A Young Folks' History of the Church by Nephi Anderson - HTML preview
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Those who did not understand the true nature of "Mormonism" thought that at the death of Brigham Young, the Church would go to pieces; but they soon found out that the work of God does not depend on any one man. The Twelve again became the leading quorum in the Church, with John Taylor at its head. Three years after the death of President Young, October 10, 1880, the First Presidency was again organized. John Taylor became President, and he chose George Q. Cannon as first and Joseph F. Smith as second counselor.
President Taylor was seventy-two years old at this time. He had been with the Church nearly from the beginning, having been an Apostle for forty-two years. He had filled many missions both in the United States and in Europe, had written much on gospel subjects, and was in reality as some called him, the "Champion of Liberty." You will remember that he was with Joseph and Hyrum at the time of their martyrdom in Carthage jail and was then severely wounded.
The year 1880 was the jubilee year of the Church, being fifty years since it was organized. As was the custom in ancient Israel, it was a time of forgiveness. The Church remitted many debts of the poor, besides giving them many sheep and cattle. "While God is blessing us, let us bless one another," said President Taylor; and thus much good feeling was manifested among the Saints.
But another storm was coming. A trial of another kind was in store for the Church.
In the days of Nauvoo, in 1843, Joseph the Prophet had received a revelation from God, saying that it was right for good men holding the priesthood to have more wives than one. By the time the Church had been in Utah a few years, quite a number of the Saints had obeyed this law and entered plural marriage. The enemies of the Church call this practice a great sin, even though they can read in the Bible that good men of old whom the Lord loved had many wives. In 1862 Congress passed a law against plural marriage or polygamy. As many thought it was an unjust law, it was not enforced for many years. Elder George Reynolds offered to be arrested and tried under the law in order to have it tested. This was done, and Elder Reynolds was convicted and sent to prison. His case was taken to the Supreme Court of the United States where the law was decided to be constitutional.
But this law was not hard enough on the "Mormons" to suit their enemies. Sectarian preachers and politicians who wanted some office began to spread falsehoods all over the country about Utah and its people, all of which had its effect on Congress. Notwithstanding the protest of the "Mormons," another law was passed against them, (March, 1882), called the Edmunds Act. This law provided that no polygamist should vote or hold office; and if found guilty of polygamy a man might be fined five hundred dollars and put in prison for three years. If a man lived with more than one wife, he could be fined three hundred dollars and imprisoned for six months.
Officers were now sent to Utah to enforce this law, and what is called the "Crusade" began in earnest. "Mormons" were not allowed to sit on juries or have anything to do with the courts, so it was an easy matter to convict all "Mormons" who came to trial.Arrests now followed fast, and it was indeed a sad time for many of the Saints. Officers, called deputy marshals, were sent into all the settlements of the Saints to spy out and arrest those supposed to be guilty. Many of the brethren left the country or went away in hiding to avoid being arrested, leaving the women and children to manage as best they could. In Idaho no "Mormon" was allowed to vote or hold office, no matter whether he had broken the law or not. Three brethren were sent from Arizona to the penitentiary at Detroit, Michigan. Nearly all the leading brethren were in hiding; and, as they could not speak to the people in their meetings, they wrote epistles which were read to the Saints at their conferences.
For a number of years this persecution went on. Seemingly, the strongest anti-"Mormons" should have been satisfied. But no; they asked Congress to make yet stronger laws to put down the "Mormons." Accordingly, in 1887, another law was passed, called the Edmunds-Tucker Bill. This law, among other things, provided that the property of the Church should be confiscated, that is, taken from the Church. United States officers went to work at once and took from the Church nearly $800,000 worth of property. After the officers had gotten some good salaries out of it, the property was at last given back to the Church.
During the time of this crusade thirteen hundred persons suffered from fines or imprisonment.
July 25, 1887, President John Taylor died at Kaysville, Davis County, Utah. He had been in exile for over two years; but the brave spirit was now away from under the power of persecutors, and the Saints could but look on the peaceful form and face of their beloved leader.
Topics.—1. President John Taylor. 2. Plural marriage. 3. The Edmunds Bill. 4. The "Crusade." 5. The Edmunds-Tucker Bill.
Questions and Review.—1. Why was there no danger to the Church at the death of President Young? 2. When was the First Presidency organized again? 3. Who composed it? 4. Tell what you can about John Taylor. 5. Tell about the Jubilee year. 6. When and where was plural marriage revealed to the Church? 7. When was the first law passed against this practice? 8. What is meant by a law being constitutional? 9. What was the Edmunds Bill? 10. How was it enforced? 11. What was the Edmunds-Tucker Law? 12. When and where did President Taylor die?