Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mormons Stir Christiana: A Near-Riot in 1914

I live a bit over twenty miles from a town called Christiana, and thus I was quite intrigued when, looking through the 25 July 1914 issue of the New Holland Clarion, I saw a front-page article titled "Mormons Stir Christiana: Two Visitors Almost Start Riot When They Attack Other Religions". Since the issue of Protestant-Mormon dialogue is of course an interest of mine, and this hits fairly close to home (geographically!), I can't help but share:
A riot almost occurred at Christiana on Saturday evening when two men who claimed they were Mormon elders from the State of Utah assailed the various religions other than their own. The two men, who were about twenty five years of age, had spent Friday evening at Gap and on Saturday they arrived at Christiana and stopped at the hotel until in the evening when they went to the corner of Bridge street and Slokum avenue. They sang several selections until a crowd gathered and then each spoke for about an hour. They were particularly bitter against the Methodist religion and called it "a man's religion." They said that they would educate the people in the Mormon religion.

Rev. William May, pastor of the Methodist Church in Christiana, was one of the listeners to the men's abuse and after they were through he took exception to the remarks made by the visitors and related the history of the Methodist religion and also the Mormon faith.

The large crowd that had gathered cheered Rev. May at the close of his speech and the Mormon elders were forced to retract. The crowd that had gathered was further increased by a large number of persons returning from a festival at Gap. The Mormons, after people had refused to buy their literature, started for their hotel and a crowd of boys followed, threatening to do the visitors harm. They got to the hotel in safety and on Sunday left for other points.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Calvin Swank Visits Utah

Dr. Calvin P. Swank was, in the first half of the twentieth century, the superintendant of Lutheran missions for the synod of East Pennsylvania. On 24 July 1936, the New Holland Clarion had the privilege of publishing a 19 June 1936 letter that Dr. Swank had sent them recounting his trip from Philadelphia to San Francisco. On the way, Dr. Swank passed through Utah, and I think it worth a look at the relevant portion of Dr. Swank's letter, reprinted here as-is:
Mining and prospecting is taking on a new life in Colorado. Old mines of gold and silver are being reopened and the stores are advertising prospectors supplies. The Bingham sopper mines near Salt Lake City are now running as never before. They are literally removing the mountain. With steam shovels they remove more earth and rock a day than in building the Panama Canal. It is of low percentage (about 3) in copper, with some silver and gold, but in quantities is worthwhile.

Leaving Denver Friday evening about four o'clock, we headed toward the Moffet Tunnel; the northern and more direct route from Denver to Salt Lake. It was one of the most beautiful rides we have had. Climbing the mountain, the scenery is much like that of the Swiss Alps. For an hour or more we climbed, one hairpin curve after another with numerous small tunnels until we reached the Moffet where for fifteen minutes we rode in the dark, going under the James Peak, the great water divide. About us the great mountains rose with snow covered valleys while frequently we could look down a thousand or more feet. The tunnel was opened in 1934, and is named after Moffet, who had the vision and who attempted to finance its construction, but became a poor man. We saw his residence in Denver.

We arrived at Salt Lake City at 7:30 Saturday morning. We had been there twice before, but it is always interesting. After transferring our baggage to the Union Pacific Station, we started out for the day. The center of the city is the Mormon temple, occupying a square. This is the geographical, the moral, and really the commercial center. It is a Mormon town and while visitors are not in any way commercialized, the church takes advantage of every opportunity to propagate its faith. The city is controlled by the church and the recreational life of its young people is by the church. The streets are all numbered from the Temple as First Street, East, West, North or South from the Temple. We spent about two hours in the enclosure, occupied by the Temple, the auditorium, where we heard the organ recital at twelve, and saw church and museum buildings, and a well-kept garden with beautiful flowers. No one sees within the temple except those who go for the ordinances of the church such as infant baptism, marriage, baptism of dead, which the Latter Day Saints emphasize. These ceremonies are by appointment and a thousand or more people enter daily to either participate or accompany their friends, under which circumstances their conduct must be approved by the elder of their community and the bishop of their ward.

While we were going through, an elder was taking a group of almost twenty-five young missionaries about and lecturing to them on the tenets of the faith. He overtook me on the steps of the museum building and stopping me said, "You look like a Christian leader, where are you from?" I told him, informing him that I am a clergyman. He was eager to know what denomination. When I told him Lutheran, he replied, "Well, you are striving to teach faith in God too, aren't you." I then asked the group of missionaries, mostly fine young men of about twenty or twenty-five, where they were going. Some said to the East, some to cities of the West, and several to Europe scattering in England, Norway, France, etc. I asked who financed them. One said his parents, others were going to earn their way, etc. The guide replied that the only expense to the church was to bring them home. I was much impressed with their earnestness. They, knowing I was a clergyman, all shook my hand. After a lecture by the guide, who seemed proud of his ability in picking out a Christian leader, lectured them upon the importance of a clean life and how it always shows in one's face. Of this we write modestly and pose as no example, but mention it because of its general truth, and not wanting it to appear as egotistical.

We had breakfast and supper at the Utah, a very fine hotel, and spent much of the afternoon at the "Saltair," the park about fifteen miles from the town on Salt Lake. Here Paul and I went bathing. That is the place for a poor swimmer. The water is 22 per cent. salt and one can just float on its surface. If it should get into the eyes it burns badly and when coming out the skin is covered with a fine salt. The lake is seventy-five miles long and thirty-one miles wide. It lies in a basin in the mountains and without outlet its saline soil water drains into the lake and evaporates. It is more salty than any body of water in the world, except the Dead Sea of Palestine.
From there, Dr. Swank describes the remainder of his trip to San Francisco across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He didn't quite get things right (his reference to "infant baptism" in the temple is quite an error), but no matter; I think his positive interactions with the prospective missionaries and their guide are the most significant part of Dr. Swank's account.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Observing Missionaries in 1901

The following brief notice appeared on the back page of the 15 June 1901 issue of the New Holland Clarion, a newspaper formerly published in my home county:
Two Mormon evangelists are making Marietta their headquarters. Each night they delivered lectures. Thus far their efforts have not been crowned with very abundant success.
And then the following notice appeared on the front page of the 12 October 1901 issue of the New Holland Clarion:
This week two Mormon missionaries from Utah appeared in our town and preached the doctrines and objects of the Latter Day Saints on the street in front of the Styer House, on Tuesday evening, and in front of Stauffer's drug store on Wednesday evening. They did not draw large audiences and Thursday morning they left for some other place. They have been at different places in this county during the past six weeks.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Generous Offer

This little anecdote, which I personally found amusing, is taken from the 30 July 1910 issue of the New Holland Clarion:
During the days when polygamy was the universal rule among the Mormons a woman doctor from one of the eastern states went into one of the Mormon communities to practice her profession. She was a pleasant lady as well as skillful, and her patients were very fond of her.

"How I wish," said one of them, "that I could convert you to our religion. If you would only marry my husband and come and live with us" -

The doctor fled in horror to another friend, to whom she told the story. Her self respect began to revive, and she felt comforted, seeing how the eyes of her listener blazed.

"I don't wonder you feel as you do," replied the friend indignantly. "The idea! Why, that Mr. ----- is perfectly horrid! What you want to do is marry my husband and come and live with us."
What sort of perception of plural marriage in Utah and the conflicting perceptions of Mormons and non-Mormons at the time does this sort of story reflect?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Life in Utah, Seen from Lancaster in 1855

The following editorial, "Life in Utah", appeared in the 6 June 1855 issue of the Lancaster Examiner and Herald. It's quite possible that not a few of my ancestors would've read this article when it was first printed there. A number of typographical errors are here retained.
Fve hundred and seventy English converts to Mormonism arrived at New York last week in one ship, which swells the number dispatched this spring by the Liverpool agency to nearly four thousand. We presume that the annual accessions to the colony in Utah do not average less than twenty thousand - a somewhat portentious fact, considering that the avowed object of the Mormon leaders is to establish an independent empire, strong enough to prevent interference with their peculiar customs.

Editors ought to understand every thing, but we confess to being puzzled by these Mormons. If we were to judge them by their creed alone, we should pronounce them to be ignorant and sensual fanatics; but when we observe their conduct, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that except in one particular, it appears to be exemplary; while in some respects their behavior is really admirable. - The ship in which those five hundred and seventy arrived a few days ago was a model of cleanliness and order; every thing was managed so that each passenger had his fair share of room and convenience. No confusion, no quarrelling, no vice. The Mormons, too, are remarkably industrious; in energy, in perseverance, and in the sense of adapting means to ends, they are not equalled, except, perhaps, by the Jesuits. It is but a very few years since they began their settlement in Utah. What is Utah now.

We have before us several numbers of the Deseret News - a weekly paper published at Great Salt Lake City at six dollars a year; and a most curious, interesting, well-conducted sheet it is. We always read it with interest, because it lays open a kind of life which is singularly different from that of any other community.

We have called it a well conducted paper. It is entitled to that praise. The digest of the news of the world is fully and skilfully made up. It is evident that the people there are deeply interested in the Russian war, and they are kept as well informed of its events, and even of its gossip, as the inhabitants of this city. A paragraph announces that "A complete list of the killed and wonnded in the Brtish at the battle of Inkerman is posted up on the second door, south of the post-office for the information of those who may have relations or acquaintances engaged in the European war." We find in the four numbers before us long letters from the Crimean correspondence of the London Times, Victor Hugo's speech on the Polish revolution, and a mass of intelligence from India, China, Europe, New York, much of it given in the editor's own language, with characteristic comments.

The same number attributes the late depression in business to the "increasing gross wickedness and high-handed abominations prevading all classes, from the highest to the lowest." Yet there is a certain robust jollity about the very denunciations of the Mormon editor, like that of a good-humored dog who barks loud when a stranger approaches, but wags his tail at the same time; or like that of those reverend wags who preach vigorous damnation from the pulpit and keep the supper-table in roars of laughter at their jobs. The editor of the Deseret News generally has a corner for a sly joke from Punch.

He is jealous for the credit of his city and its newspaper. The following is an extract from an editorial:

Doubtless it is strange, to those who do not discern the signs of the times, that Utah scarcely furnishes the minutese noticeable item toward swelling the vast catalogue of crimes which are cursing every other portion of the earth. It is for this reason, we presume, that the world's papers so often read, "The news from Utah are unimportant." It does not seem to be spicy enough for the morbid appetite of this fast generation. Independent of having no extensive catalogue of revolting crimes that would make even devils blush, and independent of bowing down with the whole soul to gaining notoriety, amassing wealth, and giving loose rein to every sinful indulgence of passion, is there no beauty nor interest in the chronicle of the even tenor of the righteous course of a mighty community?

We attribute the morality of Utah to the absence of temptation. Men, as a general rule, will not steal, when they have a fair chance to better their condition by honest exertion. It is the difficulty of earning a living that makes thieves.

We are glad to perceive from the Deseret News that the Mormons - unlike the shakes and other enthusiasts - are a reading people. The editor chronicles the arrival of the Eastern mail with bags of magazines and books, complaining bitterly of the loss of part of their contents by the way. He inserts, also, an interesting account of the first meeting of the "Universal Scientific," the object of which is stated to be -

The improvement and elevation of the intellectual powers and pursuits of its members.
  1. By having lectures and essays on every branch of useful arts and sciences.
  2. Through the use of a good library and reading room.
  3. By collections in every department to form an extensive museum.
  4. By obtaining instruments and apparatus to illustrate and advance the arts and sciences, and by every other laudable means within their reach.
An address delivered on the occasion by the president of the Society is as able and interesting a thing of the kind as we remember. - One passage about the museum we quote:

There are no people who exist upon earth that have greater resources and facilities from which to form an interesting and useful library and museum, than the inhabitants of Deseret. Our representatives, in the capacity of travelers, statesmen, and missionaries, will plow every ocean, tread every soil, visit every clime, mingle with every people of all languages, tongues, and dialects upon the face of the whole earth; they will thereby be enabled to obtain a specimen from every mountain, land, and sea; every beast, fowl, fish, and insect, and every plant and herb, and instruments for the practice illustration of every art and science. We should, as soon as practicable, erect a good substantial building, divided into suitable apartments for a library, museum, reading-room, with a hall for public lectures.

And this brings us to the most remarkable feature of the paper - the letters from the Mormon missionaries in all quarters of the globe, written to the elders, and giving an account of the progress of the missionaries' labors. The letters published in the four numbers of the paper which we are now reviewing are sufficient to show the extensive sweep of the Mormon net, and the devoted earnestness with which the Mormon "fishers of men" ply their vocation. The following is a list: a letter dated from the Sandwich Islands, one from China, one from the Cape of Good Hape, one from Manchester, England, three from London, two from smaller English towns, one from Malta, one from the Crimea, one from Philadelphia, one from Texas, one from Glasgow, one from Dublin, one from Switzerland, and three from places in Utah. These letters are long and generally well written, mingling details of business with sentiment and reflection.

To complete our survey of Life in Utah, as exhibited in the Deseret News, we turn for a moment to its advertising columns. There are only a few advertisements, and most of them relate to the finding and straying of cattle:

WHOEVER has found a wife Heifer Calf, with a hole in each ear 1 1/2 inch in diameter, will please leave word at the Post Office.
TAKEN UP - a small speckled PIG; inquire of G. B. GARDNER, 19th Ward.

The following advertisement is curious:

LOOK HERE, everybody in Utah who is expecting to use brooms! We the subscribers are preparing to plant thirty acres of broom corn, which we intend to manufacture into brooms next fall and winter. Our brooms we will sell low and warrant them to do good service. We wish to supply G. S. L. City and other settlements in the Territory; we solicit the patronage of the public. We hereby notify the people that they may expect to be furnished with brooms without their raising broom-corn for their own use.

A truly novel way of forestalling the market. We notice several advertisements like this:

A FAIR WARNING. All members of the 10th quorum of Seventies are hereby notified that a meeting of this Quorum will be held on the 3d Sunday in March (18th), at half-past 4 o'clock P.M., at the House of Royal Barney, 18th Ward.

Members residing in this city, or elsewhere, who do not attend, or report themselves to the Quorum, will be dealt with accordingly.

Meetings will be continued every two weeks from the above set time.
President, residing in G. S. L. City

We are too little acquainted with Mormon theology to be able to explain what kind of an institution the 10th Quorum of the Seventies may be. In the advertisement of the Polysophic Academy, we are glad to read that "during the interval of School hours the Young Gentlemen will be taught gymnastic and military exercises," and "the Young Ladies will have the advantage of classes in music and dancing."

Not a word about polygamy in the Deseret News - a fact not without significance. It seems to show that the leaders feel that that is the blot upon their system - its defect, its vice and its danger - and they are right. Polygamy belongs to the luxurious and stagnant East; in the busy, progressive West it can have no permanent place. A system which degrades that sex upon the virtue of which the virtue of mankind depends, will not be long countenanced by the honest Saxons who compose the majority of the Mormon colonists. Upon this rock of polygamy Mormonism will split, unless the leaders are wise in time.

What consequences have flowed from the belief, once universal, but not universal now, that there can be such a thing as a WRITING possessed of absolute authority in any matter of opinion?

Monday, March 12, 2012

'Mormonism Exposed': A 1916 Lecture

Lately I've been leafing through some old local newspapers and decided to search for references to the LDS faith. The following is an article, "Mormonism Exposed", taken from the 19 May 1916 issue of The Nazareth Item, published in Nazareth, Pennsylvania; it details a (rather paranoid and deranged) lecture delivered at a local Moravian congregation by an ex-Mormon:
Vernon J. Danielson, of Independence, Missouri, a converted Mormon, a lawyer and a member of the Bar of Kansas City, Missouri, spoke in the Moravian Church, on Sunday evening. It was indeed a lecture that those who heard, will never forget and the tales told were a revelation. "The Evils of Mormonism" was the speaker's topic and in elaborating on it he told of the practices of the Mormons and of their hold on each other and the government of this country. He declared that the followers of the faith were politically in control of eleven states of the union and that should they procure control of two additional states, they could effectively block any legislation, not to their liking. With instances he explained how these visions were imparted to the powers of the state and said through them the elections were carried to suit the Mormon church.

He gave illustrations of the great power the Mormon Church has in this country, the great wealth controlled by this church and said it is no church in the true sense of the word, but was nothing more or less than a great political machine, and devotes all its energies and power for the accumulation of wealth and power with the object of some day securing control of the government.

He said polygamy is still practice in Utah, notwithstanding it was supposed to have been abolished years ago. He spoke, as a man of knowledge, as Mr. Danielson, himself had been sent to Europe as a missionary of the Mormon Church where he served three and one-half years. Some of his statements were startling and gave much information not generally known to the public.
The same issue also notes, two pages later, under the heading "Professor Defended Mormonism":
Mr. Danielson, of Missouri, lectured in the theatre at Bethlehem, on Sunday afternoon exposing Mormonism, and Prof. Hinze, of Lehigh University, South Bethlehem, who was in the audience stood up and defended Mormonism. The Bethlehem "Times" says: Mr. Danielson arraigned the evils of Mormonism with great eloquence and received the approval and applause of the people. He presented a series of resolutions to be forwarded to the governmental authorities in condemnation of the practices of Mormonism, which were adopted unanimously. However, before the meeting closed, and afterwards, Professor Hinze, of Lehigh University, an adherent of the Mormon faith, took the speaker to task for certain strictures placed upon the Mormon Church, which resulted in an animated discussion. But no new light was thrown on the Mormon problem and propaganda to justify the existence of Mormonism in the United States.
A few months earlier, Danielson was yet lecturing in Pennsylvania, as indicated in this notice from the 4 February 1916 issue of The Daily Times, published at Beaver, Pennsylvania:
Secrets of the mysterious Mormon temple will be told Sunday afternoon at the First Presbyterian Church by Vernon J. Danielson, a former Mormon elder. The address will be given under the auspices of the National Reform Association, and is for men only.
It likely doesn't take much imagination to deduce how the LDS Church tended to view Danielson's labors. In Liahona: The Elders' Journal 14/11 (12 September 1916): 172, an update from the Central States Mission includes the following paragraph:
Elders Wesley Hubbard and Chester Flint, working in Mexico, Mo., state that though the people are extremely busy at this time of year, they have had an enjoyable time. Vernon J. Danielson, an anti-Mormon propagandist, has had very little success in his crusade against the Church and has opened the way for the elders to present the Gospel to some people who could not have been reached in any other way.
Danielson went on to write, the next year, a booklet titled Mormonism Exposed; or, the Crimes and Treasons of the Mormon Kingdom.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Counsel for March

The following comes from W. W. Phelps, Almanac for the Year 1859: The Third after Leap Year; and after the 6th of April, Thirtieth year of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Great Salt Lake City, UT: J. McKnight, 1859), 5:
MARCH is a month of notoriety: wind and weather permitting, gardens, fields and fences should be attended to; stock kept from damaging the fruit and shade trees; radishes, peas, lettuce, and a variety of good things for the table, as well as for ornament, should be put in the ground for an early start. A wise man prepares for good and evil.