Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Brigham Young (1801-1877)

Sierra Club


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Brigham Young (1801-1877) took over leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the martyr of the church's founder, Joseph Smith. Young led the early members of the church westward to the Salt Lake Valley. Young was perhaps the most famous polygomist (polygynist specifically) of the early church. The exact number of his wives is still unknown. Though the church makes no apologies for its early practice, the modern church no longer tolerates polygamy. Any members found to be practicing it are excommunicated. In addition to founding the University of Utah, Young also organized the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Brigham Young University is named after him. [The material above is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Brigham Young.]

Mormons: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian denomination which has headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. The church was founded in 1830 in the state of New York by Joseph Smith, Jr. and has since grown to a worldwide membership of over 11 million. The church is the largest by far of several groups claiming to be the legimate continutation of the religion founded by Joseph Smith. Members of the church hold that their faith is a divinely appointed restoration of the church founded by Jesus Christ in biblical times. They base their views on new revelation and scripture which they hold to be be revealed by God, and therefore as important as the books of the Bible. These books describe a previously unheard-of story: that Jesus Christ visited disciples in the Americas following his resurrection. These ancient Americans had been taught about Christ by a succession of prophets who foretold his coming. During his visit, Christ taught the people and performed miracles similar to those recorded in the New Testament. This story has been compared to Rastafarians's description of biblical connections for Ethiopia and claims during the height of the British Empire that the English were the Lost Tribe of Israel. Some hold that just as Christianity became a new religion after it introduced new scriptures to the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible, aka Old Testament), the Mormons developed a new religion when they added their new scriptures to the Christian Bible (which is composed of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and sometimes the Deuterocanon).

Name of the Church

Smith's church was originally called simply the "Church of Christ", later the "Church of Latter-day Saints", and finally the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints". The Church is also commonly referred to as the "LDS church", and sometimes the "Mormon church", although this designation can be confusing, because groups outside the church are sometimes also referred to as "Mormons". The nickname comes from The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which the church accepts as scripture in addition to the Bible. Other LDS scriptures include The Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. In 2001, the church requested that the official name, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" be used wherever possible, stating: "This full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838." When referring to members of the church, they asked that the term "Latter-day Saints" be preferred, although "Mormons" is acceptable. Within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all church members are called "Saints", and the membership of the church "The Saints". There is no concept of a Saint in the sense used by other Christians, only in the sense of a faithful follower of Christ. The original 12 followers of Jesus are referred to simply as the "Apostles".

God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost

God the Father, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Ghost are considered three separate and distinct personages that together form the Godhead (as distinct from the Trinity decreed by the First Council of Nicaea). They are all eternal and equal in divinity, although they do play somewhat different roles. God and Christ are believed to both have physical bodies, while the Holy Ghost is a spirit. Although it is not directly stated in the canonical scriptures, Joseph Smith and other church leaders have taught that God the Father is an exalted man who once lived on an earth. Though not mentioned in official doctrine, it is implied that God would have lived a life much as we do, living by the laws of that world's divine Creator, and that after his death and resurrection, after much time and progression, was given the responsibility of Godhood, with the opportunity to create "worlds without number". The creation story in Genesis would begin sometime after this point. The relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is considered a very close one, because although they are physically separate beings, they share a spiritual unity of purpose. Mormons consider them to be one in the sense that they are perfectly unified in purpose and cooperation. Thus, there would never be any kind of conflict or disagreement between them. It is also believed, although it is seldom mentioned even within the church, that God is married to a Heavenly Mother. No reference is made to the status of the Heavenly Mother in terms of her divinity, nor is she mentioned in doctrine, scripture, or other church teachings. Her existence is referred to briefly in the church hymn titled "O My Father" (Hymn number 292). Her existence is a natural extension of church teachings that proclaim that each person is "a spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents," so her existence is acknowledged by church members and leadership. She is not worshipped or prayed to; her existence is simply acknowledged. Church members, supported by statements from leadership, believe that She is not mentioned, named, or talked about because God does not wish to have her name profaned, although this is not an official doctrine. Some other Christian faiths consider this belief system to be polytheism and at odds with classical forms of Christianity. Mormons hold that it is classical Christianity that misunderstands the nature of God.

The Plan of Salvation, Exaltation, Damnation and Eternal Progression

The Plan of Salvation is God's plan for the salvation of mankind, His children. Salvation occurs through Jesus Christ, as the Redeemer of mankind. The gift of immortality is believed to come to all through Christ's sacrifice on the Cross and his subsequent Resurrection. Although it is believed that immortality is a free gift to all people, entrance to the Heavenly Kingdom (referred to as the "Celestial Kingdom") comes to those who accept Christ through baptism into the church, and who live righteous lives. Faith alone is not considered sufficient to gain exaltation. Mormons do not use the cross as a symbol of their faith, saying that it is not Christ's death that is most important, but his life and resurrection.

Exaltation is the reward which the LDS church believes is given to righteous church members (including those who accept the Gospel in the afterlife). Through the process of exaltation, a person can eventually become a god and creator. It is believed that people who do not have the opportunity to accept the Gospel while on Earth will have another opportunity to do so in the afterlife. However, those who reject the Gospel while on Earth will have no such opportunity. The Celestial Kingdom (metaphorically glorious as the sun) is the place where righteous church members live with God and with their families.

Those good people who choose not to be valiant in following Jesus are not fit for exaltation, and will be consigned to (and indeed find themselves more comfortable in) the Terrestrial Kingdom (metaphorically compared to the moon's brightness). This place is believed to be one of great joy, but without the presence of God the Father. Murderers and other criminals also spend eternity with people of like intent, in the Telestial Kingdom (likened to the stars). This also is considered a kingdom of glory, and is described as being much more glorious than mortal life, perhaps because it is free from the sickness and want of mortality. A small number of truly evil people, who willingly reject what they know to be God's truth in its entirety, are believed to be consigned to the Outer Darkness at the final judgement - a place of no light (light being the common metaphor for truth). These are known as sons of perdition.


Mormons believe in the principle of repentance, which for them includes a sincere regret as well as restitution when possible and reform of one's actions. It is considered important for a person to confess serious sins to their Bishop, who can also offer advice and encouragement in less serious matters. Key to the repentance process is a person's personal, prayerful confession to God, which includes asking for forgiveness and resolving not to repeat the mistake. When an act is repented of, but then recommitted, it is not a true repentance.


The LDS Church practices baptism by immersion. It is believed that baptism is symbolic of a burial and rebirth as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Through this process, the person is believed to be cleansed of all previous sin and becomes a member of the church.

Baptism is always performed after the eighth birthday. The age of eight is considered the age when people can be responsible for their actions. The Book of Mormon specifically forbids the practice of infant baptism. Latter-day Saints also believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is conferred as members of the priesthood place their hands on the head of the recipient and pronounce a blessing upon him or her. It is usually conferred shortly after baptism. Latter-day Saint fathers typically bless their babies shortly after birth when they are normally given a name and various blessings which the father calls for as he feels inspired. This blessing is not considered required for salvation and thus converts are not required to have this blessing.

Chapels and Temples

One must be a member in good standing in order to enter any of the Temples. However, the public is welcome to attend meetings in local chapels. Worship services, known as sacrament meetings, are held weekly. Every meeting includes a passing of the sacrament, similar to communion or the eucharist in various other churches. Meetings include the singing of hymns (accompanied by piano or organ) and two or three discourses by members. Although it is not required, women usually attend wearing skirts or dresses, while men wear dress shirts and ties. The temples are not used for regular meetings, but are primarily used for the performing of ceremonial ordinances that Mormons believe are essential for entering the Celestial Kingdom. The ordinances performed in the temples, including baptisms, are also done by proxy for those who have died. To obtain names of people for whom ordinances can be performed, the church encourages genealogical research and makes available its vast genealogical resources to nonmembers. Although it is not official doctrine, Mormons generally believe that ultimately (after the Second Coming) all people who have lived will have had ordinances performed for them. The ordinances are believed to have no effect, however, on those who decide they don't wish to receive the benefits of the Gospel.


A sealing is a special ritual or ceremony which is held only in a Temple. During a Sealing, the members of a family, including parents and children, are bound together as a family which is believed to endure beyond death. The church teaches that a family which has been sealed in the Temple will remain a family even in Heaven. This is the belief which lies behind the well-known church slogan, "Familes are Forever."

Other Practices

Practices more or less distinctive to Mormons include following the Word of Wisdom (abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee and eating meat sparingly), tithing (giving 10 percent of one's income to the church), chastity (no sexual relations outside lawful marriage), modesty in dress, lay leadership (church officials are not paid, although reportedly some top national officials have their living expenses covered by the church), family home evenings (families are encouraged to meet weekly for prayer and other activities), and home and visiting teaching (members regularly visit other members in their homes for prayer and study). Tattoos and body piercings (except for one pair of earrings for women). Although there are no specific rules, church members also are encouraged to have children, so Mormon families tend to be larger than average. Prayers are to the Heavenly Father in the name of Christ. English-speaking members generally use "thee", "thou" and "thy" when addressing God. Young men (ages 19 to 26) are expected to go on a two-year, full-time proselytizing mission. Young women also may go on missions, and elderly couples are encouraged to do so as well. The church has about 60,000 missionaries worldwide.

The church places a strong emphasis on education and heavily subsidizes Brigham Young University and related schools. Church members also may wear special clothing or undergarments which they call the Garment of the Holy Priesthood. Only those who have attended the temple wear the garment. This clothing functions similarly to the ecclesiastic clothing worn by many other Christian groups, but because the church has a lay clergy, members wear this clothing under their normal attire.

The Priesthood

Priesthood in the LDS church has a different connotation than it does in most other churches, because all worthy males of the proper age may be ordained. There are two branches of the Priesthood, known as the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood is considered a preparatory priesthood, and is given to men from age 12 onward, and the Melchizedek Priesthood is the "full" Priesthood, which is reserved for men over age 18. Mormons believe that the priesthood was given directly to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The story, as given by Joseph Smith and as recorded in Joseph Smith - History, is as follows:

". . . we. . . went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates [the Book of Mormon]. . . . While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

"Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

"He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us directions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and that afterwards he should baptize me.

"Accordingly we went and were baptized. . . .

"The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. . . .

"Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation."

Church Leadership

The LDS church is headed by the Prophet, a man who is believed to directly speak with God and receive his guidance in leading the church. The first Prophet of the church was Joseph Smith, Jr.. The Prophet serves for life, and after his death the next most senior apostle (in years served as an apostle) is ordained as his replacement. The Prophet is also the President and has two counsellors, the First Counselor and the Second Counselor. Together they are known as the First Presidency. Beneath the First Presidency is the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It was founded on February 14, 1835 in Kirtland, Ohio. There are also several Quorums of the Seventy. The original quorum of the seventy was founded February 28, 1835. At the local level, each Stake, made up of a number of congregations, is led by a Stake President and his two counselors, the "Stake Presidency." Each congregation (known as a "ward", or a "branch" if it is very small) is led by a Bishop and his counselors, called the "Bishopric" (or by a branch president and his counselors).


Under the Church's doctrine of continuing revelation, the Church has an open canon which currently includes the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, which together form the Standard Works. English-speaking members use the King James Version of the Bible; the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible is widely referred to but technically isn't canonical. Other scriptures are expected to be added to the cannon from time to time. One example is the translation of the remaining two-thirds of the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. Viewed as authoritative but again technically not canonical are some proclamations by the church leadership, including the 1995 "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" and the 2000 "The Living Christ."

Catholic Perspective

Joseph Smith, the founder and first president of the sect, was the son of a Vermont farmer, and was born in Sharon township, Windsor County, in that state, on 23 December, 1805. In the spring of 1820, while living with his parents at Manchester, Ontario (now Wayne) County, New York, he became deeply concerned upon the subject of his salvation, a condition partly induced by a religious revival which proselytized a few of his relatives to the Presbyterian Faith. Joseph himself was inclined toward Methodism; to satisfy his mind as to which one of the existing sects he should join, he sought Divine guidance, and claimed to have received in answer to prayer a visitation from two glorious beings, who told him not to connect himself to any of these Churches, but to bide the coming of Church of Christ, which was about to be re-established.

According to his own statement, there appeared to him on the night of 21 September, 1823, a heavenly messenger, who gave his name as Moroni, and revealed the existence of an ancient record containing the fullness of the Gospel of Christ as taught by the Saviour after his Resurrection to the Nephites, a branch of the House of Israel which inhabited the American continent ages prior to its discovery by Columbus. Moroni in mortal life had been a Nephite prophet, the son of another prophet named Mormon, who was the compiler of the record buried in a hill situated about two miles from the modern village of Manchester.

Joseph Smith states that he received the record from the Angel Moroni in September, 1827. It was, he alleges, engraved upon metallic plates having the appearance of gold and each a little thinner than ordinary tin, the whole forming a book about six inches long, six inches wide, and six inches thick, bound together by rings. The characters engraved upon the plates were in a language styled the Reformed Egyptian, and with the book were interpreters -- Urim and Thummim -- by means of which these characters were to be translated into English. The result was the "Book of Mormon", published at Palmyra, New York in March, 1830; in the preface eleven witnesses, exclusive of Joseph Smith, the translator, claim to have seen the plates from which it was taken. On renouncing Mormonism subsequently, Cowdery, Whitmer, and Harris -- the three principal witnesses -- declared this testimony false.

The "Book of Mormon" purports to be an abridged account of God's dealings with the two great races of prehistoric Americans -- the Jaredites, who were led from the Tower of Babel at the time of the confusion of the tongues, and the Nephites who came from Jerusalem just prior to the Babylonian captivity (600 B.C.). According to this book, America is the "Land of Zion", where the New Jerusalem will be built by a gathering of scattered Israel before the second coming of the Messiah. The labours of such men as Columbus, the Pilgrim Fathers, and the patriots of the Revolution, are pointed out as preparatory to that consummation. The work of Joseph Smith is also prophetically indicated, he being represented as a lineal descendant of the Joseph of old, commissioned to begin the gathering of Israel foretold by Isaias (11:10-16) and other ancient prophets.

In another part of his narrative Joseph Smith affirms that, while translating the "Book of Mormon", he and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, were visited by an angel, who declared himself to be John the Baptist and ordained them to the Aaronic priesthood; and that subsequently they were ordained to the priesthood of Melchisedech by the Apostles Peter, James and John. According to Smith and Cowdery, the Aaronic priesthood gave them authority to preach faith and repentance, to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins, and to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper; the priesthood of Melchisedech empowered them to lay on hands and bestow the Holy Ghost.

The "Book of Mormon" being published, its peculiar doctrines, including those just set forth, were preached in western New York and northern Pennsylvania. Those who accepted them were termed "Mormons", but they called themselves "Latter-Day Saints", in contradistinction to the saints of former times. The "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" was organized on 6 April, 1830, at Fayette, Seneca County, New York; Joseph Smith was accepted as first elder, and prophet, seer, and revelator.

The articles of faith formulated by him are as follows:

(1) We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.

(2) We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression.

(3) We believe that through the atonement of Christ all men may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.

(4) We believe that these ordinances are: First, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, repentance; third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost

(5) We believe that a man must be called of God by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer the ordinances thereof.

(6) We believe in the same organization that existed in the primitive church, viz. apostles, prophets, pastors teachers, evangelists, etc.

(7) We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, etc.

(8) We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the 'Book of Mormon' to be the word of God.

(9) We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

(10) We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes. That Zion will be built upon this continent. That Christ will reign personally upon the earth, and that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisaic glory.

(11) We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege; let them worship how, where, or what they may.

(12) We believe in being subject to kings, president, rulers and magistrates, in obeying. honouring and sustaining that law.

(13) We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul, 'We believe all things, we hope all things' we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."

Six months after its inception, the Mormon Church sent its first mission to the American Indians -- called in the "Book of Mormon" the Lamanites, "the degenerate remnants of the Nephite nation." Oliver Cowdery was placed at the head of this mission, which also included Parley P. Pratt, a former preacher of the Reformed Baptists, or Campbellites. The missionaries proceeded to northern Ohio, then almost a wilderness, where Elder Pratt presented to his former' pastor, Sidney Rigdon, a copy of the "Book of Mormon", published several months before. Up to that time Rigdon had never seen the book, which he was accused of helping Smith to write. The Mormons are equally emphatic in their denial of the identity of the "Book of Mormon" with Spaulding's "Manuscript Story", now in Oberlin College; they quote in this connection James H. Fairchild that institution, who, in a communication to the "New York Observer" (5 February, 1885), states that Mr. L.L., Rice and he, after comparing the "Book of Mormon" and the Spaulding romance, "could detect no resemblance between the two, in general or detail".

Elder Cowdery and his companions, after baptizing about one hundred persons in Ohio went to western Missouri, and, thence crossing over at Independence into what is now the State of Kansas, laboured for a time among the Indians there. Meanwhile the Mormons of the East, to escape the opposition awakened by their extraordinary claims, and to be nearer their proposed ultimate destination, moved their headquarters to Kirtland, Ohio, from which place, in the summer of 1831, departed its first colony into Missouri -- Jackson County in that state having been designated as the site of the New Jerusalem.

Both at Kirtland and at Independence efforts were made to establish "The United Order", a communal system of an industrial character, designed to make the church members equal in things spiritual and temporal. The prophet taught that a system had sanctified the City of Enoch, whose people were called "Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness," with "no poor among them". He also declared that the ancient Apostles had endeavoured to establish such an order at Jerusalem (Acts 4:32-37), and that, according to the "Book of Mormon", it had prevailed among the Nephites for two centuries after Christ.

In the latter part of 1833 trouble arose between the Mormons and the Missourians, based largely, say Mormon writers, upon a feeling of apprehension concerning the aims and motives of the new settlers. Coming from the north and the east, they were suspected of being abolitionists, which was sufficient of itself to make them unpopular in Missouri. It was also charged that they intended to unite with the Indians and drive the older settlers from the land. The Mormons asserted their innocence of these and other charges, but their denial did not avail. Armed mobs came upon them, and the whole colony -- twelve hundred men, women, and children -- were driven from Jackson County, and forbidden on pain of death to return.

In Ohio the Mormons prospered, though even there they had their vicissitudes. At Kirtland a temple was built, and a more complete organization of the priesthood effected. Mormonism's first foreign mission was opened in the summer of 1837, when Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde, two of the "twelve apostles of the Church", were sent with other elders to England for that purpose. While this work of proselytizing was in progress, disaffection was rife at Kirtland, and the ill-feeling grew and intensified until the "prophet" was compelled to flee for his life. It is of importance to bear in mind that the opposition to the Mormons in the localities where they settled is, from the contradictory and divergent statements made by the Latter-Day Saints and the neighbours not of their belief, difficult of explanation. It is safe to assume that there was provocation on both sides. The main body of the Mormons, following their leader to Missouri, settled in and around Far West, Caldwell County, which now became the chief gathering place. The sect had been organized by six men, and a year later was said to number about two thousand souls. In Missouri it increased to twelve thousand. A brief season of peace was followed by a series of calamities, occasioned by religious and political differences. The trouble began in August, 1838, and during the strife considerable blood was shed and much property destroyed, the final act in the drama being the mid-winter expulsion of the entire Mormon community from the state.

In Illinois, where they were kindly received, they built around the small village of Commerce, in Hancock County, the city of Nauvoo, gathering in that vicinity to the number of twenty thousand. Another temple was erected, several towns founded, and the surrounding country occupied. Up to this time there had been no Mormon recruiting from abroad, all the converts to the new sect coming from various states in the Union and from Canada. In 1840-1 Brigham Young and other emissaries visited Great Britain, preaching in all the principal cities and towns. Here they baptized a number of people, published a new edition of the "Book of Mormon", founded a periodical called the "Millennial Star", and established a permanent emigration agency. The first Mormon emigrants from a foreign land -- a small company of British converts -- reached Nauvoo. by way of New York, in the summer of 1840. Subsequently the emigration came via New Orleans.

The Legislature of Illinois granted a liberal charter to Nauvoo, and, as a protection against mob violence and further drivings and spoliations, the Mormons were permitted to organize the "Nauvoo Legion", an all but independent military body, though part of the state militia, commanded by Joseph Smith as lieutenant-general. Moreover, a municipal court was instituted, having jurisdiction in civil cases, as a bar to legal proceedings of a persecuting or vexatious character.

Similar causes to those which had resulted in the exodus of the Mormons from Missouri brought about their expulsion from Illinois, prior to which a tragic event robbed them of their prophet, Joseph Smith, and their patriarch, Hyrum Smith, who were killed by a mob in Carthage jail on 27 June, 1844. The immediate cause of the murder of the two brothers was the destruction of the press of the Nauvoo Expositor, a paper established by seceders from Mormonism to give voice to the wide indignation caused by the promulgation of Smith's revelation of 12 July, 1843, establishing polygamy, which had been practised personally by the prophet for several years. Another avowed purpose of this paper was to secure the repeal of the Nauvoo Charter, which the Mormons looked upon as the bulwark of their liberties. The "Expositor" issued but once, when it was condemned as a public nuisance by order of the city council, its printing-office being destroyed and its editor, Foster, expelled. This summary act of anti-Mormon sentiment, and, on Smith's preparing to resist by force the warrant procured by foster for his arrest, the militia were called out and armed mobs began to threaten Nauvoo.

At Carthage was a large body of militia, mustered under Governor Thomas Ford to compel the surrender of Nauvoo. Smith submitted and repaired to Carthage, where he and his brother Hyrum, with others, were placed in jail. Fearful of a bloody collision, the governor disbanded most of his force, and with the remainder marched to Nauvoo, where the Mormons laid down their arms. During the governor's absence, a portion of the disbanded militia returned to Carthage and assaulted the jail in which the Mormon leaders were imprisoned, shooting Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and all but fatally wounding John Taylor; Willard Richards, their fellow-prisoner, escaped unhurt.

In the exodus that ensued, Brigham Young led the people westward. Passing over the frozen Mississippi (February, 1846), the main body made their way across the prairies of Iowa, reaching the Missouri River about the middle of June. A Mormon colony, sailing from New York, rounded Cape Horn, and landed at Yerba Buena (San Francisco) in July, 1846. Prior to that time only a few thousand Americans had settled on the Pacific Coast, mostly in Oregon, which was then claimed both by Great Britain and the United States. So far as known, no American had then made a permanent home in what was called "The Great Basin". The desert region, now known as Salt Lake Valley, was then a part of the Mexican province of California, but was uninhabited save by Indians and a few wandering trappers and hunters.

The Mormon pioneers, marching from the Missouri River in April, 1847, arrived in Salt Lake Valley on 24 July. This company, numbering 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children, was led by Brigham Young. Most of the exiles from Nauvoo remained in temporary shelters on the frontier where they entered into winter quarters in what is now Nebraska. Well-armed and disciplined, they accomplished the journey of over a thousand miles to Salt Lake Valley without one fatality. A few days after their arrival they laid out Salt Lake City.

The people left upon the Missouri migrated in the autumn of 1848, and after them came yearly to the Rocky Mountains, generally in Church wagons sent to the frontier to meet them, Mormon emigrants from the States, from Europe, and from other lands to which missionaries continued to be sent. Most of the converts were drawn from the middle and working classes, but some professional people were among them.

While awaiting the time for the establishment of a civic government, the Mormons were under ecclesiastical rule. Secular officers were appointed, however, to preserve the peace, administer justice, and carry on public improvements. These officers were often selected at church meetings, and civil and religious functions were frequently united in the same person. But this state of affairs did not continue long. As soon as a civic government was organized, many of the forms of political procedure already in use in American commonwealths were introduced, and remained in force till statehood was secured for Utah.

In March, 1849 thirteen months after the signing of the treaty by which Mexico ceded this region to the United States, the settlers in Salt Lake Valley founded the provisional Government of the State of Deseret, pending action by the American Congress upon their petition for admission into the Union. Deseret is a word taken from the "Book of Mormon", and signifies honey-bee. Brigham Young was elected governor, and a legislature, with a full set of executive officers, was also chosen. Congress denied the petition for statehood, and organized the Territory of Utah, naming it after a local tribe of Indians. Brigham Young was appointed governor by President Millard Fillmore (September 1850) and four years later was reappointed by President Franklin Pierce. The period between 1850 and 1858, during which the Mormons defied the authority of the Federal Government, is one of the least creditable chapters of their history.

One reason given for the persistent hostility to the Mormons was the dislike caused by the acrimonious controversy over polygamy or plural marriage. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed to have received a revelation and a command ordering him to re-introduce plural marriage and restore the polygamous condition tolerated among the pre-Judaic tribes. Polygamy now became a principle of the creed of the Latter-Day Saints, and, though not enforced by the laws of the Mormon hierarchy, was preached by the elders and practised by the chiefs of the cult and by many of the people. The violation by the Mormons of the monogamous law of Christianity and of the United States was brought to the attention of Congress, which prohibited under penalty of fine and imprisonment the perpetuation of the anti-Christian practice, refusing, however, to make the prohibition retroactive. The Mormons appealed to the Supreme Court, which sustained the action of Congress, and established the constitutionality of the anti-polygamy statutes.

The Latter-Day Saints, strangely enough, submitted to the decrees of Congress, unwittingly admitting by their submission that the revelation of their founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, could not have come from God. If the command to restore polygamy to the modern world was from on High, then, by submitting to the decision of the Supreme Court, the Mormon hierarchy reversed the apostolic proclamation and acknowledged it was better "to obey man than to obey God".

So long as Utah remained a territory there was much bitterness between her Mormon and non-Mormon citizens, the latter termed "Gentiles". The Mormons submitted, however, and their president, Wilford Woodruff, issued a "Manifesto" which, being accepted by the Latter-Day Saints in General Conference, withdrew the sanction of the Church from the further solemnization of any marriages forbidden by the law of the land. One of the results of this action was the admission of Utah into the Union of States on 6 January, 1896.

Instances of the violation of the anti-polygamy laws subsequent to the date of the "Manifesto" having been brought to light, the present head of the Church (1913), President Joseph F.Smith, in April, 1904, made the following statement to the General Conference assembled at Salt Lake City, and it was endorsed by resolution and adopted by unanimous vote:

Inasmuch as there are numerous reports in circulation, that-plural marriages have been entered into, contrary to the official declaration of President Woodruff, of September 24th, 1890, commonly called the 'Manifesto', which was issued by President Woodruff and adopted by the Church at its General Conference October 6th 1890, which forbade any marriages violative of the law of the land; I, Joseph F. Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent or knowledge the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints; and I hereby announce that all such marriages are prohibited, and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage, he will be deemed in transgression against the Church he will be liable to be dealt with according to the rules and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom.

Joseph F. Smith,
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Saints.

In an "Address to the World", adopted at the General Conference of April, 1907, President Smith and his counsellors, John R. Winder and Anthon H. Lund, in behalf of the Church, reaffirmed its attitude of obedience to the laws of Congress. The practice of plural marriage is indeed fast becoming a thing of the past.

Mormonism announces as one of its principal aims the preparation of a people for the coming of the Lord; a people who will build the New Jerusalem, and there await His coming. The United Order, the means of preparation, is at present in abeyance, but the preliminary work of gathering Israel goes on, not to Zion proper (Jackson County, Missouri) but to the Stakes of Zion, now numbering sixty-one, most of them in Utah; the others are in Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon, Canada and Mexico. A stake is a division of the Mormon Church, organized in such a way as to constitute almost a "church" in itself; in each stake are subdivisions called wards, also fully organized. The area of a stake is usually that of a county, though the extent of territory differs according to population or other conditions. Each stake is presided over by three high-priests, who, with twelve high councilors, constitute a tribunal for the adjudication of differences among church members within their jurisdiction. Each ward has a bishopric of three, a lower tribunal, from whose decisions appeals may be taken to the high council. The extreme penalty inflicted by the church courts is excommunication. In each stake are quorums of high-priests, seventies, and elders, officers and callings in the Melchisedech priesthood: and in each ward, quorums of priests, teachers, and deacons, who officiate in the Aaronic priesthood. This lesser authority ministers in temporal things, while the higher priesthood ministers in things spiritual, which include the temporal.

Presiding over the entire Church is a supreme council of three high-priests, called the First Presidency, otherwise known as the president and his counsellors. Next to these are the twelve apostles, equal in authority to the First Presidency, though subject to and acting under their direction. Whenever the First Presidency is dissolved, which occurs at the death of the president, the apostles take the government and reorganize the supreme council -- always, however, with the consent of the Church, whose members are called to vote for or against this or any other proposition submitted to them. The manner of voting is with the uplifted right hand, women voting as well as men. Besides the general conference held semi-annually and the usual Sabbath meetings, there are stake and ward conferences, in which the consent of the people is obtained before any important action is taken. The special function of the apostles is to preach the Gospel, or have it preached, in all nations, and to set in order, whenever necessary, the affairs of the entire Mormon Church.

Among the general authorities there is also a presiding patriarch, who, with his subordinates in the various stakes, gives blessings to the people and comforts them with sacred ministrations. The first council of the Seventies, seventy in number, assist the twelve apostles, and preside over all the quorums of seventies. Upon a presiding bishopric of three devolves the duty of receiving and disbursing the revenues of the Church, and otherwise managing its business, under the general direction of the first presidency.

The Mormon Church is supported by the tithes and offerings of its members, most of whom reside in the Stakes of Zion, though a good number remain in the several missions, scattered in various countries of the globe. About two thousand missionaries are kept in the field; while they consider themselves under the Divine injunction to "preach the Gospel to every creature", they have special instructions to baptize no married woman without the consent of her husband, and no child under age without the consent of its parents. The tithes are used for the building of temples and other places of worship, the work of the ministry, the furtherance of education and indigent, and for charitable and philanthropic purposes in general. Nearly every male member of the Church holds some office in the priesthood, but only those who devote their entire time to its service receive support.

In every stake are institutions known as auxiliaries, such as relief societies, sabbath schools, young men's and young ladies' mutual improvement associations, primary associations, and religious classes. The Relief Society is a woman's organization, having a special mission for the relief of the destitute and the care of the sick. An "Old Folks committee" is appointed to care for the aged. The Church school system comprises the Brigham Young University at Provo, the Brigham Young College at Logan, and the Latter-Day Saints University at Salt lake City. There are also nearly a score of stake academies. There are four Mormon temples in Utah, the principal one being at Salt Lake City. It was begun in April, 1853, and completed in April, 1893, costing, it is said, about $4,000,000. In these temples ordinances are administered both for the living and the dead. It is held that vicarious work of this character, such as baptisms, endowments etc., will be effectual in saving souls, once mortal, who believe and repent in the spiritual state. The Mormons claim a total membership of 584,000. According to the United States Census Report of 21 May 1910, there are 256,647 Mormons within the Federal Union. [Adapted from Catholic Encyclopedia (1911).]

Books from Alibris: Brigham Young

1 comment:

Ricardo Mena said...


The value of this quotation depends on what we understand by the word "source."

Is he meaning that source comes, following the Jacob's ladder, from God?, from senses?, from other writers and books?, from imagination?, from experience?