Utah is to observe its first centennial next month. One of the series of events, expected to attract the attention of the nation to the Beehive State, is a 1500 mile trek, like the original one of 143 men, two women and two children in 1847, to Salt Lake City from Nauvoo, Illinois, from which Mormons were driven. They will follow, as closely as possible, in route, stop-overs, etc., the road that Brigham Young traversed a hundred years ago.
The history of Utah since 1847, when it was Mexican territory, centers in the Church of Latter Day Saints, popularly called the Mormon church. This church was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith, in Fayette, N. Y., where he was murdered by a mob of anti-Mormons. A Mormon is a mythic personage who, according to Joseph Smith, led a Jewish immigration into this western land in pre-Christopher Columbus days. Smith claimed, as did the other Protestant sects, that all existing churches called Christian had departed from the teachings of Christ, and his church was going to return thereto. This knowledge, says Smith, came to him through "a vision of light, when two glorious personages commanded him not to join any of the religious sects, for God was to restore the Gospel through him."
Three years later Smith claimed that he was directed by an Angel to a place where he found the hidden book of Mormon, engraved on plates of Gold. Also the Urim and Thummin (used as a Divine oracle by the Jews of old) by the aid of which he translated the text. Thus the world is assumed to have had to wait for the discovery of this book by Joseph Smith to properly understand the Bible; just as the word had to wait for Mrs. Mary Baker G. Eddy's "Science and Health" in order to have a "Key to the Scriptures."
It is interesting to learn that the Rev. Mr. Spaulding, a Presbyterian minister, declared he had written a work of fiction which he discarded, as no publisher would accept it. This rejected copy, that was lost or stolen, reappeared as the angelically revealed book of Mormon. To silence Rev. Spaulding, as some of the faithfUl were clamoring to see the plates, Smith is reported to have said that he handed them to an Angel, and they were seen no more.
Joseph Smith, backed by the evidence of Oliver Cowdery and a few others (who later declared their evidence to be false), claimed that "an Angel (John the Baptist) appeared to them and conferred on them the priesthood of Aaron. ..." This is but one of the many absurd claims common to most of the minor sects. Such an honor, assuming it to be possible, which it is not, could only come to the descendants of the family of Aaron, the brother of Moses, to which Smith and the other Mormon priests are as far from being related as they are with the family of King Pharaoh. In fact there is not, nor will there ever be an Aaronic priesthood, because (1) it was displaced by the priesthood that Jesus, the Messiah, instituted; (2) there is no genealogical evidence extant today to prove the existence of members of the house of Aaron, or the tribe of Levi, from which a priesthood of Aaron could be reinstituted. These are two of a dozen reasons that this columnist presents to sustain his contention that the Judaism of the Old Testament had fulfilled its Divine mission; that Judaism full blossomed abides in Christ and His Catholic Church.
Besides this Aaronic impossibility, the Mormons claim that there will be a restoration of the Lost Ten Tribes, that once formed the Kingdom of Israel; and the rebuilding of Zion, not on the hill in Jerusalem, where the royal residence of King David and the Temple existed, but right here in the United States. The Anglo-Israelites go the Mormons one better in their restoration of these Lost Tribes. They hold the British alone to be the real Israelites, as they are made up of the Ten Tribes. Who can say them nay? Why the very name British proves it. Is not Brit a Hebrew word that means Covenant? And is not ish the Hebrew word for man? They, the British and they alone, are the people, or rather descendants of the people of the Covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Polygamy: The practice of polygamy caused the Mormons considerable trouble, including the disincorporation of the Mormon church by Congress (1887) and the confiscation of its property. Its legal status was restored after capitulating in 1890, when a manifesto was issued calling on "the Saints to refrain from contracting marriages forbidden by the law of the land." Utah became the 38th State in 1896.
The Mormons have long been friendly towards the Catholic Church, often saying "if we are not right, then are the Catholics." ... Catholics, who number 20,000 in the Utah population of 550,000 have awakened an interest in things Catholic, particularly through the Paulist Fathers brought to Utah by Bishop John J. Mitty, now Archbishop of San Francisco, and Msgr. Duane G. Hunt, now Bishop of Salt Lake, through his broadcasts from the Mormon Station KSL.
The friendliness of the Mormons towards Catholics is attributed to their appreciation that their settlement in the great Salt Lake Valley is due to having been directed to it by Fr. Pierre Jean de Smet, the great Jesuit missionary and explorer, who met and was entertained by Brigham Young in Council Bluffs, while the Mormons were on their trek West. Writing to his nephew, Fr. de Smet said: "They asked me a thousand questions about the regions I had explored, and the valley I have just described to you, pleased them greatly from the account I gave of it. Was that what determined them to settle there? I would not dare affirm it. They are there!"
Utah was discovered by two Spanish Franciscan priests ---Silvestre Valez de Escalante and Atanzio Dominiquez ---in 1776. They remained there with the Legund Utes, an Indian tribe after which the Beehive State is named, to instruct them in Catholic doctrine. Full credit is given to Fr. de Smet and the Franciscan priests by the Mormons on the historic tablets displayed in and around Salt Lake City.
The growth of the Mormon Church from a half dozen to a million is due to three things in particular: (1) Their being an ecclesiastical, priestly, doctrinal group that ranks first among Protestants in educating its people along religious lines: (2) The economic life of its people, under the guidance of Church officials who hire keen business men; (3) Its source of income, obtained
largely from a tithing system.
WHAT IS A MORMON?
We are prompted to deal once more with the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," nicknamed "Mormons," by an article in "LOOK" magazine---"What Is A Mormon?" It was written by Richard L. Evans of Salt Lake City, editor, author, broadcaster, Trustee of the Brigham Young University, one of the Twelve Apostles of his church. By the way, it is interesting to note that one of the Mormon Twelve Apostles, Ezra Taft Benson, is Secretary of Agriculture in the Cabinet of our President.
This "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," which came into existence in Fayette, New York in 1830, owes its origin to Joseph Smith, a 15 year-old Sharon, Vt. farm boy, who is said to have had "authority by direct divine bestowal" to establish the Mormon Church. Hence they, the Mormons, object to being classified as Protestants. Their church classifies Protestants, with Jews and Catholics, as "Gentiles." This caused Simon Bemberger, the Jew who was elected Governor of Utah (1917-1920) to jokingly say, "In my State I am both a Jew and Gentile."
There are 1,246,362 members, all "Saints," in the Mormon church, the center of which is in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was organized in the year 1830. There is another group of "Saints," 152,850 of them, with headquarters in Independence, Mo., that is called "The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints," that was organized by the brother of Joseph Smith, the father of Mormonism.
Joseph Smith is said to have been visited "by Angel Moroni" who told him of the "everlasting gospel," written on plates of gold by a prophet named Mormon, and Mormon's son, Moroni, in the year 420 A. D. Joseph Smith is said to have translated these writings "through the power of God," by means of the Urim and Thummin, the sacred instrument or "stones" mentioned in the Books of Moses. After Joseph Smith and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, had completed the translation of the Book, an angel took it back to heaven. Thus came Mormonism into existence.
The Bible is said to be "basic to Mormon belief in the word of God as far as it is translated correctly." Yet the Mormons discovered, through Joseph Smith in the 19th century; as Protestants began to discover, through Martin Luther in the 16th century, that "restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" was necessary. If Christ was to remain with His teaching body, the Church He established, until the end of the world, as He promised; if the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, was to dwell therein forever, as Christ said He would; and if the power of darkness and evil were never to prevail against that Church, as recorded in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. John, then must the claim that the gospel teachings need "restoration" be a repudiation of the declaration of Christ. ...
Joseph Smith was murdered in Carthage, Ill., (1884) by an anti-Mormon mob, partly on account of Mormon polygamous family relations. Brigham Young of Vermont took over the leadership of the Mormons; who trekked their way from Illinois until they finally landed in the far western mountain State of Utah, in which the Mormons settled, and prospered.
The name of Brigham Young usually brings to mind the question of polygamy, which the "Look" writer says "was practiced at one time among the Mormon people." This leader of the Mormons is said to have had 27 wives and 56 children. Latest report at hand declares that Brigham Young is the progenitor of 4,000 grandchildren.
The Mormon church is said to have renounced the practice of polygamy in the year 1890, under pressure of the federal authorities, partly in order to win statehood for Utah; despite it having been held to be a divine command revealed to Joseph Smith, who had 28 wives. Yet the principle was not repudiated, as seen in the legal battle the Mormons carried on against the Federal action, which the "Look" article says was "questioned by the church as an infringement of religious liberty." It was "in 1890, after the constitutionality of these laws (against plural marriages) had been reaffirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States," that the practice was prescribed by the Mormons.
The Mormons are enterprising. They own banks, insurance companies, an afternoon paper (The Desert News), large hotels, hospitals, sugar concerns, storehouses bulging with food and clothing, department stores, the Brigham Young University, music schools, and more than a hundred "seminaries." These "seminaries" are connected with or next to the public schools, in which Mormon doctrines and history are taught to grade school and college students. From 55 to 75 percent of the high school pupils are enrolled in the "seminaries."
One who visits Utah, as has this columnist, cannot help but be deeply impressed with the Mormon zeal. The Mormons are ardent propagators of their faith. The Mormon youth spend two years in missionary endeavor. They are sent to all parts of the world, without pay, to preach their gospel, being assured of a position upon their return. Such zeal on the part of the Catholic laity, backed with the sound, reasonable, doctrinal and historic teachings of their Church, and their Church only, would no doubt bring a multitude of persons into the Catholic Church, whose disconnection with her is due more often to misunderstanding than bad