Page images
PDF
EPUB

1. To consider the dangers, needs, functions, and opportunities of the family in modern life and what can be done to guard, develop, and strengthen it, especially noting the results of the various agencies – legal and social -- to this end.

2 To co-operate with similar committees wbich may be appointed in other national bodies for the same objects; and

3. That this committee begin its work directly after its appointment; that it hold frequent meetings or consultations during the coming three years ; that from time to time it make such reports and recommendations to the churches as may be deemed best, and that it report at the next Triennial Council.

II. That the Council advise that similar committees, with similar duties, be appointed in our State bodies, as now in Massachusetts, and also in our various local conferences and associations. All of which is respectfully submitted.

DANIEL MERRIMAN,
HENRY S. BENNETT, Committee.

HENRY C. ROBINSON,
SEPTEMBER, 1892.

ON THE MORMON QUESTION.1 Mormonism has presented itself to the citizens and to the Christian people of this country under two aspects. It has been a religion, with its peculiar revelations and faith, and ecclesiastical government; and it has also been a system of morals, at war with the moral conscience of the people and the laws of the nation. As a religious system it must be dealt with by the same processes of evangelism and instruction as we apply to other erroneous systems of belief, more than one of which are prevalent in our country, even claiming also their relevations and their prophets. So long as these supposed revelations do not contravene law and good morals, we must overcome them simply by the ordinary agencies of our churches and our missionary societies. But when such an organization as the church of the Latter Day Saints erects a practice like polygamy into an obligation, it sets at defiance the laws of man and of God, and makes itself a public enemy. It was the latter fact, the maintenance of polygamy in Utah, which led to the appointment of your committee. We were not appointed to advise

Page 29.

1

as to inissionary methods, but to co-operate as far as we might, by expressing the sentiment of our churches, with the effort, by the enactment and execution of law, to overthrow the polygamy with which Mormonism had identified itself.

It will be well briefly to recount the steps in the steady progress of the war which the nation bas made against polygamy.

Before the Elmunds law of 1882 could be put into operation, it was necessary to wait until the long and tedious process was finished by which its constitutionality was affirmed. In 1885 there had been but thirty-seven convictions for polygamy. In 1887 they bad risen to 127, and in 1887 to 236. But the convicts were “martyrs,” and it was a matter of great doubt whether all this machinery of the law could overthrow an evil which claimed to rest upon a revelation from God, and which planted itself on the duty of conscientious obedience to divine revelation. In this same year, 1887, Congress passed the Tucker-Edmunds law, which made the fact of cohabitation evidence of plural marriage and greatly facilitated the work of securing evidence. This law also made it clear that Congress was speaking the will of the people, and would take no step backward. The same law disincorporated the Mormon Church, and the Perpetual Incorporation Fund Society, and directed the attorney-general of the United States to close up their affairs. This legislation greatly discouraged the Mormon rulers, and great numbers of them went to the penitentiary or fled to the mountains, or promised obedience and accepted amnesty.

At the same time other moral influences were assailing Mormon. ism. The largest cities were receiving an increased Gentile popu. lation, and the mining industry was entirely in the hands of Gentiles. The influence of missionary churches and of missionary schools was increasing, and there was an increasing number within the Mormon Church who, encouraged by the protection and support of the public sentiment of the country, withdrew from its fold, or were ready to reform its practice. Under a provision of the Tucker-Edmunds law the public schools were taken out of the hands of the hierarchy, by appointing a school superintendent; and in 1889 eight of the school districts of Salt Lake City chose Gentile trustees.

The faithfulness of the United States courts and the Utah Commission in executing the law against polygamy, together with the good work of Christian churches and schools and the influx of a new population, had their influence at last on the Mormon Church itself. As you well know, the head of that church issued an order forbidding the celebration of any more plural marriages. It was publicly announced that polygamy had been discarded and come to an end. The Christian people of Utah and the country, knowing that revolutions do not go backward, and remembering how, under similar influences, the vile practice of the Oneida Community had been given up, were rejoiced and encouraged; but when, on the basis of this belated and unwilling submission to the laws, the Mormons asked that Utah be admitted as a State of the Union, we replied that the penitent must be allowed time first to do works meet for repentance; the reformation must be thorough and proved trustworthy before statehood could be granted. Congress refused to the Territory this dangerous boon. So long as the laws of marriage come under the reserved rights of the States, Utah, having still a majority of its population and almost all of its rural population Mormon, and under the control of its hierarchy, could, were it admitted a State, revive polygamy under a new revelation, and the country would be compelled to endure the shame.

The progress thus described has gone on steadily during the three years since our last session. The public school system has been greatly improved, and in the cities, and to some extent in the country, taken out of the hands of the Mormon Church. This is true of Salt Lake City, Ogden, Park City, and other places. The retreat of Mormonism has not ceased. The Christian workers in Utah are full of hope and joy. They only ask that there be no backward step and they believe there will be none.

The only apparent danger is that of the admission of Utah as a State into the Union. Against that we must still continue to protest with all our power. For many years the Gentiles of Utah, of both political parties, presented a united organized front against the Mormons, so that there were in the Territory two parties, one Mormon and the other anti-Mormon. Lately this issue has retired, perhaps too soon, into the background, and the two national parties have now entered the field there as elsewhere, and both appeal to the Mormons for support, and there is, of course, danger that each will be willing to offer statehood as the reward for such support. Against this danger the entire nation must still protest, until we are sure that a genuine change of heart is effected.

The warfare which our government has so effectively carried on in Utah is not against Mormonism as a religious system, but against its institution of polygamy. The people of this country will not easily be deceived on this subject, not even when the president of the oldest and largest university in the country, visiting Utah and addressing its citizens and the nation, represented the Mormons as apostles of religious liberty, and compared the persecutions they had suffered with the persecution of which the Puritans were guilty in Massachusetts. The punishment of a man for having more than one wife is not religious persecution.

While the testimony is not wholly accordant as to the practice of polygamy at the present time in Utah, it is beyond question that it is not only under the ban of the laws, but is discouraged by the Mormon authorities. A younger generation of Mormons is growing up who are not accepting that institution. Even the Utah Commission, in its last report, recommends a general amnesty to the Mormon people, with strict enforcement of law. The grand determination of Congress, under both parties, as indicated by the very designation of the Tucker-Edmunds law, has wrought its result. The whole work of our own churches, through the American Home Missionary Society and the New West Commission, in fellowship with the religious and educational work of our Presbyterian and other Christian brethren, and the public sentiment of the incoming Gentile population, has accomplished a great result, such as could not have been anticipated ten years ago. We do not believe this progress can be stopped. We believe Utah is to become a Christian Territory, and finally a Christian State, fully accepting our national code of social morals. But the work of mis. sions and of education must not stop. Above all, Utah must not for some years be admitted as a State into the Union. We have no doubt that the process of education and evangelization will go

The worst is long past, and the future reasonably secure, under that spirit of our Lord which is more and more impressing upon our churches the duty of bringing our country and the world fully into subjection to the kingdom of God.

WILLIAM HAYES WARD.
FRANKLIN FAIRBANKS.
FREDERICK A. NOBLE.

on.

ON MISSIONARY MAGAZINES. 1

TO THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CONGREGATIONAL CAURCHES :

Your committee, to whom wos referred the project of uniting the periodicals representing the missionary societies, beg leave to report that they have given due attention to the business placed in their bands.

Shortly after the last meeting of the Council a conference was held in New York at which all but one of the members of this Committee were pre nt, and at which representatives of the six home missionary societies also appeared. So far as the American Board was concerned we had been given to understand that it declined to entertain the project, and could not enter into any such plan of consolidation. The question before us was whether the six societies, whose field is this continent, could combine their periodicals. To this question the conference seriously addressed itself. The unwillingness of the foreign Board to enter into the plan was, however, felt to be a serious embarrassment. Upon the threshold of our discussion this difficulty presented itself. The representatives of the other societies felt that the reduction of the number of periodicals to two, one devoted to foreign missions and the other to the home work, would give the impression that the six home societies had about the same importance as the one foreign society, and would tend to reduce the contributions in this proportion. If the American Board were popularly regarded, not as representing one of seven causes appealing to the churches, but rather as representing one of two causes, the effect might not be to increase very greatly the offerings to the one, but to diminish considerably the gifts to the other six. How much force is in this objection the committee cannot say; but the secretaries of the six societies all feel that it has considerable force, and this is one reason, perhaps it is the principal reason, why they are unwilling to combine their periodicals.

Other reasons appeared, however, in the course of the conference. It was questioned by some whether the churches demand this consolidation. It was pointed out that, in the canvass made before the last Council, a minority of the pastors addressed answered the questions proposed to them; and that the wishes of a minority were not a sufficient ground of action. The committee did not,

* Page 28.

« PreviousContinue »