The Mormons Or Latter-day Saints

In the American of the United States there exist two distinctly opposed

natures: the one positive and practical, the other inclined to

mysticism. The two do not clash, but live, on the contrary, on

perfectly good terms with one another. This strange co-existence of

reality and vision is explained by the origin of the race.

The American is, to a very great extent, a descendant of rigorous

Puritanism. Th
English, who preponderated in numbers over the other

elements of the European immigration into North America, never forgot

that they had been the comrades of Penn or of other militant

sectarians, and never lost the habit of keeping the Bible, the ledger,

and the cash-book side by side. They remained deeply attached to their

religion, which they looked upon as a social lever, although for many

of them their faith did not go beyond a conviction of the immanence of

the supernatural in human life. Thus it was that their spirits were

often dominated by a belief in miracles, all the more easily because

their intellectual culture was not always as highly developed as their

business ability, and consequently the clever manufacturers of

religious wonders were able to reap incredible harvests among them.

There is perhaps no country where the seed sown by propagandists

springs up more rapidly, where an idea thrown to the winds finds more

surely a fertile soil in which to grow. A convinced and resolute man,

knowing how to influence crowds by authoritative words, gestures and

promises, can always be certain of attracting numerous followers. In

America the conditions are without doubt propitious for the founders of

new religions.


How is a new religion started in the United States? Joe Smith wakes up

one morning with the thought that the hour has come for him to perform

miracles, that he is called thereto by the Divine Will, that the

existence and the secret hiding-place of a new Bible printed on sheets

of gold have been revealed to him by an angel, and that its discovery

will be the salvation of the world. He proclaims these things and

convinces those who hear him, and the Book of the Mormons which he

produces becomes sacred in the eyes of his followers.

In ever-increasing numbers they hasten first to Illinois, then to Utah;

and when Brigham Young, Smith's successor, presents the Mormon colony

with religious and political laws which are a mixture of Christianity,

Judaism and Paganism, and include the consecration of polygamy, they

found a church which claims more than a hundred thousand adherents, and

is ruled by twelve apostles, sixty patriarchs, about three thousand

high priests, fifteen hundred bishops, and over four thousand deans.

After being dissolved by the decree of the 10th of October, 1888, the

Church of the Latter-Day Saints seemed to be lost, without hope of

revival. The State of Utah, where Brigham Young had established it in

1848, was invaded by ever-growing numbers of "Gentiles," who were

hostile to the Mormons, but these latter, far from allowing the debris

of their faith to bestrew the shores of the Great Salt Lake, succeeded,

on the contrary, in strengthening the foundations of the edifice that

they had raised. The number of its adherents increased, and the colony

became more flourishing than ever. If, at one time, it was possible to

speak of its dying agonies, those who visit it to-day cannot deny the

fact of its triumphant resurrection.

Two principal causes have been its safeguard: the firm and practical

working-out of the economic and philanthropic principles upon which its

organisation has always rested, and the resolute devotion and

capability of those who direct it as the heads of one great family.

Every member is concerned to maintain the regular and effective

functioning of its mechanism, and all work for the same ends in a

spirit of religious co-operation.

We must not lose sight of the fact that in addition to the elements

they borrowed from Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism and Islam, the

Mormons introduced into their new Gospel a social ideal inspired by the

Communistic experiments of the first half of the nineteenth century.

The founders of Mormonism--Joseph Smith, Heber Kimball, George Smith,

the brothers Pratt, Reuben Hedlock, Willard Richards, and Brigham

Young--were not visionaries, but men risen from the people who desired

to acquire wealth while at the same time bringing wealth to those who

took part in their schemes. We find in their doctrine, and in their

legal and religious codes, not only the idea of multiple union claimed

by Enfantin and his forty disciples of Ménilmontant, but also the

theories of Buchez, who desired to free labour from the servitude of

wages, to bring about solidarity of production, and to communalise

capital, after first setting aside an inalienable reserve. They

followed the example of Cabet in making fraternity, which should

guarantee division of goods, the corner-stone of their social

structure, and, avoiding the delusions of Considérant and other

Communists, they brought about, stage by stage, the rapid and lasting

development which has characterised their successive establishments in

Missouri, Illinois, and on the borders of California.


Militant as well as constructive, the Mormon leaders, like many other

reformers, believed themselves to be charged with a mission from on

high, and were quick to condemn as rebels all who failed to rally to

the standard of the "Latter-Day Saints." Joe Smith was not content

with making thousands of converts, but, after having turned his colony

at Independence into an "Arsenal of the Lord," and surrounding himself

with a veritable army, he proclaimed that, as the Bible gave the saints

empire over all the earth, the whole State of Missouri should be

incorporated in his "New Jerusalem." The "Gentiles" replied with a

declaration of war, and Joe Smith and his twelve apostles were seized,

publicly flogged, divested of their garments, tarred and feathered, and

chased out of the State with shouts and laughter and a hail of stones.

The Mormons took up arms. The Governor of Missouri called out the

militia. Vanquished in the encounter that followed, the Mormons had to

abandon all their possessions and take flight. They then founded a

town called Far West, and remained there for three years, at the end of

which time fresh aggressions and more battles drove them out of the

State of Missouri into that of Illinois, where they built the large

town of Nauvoo. Many thousands of fresh recruits were won over, but

once again their designs for the acquisition of land--as well as of

souls--stirred up a crusade against them. Joe Smith and the other

leaders of the sect were taken prisoners and shot--a procedure which

endowed Mormonism with all the sacredness of martyrdom. To escape

further persecutions, the Saints decided on a general exodus, and the

whole sect, men and women, old people and children, numbering in all

about eighty thousand souls, set forth into the desert.

It was a miserable journey. They were attacked by Red Indians, and

decimated by sickness; they strayed into wrong paths where no food was

to be found; they were buried in snowdrifts; and many of them perished.

But the others, sustained by an invulnerable faith, and by the undying

courage of their leaders, pushed on ever further and further, until in

the summer of 1847, after the cruel hardships of a journey on foot over

nearly three hundred leagues of salt plains, the head of the column

reached the valley of the great Salt Lake. Here Brigham Young's

strategic vision beheld a favourable situation for the re-establishment

of the sect. He himself, with a hundred and forty-three of his

companions--the elite of the church--directed the construction of the

beginnings of the colony, and then returned to those who had been left

behind, bringing back a caravan of about three thousand to the spot

where the New Jerusalem was to be built.

It was given the name of Utah, and Filmore, the President of the United

States, appointed Brigham Young as governor. The latter, however,

desired to become completely autonomous. He was soon in conflict with

those under him, and his open hostility to the American constitution

caused him to be deposed. His successor, Colonel Stepton, finding the

situation untenable, resigned almost at once, and the Mormons,

recovering their former militancy and independence, then sought to free

themselves altogether from the guardianship of America, and to be sole

masters in their own territory. In order to reduce them to submission,

President Buchanan sent them a new governor in 1857 with some thousands

of soldiers. The Mormons resisted for some time, and finally demanded

admittance into the Union. Not only did Congress refuse this request,

but it passed a law rendering all polygamists liable to be brought

before the criminal courts. The War of Secession, however, interrupted

the measures taken against the sect, which remained neutral during the

military operations of the North and South. Brigham Young, who had

remained the Mormons' civil and religious head, occupied himself only

with the economic and worldly extension of his church, until in 1870,

five years after the termination of the war, the attention of Congress

was once more directed towards him. For the second time the Mormons

were forbidden by law to practise polygamy, under penalty of

deportation from America, but they resisted energetically and refused

to obey. Defying the governor of Utah, General Scheffer, they rallied

fanatically round Brigham Young, who was arraigned and acquitted--and

the Mormon Church remained ruler of the colony.

After Young's death, government was carried on jointly by the twelve

apostles, until on October 17th, 1901, George Smith was elected

universal President of all branches.

A Frenchman, Jules Rémy, who visited the Mormons some time back, has

given a striking description of them:--

"Order, peace and industry are revealed on every side. All these

people are engaged in useful work, like bees in a hive, thus justifying

the emblem on the roof of their President's palace. There are masons,

carpenters, and gardeners, all carrying out their respective duties;

blacksmiths busy at the forge, reapers gathering in the harvest,

furriers preparing rich skins, children picking maize, drovers tending

their flocks, wood-cutters returning heavily loaded from the mountains.

Others again are engaged in carding and combing wool, navvies are

digging irrigation canals, chemists are manufacturing saltpetre and

gunpowder, armourers are making or mending firearms. Tailors,

shoemakers, bricklayers, potters, millers, sawyers--every kind of

labourer or artisan is here to be found. There are no idlers, and no

unemployed. Everybody, from the humblest convert up to the bishop

himself, is occupied in some sort of manual labour. It is a curious

and interesting sight--a society so industrious and sober, so peaceful

and well-regulated, yet built up of such divers elements drawn from

such widely differing classes. . . .

All these people, born in varied and often contradictory faiths,

brought up for the most part in ignorance and prejudice, having lived,

some virtuously, some indifferently, some in complete abandonment to

their lowest animal instincts, differing among themselves as to

climate, language, customs, tastes and nationality, are here drawn

together to live in a state of harmony far more perfect than that of

ordinary brotherhood. In the centre of the American continent they

form a new and compact nation, with independent social and religious

laws, and are as little subject to the United States government that

harbours them as to that, for instance, of the Turks."

Such they were, and such they have remained, ever developing their

activities and industries, and--as another traveller has said--having

no aim save that of turning their arid and uncultivated "Promised Land"

into a fertile Judea--an aim in which they have marvellously succeeded.


Mormonism owes its success chiefly to its practical interpretation of

the Communistic ideals, and to its determination to encourage labour by

means of religion and patriotism, setting before it as object the

satisfaction of each individual's social needs, under the direction of

those who have proved themselves capable and vigilant and worthy of

confidence. It is a republic from which are banished the two most

usual causes of social collapse--idleness and egotism; a hive,

according to its founder, in which each bee, having his particular

function, is always under the eye of those who direct individual

activities in the interests of collective welfare. The President of

the Mormon Church is its moving spirit. He surveys it as a whole,

encourages or moderates its energies, according to circumstances,

preserves order and regularity, and exercises his paternal influence

over every cell of the hive, giving counsel when needed, redressing

grievances, preventing false moves, yet leaving to every corporation

not only its administrative freedom but its own powers for industrial


Under these conditions the Church of the Latter-Day Saints unites the

social and economic advantages of individual and collective labour.

The corporations are like stitches that form a net, holding together

through community of interests and a general desire for prosperity, yet

each having its own separate formation and the power to enlarge itself

and increase its activities without compromising the others or

lessening their respective importance. One of the most remarkable is

the "Mercantile Co-operative Society of Sion," the central department

of wholesale and retail trade. It was founded in 1863 by Brigham

Young, who was its first president, and is in direct relationship with

the Mormon colonies all over the world, having a capital fund of more

than a million dollars which belongs exclusively to the Mormons. Its

organisation, like that of all Mormon institutions, is based upon the

deduction of a tithe of all profits, which practically represents

income tax. The "Sugar Corporation" has an even larger capital, and

was founded directly by the church through the advice of Brigham Young,

who recommended that Mormon industries should be patronised to the

exclusion of all others. The salt industry also is of much importance,

the Inland Crystal Salt Company having at great expense erected

elaborate machinery in order to work the salt marshes around the Great

Lake, and to obtain, under the best possible conditions, grey salt

which is converted into white in their refineries. Other corporations

under the presidency of the supreme head of the Mormon Church are the

"Consolidated Company of Railway Carriages and Engines," the "Sion

Savings Bank," the "Co-operative Society for Lighting and Transport,"

and the chief Mormon paper, the _Desert Evening News_, which is the

official organ of the church, and has a considerable circulation.


These corporations are not only commercial or industrial institutions,

but are animated by a spirit that is pre-eminently fraternal. Their

heads are concerned with the well-being of every member, and material,

moral or intellectual assistance is given to all according to their


To each corporation is attached a "delegate," whose functions do not

appear to be of great importance, but who renders, in reality, services

of considerable value. The man who holds this post is one of

unimpeachable honesty and integrity, with a kind and conciliatory

disposition, chosen for these qualities to act as intermediary between

the bishop and the "saints" of all classes, from the highest to the

lowest. He has free entry into the Mormon homes, and is always ready

to give advice and counsel to any member of the church in his district;

and he even penetrates into the houses of the Gentiles, wherever a

Mormon, man or woman, may happen to be employed. Take, for instance,

the case of a young Scandinavian servant-girl, living with

"unbelievers." The mother, who had remained in Europe, wished to

rejoin her daughter, but the girl had not been able to raise more than

a third of the sum necessary to pay the expenses of the journey. The

delegate took note of this and referred the case to the bishop, who,

after inquiry, sent the old mother the required amount.

Again, two neighbours might be disputing over the question of the

boundary between their respective properties. The delegate would do

all in his power to settle the affair amicably, and to restore harmony;

and failing in this would bring the two parties concerned before the

bishop. Or there might be an invalid requiring medicine and treatment,

an old person needing help, a layette to be bought for a new-born

child--in all such cases the delegate sees that the needs are supplied,

for the strength of this Church of the Latter-Day Saints lies in the

fact that all the Mormons, from the President down to the humblest

workman, call themselves brothers and sisters and act as such towards

one another. Thanks to the delegate, who is friend, confidant and

confessor in one, immediate help can be obtained in all instances, and

no suffering is left unrelieved.

Thus it comes about that there are no poor among the Mormons, and very

few criminals. The delegate has no need to search into the secrets of

men's minds, for all are open to him. To a great extent he is able to

read their innermost hearts, for men speak freely to him, without veils

or reservations. As far as is possible he sees that their desires are

granted; he notifies all cases of need to the Relief Societies; he

conducts the sick and aged to the hospitals; he is the messenger and

mouthpiece for all communications from the people to the bishop and

from the bishop to his flock.

It is the delegate also who is charged with the duty of seeing that

one-tenth of each person's income, whatever its total sum may be, is

contributed for the upkeep of the Mormon faith and its church. He

reminds the dilatory, and admonishes the forgetful, always in friendly

fashion. In fact it is he, who--to use a popular expression--brings

the grist to the mill. This contribution of a tenth part obviates all

other taxation, and as it is demanded from each in proportion to his

means, its fairness is disputed by none.


Brotherly co-operation also prevails in the Mormon system of

colonisation. The leaders of the church have always been aware of the

dangers of overcrowding, and at all times have occupied themselves with

the founding of new settlements to receive the surplus population from

the centres already in activity. It is for this reason that the church

has been so urgent in seeking and demanding new territory to irrigate

and cultivate, in Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Idaho, and even

as far afield as Canada. The transplanting of a swarm from the parent

hive is undertaken with the greatest care. Let us take for example the

colonisation of the Big Horn Valley, in the north of Wyoming. Before

coming to a decision the apostles themselves inspected the locality,

which had been recommended as suitable for a new colony of saints.

Finding that it fulfilled all requirements, they published their

resolve in the official Press, and invited all who desired to become

members of the colony to present themselves before their bishop with

the necessary guarantees. The President of the church then sought out

a brother capable of organising the scheme, and this brother, proud and

grateful at being chosen for such a mission, sold all his goods and

took up his new responsibilities. On the appointed day the new

colonists grouped themselves around their leader, with their wagons,

baggages, provisions, agricultural tools, horses and cattle, and so on.

One of the twelve apostles being appointed as guide, they set forth for

the Big Horn Valley. Here they built their dwelling-places, dug a

canal to provide water for the whole settlement, founded all kinds of

co-operative societies, including one for the breeding of cattle--and


In this way, upon a Socialism quite distinct from that of the European

theorists, and differing widely from that practised by the New

Zealanders, are built up institutions, which have given proof, wherever

started, of their power of resistance to human weaknesses. The Mormon

colonies, fundamentally collectivist, like the sect from which they

originally sprang, still bear the imprint given to them by the

initiators of the movement. Each one becomes industrially and

commercially autonomous, but all are firmly held together in a common

brotherhood by the ties of religion. The Big Horn Mormons, although so

far away, never for a single day forget their brothers of Salt Lake

City, and all alike hold themselves ever in readiness to render mutual

assistance and support.


The Mormon considers activity a duty. Co-operation implies for him not

only solidarity of labour but union of will, and these principles are

applied in all phases of his public or private life--in politics,

education, social conditions of every kind, and even amusements. He

holds it obligatory under all circumstances to contribute personal help

or money according to his means, knowing that his brothers and sisters

will do likewise, and that he can rely upon them with absolute


Nevertheless, dissension does occasionally arise in the heart of this

close-knit brotherhood. The authority of the President, or that of the

apostles and bishops may be the cause of rivalries and jealousies, as

in the case of Joseph Morris, Brigham Young's confidant, who wished to

supplant his chief. He and his partisans were assaulted and put to

death by Young's adherents. A spirit of discord also manifests itself

at times in the national elections, and there are plottings and

intrigues, especially when there seems to be hope of supremacy in

Congress, or when one of the twelve apostles offers himself as

candidate for the Senate without first consulting the Mormon Church.

Such shadows are inseparable from all human communities. What it is

important to study in the Church of the Latter-Day Saints is the

evolution of a communism which has more than half a century of activity

to its credit, and which, in contrast to so many other fruitless

attempts, has given marked proofs of a vitality that shows no sign of