Articles

THE SOBER TRUTH ABOUT THE MORMONS

Sixty-four years ago Charles Ora Card led 10 families to Canada to escape an American law which said a man could have only one wife. Now the 25,000 Canadian Mormons rub elbows with their neighbors in business and social life and marry one wife for all time

RICHARD LAWRENCE January 15 1951
Articles

THE SOBER TRUTH ABOUT THE MORMONS

Sixty-four years ago Charles Ora Card led 10 families to Canada to escape an American law which said a man could have only one wife. Now the 25,000 Canadian Mormons rub elbows with their neighbors in business and social life and marry one wife for all time

RICHARD LAWRENCE January 15 1951

THE SOBER TRUTH ABOUT THE MORMONS

RICHARD LAWRENCE

Sixty-four years ago Charles Ora Card led 10 families to Canada to escape an American law which said a man could have only one wife. Now the 25,000 Canadian Mormons rub elbows with their neighbors in business and social life and marry one wife for all time

usually aware they’re about to enter the spiritual capital of Canada’s 25,000 Mormons and they hardly know what to expect. Nine times out of ten they entertain vague enticing thoughts about every man having several wives. To almost all non-Mormons polygamy and Mormonism add up to the same thing.

In this frame of mind an American tourist once stopped Joseph Young Card, one of the town’s leading citizens, and asked to be shown a real live Mormon.

Card pointed to a strangely dressed man and woman on the street—the man bearded and clot hed entirely in black, the woman in a billowing black skirt, high-topped black boots, her head covered with a blue and white polka dot kerchief.

“There!” said Card. “Mormons.”

While the tourist gaped, Card walked away chuckling. The strange pair he had palmed off as Mormons were Hutterites, members of a religious sect that Mormons themselves find curious.

The tourist had actually seen a real live Mormon in Card himself—a Mormon descended from one of the two greatest leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is the true name of the Mormon church.

He’s one of the innumerable grandchildren of Brigham Young, famous among even gentiles (as Mormons usually refer to all non-Mormons) as leader of the great trek to Salt Lake City and as a man who had 19 wives and 56 children. One of these children was Card’s mother who named him for Young and for Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism.

His father was Charles Ora Card who himself had three wives. Sought by the U. S. marshals who had assumed a strait-laced attitude toward polygamy, Charles Card led a new trek to southern Alberta and founded Cardston.

With this background Card is naturally a devout Mormon, yet there is nothing about his appearance, speech or demeanor to set him apart from a man of another faith.

“We don’t live apart from other Canadians,” says Card. “We live and work much as any person does. Our religion happens to be different, that’s all.”

Mormons are generally proud of their polygamist past on the grounds that they acted from a divine and heartfelt religious principle. “We make no apologies for it,” says Card. “When our forefathers entered into plural marriage (a term Mormons prefer to polygamy) it was done for purely religious motives.”

Many Mormons I met during a week’s stay in Cardston have ancestors one or two generations removed who were partners in plural marriage— and all are proud of it; they claim only the best men in the church were allowed to take more than one wife. At a Rotary luncheon when Card told me Brigham Young had had 19 wives and 56 children, a lawyer near us said with pride: “My great-uncle had nearly as many children and he had only four wives.”

But there are no polygamists in Cardston. Mormons do not practice polygamy today, nor have they done so for 60 years. The penalty— swift and sureis excommunication. John Blackmore, Social Credit MP for Lethbridge, was excommunicated a few years ago for allegedly advocating polygamy. Blackmore denied this accusation and said he “merely discussed and defended the doctrine of plural marriage as a Biblical principle, not as a present-day practice.”

Mormons believe as a matter of religious principle that polygamy is still correct. They contend it was originally willed by divine revelation through their prophet, Joseph Smith. To say it is wrong would in effect be repudiating the Word of God. However, when the United

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States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of anti - polygamy legislation in 1890 the church immediately ordered an end to the practice. One of the Mormons’ Articles of Faith, also the work of Joseph Smith, says Latter-Day Saints must obey the law of the land.

Canadian Mormons are concentrated mainly in small towns of southern Alberta, many of which they built and pioneered themselves. About 15,000 live there; the remaining 10,000 are scattered throughout the rest of Canada. (There are about a million Mormons in the world.) In national affairs only one is really well known— Solon Low, federal leader of the Social Credit Party.

Cardston is a mecca for Canadian Mormons as well as for those living in Montana, Washington and Oregon; it is the site of one of the eight Mormon temples. The Cardston temple and one in Laie, Hawaii, are the only two outside the continental United States.

Prophet Runs a Movie House

Seventy-five per cent of Cardston’s 3,500 citizens are Latter-Day Saints. The town is headquarters for the Alberta Stake (a stake is roughly equivalent to a diocese) and its 6,100 members. The only other Canadian stakes, Taylor with 3,800 members and Lethbridge with 5,000, are also in tiie foothills.

Worthy Mormons are abstainers and Cardston has no beer parlor or liquor store. But the amount of social activity is phenomenal. Next to the temple the most splendid building in town is the $100,000 combination social centre and chapel. “There’s not a minute that centre is not in use,” says the Rev. Albert King, Cardston’s United Church minister, who is a great admirer of the Mormons’ social program. Non-Mormons are always welcome and are usually invited to participate in Mormon entertainments.

Cardston has two commercial movie theatres and it usually surprises nonMormons to learn these are owned and operated by a man who also is president of the Alberta Stake. He is handsome, 51 - year - old Cordon S. Brewerton, considered by the faithful to be a prophet and seer. The position corresponds to a bishop of a Roman Catholic diocese but is unpaid.

When I first met Brewerton in his office Betty Crable and Victor Mature were frolicking on the screen in a confection called “Wabash Avenue.” It struck me these were strange circumstances in which to be meeting the territory’s highest ecclesiastical authority. Brewerton himself remarked, “It does seem to be rather a funny business for a stake president, doesn’t it?”

In the Mormon concept there’s nothing unusual about it. Men from all walks of life hold high church offices. Cardston’s three bishops are Karl Peterson, a garage owner, J. Forrest Wood, a grocer, and Eldon Card, who works in his father’s realestate business. Bishops and other church leaders are selected by priests of equal or higher rank and then sustained or rejected by a vote of the people.

The most magnificent building in Cardston is the shining white granite temple, erected at a cost of almost $1 million. Temple President W. L. Smith admits only worthy Mormons with a written recommendation from their bishop and stake president. Fifty thousand non-Mormons were allowed in the temple before its dedication in

sliders are called.

To obtain access to the temple a Mormon undergoes two soul-searching j interviews with his bishop and his president. They ask if he is morally clean and worthy. He must be able to say he keeps the Word of Wisdom, pays his tithe and wears the “required garments.” The Word of Wisdom decrees that Mormons should not smoke, drink tea, coffee or alcoholic beverages. It says “strong drinks are not for the belly.”

Paying tithes is considered a religious duty and Mormons are expected to pay a voluntary tithe amounting to 10% of their income. “Required garments” are underclothing bearing special markings of the priesthood. They maintain a strict secrecy about these.

Cardston’s Latter-Day Saints live in complete harmony with their townsmen who belong to United, Roman Catholic, Anglican or Lutheran churches. When the class of 1950 graduated from Cardston High School the invocation was given by the Rev. Albert King and the valedictory was delivered by a Roman Catholic student. About half those who attend the United Church’s major social event, the fall chicken dinner, are Mormons,

In 1886—four years before the Mormons abandoned polygamy—Challes Ora Card was sent by the church in Utah to find a new home in Canada.

He chose the present site of Cardston ; in the shadow of the Rockies. The ] main body of settlers, members of 10 j families, arrived in 1887 after traveling j 750 miles by covered wagon. One of the settlers was two-year-old Joseph Young Card, now 65 and a successful real-estate dealer.

The Mormon church was founded in 1830 in New York State by Joseph Smith, the unschooled son of a poor farmer. Mormons claim the Book of Mormon—mainstay of their religion— was revealed to Smith by the Will of God. They claim he was a prophet greater than any mentioned in the Bible. The religion stands or falls on this point.

History Hidden in a Hill

Smith’s story was that when he was 14 he had a vision in which Cod and Jesus Christ appeared to him and revealed a new gospel. Then in 1823, he said, a heavenly messenger named Moroni appeared and revealed the existence of gold plates engraved with Christ’s Cospel as it was made known to early inhabitants of North America by the Risen Redeemer. The plates were hidden in a hill near Smith’s New York home.

After a wait of four years Smith produced the plates on Sept 22, 1827. With them were two stones, called the Urim and Thummin, which he used to translate cryptic characters on the plates and give the world the Book of Mormon. The book takes its name from Mormon, father of Moroni, who as a mortal was supposed to have written the record and concealed it in the hill.

The Book of Mormon purports to be a history of a people of Jewish background who left Palestine about 600 B.C., made their way to North America, established cities and nations and later were destroyed by warfare among themselves. Survivors became North American Indians, according to the story.

The theory commonly accepted by j non-Mormons is that the Book of Mormon was based on a historical novel written by a Presbyterian clergyman named Spaulding who intended

to call it “The J... , f

the Wilds of the Mormon00^, , .

Latter-Day Saints have no ^jP.V(f1 n clergy except a few high authorities in Salt Lake City. Most male members hold the priesthood. At the age of l í a Mormon boy may be ordained a deacon in (lie Aaronic priesthood and ultimately advance into the Melchizedek or higher priesthood.

Mormons believe that all living things have previously existed witii Cod in the spirit world and («od has actually determined the number of people still to be born. They are now living with Him in the spirit world. All souls have (lie choice of being born on earth and so be given the chance (o prove themselves worthy of enjoying the glories of eternity. But a soul may also choose to short-cut this process and go direct to eternity.

Trace Their ’Free to Adam

The glories of future life are so wonderful to Mormons that one said to me seriously: “If we really knew how great il is we’d commit suicide to get there.” They are so preoccupied contemplating the rewards of heaven they scarcely give hell a second thought.

A Mormon believes that when he dies lie’s actually going to meet his ancestors and lie’ll lie able to recognize and associate with all of them. Great numbers of these ancestors, of course, died before Joseph Smith’s time. To make sure of meeting them in eternity the Mormons perform proxy baptisms for the dead and make a deep study of tracing their family trees.

Some Mormon families claim to have traced their ancestry back to Adam. A carpenter in Cardston has been baptized for 3,000 ancestors. Stake President Brewerton has traced his father’s line to 1670 and his mother’s beyond that.

There’s nothing hit or miss about the system of proxy baptism. The dead person’s name, birthplace and date of birth are required for the record. The church has 17 crews in Europe microfilming birth, death and marriage records. Names are checked with a master index in Salt Lake City to avoid duplication.

A typical Mormon family is that of Glen and Pearl Hansen. He owns a flourishing farm implements business and operates a big tract of leased farm land and, like almost every Mormon, is tremendously active in church work.

His wife has nine children, ranging from a year to 13. Mormon women consider everything secondary to motherhood. The average family has five children.

The Hansens once a week hold a “home evening,” as all Mormons are encouraged to do. It is a planned evening of entertainment for the whole family. Few churches place greater emphasis on the importance of the family as the fundamental unit of society.

The Hansens, now in their early forties, were married in the temple in 1937. This means in the Mormon belief they are married for eternity and their marriage will continue in the hereafter. Their children have been “sealed” to them in this ceremony and the whole family expects to be reunited in heaven. Mormon marriages outside the temple last only until death.

In the Hansen home the Word of Wisdom is scrupulously observed. There is not an ashtray in the house nor any drink stronger than Postum. When entertaining they often serve a punch of ginger ale and grape juice.

In 1919 Hansen paid $990 in tithes.

One Sunday each month the family goes without two meals and contributes

their bishop’s

.lenng fund for welfare work. I he Sunday I spent with Glen Hansen he attended Sunday school, two priesthood meetings, evening church service and then acted as host to a weekly study group in his home.

Hansen does not accept the family allowance for his children, though some Mormon parents do. The church opposes government financial assistance. “We want to take care of our own,” says Hansen who is accumulating a two-year supply of food and clothing for the family in anticipation of any emergency. In Cardston the church maintains a modern cannery where housewives do their own canning under expert supervision.

Mormons have a well-organized welfare program which carries no stigma of charity because almost everyone contributes to it. through actual work.

Mormon stakes are divided into wards consisting of about 600 members which are presided over by bishops. The Bishop’s responsibility is to see that no member of his flock wants for necessities of life.

Says Bishop Eldon Card: “Our

everyday living is our church work. This isn’t Sunday religion; this is everyday religion.”

An annual welfare budget is drawn up for the whole church in Salt Lake City and then prorated to each ward. Men and women organize work projects to raise goods or money for what is known as the bishop’s storehouse. In the basement of the Cardston social centre is a regular grocery and drygoods store which serves as the storehouse for the whole stake. A needy Mormon is given a bishop’s order on these goods or goods are bought for him.

The Mormons’ social program misses no bets either. For the youngest children there is the Primary which carries on a week-day religious program (quite apart from the Sunday School),

directs recreation and teaches proper living habits. For teen-agers and young adults there is the Mutual Improvement Association which conducts spiritual, educational, social and sports activities.

Young Mormons play a part in church work to a degree virtually unknown among other Christian denominations but their religion does not seem to weigh oppressively—perhaps because of the social program that goes with it.

This blending of the spiritual with the social was illustrated for me in Cardston by the Mormon social centre where on successive nights 1 attended a movie and a dance—to the music of Cab Calloway and Larry Clinton—in the gymnasium and Sunday church services in the chapel. Both are under the same roof.

Popular Song at Funeral

They have no paid missionaries but all young Mormons aspire to mission work before marrying. The Alberta Stake has 45 young people serving abroad and as soon as these return from their two-year assignments others will replace them.

For a people who are so steeped in religion and whose religion is a part of every phase of life, the Mormons at the same time are worldly. It might startle another clergyman to hear “Home on the Range” sung at a Mormon funeral or a talk on the beauties of California at a service celebrating the Sacrament of the Last Supper.

But in Cardston they say: “Life is religion.” And they like to mention that Johnny Longden, of nearby Taber, whom many regard as the world’s greatest jockey, attributes his success to following the Word of Wisdom. The Word promises that those who keep it “shall run and not be weary.” ★