Cincinnati, Ohio, Monday, January 18, 1869.
SALT LAKE CITY LETTER.
Correspondence Cincinnati Commercial.
The Origin and Progress of Polygamy
Among the Mormons.
Salt Lake City, U. T.,
Thus far in these articles I have made occasional references to the "peculiar institution" of Utah, but on this, the beginning of a year which will
witness its great trial, it seems appropriate to go somewhat into the history and theology of the system.
New Year's Day, 1869.
The Mormons are particular to declare that they never would have practiced polygamy except in accordance with an express revelation from
God; and though they occasionally defend it on various physiological and scriptural grounds, they always fall back upon the express command.
This revelation is said to have been given at Nauvoo, Illinois, July 12, 1843. It was first published in the Deseret News Extra, of September 14, 1852,
and next in the April number, 1853, of the Millennial Star, Liverpool, England, of which last a copy lies before me. The revelation is entirely too long
and discursive to quote entire, so I sectionalize it for reference.
Section 1 opens with this remarkable statement, the Lord represented as speaking: "Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, that
inasmuch as you have inquired at my hands to know wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; as also Moses, David,
and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines; behold, and lo, I am the Lord and will
answer thee as touching this matter," &c.
It will not escape your notice that, as here stated, Joseph had asked the Lord about the matter. We cannot but wonder whether it would have been
revealed at all, without this preliminary questioning. Many good Mormons think it would not, and Mormon ladies have frequently expressed a pious
regret that the Prophet ever asked about it! The section concludes by denouncing damnation upon all who reject the new gospel.
Section 2 sets forth that, "All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations that
are not made and entered into, and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise of him who is anointed," are void in eternity, and only good for this world. It
sets forth also with great verbosity of language, that "God's house is a house of order."
Section 3 applies this principle is applied to the marriage covenant, stating that all who are not married, "and sealed according to the new and
everlasting covenant," are married for this world only, and shall not be entitled to their respective partners in eternity, but shall continue "angels
only, and not gods, kept as ministers to those who are worthy of a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
Section 4 describes the future glory of those who keep the new covenant: "Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; there they shall be
from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be
gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them."
Section 5 forgives all manner of crimes, except murder, "wherein they shed innocent blood," and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Apostasy,
be it noted, is the worst form of the latter sin.
Section 6 explains the cases of Abraham and other ancient polygamists at great length, concluding by citing David as an example of how men lose
their "exaltation" by abusing their privileges: "In none of these things did he sin against me, save in the case of Uriah and his wife, and, therefore,
he hath fallen from his exaltation and received his position; and he shall not inherit them out of the world, for I gave them unto another, saith the Lord."
Section 7 confers great power upon Joseph Smith to regulate all such celestial marriages, punish for adultery, and take away the wives of the guilty
and give them to good men.
Section 8 gives very full and explicit instructions to Emma Smith, wife of Joseph, how to conduct herself under the new dispensation; that she "receive
all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph, who are virtuous and pure before me," and threatening her with destruction if she do not.
Section 9 breaks short off, and gives Joseph Smith full directions how to manage his property; particulary "let not my servant Joseph put his
property out of his hands, lest an enemy come and destroy him," and threatening severely all who injure him.
Section 10 comes, at last, to the gist of the matter, and grants plurality of wives in these words:
"And again, as pertaining to the law of'the priesthood. If any man espouse a virgin and desires to espouse another,
and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man,
then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery, for they are given unto him, for he cannot commit adultery with that
that belongeth unto him and to none else; and if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit
adultery, for they belong to him and are given unto him, therefore is he justified. They are given unto him to multiply
and replenish the earth according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father
before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men,
for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified."
Section 11 denounces heavy punishment on all women who refuse, without good cause, to give their husbands second wives; concluding as follows:
"And now, as pertaining unto this law, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will reveal more unto you hereafter; therefore, let this suffice for the present.
Behold, I am Alpha and Omega. Amen." Such is the revelation. Space fails me to note all its contradictions and absurdities. One, however,
is worthy of special note. In the eighth section Emma Smith is commanded to receive lovingly "all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph."
The past tense is used. Thus the first revelation authorizing polygamy implies that Joseph had already practised it. Stranger still, polygamy is expressly
forbidden by the "Book of Mormon."
In the third book and second chapter of that work, the angel messenger is represented as saying to the Nephites (Jews who settled America):
"But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For this people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures,
for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things that were written concerning David and Solomon, his son.
They, truly, had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord, wherefore, hearken unto the word of the
Lord, for there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife, and concubines he shall have none, for I, the Lord God, delighteth in the
chastity of women."
It has exhausted all the ingenuity of Mormon writers to reconcile this passage with the new revelation, but they succeed in doing so sufficiently
to satisfy their consciences. The Mormon history relates that when the full force of the new covenant was perceived the Prophet was filled with
astonishment and dread. All the traditions of his early education were overthrown, and yet he felt that it was the work of the Lord. In vain he sought
to be released from the burden of communicating the new doctrine to the world, and at length obtained permission to keep it secret,as yet, from
all but the Twelve Apostles and a few other leading men. As the hour approached when he was to meet them in council, horror and fear of what might
be the result overcame him, and he hastily mounted his horse he fled from the city. But a mighty angel met him on the road, stood in the way with a
drawn sword, and with awful voice and offended mein bade him return.
These pretended forebodings were fully justified by the event, for, in spite of the secrecy maintained, the matter was soon bruited abroad, and there
was fearful commotion in "Zion." Old Mormons have told me that when they first heard it they were horror stricken at the thought, and for years after
could not believe the report.
As might be expected, the men were the first converts. Joseph and a few others began soon to act upon their new privileges. Joseph seems to have
been pretty successful, and soon had half a dozen spiritual wives, though all was still kept secret. While soliciting ladies to become "sealed" to him,
he made several unsuccessful attempts, which caused great scandal. In particular, his doings were published by Miss Martha H. Brotherton, who
immediately withdrew from the Church; also by Miss Eliza [sic - Nancy?] Rigdon, daughter of Sidney Rigdon, Mrs. Foster, Mrs. Higbee, and
a lady now resident in this city, whose name I am not at liberty to publish.
Great was the fury among the saints at these revelations, and every epithet a vile fancy could suggest, was heaped upon these ladies, for what
were styled "their perjured lies to injure the prophet." One of them was forced to sign a written retraction; another, discarded and denounced by
her Mormon parents, died of a broken heart. Sidney Rigdon soon after left the community and took his daughter with him; Miss Brotherton escaped
and returned to Boston, while Foster, Higbee, and a few others, whose families had been insulted, apostatized. For awhile the dissolution of the
church seemed imminent, but the mingled boldness and hypocrisy of the prophet restored something like order, and polygamy was indignantly
denounced and denied.
At length Foster, Higbee and some other apostates commenced preaching openly against the Prophet, and established at Nauvoo a paper called
the Expositor, devoted to making war upon the new system. Among the first contents was a batch of sixteen affidavits, mostly from ladies, setting
forth the licentious actions of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Joseph was at that time not only Prophet, Priest, and Revelator, but also Mayor
of the City and Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion. Such a daring publication in the stronghold of his power was not to be tolerated. So he hastily
convened the City Council, who, at his suggestion, declared the Expositor a "public nuisance," and ordered that it be "at once abated." Josephl and
his partisans forthwith attacked the office and abated it in the Mormon fashion, by leveling it to the ground. Foster & Law, the publishers fled for their
lives, and, proceeding to Carthage, the county seat of Hancock County, procured warrants against several Mormons, under the State law of Illinois,
determined to test the legality of such extensive jurisdiction by the Council.
The officer who attempted to serve the warrant was contemptuously expelled from Nauvoo, where Joseph reigned supreme. Meanwhile, a thousand
causes of quarrel had arisen between the surrounding people and the Saints. The entire region was overrun ny reckless and blood-stained men, who
often concealed themselves in Nauvoo, and it soon became common for the people to charge all crimes upon the Mormons. This last attempt to set
the county and State authorities at defiance seemed to condemn at once all the charges that Joseph Smith intended to erect an independent empire.
A call was at once made upon the militia of the county, which was answered by them and many neighboring counties. The Mormons hastily fortified
the city, the Nauvoo Legion, numbering four thousand men, was put under arms, and all of central Western Illinois seemed divided into two great camps,
Mormon and anti-Mormon. The circumstances were so threatening that Governor Thomas L. Ford hastened to the scene and took command of the
militia. Finding, as he said, that if the fight once began, nothing but the destruction of the city would satisfy the troops, and anxious to spare the effusion
of blood, he entered the city and prevailed upon the two Smiths, Joseph and Hiram, to surrender. They were imprisoned in Carthage jail, accompanied
by elders Willard Richards and John Taylor, as friends, but not under arrest. The Governor pledged his word for their protection, and placed what was
considered a sufficient guard over the jail. But on the evening of June 27, 1844, a mob of several hundred men, with blackened faces, overpowered the
guard, forced the jail, killed both the Smiths and dangerously wounded John Taylor, who, however, recovered and is now a leading man among the
Mormons. The news soon reached Nauvoo and created the wildest grief and indignation. The Legion prepared to march and destroy Carthage, but
were restrained by their leaders. The bodies of Joseph and Hiram were received with great ceremony, and honored with a magnificent funeral. All
jealousy or doubt of the Prophet vanished at his death, and he was canonized in Mormon hearts as a Saint and Martyr.
His death, too, seemed to satisfy the bitter anti-Mormons, and for some months there was comparative quiet, but in 1846 persecution again blazed
forth and drove the Mormons from the State. These tragic events were not without a lesson, and for many years polygamy was as much as possible
kept secret, though being rapidly extended among the initiated. Brigham Young soon became head of the Church, and took for his second wife Lucy
Decker Seely, who had previously been divorced from Doctor Seely. Not long after, at their winter quarters near Council Bluffs, Iowa, he married Harriet
Cook, whose son, Oscar Young, is the first child in polygamy. He is now a young man of twenty-two or three, bright, active and intelligent, and a great
favorite with his Gentile friends, though a little to be dreaded sometimes on account of his savage temper when angry.
This marriage was followed by those of Clara Decker, Clara Chase, Lucy Bigelow, Harriet Bowker and Harriet Barney. Mary Ann Angell Young, the
original wife of Brigham, still lives in a house of her own, just back of the Lion House. She had five children -- Brigham, Joseph, John, Alice and Luna;
all are married and living here. Brigham was at first a widower and the two daughters of his first wife, now middle-aged ladies, are both married
and living in this city.. A few years after leaving Nauvoo, Brigham married Emmeline Free, who was for many years his favorite wife, and often styled
among Gentiles, "The Light of the Harem." She was finally discarded, some five years ago, for Amelia Folsom, his youngest wife and present favorite.
It is, of course, impossible to tell with exactness the number of his wives, but those best informed place them at twenty-three actual wives, and fifty-one
spiritual. Miss Eliza Roxy Snow, the Salt Lake Poetess, is one of his spiritual wives, or "proxy" women, and is married to him by proxy for Joseph
Smith, of whom she claims to have been the first spiritual wife.
The Mormons believe in baptism for the dead by proxy, also marriage for the dead. Some additional ceremonies are necessary to reduce a spiritual
marriage to an actual one, with "the rights, privileges and appurtences thereunto belonging," and even when done, the wife and children are all to belong
to the other husband in eternity, the earthly husband merely "raises up seed" unto his dead brother. Only nine of Brigham's wives have children, so his
family is not so large as is generally supposed. None have had children within five years. Amelia, the youngest, has no children, which would render
her position very unhappy among the Mormons, were it not that the cause is well known.
Consequent on the furore and scandal which followed the revelation at Nauvoo, a policy of concealment was adopted and for nine years the Mormon
missionaries in every part of the world repudiated polygamy. In February, 1844, some seven months after the revelation is said to have been given,
Joseph and Hiram Smith published, over their own signature, in the Times and Seasons, Mormon paper at Nauvoo, an indignant denial that such was
the doctrine of the Church, and a month later an elder was "silenced" from preaching for advocating polygamy.
The foreign Mormons were thus kept in perfect ignorance of the matter, and were highly indignant when the charge was made. Still, as it was practiced,
reports of it were constantly made and generally believed throughout the United States. The Mormons explain this long continued deceit on the ground
of pious policy. "It would not do," they say, 'to give strong meat to little children. They must be first fed with milk, and when they get stronger, they can
have meat. So with the truth, they must be taught a little at a time." Polygamy was, indeed, too strong a dose for the new converts, and when it was
finally proclaimed to the world in 1852-53, it seemed that, even then, it would destroy the foreign church.
In England, especially, the demoralization was fearful; hundreds after hundreds apostatized, whole churches and conferences dissolved; talented
knaves in many instances, finding in this the excuse for going off without surrendering the money-bags which they held. The missions entirely
disappeared in many parts of Europe, and even in America, thousands of new converts who had not gone to "Zion," turned away and joined the
Josephites, Gladdenites, Strangites, and other sects of recusant Mormons. The Millennial Star remained silent on the subject for weeks after
publishing the revelation, coming out at length with a feeble defense of the system, from the pen of J. Jaques, a leading Mormon polemic. The fact
was the people did not understand the new idea, they did not see the "spiritual necessities" for it; they had so far believed that Mormonism was
simply an advance in Christianity, and could not feel that in "this, the fullness of time, the ancient covenant was restored with all its privileges."
But earnest preaching and religious fanaticism finally triumphed, and to-day polygamy is so thoroughly grafted into and interwoven with the religion
of Mormonism, that at no point can one be touched without attacking the other. "Sexual ressurection." "Marriage for the Dead." "Progress in Eternity."
"Pre-existence of the Soul, and all other peculiarities of their theology depend by a thousand combinations and inter-relations on the plurality system.
Their theology teaches that there are three heavens -- the celestial, the terrestrial and the telestial. The first is for the faithful saints, the other two for
those who have neither kept nor disobeyed the Gospel, some because they did not hear it, and others because they could not obey it. Woman in and
of herself can never enter the celestial and secure her exaltation. "As Eve led Adam out of the garden he must lead her back; she can not have her
glory without a crown; she can not come into the presence of God without a husband to lead her."
They believe, too, that the expression "Father of our spirits," is literal, that the gods in the eternal world have many wives, and become by divine
generation the fathers of the souls of men. But in this primal spirit world there could be no advance, because they have been subject to no law;
hence they must take on earthly tabernacles and enter upon their probationary state. The "spirits in prison" are waiting by countless millions to be
clothed upon with bodies, that they may enter upon their earthly probation, and have free course to run their race and receive their exaltation.
Hence to remain childless is a sin and calamity, and such can have no kingdom in the eternal world. The more children for a woman the higher her glory,
and the larger family for a man the greater his kingdom there, where he shall rule over his descendants and be their God. There are "Lords many and
Gods many," but to us there is but one God, the Creator of the world and the Father of our spirits. It is now generally received doctrine that Adam is
the God of this world, and that with 144,000 wives he is in the spirit planet nearest to this, furnishing new souls to inhabit earthly tabernacles.
All faithful saints are to become gods in eternity, and the most faithful to have worlds furnished them for their spiritual progeny. Joseph Smith is now
a God of high rank, next to Christ, who in turn stands next to Adam. Above Adam is Jehovah, and above Jehovah is Eloheim. His residence is in the
planet Kolob, near the center of our system. Besides Eloheim there is also "God the Eternal Father," who is in some mysterious way connected
with, perhaps controlled by, the Grand Council of the Gods, or High Archee. All these gods have many wives, and furnish millions of spirits, which in
time inhabit earthly bodies, and if faithful, rise to their exaltation. So when you see a Mormon, remember that you see a spirit that was, a saint that
is, and a god that is to be. Those who do not rise to their privileges in this world, are to be angels merely -- that is, servants to those more worthy.
Christ is to rule this world next, with a vast number of wives, among whom Martha and Mary, his wives on earth, will be most prominent.
Such is the theory of polygamy in this gross compound of Buddhism, Brahminism, Manichaism, Judaism, and Christianity, which is called Mormonism.
Nowhere through the long detail of their tenets is purity taught or hinted at. It is all pure selfishness, mere grossness, sexualism deified, and the
domain of the senses made the empire of the universe. That Being in whose sight 'the heavens are not clean," who "put no trust in his servants and his
angels he charged with folly," who is far above all thought of earthiness, has no place in such a system. They have degraded the human conception of
Deity till he has become in their minds "altogether such a one as themselves." The heathen philosophers of ancient Greece were in purity of conception
infinitely their superiors. Plato's Deity was as far in advance of Brigham's as the loftiest conceptions of a refined and virtuous philosopher are above
the filthy imaginations of a sensual impostor. So much for theoretical polygamy, the beauties of the practical system must be reserved for another article.
Note: The contents of this letter were largely reproduced in chapter 15 of J. H. Beadle's 1870 Life in Utah. Evidently, in the space of a
few short months, Beadle obtained permission to there include the name of "Mrs. Sarah Pratt, first wife of Orson Pratt," in place of his previous
cryptic mention of "a lady now resident in this city, whose name I am not at liberty to publish." Beadle's 1870 revision of the text was not always
more correct or informative than his initial letter to the Commercial. He retained the "Thomas L. Ford" name (and in the process influenced
later LDS writers to include the odd middle initial), mistakenly blamed a version of Nauvoo polygamy upon Sidney Rigdon, etc. Mr. Beadle might
have been influenced by the writings of Mrs. C. V. Waite in some of his conclusions regarding Mormonism. For example, her 1868 book, The
Mormon Prophet, contains the term "Grand Archee," which Beadle parallels in speaking of the Mormon "Grand Council of the Gods, or High