The Reformation

Young soon had occasion to make practical use of the dictatorial

power that he had assumed. The character which those members of

the flock who had migrated from Missouri and Illinois had

established among their neighbors in those states was not changed

simply by their removal to a wilderness all by themselves. They

had no longer the old excuse that their misdeeds were reprisals

on persecuting enemies, but this did not save them from the

temptation to exercise their natural propensities. Again we shall

take only the highest Mormon testimony on this subject.

One of the first sins for which Young openly reproved his

congregation was profane swearing. He brought this matter

pointedly to their attention in an address to the Conference of

October 9, 1852, when he said: "You Elders of Israel will go into

the canons, and curse and swear--damn and curse your oxen, and

swear by Him who created you. I am telling the truth. Yes, you

rip and curse and swear as bad as any pirates ever did."*

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. I, p. 211.

Possibly the church authorities could have overlooked the

swearing, but a matter which gave them more distress was the

insecurity of property. This became so great an annoyance that

Young spoke out plainly on the subject, and he did not attempt to

place the responsibility outside of his own people. A few

citations will illustrate this.

In an address in the Tabernacle on June 5, 1853, noticing

complaints about the stealing and rebranding of cattle, he said:

"I will propose a plan to stop the stealing of cattle in coming

time, and it is this--let those who have cattle on hand join in a

company, and fence in about fifty thousand acres of land, and so

keep on fencing until all the vacant land is substantially

enclosed. Some persons will perhaps say, 'I do not know how good

or how high a fence it will be necessary to build to keep thieves

out.' I do not know either, except you build one that will keep

out the devil."* On another occasion, with a personal grievance

to air, he said in the Tabernacle: "I have gone to work and made

roads to get wood, and have not been able to get it. I have cut

it down and piled it up, and still have not got it. I wonder if

anybody else can say so. Have any of you piled up your wood, and,

when you have gone back, could not find it? Some stories could be

told of this kind that would make professional thieves


* Journal of Discourses, Vol. I, p. 252.

** Ibid., Vol. I, p. 213.

Young made no concealment of the fact that men high in the

councils of the church were among the peculators. In his

discourse of June 15, 1856, he said: "I have proof ready to show

that Bishops have taken in thousands of pounds in weight of

tithing which they have never reported to the General Tithing

Office. We have documents to show that Bishops have taken in

hundreds of bushels of wheat, and only a small portion of it has

come into the General Tithing Office. They stole it to let their

friends speculate upon."*

* Ibid., Vol. III, p. 342.

The new-comers from Europe also received his attention. Referring

to unkept promises of speedy repayment by assisted immigrants of

advances made to them, Young said, in 1855: "And what will they

do when they get here? Steal our wagons, and go off with them to

Canada, and try to steal the bake-kettles, fryingpans, tents, and

wagon-covers; and will borrow the oxen and run away with them, if

you do not watch them closely. Do they all do this? No, but many

of them will try to do it."* And again, a month later: "What

previous characters some of you had in Wales, in England, in

Scotland, and perhaps in Ireland. Do not be scared if it is

proven against some one in the Bishop's court that you did steal

the poles from your neighbor's garden fence. If it is proven that

you have been to some person's wood pile and stolen wood, don't

be frightened, for if you will steal it must be made manifest."

** J. M. Grant was quite as plain spoken. In an address in the

bowery in Salt Lake City in September, 1856, he declared that

"you can scarcely find a place in this city that is not full of

filth and abominations."***

* Ibid., Vol. III, p. 3.

** Ibid., Vol. III, p. 49.

*** Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 51.

Young's denunciations were not quietly accepted, but protests and

threats were alike wasted upon him. Referring to complaints of

some of the flock that his denunciation was more than they could

bear, he replied, "But you have got to bear it, and, if you will

not, make up your minds to go to hell at once and have done with

it." * On another occasion he said, "You need, figuratively, to

have it rain pitchforks, tines downward, from this pulpit, Sunday

after Sunday." On another occasion, alluding to letters he had

received, warning him against attacking men's characters, he

said, "When such epistles come to me, I feel like saying, I ask

no advice of you nor of all your clan this side of hell."**

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. III, p. 49.

** Ibid, p. 50.

When mere denunciation did not reform his followers, Young became

still plainer in his language, and began to explain to them the

latitude which the church proposed to take in applying

punishment. In a remarkable sermon on October 6, 1855, on the

"stealing, lying, deceiving, wickedness, and covetousness" of the

elders in Israel, he spoke as follows:--

"Live on here, then, you poor miserable curses, until the time of

retribution, when your heads will have to be severed from your

bodies. Just let the Lord Almighty say, Lay judgment to the line

and righteousness to the plummet,* and the time of thieves is

short in this community. What do you suppose they would say in

old Massachusetts should they hear that the Latter-day Saints had

received a revelation or commandment to 'lay judgment to the line

and righteousness to the plummet'? What would they say in old

Connecticut? They would raise a universal howl of, 'How wicked

the Mormons are. They are killing the evil doers who are among

them. Why, I hear that they kill the wicked away up yonder in

Utah.' . . . What do I care for the wrath of man? No more than I

do for the chickens that run in my door yard. I am here to teach

the ways of the Lord, and lead men to life everlasting; but if

they have not a mind to go there, I wish them to keep out of my


* These words, from Isaiah xxviii. 17, are constantly used by

Young to denote the extreme punishment which the church might

inflict on any offender.

** Journal of Discourses, Vol. III, p. 50.

From this time Young and his closest associates seemed to make

no concealment of their intention to take the lives of any

persons whom they considered offenders. One or two more citations

from his discourses may be made to sustain this statement. On

February 24, 1856, he declared, "I am not afraid of all hell, nor

of all the world, in laying judgment to the line when the Lord

says so."* In the following month he told his congregation: "The

time is coming when justice will be laid to the line and

righteousness to the plummet; when we shall take the old

broadsword and ask, Are you for God? And if you are not heartily

on the Lord's side, you will be hewn down."** Heber C. Kimball

was equally plain spoken. A year earlier he had said in the

Tabernacle: "If a man rebels, I will tell him of it, and if he

resents a timely warning, HE IS UNWISE . . . . I have never yet

shed man's blood, and I pray to God that I never may, unless it

is actually necessary."*** Sultans and doges have freely used

assassination as a weapon, but it seems to have remained for the

Mormon church under Brigham Young to declare openly its intention

to make whatever it might call church apostasy subject to capital


*Journal of Discourses, Vol. III, p. 241.

** Ibid., p. 266.

*** Ibid., pp, 163-164.

Out of the lawless condition of the Mormon flock, as we have thus

seen it pictured, and out of this radical view of the proper

punishment of offenders, resulted, in 1856, that remarkable

movement still known in Mormondon as "The Reformation "--a

movement that has been characterized by one writer as "a reign of

lust and fanatical fury unequalled since the Dark Ages," and by

another as "a fanaticism at once blind, dangerous, and terrible."

During its continuance the religious zealot, the amorous priest,

the jealous lover, the man covetous of worldly goods, and the

framers of the church policy, from acknowledged Apostle to secret

Danite, all had their own way. " Were I counsel for a Mormon on

trial for a crime committed at the time under consideration, I

should plead wholesale insanity," said J. H. Beadle. It was

during this period that that system was perfected under which the

life of no man,--or company of men,--against whom the wrath of

the church was directed, was of any value; no household was safe

from the lust of any aged elder; no person once in the valley

could leave it alive against the church's consent.

The active agent in starting "The Reformation" was the inventor

of "blood atonement," Jedediah M. Grant.* That his censure of a

Bishop and his counsellors at Kayesville was the actual origin of

the movement, as has been stated,** cannot be accepted as proven,

in view of the preparation made for the era of blood, as

indicated in the church discourses. Lieutenant Gunnison, for whom

the Mormons in later years always asserted their friendship,

writing concerning his observations as early as 1852, said:--

* A correspondent of the. New York Times at this date described

Grant as "a tall, thin, repulsive-looking man, of acute, vigorous

intellect, a thorough-paced scoundrel, and the most essential

blackguard in the pulpit. He was sometimes called Brigham's

sledge hammer."

** "Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 293.

"Witnesses are seldom put on oath in the lower courts, and there

is nothing known of the 'law's delay,' and the quibbles whereby

the ends of truth and justice may be defeated. But they have a

criminal code called 'The Laws of the Lord,' which has been given

by revelation and not promulgated, the people not being able

quite to bear it, or the organization still too imperfect. It is

to be put in force, however, before long, and when in vogue, all

grave crimes will be punished and atoned for by cutting off the

head of the offender. This regulation arises from the fact that

without shedding of blood there is no remission."*

* "History of the Mormons," Book 1, Chapter X.

Gunnison's statement furnishes indisputable proof that this legal

system was so generally talked of some four years before it was

put in force that it came to the ears of a non-Mormon temporary


After the condemnation of the Kayesville offenders and their

rebaptism, the next move was the appointment of missionaries to

hold services in every ward, and the sending out of what were

really confessors, appointed for every block, to inquire of

all--young and old--concerning the most intimate details of their

lives. The printed catechism given to these confessors was so

indelicate that it was suppressed in later years. These prying

inquisitors found opportunity to gain information for their

superiors about any persons suspected of disloyalty, and one use

they made of their visitations was to urge the younger sisters to

be married to the older men, as a readier means of salvation than

union with men of their own age. That there was opposition to

this espionage is shown by some remarks of H. C. Kimball in the

Tabernacle, in March, 1856, when he said: "I have heard some

individuals saying that, if the Bishops came into their houses

and opened their cupboards, they would split their heads open.


* Journal of Discourses, Vol. III, p. 271.

Some of the information secured by the church confessional was

embarrassing to the leaders. At a meeting of male members in

Social Hall, Young, Grant, and others denounced the sinners in

scathing terms, Young ending his remarks by saying, "All you who

have been guilty of committing adultery, stand up." At once more

than three-quarters of those present arose.* For such confessors

a way of repentance was provided through rebaptism, but the

secretly accused had no such avenue opened to them.

* "A leading Bishop in Salt Lake City stated to the author that

Brigham was as much appalled at this sight as was Macbeth when he

beheld the woods of Birnam marching on to Dunsinane. A Bishop

arose and asked if there were not some misunderstanding among the

brethren concerning the question. He thought that perhaps the

elders understood Brigham's inquiry to apply to their conduct

before they had thrown off the works of the devil and embraced

Mormonism; but upon Brigham reiterating that it was the adultery

committed since they had entered the church, the brethren to a

man still stood up:"--"Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 296.

One of the first victims of the reformers was H. J. Jarvis, a

reputable merchant of Salt Lake City. He was dragged over his

counter one evening and thrown into the street by men who then

robbed his store and defiled his household goods, giving him as

the cause of the visitation the explanation that he had spoken

evil of the authorities, and had invited Gentiles to supper. His

two wives could not secure even a hearing from Young in his

behalf.* This, however, was a minor incident.

* "Rocky Mountain Saints;" p. 297.

That Young's rule should be objected to by some members of the

church was inevitable. There were men in the valley at that early

day who would rebel against such a dictatorship under any name;

others--men of means--who were alarmed by the declarations about

property rights, and others to whom the announcement concerning

polygamy was repugnant. When such persons gave expression to

their discontent, they angered the church officers; when they

indicated their purpose to leave the valley, they alarmed them.

Anything like an exodus of the flock would have broken up all of

Young's plans, and have undone the scheme of immigration that had

cost so much time and money. Accordingly, when this movement for

"reform" began, the church let it be known that any desertion of

the flock would be considered the worst form of apostasy, and

that the deserter must take the consequences. To quote Brigham

Young's own words: "The moment a person decides to leave this

people, he is cut off from every object that is desirable for

time and eternity. Every possession and object of affection will

be taken from those who forsake the truth, and their identity and

existence will eventually cease."*

* Journal of Discourses, Vol. IV, p. 31.

The almost unbreakable hedge that surrounded the inhabitants of

the valley at this time, under the system of church espionage,

has formed a subject for the novelist, and has seemed to many

persons, as described, a probable exaggeration. But, while Young

did not narrate in his pulpit the tales of blood which his

instructions gave rise to, there is testimony concerning them

which leaves no reasonable doubt of their truthfulness.

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