Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Reed Smoot Hearings: Day 7 - Hyrum M. Smith

March 9, 1904

Chronologically this testimony occurred between Mr. Harmer and Mr. Merrill (previous post).
The Chairman.  Mr. Smith, will you be sworn?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  I would prefer to affirm, Mr. Chairman.
Commentary:  Just like his father, he does not wish to be sworn in, but will affirm instead.

Mr. Hyrum M. Smith is the son of current LDS Church President, Joseph F. Smith.  He is currently serving as one of the 12 apostles of the Church, and lives in Salt Lake City.  He was ordained an apostle in October 1901.  His mother is Edna Smith, plural wife of Joseph F. Smith, and younger sister of Joseph's first wife, Julina.

Mr. Tayler gets right to the point and asks Mr. Smith about an article in the Deseret Evening News from February 25, 1904.  There was a Church conference in Box Elder County, Utah, and he addressed an audience there.  Mr. Tayler hands the paper to Mr. Smith and he reads from it.

Here is a link to the article in the paper:
Deseret Evening News: February 25, 1904
"Elder Hyrum M. Smith spoke of the agency given to man, each to do as he pleases, whether it be good or evil, but each must take consequence of his acts.  Spoke of beautiful order of obedience in the family circle and in the Church of Jesus Christ.  He said that from the view point of the Gospel there can be no separation of temporal and spiritual things and those who object to Church people advising and taking part in temporal things, have no true conception of the Gospel of Christ, and mission of the Church.  Elder Smith severely rebuked those who either secretly or openly revile and misrepresent their brethren."
Mr. Smith admits that he stated those words:  "I believe I said that."  Apparently this is everything that Mr. Tayler wanted, because he immediately concludes:  "That is all."

Commentary:  If this is everything he needed from this witness, then the fact that this statement was read and agreed to must be semi-important to his case building.  The statement essentially says that there is no separation of temporal and spiritual things in the eyes of the Church.  Does this mean the Church can interfere in the temporal lives of individuals, and not just spiritual?  Does this mean the Church believes it is right in directing its members temporally, and not just spiritually?  Does the Church have dominion outside of the spiritual?  According to Elder Smith, the answer is yes.  Plain, simple, and no misunderstanding; the Church believes that part of its mission with spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ involves influence outside of the spiritual realm where most churches operate.  The other issue brought up is that members are not allowed to question or criticize their leaders; privately or openly.

The Chairman asks only a few questions about this:  Where was the conference (Brigham City, Utah)?  What was the occasion (quarterly conference of the Church)?  Was there a large attendance (yes, very large)?  Were any other apostles there (yes, Rudger Clawson)?  How old are you (32)?  How long have you been an apostle (since Oct. 1901)?  How many wives do you have (one)?

Senator Beveridge would like an explanation of the speech given and what he meant by it.
Senator Beveridge.  Mr. Smith, what did you mean in that address when you spoke about the relation of things spiritual and things temporal?  Did you mean that the Church assumes to control the temporal action of its members?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  No, sir.
Senator Beveridge.  What did you mean?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  I meant that the authorities of a stake, upheld and sustained in their position by the people of the stake, ought to receive the counsel that might be given them pertaining to their temporal welfare.  That is, the looking after themselves, their families, their condition in the church, taking care of their premises, being thorough good citizens in every respect, both civily and religiously.  I never had any idea of throwing out the idea that the authorities of the church had or assumed to have any absolute control over them, either temporal or spiritual.
Senator Beveridge.  Then you mean qualified control?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  I qualify it in that way.
Senator Beveridge.  You said "any absolute control."  Do you mean, by putting in that adjective "absolute," that while you did not advise absolute control of the church over their temporal affairs you do advise a qualified control?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir; that is, in the influence, just as has been read here - just exercising an influence for good in counsel.
Commentary:  Well, I think Mr. Smith handled that nicely.  That could have turned ugly with a misrepresented phrase or thought, but he was very well prepared for this.  Senator Beveridge did help him out a little with the "qualified control" thought.  He did not back down from his statement in Brigham City, and he explained what he meant by it.  Any church that hopes to influence its members has to have the respect of its members.  That is, in a way, controlling.  The church hopes to control (or influence) its members to be good citizens, raise good families, and be good people.  I don't see how this is any different from most churches; they have similar goals as well and hope their influence can be for good.

Senator Dubois then has a turn at Mr. Smith and wants to dig a little deeper into the hypothetical of the church and member control.
Senator Dubois.  What happens to that individual who refuses persistently to obey the counsel which your officials choose to give him?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  If a person persistently refuses to receive the counsel which he is given, why, that individual would not be considered in full fellowship with those who give the counsel.
Senator Dubois.  Would he be considered in full fellowship with the church?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Not if that counsel was given by the church.
Senator Dubois.  Suppose it was given by a high representative of the church like an apostle.  Would not the apostle in that case be the representative of the church?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir; an apostle is a representative of the church.
Senator Dubois.  Then he would not be in fellowship with the church if he refused to obey the counsel which the apostle of the church gave him?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Providing that counsel pertained to the church and to good fellowship in the church.  He would cease to be in fellowship if he refused to obey that counsel.
Commentary:  As there are always two sides to every story; there are two ways to interpret this testimony, in my opinion.  First is the "see I told you; they're evil for controlling their membership" response.  This is the viewpoint that the church tries to control its membership temporally and spiritually 100% in everything they do, and when they don't submit, the evil church casts them aside like used clothing.  It must be evil for a church to do such a thing.  The other way of looking at this is that a church has a right to allow, disallow, or excommunicate current members based upon its own standards and rules.  If an individual does not want to be a member of the church (typically shown by actions like not following counsel or holding to the standards of the church), that is their choice; at that point their fellowship with the church can be terminated by the church.  Most churches have this type of system set up and follow this same basic rules.  All of these types of procedures, I believe, are covered under the "freedom of religion" amendment to the Constitution.

Senator Beveridge then decides to ask a direct question about the level of control the church leadership asserts.
Senator Beveridge.  Do you ever give any of the members of your church any political counsel?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  No, sir.
Senator Beveridge.  Did you ever advise any of them how to vote on any question?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  No, sir.  That is a matter, Mr. Senator, which I consider belongs to the right of every individual; and inasmuch as I myself consider that I am capable of using my own judgment in all political matters, even so do I not give counsel in that respect.
Commentary:  Ok, so according to Mr. Smith, political advisement by the church is out of the question and is entirely a personal descision for each individual.

Mr. Worthington now wants to drill down a little more on the meaning of temporal matters and how the church concerns itself with them.
Mr. Worthington.  When you speak of advising your people about temporal affairs and their being out of fellowship if they do not take the advise, what do you mean by "temporal affairs" - what kind of affairs?
Mr. Hymrum M. Smith.  When I speak of temporal affairs I mean being frugal, industrious, sustain one another, sustain home industries, build up their country, take care of their flocks and herds, properly fence their fields, and be frugal in sowing and planting, and taking care of machinery and outbuildings, and such things as that.  That is what I mean by temporal advice.  Those are temporal things, I believe.
Commentary:    There is the definition of what the church considers "temporal affairs."  Nowhere in there was a mention of politics, merchandising, how to make a living or where to shop.

Mr. Worthington then swings around to the teaching of missionaries by the apostles of the church.  He is specifically interested in how polygamy is handled.
Mr. Worthington.  Now, you were a missionary for two years and a half and then a missionary as an apostle?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes.
Mr. Worthington.  And you have seen to the instruction of others?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir.
Mr. Worthington.  I want to know what you do about this matter of polygamy?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  The instructions I received when I became an apostle were to the effect that plural marriages had ceased in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; that I was not to preach it or advise others to preach it, but that I was to advise them not to preach it or to agitate the question in any way; and that has been the substance of my advice to missionaries whom I have instructed.
Commentary:  Ok, well this is a substantiation of what has been said previously by both his father (Joseph F. Smith) and the president of the Twelve (Francis M. Lyman); namely that polygamy is a subject the missionaries are instructed to avoid, and the church authorities don't preach it or tell others to preach it.  I'm sure this answer wasn't a surprise to anyone.

He is asked about the Book of Mormon being used as a missionary tool and he replies:  "We make every effort we can to distribute that work among the people."  However, when the Book of Mormon is compared to the Doctrine and Covenants for proselyting purposes:  "We made not effort to circulate the Doctrine and Covenants among the people."  He then mentions that the book Articles of Faith by James Talmage is "used extensively by the missionaries" and that he would "highly recommend it" to missionaries.

Mr. Worthington then wants to talk about the apostles being a supposed conspiracy whose purpose is to continue the practice of plural marriage in the church.  He is referring specifically to meetings of the apostles in Salt Lake within the temple there that occur once a week.
Mr. Worthington.  Can you tell me at any meeting while you were present, whether he [Reed Smoot] was there or not, whether anything has been done looking to the advocating of polygamy or polygamous cohabitation?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Looking to the advocating of it?
Mr. Worthington.  Looking to it, one way or the other; and if so in what way?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  I have heard things occasionally.  Of course the rumors that are rife come to our ears, as well as others; and on a number of occasions I have heard it most specifically given as instruction to those present that we must use our every effort to have these things stopped, if there was any truth whatever in the rumor, which we ourselves have not believed.
Mr. Worthington.  To what rumors do you refer?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  That polygamy or the practice of plural marriage is being continued in the church.
Mr. Worthington.  Then those rumors have been discussed and you have all agreed that everything must be done to stop it if it exists?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir.
Mr. Worthington.  What about polygamous cohabitation; that is, living with plural wives, as distinguished from taking them?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  I have never heard that question discussed at all.
Mr. Worthington.  If the meetings of the apostles, then, are in the nature of a conspiracy to carry on that sort of thing, you do not know about it and have not participated in it?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  No, sir.
Commentary:  That is probably the most forthright discussion about this question so far.  Mr. Smith even went so far as to discuss that the apostles hear rumors and want to guarantee that they aren't true even if they they themselves do not believe it.  This hits directly at one of the points of the prosecution; namely, that the 12 apostles are a conspiracy to continue the practice of polygamy within the church.

The committee Chairman then spends a few minutes questioning Mr. Smith about his missionary days.  He specifically wants to know about instructions missionaries are given relative to the discussion and/or defense of the doctrine of polygamy.  He is curious about what Mr. Smith did when that doctrine was brought up to him, and what he would do if forced into a discussion about the topic.  There aren't any real answers here to these questions by the Chairman.  However, Mr. Smith responds that each missionary is instructed not to discuss the matter and that each individual missionary may respond differenly to any given situation where this subject is brought up.  He, personally, would refer those questioning him about this to their own Bible.  He further points out that he "never argued the point with any one who was investigating Mormonism for the purpose of embracing it."

Senator Hoar next takes up the questioning of Mr. Smith.  He appears to be an intelligent man and tries to push Mr. Smith into an awkward position where he doesn't want to be.  The following I found interesting.

Senator Hoar.  I suppose the rules of the church were based on its doctrine, and its doctrines are that the rules should be observed?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir.
Senator Hoar.  Well, if the rule of your church forbade polygamy, and you were trying to win converts to your faith, why did you omit from the things which you urged upon your converts the article of faith that polygamy was wrong?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  I have always, in my ministrations among the people, urged the rightfulness of the commandments and the doctrines of the church, and I recognzied that the practice of plural marriages had ceased, and the manifesto as a doctrine of the church I have frequently urged upon them.
Senator Hoar.  And forbidden it?  Well, my question is did you urge upon your converts that that was a rightful and true doctrine?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir.
Senator Hoar.  That polygamy should be forbidden?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir.
Senator Hoar.  As of right?  I am not now speaking of it merely resting on the divine authority but as being right in itself.
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  That they should refrain from that?
Senator Hoar.  Yes.
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Yes, sir.
Senator Hoar.  Then you did not refrain from discussing the subject of polygamy and its rightfulness in your ministrations, for you preached to your converts that it was wrong, did you not?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  Now, let me explain that, Senator Hoar.  You place me in a false position, entirely.
Senator Hoar.  I have only asked the question.
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  I said I have avoided a discussion of that matter entirely.  If it were to come up incidentally by a person who was favorably disposed toward Mormonism, and who might be considered an investigator, and I were asked the question, I would answer his questions to the best of my ability to the effect that while in times past plural marriages had been a doctrine and had been practiced by the church, that it no longer was practiced by the church, nor should be; and to that extent and no further have I gone in the discussion of the question.
Senator Hoar.  Why did you confine yourself to the fact that the church had now altered its rule, and not enter into the question of the rightfulness of the present rule?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  The principle reason for that is that with investigators of the doctrine of a church it is the first principles of the gosple that are considered, and it is seldom polygamy is spoken of, either by them or by the elders, and we have no particular occasion -
Senator Hoar.  Then you answer is that it was not, in the mind of the convert with whom you were dealing, a practical question at that time?
Mr. Hyrum M. Smith.  That is my idea; yes, sir.
Senator Hoar.  That is a fair answer, Mr. Smith.
Commentary:  I feeling like congratulating Mr. Smith for coming out very well after this intellectual trap was set, and he survived it.  Well done.  I guess Senator Hoar likes to exercise his mind every now and then.  He's a sharp guy and he easily backed Mr. Smith into a "false position" with a few questions.  However, Mr. Smith recognized the trap and explained his purpose and meaning to the questions.  In the end Senator Hoar essentially congratulated Mr. Smith for recognizing the trap and answering the question competently.  I get the sense after reading enough of this testimony that none of these witnesses want to speak or expand upon their thoughts if at all possible.  If they can keep their answers to 'yes' or 'no' they would.  However, in some instnaces an explanation is necessary to avoid further confusion, and at those times you hope that nothing is said that could be used against you in future arguments.

At this point Mr. Hyrum M. Smith is excused from being a witness as is Joseph F. Smith (who apparently stayed behind to watch the testimony of his son).  However, Mr. Tayler has a question or two for Joseph F. Smith concerning other witnesses.
Mr. Tayer.  Let me ask Mr. Joseph F. Smith a question, as to whether he could get into communication with any of these apostles who have been subpoenaed and have not been reached, and whether any instruction from him would facilitate their coming here?
Mr. Joseph F. Smith.  I presume I could find them in time, Mr. Tayler.  I do not know how soon I could find them.
Mr. Tayler.  I would be obliged if you would give them such instruction as you can that we want them as soon as we can get them.
Mr. Van Cott.  Which ones, Mr. Tayler?
Mr. Tayler.  John W. Taylor, George Teasdale, M. F. Cowley, John Henry Smith.
Mr. Van Cott.  You know he is very ill, and that Teasdale is very ill?
Mr. Worthington.  They have been subpoenaed, and are not here simply because they are not well.
Mr. Joseph F. Smith.  Mr. Merrill has also been subpoenaed.
Mr. Tayler.  I understood Mr. Merril  Of course a man who is physically incapable of coming or whose health would be affected by coming ought not be required to come.
Commentary:  Of the 5 men discussed above, we will later see that only John Henry Smith makes his way out to Washington for the committee hearing.  Mr. Teasdale and Mr. Merrill make themselves available for questioning at their residences and will supply affidavits if requested.  However, neither Mr. Taylor nor Mr. Cowley are ever reached for this hearing.

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