Thursday, April 26, 2012

That Manifesto

The following item, the next installment in our 'Newspaper Wars Over the Manifesto' series, appeared originally as "That Manifesto", Salt Lake Tribune 39/249 (26 September 1890): 4.
That Manifesto
It seems that President WOODRUFF of the Mormon Church has caused a dispatch to be sent through the Associated Press to the newspapers of the United States, giving his advice to the Latter-Day Saints to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the law of the land.  It is unnecessary to say that that is not the usual way by which the President of the Mormon Church makes his decrees known.  In private conversation, President WOODRUFF has more than once in the last year and a half stated that if plural marriages were being celebrated they were without his knowledge.  It seems this dispatch was called out probably because of the statement of the Utah Commission that they had evidence which convinced them that the practice is being indulged in more or less throughout the Territory.  But there is something about this dispatch itself which causes people familiar with Mormonism to be suspicious.  It does not come in the authoritative manner in which the orders of the Church are generally clothed.  President WOODRUFF says: "My advice to the Latter-Day Saints is to refrain from contracting any marriage forbidden by the laws of the land."  He speaks merely as an individual.  He does not speak as though that advice had come authoritatively by revelation, but as a poor human being in perplexity he gives to his flock the advice of a patriarch.  The question is, how will they understand it?  It is not at all as JOHN TAYLOR announced to a convention of the priesthood that in his bath-room he had received a revelation that Mr. YOUNG was to have one office, and Mr. Somebody else another office.  It is not at all in the same tone that President WOODRUFF at the last conference announced to the people that the blood of the prophets HYRUM and JOSEPH were yet to be avenged; that so far they had not been avenged.  We cannot resist the thought that this was not prompted by President WOODRUFF at all, but that it was prompted by shrewd men in the Church, and that the object is purely political.  Of course it is all right with Eastern people.  There, it is the advice of the President of the Mormon Church.  But it seems to us if it had been genuine, the president himself in the Tabernacle, backed by more than one apostle, would have said to his people, "There is a new deal.  You are not to involve yourselves in plural marriages any more, so long as the laws of the United States forbid.  While ours is a distinct creed, it is subject to the laws, and you will not disobey the laws in the matter of taking more wives."  That would have been the usual way.  That would not only have been sounded in the Tabernacle, but it would have been echoed in every ward meeting-house in the city and Territory.  If we had to make a diagnosis of this case we should say it came about like this:  Mr. CANNON said to President WOODRUFF, "The Nation is greatly exercised about our affairs.  A good many of our brethren in Idaho are in trouble; they want to vote.  Legislation is pending which threatens to disfranchise us, and the ground is that we still adhere to and persist in plural or celestial marriage as a sacrament which we are bound to respect and comply with.  Now, it would be a good thing to send to the country something which would give the country an idea that we had abandoned polygamy because of our respect for the laws.  We will not put it in the usual way of an edict from the Church, but you, as the president of the Church can sign this dispatch to go to the country, which merely gives your personal, individual, human advice to the Saints, and which, of course, does not count any more than the advice of any other man, it not pretending to be in the nature of an authoritative mandate to the people."

President WOODRUFF is an easy-going, quiet old gentleman, but down deep he is a genuine fanatic.  He has never said a word yet that indicated that he thinks he went too far in that dedicatory prayer at St. George; indeed, his words in the last conference were a fair supplement to that prayer, considering the changed conditions here, and, hence, it is natural for even a man like him to think that a little trick is not out of the way when by it he is serving the Lord.  So we take it that he subscribed to the opinion of Mr. CANNON, and it was for that his dispatch was sent out.  And we believe that yesterday, being Thursday, there was more than one plural marriage celebrated in one or other of the Temples of this Territo[r]y, and that, while President WOODRUFF himself knew nothing of it, the parties engaged in it knew that if President WOODRUFF ever heard of it, notwithstanding his advice, he would look upon it as an act of grace on the part of the parties engaged in it.
And, in a brief blurb following a line break, they similarly wrote:
THE best review of President WOODRUFF's "advice" to the people was made by a newsboy last evening.  He was selling the paper, and as an inducement to purchases was crying: "All about President WOODRUFF abandoning polygamy."  A by-stander said: "So he has come to it at last, has he?"  "Yes," said the boy, "and I wish my father would, but he never will."  And that, we take it, is about the fact of the case.  The President advises, but the people know that the old man would not state it that way if he wanted the people to follow the advice, and so will continue to do business at the old stand.

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