[From The Mormons by Gunnison, 1852]



IT may be reasonably expected that we should make some reference to the practical workings of this stupendous and complicated system on the present theatre of its application, in regard to their dealings with strangers and the state of morals among themselves.

During the sojourn of the party sent by the government to survey the region around the Great Lake, and ascertain its commercial and agricultural capabilities, the greatest kindness was shown to the members individually, and facilities given to prosecute the work. This was done, however, after it was ascertained that the advantages of the exploration would accrue to themselves, and that it was not for the purpose of seizing their lands, to bring them into market—the " let severely alone " policy was to have been adopted, if the character of the work had been to annoy them, which would have effectually paralysed the operations.

A report that military men were coming to superintend a survey of their lands for the market, and interfere with their occupancy, had preceded the party. This occasioned it to be received with coldness, and among the more ignorant the prejudice was scarcely removed for the whole year. So that any interference with the triangulation stations, which was schlmn. or any evasive answers to questions, were to be set down to ignorance more than to malice, and it is probable such a work could not have been conducted any where else with so little annoyance.

A large branch of the great emigration overland to California passed through the Mormon settlements, which is the best route across the country.

Of the parties organized in the States to cross the plains, there was hardly one that did not break into several fragments, and the division of property caused a great deal of difficulty. Many of these litigants applied to the courts of Deseret for redress of grievances, and there was every appearance of impartiality and strict justice done to all parties. Of course, there would be dissatisfaction when the right was declared to belong to one side alone; and the losers circulated letters far and near, of the oppression of the Mormons. These would sometimes retd against the equity decisions, and then they wore made to feel the full majesty of the civil power. For contempt of court they were most severely fined, and in the end found it a losing game to indulge in vituperation of the court, or make remarks derogatory to the high functionaries.

Again, the fields in the valley are imperfectly fenced, and the emigrants' cattle often trespassed upon the crops. For this, a good remuneration was demanded, and the value being so enormously greater than in the States, it looked to the stranger as an imposition and injustice to ask so large a price. A protest would usually be made, the case then taken before the bishop, and the costs be added to the original demand. Sueb as these, were the instances of terrible oppression that have been industriously circulated as unjust acts of heartless Mormons, upon the gold emigration.

But provisions were sold at very reasonable prices, and their many deeds of charity to the sick and broken-down gold-seekers, all speak loudly in their favor, and must eventually redound to their praise. Such kindness, and apparently brotherly good-will among themselves, had its effect in converting more than one to their faith, and the proselytes deserted the search for golden ore, supposing they found there pearls of greater price.

Could the history of the overland emigrants, for the first two seasons after it commenced, be obtained and written, it would give us a volume of surpassing interest. Men thrown together and dependent on each other, would feel that very necessity of harmony an intolerable burthen, and selfishness, heartless and cruel; was developed to a frightful content. There were instances of nobleness and good feeling, but the great mass of testimony goes to show much of the contrary.

There were many curious exercises of the feelings, and novel ways of proceeding. One sturdy German had well-nigh immortalized himself under the name of the "wheelbarrow man." His all was thus packed, and he trundled his wheelbarrow along as rapidly as the teams advanced, and had the prospect of reaching the end of his two thousand miles in safety. But alas! for the chances of human ambition—the Weber River in the mountains was swollen by the melting snows, and he was forced to cross on the raft with teams—the raft foundered in the swift current, and the wheelbarrow, with "his all," was swept down into the boiling kanyon below, and lost beyond redemption.

Resuming our theme, we may say that there were acts of individual churlishness, shown in the mountains, that call for reprobation, but they should not be charged upon the community; and, still more, it should not be thought that such actions were sanctioned by the chiefs of the people.

The homogeneousness of this sect consists in their obedience to counsel; but as the great majority is of course made up, like other communities, of all sorts of dispositions, they vary in habits and thinking according to individual character.

Thus they allow that mistakes have been made by individuals in carrying out their doctrines; for instance, many have supposed that the time was come when they should take possession of the property of the Gentiles, and that it would be no theft to secure cattle and grain from neighboring pastures and fields, thus "spoiling the Egyptians," and we are told by themselves that such conduct had to be forbidden from the public desk. This instance of wrong application of the dogma that they are "the stewards of the Lord, and the inheritance of the earth belongs to the saints," shows that some foundation exists for the charges against them, on the score of insecurity of property in Illinois and Missouri—and that abuses can easily arise from their principles, when residing near people of other religions views.

There is a casuistic view taken of the right to make a distinction between what is publicly proclaimed by the Seer, or under his approbation from the desk, and what may be called floating opinion, and practice also, arising from his private promulgations to certain members. On this they my that it is proper to deny certain things to exist as doctrine, which may be quite universally held and acted upon among them, because it has not been publicly proclaimed—and also to deny any thing offensive to the Christian world at large, especially when the affirmative would do others no good, and themselves harm; from which has arisen the opinion that they preach one thing abroad, and practise quite differently at home.

For to the initiated only is it given to know the " mysteries of the kingdom" and they- hesitate not to rebuke the impertinent curiosity of the Mormonish at home, and the tares among the wheat—and meet the outsiders with a flat denial of what, to a true believers would be readily admitted as correct. It is to them the pleading of guilty or not guilty of a court of justice.

Their casuistry makes this perfectly proper to their own minds, and it often turns on the meaning of certain words which convey a peculiar sense to each party. This can be made more plain by reference to the subject of " plurality of wives."


It has been constantly denied that it is a doctrine of theirs to have "spiritual wives."

An intelligent lady informed me that she had considered it right, when asked by her friends, while on an eastern visit, to say that " it is no doctrine of ours to have spiritual wives; " and this, although the interrogators may have had in their minds nothing more than plurality and its supposed abuses.

That many have a large number of wives in Deseret, is perfectly manifest to any one residing long among them, and, indeed, the subject begins to be more openly discussed than formerly, and it is announced that a treatise is in preparations to prove by the scriptures the right of plurality by all Christians, if not to declare their own practice of the same.

The revelation of Joseph on the subject of polygamy has probably never been printed, or publicly circulated. When he declared to the council the revelation, it was made known that ho, like the saints of old, David, Solomon, and Jacob, and those he thought faithful, should be privileged to have as many wives as they could manage to take care of, to raise up a holy household for the service of the Lord. Immediately rumors were spread that the wives of many of the people were re-married to the Icaders and high-priests, and subject to them, which they declared to be a slander; and maintain that the relation existing among them is a pure and holy one, and that their doctrine is, that every man shall have one wife, and every woman only one husband as is laid down in the Book of Covenants by revelation.

Yet they affirm that this allows to the man a plurality, as the phrase is peculiarly worded;—the only applying to the female alone. They go so far as to say that our Savior had three wives, Mary and Martha and the other Mary whom Jesus loved, all married at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.*

* Since writing the above, their teaching on this point is given by Orson Hyde, chief of the Apostles, in the Guardian of Dec. 26th, 1851. " If in Christ himself were fulfilled the words of Isaiah, He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand, the Christian world are not mistaken in their opinion. But how were they fulfilled ? If, at the marriage of Cana of Galilee, Jesus was the bridegroom and took unto him Mary, Martha, and the other Mary whom Jesus loved, it shocks not our nerves.

" If there were not an attachment and familiarity between our Savior and these women highly improper, only in the relation of husband and wife, then we have no sense of propriety, or of the characteristics of good and refined society. Wisely then was it concealed; but when the Savior poured out his soul unto dentin, when nailed to the cross, he saw his seed qf c,til~1~c',, be t who shall declare his generation? No one, eligible to the priesthood have only a right to marry at all.* It is to be a pure and holy state; and religious motives or a sense of duty, should alone guide; and that for sensual gratifications it is an abomination.

Again, they teach that the use and foundation of matrimony is to raise up a peculiar, holy people for the Kingdom of God the Son, that at the Millennium they may be resurrected to reign with him, and the glory of the man will be in proportion to the size of his household of children, wives, and servants,—but that those if he kind none to be declared. Notwithstanding this, which to many is a new and strange feature in Christianity, are we not disposed to mod at it, neither to regret salvation through the Virgin's son.'

* On the 24th July last, the orator said: " Here let the sacred rights of Tnlhir~`o'~y, like the pure love of God ~ spread undivided and operate unspent,' until the children of Abraham become as numerous as the stars above, or the sands below, that from the resurrection, the joint heirs of Jesus Christ may do the works that their Father did, till each in the centre of his own glory may reign in his own Eternity a God." " Let it be a sacred motto,—The woman that marries out of the priesthood, marries for hell."

Infidelity and licentiousness are held up for abhorrence; and when the " plurality " law shall be promulgated, they will be punished by the decapitation of the offender and the severest chastity inculcated upon one sex, and rigid continence on the other during the gestation and nursing of children. Thus the time of weaning will again become a feast of joy' next to the celebration of the nuptial rite, and patriarchal times return.

Quoting the Scripture that " the man is not without the woman, nor the woman without the man," they affirm that it is the duty of every man to marry at roast once, and that a woman cannot cuter into the heavenly kingdoms without a husband to introduce her as belonging to himself.

And it has been said that some women, distrusting the title of their spouses to enter at all, have been desirous to take hold of the skirt of an apostle or high-priest with superior credentials; how far correct we are not sufficiently informed to state positively, and can only speak of such rumors as existing, and beg pardon for mentioning the scandal.

The addition of wives, after the first, to a man's family, is called a " sealing to him."

This constitutes a relation with all the rights and sanctions of matrimony;—and as they claim to have the only true priesthood, which alone can bind the parties in the holy state and make them " one flesh," it follows that they have the only true marriages now existing upon earth.

Thus guarded in the motive, and denounced as sin for other consideration than divine, the practical working of the system, so far as now extended, has every appearance of decorum. The romantic notion of a single love is derided, and met by calling attention to the case of parental affection; where the father's good will is bestoNvcd alike on each of his many children; and they pretend to see a more rntiomll application of a generous soul in loving more than one wife' than in the bigotry of a partial adLcsion. The Seer alone has the power, which he can use by delegation, of granting the privilege of increasing the number of wives: the rule of primitive ages is applied in the case, and the suitor must first have the consent of the parents, then consult the lady' and the Seer.

Every unmarried woman has a right to demand a man in marriage, if she is neglected, on the ground of the privilege of salvation; and the President who receives the petition must provide for her; and he has the authority to command any man he deems competent to support her, "to seal her" to himself in. marriage; and the man so ordered must show just cause and impediment why it should not be done, if he dislikes the union; or else be considered contumacious and " in danger of the council."

The Seer sometimes has to exercise his judgment in preventing incongruous sealings from unworthy motives, and to tell such that what they now esteem a privilege, will turn out soon to be a burden.

This interference with the kingdom of Cupid calls for most judicious measures on his part, for in that court his decisions, guided by reason, are apt to be demurred to by passion. But, as he can join, so too can he annul the contract, and dissolve the relationship of the parties' when, after he has counselled them and given them a proper probation, they still find an incompatibility to exist. Out of this matter grows an immense power, based upon his knowledge of all the domestic relations in the colony;—such delicate confidence begets a reverence and fear, and while things proceed harmoniously, a love to him as their adviser and friend. And as the peace of the society depends materially on that of families, he watches over this part of the prerogative with great solicitude, and keeps the parties' so far as practicable' up to their engagements.

In some instances several wives occupy the same house and the same room, as their dwellings have generally only one apartment, but it is usual to board out the extra ones, who most frequently `` pay their own way," by sewing, and other female employments. It is but fairness to add that they hold the time near at hand predicted by Isaiah' " when seven women shall take hold of the skirt of one man and say, we will eat our own bread, but let us be called by thy name: "—which gives the assurance that plurality is foretold and correctly practised by them.

It is only a little in anticipation of the time when " the battles of the Lord" are to begin, and then, as the women are far more pure than the men, the females will greatly outnumber the males, for the latter, will be swept off by sword and pestilence, and the other reserved to increase the retinue of the saints, and many women will thus be compelled to choose the same man, in order to secure a temporal home and temporal salvation, as also to obtain eternal right to a terrestrial or celestial queenship.

It is further maintained that there is great disparity of numbers between the sexes, and that the predominance of the female is more than can be accounted for from war, the dangers of the sea and other perils, and therefore nature indicates the propriety of plurality, as `' marriage is honorable to all; " but the decision of this question can safely be intrusted to the relative numbers of the sexes, as exhibited in our census returns.

They also assure us that this system is the preventive and cure for the awful licentiousness—the moral and physical degradation in the world: and they make it both a religious and a social custom, a point of personal honour for a man whose wife, daughter, or sister has been led astray, to kill the seducer; and considering this as "common mountain law," based on the Mosaic code, a jury will acquit the murderer at all hazards.*

That the wives find the relation often a lonesome and burdensome one, is certain; though usually the surface of society wears a smiling countenance, and to all who consent from a sense of duty or enthusiasm the yoke is easy.

The wife of the prophet Joseph rebelled against it, and declared if he persisted she would desert for another, but the only satisfaction she received was " that a prophet must obey the Lord." When such wives rebel, the proceedings are very summary, and public opinion sustains the cause against the woman. A very exemplary lady in the valley is looked upon as having broken her vows for deserting the " Sealed one " and marrying another, and therefore is not invited into social parties.

An instance of summary proceeding came directly before us at Bear River. A Socialist emigrant from Monsieur Cabet's community at Nauvoo, passed the winter at Salt Lake City, and in the spring started on his journey to California. He had in his train a woman with a child about two years old, who had applied to him for transportation to the land of gold, and represented that the dignitary to whom she had been " sealed " had not visited or provided for her for three years, and that a young man was betrothed to her who was in California, and if she could -Join him they should marry according to the laws of the land. The socialist's heart was touched, and he kindly offered her the means of proceeding, and they had come about one hundred miles when a posse overtook them, and demanded that the young woman should return to her legal or sealed husband. He consulted us whether to give up his charge—but the power precluded remonstrance, and the lady reluctantly retraced her steps.

* In the trial of Egan at Great Salt take City for killing in cool blood the seducer of the wife during the husband's absence it was declared that civil damages marked the rottenness of other governments, and that `' The principle, the only one that beats and throbs through the heart of the entire inhabitants of this territory is simply this: The man who seduces his neighbour's wife, must die, and her nearest relative must kill him."


Some other instances came under our notice, of like character, from which we must conclude that the regulation of the new plurality" has not yet become perfect, and that the virtues claimed as pertaining to it are not in complete vigor, but we may add that the community had every appearance of good morals, so that any equal number of persons in the States can scarcely exhibit greater decorum.

Another method of increasing the household and adding to the glory of the chiefs is by "adoption." This consists in taking whole families and adopting them as part and parcel of the family of the chief, and arises out of the humility of the person so proposing to attach himself to the sacred character of some great dignitary of the church. There were pointed out to me, several who held this relationship to the Seers. The man is called, for instance, "Son of Brigham by adoption," and lives with him, or near by, and acts for him as a child does for his parent, and receives his subsistence, clothing, and living conjointly with the family.

This patriarchal stewardship method increases the authority of the presidency, and is intended to extend into the other world after the resurrection. It certainly speaks well for the kindness on the side of the patriarch, and for the belief in his holiness, and of truth in his teachings, in the estimation of those who attach themselves to the destinies of a fellow-man; while, at the same time, it shows how fanaticism can overcome the strongest feeling of independence.

Much has been said of the Mormon profanity, in the pulpit and out of it. But what is considered profanity by the world, is not thus considered with them—for they take their vain oaths without taking the name of the Supreme in connection with the words.

They curse or condemn with man's curses whenever they please, and such rough language sounds gratingly in refined ears, when it becomes usual in ordinary conversation—how they have learned to consider it innocent, we cannot imagine.


The using of the name of God is allowed only on judicial occasions, when g. curse is laid upon some individual' as that of Joseph upon Governor Boggs, who had one fulminated against him' accompanied by the prophecy that he should become a vagabond afflicted with a scab, and be loathsome to himself and all his former friends, wishing for death, without dying, for a long time.

When, therefore, we hear that their apostles and prophets have outraged decency in their temple language, let us bear in mind their education and instruction is to make a distinction between the most denunciatory words applied as expressions of dissent or emphasis, and taking the name of Jehovah in connection with the epithets, whereby they become blasphemy, and subject to severe civil penalty.

Like other new sects, they have their peculiar phraseology and terms of technical signification, which is "considered wisdom" in them; and, without knowing their import, a grievous misconception might be made.

Sometimes a ludicrous scene occurs in their meetings, arising from overwrought enthusiasm. One is related of a woman who sprang up and spoke "in tongues" as follows—"JElelai, JlleZi, Melee," which was immediately translated into the vernacular by a waggish young man, who first observed that he felt " the gift of interpretation of tongues" sorely pressing upon him, and that she said in unknown words to herself, "my leg, my thigh, my knee." For this he was called before the council; but he stoutly persisted in his "interpretation" being by "the spirit," and they let him off with admonition.

In social parties and lively meetings the Mormons are preeminent, and their hospitality would be more readily extended to strangers, had they suitable dwellings to invite them into.

The adobe or sun-dried brick is now furnishing material, and the one-room log buildings are being replaced by spacious and commodious houses.

In their social gatherings and evening parties, patronised by the presence of the prophets and apostles, it is not unusual to open the ball by prayer, asking the blessing of God upon their amusements, as well as upon any other engagement and then will follow the most sprightly dancing, in which all join with hearty good-will, from the highest dignitary to the humblest individual; and this exercise is to become part of the temple worship, to "praise God in songs and dances."

These private balls and soirees are frequently extended beyond the time of cock-crowing by the younger members, and the remains of the evening repast furnishes the breakfast for the jovial guests.

The cheerful, happy faces—the self-satisfied countenances—the cordial salutation of brother or sister on all occasions of address —the lively strains of music pouring forth from merry hearts in every domicil, as women and children sing their " songs of Zion," while plying the domestic tasks' give an impression of a happy society in the vales of Deseret.

The influence of their nomenclature of "brethren and sisters" is apparent in their actions, and creates the bond of affection among those who are more frequently thrown together. It is impressed on infantile minds by the constant repetition, and induces the feeling of family relationship. A little boy was asked the usual question, "whose son are you?" and he very naively replied, " I am brother Pack's son; " a small circumstance truly, but one that stamps the true mark of the Mormon society. The welfare of the order becomes therefore paramount to individual interest; and the union of hearts causes the hands to unite in all that pertains to the glory of the State; and hence we see growing up and prospering, the most enterprising people of the age— combining the advantages of communism, placed on the basis of religious duty and obedience to what they call the law of the gospel—transcending the notion of socialistic philosophers, that human regulations can improve and perfect society, irrespective of the revealed word and will of God.


Right or wrong, in the development of the principle and in its application, they have seized upon the most permanent element of the human mind in its social relations—not yielding fully to the doctrines of earnestness and universal intention, making man his own regenerator, as the fountain-head of truth, and passing thence, into mysticism, pantheism, and atheism; neither endeavoring to cure the ills of society by political notions of trade and commerce, or by educating in the sentiment of Donor, and by poetical inculcation of high thoughts and noble images, independent of being "born of the water and the spirit." We may use the words of one of their learned and most sincere men, to exhibit their view of obtaining the aggregate result of single efforts' which are these: " Our polity, I think, may be summed up in these few words— each person to operate at what and where he can do the best, and with all his might; being subject to the counsel of those above him."

To take that counsel is sometimes a bitter pill, and hundreds disobeyed it, and left sober earnings at home for the prospect of fortunes in the gold mines of California. The President and Council opposed emigration, though receiving abundance from the tithes by their superintendent there; and often declared that it would be a great calamity to discover mines in their own regions; for people would desert their farms and preparations for comfortable dwellings' for unsatisfying dross. Counsel on matrimonial matters is better obeyed. Bishop J—was adding an apartment to a commodious house, and, having a small family, it caused a remark or question, why he thus extended his domicil. " Ah ! " was the ready reply, "did you not know that he is obliged to take his brother's widow to wife, and the proper time is nearly arrived?" We remembered the case of the wife of seven brothers; and moreover, being only an humble layman, presumed not further to interrogate the acts of a bishop of that Melchisedek priesthood.


The subject of widows and widowers introduces some nice questions of rank and precedence in the future patriarchal courts. A lady of superior abilities and great enthusiasm, sealed later than the first wife, whose modest talents are thereby cast into the shade, may aspire to the place of first queen, TO BE: and thus an affectionate rivalry can be raised, of which the expectant king reaps the sole benefit. The widow of several husbands must have doubts to which she shall owe her elevation, unless she fortunately loved one supremely—and the wife finds a rival in the brother's widow, from the tie of consanguinity. The troubles of the high Chieftain are said to arise from still another cause.

He had a wife dearly beloved before becoming a Mormon, who died out of his church; but she can be saved by substituted baptism, and his next partner has become exceedingly anxious to know whether her predecessor will be resurrected to be the chief of the queens, or if that important station is reserved for herself, who has partaken of so "much tribulation." Why the question is not categorically answered we cannot opine—but, if women ever do tease, we may suppose such a subject likely to call out all their resources to gratify curiosity.  


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