Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

These customs should be frankly characterized as barbarous. They are no more defensible from the standpoint of modern civilization and a rational religious faith than the ghastly humor of the Irish peasants' " wake." They are condemned by the spirit of Christianity and the canons of civilized taste, and nothing but a familiarity which has dulled and blunted our sensibilities prevents us from seeing them in their true light But the appeal for their abolishment can be made effective only with the wealthy, the intelligent, and the cultivated. Among these classes this commendable effort of reform is already being made. A few months ago a gentleman died in my own city who was the beloved minister of a large Congregational church. He was conspicuous for his good works and his bright and cheerful religious faith. His wealthy congregation stood ready to spend lavishly for funereal display, but the sound judgment and pure taste of his wife prevailed. Into the church, where his hopeful words had often brought consolation to the sorrow. ing and hope to the bereaved, his coffin was brought, bearing a handful of bright flowers. No badges of “mourning" were displayed, no hideous crape added gloom to the place. Those who were nearest in blood and affection sat in their customary pews, attired as they were when last they heard his kindly voice proclaim the gospel of the soul's immortality. Everything spoke of a living faith, which instinctively shrank from the common symbols of despair and hopeless death. It was a true Christian burial.

The strong should bear the burdens of the weak. And only those who are strong in intelligence and knowledge can lift from the shoulders of the weak, the poor, and the ignorant the heavy burdens which have been laid upon them by a false reverence and a tender but mistaken affection.

JOHN SNYDER.

CHURCH RULE IN UTAH.

The Forum for May contains an article from the pen of Captain C. E. Dutton, on “Church and State in Utah." It is written in an apparent spirit of fairness and is free from those bitter attacks which often disfigure anti-Mormon literature. The writer gives due credit to the people of Utah for many virtues, recognizes the changed condition of public affairs in that Territory, and acknowledges the sincerity of the voters who propose, under self-acting provisions of a State constitution, to prohibit and punish polygamy. But he is opposed to the admission of Utah as a State, for reasons that are not necessarily affected by the question of polygamy. Those reasons are founded upon alleged conditions which exist chiefly in Captain Dutton's imagi. nation.

That lack of correct information on Mormon affairs which the gentleman perceives in “ books and magazine articles without number," is just as painfully exhibited in his own exposition of “the Mormon polity.” It is true, as he says, that “ to those who know the framework and structure of Mormon society, polygamy is a mere incident and minor circumstance.” It bas been so hugely and so grotesquely exaggerated, that it is viewed by even the well-informed as the one distinctive characteristic of the system known as “Mormonism." The terms Mormon and polygamist have come to be almost synonymous; and yet but comparatively few of the Mormon people ever practiced plural marriage, and to-day, according to the most reliable estimate, not more than two thousand men in Utah, or one per cent of the whole population, have a plurality of wives. But the general misapprehension of the facts on this question is not greater than Captain Dutton's in regard to the relations of church and state in Utah. "The Mormon church and state,” he says, "are one and indivisible.” On this erroneous hypothesis he makes many other statements equally incorrect; for instance:

“This people form a compact, thoroughly-organized, and well-disciplined society, living under a government which is about as far removed from the republican form guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States as it is possible to conceive.

The Mormon has no civil liberty, as we understand it. ... The supreme rulers of the Mormons are a self-constituted and self-perpetuating body, by which all subordinate officials who are of any real importance are appointed, and the layman or elder' has no voice or weight in the matter."

All this is, doubtless, in line with popular notions concerning the Mormon system. But indisputable facts, and the whole theory of Mormon doctrine and discipline, prove that these assertions are erroneous. In Utah church regulations and the territorial government have always been entirely separate. No man has ever held any civil office by virtue of his ecclesiastical position. Brigham Young was for seven years governor of Utah; but that was by federal appointment, not by church authority. Other persons holding prominent offices in the church have occupied places of public trust under the laws of the United States and of the Territory; but they were duly elected by the votes of the citizens, and served simply as secular officials. The political machinery and that of the church have always been separate, and are entirely dissimilar. The politics of the majority are conducted under the rules of the People's Party, a distinctly political organization. Its members hold their primaries and county and territorial conventions, in which tickets are formulated after due discussion and then submitted to the people. The elections are conducted under secular laws. Every voter, Gentile, Jew, or Mormon, is equal at the polls. The ballot is strictly secret. There are no means of discovering how an elector votes. Envelopes of uniform color and size are provided for the judges of election by the county courts. The voter brings his own ballot neatly folded, and places it in one of those envelopes, which is deposited by the judge in the ballot-box; but if it bears any mark or device it must be rejected. If two or more tickets are found in one envelope when the counting occurs, the whole contents must be thrown out. This is an anti-repeating and absolutely secret ballot. For six years all polygamists have

been disfranchised, and to-day no man can hold office or vote unless he subscribes to an oath pledging his obedience to the laws.

If there is anythiny anti-republican in the form of government existing in Utah, it has been established by the national power and not by the Mormon Church. The people have no voice in the appointment of the officials imposed upon them by the fed. eral authority, nor in the election of the President and Senate of the United States who make the appointment. The governor has the power of absolute veto over the acts of the elected legis. lative assembly, and neither a two-thirds nor a unanimous vote of that body is equal to this arbitrary one-man power.

But these unrepublican features of the local government are not of church origin; they are vestiges of the old despotic colonial sys. tem which still disfigure the face of our fair republic.

The Mormon Church itself is one of the most democratic ecclesiastical organizations on earth. It has not an officer, from the president down to the deacon, who occupies his position without the free vote and consent of the members. Captain Dutton refers to the “Doctrine and Covenants" as a source of Mormon authority. It is regarded as a sacred book, and, with the Bible and "Book of Mormon," forms the Mormon standard of faith and discipline. It contains revelations to the church through their prophet, Joseph Smith. The following passages on organization are taken from that book:

“Of the Melchisedek priesthood three presiding high-priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayers of the church, form a quorum of the presidency of the church.* . • No person is to be ordained to any office in this church where there is a regularly organized branch of the same without the vote of that church. • All things shall be done by common consent in the church by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith.” 1

In the light of these revelations what can be thought of Captain Dutton's statements that the rulers of the Mormons," as he pleases to call the leaders of the church, are "self-appointed," and that the “layman or elder has no voice in the matter," and none in the appointment of "subordinate officials"? It must be known to every person at all acquainted with Mormon Church usages that twice every year, at their general conferences, all the officers of the church are submitted to the vote of the members, every baptized person, male and female, having an equal voice.

* P. 885.

+ P. 127.

P. 137.

As to the relations of the church to the state, the following, from the same book, will show that he is as greatly in error as in regard to the "self-constituted and self-perpetuating body " of

supreme rulers." I quote again from the “Doctrine and Covenants":

“We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man, and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, either in making laws or administering them for the good and safety of society. We believe that no government can exist in peace except such laws are framed and held in violate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life. We believe that religion is instituted of God, and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. We do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion ; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul. We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another proscribed in its spiritual privileges and the individual rights of its members as citizens denied. We believe that all religious societies have a right to deal with their members for disorderly conduct according to the rules and regulations of such societies, provided that such dealings be for fellowship and good standing; but we do not believe that any religious society has authority to try men on the right of property or life; to take from them this world's goods, or put them in jeopardy of life or limb; neither to inflict any physical punishment on them. They can only excommunicate them from their society and withdraw from them their fellowship."*

These sentiments are in accord with positive commandments by revelation, as, for example:

“Wherefore, be subject to the powers that be, until He reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under his feet. Behold, the laws which ye have received are the laws of the church, and in this light shall ye hold them forth.t ... Importune for redress and redemption by the hands of those who are placed as rulers and are in authority over you, according to the laws and constitution of the people which I have suffered to be established, and should be maintained for the rights and protection of all flesh, according to just and holy principles; that every man may act, in doctrine and principle * Pp. 483, 484.

+ P. 219.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »