February 19, 1887
One hundred and twenty six years ago today the US Congress passed an anti-polygamy act – two weeks later (March 3) it would be signed into law.
The Edmunds-Tucker Act became the official law against polygamy in America, giving the government power to seize assets and dis-incorporate the LDS Church. The Church’s refusal to truthfully testify about their polygamous activities and their refusal to stop practicing it had been a thorn in America’s side for over a half century.
In 1862 President Abraham Lincoln signed a federal enactment into law banning bigamy and limiting churches and non-profits in America to $50,000 in assets. It was targeted to stop Mormons from practicing polygamy and curb their dominance in Utah Territory. While Lincoln gave Brigham Young unspoken permission to ignore the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act in exchange for not getting involved in the Civil War, the issue wouldn’t quietly go away.
Twenty years later in 1882 the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act was amended with the Edmunds Act and amended again becoming the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887.
Fast forward another three years to May 1890 and we see in the annals of history how the feds lived up to their side of the bargain. The US Supreme Court filed a lawsuit to confiscate holdings of the Church and start pressing charges because they were still breaking the law. As it was the government ended up seizing a mere tenth of what the Church owned and five months later the Church miraculously had a revelation to stop polygamy.
We see their white flag if you will, in the Doctrine and Covenants with the 1890 Manifesto. Ironically not even that promise and revelation from the Mormon god could put a halt to it. It wasn’t until May 1904 when the Church officially stopped marrying multiple wives.
The Manifesto of 1890 allowed Utah to become a state of the Union, but another manifesto was needed in 1904 to completely and formally declare before Congress that no one in the Church could perform multiple marriages. The first manifesto, known as the Official Declaration 1, was canonized and Mormons today consider it to be a direct revelation from God.
I’ve often wondered about the history of the Church and their refusal to obey the laws of the land when they’ve so clearly announced it’s their duty to be honest, law abiding citizens – Articles of Faith 12-13.
“We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law. 13 We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men…”
Why did Church members have to vote on sustaining the Manifesto? If this was a direct revelation from God who are they to vote on something God says to do?
Why were Church members still practicing polygamy and lying about it to the US Government? Is this behavior mandated by God?
How did they justify these lies to their children?
The pictures I’ve included here are my grandparents who willingly practiced polygamy after the first manifesto was issued. My great-great grandfather sailed to England, married two sisters in April 1904 and brought them back here to America with him. It was one month before the second manifesto was issued and the Church testified about to Congress.
Whether or not one or both sisters knew they’d be living in a polygamous situation is unknown, suffice it to say one of those two sisters became my great-great grandmother. One of her sons, Samuel, became my favorite grandpa who always placed a quarter on top of his television set for me when I’d visit. I grew up listening intently to his memories of what it was like growing up in a polygamous household and how everything the family owned and did was for the Church. He explained how a pecking order ruled the multiple homes and how his mum ranked dead last because she was the fifth and last wife.
Times are always hard for polygamous families, especially more than a hundred years ago. Children never knew the luxury of a new pair of shoes or trousers, having your own home usually entailed a wooden shack at the back end of the property and it wasn’t until the 1950’s before my family saw indoor plumbing.
But more important than the absence of physical luxuries is the absence of truth. When ordained men of God say one thing and do another it makes for a mind twisting game of rationalizing.
From birth Mormons have it ingrained in them that loyalty to the Church holds prominence above all else so when I made the decision to leave it came with my own set of memories. Memories of large family get-togethers, larger than life family reunions and working to exhaustion on the family orchard farms served the purpose of tying the knots that bind. Those tangible things will be sacrificed for many who leave, making the decision all the more difficult and the true fruits of salvation appreciated more than words can express.
Loyalty to the Church, family and traditions all held a magical allure for a feel good moment in life, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the loyalty I had to Jesus! Misplaced priorities and mistranslated English all play their parts in this religion that’s contributed to America’s history but the real story is what’s behind the veneer.
If polygamy was ordained of God and it’s still the only way to the Celestial Kingdom to become a god then why has the Church abandoned the principle? Where is the loyalty and to what or whom does it go? Is it the Church, the principle, to the god of Mormonism or to the Jesus of the Bible?
A couple of US Congressmen from the late nineteenth century probably didn’t realize the impact they’d have upon thousands of people and so far into the future. Thank You Jesus for Your steadfastness and loyalty to Your children!
By and large when the American people today think of Mormonism I’m certain that images of people hiding in their basements and prison-striped clad prophets don’t come to mind! On the same token it’s obvious neither Joseph Smith nor Brigham Young would recognize the Church of today; in fact neither would be temple worthy. Hmmm…go figure…
My prayer is for the Mormon people to stop and think about its long tumultuous history with the US Government and wonder if this type of behavior is something the Lord would condone.
We’ll be posting an historical chart of the Church’s behavior towards the government this week so check in on that! And don’t forget – pray for my people!
With Love in Christ;
1 Cor. 1:18