Mormons Nervous About
Bad Publicity - 1891
The Salt Lake
January 25, 1891
THE SAINTS WORRIED.
Illustrated American of New York City is publishing a series of
articles on Mormonism. The articles in the main are fair. From some
authority the Illustrated American has received its information, and
naturally it reaches the conclusion that the Saints have not, in any
honest sense, abandoned polygamy. This is offensive to the Saints, but
why it should be we cannot see. With them polygamy is a command from
God, and all the change that the most enthusiastic Saint pretends has
been made, is that the president of the church, as a man, not as God's
vicegerent, advises against its present practice. We all know that it
was only political pressure that brought around the advice, and when we
come to analyse the words they do not advise much.
something in the former articles must have stung the Saints deeply,
because the News devoted a great deal of space to a reply, and it seems
the matter was of so much importance that Apostle Grant and Delegate
Caine went to New York to protest and to hint at libel suits. The
Illustrated American speaks of the probity of the two gentlemen, says
"their address is candid, frank and engaging," all of which we will let
pass for what it is worth, only stating that we in Utah know both
gentlemen better than does the Illustrated American editor. The article
then proceeds as follows:
the occasion of their visit to the Illustrated American they were
excited. It was natural that they should be excited. They believed that
a bitter wrong had been done to them and their church, and they used
such words as "lies" and "liars" with a freedom bred of those
traditions of plain speech left by Brigham Young to the Mormon
from these flowers of language, the following is the substance of the
conversation that passed between these gentlemen and the Illustrated
have called," said Mr. Caine, "to protest in a most vigorous tone
against the articles on Mormonism which you are now publishing."
"Are they not true?" asked the Illustrated American
are such a mixture of truth and falsehood," replied the Delegate, "that
they are infinitely more dangerous than a mere parcel of lies. I was in
Washington when the first publication was made, and went from one
newsdealer to another to buy your paper. So great had been the demand
for it that the Washington edition was exhausted, and I had to make a
long search before I could buy the copy which I have in my hand. Armed
with it I came to New York, and, as you see, I have marked with a
pencil those of its statements which we repudiate."
said the Illustrated American, "the article is headed by a quotation
from the message of President Harrison. Your grievance, if any, lies
not against us, but against the President of the United States."
said Mr. Caine, "you know what the President is! You know what church
he belongs to. We cannot be responsible for what President Harrison
believes or says about us."
this summary dismissal of President Harrison, Mr. Caine went on to
attack Judge C. C. Goodwin, whose article in Harper's Magazine was
quoted on the same page. His attack was purely personal. He said that
the readers of The Salt Lake Tribune, which is edited by Judge Goodwin,
bought it because it was a good newspaper, not because they put faith
in Judge Goodwin's editorial utterances. As to Mr. Goodwin's criticisms
of Mormonism, and his disbelief in the abandonment of polygamy, "they
are simply set down as Tribune lies, said Mr. Caine."
"But," urged the Illustrated American, "are not all recent writers on Mormonism in accord with Judge Goodwin?"
are either missionaries or members of a hostile church," said Mr.
Caine, heartily supported in this statement by Mr. Grant. Indeed,
nothing in this interview was more remarkable than the attitude of the
envoys toward all other churches than the Mormon Church. Whatever
comments appeared upon their community they instantly attributed to the
machinations of rival sects. The whole matter was to them a feud of
"President Woodruff," continued the Congressman, has lately made this declaration:
as laws have been enacted by Congress forbidding plural marriages,
which laws have been pronounced constitutional by the court of last
resort, I do hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws and to
use all my influence with the members of the church over which I
preside to have them do likewise.
would be excellent testimony," said the Illustrated American, "if we
had not the best possible authority from Utah for saying that it is
merely a feint."
authority is the 'Old Mormon,'" said Mr. Caine, "and I don't hesitate
to assert that the 'Old Mormon' is a myth. I don't believe that there
exists such a person."
The similitude of Mrs. Prig's remarks about Mrs. Harris was so great that it provoked an involuntary smile.
may be fun to you," said the Delegate, "but it is death to us. I tell
you that no Mormon, young or old, would dare to make such assertions as
this imaginary Mormon makes. The discipline of our church is stronger
than you may fancy."
Caine went into detail in support of this theory that the "Old Mormon"
did not exist. He found in the "Old Mormon's" story these statements:
"I was arrested with Joseph Smith." "I put my head out of the window of
the jail." "I expected to be shot the next moment."
"Why," said Mr. Cain," there was nobody arrested with Joseph Smith except his brother. There was nobody in jail."
a decision of this point we refer our readers to Colnel Hay's account
of the killing of Joseph Smith; to the story of "Early Mormon Days,"
recently published by Charles Scribners Sons; and to any standard work
on the subject.
said Mr. Grant, "this old Mormon asserts that George A. Smith rode on a
fleet horse ahead of the emigrant train which was massacred in Mountain
Meadows. Are you aware that Smith was a man weighing 290 pounds, and
could hardly have found a horse to carry him?"
we refer our readers to a graphic account of the Mountain Meadows
massacre published many years ago by the Chicago Tribune. the
correctness of its facts has never been disputed. Mr. George A. Smith's
adiposity may have increased in later years, but, as the "Old Mormon"
remembers him, he was capable of riding fleet horses.
that was absolutely all the evidence by which Messrs. Caine and Grant
supported their very serious accusation that the "Old Mormon" did not
exist -- an accusation which is likely to offend him deeply.
truth of the matter," continued Mr. Caine, "is that, in spite of all
that we assert, nobody believes that we have abandoned polygamy. The
President does not believe it. The Utah Commission does not believe it.
I appeared before the Utah Comission. They told me that they had the
proof of forty-two polygamous marriages recently contracted. Said I,
'Gentlemen, produce your proof.' They have not produced it yet. They
cannot produce it. Why? They have no proof."
"No proof whatever," echoed Mr. Grant.
said Mr. Caine, "your publication will be read by a hundred people to
one who will see the report of the Utah Commission. We have a right to
reputation. We demand it."
must not demand anything with threats," said the Illustrated American.
"We are publishing these articles after long deliberation and
investigation. We stand ready to support them in a court of law."
no," said Mr. Caine, "we make no threats: we will consider what course
to take. What we want you to print is, that we deny that polygamy has
not been actually abandoned; we deny that any policy of deception is
being counseled; we deny that Brigham Young or any Mormons in authority
aided or abetted the Mountain Meadows massacre; we deny that the
Mormons mean to go to war with the Unoted States; and we deny that they
have any intention of leaving Utah and emigrating to Mexico. Will you
publish these denials?"
"We will publish them with pleasure," said the Illustrated American, as its Mormon visitors rose to go.
we here keep our word. We repeat that Messrs Caine and Grant are men of
the highest standing in the Mormon community, and would impress any
listener, however skeptical, by their air of sincerity and by their
enthusiasm for the creed to which they place their trust.
the same time we cannot agree with the New York Sun, which, in an
editorial published after the visit of Messrs Caine and Grant, sums up
their views under the title, "Is Mormon Polygamy Ended?" The Sun
believes that Governor Thomas of Utah and Judge Zane of that Territory,
will support it in the belief that plural marriages are "buried, never
to be resurrected."
is ground for believing," cries the Sun, glowingly, "that the last of
avowedly polygamous marriages in Utah has already ocurred. Civilization
report of the Utah Commission, we believe, will show a different state
of things. Governor Thomas and Judge Zane, we are sure, will be found
less hopeful than the Sun imagines. The Mormon problem was never so
bodly tangled as now.
while waiting for the unraveling of its complications, the Illustrated
American merely wishes to say that it will gladly respond to any libel
suit which the Mormon Church wishes to bring against it.
Saints will not sue the Illustrated American. That is all a bluff. For
months they have been bluffing about their strength, but they dare not
make a test case to be fairly tried in court.
The Salt Lake Herald, Deseret News, and Salt Lake Times all responded
to this article in the Tribune, with caustic comments. History would
show the Illustrated American to have been maliciously wrong or
artfully misguided in several of its 1890-91 assertions against the
Mormons. However, since LDS plural marriages did continue in secret,
for several years after Woodruff's "manifesto," that magazine proved to
be more or less correct in its published disbelief on that particular
subject. For the official LDS reply to the magazine, see President
Woodruff's Jan. 9, 1891 letter.
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