As with the previous two major laws against polygamy that I've posted, I want to cover the history leading up to the passage of the bill itself. For this law, the period of history will cover from 1882-1887. For this post I decided to break it up into years, since that is an easy organizational method.
Other posts in this series:
- Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862
- Edmunds Act of 1882
- Manifesto of 1890
- Supreme Court Cases (1878-1893)
=== 1882 ===
March 22, 1882 - Edmunds bill signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur.
April 7, 1882 - Conference talk by President John Taylor:
The morning of conference the weather was cold, stormy and windy; sleet was blowing and it was rather miserable outside. Using the storm as a metaphor for the Edmunds Law, he encourages the Saints to "put up our coat collars and wait till the storm subsides. ... While the storm lasts it is useless to reason with the world, when it subsides we can talk to them. ... God will take care of His people, if we will only do right" (B.H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, pp. 360-361).
April 19, 1882 - George Q. Cannon's seat declared vacant in the House of Representatives:
George Q. Cannon was elected as a representative of Utah Territory in November 1880; however, his seating was protested, and his seat was eventually declared vacant in April 1882. He was refused to sit because he was an admitted polygamist and the newly passed Edmunds Law made his election unlawful (Orson F. Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pp. 335-346).
September 16, 1882 - Hoar Amendment to Edmunds Law:
This allowed the Territorial Governor to appoint elected positions because the voter registration for the new law was not implemented yet (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pp. 348-349).
One of the provisions of the Edmunds law, was the creation of the Utah Commission. The five federally appointed men arrived in Utah in August 1882. One of the challenges this group of men took on was the framing of a test oath for potential voters, which read, in part:
"I [name of individual] ... do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am not a bigamist or a polygamist; that I am not a violator of the laws of the United States prohibiting bigamy or polygamy; that I do not live or cohabit with more than one woman in the marriage relation, nor does any relation exist between me and any woman which has been entered into or continued in violation of the said law of the United States prohibiting bigamy or polygamy; and (if a woman) that I am not the wife of a polygamist, nor have I entered into any relation with any man in violation of the laws of the United States concerning polygamy or bigamy" (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 359).
This oath was objected to by the Mormon people of the Territory. Here is B.H. Roberts' take on the oath, which I consider a prime example of the argument(s) against it:
"By this arrangement it will be seen that those who cohabited with more than one woman in adultery or prostitution, were not affected by its provisions. The roue, the libertine, the strumpet, the brothel-keeper, the adulterer and adulteress could vote. No matter how licentious a man or a woman might be, all but the Mormons were screened and protected in the exercise of the franchise by the ingenious insertion of the clause, 'in the marriage relation,' a clause which nowhere appears in the Edmunds law" (Roberts, Life of John Taylor, pp. 369-370).
The Commission seemed intent on disfranchising a great number of people, even those not in violation of the anti-bigamy act. "Once a polygamist, always a polygamist" became the reasoning behind their next act. Anyone who had lived plurally since the 1862 anti-bigamy law was passed, was disqualified from registering to vote; even if that person had left the Mormon Church, hadn't lived plurally in 20 years, first wife had died, etc. If they lived in a polygamous relationship at all since 1862, they could not vote (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pp. 360-361).
The Anti-Polygamy Prosecutions:
The United States Government was adamant in its determination to stamp out plural marriage, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints remained firm in its adherence to that feature of its faith. What followed was inevitable. ... a rigorous system of prosecution was carried on in Utah, Idaho and Arizona. The Federal courts were kept busy trying cases under the Edmunds Law, and in Utah the Penitentiary was crowded with persons convicted under the operations of that stern statute.
It was a time of terror and gloom. Men and women were hunted like runaway slaves before the Civil War. Hundreds of people, including many prominent citizens, were arrested or driven into exile. Most of the men proceeded against were punished, not for marrying plural wives, but for living with those whom they had wedded prior to the enactment of the law under which they were prosecuted" (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 366).
Those who were at the center of the prosecutions:
- Governor Eli H. Murray
- Chief Justice Charles S. Zane
- Associate Justice Orlando W. Powers
- Associate Justice Jacob S. Boreman
- District Attorney William H. Dickson
- Assistant District Attorney Charles S. Varian
- United States Marshal Edward A. Ireland
October 13, 1882 - Revelation given to President John Taylor
This revelation called George Teasdale and Heber J. Grant to the Quorum of the Twelve, among other assignments and instructions. A web reference to the revelation can be found here, or in print format here: James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol. II, pp. 352-354.
In the Reed Smoot Hearings, when the topic of revelation was discussed, this specific revelation was mentioned by Joseph F. Smith as being one of the last authorized revelations received by the Church.
The key quote from the revelation is the following:
"... conform to my law; for it is not meet that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my priesthood."The revelation was/is interpreted to mean that Church authorities (Stake Presidents, Bishops, and General Authorities) were required to obey God's laws in order to preside - this would include the law of plural marriage.
=== 1883 ===
=== 1884 ===
The great Crusade against the Mormon Church begins.
"The year 1884 was the beginning in the Church of a great crusade. It was a land-mark in history. What began that year is likely to be told from generation to generation. The hardships that it brought to the Church and the trials which the people underwent were themes for household conversation throughout the entire Church. The Edmunds law of 1882 had been put into effect so far as it related to the imprisonment of the Saints. The enemy were at first occupied in its political phases. As time went on it was seen that the disappointment of the enemy in the political advantages to be derived from the law became more apparent. The law was really a disappointment to them. The Utah commission which it established was filled by appointees from the East and those who were grasping for political power in the Territory found their hopes unrealized. This disappointment led to a spirit of intensified anger and the criminal part of the law began receive its enforcement in the most drastic, spiteful, and revengeful manner. Everything possible was done to prepare the people for dark days to come. The revelations of God were to the effect that men should set their families in order" (Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, pp. 548-549).
October 15, 1884 - Rudger Clawson appears before Judge Charles S. Zane:
Rudger Clawson was the first unlawful cohabitation case to be prosecuted under the Edmunds law with a trial jury; he was also Judge Zane's first polygamy case. B.H. Roberts remarked that this "case marks the inauguration of as cruel and unjustifiable a judicial crusade as was ever perpetrated against a free people in a professedly free government" (Roberts, Life of John Taylor, pg. 371).
As part of the proceedings, on Oct. 17, 1884, President John Taylor was put on the stand to answer questions about marriage records kept by the Church. The prosecuting attorney wanted to know about the plural marriage records kept in the Endowment House (on Temple Square) and specifically the record concerning the marriage of Rudger Clawson:
Mr. Dickson. [Does such a record exist, and if so would you] "be good enough to produce it, or make inquiry concerning it?According to witnesses at the hearing, President Taylor smiled very big after declining to produce the marriage records.
Mr. Taylor. I don't think I am good enough.
Mr. Dickson. What is the ceremony of plural marriage?
Mr. Taylor. I decline to state it.
Mr. Dickson. Do you know whether the defendant has taken a plural wife?
Mr. Taylor. I do not.
Rudger Clawson was found guilty of polygamy and unlawful cohabitation by the jury.
On November 3, 1884, Rudger Clawson was allowed to address the court before sentencing was applied. His words, along with the response from Judge Zane were too good not to include in this history construct:
"Your Honor, I very much regret that the laws of my country should come in conflict with the laws of God; but whenever they do, I shall invariably choose the latter. If I did not so express myself, I should feel unworthy of the cause I represent. The Constitution of the United States expressly says that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. It cannot be denied, I think, that marriage, when attended and sanctioned by religious rites and ceremonies, is an establishment of religion. The law of 1862 and the Edmunds Law were expressly designed to operate against marriage as practiced and believed in by the Latter-day Saints. They are therefore unconstitutional, and of course cannot command the respect that a constitutional law would. That is all I have to say, your Honor."Judge Zane's response to Rudger Clawson's speech - after he meditated for several minutes:
"The Constitution of the United States, as construed by the Supreme Court, does not protect any person in the practice of polygamy. While all men have a right to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and to entertain any religious belief that their conscience and judgment may reasonably dictate, they have not the right to engage in a practice which the American people, through the laws of their country, declare to be unlawful and injurious to society ... I should have been inclined to make the punishment lighter had you not openly declared that you believe it right to violate the law."Penalty sentence for Rudger Clawson - Judge Zane gave him the maximum allowed under law:
- Polygamy (felony): $500 fine and 3 yrs 6 months imprisonment.
- Unlawful cohabitation (misdemeanor): $300 fine and 6 month imprisonment to start with the expiration of the first.
The tenaciousness with which the prosecutions were being carried out left little hope to those wishing to avoid prison time. Many men and women exiled themselves to avoid being brought to justice. Among those who disappeared at this time were leading men of the Church, such as members of the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Seventies. Elder Wilford Woodruff records this: "I am a wanderer from home because of my religion. It is not the first time I have been a wanderer in the wilderness for the gospel's sake." President Joseph F. Smith, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency, made himself scarce from October 1884 to September 1891 - not a single public appearance; he was in Hawaii on a Church mission for most of that time (Cowley, Wilford Woodruff, pg. 553; Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 412).
=== 1885 ===
January 1885 - Angus M. Cannon arrested:
The prosecutions weren't having the affect desired - the disintegration of polygamy in Utah. To help encourage the Mormon people not to break the law, Federal prosecutors decided to go after the leaders of the Church, or the so-called "pillars of the Church." Their first indictment was handed down to Angus M. Cannon, President of the Salt Lake Stake of Zion (the "central" stake of the Church). Although he wasn't at the top of their most-wanted list (the First Presidency and Apostles had the honor of that distinction), he was good enough to start with. In late January 1885, Mr. Cannon was brought before a preliminary hearing on charges of polygamy and unlawful cohabitation.
January 1885 - Idaho Test Oath:
The Idaho legislature enacted a law providing that no polygamist, or any person who was a member of any order, organization, or association which taught, advised, counseled, or encouraged its members to practice polygamy, should be permitted to vote at any election, or to hold any office of honor, trust, or profit within that Territory. The law incorporated a "test oath" on those points. This effectively meant that all Mormons, whether they were polygamists or not, were disfranchised solely because they were members of the church, not because they had broken any law.
James E. Hart proposed an amendment to the oath, before it was passed, that would only disfranchise Church members who actually were practicing polygamy:
You do solemnly swear that you are not a bigamist or a polygamist or that you do not cohabit with any other woman who is not your wife.Upon hearing this motion, Judge Brierley of Alturas County jumped to the floor and shouted: "My G-- Gentlemen. We can't accept Hart's proposal. That would disfranchise all of us." I find it funny that legislators were out to get the big-bad Mormons; however, some of them led immoral lives and didn't want that legislated against. The oath passed as originally written, keeping LDS Church members in Idaho from voting for 10 years, and was ruled constitutional on Feb. 3, 1890, by the Supreme Court of the United States (Rich, Ensign to the Nations, pg. 381; Supreme Court hearing: 133 US 333).
January 19, 1885 - Supreme Court case: Clawson v. United States: 113 US 143
This is the first of two appeals to the Supreme Court for Rudger Clawson. The Court ruled that Rudger Clawson did not need to be released on bail while an appeal was pending if the court of jurisdiction decided so. Judgment affirmed.
Trial Judges Attempt to be Merciful:
During trials for unlawful cohabitation, prior to sentence being pronounced, the judge would give each convicted man the opportunity to promise to keep the law. If they would do so, invariably the judge would either (a) set them free, or (b) drastically reduce the sentence. However, very few men took advantage of this opportunity. According to Matthias Cowley, the men who did take the judge up on the offer were men who "were not in harmony with the requirements of the gospel and those times gave them an opportunity to demonstrate their unworthiness rather than a lack of courage." The courts were busy at this time, and E.B. Critchlow (a judge during this time) states that over one thousand men were convicted, and rarely did any accept the offer to stop breaking the law (Cowley, Wilford Woodruff, pg. 555; Reed Smoot Testimony, E.B. Critchlow).
Property Purchased in Mexico:
The Church could do relatively little about this law or the prosecutions going on. They felt as if they were being persecuted, instead of prosecuted, by an illegal law. One option they did have was to relocate "wanted" church members to a place where the US Government could not reach them - legally; one of these locations was Mexico. Accordingly, land was purchased in Mexico "upon which families that were hunted and driven might settle." This isn't the birth of the Mormon Colonies in Mexico; however, it does explain why there were a number of polygamist families that moved and lived there. Wikipedia has a decent history review on this (Mormon Colonies in Mexico) (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 395).
February 1, 1885 - President Taylor's last public sermon:
"What would you do? Would you resent these outrages and break the heads of the men engaged in them, and spill their blood? No; avoid them as much as you possibly can - just as you would wolves, or hyenas, or crocodiles, or snakes, or any of these beasts or reptiles. ... Get out of their way as much as you can. What! Won't you submit to the dignity of the law? Well I would if the law would only be a little more dignified. But when we see the dignity of the ermine bedragged in the mud and mire, and every principle of justice violated, it behooves men to take care of themselves as best they can. ... But no breaking of heads, no bloodshed, rendering evil for evil. Let us try to cultivate the spirit of the gospel, and adhere to the principles of truth. ... While other men are seeking to trample the Constitution under foot, we will try to maintain it. ... I will tell you what you will see by and by. You will see trouble! trouble! TROUBLE enough in these United States. And as I have said before, I say today - I tell you in the name of God, WOE! to them that fight against Zion, for God will fight against them!" (Roberts, Life of John Taylor, pp. 383-384).
March 23, 1885 - Supreme Court case: Murphy v. Ramsey: 114 US 15
Five plaintiffs argued that the Utah Commission of 5 men illegally barred them from voting in the November 1882 election after they supplied credentials, and accepted the proper oath. The court ruled that 3 of the 5 were living in a polygamous relationship, and were therefore ineligible to vote - Judgment affirmed. For the other two, it was found that they should have been allowed to vote and their case was "remanded for further proceedings." This ruling declared the Edmunds law constitutional and nullified the test oath formulated by the Utah Commission; they "have no power over the registration of voters or the conduct of elections."
April 20, 1885 - Supreme Court case: Clawson v. United States: 114 US 477
The is the second of two appeals to the Supreme Court by Rudger Clawson. The Court ruled that the grand jury selection was competent for his trial. Judgment affirmed.
May 9, 1885: Angus M. Cannon, A. Milton Musser, and James C. Watson brought before Judge Zane:
All three are sentenced for unlawful cohabitation: $300 fine and 6 months in prison.
May 13, 1885: Declaration of Grievances and Protest:
"To the President and People of the United States" - petition sent by the First Presidency and members of the Church to Washington, "we solemnly protest against the continuance of this merciless crusade." John T. Caine, John W. Taylor, and John Q. Cannon gave the protest to President Cleveland. The President promised to appoint fair and even-minded men to Utah positions to ensure that "the law is impartially administered" (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 414-415).
September 16, 1885 - "Segregation" doctrine introduced:
Judge Zane wanted stiffer penalties than the Edmunds Law would allow for conviction. The relatively light sentences were not having the desired effect. He subsequently ruled that "the time a man had cohabited with more women than one as wives, could be divided up into years, months or weeks, and separate bills of indictment be found for each fragment of time. ... Judge Orlando W. Powers of the First Judicial District, carried the infamous doctrine still further, and in charging a grand jury, on the 23rd of September, 1885, said: 'An indictment may be found against a man guilty of unlawful cohabitation, for every day, or other distinct interval of time, during which he offends. Each day that a man cohabits with more than one woman, as I have defined the word cohabit, is a distinct and separate violation of the law, and he is liable for punishment for each separate offense'" (Roberts, Life of John Taylor, pp. 388-390).
Deseret News Editorial on 'Segregation':
According to this proposition, the obnoxious 'Mormon' could be sentenced to an aggregated term of five hundred and forty-seven years and six months, and compelled to pay a fine of $328,400. If he happened to be impecunious, he could be made to remain in prison for ninety-one years and three months longer, in order to satisfy the poor convict act.--John Nicholson, editor of the Deseret News when Charles W. Penrose was away (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 409).
Why not extend its penalties to the other life?
November 20, 1885:
Lorenzo Snow is arrested in Brigham City by 7 deputy marshals. He serves over 6 months in prison for unlawful cohabitation and is released. Reference for the trial of Lorenzo Snow: Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pp. 423-426.
December 14, 1885 - Supreme Court case: Cannon v. United States: 116 US 55
Angus M. Cannon appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court. He argued that he had not cohabited with his wives (intimately) since the passage of the Edmunds Law; therefore, he could not be guilty of unlawful cohabitation. The Supreme Court, however, agreed with lower court rulings that Angus M. Cannon is guilty of unlawful cohabitation, even if there is not a sexual relationship with his wives. Judgment affirmed. They defined the term 'unlawful cohabitation' as follows:
"Committed by a man who lives in the same house with two women, and eats at their respective tables one-third of his time, or thereabouts, and holds them out to the world, by his language or conduct, or both, as his wives, and it is not necessary to the commission of the offense that he and the two women, or either of them, should occupy the same bed or sleep in the same room or that he should have sexual intercourse with either of them."
Edmunds Law Considered a Disappointment:
The attitude of most of the defendants impleaded thereunder convinced those who were working for the suppression of plural marriage that they had undertaken a much harder task than they anticipated. Neither the makers nor the ministers of the law had given the men and women who practiced this form of marriage sufficient credit for sincerity. Imputing to them unworthy motives, they supposed even light penalties would induce them to recede from their position and sever their peculiar relations. They found this to be an error. The Anti-Bigamy Law had always been a dead letter, inoperative, ineffectual; and now the Edmunds Act; its original severity enhanced by the extreme interpretations put upon it, had failed to accomplish its purpose. More legislation must be had, or existing laws must be made more effective, if success was to crown the efforts put forth for the extirpation of polygamy. So reasoned the prosecutors and the judges (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 407).
=== 1886 ===
The highest point of intensity in the crusade against the Latter-day Saints was reached during the year 1886 ... Hundreds were in prison and in exile and leading men were hunted down with a fury perhaps unsurpassed by the Roman persecutions in the days of the early Christians. ... [Wilford] felt that the Lord would fight the battles of the Saints and that those who were prominent in the persecution would be humiliated (Cowley, Wilford Woodruff, pg. 557).
February 12, 1886 - George Q. Cannon arrested:
"My father believed that if he left Utah, his recession might tend to placate the government and soften the severity of the prosecutions of the Mormons; and accordingly, on the night of February 12, 1886, he boarded a west-bound Central Pacific train at Willard. The Federal officers in some way learned of it; he was arrested, on the train, at Humboldt Wells, Nevada, and brought back to Utah. Near Promontory he fell from the steps of the moving car, at night, in the midst of an alkali desert, and hurt himself seriously. He was recaptured and brought to Salt Lake City on a stretcher, in a special car, guarded by a squad of soldiers from Fort Douglas, with loaded muskets, and a captain with a conspicuous sword. He was taken to Judge Zane's chambers and placed under bonds of $25,000. Immediately two bench warrants were issued by a United States Commissioner, and these were served upon him while he lay on a mattress on the floor of Zane's office. Two more bonds of $10,000 each were given. He was then taken to his home.
"Later - (President [John] Taylor still insisting that he must not stand trial) - he disappeared again, 'on the underground,' and his bonds were declared forfeited" (Frank J. Cannon, Under The Prophet In Utah, pg. 46-47).
May 10, 1886 - Supreme Court case: Snow v. United States: 118 US 346
Is there such a thing as "constructive cohabitation?" What are these people to do? The Court did not want to rule on the question. Instead they decided that they had no jurisdiction in the case; therefore, it was Dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
September 27, 1886 - Revelation give to President John Taylor concerning Plural Marriage:
Below is a copy of this purported revelation given to John Taylor. I say "purported" simply because the LDS Church does not accept this document as authentic.
Here's a link to a copy of the handwritten revelation - here:
My son John, you have asked me concerning the New and Everlasting Covenant how far it is binding upon my people.I put this in because it is a piece of history. If true, it helps to explain why John Taylor, and by extension, the Church and Church authorities, are so stubborn during this time in their resistance of the Federal Government and the laws enacted by Congress to do away with polygamy. It's another piece of the puzzle in this history.
Thus saith the Lord: All commandments that I give must be obeyed by those calling themselves by my name unless they are revoked by me or by my authority, and how can I revoke an everlasting covenant, for I the Lord am everlasting and my everlasting covenants cannot be abrogated nor done away with, but they stand forever.
Have I not given my word in great plainness on this subject? Yet have not great numbers of my people been negligent in the observance of my law and the keeping of my commandments, and yet have I borne with them these many years; and this because of their weakness—because of the perilous times, and furthermore, it is more pleasing to me that men should use their free agency in regard to these matters. Nevertheless, I the Lord do not change and my word and my covenants and my law do not, and as I have heretofore said by my servant Joseph: All those who would enter into my glory must and shall obey my law. And have I not commanded men that if they were Abraham’s seed and would enter into my glory, they must do the works of Abraham. I have not revoked this law, nor will I, for it is everlasting, and those who will enter into my glory must obey the conditions thereof; even so, Amen.
Currently the LDS Church denies that this revelation is either (a) authentic, or (b) exists; despite evidence to the contrary that they do in fact know about it. I am uninterested in following this tangent to where it leads - Mormon fundamentalism. For me, the revelation is the history I'm interested in, not what others have done with it. I'll leave this as an exercise for the interested reader/researcher.
To follow this thread, here's a few good references to start with:
- Masters Thesis of Dean C. Jessee (link - here). Page 95 is as good a place as any to begin reading.
- Official Statement on Plural Marriage June 17 1933; James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. V, pp. 315-330.
- Web URL to Four Hidden Revelations - referenced above for the 1886 revelation. The history behind this is very much in dispute as can be seen by following these links.
=== 1887 ===
February 7, 1887 - Supreme Court case: In Re Snow: 120 US 274
Lorenzo Snow's lawyer, Franklin S. Richards, changed the appeal to question the number of indictments. This time the Court ruled it had jurisdiction, and found that individual indictments for separate periods of cohabitation time is illegal. They stated that the offense was continuous, and therefore was answerable under a single indictment. For Lorenzo Snow this meant that 2 of the 3 indictments for unlawful cohabitation were wiped clean, and so an 18 month sentence (3 back-to-back terms) was reduced to one term of 6 months; he had already served more than 6 months at this time.
"This ruling shattered the doctrine of segregation, and put a stop to the practice. Lorenzo Snow, an order for whose release was telegraphed from Washington, left the penitentiary soon after the decision was rendered. Six others imprisoned under the segregating process likewise regained their liberty" (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 443).
The order and judgment of the District Court for the Third Judicial District of Utah Territory must be reversed and the case be remanded to that court with a direction to grant the writ of habeas corpus prayed for and to take such proceedings thereon that may be in conformity with law and not inconsistent with the opinion of this Court.
March 3, 1887 - Edmunds-Tucker Act becomes law:
On February 19, 1887, the bill passed Congress and was shortly thereafter placed on the President's desk (Grover Cleveland). After waiting for, and not receiving the President's signature, the bill automatically became a law on March 3, 1887.
Reasoning ? for waiting years for a new anti-polygamy bill to pass:
"As early as December, 1882, Senator Edmunds had introduced into Congress a bill to amend the law bearing his name. This bill, which died almost at its birth, but experienced repeated resurrections, was finally enacted as the Edmunds-Tucker Law, so named for its principal promoters, Senator George F. Edmunds, of Vermont, and Representative John Randolph Tucker, of Virginia. It took five years to produce this statute; not because those friendly to it were idle or indifferent the while, but owing to a desire on the part of many Congressmen, some of whom believed the Edmunds Law had strained the Constitution, to allow the medicine already administered to do its work, before foisting upon the over-dosed patient another prescription." (Whitney, Popular History of Utah, pg. 445).
July 25, 1887 - President John Taylor dies:
From February 1, 1885 until July 25, 1887, John Taylor remained hidden. He was never publicly seen again. He communicated with the Church via "general epistles" that were delivered in the dark of night by couriers (Church History in the Fulness of Times, pg. 443). From the 3rd Volume of Messages of the First Presidency, by James R. Clark, I count 11 official messages, 5 of which are labeled "epistles."
In summary, here are the main points of this law:
- In a polygamy / unlawful cohabitation case, the lawful husband or wife is a competent witness.
- Adultery, incest, and fornication are punishable crimes (prison time or fine).
- All marriage ceremonies are to be recorded publicly.
- All polygamous children born prior to 12 months after the passage of this act are legitimized.
- The Attorney-General of the United States will institute proceedings on forfeited or escheated property as designated under the 1862 Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act (Section 3). For Utah, this primarily means property from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company.
- The Church and Perpetual Emigration Fund Company were disincorporated.
- Women could no longer vote in Utah.
- Nauvoo Legion and local militia were abolished.
- Anyone convicted of polygamy or unlawful cohabitation were disfranchised.
- To vote, you had to promise to obey the law (polygamy laws) and not teach others to break it.
The law from 1887 is copied below in its entirety - hopefully the typos are minimal to non-existent.
The Statutes at Large of the United States of America
From December, 1885, to March, 1887
Volume XXIV  - reference pages 635-641
March 3, 1887
Chapter 397 - An act to amend an act entitled "An act to amend section fifty-three hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes of the United States, in reference to bigamy, and for other purposes," approved March twenty-second, eighteen hundred and eighty-two.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, Sec. 1. That in any proceeding or examination before a grand jury, a judge, justice, or a United States commissioner, or a court, in any prosecution for bigamy, polygamy, or unlawful cohabitation, under any statute of the United States, the lawful husband or wife of the person accused shall be a competent witness, and may be called, but shall not be compelled to testify in such proceeding, examination, or prosecution without the consent of the husband or wife, as the case may be; and such witness shall not be permitted to testify as to any statement or communication made by either husband or wife to each other, during the existence of the marriage relation, deemed confidential at common law.
Sec. 2. That in an prosecution for bigamy, polygamy, or unlawful cohabitation under any statute of the United States, whether before a United States commissioner, justice, judge, a grand jury, or any court, an attachment for any witness may be issued by the court, judge, or commissioner, without a previous subpoena, compelling the immediate attendance of such witness, when it shall appear by oath or affirmation, to the commissioner, justice, judge, or court, as the case may be, that there is reasonable ground to believe that such witness will unlawfully fail to obey a subpoena issued and served in the usual course in such cases; and in such case the usual witness-fee shall be paid to such witness so attached: Provided, That the person so attached may at any time secure his or her discharge from custody by executing a recognizance with sufficient surety, conditioned for the appearance of such person at the proper time, as a witness in the cause or proceeding where in the attachment may be issued.
Sec. 3. That whoever commits adultery shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not exceeding three years; and when the act is committed between a married woman and a man who is unmarried, both parties to such act shall be deemed guilty of adultery; and when such act is committed between a married man and a woman who is unmarried, the man shall be deemed guilty of adultery.
Sec. 4. That if any person related to another person within and not including the fourth degree of consanguinity computed according to the rules of the civil law, shall marry or cohabit with, or have sexual intercourse with such other so related person, knowing her or him to be within said-degree of relationship, the person so offending shall be deemed guilty of incest, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than three years and not more than fifteen years.
Sec. 5. That if an unmarried man or woman commit fornication, each of them shall be punished by imprisonment not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one hundred dollars.
Sec. 6. That all laws of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah which provide that prosecutions for adultery can only be commenced on the complaint of the husband or wife are hereby disapproved and annulled; and all prosecutions for adultery may hereafter be instituted in the same way that prosecutions for other crimes are.
Sec. 7. That commissioners appointed by the supreme court and district courts in the Territory of Utah shall possess and may exercise all the powers and jurisdiction that are or may be possessed or exercised by justices of the peace in said Territory under the laws thereof, and the same powers conferred by law on commissioners appointed by circuit courts of the United States.
Sec. 8. That the marshal of said Territory of Utah, and his deputies, shall possess and may exercise all the powers in executing the laws of the United States or of said Territory, possessed and exercised by sheriffs, constables, and their deputies as peace officers; and each of them shall cause all offenders against the law, in his view, to enter into recognizant to keep the peace and to appear at the next term of the court having jurisdiction of the case, and to commit to jail in case of failure to give such recognizance. They shall quell and suppress assaults and batteries, riots, routs, affrays, and insurrections.
Sec. 9. That every ceremony of marriage, or in the nature of a marriage ceremony, of any kind, in any of the Territories of the United States, whether either or both or more of the parties to such ceremony be lawfully competent to be the subjects of such marriage or ceremony or not, shall be certified by a certificate stating the fact and nature of such ceremony, the full names of each of the parties concerned, and the full name of every officer, priest, and person, by whatever style or designation called or known, in any way taking part in the performance of such ceremony, and shall be by the officer, priest, or other person solemnizing such marriage or ceremony filed in the office of the probate court, or, if there be none, in the office of court having probate powers in the county or district in which such ceremony shall take place, for record, and shall be immediately recorded, and be at all times subject to inspection as other public records. Such certificate, or the record thereof, or a duly certified copy of such record, shall be prima facie evidence of the facts required by this act to be stated therein, in any proceeding, civil or criminal, in which the matter shall be drawn in question. Any person who shall willfully violate any of the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, on conviction thereof, be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, or by imprisonment not longer than two years, or by both said punishments, in the discretion of the court.
Sec. 10. That nothing in this act shall be held to prevent the proof of marriages, whether lawful or unlawful, by any evidence now legally admissible for that purpose.
Sec. 11. That the laws enacted by the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah which provide for or recognize the capacity of illegitimate children to inherit or to be entitled to any distributive share in the estate of the father of any such illegitimate child are hereby disapproved and annulled; and no illegitimate child shall hereafter be entitled to inherit from his or her father or to receive and distributive share in the estate of his or her father: Provided, That this section shall not apply to any illegitimate child born within twelve months after the passage of this act, nor to any child made legitimate by the seventh section of the act entitled "An act to amend section fifty-three hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes of the United States, in reference to giamy, and for other purposes", approved March twenty-second, eighteen hundred and eighty-two.
Sec. 12. That the laws enacted by the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah conferring jurisdiction upon probate courts, or the judges thereof, or any of them, in said Territory, other than in respect of the estates of deceased persons, and in respect of the guardianship of the persons and property of infants, and in respect of the persons and property of persons not of sound mind, are hereby disapproved and annulled; and no probate court or judge of probate shall exercise any jurisdiction other than in respect of the matters aforesaid, except as a member of a county court; and every such jurisdiction so by force of this act withdrawn from the said probate courts or judges shall be had and exercised by the district courts of said Territory respectively.
Sec. 13. That it shall be the duty of the Attorney-General of the United States to institute and prosecute proceedings to forfeit and escheat to the United States the property of corporations obtained or held in violation of section three of the act of Congress approved the first day of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, entitled "An act to punish and prevent the practice of polygamy in the Territories of the United States and other places, and disapproving and annulling certain acts of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah", or in violation of section eighteen hundred and sixty-two, entitled "An act to punish and prevent the practice of polygamy in the Territories of the United States and other places, and disapproving and annulling certain acts of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah", or in violation of section eighteen hundred and ninety of the Revised Statutes of the United States; and all such property so forfeited and escheated to the United States shall be disposed of by the Secretary of the Interior, and the proceeds thereof applied to the use and benefit of the common schools in the Territory in which such property may be: Provided, That no building, or the grounds appurtenant thereto, which is held and occupied exclusively for purposes of the worship of God, or parsonage connected therewith, or burial ground shall be forfeited.
Sec. 14. That in any proceeding for the enforcement of the provisions of law against corporations or associations acquiring or holding property in any Territory of the United States in excess of the amount limited by law, the court before which such proceeding may be instituted shall have power in a summary way to compel the production of all books, records, papers, and documents of or belonging to any trustee or person holding or controlling or managing property in which such corporation may have any right, title, or interest whatever.
Sec. 15. That all laws of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah, or of the so-called government of the State of Deseret, creating, organizing, amending, or continuing the corporation or association called the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company are hereby disapproved and annulled; and the said corporation, in so far as it may now have, or pretend to have, any legal existence, is hereby dissolved; and it shall not be lawful for the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah to create, organize, or in any manner recognize any such corporation or association, or to pass any law for the purpose of or operating to accomplish the bringing of persons into the said Territory for any purpose whatsoever.
Sec. 16. That it shall be the duty of the Attorney-General of the United States to cause such proceedings to be taken in the supreme court of the Territory of Utah as shall be proper to carry into effect the provisions of the preceding section, and pay the debts and to dispose of the property and assets of said corporation according to law. Said property and assets, in excess of the debts and the amount of any lawful claims established by the court against the same, shall escheat to the United States, and shall be taken, invested, and disposed of by the Secretary of the Interior, under the direction of the President of the United States, for the benefit of common schools in said Territory.
Sec. 17. That the acts of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah incorporating, continuing, or providing for the corporation known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-DayDeseret incorporating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so far as the same may now have legal force and validity, are hereby disapproved and annulled, and the said corporation, in so far as it may now have, or pretend to have, and legal existence, is hereby dissolved. That it shall be the duty of the Attorney-General of the United States to cause such proceedings to be taken in the supreme court of the Territory of Utah as shall be proper to execute the foregoing provisions of this section and to wind up the affairs of said corporation conformably to law; and in such proceedings the court shall have power, and it shall be its duty, to make such decree or decrees as shall be proper to effectuate the transfer of the title to real property now held and used by said corporation for places of worship, and parsonages connected therewith, and burial grounds and of the description mentioned in the proviso to section thirteen of this act and in section twenty-six of this act, to the respective trustees mentioned in section twenty-six of this act; and for the purposes of this section said court shall have all the powers of a court of equity.
Sec. 18. (a) A widow shall be endowed of third part of all the lands whereof her husband was seized of an estate of inheritance at any time during the marriage unless she shall have lawfully released her right thereto.
(b) The widow of any alien who at the time of his death shall be entitled by law to hold any real estate, if she be an inhabitant of the Territory at the time of such death, shall be entitled to dower of such estate in the same manner as if such alien had been a native citizen.
(c) If a husband seized of an estate of inheritance in lands exchanges them for other lands, his widow shall not have dower of both, but shall make her election to be endowed of the lands given or of those taken in exchange; and if such election be not evinced by the commencement of proceedings to recover her dower of the lands given in exchange within one year after the death of her husband, she shall be deemed to have elected to take her dower of the lands received in exchange.
(d) When a person seized of an estate of inheritance in lands shall have executed a mortgage, or other conveyance in the nature of mortgage, of such estate, before marriage, his widow shall nevertheless be entitled to dower out of the lands mortgaged or so conveyed, as against every person except the mortgagee or grantee in such conveyance and those claiming under him.
(e) Where a husband shall purchase lands during coverture, and shall at the same time execute a mortgage, or other conveyance in the nature of mortgage, of his estate in such lands to secure the payment of the purchase-money, his widow shall not be entitled to dower out of such lands, as against the mortgagee or grantee in such conveyance or those claiming under him, although she shall not have united in such mortgage; but she shall be entitled to her dower in such lands as against all other persons.
(f) Where in such case the mortgagee, or such grantee or those claiming under him, shall, after the death of the husband of such widow, cause the land mortgaged or so conveyed to be sold, either under a power of sale contained in the mortgage or such conveyance or by virtue of the decree of a court if any surplus shall remain after payment of the moneys due on such mortgage or such conveyance, and the costs and charges of the sale, such widow shall nevertheless be entitled to the interest or income of the one-third part of such surplus for her life, as her dower.
(g) A widow shall not be endowed of lands conveyed to her husband by way of mortgage unless he acquire an absolute estate therein during the marriage period.
(L) In case of divorce dissolving the marriage contract for the misconduct of the wife, she shall not be endowed.
Sec. 19. That hereafter the judge of probate in each county within the Territory of Utah provided for by the existing laws thereof shall be appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate; and so much of the laws of said Territory as provide for the election of such judge by the legislative assembly are hereby disapproved and annulled.
Sec. 20. That it shall not be lawful for any female to vote at any election hereafter held in the Territory of Utah for any public purpose whatever, and no such vote shall be received or counted or given effect in any manner whatever; and any and every act of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah providing for or allowing the registration or voting by females is hereby annulled.
Sec. 21. That all laws of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah which provide for numbering or identifying the votes of the electors at any election in said Territory are hereby disapproved and annulled; but the foregoing provision shall not preclude the lawful registration of voters, or any other provisions for securing fair elections which do not involve the disclosure of the candidates for whom any particular elector shall have voted.
Sec. 22. That the existing election districts and apportionments of representation concerning the members of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah are hereby abolished; and it shall be the duty of the governor, Territorial secretary, and Board of Commissioners mentioned in section nine of the act of Congress approved March twenty-second, eighteen hundred and eighty-two entitled "An act to amend section fifty-three hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes of the United States in reference to bigamy, and for other purposes", in said Territory, forthwith to redistrict said Territory, and apportion representation in the same in such manner as to provide, as nearly as may be, for an equal representation of the people (excepting Indians not taxed), being citizen of the United States, according to numbers, in said legislative assembly, and to the number of members of the council and house of representatives, respectively, as now established by law; and a record of the establishment of such new districts and the apportionment of representation thereto shall be made in the office of the secretary of said Territory, and such establishment and representation shall continue until Congress shall otherwise provide; and no persons other than citizens of the United States otherwise qualified shall be entitled to vote at any election in said Territory.
Sec. 23. That the provisions of section nine of said act approved March twenty-second, eighteen hundred and eighty-two, in regard to registration and election officers, and the registration of voters, and the conduct of elections, and the powers and duties of the Board therein mentioned, shall continue and remain operative until the provisions and laws therein referred to to be made and enacted by the legislative assembly of said Territory of Utah shall have been made and enacted by said assembly and shall have been approved by Congress.
Sec. 24. That every male person twenty-one years of age resident in the Territory of Utah shall, as a condition precedent to his right to register or vote at any election in said Territory, take and subscribe an oath or affirmation, before the registration officer of his voting precinct, that he is over twenty-one years of age, and has resided in the Territory of Utah for six months then last passed and in the precinct for one month immediately preceding the date thereof, and that he is a native-born (or naturalized, as the case may be) citizen of the United States, and further state in such oath or affirmation his full name, with his age, place of business, his status, whether single or married, and, if married, the name of his lawful wife, and that he will support the Constitution of the United States and will faithfully obey the laws thereof, and especially will obey the act of Congress approved March twenty-second, eighteen hundred and eighty-two, entitled "An act to amend section fifty-three hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes of the United States, in reference to bigamy, and for other purposes," and will also obey this this act in respect of the crimes in said act defined and forbidden, and that he will not, directly or indirectly, aid, abet, counsel, or advise, any other person to commit any of said crimes. Such registration officer is authorized to administer said oath or affirmation; and all such oaths or affirmations shall be by him delivered to the clerk of the probate court of the proper county, and shall be deemed public records therein. But if any election shall occur in said Territory before the next revision of the registration lists as required by law, the said oath or affirmation shall be administered by the presiding judge of the election precinct on or before the day of election. As a condition precedent to the right to hold office in or under said Territory, the officer, before entering on the duties of his office, shall take and subscribe an oath or affirmation declaring his full name, with his age, place of business, his status, whether married or single, and, if married, the name of his lawful wife, and that he will support the Constitution of the United States and will faithfully obey the laws thereof, and especially will obey the act of Congress approved March twenty-second, eighteen hundred and eighty-two, entitled "An act to amend section fifty-three hundred and fifty-two of the Revised Statutes of the United States, in reference to bigamy, and for other purposes," and will also obey this act in respect of the crimes in said act defined and forbidden, and that he will not, directly or indirectly, aid or abet, counsel or advise, any other person to commit any of said crimes; which oath or affirmation shall be recorded in the proper office and indorsed on the commission or certificate of appointment. All grand and petit jurors in said Territory shall take the same oath or affirmation to be administered, in writing or orally, in the proper court. No person shall be entitled to vote in any election in said Territory who shall not have taken the oath or affirmation aforesaid. No person who shall have been convicted of any crime under this act, or under the act of Congress aforesaid approved March twenty-second, eighteen hundred and eighty-two, or who shall be a polygamist, or who shall associate or cohabit polygamously with persons of the other sex, shall be entitled to vote in any election in said Territory, or be capable of jury service, or to hold any office of trust or emolument in said Territory.
Sec. 25. That the office of Territorial superintendent of district schools created by the laws of Utah is hereby abolished; and it shall be the duty of the supreme court of said Territory to appoint a commissioner of schools, who shall possess and exercise all the powers and duties heretofore imposed by the laws of said Territory upon the Territorial superintendent of district schools, and who shall receive the same salary and compensation, which shall be paid out of the treasury of said Territory; and the laws of the Territory of Utah providing for the method of election and appointment of such Territorial superintendent of district schools are hereby suspended until the further action of Congress shall be had in respect thereto. The said superintendent shall have power to prohibit the use in any district school of any book of a sectarian character or otherwise unsuitable. Said superintendent shall collect and classify statistics and other information respecting the district and other schools in said Territory, showing their progress, the whole number of children of school age, the number who attend school in each year in respective counties, the average length of time of their attendance, the number of teachers who are Mormons, the number who are so-called gentiles, the number of children of Mormon parents and the number of children of so-called gentile parents, and their respective average attendance at school; all of which statistics and information shall be annually reported to Congress, through the governor of said Territory and the Department of the Interior.
Sec. 26. That all religious societies, sects, and congregations shall have the right to hold and hold, through trustees appointed by any court exercising probate powers in a Territory, only on the nomination of the authorities of such society, sect, or congregation, so much real property for the erection or use of houses of worship, and for such parsonages and burial grounds as shall be necessary for the convenience and use of the several congregations of such religious society, sect, or congregation.
Sec. 27. That all laws passed by the so-called State of Deseret and by the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah for the organization of the militia thereof or for the creation of the Nauvoo Legion are hereby annulled, and declared of no effect; and the militia of Utah shall be organized and subjected in all respects to the laws of the United States regulating the militia in the Territories: Provided, however, That all general officers of the militia shall be appointed by the governor of the Territory, by and with the advice and consent of the council thereof. The legislative assembly of Utah shall have power to pass laws for organizing the militia thereof, subject to the approval of Congress.
Received by the President, February 19, 1887.
[Note by the Department of State - The foregoing act having been presented to the President of the United States for his approval, and not having been returned by him to the house of Congress in which it originated within the time prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, has become a law without his approval.] The bill automatically became a law on March 3, 1887.