Sunday, June 25, 2017

Going Out on a Limb

Prophecy has always been alive and well in the LDS church. Sometimes those things prophesied hardly seem possible at the time of the prediction. Heber C. Kimball’s prophecy of street prices in Utah being cheaper than those in St. Louis comes to mind. What did Apostle John W. Taylor promise the people of Raymond, Alberta in the late 1800’s?
a.                  Air travel
b.                  A Temple
c.                   Flourishing crops and livestock
d.                  Massive church growth
Yesterday’s answer:
(C)   The Relief Society
Speaking about the Utah War, Brigham Young rhetorically asked the nation, “Have you counted the cost?” The war is sometimes portrayed as a bloodless conflict with no lingering affects, but that simplistic view is mistaken. Hundreds of lives were lost during the conflict (most tragically at Mountain Meadows). The war interrupted tens of thousands of lives throughout the territory and also affected the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Utah Territory, and the nation.  
   Most Utahns lived a hardscrabble existence and could ill afford the economic costs that accompanied the war. This was especially true for families who were dislocated during the move south. Militia military assignments removed fathers from families. Crops were not planted, livestock died, schools were closed, and wartime inflation squeezed many settler budgets to the breaking point.   
   For nineteenth-century Latter-day Saint leadership, managing a growing worldwide organization before the arrival of the telegraph and railroads was challenging enough, but doing so from the middle of Utah Territory increased the challenge under the best of circumstances. The Utah War made Church administration even more difficult. Work on the Salt Lake Temple ceased. Missionary work and new Church publications slowed to a trickle. Church meetings were cancelled for several months. Tithes and offerings went uncollected. The “Tabernacle was closed, no public meetings were held, and the members of the First Presidency retired and were seldom seen. Heber and others routinely provided an armed escort for President Young when it was necessary for him to appear in public.” And the Church’s Relief Society, only recently reorganized, was suspended.
   The war fundamentally changed Utah Territory. Plans for new settlements were abandoned or delayed. The growth of many existing settlements was hampered as settlers were called to return to Salt Lake City. On 5 September 1857 for example, 450 Saints loaded 123 wagons and began a two-month journey from Carson Valley (in present-day Nevada) to Salt Lake City—arriving on 2 November. Postal communication, a continuing trial to early Western settlers, was seriously interrupted by the war. Immigration slowed between 1858 through 1860—a lagging effect of the war. Demographic changes initiated by the Utah War affected the Saints profoundly. And as Brigham Young succinctly observed before the army’s arrival, “You might as well tell me that you can make hell into a powder-house as to tell me that you could let an army in here and have peace.” In northern Utah, violence, prostitution, and drunkenness increased. Life in Utah never returned to the pre-war status quo.
   The Utah War cast Utah and the Mormons onto a national stage like never before, and the view most Americans held was distinctly negative. Utahns and Mormons—inextricably linked in the public mind—were principally viewed as disloyal and un-American. In 1858, the New York Times reported that the “general feeling of the people of the Union in all sections, and of all sects and parties, is so decidedly adverse to the Mormons, that the Government is not likely to be held to a very strict account for its acts towards them, even though they should be utterly exterminated, or driven from their present resting-place.” That distrust played out in multiple ways for more than half a century following the Utah War. For example, shortly after the Civil War ended the in 1865, the New York Times suggested that “in the Spring of 1861 South Carolina was more loyal to the Union than Utah is today.”

Glenn Rawson and Dennis Lyman ed., The Mormon Wars (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communication, 2014), 108-110.

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