Monday, October 26, 2009

Reed Smoot Hearings - Day 1: Testimony of Joseph F. Smith, part 2

This is part 2 of the first day of testimony from Joseph F. Smith (March 2, 1904).

Senator Hoar starts off the afternoon session by asking for clarification on revelations and the sustaining of them.  He wants to know what happens if a revelation is given to the president, and presented to conference, but rejected by a majority of those present, "in that case it would not become part of the established faith?"  Mr. Smith's answer:  "Yes, sir."

Mr. Tayler starts out questioning Mr. Smith about the origins of polygamy.  The response from Mr. Smith is that "there were a few who received the doctrine under the direct teaching of Joseph Smith and entered into it at that time, before his death."  He then reviews some history of the laws enacted against polygamy, starting with the law in 1862.  According to Mr. Smith, "Our people took the ground that it was an unconstitutional law."  However, this apparently changed in 1878, when George Reynolds v. United States was heard before the Supreme Court of the United States.  In this case the 1862 law was sustained (the decision was that religion could not protect all religious practices, like polygamy, if they were declared illegal by law; only religious belief is protected by the Constitution).

Mr. Tayler.  Did the church accept that decision of the Supreme Court as controlling their conduct?
Mr. Smith.  It is so on record.
Mr. Tayler.  Did it?
Mr. Smith.  I think it did, sir.
Mr. Tayler.  That is to say, no plural marriages were solemnized in the church after October, 1878?
Mr. Smith.  No; I cannot say as to that.
Mr. Tayler.  Well, if the church solemnized marriages after that time it did not accept that decision as conclusive upon it, did it?
Mr. Smith.  I am not aware that the church practiced polygamy, or plural marriages, at least, after the manifesto.
Mr. Tayler.  Yes, I know; but that was a long, long time after that.  I am speaking now of 1878, when the Supreme Court decided the law to be constitutional.
Mr. Smith.  I will say this, Mr. Chairman, that I do not know of any marriages occurring after that decision.
Commentary:  Mr. Smith is being a little evasive here and even acting dumb to the question.  Counsel is asking about plural marriages after 1878, when the Supreme Court ruled the 1862 law was constitutional.  His first answer was a complete agreement.  His second answer was confused when asked the same question.  His third answer was a deflection to a different period of time not asked about.  His fourth answer, all to basically the same question, is a denial based on no specific knowledge.  This appears to be a completely evasive manuever by Mr. Smith to not answer the question as posed.

He is fortunately saved by Senator Beveridge, who interrupts this Q&A with a question trying to figure out why this line of questioning is being asked.  Senator Beveridge is trying to determine which piece of proof this question fits in (1.  Reed Smoot is a polygamist, or 2.  He took an oath inconsistent with his duty as Senator).

Mr. Tayler's answer, in part, is very important in light of future testimony:
"I have stated here more than once that I was not undertaking, and should not undertake, so far as I was concerned, to offer proof respecting the polygamy of Reed Smoot, nor have I ever intimated that I was going to prove that he took any oath.  I do not know anything about that ... Surely the status of Reed Smoot - because it is a personal question, in the last analysis, as respects his right to be a Senator of the United States - under a claim that he holds supreme allegiance to the sovereignty of this Government, is largely to be determined by precisely what it is, as exhibited by the law of the church of which he is an orthodox member, he declares he must stand for, and which the church, through its history, as exhibited by its acts, stands for.

"We cannot understand whether Mr. Smoot's statement is to be taken as really expressive of his state of mind or as indicating a knowledge upon his part of what his real obligation is to this church, until we have really examined, not on the surface, but in the depths, precisely what the church and its leaders stand for; and if Mr. Smoot wants to wholly differentiate himself from his church and his people and the doctrine and life and living of those people, then that is for him to determine; but I do assert, and that is the heart of this thing, that he must do that or else declare himself subject to this church of which he is a member."
Commentary:  In other words, we're going to dig into the church, its history, its policy, its rules, its doctrine, and its leaders.  Unless Mr. Smoot resigns his position as an apostle and from the church he is a member of, thereby distancing himself from the church, we will do this investigation and dig up as much dirt on the church and fling it upon him until he is covered with it.  This is almost a threat and a way for the government to say who can, and who cannot, become a Senator based upon religious office.

Mr. Worthington, Reed Smoot's lawyer, appears to be a little angry about the questions asked to Joseph F. Smith, and he states:
"I am not his counsel, however, and he does not refer to Reed Smoot; but if I were on the stand and asked as to communications I had had from the Almighty and what I believed of them, or thought of them, I should take the judgment of the court of last resort before I should answer it.  I submit he ought not to be asked what his private beliefs and convictions are."
To this statement by Mr. Worthington there is no recorded answer, only the Chairman asking Mr. Tayler to continue with the examination.

Mr. Tayler continues with this line of question and tries to understand the church's position after the manifesto was released in 1890.

Mr. Tayler.  Did this manifesto and the plea for amnesty affect also the continuance of cohabitation between those who had been previously married?
Mr. Smith.  It was so declared in the examination before the master in chancery.
Mr. Tayler.  I am asking you.
Mr. Smith.  Well, sir; I will have to refresh my memory by the written word.  You have the written word there, and that states the fact as it existed.
Mr. Tayler.
  The revelation which Wilford Woodruff received, in consequence of which the command to take plural wives was suspended, did not, as you understand it, change the divine view of plural marriages, did it?
Mr. Smith.  It did not change our belief at all.
Mr. Tayler.  It did not change your belief at all?
Mr. Smith.  Not at all, sir.
Mr. Tayler.  You continued to believe that plural marriages were right?
Mr. Smith.  We do.  I do, at least.  I do not answer for anybody else.  I continue to believe as I did before.

Commentary:  This is significant, and Mr. Tayler will come back to it again.  The manifesto was released, but this did not change the belief of members of the church, only the practice.  In this case, plural marriages were suspended by the church; however, the belief that this was a true and correct doctrine was not suspended.  This is important testimony for the protestants because one of their items of proof is that the hierarchy still believes in polygamy and polygamous cohabitation.  Mr. Smith practically hand delivered that one right to them; this is why he restated the question again for emphasis.

Mr. Tayler now comes back to the Doctrine and Covenants.  He wants to talk about the inclusion of the revelation of plural marriage (section 132) and the manifesto.

Mr. Tayler.  You stated what were the standard inspired works of the church, and we find in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants the revelation made to Joseph Smith in 1843 respecting plural marriages.  Where do we find the revelation suspending the operation of that command?
Commentary:  Uh, oh.  That was not included in the D&C in the early 1900s.  Let's see what happens.

Mr. Smith.  Printed in our public works.
Mr. Tayler.  Printed in your public works?
Mr. Smith.  Printed in pamphlet form.  You have a pamphlet of it right there.
Mr. Tayler.  It is not printed in your work of Doctrine and Covenants?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; nor a great many other revelations, either.
Mr. Tayler.  Nor a great many other revelations?
Mr. Smith.  Yes, sir.
Mr. Tayler.  How many revelations do you suppose -
Mr. Smith.  I could not tell you how many.
Mr. Tayler.  But a great many?
Mr. Smith.  A great many.
Mr. Tayler.  Why have they not been printed in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants?
Mr. Smith.  Because it has not been deemed necessary to publish or print them.
Mr. Tayler.  Are they matters that have been proclaimed to the people at large?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; not in every instance.
Mr. Tayler.  Why not?
Mr. Smith.  Well, I don't know why not.  It was simply because they have not been.
Mr. Tayler.  Is it because they are not of general interest, or that all of the people need to know of?
Mr. Smith.  A great many of these revelations are local.
Mr. Tayler.  Local?
Mr. Smith.  In their nature.  They apply to local matters.
Mr. Tayler.  Yes, exactly.
Mr. Smith.  And these, in many instances, are not incorporated in the general revelations, and in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.
Mr. Tayler.  For instance, what do you mean by local?
Mr. Smith.  Matters that pertain to local interests of the church.
Mr. Tayler.  Of course the law or revelation suspending polygamy is a matter that does affect everybody in the church.
Mr. Smith.  Yes.
Mr. Tayler.
  And as new revelations were given they were added to the body of the revelations previously received?
Mr. Smith.  From time to time they were, but not all.

Commentary:  Well, I don't think Mr. Smith was ready for the question.  I don't think anyone had really given any thought about putting the manifesto in the D&C.  Up to this point in time the D&C contained almost in totality all revelations through the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr.  Adding a revelation from Wilford Woodruff wasn't even thought of as being necessary.  The other side of this discussion is how Mr. Smith tried to change the subject a little by saying that many revelations aren't published; including the manifesto.  Really?  There are a "great many" revelations that the church has that have never been given to the public nor published in any form at this time.  I wonder if the passage of 100+ years since his statement has changed any of that?  Have the church vaults been opened and the revelations he is talking about here released?  I'm not sure, but I lean toward a response of no they haven't.

Mr. Tayler continues to question Mr. Smith about the inclusion of the manifesto in the D&C and the absence of the manifesto from it.
Mr. Tayler. The revelation of Joseph Smith respecting plural marriages remains in the book?
Mr. Smith. Yes, sir.
Mr. Tayler. And in the last editions just as it did when first promulgated?
Mr. Smith. Yes, sir.
Mr. Tayler. And it remains now without expurgation or note or anything to show that it is not now a valid law?
Mr. Smith. In the book?
Mr. Tayler. In the book; exactly.
Mr. Smith. Yes, sir.
Mr. Tayler. And in connection with the publication of the revelation itself.
Mr. Smith. But the fact is publicly and universally known by the people.

Commentary:  It seems as though any excuse will do at this point.  He should just cry out "Uncle," and admit that it isn't there, and that it will be in the next release.  I think he does admit this later on, but right now the testimony, as I read it, is awkward, and a little tense.

The next interesting section of testimony happens right after.  The Chairman questions Mr. Smith about the manifesto, revelation, and his personal beliefs surrounding this revelation.
The Chairman.  There is one thing I do not understand that I want to ask about.  This manifesto suspending polygamy, I understand was a revelation and a direction to the church?
Mr. Smith.  I understand it, Mr. Chairman, just as it is stated there by President Woodruff himself.  President Woodruff makes his own statement.  I cannot add to nor take anything from that statement.
The Chairman.  Do you understand it was a revelation the same as other revelations?
Mr. Smith.  I understand personally that President Woodruff was inspired to put forth that manifesto.
The Chairman.  And in that sense it was a revelation?
Mr. Smith.  Well, it was a revelation to me.
The Chairman.  Yes.
Mr. Smith.  Most emphatically.
Commentary:  I hate to say this, but it appears from this Q&A, that President Smith is being evasive about directly answering the question from the Chairman; I don't know why, the question seems simple.  I am possibly mistaken, but I would have thought a simple and direct answer would suffice.  For instance, he could have said, "Yes, it was a revelation from God to President Woodruff given from the current prophet of God."  Instead, he kind of beats around the bush, never admits it was a genuine revelation other than the change of doctrine being a kind of revelation to him.  I have to say this disappointed me a little.  I expected a stronger statement for truth and a courageous defense of this truth by the prophet of God.  He seems to be pulling a little bit of a Jonah, in that he's hiding; he's hiding behind language so as not to commit to anything.

The next couple minutes of the committee hearing are spent trying to understand what is meant by the practice of polygamy being suspended, yet some of the members of the church still believing in the principle.  Here's a few quotes from this section of the testimony:
The Chairman.  And I understand you to say now that you believe in the former revelation directing plural marriages in spite of this later revelation for a discontinuance?
Mr. Smith.  That is simply a matter of belief on my part.  I cannot help my belief.
The Chairman.  Yes; you adhere to the original revelation and discard the latter one.
Mr. Smith.  I adhere to both.  I adhere to the first in my belief.  I believe that the principle is as correct a principle today as it was then.
The Chairman.  What principle?
Mr. Smith.  The principle of plural marriage.  If I had not believed it, Mr. Chairman, I never would have married more than one wife.
Senator Hoar.  So that I understand, if I get it right, that your attitude is that while it was originally a divine command to practice it, and so of course it must be a thing innocent and lawful and proper in itself in the nature of things, yet that the obligation to do it as a divine ordinance is now discontinued, and therefore, there being no divine command to do it, your people submit themselves to the civil law in that particular.   Is that your idea?
Mr. Smith.  That is correct, Senator.

Senator Foraker then tangents off of this inquiry topic to ask about the number of members of the church that practice the plural marriage principle.  "Not to exceed 3 per cent, Senator," is the answer from Mr. Smith.  He is then asked about this principle being required of members, and answers with this:  "No, sir; it was in the nature of permission rather than mandatory."

Mr. Tayler's attention is next focused on a man named Abraham H. Cannon.  He is asked if he knows him.  "Abraham H. Cannon - I knew him well."

Commentary:  Mr. Tayler believes he has proof of Mr. Cannon being married to a plural wife, Lillian Hamlin, on the "high seas" between Los Angeles and Catalina Island by President Smith in about the year 1896.  This is the beginning of the questions for this event.

Mr. Smith is asked he he knew whether Mr. Cannon was a reputed polygamist (he died in 1896).  He believes he was.

Mr. Tayler.  Do you know her?
Mr. Smith.  Yes; I know here now.
Mr. Tayler.  Was she his wife?
Mr. Smith.  That is my understanding, that she was his wife.
Mr. Tayler.  Do you know when he married her?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; I do not.
Mr. Tayler.  Did you marry them?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; I did not.

Commentary:  Ok, so the direct question failed; he flat out denied that he married them.  Mr. Tayler is now going to try and lead the witness through more questions and see if he can get a "confession" another way.
Mr. Tayler.  You did not see her in California about that time [June of 1896]?
Mr. Smith.  I did, most distinctly.
Mr. Tayler.  Where?
Mr. Smith.  In Los Angeles.
Mr. Tayler.  With whom was she there?
Mr. Smith.  She was with Abraham Cannon.
Mr. Tayler.  Was she married to him then?
Mr. Smith.  That is my understanding, sir.
Mr. Tayler.  Was she married to him when you saw her shortly before that?
Mr. Smith.  That is my belief.  That is, I do not know anything about it, but that is my belief, that she was his wife.
Mr. Tayler.
  When did you first learn that Lillian Hamlin was his wife?
Mr. Smith.  The first that I suspected anything of the kind was on that trip, because I never knew the lady before.

Commentary:  Well, that theory was just blown up.  He just testified that they were married, he thought before going to California.  If this is true, then President Smith could not have married them.  Now there is testimony that he didn't marry them, that they were married before the California trip, and this witness seems confident of it.

From this point Mr. Tayler questions Mr. Smith about Apostle George Teasdale.  Yes, he knows him.  Yes, he's known him for quite some time (since 1863), how long he's been an apostle (over 20 years), how often the apostles generally meet (once a week), etc.  He then asks Mr. Smith if George Teasdale is a polygamist ("Was he a polygamist?").  Immediately Mr. Van Cott, one of Senator Smoot's attorneys, interrupts the questioning without allowing Mr. Smith to answer the question:
"Mr. Chairman, we object to this question for the reason that it is entirely immaterial and irrelevant in the inquiry affecting Mr. Smoot's right to be a Senator, as to any offense that may have been committed by any other person ... If he has committed any offense, as polygamy, if he has taken any oath that is inconsistent with good citizenship, of course that can be inquired into; but it was claimed by counsel for the protestants at that time that the would go into offenses that they alleged had been committed by other persons than Reed Smoot, and the question is whether that is material.

"Suppose that the testimony should be introduced, and the committee should receive it, that A, B, and C have violated the law of the marriage relation.  When it is received, are you going to deny Reed Smoot a seat in the United States Senate on that proof?  If you are, then you might as well stop here, because the answer admits that some people who were polygamists before the manifesto have kept up their relations; that is, the relation of living with more than one wife, so that it is unnecessary to go on if that is all that is required.  If, on the other hand, that class of testimony is not going to deny Mr. Smoot a seat in the Senate, then it is immaterial and irrelevant and should not be received here."

Commentary:  I really liked that argument; it was very good.  If this is all that is required, then we should stop right here because it is almost a certainty that you'll find people cohabitating with more than one wife that they married before the manifesto.  If this will not exclude, then the evidence is immaterial and irrelevant. 

This sets the hearing on about a 1 hour hiatus while this topic is discussed and figured out.  The committee also takes a 10 minute recess (executive session) to discuss this off the record.

After the return, there is confusion about what the protestants are trying to prove, and this topic takes the rest of the day.  At the end, the Senators are all straightened out and the Chairman allows this type of questioning to be asked of the witness.

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