Mormonism Antipathetic to Democracy

Mormonism was in several ways—and its persecutors rightly felt it so—antipathetic to the unlicked democracy out of which it grew. Far from separating church and state, it made them synonymous. (“Theoretically,” said Apostle Franklin D. Richards in 1880, “Church and State are one. If there were no Gentiles and no other Government there would be no Civil Law.”) Instead of celebrating the free individual, it celebrated the obedient group. For the will of the people it substituted the will of God as announced by the priesthood. Its internal elections showed only one slate, its votes were not choices between competing candidates but “sustaining votes” for candidates proposed by the hierarchy—and it took a bold man to vote Nay. Its shibboleths were not the catchwords of republicanism, but were lifted from the patriarchal vocabulary of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah. What they went to build in the Great Basin was not a state, not a republic, but a Kingdom. Hierarchic, theocratic, patriarchal, this strange descendant of New England puritanism was in some ways wildly un-puritan—or seemed so. For ever since some time in the 183o’s the doctrine of plural marriage had been secretly making its way among them. Not an indulgence but a divine command, it had been revealed privately by Joseph to his most confidential counselors, had been put into writing in 1843 for the eyes of the High Council and of Joseph’s difficult wife Emma, and had finally been publicly admitted in 1852. As if all this were not enough, the Mormons tended to vote solid in state and national elections, and as a “closed” society surrounded by an open one, they had a tendency to attract outlaws looking for asylum, to breed fearful rumors, and to infuriate the Gentiles with their smug assumption that they alone held the keys of truth, they alone were the chosen of the Lord.