Taken from The Baptist Home Mission Monthly:
“The Gospel for Utah”: An address delivered at the annual meeting of the society, at Detroit, Mich., May, 1884, by Rev. S. Graves, D.D. This was the year in which the first Baptist church building was erected in Idaho Falls.
When I read the entirety of this address, I thought of the new church planting team arriving in Salt Lake City this year. Though this present team will not be using the same rhetoric nor contending with polygamy, they will certainly have one passion to communicate – Gospel Grace.
This is the theme assigned me, Mr. President, for a few minutes of your time. The gospel is the Supreme need of Utah, as it is of every place on this green earth where sin abounds, and especially in Utah “where Satan’s seat is.” The gospel will medicine her sickness. It will kill the cancer that is there eating into the vitals of our civilization. It will cure the patient and banish this plague from the land. Pour in the pure waters of gospel truth, and it will clean this “Augean Stable,” whose stench is in the nostrils of the nation and “smells to heaven.” The gospel with all it is, with the help it gathers and the allies it creates, will solve this question which our wise men at Washington cannot, will untie the Gordian knot, which else the sword must cut, if it have edge and temper enough. The gospel will do this and save Utah to civilization, and make her as beautiful in all her moral garnitures as the waters of her wonderful lake and the glow of her opal mountains in the crystal clearing of her skies. . . .
Go with me to Salt Lake City and let us look at it. Forty years ago the Mormons planted themselves here. We are 1,500 miles west of the Mississippi, 500 miles beyond the first or Park range of the Rocky Mountains. We have passed over vast regions of rainless, barren, plains, through deep gorges and wild canyons, and are standing on what was Mexican soil at the close of the war of 1846. All these distances and obstacles and foreign boundaries the Mormons have placed between themselves and our American civilization, and they had indeed found a paradise. Few points combine so much of beauty, so many of the charms and advantages of nature, as this Salt Lake basin, if we may call that a basin whose bottom is 5,000 feet above sea level. You are standing on a plain, not level, but gently tilted, so that it can be easily irrigated; for the rainfall here, in summer, is so slight that irrigation is necessary to insure a crop. This plain extends from Ogden, on the North, 47 miles away, then southward for 250 miles, and is from 20 to 40 miles in width. On the north and east are the Wasatch Mountains, up to whose foothills the northern suburbs of the city crowd. Look upon their hundred peaks bare and brown; higher up, a zone of verdure; and higher still, the diadem of everlasting snow. You will never tire of watching them, in the varying lights that fall upon them from dawn till dark. On the west lies that strange and mysterious body of water, the great Salt Lake, 50 miles wide and 90 miles long.
The city itself, which is some 18 miles from the Lake, is beautifully laid out. Its streets are broad–180 feet wide, running at right angles. Indeed “the city lieth foursquare, and as the mountains are round about Jerusalem,” so are the mountains round about Salt Lake City. . . .
Of the 25,000 inhabitants in Salt Lake City, three-fourths are Mormons. The principal business is done by them, and on most of the chief business is done by them, and on most of the chief business houses you see the sign emblazoned with the all-seeing eye above it, –Z.C.M.I., which means Zion’s Co-operative Mercantile Institute.
There are seven anti-Mormon churches already in Salt Lake City, two Presbyterian, one Congregational, Methodist, Episcopal, Catholic, and last of all, but not least in our interest and hope, a Baptist church. With these are connected schools, a college, and a high school. As there is no public school system in Utah, whatever schools there have been hertofore are a part of the Mormon church organization. . . .
But why does Utah, why does this Eden of Salt Lake City, so especially need the gospel? Because, as in that Eden of old, the trail and the slime of the serpent are there, and no one but the “man child,” “the seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent’s head” by the power of the gospel, can destroy this work of Satan.
Mormonism is a strange compound of Christianity, Judaism, and Mohammedanism; of saintliness, sensuality, and superstition; of the devout and the diabolical.
It is not all evil. A system all evil couldn’t have the power and hold this has. There is enough of good with the evil to make it a masterpiece of the deceiver.
One of my old professors used to say: The most dangerous falsehoods, the most difficult to meet and subvert, are those that are half a truth and half a lie. . . .
The majority of Mormons are not, in their hearts or in their habits, polygamists. They have, I believe, no special desire that way, neither the men nor, especially, the women. Not one in ten joins the Mormons for this purpose. The Book of Mormon does not enjoin polygamy. It was an afterthought, coming fifteen years later, by a special revelation, it was claimed. Polygamy is forced upon many by the stress of a divine command, and the better nature of thousands of wives is in their perpetual revolt against it, and they bear it as a cross, which they are made to believe the Lord lays upon them, and go down to the grave dragging its intolerable weight upon their souls. The church surrounds polygamy by such sanctions, such mystic and solemn rites, and claims for it so high and divine a ministry in the welfare of unborn millions, that women yield to their fate in a sad, religious submission, and are often dragooned into a defence of it.
I assure you, sisters, the Mormon women, as a whole, are of the same make and mould as yourselves, with that natural delicacy and shrinking from pollution, which God has put into a woman’s heart.
They need the Gospel, with its hope for woman, and its power to save her.
But while polygamy, as seen from a distance, is the most prominent as it is the most shocking and disgusting feature of Mormonism, it is by no means the most difficult or alarming aspect of the system. This is found in its claims and in its organization. . . .
The Fifty-fourth Annual Conference of the church was held on the fourth of last month. I beg your indulgence while I give you a few of the official statistics. The number of Mormons in Utah is about 100,000, and in seven other States and Territories, 38,000 more. Over these is a body of 28,-838 of officials–one to every 4 1/2 of the members. The grade of these men who stand in the place of God and utter his voice to the people are: The First President, 12 Apostles, 68 Patriarchs, 3,413 Priests, 4,747 Seventies, 12,191 Elders, 1,611 Priests, 1,786 Teachers, 5,022 Deacons.
And to show that Mormonism is not wanting, the number of these officials, as compared with four years ago, is 5,386 greater; and last year they supported more foreign missionaries than the American Board. Everything is tithed, from bank stock to chickens, and the annual income of the church is reported at $1,000,000. With no public school system in the Territory, they levy a school tax of $50,000, which is expended in missions.
Here is a system of religious despotism in utter defiance of and in active and determined antagonism to the spirit and genius of our American institutions–civil, social, religious, educational, and moral,–which has taken strong root in Utah, and is striking its roots out, to right and left, into Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, and Idaho, and which, if not arrested, will soon control the votes in those six empire States and Territories as it does now in Utah.
Brethren of the Home Mission Society, and you, sisters of the Women’s Home Mission Society, what can be done to meet this great emergency, to arrest this gigantic system of religious fraud, fanaticism, despotism, and sensuality, and rescue its tens of thousands of victims to the liberty and the light of the truth?
The more this puzzle is studied in Washington the more intricate it becomes. It is not to be solved, I believe, by the civil, much less by the military power of the nation.
The clue is in the hand’s of God’s people–in the church of Christ. The panacea is the Gospel. The phalanx that is to take this fortress is the ministers of the cross,–the strongest men you have, flanked to right and left by Christian teachers. The school-house and the church side by side, hand in hand,–these, with such interference and protection by the general government as shall sunder church and state, and relegate each to its proper sphere, and secure to every man, woman, and child, the rights of American citizenship. Here are the factors, the known factors, by which this Mormon problem is to be solved. Put the law on the leaders, and give the Gospel to all. . . .