Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/173

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

yet half a century old, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-clay Saints has passed through a baptism of fire, and living men can speak with mingled pride and sorrow of personal friends who died as martyrs to their religious faith. Thirty years ago Nauvoo, in Illinois, was a Mormon settlement, almost equal in population and prosperity to Salt Lake City at the present day; those who witnessed its total destruction can hardly be considered idle alarmists, when they allude to the possibility of trials yet to come. The tone of the speakers was thoroughly practical, exhorting to industry and sobriety, to abstention from all stimulants, including tobacco, coffee, and tea, and to the cultivation of all the useful arts, "even those of war, if necessary to the safety of our community." These exhortations were mainly addressed to the juniors present, a saving clause being inserted for those seniors who had borne the burden and heat of the evil days, and who, having now established this mountain refuge for the Saints, might require to "solace decaying nature" with an occasional narcotic. The addresses breathed a tolerant and rational spirit, the doctrines inculcated were simply those of a charitable form of Christianity, and there was no mention of that peculiar domestic institution which sums up in the minds of so many all notions connected with Mormonism.

After all, it is upon "plural marriages" that the interest as well as the hostility of the outer world has always been concentrated; a Mormon is simply regarded as a man with a number of wives, and beyond this most people know little, and care less, as to the doctrines or customs of the Latter-day Saints. Were it not for their polygamy, it seems probable that the Mormons might now enjoy the same perfect toleration which is extended in America to other forms of religious eccentricity, and that Deseret would long ere this have taken her place among the States of the Union. On the other hand, it must be borne in mind that polygamy is a comparatively recent innovation, condemned by the Book of Mormon in the strongest possible terms:

"The word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord, this people (the Nephites) begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the Scriptures; for they seek to excuse themselves because of the things which were written concerning David and Solomon his son. Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord; wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph. Wherefore I, the Lord God, will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old. Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to 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 (sic) in the chastity of women."