Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mormons in Journalistic History

For fun, I read an old New York Times piece from 1890 about the announcement of the end of polygamy among the Mormons.

I was struck by a couple of things. First, the report was pretty straightforward and gave the Mormon people a lot of credit for being true to their word. The reporter didn't seem the doubt in the slightest the actual intent of the Mormons in abandoning polygamy.

I was also struck by the commentary that was sprinkled throughout a "news" story. It was a different age in journalism. Here are some fun quotes from the piece.

"There is really no room for doubt that hereafter polygamy will be discountenanced as much by the Mormons as by the Gentiles. There are a very considerable number of Mormon women polygamously married in Utah already, in whose cases it would be cruel and inhuman to execute the law that would turn them out upon the world as beggars, and the Mormons who have married them would be less than men if they consented to abandon them to such a fate. It is neither likely nor desirable that the law shall be strictly enforced ex post facto, provided it is obeyed in the future, and provided polygamy really and in good faith given up."

"Moreover, they were already beset by Gentile politicians of the same character as Territorial politicians in general, that is to say, by characterless and conscienceless vagabonds who had cast covetous eyes upon the Mormon possessions and marked them for their own."

"As Utah fills up with Gentiles, the Mormons will surely envy these their liberty, and sooner or later will attain it for themselves. That will be the end of Mormonism as a temoral power. What becomes of it as a queer religious denomination is a question not very important, except to the history of religious imposture, to which the Church of the Latter-Day Saints has already furnished one of the most striking chapters."


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