"I think no more of taking a wife than I do of buying a cow."In 1863 24-year old Ann Eliza became the 19th wife of the 67-year old head of the Mormon Church Brigham Young. Ten years later, in a landmark case that would rock the nation and lead to the rewriting of laws, Ann divorced her powerful husband alleging neglect and cruel treatment. In 1876 Ann Eliza published an autobiography entitled Wife No. 19. In it she wrote that she had "a desire to impress upon the world what Mormonism really is; to show the pitiable condition of its women, held in a system of bondage that is more cruel than African slavery ever was, since it claims to hold body and soul alike.”Researchers believe Ann Eliza was in fact Brigham Young’s 52nd wife. Her blistering expose is a harrowing document revealing how Brigham Young and other Mormon men lived in households that were essentially harems, using their religion to justify what amounted to sexual slavery. Mormon men were said to be “building their kingdoms” while their wives were forced to share their love and suffer in silence at the degradation.Upon commencement of her divorce proceedings, Ann Eliza was excommunicated from the LDS Church. The divorce was granted in January 1875 and Brigham Young was ordered to pay a $500 per month allowance and $3000 in court fees. When Young initially refused, he was found in contempt of court and sentenced to a day in jail and a $25 fine. The alimony award was later set aside on the grounds that a polygamous marriage was legally invalid, potentially indicting them both for unlawful cohabitation.Ann Eliza Young subsequently traveled the United States and spoke out against polygamy, Mormonism, and Brigham Young himself. She testified before the U.S. Congress in 1875; these remarks were credited, by some to have contributed to a passage of the Poland Act (1874) that reorganized the judicial system of Utah Territory and made it easier for the Federal Government to prosecute polygamists.
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WIFE NO. 19
Or, The Story of a Life in Bondage,
Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Suffering of Women in Polygamy
By Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s Apostate Wife
With introductory notes by John B. Gough and Mary A. Livermore
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First printing, 2014.
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WIFE NO. 19 Or, The Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Suffering of Women in Polygamy, by Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s Apostate Wife with introductory notes by John B. Gough and Mary A. Livermore. First published by Dustin, Gilman and Co., 1875.
© Enhanced Ebooks edition with illustrations 2014.
Lithograph of Ann Eliza Young, sometime between 1869 and 1875
I Dedicate this Book to you, as I consecrate my life to your cause. As long as God gives me life I shall pray and plead for your deliverance from the worse than Egyptian bondage in which you are held. Despised, maligned, and wronged; kept in gross ignorance of the great world, its pure creeds, its high aims, its generous motives, you have been made to believe that the noblest nation of the earth was truly represented by the horde of miscreants who drove you from State to State, in early years, murdering your sons and assassinating your leaders.
Hence, you shrink from those whom God will soon lead to your deliverance, from those to whom I daily present your claims to a hearing and liberation, and who listen with responsive and sympathetic hearts.
But He will not long permit you to be so wickedly deceived; nor will the People permit you to be so cruelly enslaved.
Hope and pray! Come out of the house of bondage! Kind hearts beat for you! Open hands will welcome you! Do not fear that while God lives you shall suffer uncared for in the wilderness! This Christian realm is not "Babylon," but The Promised Land !
Courage! The night of oppression is nearly ended, and the sun of liberty is rising in the heavens for you.
Since Mrs. Young's pleasant visit to us, I have thought much of the important mission to which she has devoted herself, and I wish to say, and I do it most cordially, that having been reared and educated in Mormonism, from her experience and the sufferings she has endured, she is fully competent to expose the whole system, and show to the public the true side of it, as no other person can or will. I need not assure her of my entire confidence in her sincerity and ability to carry out the work to which she has devoted herself, and the talents God has given her. I believe she has been called to this mission, and by her experience and intense sympathy with the sufferings of her sex, has been wonderfully qualified, and prepared for the work.
The sympathy of our entire household is with her, and we earnestly pray that she may be enabled to overcome all opposition, and that God may give her abundant success, and that the blessing of many ready to perish may rest upon her.
John B. Gough.
Worcester, Mass., July, 1875.
I HAVE read the advance sheets of Mrs. Ann-Eliza Young's book with painful interest, which has deepened into disgust and pity. Disgust at the hypocrisy, brutality, and diabolism of the Mormon leaders; pity for the wasted, joyless, sacrificial lives of the poor women who immolate themselves on the shrine of Mormonism, in the holy name of Religion.
Born and reared in the midst of these deluded people, removed from all counteracting influences, it was inevitable that Mrs. Young should accept their beliefs, and be drawn into their practices. And it must have required heroic resolution in her to break away from the Mormon Church, even when her vision was unsealed to its rottenness, knowing as she did that she would be compelled to flee from home, leaving a beloved mother and precious children in the hands of the enemy. I congratulate her on her complete emancipation, on her reunion with her beloved, whose obvious peril weighed so heavily on her filial and maternal heart, and on the possession of ability to give to the world an exposé of the Mormon horror, such as it has never before received. My sympathies are entirely with her in the work to which she has consecrated herself. With her awakened conscience, she could not do otherwise than seek the disintegration of the Utah community, whose foundations are laid in the degradation of woman. May she have the largest success compatible with human effort.
Mary A. Livermore. Melrose, Mass., Oct. 1875.
Should this book meet your eyes, I wish you most distinctly to understand that my quarrel is not with you. On the contrary, the warmest and tenderest feelings of my heart are strongly enlisted in your favor. As a rule, you have been uniformly kind to me. Some of you I have dearly loved. I have respected and honored you all. My love and respect have never failed, but have rather increased with separation. I think of you often with the sincerest sympathy for your helpless condition, bound to a false religion, and fettered by a despotic system ; and I wish from the depths of my heart that I could bring you, body and soul, out from the cruel bondage, and help you to find the freedom, rest, and peace which have become so sweet to me since my eyes have been opened to the light of a true and comforting faith.
Since I have left Utah, I know that some of you have censured me severely, and have joined in personal denunciations. But I know that you are actuated by a mistaken zeal for the cause which you feel yourselves bound to sustain. You, no doubt, regard my course with horror. I look upon your lives with pity.
I have taken the liberty of describing your characters and situations. I was not prompted by the slightest animosity toward you, but because the public are interested in you, and curious concerning you, and I felt that I could give to the world a true story of your lives, and, at the same time, do you justice, and let you be seen as you are in my eyes, which are not dimmed by prejudice.
I was driven to the course I am pursuing by sheer desperation, as some of you, with whom I have exchanged confidences, well know. The motives which have been attributed to me, and the charges that have been made against me, are as utterly false and foreign to my nature as darkness is to light. You, at least, should not misjudge me. You should know me better, and you do. Even your bitter prejudice, and your disapprobation of the step I have taken, cannot make you believe me other than I am. You know that apostasy from Mormonism does not necessarily degrade a person, and sink them at once to the lowest depths of infamy.
If, as is taught, — and as I suppose you believe, — I have lost the light of the gospel, and departed from " the faith once delivered to the saints," am I not rather deserving your compassion than your censure? Your own hearts and consciences must answer that.
The women of Utah should know that I shall vindicate their rights, and defend their characters, at all times and in all places. Their sorrow has been my sorrow; their cause is my cause still. My heart goes out to them all, but more especially to you. You have been my companions and my sisters in tribulation. Now our paths diverge. I go on the way that I have chosen alone, while you stay sorrowing together. I wish I had the power to influence you to throw off the fetters which bind you, and to walk triumphantly forth into the glories of a faith, whose foundation is in God the compassionate Father, whose principles are those of a tender mercy, whose ruling spirit is love. Alas I cannot do it; but I pray that the good Father in His infinite mercy may open your eyes to His glory, and lead you forth His children to do His blessed will.
An Important Question. — Born in Mormonism. — Telling my own Story. — Joseph Smith's Mission. — He Preaches a New Dispensation. — My Parents Introduced to the Reader. — The Days before Polygamy. — My Mother's Childhood. — Learning under Difficulties. — First Thoughts of Mormonism. — Received into the Church. — Persecution for the Faith. — Forsaking All for the New Religion. — First Acquaintance with the Apostle Brigham. — His Ambitious Intrigues. — His Poverty. — His Mission-work. — Deceptive Appearances. — My Mother's Marriage. — A Brief Dream of Happiness. — That sweet word "Home." — The Prophet Smith turns Banker. — The " Kirtland Safety Society Bank."—The Prophet and Sidney Rigdon Flee. — A Moment of Hesitation. — Another " Zion " Appointed. — Losing All for the Church. — Privation and Distress. — Sidney Rigdon and his " Declaration of Independence." — He Excites an Immense Sensation. — Mobs Assemble, and Fights Ensue. — Lively Times among the Saints. — The Outrages of the Danites.
DURING the somewhat public career which I have led since my apostasy from the Mormon Church, I have often been asked why I ever became a Mormon. Indeed, I have scarcely entered a town where this question has not been put by some one, almost on the instant of my arrival. It is the first query of the newspaper and the anxious inquiry of the clergymen, who with one accord, without regard to creed or sect, have bidden me welcome into the light of Christian faith, from out the dark bondage of fanaticism and bigotry; and I have often answered it at the hospitable table of some entertainer, who has kindly given me shelter during a lecture engagement.
Curiosity, interest, desire to gratify a wondering public by some personal items concerning me, are the different motives which prompt the question; but surprise is almost without exception betrayed when I tell them that I was born in the faith. Sometimes I think that the people of the outside world consider it impossible that a person can be born in Mormonism; they regard every Mormon as a deluded proselyte to a false faith.
It is with a desire to impress upon the world what Mormonism really is; to show the pitiable condition of its women, held in a system of bondage that is more cruel than African slavery ever was, since it claims to hold body and soul alike; to arouse compassion for its children and youth, born and growing up in an atmosphere of social impurity; and, above all, to awaken an interest in the hearts of the American people that shall at length deepen into indignation,— that I venture to undertake the task of writing this book. I have consecrated myself to the work, not merely for my own sake, but for the sake of all the unhappy women of Utah, who, unlike myself, are either too powerless or too timid to break the fetters which bind them.
I intend to give a truthful picture of Mormon life; to veil nothing which should be revealed, even though the recital should be painful to me at times, coming so close, as it necessarily must, to my inmost life, awakening memories which I would fain permit to remain slumbering, and opening old wounds which I had fondly hoped were healed. Neither shall I intentionally tinge any occurrence with the slightest coloring of romance ; the real is so vivid and so strange that I need have no recourse to the imaginary.
All the events which I shall relate will be some of my own personal experiences, or the experience of those so closely connected with me that they have fallen directly under my observation, and for whose truth I can vouch without hesitation. To tell the story as it ought to be told, I must begin at the very beginning of my life; for I have always been so closely connected with these people that I could not easily take up the narrative at any intermediate point.
I was born at Nauvoo, Illinois, on the 13th of September, 1844, the youngest child and only surviving daughter of a family of five children.
My father and mother were most devout Mormons, and were among the very earliest of Joseph Smith's converts. They have, indeed, been closely identified with the Church of the Latter-Day Saints almost from its first establishment. They have followed it in all its wanderings, have been identified with its every movement, and their fortunes have risen or fallen as the Church has been prosperous or distressed. They were enthusiastic adherents of Joseph Smith, and devoted personal friends of Brigham Young, until he, by his own treacherous acts, betrayed their friendship, and himself broke every link that had united them to him, even that of religious sympathy, which among this people is the most difficult to sunder.
My father, Chauncey G. Webb, was born in 1812, in Hanover, Chatauqua County, N. Y. He first heard the Mormon doctrine preached in 1833, only a very short time after Joseph Smith had given the Book of Mormon to the world, and had announced himself as another Messiah, chosen by " the Lord " to restore true religion to the world, to whom also had been revealed all the glories of "the kingdom " that should yet be established on the earth, and over which he was to be, by command from the Lord, both temporal and spiritual ruler.
They — the old folks — embraced the new faith immediately, and prepared for removal to Kirtland, Ohio, which was to be the nucleus of the new church, the "Zion" given by revelation to Joseph Smith as the gathering-place of the Saints. They were naturally anxious to gather all their children into the fold, and they urged my father, with tearful, prayerful entreaties, to accompany them to the city of refuge prepared for the faithful followers of the Lord and His prophet Smith.
Like many young people, he had at that time but little sympathy with religion. He had given but very little thought to the peculiar beliefs of the different churches. This world held so much of interest to him, that he had considered but very little the mysteries of the future, and the world to come. Of a practical, and even to some extent sceptical turn of mind, he was inclined to take things as they came to him, and was not easily influenced by the marvellous or supernatural. If left to himself, he might, probably, never have embraced Mormonism ; but he yielded to the entreaties of his parents, and joined the Mormon Church more as an expression of filial regard than of deep religious conviction. The Saints were at that time an humble, spiritual-minded, God-fearing, law-abiding people, holding their new belief with sincerity and enthusiasm, and proving their position, to their own satisfaction at least, from the Bible. They had not then developed the spirit of intolerance which has since characterized them, and though they were touched with religious fanaticism, they were honest in their very bigotry. The Mormon Church, in its earliest days, cannot be fairly judged by the Mormon Church of the present time, which retains none of its early simplicity, and which seems to have lost sight entirely of the fundamental principles on which it was built. My father, although not entering fully into the spirit of his new religion at that early period of his saintly experience, yet found nothing of the insincerity which he claimed to have met in other beliefs; and having embraced the new faith, he was prepared to hold to it, and to cast his lot with it. So he went with his parents to Kirtland, in 1834, where he found the first romance of his life in the person of Eliza Churchill, my mother, then a young girl of seventeen, just blossoming into fairest womanhood.
Never was there a greater mental or spiritual contrast between two persons. My mother was a religious enthusiast, almost a mystic. She believed implicitly in personal revelation, and never doubted but that the Mormon faith came directly from "the Lord." She "saw visions and dreamed dreams," and at times it would have taken but little persuasion to have made her believe herself inspired. It was a religious nature like hers, dreamy, devoted, and mystical, that, in other conditions and amid other surroundings, had given to France a Joan of Arc. It must have been the attraction of opposite natures that brought together in so close a relationship the practical, shrewd, somewhat sceptical man, and the devoted, enthusiastic, religious girl. It was probably the very contrast that made the young man feel such tenderness and care for the homeless orphan girl, and made her cling to him, trusting her helplessness to his strength.
Her early life had by no means been so sheltered as his, and to her the thought of tender care and protecting watchfulness, through all the rest of her days, was unutterably sweet and restful. If her dream could only have been realized ! But polygamy cursed her life, as it has that of every Mormon woman, and shattered her hopes before she had but a taste of their realization.
She was born at Union Springs, Cayuga County, N. Y., on the 4th of May, 1817, but only lived there until she was two years old, when her parents removed to Livingston County, in the same state. When she was four years old her mother died, leaving three little children, the youngest a mere baby. Her father, finding it impossible to obtain any one to take care of the three as they should be cared for, was obliged, much against his will, to separate them, and put them in the charge of different persons, until such time as he was in a situation to make a home for them together. But that was destined never to be, and these children were never reunited, although they have never lost sight of one another; and to this day the hearts of the Gentile and Mormon sisters yearn towards each-other, and the more fortunate one suffers in sympathy with her sister's sufferings.
My mother was given into the care of a family of the name of Brown, with whom she staid twelve years. Her life with them was rendered most unhappy by the treatment which she received, and from lack of sympathy. Ambitious, and craving knowledge most ardently, she was denied all means of procuring a proper education, and was reduced to the position of a mere drudge. But her perceptions were keen, her memory retentive, and in spite of all drawbacks she managed to learn something; enough, indeed, to lay the foundation for the knowledge which she afterwards acquired, and which stood her in good stead as a means of support for herself and her children, after the arrival of the Saints in Utah. Whatever came in her way in the shape of reading-matter she eagerly devoured, whether it was the torn bit of an old newspaper, the inevitable "Farmer's Almanac," or some odd volume of history, biography, or fiction, which had found its way mysteriously to the New York farm-house of other days; but above all, the Bible and Methodist hymn-books. These she had read and re-read until she could repeat large portions of them from memory. Wesley's beautiful hymns, with their earnest, fervid tone, were her special favorites among these religious songs, and her young heart glowed as she listened to the poetic inspirations of Isaiah and those other prophecies, which she believed, although she could not understand.
When she was fifteen years of age, she united with the Methodist Church; and it was while she was in the first flush of her religious experience that the Mormon missionaries came to Avon, the town in which she lived, preaching their new doctrines. My mother had very naturally a great deal of curiosity concerning this new religion, which was railed at as a delusion, and its prophet and founder, Joseph Smith, who was called a hypocrite, a false teacher, a blasphemer, and every other opprobrious name that could be heaped upon him, in the bitterness of religious persecution. But she was forbidden to attend their meetings, and it was many months before she was able to listen to one of the sermons. During this time she had grown somewhat into sympathy with these people, and had come to feel an interest in them greater than she would have felt had she not met with such persistent, and, what seemed to her, unreasonable opposition to her often expressed wish to hear them and judge of their sincerity and truth for herself.
After a time, however, she found an opportunity of attending a two days' meeting, without the knowledge of her friends; and she listened eagerly to Joseph Young as he expounded the new doctrine and dwelt upon the glories of the " kingdom " which was to be speedily set up upon the earth. Predisposed as she already was in its favor, it is not strange that she was readily convinced of its divine origin, and accepted it at once as the true religion. Before the meeting was over, she was numbered among Elder Joseph Young's converts, and was received into the Mormon Church, being baptized by the apostolic hands of his brother Brigham.
When it became known that she had become a convert to the obnoxious faith, she was the object of bitter persecution. The family with whom she lived were especially intolerant, and in their anger resorted to every expedient to force her to give up her new faith. They confined her in a cellar for several days, kept her upon bread and water, and subjected her to other severities of a like nature. All this opposition did not move her one particle. She remained firm in her chosen faith, and was steadfast and true to her convictions of right. All this severity of treatment she rather gloried in. Was it not worth while to suffer persecution, and be treated with contumely and contempt, for the sake of the church that had been specially called by the Lord to "build up the waste places of Zion" ? Would not her reward be the greater by and by? So filled was she with the new enthusiasm that nothing had power even to render her unhappy; as she says, she triumphed in persecution and rejoiced in suffering.
When her persecutors found that neither arguments nor threats could move her, they turned her out of doors, considering that they were doing only their duty, since it would be a sin to harbor a Mormon. The thought of her extreme youth and her unprotected situation did not move them in the slightest degree. Their doors were shut against her, as their hearts had always been.
Instinctively she turned towards the people with whom she had so lately connected herself, and for whose sake she had left home and friends; they received her kindly and hospitably, and she went with them to Kirtland, where my father found her when he arrived a few months later.
It was at this time that the friendship began between my mother and Brigham Young, which lasted so many years — a faithful friendship on her part, met, as a matter of course, by unkindness and treachery on his side. At that time he was young and zealous, and seemingly sincere. He was one of the most successful of the early Mormon missionaries, and was considered specially gifted. He was an ardent supporter and personal friend of Joseph Smith, and young as he was, had attained a high position in the Church of the Saints, being the second of the twelve apostles, all of whom were chosen by the Prophet Smith himself.
Some have considered that his zeal was assumed, and that beyond the ambition of attaining a high position he had no personal regard for Mormonism. It is believed by many of the old Mormons that he always entertained the hope of becoming Joseph's successor, and standing at the head of the church. He has no natural religious nature ; indeed, he is at times a positive sceptic. He has made the church a stepping-stone to temporal prosperity, and the Mormon people have been the pliant tools with which he has carved his fortune.
In those days he was struggling with poverty, going on missions, as the apostles of old were commanded to do, and as all these new apostles did, in their first days of apostle-ship, "without purse or scrip;" and to my mother the "Apostle" Brigham was invested with all the attributes which belong to an earnest nature, intensified by deep religious faith. In short, he was, as she regarded him, a creature of her imagination, and utterly unlike his real self as she came at length to know him.
The year following my father's arrival in Kirtland, and his first meeting with my mother, they were married. The first few months of their married life were peculiarly happy, and they prospered beyond their most sanguine expectations. My father was a wheelwright by trade, and directly on reaching Kirtland built a wagon manufactory, and started in business for himself. He was eminently successful in his undertaking, and made money sufficiently fast to suit his own ideas and ambitions. He built a cosy little house, and carried my mother to it; and there, for the first time since she was a little child, she knew what it was to have a home — a genuine home ! not a mere resting-place, where she felt herself an intruder, but a place in which she was mistress, over which love and she held absolute and undisputed sway.
It was during that happy period, the only happy time in her whole life, that she fitted herself to teach. She was an indefatigable student, and she made the most and the best of her time. At that time she studied to satisfy her intense craving for knowledge, and as a pleasant recreation, with no thought that she might some day have to turn her studies to practical account. She had not then been introduced to the doctrine of "plural wives," and its attendant "glories," which, being defined, meant miseries and torture. And the definition has never been altered, and never will be, until women's natures are most radically changed.
As I said before, my father was prospering in worldly affairs, and when it was "revealed " to Joseph Smith that in addition to the profession of "Prophet," he should add that of banker, he assisted Smith in founding the "Kirtland Safety Society Bank," by promising to deposit all his money therein; in short, giving Smith all that he possessed outside of his house and shop towards completing the amount necessary for a capital on which to start the new enterprise. When the bank failed, which it did very shortly after its establishment, my father, of course, lost every cent which he had invested. He was intensely disgusted with the whole proceeding, which, if it had happened in the Gentile world, would have been termed swindling, and Smith would not have been easily let off by the mere calling of names. Many Gentiles, who had suffered by the failure, were not so lenient as Smith's followers, and demanded that the Prophet should answer to the complaint of swindling before the United States court. But, as usual, he eluded the officers of justice, and all attempts to arrest him were unavailing.
The poor Saints, although losing, many of them, all their hard-earned savings, were still loyal to their leader, and excused him on the ground that " he had lost the Spirit" for the time, and the revelation was not of divine origin; although he was unconscious of that fact, and received it in good faith. My father, however, not so ready to excuse what seemed to him an act of premeditated dishonesty, and having very little faith in "revelation" at any time, was very bitter in his denunciations; and it was only by my mother's influence, who still clung fondly to her faith, that he did not then renounce Mormonism. Although she has never openly acknowledged it, I think that my mother has since often regretted her steadfast adherence to the church at that time. Her loyalty and persistence brought upon her the unhappiness of her life, and finally plunged her into such utter misery as only polygamous wives can experience. Her religion, that was to be so much to her, brought her not one ray of comfort, but in after years blighted her domestic life, and laid upon her a cross almost too heavy to be borne. But I must do her the justice to say, that through it all she has never complained, but has endured her sufferings in silence, and met her woes with patience.
This unfortunate revelation of the Prophet's, together with other somewhat questionable business transactions, and the consequent growing prejudice of the people of Ohio against him and his followers, made it necessary for the Saints to seek some other place, where they might build their "Zion." It was certain that the Lord did not favor Ohio; and about that time he " revealed" to Joseph that the place he had selected in which to establish His temporal kingdom was Missouri. This was to be the Mormon Canaan, the land which they — the chosen people of the Lord — should enter and possess. To be sure. He had revealed the very same thing concerning Kirtland; it was there that he declared "He had established His name for the salvation of the nations." But according to the Prophet's later explanation, Satan was striving to break up the kingdom, and the spirit of " apostate mobocracy" raged and grew hotter, until Smith and his confederate, Sidney Rigdon, were obliged "to flee from its deadly influence, as did the apostles and prophets of old ;" and " as Jesus had commanded his followers, when persecuted in one city, to flee to another," so these two worthies left the " chosen city of the Lord " most unceremoniously, under cover of darkness, pursued by officers of the law, and never returned to it again. But from Missouri Smith sent messages and exhortations to those of the Saints who still remained faithful, "to gather quickly to Zion."
Very many members of the church apostatized at that time, and the numbers of the faithful "chosen" were decidedly lessened. Among those who remained unshaken was my mother, who in her almost fanatical blindness, accepted the Prophet's explanations, and was still willing to be led by his revelations. My father was held by his affection for her rather than by any conviction of the "divine leading" of Smith, whom, indeed, he distrusted almost entirely; and it was in compliance with my mother's ardent wish to follow her prophet, and to establish herself and family in Zion amidst the Saints, that my father finally decided to emigrate with the remnant of the church to Missouri.
He settled in Daviess County, about thirty miles from Far-West, where the body of the Saints were located, and was again tasting the sweets of prosperity and domestic comfort, when the Missouri war broke out, and he was obliged to remove his family, in the greatest haste, to Far-West for their safety, leaving house and property to be confiscated by an angry mob.
This was the second time, since casting his lot with the Saints, that all my father's possessions had been suddenly swept away, and this last would have discouraged him sadly had it not made him so indignant to see the injustice which was shown by Gentiles to the Mormons; and he assisted in guarding the lives of the Mormon people, and the remnant of property which was left to them, until such time as they could find another home.
During this time my mother's sufferings were intense. Many of the houses had been burned by mobs, and she, and many other women in as severe straits as herself, were compelled to live as best they could, exposed to the wind and rain, and without any proper shelter, during almost the entire winter, with two little children, one a baby only a few months old, the other about two years old. In addition to all the discomforts of the situation, she was always in constant terror of an attack by the infuriated mobs, who were waging a genuine war of extermination with the suffering Saints. As is always the case with a religious war, the feeling was intensely bitter. The Gentiles had no charity for the Mormons, and would neither tolerate their faith nor them. The Mormons returned the hatred of the Gentiles with interest, and considering themselves the chosen of the Lord, selected by Him to the exclusion of all the rest of the world, of course argued that whatever they did could by no possibility be wrong, and they returned their ill-treatment with interest.
Although there had been, always, a strong prejudice against the Mormons in Missouri, as in other states where they had lived, it was not until after Sidney Rigdon made his famous incendiary speech, at the commencement of the foundation of the new Temple at Far-West, on the 4th of July, 1838, that the feeling broke into anything like aggressive hostilities.
Rigdon had embraced Mormonism in 1830, and had been ever since that time an ardent Saint. He was a Campbellite preacher in Ohio at the time of his conversion, which was accomplished under the teachings of Parley P. Pratt, a man who played quite an important part in the early Mormon history. Rigdon was a very fluent speaker, much revered by the Saints on account of his eloquence, which, it must be confessed, was decidedly of the "buncombe " order. For a long time he was the intimate friend and chief counsellor of Joseph Smith, was connected with him in the Kirtland Bank swindle, and escaped with him to Missouri.
It had been revealed to the Prophet Smith that another temple must be built to the Lord in the new Zion, since the one at Kirtland had been desecrated by falling into Gentile hands, and Rigdon was chosen to make the speech on the occasion of laying the first foundation-stone of this sacred edifice.
The " Champion of Liberty," as Rigdon was called by his admirers, was more bombastic and more denunciatory than usual. He surpassed himself in invective, and maddened the already prejudiced Missourians, who were only waiting for some excuse to quarrel with their unwelcome neighbors. Among other absurd things, he said;
"We take God and all the holy angels to witness, that we warn all men to come on us no more for ever. The man or set of men that attempts it, does so at the expense of their lives. The mob that comes to disturb us we will follow until the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us. We will carry the war into their own homes and families. No man shall come into our streets to threaten us with mobs; if he does, he shall atone for it before he leaves the place. We this day proclaim ourselves free, with a purpose and determination that can never be broken. No, never! No, never! ! No, never!"
This speech fired the excitable nature of the Saints, and they were aroused to a high pitch of warlike enthusiasm. Already, in imagination, they saw Missouri conquered, and the church in possession of the entire state. There could be no doubt of the final result, for this was the Promised Land into which they had been led by the hand of the Lord.
With the superstition which characterizes this people, they turned every accident or occurrence into some sign from Heaven, and it was always interpreted to promise success to them and confusion to their enemies. On this day of celebration the Mormons had erected a liberty-pole in honor of the occasion ; in the afternoon it was struck by lightning, shivered to atoms, and fell, its flag trailing in the dust. There was rejoicing among the Mormons; that was certainly an omen of the speedy downfall of their enemies. It seems now as though — if it must be considered an omen of anything — that it was prophetic of the uprooting and scattering of this people, so soon was it followed by their expulsion from the state.
The feeling of bitterness between the two contending factions grew more intense daily, and each party was eagerly watching for some acts of violence from the other. The next month, at the election, the war commenced in earnest. A man named William Peniston was candidate for the legislature. The Mormons objected to him on the ground that he had headed a mob against them in Clay County. The Missourians, aware of this objection, endeavored to prevent the Mormons from voting, and a fight ensued, in which the latter proclaimed themselves victorious. Gallatin, the court town of Daviess County, was soon after burned by the Mormons. Then commenced robbing, plundering, and outrages of every kind by both parties. It was a season of the wildest confusion, and both sides were blinded with passion, and lost sight of reason, toleration, and, above all. Christian forbearance. It was a positive reign of terror. Houses, barns, and haystacks were burned, men shot, and all manner of depredations committed.
It is impossible for me to say which party was the principal aggressor; probably there was equal blame on both sides; but I have been informed that Joseph taught his followers that it was right, and "commanded of the Lord," for them to take anything they could find which belonged to their enemies, in retaliation for the wrongs which they had suffered at their hands. I can the more easily believe this to be true, because the spirit of the Mormon Church has always been that of retaliation." The stern old Mosaic law, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," is in full force among them, and is not only advised by the leaders, but insisted upon by them. Indeed, they have added to its severity, until now it stands, "A life for an offence, real or suspected, of any kind." In support of this they refer to the Israelites " borrowing " jewelry from the Egyptians before they took their flight from Egypt; and they quote, "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof;" and as they claim to be the Lord's particularly favored children, — in fact, his only acknowledged ones, —they seem to consider this text peculiarly applicable to the situation, and all the excuse they need to give for any irregularities in the way of appropriating other people's property. They are merely coming into their inheritance.
At all events, the people were not slow to obey the command of the Lord and the counsel of Joseph, and they displayed their spirit of obedience by laying hold of every kind of property which came within their reach. In the midst of these troubles, Joseph came out to Davies County to a town called "Adam-ondi-Ahman" named, of course, by revelation, and meaning, when translated, "The valley of God in which Adam blessed his children;" said to be the identical spot where Adam and Eve first sought refuge after their expulsion from Eden. Upon his arrival, he called the people together, and harangued them after this mild and conciliatory fashion: "Go ahead! Do all you can to harass the enemy. I never felt more of the spirit of God at any time than since we commenced this stealing and house-burning." My parents were living at Adam-ondi-Ahman at that time, and were present when Joseph delivered this peculiarly saint-like address.
About this time the Danite bands were first organized, for the purpose of plundering and harassing the people of the surrounding country. I have been told this by a person who heard the oaths administered at a meeting of the band in Daviess County. They were instructed to go out on the borders of the Settlements, and take the spoils from the "ungodly Gentiles" for was it not written, "The riches of the Gentiles shall be consecrated to the people of the house of Israel?"
Joseph Smith always denied that he had in any way authorized the formation of the Danite bands; and, in fact, in pubhc he repeatedly repudiated both them and their deeds of violence. At the time of which I speak, however, Thomas B. Marsh, who was then the president of the "twelve apostles," together with Orson Hyde, who now occupies that post, apostatized. Both subsequently returned to the bosom of the church, making the most abject submission. Poor Marsh died, crushed and broken-hearted. Hyde's heart was of tougher composition, and he still lives ; but Brigham will never forget or forgive his apostasy.
While both Marsh and Hyde were separated from the church, they made solemn affidavits against Joseph and the Mormons in general, accusing them of the grossest crimes and outrages, as well as of abetting the Danites and their deeds. The cowardly Apostles afterwards declared that these affidavits were made under the influence of fear. That is very probable, but at the same time there can be no real doubt that there was a larger amount of truth in what they affirmed than jealous Mormons would be disposed to admit.
The outrages committed by these Danites, and others like them, caused the expulsion of the Saints from Missouri. Joseph and about fifty of his followers were taken prisoners, and between his arrest and imprisonment, and the final exodus from the state, there was great suffering among the Mormon people.
The Saints expelled from Missouri. — They cross the Mississippi into Illinois. — Forming a New Settlement. — Arrival in Quincy. —A Kind Reception. — The City of "Nauvoo" Founded. — A New Temple Begun.— Great Success of the Foreign Missions. — The Saints flock from Europe. — Thousands assemble in Nauvoo. — The Prophet Joseph applies for a City Charter. — Nauvoo Incorporated. — The Saints Petition the National Government. — The Prophet visits Washington. — His Interview with President Van Buren. — He coquets with Politics. — He Stands on the Edge of the Precipice. — The Saints in Danger.— The Prophet Smith Nominated for President. — He tries to find the "Golden Way." — Mormon Missionaries preach Politics.—The Prophet looks towards the Pacific Coast. — The BHnd Obedience of the Saints. — The Real Devotion of their Faith. — Gentile Opinions.— How Boggs was shot in the Head. — The Spiritual Wife-Doctrine. — Dr. William Law Protests. — Terrible Charges against the Prophet.— The "Nauvoo Expositor.'' — The Prophet Surrenders. — He is Murdered in Jail.
After this, crime succeeded crime, and the state of affairs grew worse daily. The Mormons were getting decidedly the worst of the warfare, and their opponents showed them no mercy. At the massacre at Haun's Mills, for instance, men, women, and children were shot down in cold blood by a company of the Missouri militia, the houses plundered and burned, and the clothing even stripped from the dead bodies.
There had been inhuman murders in other places, men and women alike falling victims to the fury of the mobs; there had been a battle fought at Crooked River, and several skirmishes between the Mormons and Missourians, exaggerated reports of which had spread through the country like wildfire. The whole state was in arms against the Mormons. The governor issued an order of expulsion, thinking it the surest way to quell the disturbance, which had almost grown beyond him, and gave the Saints three months in which to leave the state. Every Mormon was to be out of the state at the end of that time, except those who were in prison. Of them the governor said, "Their fate is fixed; the die is cast; their doom is sealed."
As on the occasion of the removal from Ohio, there was considerable apostasy in the church. Many persons grew discouraged, and their faith wavered. In following Smith they had been led from difficulty into danger, had suffered persecution and poverty, and were now driven from their homes to seek refuge in some more hospitable spot. Every man's hand seemed turned against them, and they had grown tired of perpetual warfare. If God had ever called, He had surely deserted them now, and there was no use in their longer undergoing trial and suffering.
Those who remained firm were still strong in the faith; stronger, if possible, than ever. Joseph was their Prophet, and they clung to him and his revelations with unshaken confidence. "Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness' sake," was a favorite and comforting quotation at that time. They were cheered by frequent letters from Joseph, written in prison, as they journeyed towards Illinois, which was the next point towards which they turned their feet, already weary with wandering. On receiving the order of expulsion, the Saints pledged themselves never to cease their exertions until every one of their faith was out of the state; and to accomplish this within the time required, they worked unceasingly, through sickness, poverty, and privation.
My mother has often described to me this enforced journey. She was always deeply moved, and never spoke of it that the hot tears did not rush to her eyes, and her voice quiver with indignation. The journey was taken in the dead of winter. Many of the women and children were already ill from exposure, yet they were obliged to leave the state with the rest; and although everything was done for their comfort that could well be done, yet their sufferings were most intense. They were robbed of their horses, and were obliged to make their escape with ox-teams, crossing those twenty-mile prairies, facing cold, wintry winds without even a cover to the wagons. My mother held her two infants close in her arms during all the long, tedious journey, to keep them from perishing. She had but one dress to wear, as she had to leave Daviess County in great haste, taking only her children with her; and on her arrival in Illinois she was entirely destitute, her clothing being literally torn in pieces. In the spring of 1839 all were safely landed across the Mississippi River, where they were joined in April, soon after their arrival, by Joseph and his fellow-prisoners, who had "miraculously," as Joseph said, made their escape from their enemies.
The joy of the Saints was very great at his arrival. The waning courage was restored, wavering faith was strengthened, and they were all ready to enter the next scheme which his prophetic soul should propose, and to follow blindly and unquestioningly the next "revelation."
The feeling of the Mormon people towards the Missou-rians is very bitter to this day, and they have never lost an opportunity in all these years of injuring them whenever it became possible. The memory of the indignities heaped upon them, and the sufferings to which they were subjected, is still most vivid. Even my mother, notwithstanding the fact of her having apostatized, and having now no interest or faith in the Mormon Church, can never forgive the Mis-sourians. She says, " If the Mormons were the greatest fanatics on the earth, the Missourians cannot be justified in the course which they pursued. There is no doubt they were exasperated by the actions of the Mormons, and suffered loss of property, and even hfe, at the hands of the Danite bands; but they need not, in the cruel spirit of revenge, punish the innocent women and children, for it was on these that the blow fell the hardest. It was they, who had no part in bringing on the trouble, who were to suffer in retribution for the misdeeds of others."
Notwithstanding all that had taken place in Missouri, some of the more enthusiastic Saints believed that it was the promised land, and that some time they should come in and possess it. Indeed, that belief has prevailed among some of the older Mormons until within a very short time. Brigham has preached it and promised it; but now he says very little about it, and when he does he is wise to add, "if the Lord shall will it so." The present indications are, that the Lord will not "will it so," and all the Saints have contentedly accepted Utah as "Zion," in the face of "revelation."
In giving, thus briefly, a sketch of the "Missouri war," I tell the story as I have always heard it, since I was a child, from my parents, who were in the midst of it, and who were rendered homeless and poor by it. Although always hearing it from the Mormon side, I must, to do the narrators justice, say they have never attempted to hide any part of the provocation which the Saints gave; and they now hold Joseph responsible for it, by his, to say the least, unwise teachings.
It is not very long since I was talking with a person who was with the Mormons in Missouri and Illinois. He said that Joseph not only advised his people publicly to plunder from the Gentiles, but privately ordered them to do so. At one time he was himself sent by the Prophet to steal lumber for coffins. He went with a party of men down the river, loaded a raft with lumber from a Gentile saw-mill, and brought it up to the " City of the Saints." Another man, now a bishop in the Mormon Church, told my mother that he was deputed by Joseph to go and take some cattle, and drive them to the city. As he was entering the town on his return from his successful marauding trip, he was called into a house, where there were sick persons, to anoint and pray for them in connection with another elder. On meeting this elder afterwards, he remarked, "I have often wondered that the Lord listened to our prayers in behalf of the sick under such circumstances. The elder replied, quietly, "I had not been stealing."
Had such teachings been given by the Gentiles, and followed by their people, it would have been sin. But with the Mormons it was always "the will of the Lord," and in His name they committed the crimes that produced disaster and disgrace among the people of Missouri, and finally resulted in their own expulsion from that state. Thus it was that at length we find them driven out by violence from among a people who at first had received them with the utmost friendliness, and forced to seek refuge on the farther shore of the Mississippi, despite the promise which Joseph had so often given them, " in the name of the Lord," that Missouri should be the abiding-place of the Saints.
Joseph, however, still continued to assert that the Saints " should return again and build up the waste places of Zion," and pointed out Missouri as the spot which was to be the " central stake" from which he was eventually to rule all America; but the fact remained that the people must have homes until such good time as they might be allowed to ''come again to their own."
They had landed at Quincy, Illinois, and had been very, kindly received by the residents. On their arrival they at once commenced searching for a place to settle, and build another "stake;" and the place finally selected by the Prophet was situated on the Mississippi River, about forty miles from Quincy. It was first called Commerce; but this name being considered altogether too matter-of-fact and practical, it was named, by inspiration, Nauvoo, which, being translated from the "Reformed Egyptian," — the language in which all revelations were first given, — means ''The Beautiful."
The new city grew rapidly; another Temple was commenced by command of the Lord, and the people were adjured not to cease work upon it until it was finished; all the Saints were commanded to gather there as soon as it was practicable. Missionaries were sent to Europe, and converts flocked from thence to Zion. Never were missions crowned with greater success than those that were established in Europe by the Mormon Church. The elders went first to England, from there to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, France, and they even attempted Italy, but with so little success that the mission there was speedily abandoned. Indeed, the southern countries of Europe did not seem to have taken kindly to the new doctrine of the Saints, and evinced but slight interest in the establishment of a " spiritual kingdom on the earth," and paid no heed whatever to Joseph's revelations. But hundreds of converts were made among the English and Scandinavian people, and they all evinced a strong desire to "gather to Zion," and considered no sacrifice too great to be made to facilitate their emigration. Most of them were from the poorer classes, but some among them were persons of considerable wealth, and many were from the comfortable middle class of farmers and trades people.
The people of Illinois were inclined to be very friendly with the Mormon people, and to make up by sympathy and kindness for the treatment which the Saints had received in Missouri. But, as has invariably been the case, the Mormons, by their own acts, managed to turn these friends into enemies, and to embroil themselves in more quarrels.
The people in the surrounding towns found them troublesome, and most undesirable neighbors; for in spite of their kindly reception, Joseph did not cease his injunctions to "get all you can from the wicked Gentiles," and the consequence was perpetual trouble and constant complaint.
Early on his arrival at Nauvoo, Joseph applied to the Illinois legislature for a city charter, which was granted at once. This charter was extremely liberal, and by its ambiguous wording deceived the legislature, they considering it straightforward and honorable, while really it gave Joseph unlimited power in the government of the city, without regard to state or national laws, and rendered it impossible that he could be held prisoner, even if arrested. He had the right to release himself: the charter provided for that.
Before the establishment of the city it was "revealed" to Joseph that his people must importune at the feet of all in authority for a redress of their wrongs in Missouri. They commenced with the justices of the peace ; from them they went to the state officers; finally to the President himself. They prepared very carefully, and, as far as possible, very accurately, a statement of the losses of the Saints in Missouri, and Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Higbee went to Washington with it, to endeavor to seek redress through the agency of Congress.
Martin Van Buren, who was President at that time, received them with that peculiar suavity of manner for which he was specially noted, that impressiveness which expressed so much and meant so little, and listened to them with the most courteous patience. But his answer was: "Gentlemen, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you." The party returned to Nauvoo disappointed, but in no wise discouraged, and exceedingly indignant with the government and the entire American people, whom they considered their enemies from that moment. From the lowest officer to the highest, they considered that they had failed to meet with the slightest sympathy, and there was no desire shown to make any amends to these people. Joseph and the elders indulged in more incendiary talk than ever; but this was now devoted entirely against the government.
"In the name of the Lord God of Israel," prophesied Joseph, "unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in Missouri, in a few years the government will be entirely overthrown." And again: "They all turned a deaf ear to our entreaties, and now the Lord will come out in swift fury and vex the nation."
The troubles in Illinois culminated, as they had in Missouri, in political difficulties. The people of Illinois were growing exceedingly tired of their new citizens, whom they had welcomed so warmly, since their kindness had been returned with so much ingratitude by the Mormons; but the political leaders of the state endeavored to curry favor with Joseph, and obtain his influence, since it had been discovered that the Mormon vote was solid. Whigs and Democrats had each tried to secure them, but Smith had his own purpose to serve, and he used either Whigs or Democrats as best suited him. Neither party could rely on him or his promises, and consequently both became exceedingly hostile towards him, and were equally zealous in endeavoring to limit his power. He was, indeed, rendered perfectly independent of the state laws by the charter which the governor so readily signed, without being aware what a blunder he was committing; and the exertions of the Illinoi-sians were directed towards getting this charter repealed. Anti-Mormon organizations were formed for the purpose of inducing the legislature to cancel the charter, disband the Nauvoo Legion, a military organization, of which Joseph was commander-in-chief, and, if possible, to eventually get rid of the Mormons altogether. The feeling ran quite as high as it had done in Missouri, although there were no such deeds of violence as that state witnessed. It remained, for some time at least, a political rather than a personal warfare, and Joseph seemed for many months to maintain his position in spite of every exertion of his enemies; and, in fact, got decidedly the best of them in every way.
Joseph's political career was, to say the least, an intricate and an ambitious one. He aimed at the very highest position which the country could give him. He inaugurated a legislature at Nauvoo, in opposition to that of the state; but he took good care that it should be kept from the knowledge of all persons outside of the city, and this same legislature did, in its way, the most remarkable work. One of its acts was to nominate Joseph for the Presidency of the United States.
Clay and Calhoun were at that time rival candidates for the Presidency, and Joseph wrote to both of them, asking them what course they would pursue towards the Mormons in case they were elected. Neither of them answered in a manner to please him ; they were altogether too indefinite, refusing in any way to commit themselves to the Mormon cause; and he gave them both a severe castigation, and withdrew his support and countenance from both parties; and with him, of course, went the whole body of the Mormons.
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