Question: Was the castration of Thomas Lewis approved by Brigham Young?

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Question: Was the castration of Thomas Lewis approved by Brigham Young?

Brigham did not think Snow did what was right, but felt he was “trying to do right” and that he should be sustained in his calling as Bishop

Brigham and other Church leaders did not approve the action taken by the local members. Joseph Young (Brigham's brother) of the Presidents of the Seventy later learned about the incident and was incensed and “entirely disapproved” of it.

Late in the spring, Joseph Young (Brigham’s brother), and a few other members of the Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy, learned of the incident while visiting the central Utah area. Joseph was incensed and “entirely disapproved” of the action. He mentioned it in Nephi as he returned to Salt Lake City. He furiously declared that he “did not want” that man as a leader that “would shed blood before he was duly commended.” … Upon his arrival at Church headquarters, Joseph Young and Warren’s brother, James, who was then president of the Utah Stake at Provo talked with Brigham Young in his office. Undoubtedly in connection with Warren’s recent action, the subject of “eunuchs” came up. In a near rage, Joseph said that “he would rather die than to be made a Eunuch.” Brigham, much more placid than his brother at this point, simultaneously referred to the emasculation and paraphrased a statement made by Jesus by saying that “the day would come when thousands would be made Eunuchs for them to be saved in the kingdom of God.”

Obviously referring to Lewis’ crime, they then discussed sexual sin. Brigham again emphasized his feeling that the time for such severe punishment was still in the future by saying that church leaders could not “cleanse the platter because people will not bear it.” He expressed his fear that if such penalties were carried out, “the wicked [would] go to the states & call for troops.” But then, making obvious reference to Warren, he said, “I will tell you that when a man is trying to do right & do[es] some thing that is not exactly in order I feel to sustain him,” and perhaps looking at Joseph, he authoritatively added “& and we all should.” (Scott G. Kenney, ed. Wilford Woodruff's Journal 1833-1898, 9 vols. (Midvale, Ut.: Signature Books, 1984)).

Within days of the above conversation, Brigham, who had in all probability heard of the incident firsthand from Warren before he heard it from his brother, wrote a letter to Warren and affirmed his friendship. Then, a few weeks later, he again wrote Warren concerning the affair. Warren, receiving complaints from some of his ward members, evidently requested Brigham Young to write an “Epistle” to the Sanpete Saints to explain the action of the Bishop and and his counselors. Brigham declined, however, suggesting that doing so would be like pouring water on “a hot Iron,” making only “the more smoke.” “Just let the matter drop,” he told Warren, “and say no more about it, and it will soon die away amongst the people.” (Brigham Young to Warren S. Snow, June 10, 1857, and July 7, 1857, Brigham Young Collection.)[1]


Notes

  1. John A. Peterson, "Warren Stone Snow, a man in between: the biography of a Mormon defender," Master's Thesis, BYU (1985) 114.