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The Smoot Exposure
Just before the subpoenas were issued in the Smoot investigation, I met John R. Winder (then First Councilor to President Smith) on the street in Salt Lake City, and he expressed the hope that when I went "to Washington on the Smoot case," I would not "betray" my "brethren." I assured him that I was not going to Washington as a witness in the Smoot case; that the men whom he should warn, were at Church headquarters. He replied, with indignant alarm, "I don't see what 'the brethren' have to do with this!"
But when the subpoenas arrived for Smith and the hierarchy, alarm and indignation assumed a new complexion. The authorities, for themselves, and through the mouths of such men as Brigham H. Roberts, began to boast of how they were about to "carry the gospel to the benighted nation" and preach it from the witness stand in Washington. The Mormon communities resounded with fervent praises to God that He had, through His servant, Apostle Smoot, given the opportunity to His living oracles to speak to an unrighteous people! And when the Senators decided that they would not summon polygamous wives and their children en bloc to Washington to testify (because it was not desired to "make war on women and children") some of Joseph F. Smith's several wives even complained feelingly that they "were not allowed to testify for Papa."
The first oracular disclosure made by the Prophets, on the witness stand, came as a shock even to Utah. They testified that they had resumed polygamous cohabitation to an extent unsuspected by either Gentiles or Mormons. President Joseph F. Smith admitted that he had had eleven children borne to him by his five wives, since pledging himself to obey the "revealed" manifesto of 1890 forbidding polygamous relations. Apostle Francis Marion Lyman, who was next in succession to the Presidency, made a similar admission of guilt, though in a lesser degree. So did John Henry Smith and Charles W. Penrose, apostles. So did Brigham H. Roberts and George Reynolds, Presidents of Seventies. So did a score of others among the lesser authorities. And they confessed that they were living in polygamy in violation of their pledges to the nation and the terms of their amnesty, against the laws and the constitution of the state, and contrary to the "revelation of God" by which the doctrine of polygamy had been withdrawn from practice in the Church!
President Joseph F. Smith admitted that he was violating the law of the State. He was asked: "Is there not a revelation that you shall abide by the law of the State and of the land?" He answered, "Yes, sir." He was asked: "And if that is a revelation, are you not violating the laws of God?" He answered: "I have admitted that, Mr. Senator, a great many times here."
Apostle Francis Marion Lyman was asked: "You say that you, an apostle of your Church, expecting to succeed (if you survive Mr. Smith) to the office in which you will be the person to be the medium of Divine revelations, are living, and are known to your people to live, in disobedience of the law of the land and the law of God?" Apostle Lyman answered: "Yes, sir." The others pleaded guilty to the same charge.
But this was not the worst. There had been new polygamous marriages. Bishop Chas. E. Merrill, the son of an apostle, testified that his father had married him to a plural wife in 1891, and that he had been living with both wives ever since. A Mrs. Clara Kennedy testified that she had been married to a polygamist in 1896, in Juarez, Mexico, by Apostle Brigham Young, Jr., in the home of the president of the stake. There was testimony to show that Apostle George Teasdale had taken a plural wife six years after the "manifesto" forbidding polygamy, and that Benjamin Cluff, Jr., president of the Church university, had taken a plural wife in 1899. Some ten other less notorious cases were exposed - including those of M. W. Merrill, an apostle, and J. M. Tanner, superintendent of Church schools. It was testified that Apostle John W. Taylor had taken two plural wives within four years, and that Apostle M. F. Cowley had taken one; and both these men had fled from the country in order to escape a summons to appear before the Senate committee.
President Joseph F. Smith, in his attempts to justify his own polygamy, gave some very involved and contradictory testimony. He said that he adhered to both the divine revelation commanding polygamy and the divine revelation "suspending" the command. He said he believed that the principle of plural marriage was still as "correct a principle" as when first revealed, but that the "law commanding it" had been suspended by President Woodruff's manifesto. He said that he accepted President Woodruff's manifesto as a revelation from God, but he objected to having it called "a law of the Church;" he insisted that it was only "a rule of the Church." He admitted that the manifesto forbidding polygamy had never been printed among the other revelations in the Church's book of "Doctrine and Covenants," in which the original revelation commanding polygamy was still printed without note or qualification of any kind. He admitted that this anti-polygamy manifesto was not printed in any of the other doctrinal works which the Mormon missionaries took with them when they were sent out to preach the Mormon faith. He claimed that the manifesto was circulated in pamphlet form, but he subsequently admitted that the pamphlet did not "state in terms" that the manifesto was a "revelation." He finally pleaded that the manifesto had been omitted from the book of "Doctrine and Covenants" by an "oversight," and he promised to have it included in the next edition!
In short, it was shown, by the testimony given and the evidence introduced, not only that the Church authorities persisted in living in polygamy, not only that polygamous marriages were being contracted, but that the Church still adhered to the doctrine of polygamy and taught it as a law of God.
President Joseph F. Smith denied the right of Congress to regulate his "private conduct" as a polygamist. "It is the law of my state to which I am amenable," he said, "and if the officers of the law have not done their duty toward me I can not blame them. I think they have some respect for me."
A mass of testimony showed why the officers of the law did not do their duty. During the anti-polygamy agitation of 1899 (which ended in the refusal of Congress to seat Brigham H. Roberts) a number of prosecutions of polygamists had been attempted. In many instances the county attorney had refused to prosecute even upon sworn information. Wherever prosecutions were had, the fines imposed were nominal; these were in some cases never paid, and in other cases paid by popular subscription. It was testified that in Box Elder County subscription lists had been circulated to collect money for the fines, but that the fines were never paid, though the subscriptions had been collected. All the prosecutions had been dropped, at last. It was pleaded that there was a strong Gentile sentiment against these prosecutions, because of the hope that no new polygamous marriages were being contracted; but it was shown also, that the Church authorities controlled the enforcement of the law by their influence in the election of the agents of the law.
The Church controlled, too, the making of the law. For example, testimony was given to show that in 1896 the Church authorities had appointed a committee of six elders to examine all bills introduced into the Utah legislature and decide which were "proper" to be passed. In the neighboring state of Idaho, the legislature, in 1904, unanimously and without discussion passed a resolution for a new state constitution that should omit the anti-polygamy test oath clauses objectionable to the Mormons; and in this connection it was testified that the state chairman of both political parties in Idaho always went to Salt Lake City, before a campaign, to consult with the Church authorities; that every request of the authorities made to the Idaho political leaders was granted; that six of the twenty-one countries in Idaho were "absolutely controlled" by Mormons, and the "balance of power" in six counties more was held by Mormons; and that it was "impossible for any man or party to go against the Mormon Church in Idaho." Apostle John Henry Smith testified that one-third of the population of Idaho was Mormon and one-fourth of the population of Wyoming, and that there were large settlements in Nevada, Colorado, California, Arizona and the surrounding states and territories.
A striking example of the power of the Church as against the power of the nation was given to the Senate committee by John Nicholson, chief recorder of the temple in Salt Lake City. He had failed to produce some of the temple marriage records for which the committee had called. He was asked whether he would bring the books, on the order of the Senate of the United States, if the First Presidency of the Church forbade him to bring them. He answered: "I would not." He was asked: "And if the Senate should send the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Senate and arrest you and order you to bring them" (the records) "with you, you would still refuse to bring them, unless the First Presidency asked you to?" He answered, "Yes, sir."
It was shown that classes of instruction in the Mormon religion had been forced upon teachers in a number of public schools in Utah by the orders of the First Presidency. (These orders were withdrawn after the exposure before the committee.) Church control had gone so far in Brigham City, Box Elder County, Utah, that in a dispute between the City Council and the electric lighting company of the city, the local ecclesiastical council interfered. In the same city, two young men built a dancing pavilion that competed with the Church-owned Opera House; the ecclesiastical council "counseled" them to remove the pavilion and dispose of "the material in its construction;" they were threatened that they would be "dropped" if they did not obey this "counsel;" and they compromised by agreeing to pay twenty-five percent of the net earnings of their pavilion into the Church's "stake treasury." In Monroe ward, Sevier County, Utah, in 1901, a Mormon woman named Cora Birdsall had a dispute with a man named James E. Leavitt about a title to land. Leavitt went into the bishop's court and got a decision against her. She wrote to President Joseph F. Smith for permission either to appeal the case direct to him or "to go to law" in the matter; and Smith advised her "to follow the order provided of the Lord to govern in your case." The dispute was taken through the ecclesiastical courts and decided against her. She refused to deed the land to Leavitt and she was excommunicated by order of the High Council of the Sevier Stake of Zion. She became insane as a result of this punishment, and her mother appealed to the stake president to grant her some mitigation. He wrote, in reply: "Her only relief will be in complying with President Smith's wishes. You say she has never broken a rule of the Church. You forget that she has done so by failing to abide by the decision of the mouthpiece of God." She finally gave up a deed to the disputed land and was rebaptized in 1904. (Letters of the First Presidency were, however, introduced to show that it had been the policy of the presidency - particularly in President Woodruff's day - not to interfere in disputes involving titles to land.)
It was testified that a Mormon merchant was expelled from the Church, ostensibly for apostasy, but really because he engaged in the manufacture of salt "against the interests of the President of the Church and some of his associates;" that a Mormon Church official was deposed "for distributing, at a school election, a ticket different from that prescribed by the Church authorities" - and so on, interminably.
Witness after witness swore to the incidents of Church interference in politics which this narrative has already related in detail. But no attempt was made to show the Church's partnership with the "interests;" and the power of the Church in business circles was left to be inferred from President Smith's testimony that he was then president of the Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution, the State Bank of Utah, the Zion's Savings Bank and Trust Company, the Utah Sugar Company, the Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company, the Utah Light and Power Company, the Salt Lake and Los Angeles Railroad Company, the Saltair Beach Company, the Idaho Sugar Company, the Inland Crystal Salt Company, the Salt Lake Knitting Company, and the Salt Lake Dramatic Association; and that he was a director of the Union Pacific Railway Company, vice-president of the Bullion-Beck and Champion Mining Company, and editor of the Improvement Era and the Juvenile Instructor.
It was shown that Utah had not been admitted to statehood until the Federal government had exacted, from the Church authorities and the representatives of the people of Utah, every sort of pledge that polygamy had been forever abandoned and polygamous relations discontinued by "revelation from God"; that statehood had not been granted until solemn promise had been given and provision made that there should be "no union of church and state," and no church should "dominate the state or interfere with its functions;" and that the Church's escheated property had been restored upon condition that such property should be used only for the relief of the poor of the Church, for the education of its children and for the building and repair of houses of worship "in which the rightfulness of the practice of polygamy" should not be "inculcated."
Therefore the testimony given before the Senate committee by these members of the Mormon hierarchy, showed that they had not only broken. their covenants and violated their oaths, but that they had been guilty of treason. What was the remedy? Jeremiah M. Wilson, a lawyer employed by the Church authorities in 1888 to argue, before a Congressional committee, in behalf of the admission of Utah to statehood, had pointed out the remedy in these words:
"It is idle to say that such a compact may be made, and then, when the considerations have been mutually received - statehood on the one side and the pledge not to do a particular thing on the other - either party can violate it without remedy to the other. But you ask me what is the remedy, and I answer that there are plenty of remedies in your own hands.
"Suppose they violate this compact; suppose that after they put this into the constitution, and thereby induce you to grant them the high privilege and political right of statehood, they should turn right around and exercise the bad faith which is attributed to them here - what would you do? You could shut the doors of the Senate and House of Representatives against them; you could deny them a voice in the councils of this nation, because they have acted in bad faith and violated their solemn agreement by which they succeeded in getting themselves into the condition of statehood. You could deny them the Federal judiciary; you could deny them the right to use the mails - that indispensable thing in the matter of trade and commerce of this country. There are many ways in which peaceably, but all powerfully, you could compel the performance of that compact."
This argument by Mr. Wilson in 1888 was recalled by the counsel for the protestants in the investigation. It was recalled with the qualification that though Congress might not have the power to undo the sovereignty of the state of Utah it could deal with Senator Smoot. And it was further argued: "The chief charge against Senator Smoot is that he encourages, countenances, and connives at the defiant violation of law. He is an integral part of a hierarchy; he is an integral part of a quorum of twelve, who constitute the backbone of the Church . . . . He, as one of that quorum of twelve apostles, encourages, connives at, and countenances defiance of law."
On June 11, 1906, a majority of the committee made a report to the Senate recommending that Apostle Smoot was not entitled to his seat in the Senate. They found that he was one of a "self-perpetuating body of fifteen men, uniting in themselves authority in both Church and state," who "so exercise this authority as to encourage a belief in polygamy as a divine institution, and by both precept and example encourage among their followers the practice of polygamy and polygamous cohabitation;" that the Church authorities had "endeavored to suppress, and succeed in suppressing, a great deal of testimony by which the fact of plural marriages contracted by those who were high in the councils of the Church might have been established beyond the shadow of a doubt;" and that "aside from this it was shown by the testimony that a majority of those who give law to the Mormon Church are now, and have been for years, living in open, notorious and shameless polygamous cohabitation." Concerning President Woodruff's anti-polygamy manifesto of 1890, the majority of the committee reported that "this manifesto in no way declares the principle of polygamy to be wrong or abrogates it as a doctrine of the Mormon Church, but simply suspends the practice of polygamy to be resumed at some more convenient season, either with or without another revelation." They found that Apostle Smoot was responsible for the conduct of the organization to which he belonged; that he had countenanced and encouraged polygamy "by repeated acts and in a number of instances, as a member of the quorum of the twelve apostles;" and that he was "no more entitled to a seat in the Senate than he would be if he were associating in polygamous cohabitation with a plurality of wives."
The report continued: "The First Presidency and the twelve apostles exercise a controlling influence over the action of the members of the Church in secular affairs as well as in spiritual matters;" and "contrary to the principles of the common law under which we live, and the constitution of the State of Utah, the First Presidency and twelve apostles dominate the affairs of the State and constantly interfere in the performance of its functions . . . . But it is in political affairs that the domination of the First Presidency and the twelve apostles is most efficacious and most injurious to the interests of the State. . . . Notwithstanding the plain provision of the constitution of Utah, the proof offered on the investigation demonstrates beyond the possibility of doubt that the hierarchy at the head of the Mormon Church has, for years past, formed a perfect union between the Mormon Church and the State of Utah, and that the Church, through its head, dominates the affairs of the State in things both great and small." And the report concluded: "The said Reed Smoot comes here, not as the accredited representative of the State of Utah in the Senate of the United States, but as the choice of the hierarchy which controls the Church and has usurped the functions of the State in Utah. It follows, as a necessary conclusion from these facts, that Mr. Smoot is not entitled to a seat in the Senate as a Senator from the State of Utah."
On the same day a minority report was presented by Senators J. B. Foraker, Albert J. Beveridge, Wm. P. Dillingbam, A. J. Hopkins and P. C. Knox. They found that Reed Smoot possessed "all the qualifications prescribed by the Constitution to make him eligible to a seat in the Senate;" that "the regularity of his election" by the Utah legislature had not been questioned; that his private character was "irreproachable;" and that "so far as mere belief and membership in the Mormon Church are concerned, he is fully within his rights and privileges under the guaranty of religious freedom given by the Constitution of the United States." Having thus summarily excluded all the large and troublesome points of the investigation, these Senators decided that there remained "but two grounds on which the right or title of Reed Smoot to his seat in the Senate" was contested. The first was whether he had taken a certain "endowment oath" by which "he obligated himself to make his allegiance to the Church paramount to his allegiance to the United States;" and the second was whether "by reason of his official relation to the Church" he was "responsible for polygamous cohabitation" among the Mormons.
As to the first charge, the minority found that the testimony upon the point was "limited in amount, vague and indefinite in character and utterly unreliable, because of the disreputable character of the witnesses" - oddly overlooking the fact that one of these witnesses had been called for Apostle Smoot; that no attempt had been made to impeach the character of this witness; that the other witnesses had been denounced, by a Mormon bishop, named Daniel Connolly, as "traitors who had broken their oaths to the Church" by betraying the secrets of the "endowment oath;" and that all the Smoot witnesses who denied the anti-patriotic obligation of the oath refused, suspiciously enough, to tell what obligation was imposed on those who took part in the ceremony.
The charge that Smoot, as an apostle of the Church, had been responsible for polygamous cohabitation was as easily disposed of, by the minority report. He had himself, on oath, "positively denied" that he had "ever advised any person to violate the law either against polygamy or against polygamous cohabitation," and no witness had been produced to testify that Apostle Smoot had ever given "any such advice" or defended "such acts." True, it was admitted that he had "silently acquiesced" in the continuance of polygamous cohabitation by polygamists who had married before 1890; but it was contended that to understand this acquiescence it was "necessary to recall some historical facts, among which are some that indicate that the United States government is not free from responsibility for these violations of the law."
In short, although Reed Smoot was one of a confessed band of law-breaking traitors, he was of "irreproachable" private character. Although the band had been guilty of every treachery, none of the band had admitted that Smoot had encouraged them in their villainies. Smoot had only "silently acquiesced" - and in this he had been no guiltier than the intimidated bystanders and the gagged victims of the outrages. Although the gang had stolen the machinery of elections and used it to print a Senatorial certificate for Smoot, there was nothing to show that the form of the certificate was not correct. Moreover, the band operated in politics as a religious organization, and the constitution of the United States protects a man in his right of religious freedom!
 He did not keep his promise. The manifesto was not added to the book of revelations until some time later, after considerable protest in Utah.