Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/169

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157
MORMONISM FROM A MORMON POINT OF VIEW.

mentioned may doubtless be accepted as final. With regard to the historical portion of the subject it is different, and here a certain allowance must be made for the bias of a religious partisan; but it is not the less interesting to read this brief but stirring history, as it is told by those who played a prominent part in its events. Having studied these books, I shall endeavor to give a short account of Mormonism, as it is described by the Mormons themselves, and as it appears to myself, being personally little predisposed to regard it favorably, but convinced that its case has seldom been fairly stated to the public.

A certain practical importance attaches at present to the subject, for the future position of Mormonism in the Union is among the many difficult political problems now offering themselves for solution in the United States of America. It presents, indeed, upon a small scale, a similar difficulty to that caused by the existence of slavery in the Southern States: as to how far it is possible to maintain political federation between communities differing essentially in their social institutions. The American Constitution is wonderfully elastic, but it has proved impossible to retain slaveholding States permanently within its limits. Is its elasticity sufficient to admit into the Union a State which would legalize polygamy? Hitherto a negative answer has been given by Congress to this question, and the claims of Utah Territory to become a State have been urged in vain; but the steady increase of population and wealth is constantly strengthening those claims, and they cannot much longer be ignored. The fourth unsuccessful attempt to obtain admission as a State of the Union was made in 1872, when the population of Utah already exceeded that of Nevada and Nebraska combined (at the date of their admission), being upward of 105,000; and a memorial to Congress was adopted, praying for admission into the Union as a sovereign State. The constitution then proposed for the State, which was to bear the name of Deseret, was approved by the people of the Territory, with only 368 dissentient votes; it provided for women's suffrage, and minority representation.

The admission of Nevada, Nebraska, and Colorado, all of them neighboring Territories with inferior population to Utah, appears to justify the assertion of the Mormons that the unpopularity of their religion was the sole cause of their exclusion. Had Deseret been created a sovereign State in 1872, the controversy as to polygamy might have entered upon a new and critical phase, as the State Legislature would doubtless have claimed the right to legalize plurality of wives within its own jurisdiction. No such right can be claimed by the existing Legislature of Utah, whose powers are restricted by the provisions of the act of 1850, to which the Territory owes its political existence. All laws of the Territorial Legislature must have the sanction of the Governor (who is appointed by the President of the