Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Demolish Endowment House

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Wilford Woodruff demolished Endowment House because of agreement with U.S. government?

A FairMormon Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims


One Nation under Gods, page 320 (hardback and paperback)

  • Did Wilford Woodruff demolish the Church’s Endowment House in response to agreement with the U.S. to “cease practicing plural marriage?”

Author's Sources


Endnote 40, page 590 (paperback); page 588 (paperback)

  • Samuel Taylor, 19.

Answer


The Endowment House was taken down because:

  1. a work project was needed to employ new workers within Salt Lake City, who could then vote in civic elections
  2. the Endowment House was superfluous, since the Church had three operating temples besides Salt Lake
  3. a marriage had been performed in the Endowment House which achieved considerable notoriety in the Gentile press; Wilford Woodruff's decision to issue the Manifesto made it politic to do something to address this issue (for more details see Writing the Manifesto (non-wiki)).

There is no evidence, though, that leaders of the Church agreed to stop plural marriage at any point prior to the Manifesto, or that the Endowment House was taken down as part of a "deal" with the government.

Detailed Analysis

This claim is misleading on a number of grounds.

Since June 1889 Wilford Woodruff had begun restricting the solemnization of plural marriages in Mexico. By September 1889, the First Presidency was also refusing to issue plural marriage recommends for Utah. However, marriages for which recommends had already been issued were performed as late as 2 October 1889.[1]:36

The First Presidency’s policy, which had been a matter of somewhat informal discussion among themselves, was first formally expressed to the Twelve on 2 October 1889:

Wilford Woodruff called a meeting of the First Presidency and apostles to announce this policy. He explained that he felt it was necessary due to the publicity of the recent arrest of Hans Jesperson, who had married his plural wife in the Salt Lake Endowment House the previous April.[1]:37

Wilford Woodruff’s decision to restrain further plural marriage was a continuation of a policy initiated under President John Taylor, who had begun to restrict new marriages even while publicly refusing to back down to federal pressure.[1]:37[2]

Thus, the Jesperson marriage was the source of considerable negative publicity for the Church. As political pressure on the Church increased, and the anti-Mormon political party grew in strength for the Salt Lake City elections, the leaders of the Church wanted to increase the number of friendly voters within the city. "The need for work projects," to employ such workers "was one of the circumstances that led to the demolition of the old Endowment House, where polygamous marriages had reportedly taken place."[3]

As B. Carmon Hardy noted, however, the loss of the Endowment House was of little moment:

Anyone familiar with Mormon practice, however, must have recognized how meaningless such a gesture was. Not only were the St. George, Manti, and Logan temples all available for couples wishing to be married but, as already shown, monogamous and polygamous sealings alike could be performed anywhere. No special edifice was necessary.[4]

So, though leaders of the Church were attempting to be conciliatory by not performing marriages in the United States and refraining from teaching polygamy publicly, they had made no agreement with the U.S. government. Some leaders-—such as George Q. Cannon-—wanted to deny the specific charge about polygamy being practiced in Utah, without repudiating polygamy as a doctrine, or specifically promising to obey the U.S. laws forbidding plural marriage.[1]:42

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 D. Michael Quinn, "LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages, 1890–1904," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18 no. 1 (Spring 1985).
  2. Quinn cites First Presidency Office Journal, 2 October 1889.
  3. Edward Leo Lyman, Political Deliverance: The Mormon Quest for Utah Statehood (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1986), 113; citing A. H. Cannon Journal, Oct. 7, 17, 1889; Grant Journal, Oct. 12, 17, 18, 1889
  4. B. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 139.