The Logan, Utah Herald Journal ran a story yesterday about the recent publication of the diaries of Mormon pioneer Charles Ora Card. Mr. Card, great-great grandfather of sci-fi author Orson Scott Card, made detailed daily entries for much of his life. The published diaries are from the years 1871-1886, when Mr. Card lived in northeastern Utah, in Cache Valley.
The book, “The Diaries of Charles Ora Card: The Utah Years, 1871-1886,” is a tribute to Mr. Card compiled by his great-grandson Donald Godfrey. But according to historian Kenneth Godfrey (no relation), the book is also an invaluable historical resource.
Something that particularly struck Kenneth Godfrey as he studied Card’s detailed daily entries was the sheer ordinariness of Mormon life at the time.
“I told one historian that a major contribution of his diaries (is that they show) that Mormons in the 1870s and ’80s were pretty solid, conservative, good people,” he said. “The sermons are about not drinking, not using tobacco, planting trees, beautifying your yard, partaking of the sacrament worthily and taking care of your children. There are no smoking guns, no unusual doctrines being espoused or preached. Mormons were pretty average Americans.”
I have no trouble believing the Mormons were pretty solid, conservative, good people, then as now. But I’m having some doubts regarding the statement that in the 1870s and ’80s there were “no unusual doctrines being espoused or preached.”
On June 18th, 1873 Deseret News published a sermon by LDS Prophet Brigham Young in which he said,
How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me–namely that Adam is our father and God…Our Father Adam helped to make this earth, it was created expressly for him, and after it was made he and his companions came here. He brought one of his wives with him, and she was called Eve,…Our Father Adam is the man who stands at the gate and holds the keys of everlasting life and salvation to all his children who have or whoever will come upon the earth… Father Adam came here, and then they brought his wife. “Well,” says one, “Why was Adam called Adam?” He was the first man on the earth, and its framer and maker. He, with the help of his brethren, brought it into existence. Then he said, “I want my children who are in the spirit world to come and live here. I once dwelt upon an earth something like this, in a mortal state, I was faithful, I received my crown and exaltation. I have the privilege of extending my work, and to its increase there will be no end. I want my children that were born to me in the spirit world to come here and take tabernacles of flesh, that their spirits may have a house, a tabernacle or dwelling place as mine has, and where is the mystery?” (See a scan of the newspaper)
The teaching that Adam was God the Father falls into the category of “unusual doctrines,” at least for “average Americans.” It may not have been unusual for Mormons in 1873, however, as by that time Brigham Young had been publicly preaching it for more than 20 years.