Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reed Smoot Hearings: Day 11 - Edward E. Barthell

April 20, 1904

Mr. Barthell is a resident of Nashville, Tennessee, and is a lawyer by trade; practicing law for the last 15 years (Slemmons & Barthell).

He is a member of a group of men that meet regularly and sometimes discuss religion.  In 1900, he was asked, by this group of men, to lead a discussion; he picked Mormonism as the subject.  He wrote to the Mormon Mission President in Chattanooga, Tennessee (he believes the name of the respondent to his letter was Ben E. Rich), for literature concerning the Mormon faith.  In consequence of his letter, a Mormon Elder came to him (George F. Fox) along with several tracts and two books:  (1)  Orson Pratt's Works and (2) "Tracts from the Southern States Mission."  According to the missionary that visited with him, "Orson Pratt's works were accepted by the Mormons as absolutely authentic."

As an aside, Ben E. Rich served as Mission President for the Southern States Mission for ten years.  He was there between 1899-1900 when Mr. Barthell sent him a letter, and when George F. Fox was asked to meet with Mr. Barthell.

The missionary next was invited to visit the group of men during a discussion on Mormonism.
The Chairman.  Can you give the committee some idea what this missionary said about the church and its doctrines?
Mr. Barthell.  Well, he said a great deal, Senator.  Among other things, he said that there was no trouble at all in performing miracles; that if a person had only one arm there was no trouble to give him two.
Mr. Worthington.  I would like to see him.  [Laughter]
Mr. Barthell.  We asked something about speaking in tongues.  I called attention to some of the literature which said that it was perfectly useless to undertake to study different books; that all you had to do was to talk.  He said that was absolutely true; that he had seen it himself even in Indian dialects, and a great many curious things of that general character.
The Chairman.  Did he impart to your association his ideas on the question of polygamy?
Mr. Barthell.  Yes.
The Chairman.  And the teachings of the church in that regard?
Mr. Barthell.  Yes.
The Chairman.  What did he say?
Mr. Barthell.  He said that polygamy was taught of God; that it was right, but that it had been abandoned; that it was not now followed by the good Mormons; that polygamous cohabitation still continued.  In other words, he did not exactly say that.  He said the cohabs still followed their customs.  He referred to them as cohabs, which was an expression we did not at first understand ... when he appeared before the club, we did not think that he had sufficient breadth of information to treat, certainly from an intellectual standpoint, that question, and we did not press him.  He was our guest.
Commentary:  It would appear from this discussion that missionaries sometimes traveled alone - they never do that today.  They also gave books away written by prominent Church members.  They fearlessly declared their beliefs and did not back away from any of them.  Nice little window into missionary work in the late 1800's (possibly early 1900's).  I suppose this piece of testimony was given to show that missionaries of the Church continue to teach about the doctrine of polygamy, even when Church authorities say this isn't happening.

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