedly the most interesting portion of this territory; and is, in more aspects than one, the greatest physical wonder of North America. Completely walled in by lofty mountains, some of which are perpetually robed in
VIEW IN THE SIERRA NEVADA.
snow, its streams and rivers flow into its own bosom, forming lakes of various dimensions, from which the confluent waters escape only by evaporation, or disappear in sandy deserts. That its entire surface has at some period been covered by a vast inland sea, there are many indications in the numerous water-marks which exhibit their traces in the mountain sides. The bench on the slope of which the Mormon capital is
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 31
built is a shore-mark which, in the clear atmosphere, may be traced by the eye south, along the base of the mountains, a distance of over twenty miles.
The Great Basin has as yet been but partially explored. The Mormon settlements extend along the base of the Wasatch Mountains, from the northern extremity of Great Salt Lake to near the southern boundary of the territory, a distance of some three hundred and fifty miles. The usual emigrant route to California from Great Salt Lake City is around the northern extremity of the lake, and thence in a southwesterly direction down the valley of the Humboldt, or Mary's River, to Carson's Valley. The residue remains mostly unexplored. The portions known present bold and striking features, and great natural curiosities. It has lofty mountain ranges, rising to the clouds, some of which are perpetually capped with snow. The northern rim of the basin lies much farther south than appears from Fremont's map. published in 1849. In passing around Salt Lake on the route to California, the traveler crosses streams which flow into the rivers of Oregon, and does not pass the dividing summit until he has journeyed some forty to fifty miles south of the northern end of the lake. While toiling over these rugged elevations, the lover of natural scenery enjoys the grandeur of the prospect -- a panorama of lofty ranges and peaks, glittering in the light of the sun, and extending in all directions as far as the eye can reach. Often sharp pyramidal peaks, rising abruptly, exhibit different kinds of rock, water-worn into turreted, castellated, and fantastic forms. The rocks are generally primitive, and the abundance of scoria gives
32 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
evidence of the fiery throes which the earth has undergone in heaving up these tremendous elevations.
There is probably no part of the earth where so rich a field is presented for the researches of the naturalist. The Valley of the Great Salt Lake is particularly prolific in natural curiosities. Springs, from the one hot enough to boil an egg in a few minutes, to the one of a temperature for a pleasant warm bath, occur every few miles; and these are generally impregnated with sulphur in combination with alkaline salts. Some of
HOT SPRINGS NEAR SALT LAKE CITY.
these springs, throwing out generous volumes of water, form ponds from one to three miles in circuit, in which may be found, attracted by the genial temperature, tens of thousands of water-fowl. Some of them are chalybeate, and coat the rocks and earth over which they flow with oxyd of iron.
Great Salt Lake is a very great curiosity. It is
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 33
about one hundred and thirty miles long, and from seventy to eighty broad, and is, as near as may be, a vast collection of brine. The water seems to be saturated with salt to its utmost capacity of holding it in solution, indicating the neighborhood of great deposits of mineral salt. Between Great Salt Lake City and Bear River is a spring intensely salt, which pours out a volume of water equal to that at Spring Port, on the east side of Cayuga Lake, which it very much resembles. This is probably one of many others of a similar character which pour their contents into the lake. At particular points on the beach, where the regular course of the winds dashes up the waves, the salt collects in such quantities as to be conveniently shoveled into carts for domestic use. It is also procured by evaporation, three pails of the water producing one of salt. A person bathing may sit in the water, rising to his arm-pits, as in a chair; but let him beware of toppling over, unless he wishes to encounter the risk of drowning "heels over head." The water is perfectly limpid, and has no living thing beneath its saline waves. It has many islands with high mountain peaks, among the largest of which is Antelope Island, situated so near the eastern shore as to be accessible for grazing purposes, for which it is extensively used.
Utah Lake, about forty miles south of Salt Lake, with which it is connected by its outlet, the River Jordan, is a handsome sheet of fresh water, some fifteen miles long by ten broad, and abounds with the finest salmon-trout. In approaching it from the north, the valley of the Jordan narrows, and in rounding appoint about seven miles from the lake, a grand spectacle
34 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
suddenly bursts upon the view of the traveller. The lake presents itself in placid beauty below him, surrounded, and seemingly completely walled in, by lofty mountains covered with snow; and it is not until he makes a circuit that he discovers a broad belt of level arable land between the lake and these mighty elevations; nor does he till then perceive the tremendous gorges through which flow the Provo River, the Spanish Fork, and other streams. The canyon of the Provo is so deep and extended that a strong wind often pours through as from the nozzle of a blacksmith's bellows, which is felt for a distance of over two miles in passing its mouth.
The Great Basin is rich in minerals, among which are iron and coal, found in Iron county, some two hundred and fifty miles south of Great Salt Lake City, in such abundance as to provide an adequate supply for the future wants of the population. Iron has hitherto been supplied from the thousands of wrecked and abandoned wagons which line the road nearly the whole distance from Missouri to Oregon and California. Gold has only been discovered in Carson Valley, near the line separating Utah from California, but there are strong indications that it abounds in other portions of the Territory.
In regard to agricultural capacity, waste undoubtedly predominates over fertility, except in river bottoms, or in localities favorable for artifical irrigation. The Wasatch range contains a vast number of deep and rugged gorges or canyons, through each of which tumbles a mountain stream, fed partly by springs, but mostly by melting snows. Wherever one of these
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 35
streams rushes out upon the plains, the agriculturist can turn it to use in bringing forth the fertility of the land. Without this aid he would plow and plant in vain, owing to the sandy nature of the soil and the long summer droughts. All the products of the States in the same latitude can in this mode be raised in great perfection. The vegetables are large, and generally of superior quality. Those portions of the basin not in the immediate vicinity of rivers and streams will probably be found entirely unfit for cultivation.
The farmer in Utah is subject to some heavy drawbacks. The necessity of irrigation imposes no trifling addition to his labors; water-ditches are to be cut over and through his land, and great care is necessary in their proper management. In some places where water is not abundant, the neighbors use it alternately, and spend the night as well as the day in distributing the precious moisture over their fields.
Again, the temperature is subject to very sudden changes. The lowest valley in this elevated region is some four thousand feet above the level of the ocean, and the surrounding mountains run up four to six thousand feet higher, the tops of which are covered with snow during a large portion of the year. Of course, the shifting winds from these snowy points are not only violent, but of an icy temperature, and the consequences are early and late frosts, and often a chilly atmosphere in the very midst of summer. The winds blow frequently with great violence, bringing up now and then terrible storms, accompanied with thunder and lightning. It is said the wind is sometimes so high as to bring spray from the lake to the city, a distance of twenty-two miles!
36 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
Another serious drawback is the abundance of alkaline salts, or saleratus, in the soil. This is a marked peculiarity throughout the whole territory, as far as explored. Sometimes it shows itself in a white efflorescence on the surface of the ground, covering whole acres with the appearance of a heavy white frost or slight fall of snow, and lumps are frequently picked up for domestic use. Many of the streams are so strongly impregnated with it as to make it dangerous for cattle to drink from them. Between Salt Lake City and the lake, numerous pools and small ponds of water may be found of the color and nearly of the taste of common ley, from the same cause. This property in the soil is beneficial to the grasses, and makes the extensive pasture ranges equal to the salt marshes on the Atlantic coast for cattle. So abundant are these salts, that the whole vegetable kingdom is more or less affected by them; some, as potatoes, squashes, and melons, are rendered sweeter and more palatable. The common pie-plant loses almost entirely its acidity. Wherever it is sufficiently abundant to effloresce upon the surface, it totally destroys vegetation; and I heard of sundry fields of wheat being injured, and some totally ruined, by its sudden appearance after the crop was half grown. In some cases, a good crop will be raised one season on a piece of land, and the next be entirely destroyed from this cause; and many of the inhabitants believe that it can not be exhausted by repeated cultivation.
Sugar beets are raised in such size and quantity as to suggest the idea that they could be made available in the manufacture of sugar. Upon this suggestion,
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 37
a large quantity of machinery for the purpose was purchased in Europe in 1852, and taken over the Plains in the fall of that year. The whole expense exceeded $100,000, and was contributed principally by Mormons abroad, in connection with some having capital, who had but recently gathered with the Saints, under strong encouragements held out that it would be a profitable investment. The machinery was put into partial operation in the winter and spring of 1853, and, owing partly to want of skill in the workmen, but mostly to the fact that the beet was found to be strongly impregnated with alkaline salts, the article manufactured so far has been miserably poor, and the concern is likely to prove an unfortunate failure.
Another drawback arises from the great scarcity of timber. The Valley of Salt Lake is nearly as bare of trees as though it had been blasted by the breath of a volcano. A few of the mountain streams are skirted with a scanty growth of cotton-wood and aspen; some of the cañons have a small quantity of maple; and the mountain sides are sparsely supplied with stunted cedar and pine. Wood for fuel in the city can only be obtained by a cartage of about fifteen miles, from places of difficult access, and the price ranges from ten to fifteen dollars per cord. Timber for fencing, building, and mechanical purposes, is equally difficult to be obtained, and bears a corresponding price. The evil, too, is increasing; the supply is becoming more and more scanty, and in comparatively a few years, unless the coal can be brought into general use, the expenses of living, from this cause alone, must be greatly enhanced. The Mormons are looking forward to the period
38 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
when a rail-road, constructed from the iron found in Iron county, will be the means of distributing the coal found in the same region. Some efforts have been made by way of encouraging the manufacture of iron, and the excavation of the coal-beds, but they are feeble and tardy. The Saints are at present too much engaged in building the Temple to devote their whole energies to the development of the resources of the Territory. They have a very convenient place of worship; and it might seem that the Temple, which, from the plan of its construction, promises to cost a round million, might be postponed to the growing necessity for a permanent supply of fuel. But it is to be noted that one item of their creed is, that their friends who have died out of the pale of the Church may be baptized by proxy, and thus saved from Purgatory; and that this baptism can not effectually be performed except in the Temple. It is hard to have friends in infernal durance, but most people would let them roast a little longer, rather than run the risk of freezing themselves. Those who put faith in this absurdity are, of, course, under the strongest possible impulse to go on with the structure; and those who do not believe in it, believe, nevertheless, that the Temple will form a nucleus around which the Saints can be gathered without danger of dispersion.
In a political point of view, the settlement of this isolated region has been, and will continue to be, of great importance, as the half-way house between the eastern and western portions of the continent. The emigrant, on his tedious journey to Oregon or California, becomes weary and dispirited when he reaches
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 39
this point -- his cattle worn down, his wagon broken, and his provisions exhausted. Here he can recruit, and lay in new supplies; and it seems as if Providence had overruled the Mormon fanaticism to the performance of uses in this respect, little dreamed of by the fugitive Saints when they made it their abiding-place. The benefits derived from this source have very much promoted the prosperity of the Mormons, by making a market for their surplus grain, and furnishing them with supplies otherwise difficult for them to obtain. In 1850, the emigrants were very numerous, and their wagons, cattle, tools, farming utensils, and household furniture, which were got along to this point, were sold to the inhabitants at the lowest rates in exchange for pack-animals and provisions. Many emigrants, too, every year, become utterly destitute at this point, and are compelled to labor for the means of further prosecuting their journey. Hundreds remain all winter, and work for a bare living; and a large number of the indications of industry and enterprise, in the form of buildings, fences, water-ditches, and other improvements, for which the Mormons have received credit, owe their existence to the toil of these temporary sojourners.
The legitimate business of the country is grazing. It is an inland region, pent up between lofty mountains, and is, and always must be, without commercial facilities. Its rivers are scarcely navigable to any extent, and its lakes can never connect points of sufficient importance to make them available in this respect; but there are thousands of acres which produce, in great abundance, nutritious grasses, upon which cattle,
40 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
horses, and mules can subsist and thrive the year round. The worn-down animals of emigrants are purchased at low rates, and, after being recruited upon these extensive ranges, are driven to a sure and profitable market in California, where enormous profits are usually realized. Some of the finest breeds can now be found in Utah; and this business is beginning to be appreciated as the most lucrative in which the inhabitants can be engaged.
The shrewd merchant lays in at St. Louis a stock of goods adapted to the wants of the people of the Basin, fits up a train of wagons, to be drawn by oxen or mules, and wends his way to the Mormon capital. At Salt Lake, in exchange for goods at handsome profits, he collects a drove of cattle, horses, and mules for California. Hundreds of able-bodied men, wishing to seek their fortunes in the great El Dorado, can be had for the mere victualing, to assist in conducting such a train; and the entire expenses of the adventure sink into insignificance in comparison to the heavy profits realized in the great western market. Mr. Livingston, of the firm of Livingston and Kinkead, may be mentioned as a pioneer in these bold enterprises. He established himself at Salt Lake City in 1849, in an adventure of this description, which seemed doubly hazardous to his friends, from the remoteness of the region and the character of the inhabitants. It was an experiment, but he plunged boldly into it; and by liberal dealing, strict mercantile honor, great firmness, and far-reaching sagacity, has, though anti-Mormon so far as religious views are concerned, gained a healthy influence with the population, and established this kind
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 41
of business upon its proper basis. His numerous adventures by “flood and field” make him an interesting companion; and many, compelled to a winter’s residence in that out-of-the-way part of the earth, have been laid under deep obligations for his numerous kindnesses.
If the design of the Mormon rulers in selecting the Great Basin as the seat of their power was to isolate their people from the rest of the world, they certainly made a happy choice. The Mormon capital is unapproachable from any civilized point except by a tedious journey of from eight hundred to one thousand miles. In a severe winter it is entirely inaccessible: the mountain passes then lay in so bountiful a supply of snow as to set human perseverance at defiance; and the luckless sojourner, who has been accustomed to his daily paper, must content himself with speculations as to events transpiring in the outside world for three or four months. This isolation has its conveniences and inconveniences; it protects the Saints from Gentile influence or persecution, and enables the leaders to carry out, without let or hinderance, the most singular experiments upon human superstition and credulity which have been witnessed since the Dark Ages. But the expenses of living are great: every thing which can not be raised from the soil, and which the customs of civilized life have rendered necessary to eat, drink, and wear, cost at least four times as much as in the States, owing to the great land transportation.
Great Salt Lake City presents a very singular appearance to the eye of a stranger. It is built of adobe or sun-dried bricks, and is of a uniform lead color, with
42 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
the single exception of the house of Brigham Young, the prophet and seer, which is white, and standing on the most prominent point in the city, may be seen at a great distance. The streets are eight rods wide, and cross each other at right angles. Each block contains ten acres, and is divided into eight lots of an acre and a quarter to a lot. Of course, the city, which contains a population of about eight thousand, is scattered over a very large area. It is built partly on the slope of the lowest mountain bench, at a point where the Wasatch range turns to the north after running six or seven miles westerly, and is twenty-two miles east from the lake. A mountain stream called, “City Creek,” originally ran through the centre of the town, but by numerous ditches its water is distributed through almost every street, according to the inclination of the land. The buildings are very ordinary in their style of construction, generally of one story, and are, many of them, mere huts. It is not uncommon to see a long, low building, with from two to half a dozen entrances,
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 43
which is a sure indication that the owner is the husband of sundry wives, after the fashion of the prophet Joseph. There are a few dwellings of a larger class and fair appearance, among which are those of Brigham Young, already mentioned, Heber C. Kimball, Parley P. Platt, Ezra T. Benson, and other dignitaries of the Mormon hierarchy.
The public buildings are few -- the Council House, where the Legislative Assembly and courts are held; the Tithing-office, where tithes are received, in a room of which is the Post-office; the Social Hall, where theatrical performances are had, and in which the Saints are accommodated with conveniences for dancing and social parties; and the Tabernacle, a long, low building on Temple Block, the Mormon place of Worship,
44 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
very large on the ground, and capable of seating an audience of three thousand.
Temple Block contains the usual complement of eight acres, and, besides the Tabernacle, has a range of work-shops belonging to the Church, in which various mechanical employments are carried on. A wall is being built around the whole block, and excavations were commenced in the spring of 1853 for the erection of a temple which is to be the future glory and pride of all Mormondom. It is designed to be two hundred and twenty feet long by one hundred and fifty wide, with walls six feet thick. The excavation the centre for a baptismal font is twenty feet deep. This grand structure is building, as all credulous Mormons believe, after a plan revealed to the prophet Brigham from heaven, and is to consist of three parts, corresponding to the sun, moon, and stars, which are the three glories or degrees of salvation in store for all true Latter-day Saints.
North of the city is a singular conical-shaped point called “Ensign Peak,” which may be reached by a fatiguing walk of about two miles. This prominence must be about four thousand feet above the plain, and commands a magnificent prospect. The city lies beneath as on a map: the Jordan may be traced, like a small silver thread, winding its way through the valley until lost in the lake; the latter is seen to stretch away in the distance between the islands which rise from its bosom; beyond may be seen a snowy range, which the traveler must surmount in his journey to California; and in a southern direction, mountains are beheld to rise above mountains far beyond Utah Lake, clothed
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 45
in their everlasting mantle of white, the whole leaving upon the mind of the beholder an impress of grandeur which language utterly fails to describe.
The Mormons make a formidable display of cities upon paper. Great Salt Lake City contains about 8000 inhabitants, Provo some 1400, and Springville about 700. Aside from these, their cities are greatly more distinguished for the oddity of their names than the number of their citizens -- such as Lehi, Manti, Nephi, &c. -- names which belonged to various worthies who figured in the history of by-gone things supposed to have been exhumed by the prophet Joseph. Another oddity is, that these cities are accommodated with the very longest acts of incorporation, embracing all the municipal machinery of mayor, aldermen, police justices, provisions regulating hacks, lighting streets, sewerage, and other things too numerous to mention
46 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
-- something like the rustic grandson incased in the long-tailed coat of his ancestor, greatly too large for his dimensions. The city of Lehi, on Utah Lake, which I was enabled to visit, is a fair sample of the rest; some twenty wretched mud huts, scattered over an area of two or three miles, with a population not exceeding one hundred, made up the whole affair. Why the Saints take so much pains to make cities upon paper, unless by way of “handbill” to convey exaggerated notions abroad of their progress and prosperity, it is very difficult to perceive. The entire population of the Territory in the spring of 1853 could not have varied much from twenty-five thousand; Orson Pratt, in “The Seer,” states it at from “thirty to thirty-five thousand.”
From its great elevation, and pure and bracing atmosphere, any one, reasoning from natural causes, would expect to find the Valley of Salt Lake one of the healthiest regions in the world. The very reverse, however, seems to be the case. Sickness is very common, and mortality great. The report of the Superintendent of the Census for December, 1850 (p. 140), exhibits Utah the very lowest in the list of comparative health of all the states and territories except Louisiana. That such a result can not be owing to the privation and suffering incident to new settlements by emigration, is evident from the fact, that while one death occurred in 47.61 in the population of Utah for the year ending June 1, 1850, only one in 232.82 occurred in Oregon. Whether it is the fault of the climate and the qualities of the soil, or of the peculiar customs and habits of the people, remains to be tested
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 47
by further observation. All these causes may have their agency in the result.
The alkaline properties of the soil are, with good reason, supposed to promote erysipelas and scrofulous diseases. The gross sensualities originating in polygamy, coupled with parental neglect of offspring, occasion great mortality among children. To these may be added intemperance in drinking, very generally diffused, and which finds its gratification in a miserable article of whisky and beer, manufactured in great quantities.
When we regard the extended settlements made, the lands brought under cultivation, and the cities built within a brief period in this heretofore desolate region, it seems to us next to miraculous, and we are very much inclined to look upon the Mormons as an uncommonly industrious and enterprising race of men. Much, however, is due to emigrant labor, already alluded to, and much more to the effect of contrast. After passing over the Plains, and for weary days and weeks meeting with no human habitations but Indian lodges, Canadian-French trading-posts, and two military stations, the traveler is greatly delighted when he descends into the valley through one of the tremendous mountain gorges, enters a regularly-built city, and finds the necessaries and many of the luxuries of civilized life. All is for a time coleur de rose, and his descriptions are apt to be tinged with a similar hue. The mere surface of society is found to be similar to that of many other recently-established communities, and it needs a residence of more than a few days or weeks to lift the curtain and view things as they are.
48 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
Without detracting in the least from the commendable enterprise of the Saints, it may reasonably be said that any other body of American farmers, mechanics, artisans, and laborers, of equal numbers, would have effected more, because the means expended in the erection of the temple, and in the support of a numerous priesthood with their harems, would be turned in a more useful direction. Much of the marvel lies in two facts: first, the entire community have been transferred there nearly at once, without waiting for the tedious process of a gradual settlement; and, second, all their energies, stimulated by religious enthusiasm, have been measurably directed by a single will. The real miracle consists in so large a body of men and women, in a civilized land, and in the nineteenth century, being brought under, governed, and controlled by such gross religious inposture. As the Great Basin is the greatest physical, so its inhabitants may be said to be the greatest moral, curiosity of the New World.
UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
The case is entirely different with the New World. Its history, anterior to the discovery of Columbus, is involved in a mystery more impenetrable than the past physical changes of the globe. The latter are measurably illustrated by the various formations which compose the earth's crust, and the fossil remains which are imbedded in its strata, while the former is lost in the confused, absurd, and contradictory traditions of its barbarous native population. There are the remains of ruined cities in the neighborhood of the Isthmus of Panama; but, if we are to credit the earlier discoverers of America, these cities are comparatively of modern origin. There are also hieroglyphics, glyphs,
50 UTAH AND THE MORMONS.
mounds, obscure traces of fortifications, &c., all exhibiting the existence of a people but little in advance of the barbarous and semi-barbarous tribes and nations found by the original discoverers. Where these people came from -- how many states and nations had existed among them -- through what changes, revolutionary or otherwise, they had passed, are things involved in obscurity, to penetrate which the ingenuity and imagination of many persons have been exercised from the time of Columbus to the present. A favorite theory, in support of which much learning and acuteness have been manifested, has been to people the North American Continent from the wandering tribes of Israel.
In or about the year 1809, a man by the name of Solomon Spaulding, a graduate of Dartmouth College, removed from Cherry Valley, in the State of New York, to New Salem (Conneaught), Ashtabula county, Ohio. At one period of his life he was a clergyman, but seems to have laid aside that profession for secular business, in which he failed, and his bankruptcy was the immediate motive of his removal to Ohio.
New Salem, or Conneaught, as it is sometimes called, is rich in American antiquities -- mounds, fortifications, and sundry relics of a past race, in which Spaulding, who was a man of learning and imagination, took an unusual interest. He adopted the theory which peoples America from the Israelites, and readily conceived and carried out the idea of writing a fictitious history of this ancient race, influenced partly by his literary tastes, and partly by the hope of making money by the sale of the book. His work was styled the
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 51
"Manuscript Found," and purported to be the translation of an ancient manuscript found by him; and to make the story as consistent as possible, he endeavored to imitate the style of the Scriptures, in which he was aided by his previous biblical studies. He describes the departure of a family of Jews -- the father, Lehi, and four sons, Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi, with their wives -- from Jerusalem into the wilderness, in the reign of Zedekiah, and, after various wanderings, their voyage to the Western Continent, under the leadership of Nephi, one of the brothers. On their journey and voyage they became distracted by dissensions, which in America resulted in their division into hostile tribes, which branched out and populated the country, built up large cities, engaged in fierce wars, and underwent various changes and revolutions. Laman appears to have been the focus of disaffection in this: imaginary family, and his descendants became a very powerful nation or tribe, under the name of Lamanites, engaging frequently in wars, and destroying the country and cities of the more peaceable Nephites. The frequency of these wars eventually broke up and destroyed the regular avocations of peace; the people became barbarized, and split up into predatory bands, plundering and murdering each other, until, in fine, they degenerated into the vagabond Indians of the American Continent. Besides the names already mentioned, the names of Mormon, Moroni, Mosiah, Helaman, and others frequently occur in the book, and represent the heroes, prophets, and great men who figured in this drama. As Spaulding progressed with his work, he was in the habit of amusing himself and sundry of
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his neighbors by reading to them his manuscript, and availed himself of their observations in making emendations and additions. He labored upon it for about three years, at the end of which, in 1812, he removed to Pittsburg, Pa., where he became intimate with a printer by the name of Patterson, in whose hands he placed the manuscript, with the design of having it published, and with him it remained a number of years.
Sidney Rigdon, a man of some versatility -- a kind of religious Ishmaelite -- sometimes a Campbellite preacher, and sometimes a printer, and at all times fond of technical disputations in theology -- was at this time in the employment of Patterson, and became so much interested in the "Manuscript Found," as to copy it, "as he himself has frequently stated."
No satisfactory contract appears to have been made for the printing; at least, it was delayed, for some reason or other, until Spaulding found it necessary to remove from Pittsburg to Amity, in Washington county, New York, where he died in 1816. What subsequently became of the original manuscript does not very distinctly appear, owing to the death of Spaulding, and also that of Patterson in 1826. According to a statement of Mrs. Spaulding, made in 1839, it was taken from Pittsburg by her husband, and after his death remained in her hands, with other of his papers, in a trunk. She subsequently remarried, and this trunk, with the manuscript, was left in Otsego county; but on search being made, in or about the year 1839, by some persons interested in exposing the pretensions of Joseph Smith, Jr., then attracting some attention, the important document was not to be found.
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 53
In the year 1815, the father of Joseph Smith, Jr., removed with his family of boys from the county of Windsor, Vermont, to Palmyra, New York, from which he subsequently removed to Manchester, in the county of Ontario, remaining in both places about eleven years. He was a laboring man, and professed to be a farmer, but he manufactured and peddled baskets and wooden bowls, and, withal, his employments appear to have been of a miscellaneous character, not very. consistent with regular industry. The members of the family were held in light estimation by their neighbors, some of whom subsequently described them as "notorious for breach of contracts and the repudiation of their honest debts."
Joseph, Jr., was ten years old when the family first settled in Palmyra, and, as represented by those hostile to his subsequent pretensions, he grew up among bad associates, totally averse to any thing in the shape of regular industry; and a ready adept in the art of "living by one's wits." His physiognomy indicated sensuality and cunning, in which latter trait his mind was unusually versatile. He affected great mystery in his movements; pretended to the gift of discovering hidden treasures, and the possession of seer-stones by which they could be found; traveled about the country, appearing and disappearing in a mysterious manner; possessed a plausible and wordy jargon, by which many minds are easily captivated; and, in various ways, cheated and robbed sundry simpletons, who were persuaded to credit his pretensions. Nor did he confine his attention to any single branch of the business of deception, but allowed himself to be drawn into the
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vortex of a pseudo-religious revival, and became quite as wordy in the vocabulary of hypocritical cant.
On the other hand, his subsequent followers allege, that, though of very humble origin, and of extremely limited education, he was of retired habits, and religiously disposed; that, as early as fifteen years of age, "he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence, spending much of his time in prayer and other acts of devotion." They do not deny that he may, in common parlance, have been a "money-digger;" but claim that, whatever had been the character of his occupations, or the method of their performance, he was afterward rendered pure by the forgiveness of his sins. Which is the true and which the false construction of the early character of this remarkable man, depends, of course, upon the evidence furnished by his subsequent career.
During Smith's searching operations for the discovery of hidden treasures, it is more than probable that he exhumed one or more of those curious glyphs which now figure so largely in the list of American antiquities. These consist of metallic plates, covered with hieroglyphical characters. Professor Rafinesque, in his Asiatic Journal for 1832, describes similar plates found by him in Mexico as being "written from top to bottom, like the Chinese, or from side to side indifferently, like the Egyptian and the Demotic Libyan." A number of these remains were found in 1843, near Kinderhook, Pike county, Illinois, and described as "six plates of brass of a bell shape, each having a hole near the small end, and a ring through all, and clasped with
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two clasps. The ring and clasps appeared to be iron, very much oxydated. The plates first appeared to be copper, and had the appearance of being covered with characters. A subsequent cleansing by sulphuric acid brought out the characters distinctly." It seems to be strongly confirmed that Smith discovered one of these singular specimens of American antiquity, in the fact that, soon after the alleged discovery of the golden: Bible, he sent Martin Harris to Professor Anthon with characters which, according to the professor's description, are identical with those which appear upon them.
In the course of his wanderings, Smith met with, and formed the acquaintance of, Sidney Rigdon. According to that view of the case which proceeds upon the hypothesis that he was an impostor, it would not be unreasonable to believe that these two men together conceived the idea of starting a system of religious imposture upon a scale commensurate with the popular credulity. Conjointly they possessed, in mercantile phrase, the requisite capital for such an adventure. Smith had cunning, plausible volubility, seer stones, mysterious antiquities, and, withal, the prestige of success; Sidney was versed in the "lights and shadows" of religious verbiage, had some literary pretensions, was a printer, and, above all, had a copy of Spaulding's book. Which started the bright idea of the Golden Bible is not known, though in all likelihood the credit is due to Smith, as he ever after maintained the ascendancy in the new hierarchy. After the plan had assumed a definite form and shape in the minds of the originators, it was easy for Joseph, in his perambulations, to
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trace out and secure the original manuscript of Spaulding, to guard the intended scheme from exposure, and the lapse of time and death of many of the parties seemed to make it safe to dispense with any alteration of names in the new Bible. To Smith was reserved the honor of making the first open demonstration, because success in deception had rendered him bold and skillful. Sidney was not to come in until some time afterward, and then ostensibly as a convert to the new religion; this would give time to see what kind of an earthquake the mixture of iron filings and sulphur was likely to produce, and his conversion would help to increase the commotion. Accordingly, we find him striking his colors to the first broadside of Parley P. Pratt, one of the earliest Mormon preachers. All things being in readiness, Smith, in due season, emerged from the chrysalis of a money-digger to the butterfly of a prophet and herald of a new dispensation. A portion of mankind have been looking for the last days for the past eighteen hundred years, and at the period in question were ready to run into Millerism or any other ism whereby their notions could be accommodated in this respect. A prophet, therefore, who could superadd to the discovery of a golden Bible a proclamation of the speedy destruction of all mundane things, a power of attorney for the restoration of an authorized priesthood and the gathering of the Saints, and make a formidable display of miraculous powers, was the most acceptable gift which could be made to popular superstition. Here, then, would seem to have been combined the elements of an imposture which has since, branched out and gathered strength, until it has
UTAH AND THE MORMONS. 57
become the most noted instance in modern times of the development and growth of religious fanaticism. But those who regard the new system with more favor take a very different view of the case. In the light in which they regard it, Joseph Smith, Jr., in or about the year 1820, had a kind of preparatory vision, while he was in a retired place engaged in prayer, in which two glorious personages appeared to him, and informed him that his sins were forgiven him, and "that all the religious denominations were believing in incorrect doctrines, and consequently that none of them was acknowledged of God as his Church and kingdom" and he "received a promise that the true doctrine and the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be revealed to him." After this he fell away somewhat, but repented, and on the 22d of September, 1823, had another vision, in which an angel appeared, and announced to him that he was to be the chosen instrument of introducing a new dispensation; that the American Indians were a remnant of the Israelites, who, after emigrating to this country, had their prophets and inspired writings; that such of these writings as had not; been destroyed were safely deposited in a certain place; that they contained revelations in regard to the last days; and that, if he remained faithful, he would be the chosen instrument to translate them.
The next day "the angel again appeared, and having been informed by the previous visions of the night concerning the place where these records were deposited, he was instructed to go immediately and view them." Accordingly, the new-born prophet repaired to a hill
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about four miles from Palmyra, on the west side of which he dug down and found a stone box, so firmly cemented that the moisture could not enter. In this box the records were found deposited. On being exposed to view, the angel, of course, appeared, and there was a wonderful display of celestial pyrotechnics, and the prophet was permitted to see that the devil, "surrounded by his innumerable train of associates," was also present. Strange to say, however, Joseph was not yet permitted to have the plates, and it was not until the 22d of September, 1827, and after a great deal of negotiation between him and the angel, that they were placed in his possession. The following is a description of these important documents, by Orson Pratt, one of the Mormon champions.
"These records were engraved on plates which had the appearance of gold. Each plate was not far from seven by eight inches in width and length, being not quite as thick as common tin. They were filled on both sides with engravings in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book, and fastened at one edge with three rings running through the whole. This volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed. The characters or letters upon the unsealed part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity in its construction, as well as much skill in the art of engraving. With the records was found 'a curious instrument, called by the ancients the Urim and Thummim, which consisted of two transparent stones, clear as crystal, set in the two rims of a bow. This was in use in ancient times by
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persons called seers. It was an instrument, by the use of which they received revelation of things distant, or of things past or future.' "
The incredulous reader will be very apt to perceive how completely the ideas in this description are suggested by the ancient glyphs before alluded to; he will also recognize Joseph's "seer stones" in the "Urim and Thummim" here mentioned. A comparison of dates, too, will be very natural in this connection. "The Manuscript Found" fell into the hands of Rigdon somewhere between 1812 and 1816, in which latter year Spaulding died. Between this and 1827 there was ample time, not only to trace out and gain possession of the original manuscript, but to add the religious matter found in the Book of Mormon, which, with the exception of numerous extracts from the Bible, is in substance and form entirely beneath criticism as a literary performance. Patterson died in 1826, and the new Bible could in the following year be drawn from its hiding place without risk of exposure from him. Smith boldly exhibited not only the external form of a golden Bible, which, however, no unsanctified hands were permitted to touch, but also a neatly-polished marble box, in a hole in the ground, which was either prepared by the prophet Moroni some fifteen hundred years ago, or by Joseph Smith, Jr., and one or two others, at a more modern period. It is a fact, that for about three years Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and a man by the name of M'Knight, were almost continually absent together from their homes, especially at night, and the neighbors were uncharitable enough to charge them with gambling and counterfeiting during these
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stealthy interviews, until the Book of Mormon was discovered, and then these people accused them of being engaged in polishing and preparing the stone box, and manufacturing all that was ever seen of the golden Bible. According to Smith, however, he was, during this period, engaged in lonely vigils and prayerful communion with heaven, in preparation for the holy office to which he was about to be summoned.
This wonderful discovery soon raised a popular commotion -- but let Orson Pratt describe for himself:
"Soon the news of his discoveries spread abroad throughout all those parts. False reports, misrepresentations, and base slanders, flew as if upon the wings of the wind in every direction. The house was frequently beset by mobs and evil designing persons. Several times he was shot at and very narrowly escaped. Every device was used to get the plates away from him. And being continually in danger of his life from a gang of abandoned wretches, he at length concluded to leave the place and go to Pennsylvania; and, accordingly, packed up his goods, putting the plates into a barrel of beans, and proceeded upon his journey. He had not gone far before he was overtaken by an officer with a search-warrant, who flattered himself with the idea that he should surely obtain the plates; after searching very diligently, he was sadly disappointed at not finding them. Mr. Smith then drove on, but before he got to his journey's end he was again overtaken by an officer on the same business, and after ransacking the wagon very carefully, he went his way as much chagrined as the first at not being able to discover the object of his research. Without any further
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molestation, he pursued his journey until he came into the northern part of Pennsylvania, near the Susquehanna River, in which part his father-in-law resided."
Sidney Rigdon, it will also be recollected, resided in the State of Pennsylvania.
Joseph being thus quietly housed, and, thanks to the beans, the plates safe in his hands, he proceeded to the work of translation; but, being a poor penman, he soon provided himself with a scribe in the person of Oliver Cowdry, who subsequently became one of the witnesses to the verity of the book. He stationed himself behind a screen, with the "Urim and Thummim" in his hat, and read off sentence after sentence, which Cowdry wrote down as an amanuensis. This process occupied a number of years. During the work of translation, and on the 15th of May, 1829, John the Baptist appeared and laid hands on Smith and Cowdry, ordaining them into the Aaronic priesthood, and commanded them to baptize each other, which they accordingly did; at the same time, he informed them that he was sent by Peter, James, and John, who held the keys of the Melchisedek priesthood, which was to be conferred in due time; Smith to be first, and Cowdry second elder.
The thing began now to assume more form and shape. The family of the prophet's father were speedily converted; and, out of this family circle, a man of some property, by the name of Martin Harris, who had been a Quaker, Methodist, Baptist, and finally Presbyterian, was so much captivated with the scheme, that he advanced some money to aid in the publication of the book. Harris had a strong desire to see the wonderful plates. The prophet, however, put him off, on
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the ground that he was not holy enough, but gave him the transcript of some of the characters on a piece of paper, which this admiring disciple submitted, to the inspection of Professor Anthon, of New York. The professor's letter to a Mr. Howe, who subsequently wrote him on the subject, contains so life-like a description of the modus operandi of the new prophet, that it is here given entire.
"New York, February 17th, 1834."DEAR SIR, -- I received your letter of the 9th, and lose no time in making a reply. The whole story about my pronouncing the Mormon inscription to be 'reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics' is perfectly false. Some years ago, a plain, apparently simple-hearted farmer called on me with a note from Dr. Mitchill, of our city, now dead, requesting me to decipher, if possible, the paper which the farmer would hand me. Upon examining the paper in question, I soon came to the conclusion that it was all a trick -- perhaps a hoax. When I asked the person who brought it how he obtained the writing, he gave me the following account: A 'gold book,' consisting of a number of plates fastened together by wires of the same material, had been dug up in the northern part of the State of New York, and along with it an enormous pair of 'spectacles!' These spectacles were so large, that, if any person attempted to look through them, his two eyes would look through one glass only, the spectacles in question being altogether too large for the human face. 'Whoever,' he said, 'examined the plates through the glasses, was enabled not only to read them, but fully to understand
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their meaning.' All this knowledge, however, was confined to a young man, who had the trunk containing the book and spectacles in his sole possession. This young man was placed behind a curtain, in a garret in a farm-house, and being thus concealed from view, he put on the spectacles occasionally, or, rather, looked through one of the glasses, deciphered the character in the book, and having committed some of them to paper, handed copies from behind the curtain to those who stood outside. Not a word was said about their being deciphered by the 'gift of God.' Every thing in this way was effected by the large pair of spectacles. The farmer added, that he had been requested to contribute a sum of money toward the publication of the 'Golden Book,' the contents of which would, as he was told, produce an entire change in the world, and save it from ruin. So urgent had been these solicitations, that he intended selling his farm, and giving the amount to those who wished to publish the plates. As a last precautionary step, he had resolved to some to New York, and obtain the opinion of the learned about the meaning of the paper which be had brought with him, and which had been given him as part of the contents of the book, although no translation had at that time been made by the young man with the spectacles. On hearing this odd story, I changed my opinion about the paper, and instead of viewing it any longer as a hoax, I began to regard it as part of a scheme to cheat the farmer of his money, and I communicated my suspicions to him, warning him to beware of rogues. He requested an opinion from me in writing, which, of course, I declined to
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give, and he then took his leave, taking his paper with him.
"This paper in question was, in fact, a singular scroll. It consisted of all kinds of singular characters, disposed in columns, and had evidently been prepared by some person who had before him at the time a book containing various alphabets, Greek and Hebrew letters, crosses, and flourishes; Roman letters inverted, or placed sideways, were arranged and placed in perpendicular columns; and the whole ended in a rude delineation of a circle, divided into various compartments, arched with various strange marks, and evidently copied after the Mexican calendar, given by Humboldt, but copied in such a way as not to betray the source whence it was derived. I am thus particular as to the contents of the paper, inasmuch as I have frequently conversed with my friends on the subject since the Mormon excitement began, and well remember that the paper contained any thing else but 'Egyptian hieroglyphics.'
"Some time after, the farmer paid me a second visit. He brought with him the 'gold book' in print, and offered it to me for sale. I declined purchasing. He then asked permission to leave the book with me for examination. I declined receiving it, although his manner was strangely urgent. I adverted once more to the roguery which, in my opinion, had been practiced upon him, and asked him what had become of the gold plates. He informed me that they were in a trunk with the spectacles. I advised him to go to a magistrate, and have the trunk examined. He said 'the curse of God' would come upon him if he did.
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On my pressing him, however, to go to a magistrate, he told me he would open the trunk if I would take 'the curse of God' upon myself. I replied I would do so with the greatest willingness, and would incur every risk of that nature, provided I could only extricate him from the grasp of the rogues. He then left me. I have given you a full statement of all that I know respecting the origin of Mormonism, and must beg you, as a personal favor, to publish this letter immediately, should you find my name mentioned again by these wretched fanatics. Yours respectfully,
Much of the marvel attached to the idea that an illiterate young man could fluently dictate in connected series a voluminous work, is of course removed when we regard him as reading from Spaulding's manuscript, but to those not in the secret it was sufficiently miraculous, and made a deep impression. This seeming prodigy has been used as one of the strongest proofs of the divinity of his mission. In the usual sense of the term, Smith was an uneducated man. His book knowledge was very limited. He often said, in substance, "How could I, as an illiterate impostor, hope to impose upon the intelligence of the nineteenth century?" and all persons of learning and refinement, who live in an upper world of their own, and in ignorance of the under-currents of ignorance and superstition coursing beneath them, were astonished at the prodigy. But in this he exhibited his almost intuitive knowledge of the weak traits of humanity, in which, in fact, he had more available learning than all the
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closet men put together. His own autobiography shows him well studied at an early period in the nice shades and differences of modern sectarian creeds, and subsequent developments proved him well read in the history of Mohammed and other religious impostors. He would undoubtedly have excelled in such other pursuits as were suited to his disposition and tastes. As a gambler, he would have exhibited unrivaled dexterity; as a trader, he would have been a skillful sharper; as a military man, a master of strategy; as a politician, an adroit whipper-in; and as a policeman (without a single lesson from "Old Hays"), a first-rate nabber of thieves and discoverer of stolen goods.
"The Book of Mormon contains the history of the ancient inhabitants of America, who were a branch of the house of Israel, of the tribe of Joseph, of whom the Indians are still a remnant; but the principal nation of them having fallen in battle in the fourth or fifth
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century, one of their prophets, whose name was Mormon, saw fit to make an abridgment of their history, their prophecies, and their doctrines, which he engraved on plates, and afterward being slain, the records fell into the hands of his son Moroni, who, being hunted by his enemies, was directed to deposit the records safely in the earth, with a promise from God that it should be preserved, and should be brought to light in the latter days by means of a Gentile nation who should possess the land. The deposit was made about the year 420, on a hill then called Cumora, now in Ontario county, where it was preserved in safety until it was brought to light by no less than the ministry of angels, and translated by inspiration; and the Great Jehovah bore record of the same to chosen witnesses, who declare it to the world."
The occurrence of the same leading events and names in the "Manuscript Found" and the Book of Mormon, which fact is proved by a perfect cloud of witnesses living in and about New Salem, Ohio, establishes to the satisfaction of the anti-Mormon the identity of the two works beyond all possible question, whatever of confusion or contradiction there may be in regard to the ultimate destination of Spaulding's book. In the death of the principal personages, it is easy to confuse dates and circumstances; but such a series of coincidences could not by possibility have happened by chance, and seems to demonstrate either that Spaulding took a peep into the stone box at Cumora, or that Joseph got possession of his manuscript.
The prophet was a bold innovator. In defiance of the maxim that truth is open and aboveboard, and
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that roguery requires mystery, and concealment, he strenuously guarded the sacred plates from the gaze of profane curiosity. It was accordingly revealed to him that they were not to be exhibited to any, except the witnesses chosen by the Lord for that purpose; and it seems that after the translation and witnessing, the angel who had negiotiated the whole business on the part of the supernatural powers took them in charge. In the first place, three witnesses were oftained -- Oliver Cowdry, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, who certify to having seen the plates, and to their having been "translated by the gift and power of God" -- and they declare, "with words of siberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon."
Afterward eight more witnesses were procured, who signed a short certificate in terms more general than the first -- John Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Senr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith. Who were these witnesses upon whose testimony depends the authenticity of a new Bible, and the verity of a new religious dispensation? Three of them are the father and two brothers of the prophet, and five are made up of a family of Whitmers; and Hiram Page was a brother-on-law of the Whitmers. If we are to credit the affidavits made by sundry of the neighbors, their characters are all very much below par, according to the Gentile standard. But it will perhaps be more satisfactory to adduce Mormon testimony on the subject.
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Harris, who, it will be recollected, exhibited a specimen of the mysterious characters to Professor Anthon, subsequently lost the bulk of his property in the Mormon adventure, and fell into utter disgrace with his prophet himself, who spoke of him in the following disparaging terms in the "Elder's Journal:" "There are negroes who wear white skins as well as those who wear black ones. Granes [sic] Parrish had a few others, who acted as lackies, such as Martin Harris, &c. but they are so far beneath contempt that a notice of them would be too great a sacrifice for a gentleman to make."
From a statement of Sidney Rigdon, while the Saints were at Independence in 1838, it appears that Oliver Cowdry and David Whitmer were connected with a gang of "counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs of the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the Saints." But this is not all; Hyrum Smith, in 1839, wrote an account of his sufferings while in confinement in Missouri, in which he speaks in the following terms of Oliver Cowdry: "Those with whom I had been acquainted from my youth, and who had ever pretended the greatest friendship towards me, came to my house while I was in prison, and ransacked and carried off many of my valuables, this they did under the cloak of friendship. Amongst those who treated me thus I cannot help making particular mention of Lyman Cowdry, who, in connexion with his brother Oliver Cowdry, took from me a great many things; and to cap the climax of his iniquity, compelled my aged father, by threatning to bring a mob upon him, to deed over to him, or his brother Oliver, about one hundred and sixty acres of land to pay a note which I had
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given to Oliver for one hundred and sixty-five dollars.” This note he pronounced a forgery. Oliver Cowdry was afterward arraigned before the Church, and found guilty of sundry charges, among which were,
2d. “For seeking to destroy the character of Joseph Smith, Jr., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery,” &c.
8th. “For disgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says.”
Oliver and Martin were expelled or seceded, but afterward received again into the bosom of the Church, possessing too many of the qualifications of good membership to be long absent from the Latter-day sanctuary. The true believers greatly wondered that the Mormon divinity should have made such a mistake in the character of his chosen witnesses, but were sufficiently reassured when instructed that it was a trial of their faith.
On the 1st of June, 1830, the prophet organized his Church at Fayette, in the county of Ontario, consisting of thirty members. But this was found to be an unfavorable locality: these embryo saints were held in light repute in that region; and, in the course of the same year, Joseph removed to, and established his headquarters at Kirtland, Ohio; not exactly as the future capital of his new religious empire, but as one of the stakes of Zion yet to be located. Here the furnace of this new fanaticism got into full and powerful blast. Superadded to the power of translating the Book of Mormon in particular, and all mysterious hieroglyphics in general, through a mammoth pair of spectacles, Joseph received the gift of prophecy and revelation:
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he became not only the translator of these ancient records, but the prophet, seer, and revelator of the current era. These extraordinary gifts he exercised without stint or measure. The fount of revelation poured forth through this chosen aqueduct a seemingly unceasing and never-ending flood: the shrines of ancient heathendom were altogether cast into the shade by this modem oracle, which obediently responded at all times and on all occasions, to meet the exigencies and gratify the desires of Joseph and his coadjutors. All the movements of the Church and its members, whether of a secular or religious character, were regulated by these celestial responses. Any one curious in the lights, shadows, branchings, and ramifications of pseudo-religious commotions, can be gratified by reading the book of “Doctrines and Covenants,” where the most important of these Sibylline leaves are collated for the edification and guidance of the Latter-day Saints. Missionaries were sent forth by revelation, and entered upon their work with zeal, performing miracles, speaking with unknown tongues, healing the sick, &c. The thing was new, mysterious, and marvelous; its pretensions were great; its advocates bold and plausible; where there was so much smoke, it was readily believed there must be some fire; the last days were believed to be at hand, and multitudes rushed into the new Zion.
Such an aggregation of combustible materials produced a corresponding conflagration, and all accounts agree that the wildest vagaries of modern revivalism were manifested to such a degree, that Joseph was compelled to attach a safety-valve to the boiler, lest
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the concern should explode. He moderated the zeal of the over-zealous, rebuked the too lofty pretensions of some who were disposed to “see visions and dream dreams” on their own hook, and established the very important principle that he alone was the only reliable medium of revelation. Like a prudent general, too, he made seasonable provision for his own safety. As early as July, 1830, a revelation on this point ran in the following strain:
“Magnify thine office; and after thou hast sowed thy fields and secured them, go speedily unto the Church which is in Colesville, Fayetteville, and Manchester, and they shall support thee.”
In February, 1831, the oracle was still more explicit: “And again, it is meet that my servant Joseph Smith, Jr., should have a house built, in which to live and translate.” “If ye desire the mysteries of my kingdom, provide for him food and raiment, and whatsoever thing he needeth.”
Kirtland was never intended to be the metropolis of Mormonism; it was selected as a temporary abiding-place, to make money in reference to a removal further west. Oliver Cowdry was sent forward as a missionary to the Lamanites, and to explore a place for the future Zion. On his return, he gave so flattering an account of the western borders of Missouri, that Joseph resolved to go himself. Accordingly, he and Sidney Rigdon, in obedience to a revelation (June, 1831), repaired to Jackson county, Missouri, and fixed on the spot where Independence now stands as the site of the great Mormon temple, and the gathering-place of the Latter-day Saints.
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Everything appeared so sunny in this delightful region, on the borders of civilized and savage life, where the Lamanites and the Gentiles could be within convenient range of the Mormon batteries, that Joseph was tempted to obtain a revelation, in which matters were more clearly defined than is usual in prophetic annunciations. The following is the heavenly response on this occasion (July, 1831):
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“Hearken, O ye elders of my Church, saith the Lord your God, who have assembled yourselves together, according to my commandments, in this land which is the land of Missouri, which is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gathering of the Saints. Wherefore this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. Behold, the place which is now called Independence is the centre place, and the spot for the Temple is lying westward, upon a lot which is not far from the Court-house: wherefore it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the Saints; and also my tract lying westward, even unto the line running between Jew and Gentile; and also my tract bordering by the prairies, inasmuch as my disciples arc enabled to buy lands. Behold, this is wisdom, that they may obtain it for an everlasting inheritance.”
By the Jew is here understood the Lamanite or Indian. The site of Zion having been thus duly fixed, the enginery of revelation was also put in motion to raise the means. From a number we select the following:
“He that sendeth up treasures unto the land of Zion shall receive an inheritance in this world, and his works shall follow him; and also reward in the world to come.” “Let all the moneys that can be spared, it mattereth not whether it be little or much, be sent up unto the land of Zion, unto them whom I have appointed to receive.” (August, 1831.)
The following looks very much like “letters-of-marque” against the Gentiles:
“Behold, it is said in my laws, or forbidden, to get in debt to thine enemies; but behold, it is not said at
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any time that the Lord should not take, when he please, and pay as seemeth to him good; wherefore, as ye are agents, and are on the Lord’s errand; and whatever ye do according to the will of the Lord is the Lord’s business, and he has sent you to provide for his Saints in these last days, that they may obtain an inheritance in the land of Zion.”
There is no disputing a logical sequence upon the premises here assumed. If the Saints were really upon the Lord’s business, and that business really required a foray upon the flocks and herds of the Gentiles, it would seem to be a fair conclusion that the Lord should settle the bills when he pleased.
In obedience to these celestial mandates, the means were obtained, and a large tract of land purchased in Jackson county, Missouri. Arrangements were speedily made for the establishment of a store, a printing-press, and the usual mechanical operations necessary for the convenience of a town. William W. Phelps, a broken-down political hack in the State of New York, was placed at the head of the paper. The Saints flocked in, and a town sprang up as by magic. Joseph returned to Kirtland, where he proposed to remain five years, to make money for ulterior purposes.
During this period of separation the elements of discord began to appear. Rigdon was a discontented spirit. He knew that he had furnished an equal share of the capital in starting the adventure, and became exceedingly restive in being compelled, by the superior tactics of his co-partner, to occupy a subordinate position. Phelps, too, was an uneasy genius, and, like the frog in the fable, was determined to swell himself into
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importance. He had a ready skill in the dialect of lampoons and half-way libels common to a class of editors at that period; knew something of the weak points of human nature, and could tease it as effectually as the horse is tormented by a hungry swarm of flies. These and other kindred spirits began to question the legitimacy of the powers assumed by the prophet over the Church, and accused him, “in rather an indirect way, of seeking after monarchical power and authority.” They began in whispers and covert insinuations, but finally broke out into open accusations, and boldly opened a correspondence with him on the subject. The prophet could not have been more annoyed had a chestnut burr been securely fastened to a sensitive part of his body. He would willingly have put down this rebellion by hurling the thunderbolts of revelation at the heads of the audacious traitors; but he was absent from the seat of discontent, and did not know how extensive or deeply rooted it might be. His position was exceedingly embarrassing, and he manifested a curious mixture of grief and indignation. In answer to one of Phelps’s letters, he writes (January 11th, 1833), “Our hearts are greatly grieved at the spirit which is breathed both in your letter and that of Brother G******s -- the very spirit which is wasting Zion like a pestilence; and if it is not detected and driven from you, it will ripen Zion for the threatened judgments of God.” “Let me say to you, seek to purify yourselves, and also all the inhabitants of Zion, lest the Lord’s anger be kindled to fierceness.”
In addition to these threats of divine vengeance, he caused a conference of high-priests to-be held, and a
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general epistle to be written, rebuking the rebellious spirit of the Mormon camp. In this epistle, signed by Orson Hyde and Hyrum Smith, “Brother Phelps’ letter” is spoken of as betraying “a lightness of spirit that ill becomes a man placed in the important and responsible station that he is placed in.” He is significantly reminded, “If you have fat beef and potatoes, eat them in singleness of heart, and not boast yourselves in these things;” and the malcontents are warned that “Brother Joseph will not settle in Zion until she repent and purify herself, and abide by the new covenant, and remember the commandments that have been given her, to do them as well as to say them.” The prophet, however, soon found that the rebellion was too serious to be put down by these “paper pellets of the brain,” and he was eventually compelled, in compromise of the difficulty, to associate two others with him in the presidency of the Church. The oracle in this emergency runs in this wise: “And again, verily, I say unto you, thy brethren, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, their sins are forgiven them also, and they are accounted as equal with thee in holding the keys of this last kingdom” (March, 1833). Here we have the quorum of three, which has now become the most important department in the government of the Church.
In the mean time, the Saints went on gathering at Independence until they numbered about twelve hundred. “The Evening and Morning Star,” under the management of Phelps, was established in 1832, and opened its batteries upon the Gentile world. Every thing seemed to go on swimmingly. The Saints,
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encouraged by increasing numbers and the indications of prosperity, became arrogant and overbearing, and talked of ultimately possessing the whole land. They soon, too, acquired a doubtful reputation for licentiousness, stealing, and fraudulent practices under various forms. To cap the climax, the “Star” published some incendiary articles in regard to the colored population, which aroused the jealousy of the slaveholders for the safety of the peculiar institution. The people became uncontrollably excited, and held a meeting at Independence, July 20, 1833, in which they resolved on the expulsion of the Mormons. They required that the office of the Star should be closed, and that the Saints should pledge themselves to remove; in which case they were to be “allowed to remain a reasonable time, to sell their property and close their business without any material sacrifice.” The Saints wished for time to consult with their brethren in Ohio, but this being regarded by the angry multitude as an evasion, they again assembled, after a few hours’ delay, leveled the printing-office to the ground, and tarred and feathered two of the principal Saints.
On the 23d of July, three days after, the mob again assembled, well armed, and the Mormons, becoming alarmed for their safety, agreed to remove from the county in a reasonable time. An agreement to this effect was drawn up and signed, by which one half were to remove by the first of January, and the rest by the first of April following, in consideration of which the people agreed that no further violence should be offered. Had these terms been complied with, probably no further violence would have occurred in
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every prospect of a civil war, when the main body of the Mormons, hastily and in much confusion, abandoned their homes, and fled into Clay county, on the other side of the Missouri. This took place in November, 1833: women and children were exposed to the inclemency of the weather, and there was much suffering and some loss of property. They were, however, received with great kindness by the people of Clay county, and the prophet managed to take off the rough edge of these reverses by a revelation that they were in consequence of the "contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires" among the Saints, whereby they had "polluted their inheritances;" and they are comforted with the assurance that "Zion shall not be moved out of her place, notwithstanding her children are scattered; they that remain and are pure in heart shall return and come to their inheritances, they and their children, with songs of everlasting joy, to build up the waste places of Zion. And, behold, there is none other place appointed than that which I have appointed for the work of the gathering of my Saints, until the day cometh when there is found no more room for them, and then I have other places; which I will appoint unto them; and they shall be called stakes for the curtains, or the strength of Zion" (August, 1833). He also reveals to them that they were to appeal to the judiciary, and, if that was in vain, then to the Governor, and, if that was unsuccessful, then to the President of the United States, and if the appeal was still unheeded, "then the Lord God him self would arise, and come forth out of his and in his fury vex the nation!"
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These appeals were all subsequently made without success; but, unfortunately for the prediction, the Lord does not seem to come forth from his "hiding-place;" and, although Missouri was to be overflowing with Saints before the "stakes for the curtains" were appointed, yet they have been compelled to appoint these "stakes" without returning to Independence at all. The truth is, these revelations in regard to the seat of Zion were a little too definite. The prophet, in due time, discovered that he led the Mormon deity into a mistake, and did all he could to explain the failure. It was difficult, however, in the face of such predictions, to change the venue, and the notion is therefore still prevalent among a portion of the Saints that they are to return in triumph to Missouri and drive out the Gentiles.
(continued on part 2)
Benjamin Ferris was called to the governorship of Utah Territory in 1852 by President Millard Fillmore. Prior to his being given this responsibility, Ferris had been a lawyer and local notable in Ithaca, New York. It was there that he married Cornelia Woodcock on May 26 1830. Cornelia accompanied her husband to Utah and later wrote her own book recounting her experiences in the west. For more on Ferris see John H. Selkreg's 1894 Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York, expecially the section: "The Town of Ithaca."
Ferris first published his account of travels and experiences in the west in 1854. Two years later he revised and expanded this text of Utah and the Mormons. The 1856 edition was the last one published of his book and Ferris soon after slipped into obscurity. He is last mentioned as having been in the Ithaca area in 1855. Perhaps he died soon after that.
Ferris' account of early Mormonism is a pedestrian presentation typical of the times. Despite his having lived among the Mormons in Utah for several months, he was unable to solicit from them much in the way of original and unique historical material on the rise and progress of the sect. He adopts the Spalding-Rigdon explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon, adding little to the "Spalding theory," except for his labeling Rigdon a "religious Ishmaelite" -- a term other writers picked up and applied as well descriptive of Rigdon's pre-Mormon years.
The following is a brief notice of the first edition of the book, as published in the "Critical Notices" section of The Southern Quarterly Review for Oct 1854:
Utah and the Mormons. By Benjamin G. Ferris.
A similar review appeared in the pages of the New Haven New Englander in Nov. 1854. The North American Review of July 1856 gave some column space to noticing both the books of Mr. Ferris and Mrs. Ferris:
UTAH AND THE MORMONS.