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The Prophet of Mammon
In an earlier day among the Mormons, the ecclesiastical authorities collected one-tenth of the "annual increase" of the faithful into "the storehouse of the Lord;" and this was practically the entire assessment made by the Church; although, by the same law of tithing, every Mormon was held obliged to consecrate all his earthly possessions to "God's work" on the demand of the Prophet. The common fund was used, then, to promote community enterprises and to relieve the poor. The tithe-payer saw the good result of the administration of the Church's moneys, and was generally satisfied. He was promised eternal happiness if he paid an honest tithe, but he was also given an earthly reward - for the Church admitted him to many opportunities and enterprises from which the niggardly were adroitly excluded. He was spiritually elevated and enlarged by giving for a purpose that he considered worthy - the fulfillment of a commandment of God and the relief of his fellow-creatures - and the community benefited by having a part of its yearly surplus administered for the common good.
But by the time the Church had reached its third generation of tithe-payers, the "financial Prophets" had made a change. On the theory that since the Mormons were paying the bulk of the taxes, they should share in the distribution of the public relief funds, the Mormon poor were denied assistance from "the storehouse of the Lord," and were compelled-to enter the poorhouses, to seek shelter on the "county farms," or to take charity from their neighbors. The resulting degradation of a sublime principle of human helpfulness is strikingly shown in the fact that in some cases, where the county relief funds are distributed through a Mormon clerk of paupers for out-door relief, the Mormon bishop even collects one-tenth of this money, from the wretched recipients, as their contribution to God Almighty!
Nor is the greed of the present hierarchy satisfied with one-tenth of a Mormon's income. Said Joseph F. Smith, at the April Conference of 1899 (according to the Church's official report): "If a farmer raises two thousand bushels of wheat, as the result of his year's labor, how many bushels should he pay for tithing? Well, some go straightway to dickering with the Lord. They will say that they hired a man so and so, and his wages must be taken out; that they had to pay such and such expenses, and this cost and that cost; and they reckon out all their expenses and tithe the balance." To Smith's inspired financial genius this was "dickering with the Lord." He wished to collect ten per cent of the farmer's entire yield - a tithe that would have bankrupted the farmer in three years!
Nor is the tithe any longer the only exaction demanded by the Prophet. A score of "donations" have been added. There is the Stake Tabernacle Donation, which is a fund collected from the Mormons of each "Stake" (corresponding usually to a county) for the building of a house in which to hold Stake Conferences. There is the Ward Meeting-House Donation, which is a fund collected from the Mormons of every "ward" for the erection of a local chapel. There is the Fast Day Donation, made up of contributions gathered on the afternoon of the first Sunday of each month, at what is called "a fast meeting," for the support of the local poor; and this is supplemented by the Relief Society Donation, solicited by the members of the Ladies Relief Society, in a house-to-house canvass, from Mormons and Gentiles alike. A Light and Heat Donation is collected by the deacons of the ward, under direction of the bishop, to pay for the lighting and heating of the ward meeting house; a Missionary Donation is collected at a "Missionary benefit entertainment," to help defray the expenses of a member of a ward sent on a mission; and since a missionary must necessarily be an elder, a Quorum Missionary Donation is also taken from his fellow members of the quorum, to assist him. So far as the Church is concerned, he travels "without purse or scrip," by order of "revelation;" but this inhibition does not extend to the use of his own money - if he has any left after paying the other exaction's - nor does it prevent him either from receiving contributions from his impoverished fellows or accepting charity from "the enemies of God's people," whom he labors to redeem. And on these terms about ninety per cent. of the adult male Mormons perform missionary services for the Church.
All priesthood quorums have monthly Quorum Dues collected from their members. On one Sunday of each month, called Nickel Sunday, the Sunday School members pay in five cents each for the purchase of new books, etc. On Dime Tuesday, once a month, the members of the Young Men's and the Young Women's Mutual Improvement Associations pay in ten cents each for the purchase of books, etc. On Nickel Friday, once a month, the infant members of the Primary Association pay in five cents each to the association. Religious Class Donations are paid once a month by the Mormon public-school pupils for the support of the week-day religious classes. Amusement Hall Donations are collected from the members of a ward whose bishop finds them able to build a place of amusement. When a temple is to be erected, Temple Donations are collected, continuously, until the work is finished and paid for; and when members of the Church "go through the Temple," they are required to pay another form of Temple Donation in any sum that they can afford. Should a need arise, not provided for by the specific donations given above, a Special Donation is collected to meet it. Yet in the face of all these exaction's of tithes and donations, the ecclesiast still boasts: "We are not like the 'preachers for hire and diviners for money.' We never pass the plate at our sacred services. Our clergy labor, without pay, to give free salvation to a sinful world!"
In addition to doing missionary service, paying tithes, and contributing donations, the latter-day Mormon, if he be obedient to the counsel of the Church's anointed financiers, must support the commercial and financial undertakings of the hierarchy. These are officially designated "the Church's institutions" by the authorities; but they are in no way the property of the Church. They are advertised as community enterprises, but they are such only in the sense that the community is commanded by "the voice of God" to sustain them. There is no voice of God to command a distribution of their profits. And they are no longer conducted for the benefit of the community but to exploit it.
The good Mormon must purchase his sugar from "the Church's" sugar company (Joseph F. Smith, president), which is controlled by the national sugar trust and charges trust prices. He must buy salt from "the Church's" salt monopoly (Joseph F. Smith, president), which is a part of, and pays dividends to, the national salt trust. He is taught to go for his merchandise to the Zion's Co-operative Mercantile Institution (Joseph F. Smith, president), where even whiskey is sold under the symbol of the All-seeing Eye and the words "Holiness to the Lord" in gilt letters; and Joseph F. Smith, at the April Conference, of 1898 (according to the Church's official report), scolded those "pretendedly pious" Mormons who "were shocked and horrified" to find "liquid poison" sold under these auspices - for, as Smith argued, with characteristic greed, if the Mormon who wanted whiskey could not get it in the Church store, "he would not patronize Z.C.M.I. at all, but would go elsewhere to deal!"
The farmers are "counseled" to buy their vehicles from "the Church's" firm, the Consolidated Wagon and Machine Company (Joseph F. Smith, president); to take out their fire insurance with the Church's "Home Fire Insurance Company" (Joseph F. Smith, controller); and to insure their lives with the Church's "Beneficial Life Insurance Company" (Joseph F. Smith, president). The Salt Lake Knitting Company (of which Joseph F. Smith is president) makes, among other things, the sacred knitted garments that are prescribed for every Mormon who takes the "Endowment Oaths," to be worn by him forever after as a shield "against the Adversary;" and these garments bear the label: "Approved by the Presidency. No knitted garment approved which does not bear this label." By which ingenious bit of religious commercialism, the sacred marks on the garments (accepted as a sort of passport to Heaven) have been increased by the sacred Smith trademark that admits the wearer to the Smith Heaven.
The Church's banking institutions, of which Joseph F. Smith is president, are recommended as safer than others because the money goes into the hands of "the brethren." Church newspapers must be subscribed for, because all others are "unreliable" - although the Church's Deseret News (Joseph F. Smith, president) is one of the most dishonest, unjust and mendacious organs that ever poisoned the public mind. And so on, through the whole list of business concerns by which the Church authorities are to profit. The Mormons, having learned of old the value of a solid, community support for community enterprises established in the interests of the community, are still kept solidly supporting ecclesiastical enterprises administered for the benefit of the hierarchy or its favorites, at the community's expense!
The Utah Light and Railway Company (Joseph F. Smith, president), which was supported by the tithes of the Mormon people, was charging $1.25 per thousand cubic feet for fuel gas and $1.75 for illuminating gas, just before the company was sold to the "Harriman interests." (The Supreme Court of the United States has fixed a rate of 80 cents a thousand as a fair price for gas in New York City.) The Salt Lake Street Railway (operating under a fifty-year franchise, obtained from the City Council by, the power of the Church while Joseph F. Smith was president of the company) charges a five-cent fare, gives but one transfer, allows no half fares for children, and pays the city nothing for the use of its streets. Before the transfer of the Church's sugar stocks to the trust, the sugar factories paid the farmer $4.50 a ton for his beets and sold him sugar for $4.50 a hundred pounds; today beets are bought for $4.50 a ton, and sugar sold at $6.00 a hundred. The price asked for salt in Utah, where it should be "dirt cheap," is the same as everywhere under the salt trust. And so on - through the rest of the list.
To maintain this system of sanctified gain Joseph F. Smith invokes all the power of his "divine" authority as "the mouthpiece of the Lord." He protects the sugar trust by preventing the establishment of independent sugar factories (as for example in Sanpete and Sevier counties in 1905), just as he protects the salt trust by preventing the competition of independent salt gardens (as in the case of Smurthwaite and Taylor.) He issues his edict of protection as "the vicegerent of God on Earth" to the Mormons; and he excommunicates and ostracizes, in this world and the next, the Mormon protestant who dares rebel against commercial monopoly.
He receives between two and three million dollars a year in tithes, gives no accounting of them, and has no responsibility for them, except to God and his own conscience. He is able to use this sum, in bulk, at any given point, with a weight of financial pressure that would overbalance any other such single power in the community. As "trustee in trust" for the Church, he has the added income from stocks and previous investments; and he has practical control of the wealth of all the leading men of the Church to assist him, if he should call upon them for assistance. He uses his financial dictatorship to support monopoly against the assault of Gentile opposition, and he compels the Gentile to pay tribute as the Mormon does.
He backs his financial power with his control of legislation. He can not only prevent the passage of any laws against his favored monopolies, but (as in the case of the smelters) he can reduce independents to submission by threatening them with procured laws to penalize them. He largely controls the "labor troubles" of the State by controlling the obedience of the Mormon laboring men. He can influence judges, officers of the law and all the agents of local government by his power as political "Boss," and the same influence extends, through his representatives at Washington, to the local activities of Federal authority. He can check and govern public opinion among his subjects by announcing "the will of God" to them through the officers of the Church in every department of religious administration. He is, therefore, at once the modern "money king," the absolute political Czar the social despot and the infallible Pope of his "Kingdom!'
Just as men fight for the retention of a throne and the maintenance of a dynasty, so he and his courtiers defend his rule and maintain his autocracy with every weapon of absolutism. And just as royalty, while possessed of unlimited wealth, has never lacked mercenaries, press bureaus, and all the sycophantic defenders of a crown, so Smith is able to command an array of service as great as any ever brought to the defense of a social system. This singular and enormous power stands solidly against any movement of domestic reform; and, by its alliance with the national rulers in finance and politics, it is saved from the danger of "foreign" intervention. Like every other such absolutism, it is crushing out the life of its subjects; for, in spite of the industry, the thrift, and the abstemiousness of the Mormon people, they are sinking under the burden of imposed exaction's. Although Utah became a territory in 1853, and had its well-settled towns at that time, and was organized in a compact social body for the upbuilding of its material prosperity before any of the surrounding states had received an organic act as a territory, Utah has now lost its leadership, and the individual initiative and enterprise of the typical Western community have been relatively lost.
In this process of degeneration, one of the most promising modern experiments in communism has been frustrated and brought to ruin. In the early nineties, Dr. Josiah Strong, of New York City, viewed the Mormon system with an interested admiration. He saw that by contribution, and co-operation, and arbitration, the energies of the people were conserved and the products of their prosperity more equally distributed than under the conditions of economic war then prevalent elsewhere. He thought he saw in Utah a possible solution of some of the social problems of our civilization. But, a few years ago, he confessed that the Mormon system was no longer worthy of study. It had been destroyed by the greed of its rulers. Community contributions were being used for individual commercialism and the aggrandizement of leaders. The aged and infirm poor, who had contributed through all the working period of their lives, were being thrust into poor houses. The ambition of the earlier Prophets, to make the people great in their community prosperity and happiness, has been lost in the new desire of the head of the Church to exhibit that greatness only in his own person. The Mormon people had become the working slaves of a financial and political and religious autocracy, and Mormonism was no longer anything but a hopeless failure as a social experiment.
It is difficult to say how much of this failure was due to the character of the present Prophet, and how much to the national conditions that are threatening the success of democracy in every state of the Union. It would seem that the conditions were ideal for the production of just such a man as Smith, and that Smith was by nature fitted for the greatest growth under just such conditions. He came to power with none of the feeling of responsibility to his people which the earlier leaders showed. He considered that the people lived for him, not that he lived for the people. He regarded the Mormon system as an establishment of his family, to which he had the family right of inheritance; and he waited with a sulky impatience for the deaths of the men who stood between him and the control of his family's Church. It was as if he accepted his predecessors as exercising their powers, during an inter-regnum, by the consent of the Mormon people, but saw himself acceding to the throne by family right and the order of divinity.
He had no financial ability; he had no considerable property when he became president of the Church at sixty-three. Nor did he need any such ability. The continuous inflow of money - to be used without accountability to anyone - and the wealth of opportunity offered by the men who wished his aid in exploiting his people, made it unnecessary that he should have any creative financial vision. He needed only to move, with his opportunity, along the line of least resistance which was also, with him, the line of choice.
He had, through all his years, shown an obvious envy of any member of the Church whose circumstances were better than his own. It was apparent in his manner that he regarded such success in the community as an encroachment upon the Smith prerogatives. As soon as he came to power, he accepted every opportunity of self-aggrandizement as a new Smith prerogative. And the system of modern capitalism appealed at once to his ambition. By the older method of tithes and conscription's, he could collect only from the devotees of the Church; by the larger exploitation he could levy tribute upon the Gentiles too.
And he was aided by the Mormons themselves. They had been brought together, in obedience to "a command of God," in order that the community, by avoiding the sins of the world, might be saved from the plagues that were to descend upon the world because of its injustice. They were a credulous people, ignorant of the sins of modern finance, and prepared by industry and isolation to be exploited. Their previous leaders had observed, as a warning only, the modern aspiration for vast wealth obtained by economic injustice; but that aspiration made an instant appeal to Smith's ambition; and it is the peculiar iniquity of conditions in Utah today that his ambition has betrayed his people to the very evils which they were originally organized to escape.
In an earlier time it was the pride of the leader that the community in the large was advancing and the average of conditions improving. Today the leader assumes that as he grows richer the people are prospering and "the revelations of God" being vindicated in practice. He speaks with pride of "our" growth and wealth under "the benign authority of the Almighty" and His "temporal revelations" - because he himself has been enriched by the perversion of these same laws - very much as the "captain of industry" elsewhere boasts of the "prosperity" of the country, because the few are growing so rich at the expense of the many.
Along with this strain of commercial greed in Smith, there is an equally strong strain of religious fanaticism that justifies the greed and sanctifies it, to itself. He believes (as Apostle Orson Pratt taught, by authority of the Church): "The Kingdom of God is an order of government established by divine authority. It is the only legal government that can exist in any part of the universe. All other governments are illegal and unauthorized. . . . Any people attempting to govern themselves by laws of their own making, and by officers of their own appointment, are in direct rebellion against the Kingdom of God." Smith believes that over this Kingdom the Smiths have been, by Divine revelation, ordained to rule. He believes that his authority is the absolute and unquestionable authority of God Himself. He believes that in all the affairs of life he has the same right over his subjects that the Creator has over His creatures. He believes that he has been appointed to use the Mormon people as he in his inspired wisdom sees fit to use them, in order the more firmly to establish God's Kingdom on Earth against the Powers of Evil.
He believes that the people of the American Republic, "being governed by laws of their own making and by officers of their own appointment," are in direct rebellion against "his Kingdom of God." He believes that the national government is destined to be broken in pieces by his power; that it has only been preserved from destruction by the concessions recently made by the Federal authorities; and that it can only continue to save itself so long as it shall recognize Smith's ambassadors at Washington - and so allow him to work out its destruction in the fullness of time.
But with all this insanity of pretension he has a sort of cowardly shrewdness, acquired in his days of hiding "on the underground." On the witness stand in Washington he denied that he had had any direct communication with God by revelation; and then he returned to Utah and pleaded from the pulpit that on this point he had lied in Washington in order to escape saying what his "inquisitors" had wished him to say in order to get him into a trap." He preaches in Utah that to deny the doctrine of polygamy is to reject the teaching of Jesus Christ; before the Senate committee he was coward enough to put the blame of his polygamous cohabitation upon his five wives. In Washington he claimed that the Gentiles of Utah condoned polygamous cohabitation and had a liberal sympathy for the Church; but at St. George, Utah, for example (in September, 1904), he was reported by a Church newspaper as saying: "The Gentiles are coming among us to buy our homes and land. We should not sell to them, as they are the enemies of the Kingdom of God." He is that most perfect of all hypocrites - the fanatic who believes that he is lying in the service of the Almighty.
In the early spring of 1888, I was in Washington, where measures of proscription were then being prepared against our people; and, early in the morning, as I walked up Massachusetts Avenue, I saw Joseph F. Smith approaching me. For several years he had been "on the underground" under the name of "Joseph Mack" - now in the Hawaiian Islands with one wife; now hidden, with another, among the faithful in some Mormon village; or again with a third, in Washington (which was probably as safe a place as any) presiding secretly over the Church lobby. As he passed me, with his head down, preoccupied, I said: "Good morning, President Smith." He jumped as if I had been a Deputy Marshal with such a sudden start of fear that his silk hat rolled on the pavement and his umbrella dropped from his hand. He drew back from me as if he were about to take to his heels. Then he recognized me, of course, and was quickly reassured; but his embarrassment continued for some time, awkwardly.
But a short time ago the President of the United States stood in the Salt Lake Tabernacle (which is "Joseph Mack's" capitol and vatican) and addressed a multitude that had assembled not more to honor the Chief Executive of the nation than to pay their almost idolatrous tribute of devotion to the head of their Church, who was reigning there in the pulpit with President Taft. "Joseph Mack" no longer fears Deputy Marshals - he appoints them; and the present United States Marshal of Utah would refuse to serve a paper under the direction of the entire power of the United States government if "Joseph Mack" forbade the service. He no longer fears the proscriptions of legislators at Washington; they come to him, through the leaders of their parties, and arrange with him for the support of the trans-Mississippi states in which the influence of his Church control is determinative. He no longer hides his wives, at the ends of the earth, and visits them by stealth; they occupy a row of houses along one of the principal streets of Salt Lake City, and the pilgrim and the tourist alike admire his magnificence as they go by. He is still a law-breaker. He stands even more in defiance of the authority of the nation than he did in 1888, and he hates that authority as much as ever. But he is today not only the Prophet of the Church; he is the Prophet of Mammon; and all the powers and principalities of Mammon now give him gloriously: "All Hail!"