California: a pleasure trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate,
April, May, June, 1877.
By Mrs. Frank Leslie.
Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33
A LION THAT WE SAW AND A LION THAT WE HEARD.
FOLLOWING the suggestion of the Chief, we hastened from Mr. J--'s residence to Temple street, where, behind a plastered wall twenty feet in height, we found, not that gigantic monster of architecture, but the foundations of the new Temple which is to replace it as the scene of all the functional rites and ceremonies of the Mormon Church, such as ordination, baptism, "sealing" or marriage--both monogamic and polygamic--and burial; the Tabernacle to be reserved simply for preaching. This new building is planned in a very ornate and imposing style, and is built from white granite quarried in the northern part of the Territory; teams of oxen were dragging in great blocks of stone, and a score of workmen were busily hammering them into shape during our visit. But although five years and a good deal of money have already been expended upon this building, its walls are as yet only about ten feet above the ground, and the date of its completion is not named. One cause, if not the cause of its delay, may be found in the fact, that it is built entirely by voluntary contribution, and even Brigham's earnest desire to see the work completed has not brought in the funds with sufficient rapidity for any very rapid results.
The Tabernacle itself, as nearly all of us know from pictures, if not personal survey, is a huge, bare, and very ugly building, with an oval, tiled roof, brick pillars, and no attempt at decoration outwardly. Inside it is quite as ugly, but a little less monotonous, for in the centre is a fountain with four couchant lions in plaster about it, and from the dreary expanse of white plastered ceiling, certainly concave, yet scarcely a dome, hangs a great star, with pendants of artificial flowers. Galleries supported by three rows of pillars, painted to imitate marble, extend along the sides, and the whole floor inclines like that of a theatre. The seating capacity of the building reaches twelve thousand, yet so fine are the acoustic properties that a speaker upon the rostrum is audible in any part of the house. In this respect the Mormons claim the Tabernacle to be unsurpassed by any building in the world.
At the end of this great hall, two hundred and fifty feet long, by one hundred and fifty wide, and eighty feet high, hung a monstrous blue banner, blazoned with a golden bee-hive and the inscription:
"Deseret Sunday-school Union."
At the other end was the great organ, of which the Mormons are justly proud,
as it is said to be only second in size to the Boston organ--which is taller,
but not quite so wide--and possesses a sweetness of tone really wonderful when
the visitor is told that it is of absolute home manufacture, the wood and most
of the other materials the growth of Utah, and the plan and construction are due
to an English convert named Ridges, who prepared and built it in the Tabernacle.
We found the President's houses and other buildings enclosed by a high stone wall, well filled-in with adobe, with arched gateways and wooden gates before each building; over that leading to the factories, stables, etc., is a double arch, surmounted by a beehive in the clasp of a monstrous eagle. The largest building, occupied by a dozen or so of the Mesdames Young, is also distinguished by a beehive over the door, and is called the "Beehive House." The other principal residence is called the Lion House, and Mr. Young generally breakfasts at the one and takes dinner or tea at the other, except when he visits either of his wives living in a house by herself; for each wife, we were informed, had the title-deeds of a house of her own, if she chose to accept the documents, and several of them having rural tastes live upon farms a short distance from Salt Lake City, and raise vegetables, etc., for the tables of the others.
The schoolhouse for the President's seventy children stands next the Beehive, and all these buildings, finished in smooth yellow plaster, with white trimmings and green blinds, are crowded close behind the high stone wall, shielding them from the street; in fact, we could think of nothing but the closely guarded seraglios of some Turkish Prince, and an odd desire to investigate the likeness and differences of Mohammedanism and Mormonism, the two polygamic religions of the earth, seized upon the writer, and may yet insist on gratification. Following this vagary of the mind came an overpowering sense of the rapidity with which this poor old world of ours is losing the romance of her youth, and how realistic is the spirit of her present epoch. In the days when the "Arabian Nights" were written, or rather orally handed down, what rapture it would have been to find one's self inside the precincts of the Harem of Haroun el Raschid, or even of the King of Oude; what heart-throbbings of excitement, what thrills of mysterious delight one can imagine, or can remember one's self capable of imagining. But change the scene from Stamboul or Hindostan to these United States of America, Territory of Utah; for Haroun the Magnificent or the Royalty of Oude substitute Mr. Brigham Young; for Zoraide, Zuleika and Dinorzade, read Ann and Harriet and Susan; and it will be more difficult to write a Thousand and One American Nights' Entertainments than a new bible called the Book of Mormon.
But apologizing for the digression, let us return to our tour, and look in at the Tithing House, whither in true biblical style, the people come, year by year, bringing literal tithes of all they possess, of whatever nature, and pay them into the common treasury. But the finest building within many hundred miles, perhaps, is the Amelia Palace, a really magnificent house, nearly finished, and designed for the wife whom our photographer sternly denies to be the favorite, and whose name it bears. It is really a splendid edifice.
Having looked at everything from the outside, we entered the Office, a large unattractive room, with a private sanctum railed off at the end, plainly furnished as a business room, and hung with portraits of the founders and leaders of Mormonism; among others that of Joseph Smith, who may be called the Father of that religion, although it is unfortunate that so blindly was it revealed to him, that one of the first laws laid down by him as an inspired direction to himself and his followers, was a stern prohibition of polygamy or concubinage, and his name is still on record as a President of the Church of Latter Day Saints in Nauvoo, Lapeer County, Michigan, excommunicating a certain Hiram Brown for preaching polygamy and "other false and corrupt doctrine"; but in three years from that time Smith and nearly all the Mormon leaders were living in authorized and undenied polygamy. But leaving the vexed question of Smith's first and second revelations, and the glaring inconsistencies of their record, which must be thorns in the side of those whose duty it is to uphold and explain Mormonism, we will speak of its present apostle, President (of the Church) Young, whom we found standing in the middle of his Office to receive us, with an expression of weary fortitude upon his face, and a perfunctoriness of manner, suggesting that parties of Eastern visitors, curiosity seekers, and interviewers might possibly have become a trifle tedious in Salt Lake City and the Office of the President.
"How do you do! glad to see you! pass on, if you please!" was the salutation, accompanied with a touch of the hand as each guest was presented and named and when nearly all had passed on and sat down, and the host resumed his own seat, an awful pause fell upon the assembled company, broken presently by a sonorous assertion from the President that it was a pleasant day. This was eagerly assented to by the Chief, who added that the weather had been fine for some days, and the conversation flowed on in this agreeable strain for some moments, during which time we studied the personal appearance of the lion we had come out for to see. We found it both formidable and attractive: a fine, tall, well developed figure; a fresh, ruddy complexion almost befitting a young girl; keen blue eyes, not telling too much of what goes on behind
them; a full mouth; a singularly magnetic manner; a voice hard and cold in its formal speech, but low and impressive when used confidentially; altogether a man of mark anywhere, and one whose wonderful influence over the minds and purses of men, and the hearts and principles of women, can be much more fully credited after an hour's conversation than before.
Perceiving that the interview was but a "function" for President Young, and one whose brevity would doubtless be the soul of its wit, we resolved to constitute ourselves the Curtius of our party, and, approaching the sacred sofa, remarked to the Chief, who was seated thereon, that we would change places with him as we had some information to ask of the President.
The Chief rose with suspicious alacrity, and for the first time a gleam of interest shone in Brigham's pale blue eyes as he turned them upon the bold intruder, whose first question was:
"Do you suppose, Mr. President, that I came all the way to Salt Lake City to hear that it was a fine day?"
"I am sure you need not, my dear,' was the ready response of this cavalier of seventy-six years, "for it must be fine weather wherever you are!"
The conversation established after this method went upon velvet, and, as the rest of the party began to talk among themselves, presently assumed a confidential and interesting turn, and we felt that what Mr. Young said upon matters of Mormon faith and Mormon practice he said with a sincerity and earnestness not always felt in a man's more public and general utterances.
Glancing at Joseph Smith's picture, we ventured the criticism that it did not show any great amount of strength, intelligence, or culture. Mr. Young admitted the criticism, and said that Smith was not a man of great character naturally, but that he was inspired by God as a prophet, and spoke at times not from himself but by inspiration; he was not a man of education, but received such enlightenment from the Holy Spirit that he needed nothing more to fit him for his work as a leader. "And this is my own case also," pursued Mr. Young, quite simply. "My father was a frontierman, unlearned, and obliged to struggle for his children's food day by day, with no time to think of their education. All that I have acquired is by my own exertions and by the grace of God, who sometimes chooses the weak things of earth to manifest His glory." This want of education, he went on to say, was one of the greatest drawbacks and trials to the older generation of Mormons; they had been, almost without exception, poor and unlettered people, gathered from all parts of the world, and obliged, especially after their arrival in Utah, to use every energy and all their time to make productive and life-sustaining homes from the desert lands and savage wilderness into which they had penetrated; since, only thus shut off from other men could they hope to enjoy their religion and practices unmolested.
"But all this is over now thank God!" ejaculated the President, with a gesture of relief. "Our homes are made, our country is prosperous, and our educational privileges are equal or superior to any State in the Union. Every child six years of age in the territory can read and write, and there is no limit to what they may learn as they grow older." I said that I had spoken of these matters with Miss Snow, "formerly one of your wives," as I somewhat diffidently phrased it, but the patriarch, with a calm smile, amended the sentence, "My wife still, if you please, my dear; once having entered into that relationship, we always remain in it, unless"--and his comely face clouded--"unless under very peculiar circumstances." We presumed him to be alluding to Ann Eliza, and longed to hear his views upon that recreant spouse; but not being gifted in the manner so liberally ascribed to the titled English lady by the photographer, we refrained, and only made a eulogy upon Miss Snow's attractions and merits, to which her husband listened graciously, and heartily indorsed, saying that she was doing a noble work among the women of Utah, and that he had placed two of his daughters under her training, and had the utmost confidence in her judgement.
We spoke of the magnificence of the Amelia Palace, and he characterized it as "absurdly fine"; but when we suggested that nothing could be too much for so good a wife and so lovely a woman as she was said to be, he assented, and added, emphatically, "She is all that, and more. Yes, Amelia is a good wife, an excellent wife and a lovely woman," with other phrases expressive of tenderness and esteem. "Besides," added the writer, "the Beehive, which is, I believe, your present residence, looks to me rather shabby for a man of your position;" but at this he shook his head, saying: "There it is, there it is; extravagance and ambition come creeping in, and destroy the simplicity of the first ideas. The Beehive was good enough for me, and has been so for many a year, but the world is changing--changing!"
"But nothing will change the Mormon ideas of polygamy, I suppose," suggested I, for having, by means of the parallel trenches of Miss Snow and Amelia, approached the subject, I could no longer refrain from a direct attack. Mr. Young glanced at me keenly, but replied, devoutly: "No, nothing can, since it is given to them by the grace of God. It is not obligatory, of course, but it is a blessing and a privilege vouchsafed by Him to his chosen Saints."
I broached yet once more the question of domestic harmony, and asked if the children of different mothers could live amicably in the same house.
"I'll tell you something about that," replied Brigham, emphatically. "My sister came to make me a visit some years ago, and staid here until her death. She was not a Mormon, and did not believe in polygamy but she said she had never seen a family of four children as peaceable and orderly and happy as my family of twenty-four, as I had then. She talked of it all the time, and never ceased praising this domestic harmony of which you speak. You see, they are trained to it by their mothers from earliest infancy; it is made a part of their religious teaching."
"Yet, but who trains the mothers?" inquired I, audaciously; "what religion can make a woman happy in seeing the husband whom she loves devoted to another wife, and one with equal claims with herself. Any woman, I should think, would spend all her strength, use every effort of mind, body and soul, to attract and retain his love, admiration and attention. Isn't it so, Mr. President?"
Mr. President shot a keen, inquisitorial glance at the face beside him and answered, meditatively:
"You look like just the woman to do that sort of thing, but fortunately, perhaps, there are not many of that mind among us; as a rule, our women are content in trying to make their husbands happy and their homes pleasant--"
"Just what I was suggesting," interrupted I. "That she should make it so pleasant that he would not seek another."
He laughed a little, but replied:
"That would be agreeable to the husband, no doubt, but it would be contrary to the teachings of the wife's religion. She would not be a good Mormon wife if she allowed herself to follow such a course, nor could it, in the end, make the husband happy to alienate him from those whom he was bound to love and care for equally. For my own part, I always endeavor to show perfect impartiality, and allow no one division of my family to claim time or thought too exclusively."
"Then do Mormon husbands feel no preferences?" asked I, ingenuously, and laughing outright he replied:
"Well, perhaps; human nature is frail, but our religion teaches us to control and conceal those preferences as much as possible, and we do--we do."
The conversation was here interrupted, but the President himself resumed it by saying, in a confidential voice, that Utah was going, in two or three generations, to present the finest specimens of men and women to be found in this country, for they would spring from marriages of pure affinity, and a state of society impossible except under polygamy. "Why," said he, "I have walked the streets of your great city at night and my heart has bled to see the hollow eyes and painted cheeks of the women who walked them too, and who lead away the young men who are to be the husbands of this and the fathers of the next generation. Not one such woman is to be found in Utah, and our young men are pure, our women are virtuous, and our children born free from inherited disease." In fact, he said that the children of to-day were a finer race than were to be found elsewhere, and he was going to have all of his photographed as specimens of childish beauty.
"But are all the women of Utah sure to marry?" asked I. "Suppose nobody offers for them?"
"A woman feeling herself drawn in affinity to a man, and feeling
inclined to seal herself to him, should make her ideas known to him without
scruple. It is her duty, and there can be no indelicacy in obeying the voice of
duty," was the reply; and with this cheerful and hopeful vision of
Mormonism before our eyes, we at last obeyed the urgent gestures of those who
had not been so well entertained as ourself, and rose to depart, Mr. Young
taking leave much more impressively than he had greeted us, and retaining, it is
hoped, as pleasant a reminiscence of the interview as the writer.
A few hours later we had said good-by to Salt Lake City, with its many strange and peculiar objects of interest, and were steaming back to Ogden, there to reunite ourselves with the Great Pacific Road.
[Since writing the above, news comes to us of President Young's sudden death,
and all that struck us as doubtful, or wrong, or ludicrous in the strange system
of life he upheld, and of which he was the centre, disappears in the solemn
respect and silence with which one remembers the dead whose lives have, even for
an hour, intersected our own. He was an honest and sincere believer in his own
theories, and lived up to his own convictions of duty; and how many of those who
sneer at him dare say the same? A little selfish regret also mingles with the
tribute we would fain pay to the memory of the kindly and courteous patriarch,
who made us welcome, and exerted himself to entertain us even when ill and weary
himself; for his parting words to us were: "And if you put me in a book,
promise at least that you will print me as you have found me, and not as others
have described me." We had tried to do so, and now he will never know it;
never know how kindly and respectfully we remember him, or how honestly we
regret his death. May the world deal as tenderly with his memory as we would do,
and above his tomb let us inscribe: "Judgment is Mine, saith the
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