Mormon apologists claim that polygamy lived in the Nineteenth Century, especially under Brigham Young, was unlike polygamy lived today, that it was more responsible, honorable and sublime. I must respectfully disagree. The Y-chromosome was just as influential in the 1860s as it is today. Nineteenth century polygamists were conforming to the same meme, (Section 132), as they do today. Why then shouldn’t we expect the same behavior where the stimuli is the same? As a matter of fact, the behavior was the same, at least according to many Nineteenth century authors – some of which were well acquainted with Brigham Young.
Some of these authors like John Beadle have been labeled by Mormon apologists as Mormon haters who’s credibility must be questioned. One of those apologists is Hugh Nibley, a distinguished Mormon scholar with impeccable credentials.
Mr. Nibley wrote Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Nibley does his best to discredit the writings and authors he considers anti-Mormon, authors like Fawn Brodie [No Man Knows My History] and Ann Eliza Webb [Wife No. 19]. I have read Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, its part of my library. And I have all the important books that Nibley faults, and have read them cover to cover. But after weighing them one against the other, I’m sorry, but Mr. Nibley is not convincing.
One of the more popular excuses for Nineteenth century polygamy is that because of the Civil War there was an excess of women. The humble Saints were just providing homes to those unfortunate women. One day, out of curiosity, I toured the Bee Hive House on Temple Square, once the residence of Brigham Young and the dwelling in which he sequestered many of his plural wives. The tour guide, and I’m sure she didn’t know any different, said Brigham only cohabited with one wife and the rest were poor widows he was simply helping out. I doubt that Ann Eliza Webb, author of Wife No. 19, who actually was Brigham’s twenty-seventh wife, would agree; nor would Irving Wallace, author of 27th Wife. Wallace, more than any other author, goes into Brigham’s amorous side which really outraged Nibley.
I don’t think it is unprofessional for a historian while doing research to comment on the seamy side of some of histories outstanding moguls. Look at how Thomas Jefferson has been exploited for his relationship with Sally Hemings. My gosh, these guys, including our founding fathers, were as entitled to a love life just like any other man. But a politician is one thing and a religious icon is another. It is only natural that the custodians of a religious belief will want to keep their idols as lily-white as possible.
In Utah, the stance that Mormon plural marriage is a “holy” principle has been inculcated to the point that it seems the general population either concedes or refuses to disagree out of fear of ruffling the hackles of the faithful. Consequently, the general attitude of the masses seems to be, “Let the Mormons think what they want as long as it doesn’t involve me, my daughter or wife.” It just isn’t worth the problems that would result from questioning the plural marriage belief.
But if Mormon plural marriage is really a “holy” undertaking you would expect the men involved to behave in a manner consistent with holiness, as opposed to how an ordinary man driven by his Y-chromosome would behave.
Take for example what Samuel W. Taylor recorded in his book, The Last Pioneer. While on there way to the Great Basin the Mormon pioneers often paused long enough for a little entertainment. On page 115 Samuel describes an embarrassing scene that is very believable, even for two of Mormonism’s more beloved prophets. And he does it very tactfully and convincingly.
It seems Brigham and John Taylor were not always on the most friendly terms which was especially evident during a recreational dance on the open plains. Brigham and Taylor locked horns which some have described as a fist fight over a pretty young lady named Ann Ballantyne. Taylor was younger and bigger than Brigham and would probably have won what Samuel described as a “struggle” if they had not been broken up by “cooler heads.” Miss Ballantyne, seemed charmed by the attention and after the two men were separated “walked off arm in arm with John Taylor.” The reader should not need reminding that at this time both Brigham and John Taylor were married men with more than one wife.
Joseph Smith also had his embarrassing moments. While he was looking over the married ladies and young single girls he arranged for a private meeting with Nancy Rigdon, the nineteen-year old daughter of Sidney Rigdon. The meeting took place at the home of Mrs. Orson Hyde, who was one of Joseph’s secret plural wives.
But according to Fawn Brodie, when Joseph applied pressure to Nancy, with tears streaming down her face, if Joseph didn’t cease his advances and let her out of the house, she threatened to “scream so loud the whole town would come running.” The next day Joseph sent Nancy a note that has been reprinted and circulated until it is a matter of public record. Although the honorable or dishonorable behavior of Joseph towards Nancy may be subject to question, the note purports to be inspired:
Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, and faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God, but we cannot keep all the commandments without first knowing them …
Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire. If we seek first the kingdom of God, all good things will be added. So with Solomon: first he asked wisdom, and God gave it him, and with it every desire of his heart; even things which might be considered abominable to all who understand the order of Heaven only in part, but which in reality were right because God sanctioned by special revelation …
If one didn’t know what prompted the above note it would be viewed as insignificant. And you have to hand it to Joseph, its well written. But if it were decrypted into everyday, straightforward language it might say, “Nancy, when I tried to seduce you into becoming my plural wife so we could spend a few nights together, I was only following the Lord’s instructions.”
You may think I’m being crude and unfair. Not really, at least when you take into consideration Joseph and Brigham’s behavior with Martha Brotherton, an eighteen-year-old English convert.
Fawn M. Brodie was not only an excellent historian but an excellent writer. When she wrote about Brigham and Joseph’s unique way of romancing the young ladies she knew how to give the scene a comical twist without distracting from the facts. A true blue Mormon may be offended by her describing an attempted seduction in such a humorous manner, but when you weigh the behavior of these men against the purported sacredness off the revelation, amusement is the natural result. The Y-chromosome comes shining through, clear as a bell.
It seems that Brigham had cast his eye on the” high-spirited” Martha and in imitating Joseph took her to the little room above Joseph”s “Red Brick Store” where he proposed marriage, Mormon fashion. Fawn referred to the liaison as a “hortatory courtship,” meaning that this sort of thing was being encouraged in Nauvoo at the time.
Brigham told Martha that Joseph had received a revelation in which it was “lawful and right” for a man to have more than one wife. He wanted her to accept him then and there and Joseph would marry them on the spot. Afterwards, she could go home and her parents needn’t know anything about it.
When Martha balked, asking for time to think, Brigham summonsed Joseph, who encouraged her to decide there and now. He told her Brigham was the best man next to him and that if she married him God would bless her, and so would he. What Joseph is reported to have said next makes a mockery of Section 132. He told Martha that in one or two months if she was not happy with Brigham, he would release her and “take [her] on” himself. (No Man Knows My History, page 306)
The last sentence doesn’t take much imagination to know what was on Joseph’s mind. The behavior of the two was much like a couple of randy rascals using their authority in trying to talk a naive girl into taking off her clothes. Hardly conduct consistent with a man who claims to have talked and walked with Jesus Christ. Imagine, if you can, Jesus treating Mary Magdalene in the same way.
In Nibley’s critique he did not include the writing of Mrs. C. V. Waite, the wife of a territorial judge. Here are a few excepts from Mrs. Waite’s book, The Mormon Prophet and His Harem; or An Authentic History of Brigham Young, His numerous Wives and Children.
But that a mother and her daughters are allowed to fulfil the duties of wives to the same husband,
Polygamy of the most unlimited character, sanctioning the cohabitation of a man with the mother and her daughters indiscriminately, is not the only un-American thing among them. (Page 84)
No man who has a wife already, has any right to make propositions of marriage to a lady, until he has consulted the President of the whole church, and through him obtained a revelation from God upon the subject. If the revelation be favorable, he must next obtain the approbation of the parents, and thirdly, he is to consult the lady herself.
It is also necessary that the first wife be consulted. If she refuses her consent, however, the lover husband may take an appeal to the President; and unless the wife can give to the President satisfactory reason why her consent is withheld, the husband may proceed to introduce another wife into the family, against her will. The plan is, either to divorce the first wife, and damn her eternally, or to torment her daily, until, with a broken heart and a crushed spirit, she goes to the altar, and there gives another to her husband. Thus the semblance of her approbation is obtained. (Page 171)
Incest is the practical result of some of the branches of this new-fangled system of sealing and marriage. It has already been shown, by the report of the Committee on Territories in the United States Senate, and the Message of Gov. Harding, that a mother and her daughters (by a former husband) all live together, as wives of the same husband.*
* (footnote) The marriage of brothers and sisters was at one time openly encouraged by President Brigham Young. George D. Watt, reporter for the Deseret News, married his half-sister, and lived with her as a wife, for about twelve years. She passed as the wife of Young, for several years, owing to the presence of gentiles and the prejudices of the saints. She has since been convinced of her error, and joined the “new organization,” and with her three children returned to the States. (Pages 173-74)
Among Mormons, the title of mother includes that of queen, and is consequently the highest distinction a woman can attain. If a woman has no children, she is miserable, and her position in society a very unpleasant one. She can only redeem herself by urging her husband to take more wives. Many women do this, and afterward labor incessantly for the new mistresses and their children. (Page 185)
Brigham’s women, though better clothed than formerly, still work very hard. They are infatuated with their religion, and devoted to their husband. If they cannot obtain his love, they content themselves with his kindness, and endeavor to think themselves happy. As religion is their only solace, they try to make it their only object. If it does not elevate their minds, it deadens their susceptibilities, and as they are not permitted to be women, they try to convince themselves that it is God’s will they should be slaves. (Page 187)
Mrs. Waite is just one of many authors who have documented the sexual permissiveness of men under the banner of “celestial marriage.” For those who are interested, on page 171 Waite records almost word for word the plural marriage ceremony and describes how it looks, as it pertains to the position of the first and plural wives.
What makes Waite”s remarks so credible is that everything she states is consistent with how polygamy is practiced today. She very well could have been talking about Apostolic United Brethren as Mormon polygamy in 1860.
Mormon apologists dismiss the iconoclasm of authors like Waite, Fanny and Thomas Stenhouse, John Beadle, John Hyde, Jr., and others by accusing them of copying each other’s stories, and compounding exaggerations, and falsehoods because of their hatred of Mormonism. This explanation is generally accepted by those who are inclined to only think of the positive features of Mormonism. However, when we find the same sexual taboos practiced by Brigham’s Mormons, as practiced by contemporary Mormon fundamentalists, you have to give what Waite and the others have to say – much credibility. If you look at Mormon sexual behavior from a genetic point of view – taking into consideration the sexual deviations of Mormon polygamists as compared with established Christian principles – and that these same deviations occurred both past and present, they were obviously biologically and memtically induced. It matters not what angle you look at Mormon polygamy, there is at best only 2 or 3 % genuine religious content – the rest is worldly.
See what John Hyde Jr. in his book, Mormonism, Its Leaders and Designs, W. P. Fetridge & Company, New York, 1857 has to say about Mormon polygamy:
The Mormon polygamist has no home. Some have their wives lotted off by pairs in small disconnected houses, like a row of out-houses. Some have long low houses, and on taking a new wife build a new room on to them, so that their rooms look like rows of stalls in a cow-barn! Some have but one house and crowds them all together, outraging all decency, and not leaving even an affectation of convenience. Many often remain thus, until some petty strife about division of labor, children’s quarrels, difference of taste, or jealousy of attention kindles a flame, only to be smothered by separation. When they live in different houses, they generally have different tables, and the husband has to give each house its turn to cook for him, and honor their tables with his presence in rotation. The evenings at his disposal, his constant distribution of himself among them, has to be by rule. Jealousies the most bitter, reproaches the most galling and disgusting, scenes without number, and acrimony without end, are the inevitable consequences of the slightest partiality. It is impossible for any man to equally love several different women; it is quite possible, however, for him to be equally indifferent about any number. The nature most in unison with his own, will most attract him. The most affectionate will be certainly preferred to the least affectionate. I am acquainted with scores of polygamists, and they all have favorites, and show partiality. To feel partiality, and not to exhibit it, is unnatural. To exhibit it, and for it to pass unnoticed by a jealous women, is impossible. For it to be noticed, is for it to be reproached.3
“Man must value his wife no more than any thing else he has got committed to him, and be ready to give her up at any time the Lord called him,” said Brigham one Sunday afternoon; and J. M. Grant followed the remark by saying, “If God, through his prophet, wants to give my women to any more worthy man than I am, there they are on the altar of sacrifice; he can have them, and do what he pleases with them!”
They carry this same coldness of affection into all their connubial relations. (Page 53)
They quote the animals as an argument in favor of polygamy, and adopt their instincts as models for practice. Marriage is stripped of every sentiment that makes it holy, innocent, and pure. With them it is nothing more than the means of obtaining families; and children are only desired as a means of increasing glory in the next world; for they believe that every man will reign over his children, who will constitute his “kingdom,” and, therefore, the more children , the more glory! Said Brigham, September 20th, 1856, speaking on this subject:
“It is the duty of every righteous man and every woman to prepare tabernacles for all the spirits they can; hence if my women leave, I will go and search up others who will abide the celestial law, and let all I now have go where they please; though I will send the gospel to them.” Deseret News, October 1, 1856.
Marriage, consequently is only an addition to man’s monster selfishness. (Page54)
…, I have seen old men with white hair and wrinkled faces, go hunting after young girls, deceiving them with all sorts of professions and promises, using the terrors of Brigham’s name and threatening the penalty of excommunication and consequent perdition, in order to induce them to marry them, and then to leave them, despoiled and degraded, either to the obloquy of a divorce, or to the incurable sorrows of a grieved and a wrung heart. (Page 55)
The utmost latitude of choice is permitted to the faithful, in their selection of wives. It is very common for one man to marry two sisters; Brigham advises, indeed, that they both be married on the same day, “for that will prevent any quarreling about who is first or second!” (Page 55)
A G.D. Watt … brought from Scotland his half sister to Salt Lake City; took her to Brigham, and wished to be married to her for his second wife. Brigham objected, but Watt urged that Abraham took his half sister and “reckoned he had just as much right as Abraham.” The point was knotty and difficult. If Abraham’s example justified polygamy then it must equally justify this action. “God blessed Abraham although he did it,” say the Mormons, “and ought to bless me if I do it too.” The girl happened to be good-looking, though, and so, to cut this gordian knot he could not untie, Brigham took her himself. So far so well, But she was not contented, or Brigham had reconsidered the matter, or from some cause, after a few weeks he told Watt that, after all, there was force in his argument, that it was just as lawful in him as in Abraham, and accordingly, G D. Watt accepted his half sister to wife from the arms of Brother Brigham! (Page 57)
While it is not very surprising that the first wife should submit, or be compelled to submit, how is it that the single girls themselves marry old men with several wives, in preference to young men with no wives!” This is more surprising from the fact of there being, in Utah, so many single men. By the census returns of 1851, made by the Mormons themselves, the remarkable fact is proven, that there were seven hundred and ten more males than females in Utah. That is, there were nearly a thousand more marriageable men than women; and as some of the authorities monopolize from thirty to five wives each, and as there are a great number of others with two and three wives each, there must have been a very large proportion of the males compelled to be single, because there were no wives to be had. This proportion is materially reduced, since that time, from several causes. Many young men have left the Church and Utah; many have been sent to the States and Europe and commanded to be sure and bring back wives; many of the married Elders who have been sent out have been counseled “to bring in as many ewe-lambs as they could into the sheep-fold; though not to appropriate any till they got home.” (H. C. Kimball.) There are also a larger number of females than males who emigrate to Utah. Yet, not-withstanding these causes being in operation, there is not a large plurality of females, and there are still hundreds of young men in Utah unable to get wives; and many of the new-coming ladies marry old polygamists in preference.
While nothing proves more plainly their fanaticism than this, nothing proves more plainly their sincerity. Men, who, by a long course of fidelity, have “proven themselves” receive as a reward for their merit, certain mysterious ordinances; [Calling & Election Made Sure] pass by secret rites into a sacred order and are finally “sealed up against all sin to salvation, except the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is denying the faith, exposing the mysteries, and shedding innocent blood.”These men, who are thus sealed, think that they can not be lost; nor their wives, nor their little ones, nor any who shall “cling to them.” Having, they believe, accomplished their own salvation, they are able, like Jesus, “to save to the uttermost all who shall come unto them.” To be married to such a man, it is taught to these confiding neophytes, is to “secure eternal salvation with a high degree of glory.” They have been previously made to believe that woman can not obtain any kind of salvation but through the man. “Eve led Adam out of Eden and he must lead her back again!” As her future position will be regulated by that of her husband, and as she is taught that to obtain a high position ought to be the only object of her existence, hence she is induced to desire to marry a man who has been thus sealed. (Pages 70-71)
Not only is it deemed proper to take the widows of some good brother, but also to take fresh wives for your dead brother.
A still more atrocious, but natural result of his sensual salvation remains. As a man’s family constitutes his glory, to go on a mission for several years, leaving from two to a dozen wives at home, necessarily causes some loss of family, and consequently, according to Mormon notions, much sacrifice of salvation. This difficulty is however obviated by the appointment of an agent or proxy, who shall stand to themward in their husband’s stead. Many and many a little child has been thus issued into the Mormon world. This one of the secret principles that as yet is only privately talked of in select circles, and darkly hinted at from their pulpits and in their works. (Page 89)
Although Hyde thought Brigham a fraud and thief, he proposed that Brigham was superior to Joseph. He said “Smith was not a man of genius; his forte was tact. He only embraced opportunities that presented themselves.”
He said “polygamy was not the result of policy” but of “Joseph’s passions.” As far as organization and doctrine was concerned, Hyde gave the credit to Sidney Rigdon and Orson Pratt, and predicted that when Brigham died, so would Mormonism. In that regard, Hyde underestimated John Taylor, who he described as a “self-exhibiting egotist.” But in evaluating Brigham, I think he was right on target.
He talks freely, in an offhand style, on any subject, does not get much time to read, and, therefore, often blunders grossly; he is much more of an observer than reader, thoroughly knows men, a point in which Smith was very weak, although he boasted “the Lord tells me who to trust.” Men not books, deeds not words, houses not theories, the earth and not the heavens, now and not hereafter, is Brigham’s view of matters.
If these Nineteenth century accusations of incest and other sexual debauchery were only confined to one author they wouldn’t be as believed, but without exception the anti-Mormon authors all include those disgusting accounts. Nibley says that when one author copies the other it tends to discredit. However, it is doubtful that one author is quoting or copying another for the pure sake of copying because it was essentially the corruption resulting from polygamy that initiated anti-Mormon publications. It would be like saying that everything the many newsman and journalist are saying about Warren Jeffs is copying and therefore should be discredited. It is quite apparent the atrocities in Hyde’s day became so noticeable that everyone talked about them, just like they talk about them today. Mormon apologists would have us believe that Hyde is attacking Brigham without cause. However, it may be of interest that Nibley did not critique Hyde’s writings.
It seems whatever Brigham wanted Brigham took, like the halfsister of Mr. Watt. In Mormonism Unveiled, John D. Lee relates an incident where he converted two sister, Louisa and Emeline, and asked Brigham to seal both of them to him as plural wives. But one sister was very pretty and Brigham decided to take her for himself. Like Bathsheba who went willingly to David and became his favorite, the pretty Emeline went willing to Brigham, the most powerful man in the territory, hoping to become his favorite. She faired good for awhile but according to Irving Wallace it was Amelia who was the dominate and most powerful of Brigham’s wives.
As a matter of practicality, it is usually the youngest and freshest wife that is the favorite, at least for a time, until dethroned by a new wife or the dominate wife. Ann Eliza, Brigham’s rebellious wife, by Nineteenth-century standards was a beautiful woman. She claims Brigham coerced her into the marriage.
Brigham was the undisputed powerhouse of Mormonism and adhered to no law other than his own. That meant that no matter how many wives he had, he was free to look for more. Brigham it seems had a good eye for horseflesh and womenflesh as well. Irving Wallace, in The Twenty-Seventh Wife portrays Brigham the prophet, Brigham the polygamist, and Brigham the romancer. Wallace lets us see Brigham in very human terms when the prophet became infatuated with a pretty actress, Julia Dan Hayne, while she performed at the Salt Lake City Theater.
William A. [Bill] Hickman, one of Brigham’s Avenging Angels turned “informant,” and wrote, Brigham’s Destroying Angel. In his book he tells about two separate occasions where Brigham “fandangoled” Hickman out of two blooded horses.
Brigham said, “I have a daughter that would sure like that horse.” The prophet had a way of insinuating that if Hickman wanted to stay in the good graces of “the chief” he ought to make Brigham a present of the horse, which he did.
Most all of these Nineteen century, anti-Mormon books are cornucopias of Mormon corruption. Reading them is absolutely fascinating. And as I stated previously, what makes these accounts so believable is that the very same disgusting things that went on then are going on among the contemporary Mormon fundamentalists.
Now a few excerpts from Ettie V. Smith, from the book by Nelson Winch Green: Fifteen Years Among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Ettie V. Smith, Late of Great Salt Lake City, a Sister of one of the Mormon High Priests.
My readers will understand that it is not an uncommon thing for Mormons to marry their nieces, and even their half sisters. For instance, it often happens that when a man has several wives, their children, having a common father, will intermarry.
The prophet appears to have encountered an unrelenting opponent in his first and lawful wife, Emma, who discovered by accident this document [Section 132], and finding it contained new doctrines which threatened to interfere with her domestic rights, attempted to destroy it; but the Mormons claim she was miraculously prevented, and the oracle is still preserved.
Emma attempted, as a last resort, to poison the Prophet, and though she failed in that, she soon found sympathy and support among the disaffected within the Church.
The Prophet had sent some time before this, three men, Law, Foster and Jacobs, on missions, and they had just returned, and found their wives blushing under the prospective honors of spiritual wifeism; and another woman, Mrs. Buel, had left her husband, a Gentile, to grace the Prophet’s retinue on horseback, when he reviewed the Nauvoo Legion. I heard the latter woman say afterwards in Utah, that she did not know whether Mr. Buel or the Prophet was the father of her son. These men established a press in Nauvoo, to expose his alleged vicious teachings and practices, which a revelation from Joseph destroyed. The press was thrown into the street, and the material scattered. Page 34.
Ettie was first married to a Danite, one of Brigham’s avenging angels. While in Utah she claims to have been coerced by Brigham into helping rob gentiles passing through the Territory. She goes into sordid detail in describing murders, robberies and the men who committed them – the murders of which are all documented in history books. Ettie introduced us to the adage, “milking the gentiles,” which is the righteous stealing from gentiles.
Fanny and Thomas Stenhouse were friends and business associates of Brigham Young. When Thomas was pressured to take a plural wife, age 13, Fanny left him. The marriage with the 13 year-old did not work out. There is some indication that Fanny and Thomas may have gotten back together, I’m not sure. But I am sure that both apostatized over polygamy and Brigham’s dishonest business dealings. Both became authors and their tomes are a fountain of information. Both were extremely intelligent and very credible authors. Thomas’ Rocky Mountain Saints up to 1873 is still one of the best historical accounts of Mormonism that has ever been written. Every student of Mormonism should have a copy.
The following is an excerpt from Fanny’s Tell It All:
All through this reign of terror [blood atonement, hatred and killing], marrying and giving in marriage was the order of the day. It mattered not if a man was seventy years of age, according to Brother Brigham he was still a boy – “the brethren are all boys until they are a hundred years old” – and some young girl of sixteen, fifteen, or even younger would be “counselled” – that is commanded – to marry him. She might even have a sister no older than herself, and then as likely as not he would take the two to wife, and very probably both on the same day. The girls were told that to marry a young man was not a safe thing, for young men were not tried – it was better to marry a well-tested patriarch and then their chances of “exaltation” in the kingdom of heaven were sure and certain. In this way the life-long happiness of many a girl – little more than a child – was blighted for ever. At the time of which I speak, every unmarried woman, or girl who could by the utmost stretch of possibly be thought old enough to marry, was forced to find a husband, or a husband was immediately found for her, and without any regard to her wishes was forced upon her. Young men, and even boys, were forced, not only into marriage, but even Polygamy, and none dared resist. The marrying mania, in fact, was universal and irresistible – every one must marry or be given in marriage. So evidently was this the case that women in jest said that, if one were to hang a petticoat upon a fence-pole, half a dozen men would flock at once to marry it! Absurd as this may seem it was not very far from the truth. Young men and maidens, old men and children, widows, virgins, and youths – in fact every one whether married or unmarried, it mattered not, was “counselled” – commanded – to marry.
Additional excerpts from Fanny or other authors shouldn’t be necessary to prove my point – that Mormon men in the Nineteenth Century exploited females just as badly as Mormon fundamentalists do in the Twenty-first Century. Nineteenth Century Mormon polygamists were no more righteous, upstanding or high principled than Warren Jeffs, Tom Green, or John Daniel and David Ortell Kingston. And why not? Because in both eras Mormon behavior was manipulated by the same meme and the same Y-chromosome. Why then shouldn’t we expect the same behavior?
Fanny’s excerpt was plucked from the middle of her narrative about the “Mormon Reformation,” a not very complimentary decade in Mormon history. In fact, the Mormon Reformation has not been fully exploited by historical authors. This was the 1850s when “blood atonement” was not only preached but apparently practiced. There were dozens of unsolved murders throughout the Territory. The people were coerced into wholesale rebaptisms. And as Fanny has outlined, there were wholesale marriages. The grand finale of the Reformation was the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
While the Saints were being molded into a predictable whole, early Mormonism attempted to make the adherent feel special and important. To accomplish this Brigham employed different methods. Several attempts at the United Order, a form of communalism, where all things are held in common, ended in failure. Although Brigham clung to plural marriage with the tenacity of a bulldog, polygamy also proved to be too much for the Saints, almost dragging the Church under. In 1890 President Wilford Woodruff wisely issued his Manifesto, warding off government disfranchisement. The way the government whittled away at the corporate church in 1890 is essentially the same as what government and the courts are doing today to the FLDS. Only in 1890 polygamy was the justification. Today, government says that neither religion nor polygamy has anything to do with the methodical dismantling of the corporate and land trust power base of Warren Jeffs.
There is one method Brigham had of grooming and shaping the Saints that was not only successful but has endured and grown in importance – and that is the temple and the endowment performed inside the temple.
Over the years the Temple Endowment has been modified, mostly by eliminating some of the more gruesome episodes that were incongruent with modern sensibilities.
The two most obvious modifications are the shortening of the sleeves and legs of the undergarment that once reached to wrists and the ankles.
The second most interesting modification is the elimination of that part of the endowment where the initiates are compelled to covenant that they will suffer their “throats to be cut from ear to ear and tongues torn out by their roots,” if they reveal any secrets of the endowment.
Why this grisly portion of the endowment was deleted should be obvious; but what is even more troubling is why such aberrant provisions were made part of the endowment in the first place? Did it really come from the gentle Jesus Christ of the New Testament?
There is little in the endowment that is so enlightening and unique that it warrants such barbaric oaths, as a reading of the Pearl of Great Price and Genesis reveals. A covenant of such grotesque proportions can have only one objective and that is to instill fear and to coerce conformity.
Loyal Mormons are programmed not to question priesthood edicts, especially Temple truths, and accept them without reservation. But apparently someone with influence [possibly the elite ladies of the church] questioned the propriety of having one’s throat cut and tongue torn out or it would not have been eliminated.
A few organized Mormon fundamentalist groups have built temples or endowment houses [both serve the same purpose] where they perform the prescribed rituals. The fundamentalists like to think they are performing the original endowment. Of course they are wrong. The temple endowment has undergone many modifications. The importance of the temple endowment, in my opinion, is not intrinsic – meaning that its value is not in its exact word for word replication; but in the behavior it induces.
Put another way, the endowment is not so esoteric and enlightening that it necessarily stimulates one to be better, do better and become more productive. It doesn’t foster a major life change or make life any more meaningful. It is designed to be a goal that can only be reached by complying with church standards – obedience to the prophet and priesthood, accepting church callings, attending meetings, reading scriptures, a full tithe payer- and of course complying with the “word of wisdom” and being morally clean. Those who qualify are given a card called “the temple recommend” which presented at the temple security shack entitles one to enter the temple. The “recommend” is like a badge of honor where only the most devout, faithful and full tithe payers are selected. However, if one were to read Genesis and the Pearl of Great Price, he would be just as endowed intellectually as one with a “temple recommend.”
The LDS Church is a nonprofit corporation that has used donations to form profit corporations. The goal of a corporation is to perpetuate itself. As a corporation, structured like a corporation, the Church continually modifies and adjusts to stay competitive and make its product marketable. The LDS Church is no different than say, Ford Motor, who must continually improve their product to stay in business.
So what value did the “cut the throat and tear out the tongue” provision have in furthering the corporate mission of the LDS Church? I submit that it was Brigham’s way of exploiting the fear factor by inducing conformity. However, when “cutting the throat” became a liability rather than an asset it was eliminated.
The Mormon fundamentalists have retained “cut the throat and tear out the tongue” (at least in the 1980s and 1990s) for the same reason it was originally made part of the endowment, and of course to give the illusion of originality.
There are other examples of endowment changes. John Hyde, in his book, Mormonism, It’s Leaders and Designs, 1857, on page 93 indicates that in the 1850s the godhead consisted of four personages and not three as depicted in the modified endowment. The following is part of Hyde’s impressions when he received his temple endowment.
… While thus dressing ourselves, a farce was being performed in the next compartment. The creation of the world was being enacted. Eloheim, J. M. Grant, was counseling with Jehovah, Jesus, and Michael (Adam),W. C. Staines, about making and peopling the earth. He sends three down to take a look and bring him back word as to what are the prospects. They pretend to go, examine, and return to report. The first chapter of Genesis is then performed, Eloheim taking the “and God said” part; the three pretending to go and accomplish the command, and return and make report, using “and it is so.”The mind was struck with the wild blasphemy of the whole affair. When they came down to the creation of man, the three, Jehovah, Jesus, and Michael, came into our compartment, and by stroking each of us separately, pretended to form; and by blowing into our faces, pretended to vivify us. We were then supposed to be as Adam, newly made and perfectly ductile in the hands of our makers (an allegory to be terribly carried out).
Only those who have received their endowment will recognize the significance of the above. Since John Hyde Jr. received his endowment, Jehovah and Jesus have merged into one personage.
Hyde also gives us a peek at another part of the endowment that is most interesting.
…we were ushered into another room. An altar was in the center; on it the Bible, Book of Mormon and Book of Smith’s Revelations. Man and woman, we were ranged around the place; Kimball in the same, and Brigham in the next room looking on; Parley Pratt officiating, and the fourth oath was administered. The allegory presumed that man, now in a fair and certain way to salvation, had a great temporal duty to perform, not an abstract theory of obedience, nor obedience in abstract things, but a great positive, present, immediate duty. We were, therefore, sworn to cherish constant enmity toward the United States government for not avenging the death of Smith, or righting the persecutions of the Saints; to do all that we could toward destroying, tearing down, or overturning that government: to endeavor to baffle its designs and frustrate its intentions; to renounce all allegiance and refuse all submission. If unable to do any thing ourselves toward the accomplishment of these objects, to teach it to our children from the nursery; impress it upon them from the death-bed; entail it up them as a legacy. To make it the one leading idea and sacred duty of their lives; so that “the kingdom of God and his Christ” (the Mormon Church and its priesthood) “might subdue all other kingdoms and fill the whole earth.” Curses the most frightful, penalties the most barbarous, were threatened and combined in the obligation either on failing to abide or in daring to reveal those covenants.
There is little question that Brigham, more than Joseph, was instrumental in developing the endowment. Although the endowment has undergone much modification in order to adapt to the changing times, the purpose of the endowment has not changed. On page 101 Hyde states:
“From first to last, the intention of the mystery is to teach unlimited obedience to Brigham, and treason against the country. However infatuated, they all see this plainly; and the stronger their infatuation, the prompted their obedience.”
I need to make it clear that by the time I went through the Temple in the 1970s all the “treason” and anti American oaths and covenants had been eliminated from the endowment. But the sentiment and hatred of the United States Government still exists among many Mormon fundamentalists, especially with fanatics like James D. Harmston who sent a delegation of his priesthood cronies to curse our President’s White House and our nation’s Capital Building in Washington D.C.