THE Mormon object lesson is becoming more plain to the people of the United States as time goes on. Many who are in the best position to judge, now realize that in its estimate of Mormonism the country has made a mistake; and that mistake is just this: the great evil of Mormonism did not consist in its polygamy, but in its union of church and state.
The country had its eye upon polygamy; that seemed to be the great evil pertaining to Mormonism that needed to be suppressed. To this public attention was directed. Books were written to expose its evil and arouse public sentiment against it. Finally, laws were enacted—and enforced—for the suppression of the practice, and apparently, after some opposition, they were successful. The president of the church promulgated a decree against it; the church promised to abandon it; the state constitution of Utah was made to expressly forbid it. Under these assurances Utah was received into the Union as a sovereign state.
But the people did not see deep enough. They did not understand the evil of a union of church and state,—or, as it may be said, of a union of the state with religion. And now they find, to their great concern if not to their consternation, that in the suppression of polygamy they have not cut the root of the Mormon evil, but only a sprout which it bore. The root being left, the sprout may—and naturally will—grow out again.
But we will present the situation as it is stated by Mr. Eugene Young, in the Independent (N. Y.), for March 3, as part of a symposium on “The Mormon Question,” which this leading American journal deems a timely topic for consideration. We quote Mr. Young’s article entire. It is worth a careful perusal:—
“‘Politics, not polygamy, have been responsible for all our troubles.’ This remark was made to me during the heat of one of the church and state campaigns in Utah by a Mormon leader who had closely followed the history of his people. One who treads the same ground as he did will find much to corroborate his views. Through Mormon tradition runs the record of a temporal ambition, so dominating and aggressive that it has always aroused the enmity of those with whom the people have come in contact, either in a business or political way. It is an ambition that practically has no limit, its first idea being to bring within the pale of the church ‘every nation, kindred, tongue and people’ on the earth.
“Mormonism early showed its high opinion of its own importance. In the thirties, when only a small band of extremists had been gathered from the dissatisfied ones of other sects to Nauvoo, Ill., Joseph Smith, the so-called prophet, was set up by his people as a candidate for the presidency of the United States on a platform of ‘free trade and sailors’ rights.’ This candidacy was the climax of a series of political movements among the Latter-day Saints that had gained them the enmity of both parties in the State. The church leaders claimed and exercised the right to dictate the politics of their followers and used their power to secure concessions on all sides, until at last, becoming angry at double-dealing, the people if Illinois cast out the curious sect.
“When the new home was sought in Missouri nothing had been learned in political matters through the experience in Illinois. The ‘prophet’ continued to direct even the most minute temporal affairs of the people, and State matters once more became his plaything. The citizens of Missouri might have tolerated polygamy, because at that time their moral force had not become so highly potent as it probably would be to-day; but they would not accord to the Mormons the right to play fast and loose in politics. Partisan feeling ran high in the forties, and Missouri was a battle-ground between the two great national factions. When Joseph Smith united church and state matters, there he came to grief. His people were driven to the West, and to use a Mormon phrase, ‘he was martyred.’
“The same forces have been at work in Utah ever since. Gold-seekers, who were making their way to California in the fifties, found in the valleys of the Great Basin a veritable Mormon kingdom, ruled absolutely by the head of the church and levying tribute on all who needed supplies. Adventurous men who settled in the midst of the strange religious people found themselves limited by Mormon ambitions on every hand. Search for the rich mineral deposits of ‘Deseret,’ as the Mormon state was called, was forbidden by the church leaders, who thought that by concealing the precious metals they might keep out the Gentiles and be unmolested in their ambition to rule. Any one who would not bow to the hierarchy was given to understand that there would be no opportunity in business or politics, for him until finally those who opposed the temporal practices, and not the religious teachings of the Mormon Church, awakened the forces which made such a long and bitter fight against polygamy.
“They found at hand a most suitable weapon. Some of them were not in a position to criticise the moral phases of Mormondom, and a large percentage were men who denied the existence of God and scoffed at his commandments. But they realized the force of the great religious sentiment of the country, and awakened it to make war against polygamy. In the bitter years that followed not the least influential of the elements which opposed the dominant church was striking at its political power. Hack politicians from the East, gamblers, saloon men and atheistic miners vied with the devoted missionaries in the general fight. Their idea was to free the police, municipal governments, legislature, and courts from the overshadowing influence of the priesthood, so they might have a voice in the government and business of the Territory. They sought to divide the Mormon people in politics, in order that there might be some opportunity for the minority, at least, to make its ideas known.
“The feeling that polygamy was not the chief evil of Mormonism was shown curiously after its abandonment by the manifesto of Wilford Woodruff, in 1890. Even after it was conceded that the Mormons had accepted the new ‘revelation,’ the old Gentile party in Utah continued its organization and campaign, declaring it would not disband until sufficient assurance was given that the priesthood should not control politics. Several promises and statements that the church leaders should never again endeavor to control the action of their people had to be made before real division on national political lines was brought about. 
“Statehood was bestowed upon Utah because it was believed that the members of the dominant church had become honestly divided. What has been the result? Briefly, the priesthood has been gradually regaining all the power it abandoned in order to lull the suspicions of the religious people of this country. Mormon ambition is intrenched behind absolute authority, and is able to bid defiance to the religious sentiment of the country, and to trade for political power. In fact, the Mormon kingdom, of which Joseph Smith and Brigham Young dreamed, seems likely to become a reality.
“The hold of the church upon the State is becoming stronger with every year. The governorship was put in the hands of Heber M. Wells, a young man who had been the hands of Heber M. Wells, a young man who had been closely identified with church business matters, in the first election under statehood. The Supreme Court and some of the district courts, by inadvertence, were given to the Gentiles. A United States senatorship was seized for the son of George Q. Cannon, the real head of the church. The second election resulted in the defeat of the most determined Mormon opponent of the union of church and state, Moses Thatcher, whose ambition to be United States senator was balked by the leaders. Salt Lake City was wrested last year from the control of the Gentiles, and a faithful Mormon was made mayor. School boards were next attacked, and churchmen whose loyalty to their ‘file leaders’ was unquestioned, were placed in power. There are still several promising fields in which the church leaders may operate; and it can hardly be doubted that they will not rest until they have secured as complete control of Utah as Tammany has of New York.
“One of the outgrowths of the increased power of the priesthood is seen in the new policy in educational matters. Before Utah became a State the schools of Salt Lake City and other important places, and the University and Agricultural college were the pride of all the people. Good salaries were paid to teachers, and it was the aim of those in control to secure the best possible talent. Teachers were drawn even from New York and Massachusetts on the east and California on the west. The broadest and most modern educational ideas were put in force. This is being changed now. With the control by the priesthood of the educational officials, the idea of employing only young men and women of Utah, and eventually, of course, only young Mormons as teachers, is becoming dominant. In this is seen one of the striking examples of the use of Mormon political power, and the principle applied will fit in almost any department of the State.
“If the church and state matters were to be confined to Utah, however, perhaps the subject would be unworthy of more than passing notice. The 70,000 or more Gentiles could be left to work out their own fortunes or leave the State. But there is a broader meaning to Mormon ambition than is found in the mere contemplation of the little western State, which is of vital interest to the whole country.
“Utah has two United States senators. The church has demonstrated its ability to choose these officials, for both Senators Cannon and Rawlins owe their seats to the exercise of the priesthood’s power. Wyoming has to more. The Mormons are very strong in the western counties. Idaho has two more. Senators Shoup and Heitfeldt owe their election to the Mormon vote in the legislature, in which the church has held the balance of power for four years. Here, then, are six senatorial votes and nine electoral votes over which the Mormon leaders will have at least partial control.
“Moreover, as Apostle Lyman said in an address before the Mormon conference in Brooklyn, ‘Zion is spreading out. Zion wants more room to grow.’ The old aggressive missionary work of the church has been started again since the Federal Government generously gave the priesthood freedom and restored to it the property that had been confiscated. Converts are again being sent out to the West. Mormon settlements in Colorado and Nevada are very considerable, and politicians in each have learned to make concessions to secure the Mormon vote. Politicians in Arizona, which must some day become a State, now acknowledge that the balance of power in its affairs is held in Salt Lake City. New Mexico also has a growing Mormon population that is bound to become potent. It will thus be seen that the church vote, properly handled, might become a most powerful factor in the politics of the intermountain States.
“Will it be so handled? The only answer one can give is that Mormon ambition in the past has never hesitated to secure power; Mormon leaders are among the most astute politicians in this country; and the Mormon people have ever been plastic when the priesthood has told them the good of ‘God’s people’ would come form obedience to their leaders.”