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Early 20th Century Polygamy & Reed Smoot (Part 4 of 8)

The 1890 Manifesto was issued saying the LDS Church no longer practiced polygamy.  However, it was practiced secretly.  LDS Apostle Reed Smoot was elected as a US Senator from Utah in 1902, causing Congress to investigate whether the LDS Church had continued to practice polygamy.  Lindsay Hansen Park, host of the Year of Polygamy podcast, will give us more details into early 20th century practices and we will talk more about the apostle/senator Reed Smoot.

Lindsay:  Reed Smoot was a Mormon senator, of course, because he was the representative from Utah.

GT:  He was an apostle also.

Lindsay:  He was an apostle, and he was basically the scapegoat. He took a lot of heat for Mormon polygamy, because he’s over in Washington D.C., just trying to do what he does.

GT: Reed Smoot was elected as Utah senator. Even though Reed was an apostle, he was also a monogamist. But Congress refused to seat him. So we have these Reed Smoot hearings that lasted for like two years.

Lindsay:  Yeah, In the Reed Smoot hearings–so basically, he is brought in front of the government.  They ask him all kinds of questions. They ask him all kinds of questions about Mormonism, Mormon theology.  Actually, if you read the transcripts, it’s fascinating look at Mormon theology.

GT:  They go through the temple ceremony as well.  It’s in the Congressional Record.

Lindsay:  They do and they asked him all kinds of questions about polygamy. He is forced to answer. I think he answers dishonestly, sometimes, but again, you’re looking at this idea of, we have…

GT:  But it’s not just Reed because they pulled in the prophet who by then I’m not sure. Was that…

Lindsay:  So Joseph F. Smith was forced to [testify.]

….

Lindsay:  This is still at the time when we’re not sure if Mormons are allowed to vote, or if they are even considered citizens of the United States, or if they have the rights of United States citizens. So when Reed Smoot is elected, it’s about a four year struggle where people are saying, “Does he even get to do this? Is he even legitimate?  Does he need to be here?”

One of the things that they focused on in his hearings were Mormon oaths. We talked about the temple ceremony earlier, but there were oaths in the temple, [such as] the oath of vengeance that fundamentalists still adhere to. Basically [they] have to promise that they would avenge the murder of Joseph Smith, until the third and fourth generation. After Joseph Smith was killed, this was added into the temple, where there was this oath that you would take where you would avenge the deaths of the Prophet from those who had murdered him. [This] is you know why Mountain Meadows Massacre and all these other things are justified under these oaths that ends justify the means and we can do anything outsiders.  So the federal government was like, “Why are we going to let Mormons in when we’ve heard for years about these oaths.  You want to kill us.”  What should we do? Polygamy becomes the battering ram for that. So they’re in this conflict.

Joseph F. Smith is the prophet now at the time. He encourages Reed Smoot in these hearings.  This is why I brought up Joseph F. Smith because the important thing that you have to understand is Joseph Smith, III is Joseph Smith, Jr.’s son. Emma Smith rejects polygamy. Her church stays in Nauvoo, the RLDS [Church]. She believes her son, Joseph, III, has the most credentials to take on the church. There’s a good argument for that case. So she backs him. All the saints come West who are practicing polygamy in the Brighamite tradition. You have Joseph F. Smith and his cousin, Joseph Smith, III.  Hyrum’s son [leads the LDS Church], Joseph’s son [leads the RLDS Church.]  They have about a 20-year battle and I have an episode where we talk about this because I think it’s fascinating. We call it Dueling Cousins, where Joseph III is really trying to understand why people would call his father a polygamist. His mother is denying it. He doesn’t understand. He just wants to know the truth. By most accounts, all accounts, he’s a good guy. He’s an honest guy.  He’s just trying to understand.

Were you aware of the Reed Smoot Hearings?  Did you know the temple ceremonies are in the Congressional Record?  Check out our conversation….

Congress tried to prevent the seating of Utah Senator Reed Smoot over polygamy in 1903, despite the fact Reed was a monogamist.

 

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Lindsay!

391: Mormon Fundamentalist Theology

390: John Taylor’s 1886 Revelation

389: “More Than One Way to Mormon”

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Benson on Civil Rights & Communism (Part 10 of 13)

Ezra Taft Benson was a sharp critic of the civil rights movement and called it a communist conspiracy.  Why was that?  Dr. Matt Harris details the red scare, and why Benson was so opposed to both communism and civil rights.

Matt:  Elder Benson thinks that Martin Luther King–this is the Birch view, of course, but Elder Benson, following the Birch line thinking that Dr King is a communist agent. That somehow if you push for racial equality, you also want economic equality and that makes you a socialist and a communist. So Elder Benson is furious with Hugh B. Brown’s general conference talk, where the Church is on record as supporting civil rights. Now keep in mind what that means. Brown never said that we favor the civil rights stuff going on in Congress right now. Nor do we favor particular legislation in the State of Utah. There was nothing specific about it. He would write that too, to other Latter-day Saints who wrote him letters. “Does that mean we support the Civil Rights Act of 1963, that John F Kennedy is pushing through?” He’d write back, “We don’t support any particular policy. I just want you to know that we do support civil rights as a general principle.” So clearly, there’s some hedging with him.

We will also talk about his European Mission.

Matt:  …after the whole Harding speech on the floor of the Congress, it created a buzz storm. And the brethren and President McKay [decide] “We’ve got to get Benson out of the country. We’ve got to purify his blood.” That’s what Joseph Fielding Smith says in a private letter. We’ve got to get him out of the country and purify his blood. What he meant by that is purify his blood of politics, of Birch. In 1963, ironically enough, the same month that Hugh B. Brown is giving that civil rights statement in conference, Elder Benson’s going to get summoned into the First Presidency’s office to be told that he’s going to be sent to Germany to preside over the European mission.

Check out our conversation….

Dr Matt Harris explains why Ezra Taft Benson tied the civil rights movement to communism.
Dr Matt Harris explains why Ezra Taft Benson tied the civil rights movement to communism.

Don’t forget our other conversations about Benson!

251: Benson and John Birch Society (Harris)

250: How Ezra Taft Benson Joined Eisenhower (Harris)