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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 23.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

Governor Brigham Young—Author's Views on Polygamy—Mormon Baptismal Ceremony—Doctrines and Covenants.

I RECEIVED a good deal of marked attention from his excellency, Governor Young; he often called for me to take a drive in his carriage, and invited me to come and live with him, during the time I sojourned there. This invitation I refused, as I wished to be entirely independent to make observations. I told Brigham Young that I was making notes, with a view to publish them. He replied, "Only publish 'facts,' and you may publish as many as you please." I shall, in the succeeding chapters, give personal relations of facts, with alterations of names only, not wishing to bring the real actors before the public. I offer them to show up the abuses which a polygamous life must be subjected to, when human passions are allowed free scope, and not subject to laws, either social or moral. I hope to live to see a more wholesome feeling, in this respect, among the leaders of the Mormon Church. A continuation of their present practice must inevitably lead to confusion.


March 30th.—The weather is very cold, and snow lies on the ground to the depth of six inches.

A stream of living water, twelve feet wide, fresh from the mountains, runs along between the sidewalk and the road—the Temple Block. Seeing a crowd assembled, I approached the spot, and found twelve persons, some of whom had already undergone the ceremony of baptism, and others patiently awaiting. The first immersion I saw was of a lady about 18 years of age. The priest who officiated, was standing up to his waist in the stream, with his coat off, and his sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The lady was handed in, and I noticed the shock on her system which a sudden plunge into cold freezing water must naturally have produced. The baptizer placing one hand on her back, the other on her head, repeated the following words: "I am commissioned by Jesus Christ to baptize you, in the name of the Father, and Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."

He then pushed her over on her back, allowing the water to cover her. She struggled to get out of the water, but her husband remarked that the whole of her head had not been submerged, and insisted that "his wife should be properly baptized." She was consequently dipped effectually a second time, and the poor woman finally made her escape, almost frozen.

The next subject was an old lady of seventy-five years. She tottered into the stream by the aid of her crutch, and underwent the same ceremony. Query: would persons submit to those extraordinary tests if they did not possess faith?

The third person was a young man of about twenty years, with a calm, placid countenance. He underwent the operation without flinching. His face was the impersonation of faith and purity. I should have liked to have painted him as a study for a "St. John." They went each on their respective ways, many of them, I dare say, with the seeds of consumption sown at this moment, fully determined to live a life of piety and virtue.

The men, after baptism, are elders, and are empowered to perform the ceremony upon others. They wear an under-garment with distinctive marks upon it, in imitation of the Jews, "who all wear fringes on the borders of their garments, that they may look upon them and remember the commandments of the Lord to do them. "—Deuteronomy.

There are two priesthoods in the Mormon Church: the Melchizedek and the Aaronic, including the Levitical. The office of an elder comes under the Melchizedek priesthood. It holds the right of presidency, and has power over all the offices in the Church, in all ages of the world, to administer in spiritual things, and has a right to officiate in all offices of the Church.

The second priesthood is called the Aaronic, because it was conferred upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations. It is secondary to the Melchizedek, and has power to administer outward ordinances.

The bishopric is the presidency of this priesthood, and holds the keys or authority of the same.

No man has a right to this office, to hold the keys of this priesthood, except he be a literal descendant of Aaron. But, as a high priest of the Melchizedek priesthood, he has authority to officiate in the office of bishop, when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found—provided he is called, set apart, and ordained by the presidency of the Melchizedek priesthood.

The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—to have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven—to have the heavens opened unto them—to commune with the general assembly and church of the first born, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God, the Father, and Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant.

The power of the Aaronic priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering angels—to administer outward ordinances—the letter of the Gospel—the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

Of necessity, there are presidents growing out of, or appointed from among, those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods of the Melchizedek.

Three presiding high priests, chosen by the body, appointed, ordained and upheld, by the confidence, faith and prayer of the church, these form a quorum of the presidency. There are also twelve apostles, or travelling counsellors, especial witnesses of the name of Christ, in all the world; thus differing from other offices in the church, in the duties of their calling. They also form a quorum equal in authority, to the "three presidents."

The "seventy," are also called to preach the Gospel, and to be the especial witnesses unto the Gentiles, and in all the world, thus differing from other officers in the church, in the duties of their calling. They also form a quorum, equal in authority to the "twelve apostles," and the "three presidents."

Every decision made by either of these quorums, must be by the unanimous voice of the same—that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity, one with the other: a majority may form a quorum, when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise. These decisions are to be made in righteousness, in holiness and lowliness of heart, meekness and long suffering, and in faith, virtue, and knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly-kindness and charity.

In case of an unrighteous decision, it must be brought before a convention of the several quorums, which constitute the spiritual authorities of the church—otherwise there is no appeal.

The Gospel is first to be preached unto the Gentiles, secondly, to the Jews.

If a president of the high priesthood transgress, he shall be tried before twelve counsellors of that body, and their decision concerning him shall be binding. Thus none shall be exempted from the justice, and the laws of God, that all things may be done according to truth and righteousness. The duty of the President (Brigham Young), is to preside over the whole church, and to be like Moses. Behold here is wisdom! to be a seer—a revelator—a translator—and a prophet—having all the gifts of God, which he bestows upon the head of the Church.

These form a principal part of the ecclesiastical polity of the Mormon Church of latter day saints.


The above are extracts from the "doctrines and covenants" of the Mormons.

Polygamy is practised to very great extent among the high-priests and officers of the church. There are thousands of the Mormons, however, who reprobate, and disapprove of it.

The following questions seem to suggest themselves as bearing upon the polygamy practised by the Mormons. What is their rational plea from revelation as—true believers? Is such a system in conformity thereto—with right reason, and with the requirements of civilized society? Will it improve the physical powers of man; impart additional mental energy, and increase the period of human existence? Is it calculated as a wise providence intended, to perpetuate his species? Does it harmonize with the requisites of peace and justice, and the good order essential to the happiness of all? In my limited reading of the Scriptures, I find nothing to sanction such a course; on the contrary, there stands at the offset of the creation a negative prohibition in Gen. ii. 22: "And the rib* which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her to the man." Verse 23d of same chap.—"And Adam said, this is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh, she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man." 24th: "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they" (the two) "shall be one flesh." It is plain, that if more had been required for the purposes of true connubial love and happiness, and of procreation, it would have been given him, or so advised. Let us look at the 13th verse, 6th chap. of Gen.—"In the self same day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japhet, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, in the ark." It is plain, at least, in this instance likewise, that Christian bigamists have but little cause for exultation, for it is doubted whether actions of a similar character to that which the Mormons profess, was not one of the prominent vices that occasioned the Deluge. See 6th chap. Gen. from 1st to 7th verses, inclusive. Yet they say that they have Scripture authority I Why, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines! But was this evil habit sanctioned by any requisite as regarded his standing as a wise King of Israel? or was it done for the service of the Most High? for we read in Deut., xvii. 14: "When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shall possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say I will set a ruler over us." 17. "Then shalt this ruler not multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he multiply unto himself silver and gold."

*Let them give a rib for every additional wife.

"King Solomon's wives turned his heart." "That his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God." They can have Scriptural authority (another mantle of purity for their profound consideration) for King David's adultery with Bethsheba—but, alas! for human frailty. If we look to those nations where bigamy, or plurality of women prevails, we see men both physically and constitutionally enervated—effeminacy of character, and little or no desire to cultivate those sciences which it is designed that the human mind should grasp. They stand still, and have done so for centuries. In contemplating its natural results, and its unhappy tendencies, we are brought to consider the causes that originated, or, more properly, engendered the evil, and we are not at a loss to see that it proceeds from habitual and pampered indolence, unreasonable and carnal indulgences, unbridled passions, and the consequent inability of the intellect to discover this moral failing. What would be the consequence, if all the numerous classes of animated beings (other than man), in the particular of regeneration, were unrestricted by the wise ordination of their instinct? The answer would be-frightful havoc and total extinction of their identity. So would it be with man, if his reasoning faculties had not been vouchsafed to him. Thus is he endowed with that quickening judgment to know right from wrong; and we have demonstration that these powers of the mind are rendered languid, and often totally destroyed, by the brutal excesses of the sensualist; and no better term can be applied to the bigamist.

"O! had they but the instinct of the dove,
And could love as well."

We will suppose for an instant that this evil was prevalent throughout the earth; and, for example, let us take a community of 50,000 men and 50,000 women, and class them at a very low estimate, and let us see how it would work; we take it for granted that the number of the two sexes are equally divided:

Here we have, by this moderate calculation of the above community of 100,000, 27,000 men wifeless. The natural consequence of such a state of things will lead, in the first place, to discontent, which would grow into jealousy; to tumult, ensanguined and civil controversy, moral depravity, and disorganization of all its elements. It might be said that a very great augmentation will ensue with the growing offspring, but the fair presumption is, that male and female will be equally divided. The 27,000 men would, in any case, have to wait for their chance of getting a wife, or wives, until the young folks become marriageable, which would be at the least fifteen or twenty years (something to try their patience), and most likely then be forestalled by the more youthful swains.

And it is here, in its midst, we must look for confusion and the clashing of that near consanguinity, or relationship of blood, which is considered both a divine and moral impediment to marriage; and in such a motley community, where could be found the purity of domestic intercourse—the sanctity of true affection-the pillow of female delicacy?

In every view we take of polygamy, it is a false and vicious system, neither to be reconciled with revelation, with nature, or with reason. It is destructive to society, and to all human progress.

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