Abbildungen der Seite

those means and support that family—Brother Polypeith has changed, or gets changed for him, the channel of his entire energies and his future destiny in the community where he must live. He entered the Church office a grocer, to go out of it a cabinet maker. But the questions are not done; before he goes he must answer further. How much property does he bring to Utah The entire savings of a small tradesman's hard life, he answers — and these amount to the sum of twenty thousand dollars. Is Brother Polypeith ready to make oath to that effect? He is and does so. Brother Polypeith is then informed that the Saints, from Brother Brigham himself down to the humblest cattle-boy, own nothing—that the Church owns all, and has a right to do what it will with its own. Furthermore, that twenty thousand dollars is a larger sum than the Church can availably embark in the cabinet maker's trade just now; part of the sum can be employed for the interests of the Church better elsewhere. The Church will accordingly receive from Brother Polypeith, to be employed in advancing the spread of the kingdom, the sum of five or ten thousand dollars, as the case may be. There is no invariable rule for the sum taken; it depends on the needs of the Church, or the wealth of the individual, and on the amount which, considering the interests of the Church, can be beneficially employed in the owner's especial branch of business. The opinion of the chief party in interest (as we should call him according to our unenlightened Republican and common law ideas) is of no weight whatever in contributing to the conclusion. It often amounts to a quarter, sometimes to a half of the entire property brought into Utah. It is now too late to back out (I am supposing the Polypeiths already baptized), and very likely there is no desire to back out; the Polypeiths have perhaps known long ago the Mormon tenets in regard to the residence in the Church of all titles to individual property, or if they have not, their conversion was too thorough to be shaken by the discovery; at any rate, here they are, in the Mormon power, of their own free will Mormons themselves; they have taken the irrevocable step—and Mr. Polypeith has no alternative. So he forks over—we will say ten thousand dollars. That sum forthwith goes into the coffers of the Church (to wit, Brigham's Herring safe), and neither Mr. Polypeith, his heirs, nor his assigns, ever hear from it in the shape of principal or interest thereafter. He receives the ten thousand which the Church graciously accords him from his own former possessions, and sets up the furniture business. During the first week or two of his life in Salt Lake City nothing occurs to make him sensible of the difference between the Mormon régime and that under which he lived in the States. Yet none the less is he becoming enmeshed in the secret toils of a system as unlike the free, open-air spirited government of our noble republic as the Council of Three, Jesuitry, or the Wehm-Gericht. Each of the twenty wards into which the city of Salt Lake is divided has a ruler of its own, who takes charge both of its temporalities and spiritualities with the title of bishop. He exercises supervision over the tithes due from citizens under him to the Church treasury; has general charge of the Church's financial interests in the ward, and registers marriages, deaths, and births. But surpassing in importance all his other functions is that of secret investigator. He stands responsible to the Prophet President for the private lives—the most intimate circumstances and doings of his people. It is a principle of Mormonism that the President must be omniscient. The inmost secrets of every household must be revealed to him; he must know what is whispered in the bride-chamber, the nursery, in the consultations of the lawyer and the doctor, in the lover's courtship, and on the dying bed. Fouché never knew as much as he must know, nor does the Superior of the Jesuit College. Fouché bothered his head with religious secrets, the Superior concerns his with political ones, only as subsidiary to other ends. Brigham Young must know all secrets; and to attain this end indefinitely multiplies himself through bishops and their subordinates. The bishop is supposed to visit the members of the Church in his ward in the New England pastoral sense; but his visits are sometimes of a much more formidable character than those mild interviews for prayer and religious conversation which the Eastern clergyman indulges in with his flock at periodic intervals. The bishop's crosier abroad has a hooked and a sharp end, each with its several office,—“Curva trahit mites—pungit acuta rebelles.” The Mormon bishop has no crosier, but he can prick as well as pull, and some of his visits are judicial though others be pastoral. He has proxies or deputies whose sole business it is to furnish him with that stream of knowledge of which he is the President's channel: plausible informers who enter families as guests, or watch them through windows and key-holes, like burglars making their preparation for a “crack; ” spies who climb trees and grape trellises to eavesdrop, or lie all night on ladders at second story shutters; who accept confidences to betray them, and employ all the black arts of the detective policeman to possess themselves of the very most trifling particular which may sometime be needed as a clew to the sinner against ecclesiastical authority. From this espionage even the most innocent life is no freer than that of the once detected derelict. The Mormon, like the Jew, has to learn that the God of a theocracy is a jealous God. In the States Mr. Polypeith's family has always been such a blameless one that the suspicion of suspicion never crosses their minds. They live with the same guileless freedom that has characterized their behavior everywhere. They little know that not in Milan before the Austrians were expelled, not in Havana at the present day—that nowhere among hunted Carbonari, Mazzinists, Fenians, Huguenots, Lollards, or proscribed French Loyalists, ever existed any people so closely watched in the house and by the way-side; so minutely known in all their goings out and comings in; so tracked and noted and booked down to the smallest particular

of their conduct at bed and board; subject to such scrutiny of the hands they clasp, the lips they kiss, the eyes they smile into, and the infinitesimal shades of expression which they unconsciously throw into clasp, kiss, and smile, as they themselves — this self-same blameless Polypeith family. So the first fortnight goes on in making acquaintances at home, stocking and working the shop on Main Street. Mrs. Polypeith, who still remains without a colleague, gets along pretty well at Mormon housekeeping by the aid of her two daughters, after discharging her “help" because she became too impudent to put up with, as frequently happens with her class at Salt Lake, owing to the fact that promotions out of it to a wifely rank in the household are sufficiently common to destroy any vestige of distinction between mistress and servant, which among the more unsophisticated may have survived the transit of the Plains and Rocky Mountains. It is not to be supposed that a buxom Mormoness will take much pains in doing up another woman's cap when she is occupied in setting her own for that woman's husband. Mrs. Polypeith has, however, given some quiet little teas in spite of her domestic trials, and Mr. Polypeith has celebrated his birthday by a modest dinner. Early in the week following the dinner he receives an invitation to call on the bishop. He cheerfully accepts it — perhaps flatters himself on the courtesy with which he is treated by so high a functionary thus early in his saintship. He is ushered into a private room, where he finds himself confronted with the bishop and two or three elders beside. To his astonishment the object of the interview is not hospitality but judgment. He has been accused by somebody (and this is the nearest approach to definiteness with which he ever knows his accuser; it may have been the “help" who was dismissed by Mrs. P., after having failed to win Mr. P.'s affections, and thus seeks to avenge the “spretae injuriam formae ;” it may have been a guest at the dinner party, who was at the same time an agent of the Mormon Wehm-Gericht) of having taken, on the festal occasion last alluded to, a drop of his own liquor more than was good for him. Does he deny the charge? Does he ask to be set face to face with the informers ? Mormonism never “goes back” on its spies. The name of the accuser is of no consequence. Besides, he is brought up not for trial, but for sentence. The bishop takes care of all his flock without any assistance from themselves. The trial has been conducted with as much regard to his interests as if he were present, and the brother, more especially as he is a new-comer and this his first offense, will be dealt with in a spirit of the utmost leniency consistent with the salvation of his own immortal soul and the welfare of the Church — that absolute theocratic proprietor, which owns him “neck, crop, and gizzard,” from the tips of his boots to the forelock he has pomatumed for his visit to the bishop. Or, does he make a plea, as the old common law hath it, “in confession and avoidance,” acknowledging that on the occasion referred to he may have crooked his elbow once too often, but then the superfluous draught was on his own birthday, in his own house, and from his own bottle? Ruled out! The Church knows no festivals, no privacy, no proprietorship but its own. As in “Le Diable Boiteux,” so in the romance of Mormon Life; as there with Asmodeus, so here with the Devil (or Angel, according as you be Saint or Gentile) of the Latter-Day Church, all the roofs of the houses come off like the cover from a soup-tureen; he catches the cover by the knob of the chimney or the cupola, and looks down on the family simmering in its wickedness, or refreshes his nostrils with its odorous steam of sanctity, and not an ingredient in the pottage escapes his omniscience. No man's house is his castle in a theocracy. Thus was it with the Jewish ; thus with the Puritan; and it is thus with the Mormon. Acknowledge that God can have deputies who rule in his name, and they must be gifted with the prerogatives of God. He does not leave the citizen at his door-sill—neither can they. No, Mr. Polypeith ! You have left behind you the pestilent atheism of Republican government; you are enjoying the blessings of that system which so many good men at the East have tried in vain to bring back; you are forced to be religious whether you will or no. This is no community where a man with impunity can go home and get drunk in the bosom of his family. So Mr. Polypeith leaves the bishop's with a face longer by an inch; a mind wiser by a revelation; a pocket lighter by ten dollars— exactly the sum which he often used to read of in the police reports column of his morning paper as paid promptly, “after which the magistrate advised the offender to take better care of himself in future, and he left the court-room in company with his friends; ” or, in default of which, “the prisoner was sent up for ten days.” He used to read such accounts with a shudder, did Mr. Polypeith; or, perhaps he thanked God, like the Pharisee, that he was not like other men — at least, not like this victim of the Publican, enjoying his visit at the generous city's island countryseat. Now he, the self-same Eusebius Polypeith, stands mulcted in the self-same sum — a degraded man— mulcted for drunkenness He groans from the bottom of his being — goes home — and does not tell Mrs. Polypeith. Where does that fine go? To the Church: namely, to the Herring safe in Brigham's office. A year has elapsed since he came through Emigration Cañon. He has been tolerably successful in business. One morning he receives another missive; the bishop wants a statement of his profits, concealing, abating nothing, under the penalty of Ananias and Sapphira — a statement verified by his oath. There is something in the preparation of such a statement that makes any man brought up with Republican notions wince and feel humiliated,—even when he is doing it as a war necessity for the sake of supporting a National Government in whose stability he has coequal interest with every neighbor of his. I do not believe that the most patriotic man in the United States ever receives the assessor's peremptory order to return his income without an instinctive feeling that he is suffering a sort of grand national indignity — as if the collective sovereign people had given him a collective sovereign tweak o' the nose; or searched his pockets like a collective sovereign constable, or looked over his shoulder while he was balancing his ledger with a collective sovereign impudence which it requires all his philosophy and patriotism to excuse, and of which he says to himself, as he sits down to obey the assessor, “I do hope that Congress will before long invent some less obnoxious way of collecting the national revenue !” But in making our returns to the United States assessor most of us have the relief of considering that we voted to support the best government the sun ever shone on ; that we are in reality only collecting the tax from ourselves; that, furthermore, we, through the representatives our ballots sent to Washington, shall have our say as to the manner in which the money shall be spent. Mr. Polypeith has no such relief. He is the subject of a theocracy. In 1834, long before he had heard of Mormonism, Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Oliver Cowdery (one of the three witnesses to whom the Angel of the Lord showed the plates of the Book of Mormon), met in Clay County, Missouri, and made a covenant with God that they would henceforth pay into his treasury, for the advancement of the heavenly kingdom upon earth, tithings of all that they possessed — imitating the Jewish theocracy in this respect as closely as all the others. Thenceforth all the Saints were expected to contribute likewise, and the custom which binds Mr. Polypeith has no other foundation than this thirty-two years' prescription. Nor has he any voice, directly, or by vote, in the disposal of his property after it goes into the Church coffers, to wit, Brigham's safe. The Church uses its money —i.e., Brigham spends it — without taking counsel of the taxed, but by Divine command, and that command is revealed to Brigham alone, while only the Divine Revelator has the right of looking over his accounts. There is, therefore, not one alleviating circumstance in the necessity under which Mr. Polypeith sits down to make out his exhibit of income for the bishop. Nevertheless, he winces his way through the task, and sends back the following : —

Being the 37th year of the Church

“SALT LAKE CITY, July 24th, 1866. . . . . of Jesus Christ of the LatterDay Saints. EUSEBIUs PolyPEITH : Income return for Year ending at Date.

Resulting from Cabinet Ware business . - - - . $1,520.00 Dividends on Stock held in Railroad Companies - - - 125.00

to * “ “ “ Insurance “ - - - - 245.00 Money paid Wife by executors of her Mother's estate in Mass. 300.00 Total . . . . . . . . $2,190.00

Attestatur, E. PolyPEith.”

A few days after this return has been handed to the Bishop, Mr. Polypeith gets his order to repair to the Tithing Office and pay into the Church treasury (the Herring safe again) the sum of two hundred and

« ZurückWeiter »