Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Reed Smoot Hearings - Day 3: Testimony of Joseph F. Smith, part 1

March 4, 1904

The hearing starts with Senator Hoar questioning Mr. Smith about the rights of women in the church.  After a long series of questions and answers, this is given:
Senator Hoar.  With the exception of the authority as you have defined it, excercised by the charitable organization for the relief of the poor and sick, do women exercise any other priestly authority in your church?
Mr. Smith.  May I, if you please, explain to you that we do not ordain women to the priesthood.
Commentary:  I did not put the entire testimony in of this, but coming to that last answer took a VERY long time.  Senator Hoar wasn't looking for a history lesson on the Relief Society, nor a description of how they have authority over their own matters.  I am a little surprised it took so long to get this phrase out of him.

Mr. Tayler talks with Mr. Smith about Matthias F. Cowley, and his book, Cowley's Talks on Doctrine.  This is the same M.F. Cowley that has been requested to appear at the committee hearings.  Not much comes of this, so he moves on.

He then pulls out a newspaper article from the Deseret News of June 23, 1903.  This is a report of a speech given by Joseph F. Smith to a group of church officials in Ogden, Utah.  Here's a link to the article (Deseret News link).  I will quote the part he reads in its entirety:
"Aunt Bathsheba, widow of George A. Smith, who is with us today, is the last living witness, so far as I know, who received her endowments while Joseph Smith was living.  Here is Aunt Bathsheba, who received endowments in Nauvoo as they are now given in the temples.  She is a living witness, and, if necessary, she will tell us that she received her endowments in Nauvoo as they are now given in the temples.  She is a living witness, and, if necessary, she will tell us that she received these privileges under the direction of Joseph Smith.  Opponents say that Brigham Young established the endowments and also plural marriage, but here is a witness who knows better.  Brigham Young only sought to carry out the instruction he received from Joseph Smith, and Joseph Smith as he received it from God.  So far as the principle of plural marriage itself is concerned, we are not teaching it nor practicing it; but we are taking care of our wives, and I honor the men who take care of them and who are true to them.

"I would not like to sit in judgment on any of my brethren who are not true to their families, and yet I do not think I would be more severe upon them than the Great Judge would be.  I have made no covenants that werre not made in good faith, and I will keep them so far as I can.  When it comes to the principle itself, I can defend it as a principle of purity, strictly in accordance with the Gospel.  To be a Latter-Day Saint one must be honest with himself, with his neighbors, and with his God.  I have received a testimony of the truth of the principles of the Gospel, and I will try to keep them.  Joseph Smith revealed plural marriage and the endowments, and here is a living witness to those facts.  So am I, for I received it of those who received it from Joseph Smith.  Now, am I telling you that plural marriage is practiced or is to be practiced?  No; I am only telling you that it is a principle revealed by God to Joseph Smith the prophet, and the Latter-Day Saint who denies and rejects that truth in his heart might as well reject every other truth connected with his mission.  Every man and woman will get his or her reward, for God is just and deals out justice with mercy."
For quite some time the committee members question Mr. Smith on this speech.  They are specifically interested in knowing why he gave it, if he was teaching the practice of polygamy by example, and how else can this speech be interpreted except as a positive affirmation of polygamy and polygamous cohabitation.
Senator Hoar.  I understand you are under injunction not to teach it publicly or in any other way, but this utterance of yours was teaching it privately, was it not?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir.  It was simply announcing my own belief in it, notwithstanding it was stopped, and my principal object, the main object I had in view, was this:  There are a large number of people who claim that plural marriage was introduced by Brigham Young, and that the endowments were introduced by Brigham Young, whereas I knew that both of these were introduced by Joseph Smith; and I also knew that Bathsheba W. Smith, my aunt, was now about the only living witness of that fact, and I availed myself of the opportunity of her presence in that assembly to announce that she was a living witness that it was Joseph Smith who introduced these principles instead of Brigham Young.
Senator Hoar.  As a matter of history?
Mr. Smith.  As a matter of history.  That is all I had in view.
Right here Senator Hoar and Senator Foraker get into a slightly warm discussion about this topic.  Senator Hoar is looking for more information about this and Senator Foraker breaks in and asks why this is needed:  "It has been asked and answered over and over again."
Senator Hoar.  I do not understand that the witness has answered it over and over again.  I think he has answered it once.
Senator Foraker.  What I mean is that he has over and over again stated that he believed in that principle, but that he had accepted the manifesto in good faith as binding on him, and had ceased to teach it, or to practice it, or to countenance it.  He certainly said that over and over again.  He has said it fifty times.
Senator Hoar.  He has said it fifty times?
Senator Foraker.  Fully that.
Commentary:  Sounds like two teenagers going at it and one using hyperbole to make a point.  Pretty funny in my opinion.  These two go at it for a few more minutes, respectfully arguing about this, seemingly, insignificant point ("fifty times") in the testimony.

Senator Beveridge questions Mr. Smith about the law of the land vs. divine revelation and where they stand in relation to one another.
Senator Beveridge.  Does the fact that this practice is against the law of the land have anything to do with your refraining from teaching the principle?
Mr. Smith.  Most decidedly, Mr. Senator.
Senator Beveridge.  Is the committee to understand that you and your church regard the law of the land as more binding upon your actions than your religious beliefs?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; not in that sense.
Mr. Smith and Senator Beveridge go back and forth for a little bit on this topic, but no concrete answer to this question beside "no" is ever given.  The Chairman then steps in and twists the question a little.
The Chairman.  Mr. Smith, you say you obey the law of the land.  Do you obey the law in having five wives at this time, and having them bear to you eleven children since the manifesto of 1890?
Mr. Smith.  Mr. Chairman, I have not claimed that in that case I have obeyed the law of the land.
The Chairman.  That is all.
Mr. Smith.  I do not claim so, and I have said before that I prefer to stand my chances against the law.
The Chairman.  Certainly.
Mr. Smith.  Rather than to abandon my children and their mothers.  That is all there is to it.
Commentary:  The Chairman took the next step of asking Mr. Smith that if he obeyed the law of the land, why wasn't he obeying the law against polygamous cohabitation.  Certainly the question was a valid one, and the answer was predictable.

Senator Beveridge then restates the Chairman's question and gives Mr. Smith another opportunity to answer it:
Senator Beveridge.  That leads necessarily to another question.  I understood you yesterday to say why it was you continued that, that you were willing to take the chances as an individual.  My question was directed to this:  That, as head of the church, whatever your beliefs may be, it is your practice and the practice of the church to obey the law of the land, in teaching, notwithstanding what your opinion may be.  Is that correct or not?
Mr. Smith.  That is correct, and I wish to assert that the church has obeyed the law of the land, and that it has kept its pleges with this Government; but I have not, as an individual, and I have taken that chance myself.
Commentary:  The thought there is good to make.  Even though he isn't living according to every law of the land, the church has not broken the law.  I'm sure the committee may feel that if the president of the church acts a certain way, that example is teaching enough, despite what he says here.

The committe then asks for Doctrine and Covenants, Section 132, to be read into the record and it gives Mr. Smith an opportunity to briefly explain the background and history of this revelation.
Mr. Smith.  In the first place, this revelation was written in 1843 by Joseph Smith.  It was taught by him to members of the church during his lifetime, to Brigham Young, to Heber C. Kimball, and to his associates, but owing to the conditions that existed at that time, fierce opposition and mobocracy -
The Chairman.  What opposition?
Mr. Smith.  Fierce opposition and mobocracy, which ended finally in the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, it was not published and proclaimed at that time.  But this doctrine was preserved by Brigham Young, carried with him to Salt Lake Valley in 1847, and in 1851, I believe it was, there proclaimed at a public conference of the church as a revelation from God through Joseph Smith, and at that public conference it was accepted as a revelation.
The Chairman.  That was in 1851?
Mr. Worthington.  1852.
Mr. Smith.  Sir?
Mr. Worthington.  1852.
Mr. Smith.  It was in 1852.
Senator Hopkins.  As I understand you, it was proclaimed at Nauvoo?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir; it was not published and proclaimed at Nauvoo, but it was taught by Joseph Smith to his confidential friends and associates.
Mr. Worthington.  It was received at Nauvoo.
Senator Foraker wants the part of the Doctrine and Covenants read that specifically pertains to plural marriage.  He wants to ascertain "whether it is a positive command to take plural wives, or a mere recommendation or mere authority or privilege."

After reading the first 3 verses, Mr. Smith then reads verses 61 and 62 on the suggestion of Mr. Richards, his counsel.  Those two verses are described by the committee as the "pith of that revelation;" to which Mr. Smith agrees.

1.  Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand, to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servatns Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines:
2.  Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.
3.  Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
61. And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood: If any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent; and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery, for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.
62. And if he have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him, therefore is he justified.
Senator Pettus then asks Mr. Smith to continue reading with verse 63: "read further as to the refusal of the first wife to consent and explain what is meant by the word 'destroyed' in the same connection."

63. But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man; she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfill the promise which was given by my father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.
64. And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, if any man have a wife, who holds the keys of this power, and he teaches unto her the law of my priesthood, as pertaining to these things, then shall she believe and administer unto him, or she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord your God; for I will destroy her; for I will magnify my name upon all those who receive and abide in my law.
Senator Pettus.  Now, what is the meaning of the word "destroyed," there, as interpreted by the church?
Mr. Smith.  I have no conception of the meaning of it more than the language itself conveys, that the woman who disobeys is in the hands of the Lord for Him to deal with as He may deem proper.  I suppose that is what it means.
Senator Foraker.  Has the church ever construed that language to give authority to it as a church to destroy the woman?
Mr. Smith.  Never in the world.  It is not so stated.  It is that the Lord -
Senator Foraker.  The church construes it, as I understand, to mean that she is in the hands of the Lord, to be destroyed by the Lord.
Mr. Smith.  By the Lord, if there is any destruction at all.
Senator Pettus.  Have there ever been in the past plural marriages without the consent of the first wife?
Mr. Smith.  I do not know of any, unless it may have been Joseph Smith himself.
Senator Pettus.  Is the language that you have read construed to mean that she is bound to consent?
Mr. Smith.  The condition is that if she does not consent the Lord will destroy here, but I do not know how He will do it.
Senator Bailey.  Is it not true that in the very next verse, if she refuses her consent her husband is exempt from the law which requires her consent?
Mr. Smith.  Yes; he is exempt from the law which requires her consent.
Senator Bailey.  She is commanded to consent, but if she does not, then he is exempt from the requirement?
Mr. Smith.  Then he is at liberty to proceed without her consent, under the law.
Senator Beveridge.  In other words, her consent amounts to nothing?
Mr. Smith.  It amounts to nothing but her consent.
Senator Beveridge.  So that so far as there is anything in there concerning her consent, it might as well not be there?
[question is unanswered and the committee moves on to another topic]
Commentary:  The woman is destroyed; I'll bet that would raise a ruckus if talked about in the present day.  Feminist groups would go wild over that one.  For whatever reason Section 132 has kind of fallen out of use in the church.  We talk about marriage, but don't use a great deal, perhaps a majority, of the verses in Section 132 to help describe it (obviously because of polygamy).  I guess it's kind of a section that is forgotten in plain sight.

The Senators on the committee now switch gears from the revelation, to how the revelation is used and specifically about how polygamous cohabitation exists among the current members of the quorum of the twelve apostles.
Senator Overman.  You say six [apostles] are polygamists.  Now, are those or any one of them disobeying the law of the land in regard to polygamous cohabitation?
Mr. Smith.  I do not know anything about their unlawful cohabitation relations.  I only referred in my answer to the question yesterday to the fact that they were in the status of polygamists; that is, they had more wives than one.
Senator Overman.  You do not know whether they have had children born to them since the manifesto or not?
Mr. Smith.  I am happy to say that I am not a paid spotter or informer.
Senator Overman.  You might know without being a spotter.
Mr. Smith.  I do not know.
Senator Overman.  You do not know whther they have children or not?
Mr. Smith.  No, sir.
Senator Overman.  You might have answered without saying you were not a spotter.
Mr. Smith.  Excuse me; I beg pardon.
Commentary:  He doesn't want to be an informer (or spotter), employed or not, against his fellow church members.  He has mentioned spotters a few times, and it seems to me this is or must be a fairly big concern for those in this type of situation.  The committee does seem to find it hard to believe that all of these men don't know what happens inside the individual families.

At this point in the testimony, all 66 verses of Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 are read into the record.

Senator Dubois then speaks up and says that he doesn't like the fact that Mr. Smith has categorized the percentage of Mormons that practiced plural marriage, and that the statement from him has gone unchallenged or refuted by the protestant's attorney.
Senator Dubois.  Mr. Smith has now several times stated that only three or four percent were in polygamy.  That has gone without challenge.  My judgment is that three or four percent were convicted.  I think the prosecution will be able to show that much more than three or four percent were in the polygamous relations.  I am almost willing to hazard the guess that three or four percent were actually convicted.
This comment/statement touches off a discussion on what is meant by 3 or 4 percent.  Just the men?  Just the men of marriagable age?  Are the women included?  Is this all the membership of the church?  Mr. Worthington questions him on this and gets him to drop it.
Mr. Worthington.  I merely wanted to know whether you meant 3 or 4 percent of the whole church population or that percentage of marriagable males?
Senator Dubois.  I will state at the proper time what I mean.
Commentary:  In other words, I don't have the facts in front of me, and Mr. Tayler isn't coming to my rescue with this, and neither is any other committee member; so, I will defer to a later time when I can have everything ready.

Senator Dubois, still having the "question" hold on Mr. Smith, then asks him how many presidents of the church have been monogamists.  The answer:  "I think that all of the first presidents of the church down to myself have had plural wives."

Senator Dubois then tries, in a way, to speak lightly of the church:
Senator Dubois.  I understand from the testimony here yesterday that the heir to the throne is also a polygamist - the head of the quorum of apostles now, who under the rule and precedents, should he survive you, will be the president of the church.  I understood that he is also a polygamist.
Mr. Smith.  I should like to correct the Senator by saying that we have no heir to the throne.
Senator Dubois.  He is the head of the quorum of apostles, and there has been a line of unbroken precedents that the head of the quorum of the apostles succeeds to the office of president.
Mr. Smith.  That is correct.
Senator Dubois.  If the term "heir to the throne" is offensive, I will withdraw it.
Mr. Smith.  If you please.
Commentary:  Senator Dubois is not stupid, he knew that wasn't going to sit well with Mr. Smith, but he threw it out there anyway.  I wonder if he did this for publicity in the papers?  For whatever reason, I believe he did it knowingly and purposefully.

Senator Dubois.  But apparently, following the precedents of the church, he will succeed to the office of president.  Now, of course you could not state, but has it not been a fact that the great majority of the high ecclesiastical positions in the church have been filled by polygamists?
Mr. Smith.  I could not state that from positive knowledge, but I will say this frankly, that a large number of them have been polygamists.  The fact of the matter is, that the most prominent men, the most influential men, the men who have stood highest in business and in social circles in Utah among the Mormon people, have been men who had more than one wife.
Senator Dubois.  That is a satisfactory answer to me.  I simply wanted to show that this very small percentage are very influential.
Commentary:  Well, Senator Dubois got a question answered exactly how he thought it should be answered.  Additionally, I learn that at the turn of the century, many of the men in high ecclesiastical positions are there because of their standing in the community coupled with their "righteousness," of course.  Silly me, I only thought that righteousness was the prerequisite for church office, not righteousness and community standing.  Is this equivalent to the Jewish sayings that rich men are highly blessed of God and therefore, they are more righteous than poor men?  I sure hope not, that doesn't seem right to me.

Senator Hoar then wants to talk with Mr. Smith about the permissive or obligatory nature of the polygamist principle in the church.  To do this, he summarizes I Timothy 3:2 from the New Testament.

Senator Hoar.  The apostle says that a bishop must be sober and must be the husband of one wife.
Mr. Smith.  At least.
Senator Hoar.  We do not say that.  [Laughter] ... that the principle is mandatory, but that it is not of universal application under all circumstances.
Mr. Smith.  I think, Senator, I can accept of your statement without any criticism at all.
Senator Hoar.  That is what I wanted to know.
Mr. Smith.  I should like to be permitted to call the attention of the honorable Senator to the fact that this injunction was made to the church in Judea in the midst of a polygamist people, and that all of the people believed in the practice of polygamy at that time.
Senator Hoar.  You mean the ancients?
Mr. Smith.  Yes, sir; the Jews at that time.  But it was made obligatory upon the bishop that he should have one wife, because the duties of a bishop require an experienced man.
Commentary:  Senator Hoar quotes scripture to Mr. Smith, and then Mr. Smith describes a little more in depth what the scripture actually means and the background of it.  He is being a teacher here to the Senator to help him understand the scriptures better.  He is being, in a word, a prophet.  Pretty cool.

Senator McComas then takes up the question of permissive versus mandatory and the question of whether polygamy has been supported by the church.  Mr. Smith, of course, denies any of this has happened and states that he has not heard anyone of the church authorities talk about polygamy since the manifesto, nor has he read in the papers "any fair, authoritative, or reliable reports" about it.

Midday Recess
The committee recesses from 11:55 AM until 2:00 PM.

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