You can’t always believe what you read in the newspaper.

The 100-year-old daily newspaper, the Manteca Bulletin (Manteca, CA), carried an article on October 29, 2008 written by managing editor Dennis Wyatt. The article was mainly about the way Mormons were being mistreated over their unflagging support of California’s Prop 8. To fill out the story, Mr. Wyatt wrote, “The Mormons are historically the most persecuted religion in the United States,” followed by some historical details. While the designation of “most persecuted” might be reasonably challenged, it is true that Mormonism and its followers, historically, have not had an easy time of it. Nevertheless, Mr. Wyatt’s historical overview turned out to be more propaganda than truth.

Mr. Wyatt began,

“What brought down the wrath of Congress to pass a law going after the Mormons? Yes, polygamy was part of it but when push came to shove it was the entire faith that irked the powers that be.

“The Mormons had been chased from New York…”

The Mormons were not chased from New York. Joseph Smith moved his young church from New York to Ohio because there had been great missionary success in Ohio and there was a stronger base of membership there.

“The church’s Relief Society – long before it was the fashion -campaigned for women’s rights. In 1870, Utah became the first state to give women the right to vote.”

Wyoming was actually the first territory to grant women the right to vote (1869). Utah did not become a state until 1896, but as a territory, it followed closely on the heels of Wyoming in giving the vote to women.

“Congress in 1882 passed the Edmunds Act to outlaw cohabitation with more than one woman. President Arthur sent federal agents to Utah…all Mormons who practiced polygamy were disenfranchised, stripped of the right to vote and many jailed.”

This is true enough, but Mr. Wyatt failed to mention that bigamy (polygamy) had been illegal since 1862, but Mormons refused to comply with the law. Because of the legal difficulty involved in proving that plural marriage ceremonies had taken place (making polygamy nearly impossible to prosecute), the Edmunds Act made bigamous cohabitation a misdemeanor. Much easier to prove, the Edmunds Act resulted in 1,300 Mormons being jailed as “cohabs” in the 1880s. Mormons who remained in violation of the law were indeed barred from jury service, public office, and voting.

“Congress sent the U.S. Army to attack the Mormons. Why? Because 140 non-Mormon settlers – many who had abused local Indians – were massacred by the Indians at Mountain Meadows. Newspapers urged the government to invade Utah on the false assumption the Mormons were behind the attack.

Mr. Wyatt’s statement above is wrong on every point. Congress did not send the U.S. army to attack the Mormons. Troops were sent to Utah in 1857 to insure “the establishment and maintenance of law and order” in the territory (Gen. Winfield Scott to his officers, quoted in Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets, 79). The non-Mormon emigrants massacred at Mountain Meadows numbered 120, not 140. They were not all killed by Native Americans, nor had the emigrants “abused” anyone. The massacre, which was undeniably planned and executed by Mormons, took place in September 1857, while the U.S. army orders sending troops to Utah originated several months earlier, in May of the same year. Though newspapers in the country were supportive of President Buchanan’s decision to stop the Utah rebellion by installing federally appointed officials in the territory, the newspapers were not responsible for the President’s decision, nor did his decision have anything whatsoever to do with the Mountain Meadows Massacre, a horrific event that was still months away.

I don’t know Mr. Wyatt’s background, but it sure would have been nice if he’d done his homework.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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14 Responses to You can’t always believe what you read in the newspaper.

  1. germit says:

    To all:

    his MMM history is WAY off, that seems rather obvious, but there are parts of his article I like. He wrote:

    The Mormons haven’t crossed the line. Even so, separation of church and state in the context of this nation’s founding wasn’t to prevent churches from being active in politics but to keep the state from creating a church such as Henry VIII did when he created the Church of England because the Pope wouldn’t change the tenets of the Catholic faith to fit his decrees.

    Its not a good idea to have a government in control of secular and spiritual thoughts unless, of course, you loved the old USSR model. The only way those two can work in concert is to suppress the idea of individual freedoms. And when you’re doing that, you can’t just take away the right of religious freedom to make it work.

    I thoroughly agree with his take on separation of church and state, an issue that should concern ALL americans, it religious free speech is taken away, which brand of free speech is next ?? This is a much bigger deal than many realize. Much harder to get those free speech rights BACK, after they’ve been unlawfully impounded. NOW is the time to fight that battle, and I’m glad the LDS are in on that fight.
    The ‘most persecuted group’ topic is probably deep enough to warrant its own thread, and maybe that’s this one. This is a multi-faceted topic, and in my opinion, involves not only WHAT happened to the LDS, but the CONTEXT around those actions. Certainly there past penchant for a physical, here and now THEOCRACY is part of that context. We’ll see where this thread goes…..nice job, as usual, Ms. Sharon.

  2. falcon says:

    What doesn’t seem to come-up in these discussions, is the role of historically black churches supporting civil rights of african americans. If my memory serves me right, these churches hosted meetings to organize sit-ins etc. to protest segregation. Least we forget the “Reverend” title of Martin Luther King. At least one church was bombed by segreationalist and three children were killed.
    If we go back to the civil war, the people fighting slavery, were most often religious people. So we really have an impasse here if we bring-up the marrage issue (see Prop. 8). Do churches have the right to organize, fund and preach against something they see as fundamentally against God’s moral code? The June 2008 Smithsonian magazine has an article entitled “The Utah War”. Notice they don’t call it “The War On Mormons” or “The Mormon War”. From the article: “Just as the nation had to deal with the issue of slavery to ensure its continuation, so did the Territorty of Utah have to come to an understanding and accteptance of its relationship with the rest of the nation.” (Allan Kent Powell, managing editor of the Utah Historical Quarterly)
    This article is worth reading.

  3. falcon says:

    When it comes to history, it’s important for people not only to get their facts straight but also to have a feel for the context of the time in which the events occurred. There’s a German word which I’m sure I’m going to misspell that captures the “spirit of the times”….the word is zietgiest. One of the issues surrounding the ending of slavery was the concept of; were the black slaves equal in every aspect to white people? That is, were they a subspecies of human beings? We can see that attitude played out in Mormon doctrine where blacks were denied the priesthood. This stance perfectly reflected the attitudes of a large portion of the general population at the time. Over time this point of view shifted, but it took the Mormon church well into the last century and under tremendous pressure to change their doctrine to allow blacks into the priesthood. The same can be said of plural marrage. At the time of the Utah War, Mormons were outcasts in society because of this practice. The Mormon church made a deal with the government, and society at large, to give-up the practice. This Utah Mormon reformation brought them peace but they had to give-up the Joseph Smith revelation that plural marrage was necessary to achieve the highest level of the Celestial kingdom. It was very fortunate for Utah Mormons that they believe in the concept of continuous revelation. It’s gotten them off the hook at least twice when it comes to their religious principles.
    So here we are at another point of history and the Mormon church is feeling the heat regarding prop. 8 denying marrage to same sex partners. We’re living in the context of the moment so we have a true sense of the zietgeist or spirit of the times. The question is, will the Mormon church sucumb to the pressure as they have in the past in order to gain peace and acceptance? A side benefit for Mormons regarding the opening of marrage to other forms, is the real possibility that plural marrage could be made legal. New revelation?

  4. Ralph says:

    I know nothing about the author of this article and there was nothing on the paper’s website about him either. The first question I have is – is he LDS? I would assume that he is given that his article is being commented about on this blog. But if he isn’t then we can only fault his historical research, and possibly conclusion about the LDS church being the most persecuted religion in America. If he is LDS then we can fault him on his research, conclusion and knowledge of LDS history/attentiveness in classes at church – because some of what he got wrong is taught properly in the church. But all that he wrote is, like any other journalists’ writing, only his opinion.

    Falcon,

    Interesting comments, especially “The question is, will the Mormon church sucumb to the pressure as they have in the past in order to gain peace and acceptance?” We already know that some Christian churches have succumbed to pressure and are ordaining openly homosexual clergy (ie ones that are living in a commited homosexual relationship, not just ones that say they are homosexual but are celebate). If you do not remember which ones the main ones I know of are the American Church of England (the Aussie one is debating it right now with a definite division amongst the upper clergy), and the Methodists and Presbyterians in Australia under the banner of the Uniting Church. So before spouting off about what might happen in the LDS church look at what is happening in your own backyard.

    But given what has been taught about this subject and what is in the Bible and BoM, I sincerely doubt it would be allowed by the LDS church in any time at all.

  5. falcon says:

    Whoa Ralph…..spouting off…..you’re sounding a little defensive my Aussie friend. Doesn’t sound very loving, caring and compassionate to me. Christian religious organizations are not monolithic and are free to do whatever they want. I don’t recognize nor am I apart of any group that would allow marrage or ordination for homosexuals. The Mormon church, however, has a history of bowing to societal pressure and changing their doctrine and practices and calling it continuous revelation……which is a convenient Mormon escape hatch. Not only has the Utah Mormon church flipped on plural marrage and ordination of blacks into the priesthood, but they have changed the temple ceremonies and changed the introduction to the BoM when the light of truth was shown on them. So Ralph your old technique of finger pointing, jumping up and down and shouting “you did it too” doesn’t really speak to the Mormon historical practice of flipping on matters fundamental to Mormon doctrine. I would suggest you speak to the issue and not try to deflect the facts away from the topic.

  6. FactsNotOpinion says:

    I live in the Manteca area and read Wyatt’s articles daily. I don’t know if he is Mormon, but I can tell you he is a first-rate hack, who often shows little regard for the facts, and even less regard for writing a sentence that is understandable.

    Now I don’t care what his opinions are, but as a journalist (and for him I use that word lightly)he has a responsibility to get the facts correct, and I have written him several times regarding factual errors.

    I sent him an e-mail regarding errors of fact in this article. Specifically, he states “In clear violation of the U.S. constitutional law forbidding de facto laws.”

    Well, the Constitution doesn’t address “de facto” laws, it addresses “ex post facto” laws. Two very different things. As I wrote Wyatt, I don’t know the specifics regarding enforcement of the Edmund’s Act, but to prosecute an act that was once legal, but is now illegal is not un-Constitutional. It’s done all the time.

    What is un-Constitutional is to prosecute for an act committed while it was legal AFTER the act has become illegal.

  7. faithoffathers says:

    falcon,

    Careful when accusing the LDS of changing their standards to please the world. You make rash statements about revelations and situations you apparently know little about. I think the church has taken a clear leadership role in confronting politically incorrect issues. Prop 8 is just one. It was a leading voice in 2000 on Prop 22. The number of churches supporting traditional marriage dropped precipitously between 2000 and 2008 in California. The LDS church has also stood against the prevailing current on gambling, alcohol, and many other issues.

    How many churches have changed their policies regarding homosexuality, female ordination, adultery, even the divinity of Christ. As time goes on, fewer and fewer institutions and churches are remaining true to their principles. In time, I believe this will result in a flood of people joining the LDS church as they recognize the pillar of good that it is.

  8. Ralph says:

    Falcon,

    “Spouting off” to me means something like verbal diarrhoea, its non-offensive in my books. Sorry if you took offense.

    Polygamy was only for those who the prophet told to take another wife – it was not a free for all as some people thought it was and took advantage of it. So yes, when it comes down to the crunch if the prophet does not recieve anymore revelation about someone to take another wife then no one should and the practice should stop without having to have a revelation to stop it. But a revelation/instruction was given to stop it anyway, so its not a contradiction but continuous revelation.

    The blacks and the priesthood is a little more difficult to counter, but its my personal belief that it was continuing revelation.

    Faithoffathers,

    As far as I understand, Falcon and others on this site do not ‘belong’ to any one denomination, and most hold the idea one can shop around among the different denominations and find what suits your own belief as long as the denomination maintains the basic doctrine of the Trinity, Sola scriptura and Jesus’ grace is all we need to save us. So they can pick and choose what they want to support in the way of the early Christian fathers and other ideology like women ordination, fornication, etc. They just decide that if something is really different in another church’s doctrine, then it cannot be Christian, including those afore mentioned things. I asked the question of someone a few blogs back about if they thought hte Uniting Church of Australia was Christian now that they are accepting gay clergy – the person said ‘No’. This church is comprised of Methodists and Presbyterians, so now according to this person, these 2 denominations are not Christian even though before that decision, they were.

    The main thing is they do not have to accept what another denomination is doing or even what their own denomiation is doing in another region. It is inconsequential to them as they do not recognise its authority.

  9. falcon says:

    Well Ralph, you’re kind of right but at least you’re some where in the ballpark when it comes to Christianity. I don’t hold membership in any church nor do I identify with any denomination. I don’t know about the rest of the Christians who contribute here. When I came to faith in Christ as my personal Savior, I became apart of the Church Jesus founded. It’s called the mystical Body of Christ. It’s the fellowship of believers that hold to the basic tenants of the Christian faith as taught by the apostles in the first century and clearly articulated in God’s Word, the Bible. And yes, I believe that Jesus’ death on the Cross is sufficient for my salvation and that I can’t add anything to what He did in suffering and dying a horrible death on the Cross. To say that I could (add to Jesus’ finished work on the cross), would be presumptive on my part. Salvation is a gift that God extends to us. We don’t deserve it and we can’t earn it. This is a foreign concept to Mormons because they are in a totally different program developed and promoted by Joseph Smith. The individual Mormon’s attempt at justification by works is rooted in the belief that he will become a god like other men before him became gods. So we’re not even on the same page as far as religion goes. Within the context of the Mormon system, Mormons are right. Within the context of Christianity Mormons are wrong. Mormons and Christians don’t really have to go any further in their discussions then the doctrine of the nature of God. Mormons believe what Joseph Smith said was revealed to him about the nature of God. His “revelations” are 180 degrees out of phase with Christianity. So if Mormons want to follow Joseph Smith and his revelations, they will reap the consequences of that decision. Believe me, it’s not to godhood.

  10. germit says:

    Ralph:

    Maybe our picking and choosing seems arbitrary and wishy washy to you, but it brings up some interesting questions:
    1)those who continued to believe strongly in the BofM, but decided to reject Joseph Smith , were they no longer true Mormons ?? And what of Emma and the RLDS crowd who rejected Brigham as the true prophet, and rejected polygamy (40yrs too early, I guess), were they truly Mormon ?? I could easily add to this list, but you get my drift: we are BOTH making judgments and distinctions, whether those are frivolous or silly or God ordained is another matter, but “picking and choosing” seem to be rather unavoidable. Along that line, you’ve “picked and chosen” JS, much as others have chosen Mary Baker Eddy, Charles Taze Russell, Werner Erhardt, I could go on….. that’s YOUR choice: again, some form of picking and choosing is unavoidable, even the choice to say the whole religious thing is hooooeeeeey, a la Richard Dawkins.

    I’m tempted to find out from your research where I can fornicate with abandon and still be a christian…..but my wife of 12yrs this month might have a dissenting opinion on tht one(come to think of it, that would be adultery, not fornication….maybe there’s a sub-clause) ……and I had a blond all picked out. GERMIT

  11. falcon says:

    I’m guessing that our Mormon friends would ask “What’s the motivation for godly living for Christians who believe in salvation as a gift from God, extended by God’s grace and accepted by faith?” It’s pretty simple. The motivation for godly living is gratitude to God for what He has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible is pretty clear when it comes to salvation and a changed life. In fact Paul writes: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?…….our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin…..consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to god in Christ Jesus.”
    Now I wouldn’t expect Mormons to understand this because the concepts are foreign to the Mormon religion. The motivation for godly living in the Mormom system, is to rise to become a god. So Mormons can’t really argue with Christians regarding these plain and precious truths of scripture because Mormons don’t understand them. The nonbeliever really can’t understand these things because they are spiritually appraised. They sound like nonsense to the natural man. The Mormon system is driven, not by the Spirit of God but by the spirit of the antichrist. It’s no wonder that Mormons mock, ridicule and disparage the idea of salvation by grace and Christ’s shed blood covering our sins once and for all.
    For Mormons the payoff is ascending to their personal throne in the Celestial kingdom. So don’t argue with me about salvation as a gift of God because until you get seriously born again, you won’t understand it.

  12. Ralph says:

    Germit,

    I am well aware that there are member in my church that ‘pick and choose’ what they want to believe in in the framework of our doctrine. I knew of one person who did not believe that the prophets from Wilford Woodruff onwards were God’s prophets. He was still allowed to remain a member of the church as long as he did not teach his ideas as doctrine. Alas he did not stick to this advisement and was excommunicated. But I know of others that do believe differently and are able to stick to not teaching their ideology as doctrine and are still members.

    My point was that many of you see all of the different denominations, eg Pentacostal, Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodists, Presbyterian, Baptists, etc, as one ‘religion/church’ whereas we LDS are taught to delineate between them and see them all as separate religions/churches. This was the historic side of things, as these different denominations first started out as separate religions and those who did not belong to one were damned in the eyes of that one – eg in the eyes of the Catholics, if one was not Catholic they were damned. That is what we go on about when we say that they all can’t be correct. The other point is there are people like Falcon, who do not subscribe to any denomination but float free.

    The common ‘thread’ in all of these cases is that except for some of them, like Catholic and Anglican (and a few others), there is no higher authority. The only authority is the Bible and one’s self. We LDS on the other hand have a higher authority, that is God, through continual revelation through the prophet. Anyone outside of the fold, or who knowingly have a different opinion within the fold will not be exalted.

    Now we can argue the point that your authority is the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but that holds the same veracity as my last statement about continual revelation in our church. So you have picked and chosen not to believe in what I have picked and chosen.

  13. Michael P says:

    Hello all.

    A bit late to this discussion, but Ralph brings up an interesting point, but he fails to look at an alternative point of view. We can all be different religions, or we can accept those of different takes, or we can all be a part of God’s church under Jesus.

    That last one is really what the church is, and what folks like Falcon belong to. This is what we mean when we say the core beliefs are the same– that we are a part of the churh of Jesus. Within that church, there are some important doctrines we ought not stray from, like the unity of the Trinity, and our avenue to get to him– ie through belief in Christ. Of course there are others, but these are the big two, I think.

    Mormons like to focus on the differences and nit-pick. For instance, can we believe in different modes for baptism? Yes! We can even believe differently on the role of works in our lives. But Mormons like to take these differences and isolate them from Jesus. Jesus is the center of it all, and our defintion of who he is and our general shared obedience to him unites.

    But to Mormons, the basic fact that not all churches are united under one earthly umbrella means the unity is false. But this belief fails to understand that our power is not from man, but from God, and as such, you bet that God can unite us all under his banner whether or not we call ourselves Baptist or Methodist, or even Catholic.

  14. Michael P says:

    Oh, and Ralph, this comment is not accurate:

    “This was the historic side of things, as these different denominations first started out as separate religions…”

    No they didn’t. They all pretty much split from the Catholics in a manner similar to a complicated river/tributary system. The Mississippi/Missouri Rivers and all their other tributaries is a good example. They all started out as Catholic, then the Lutherans broke off, then Calvinists, and then groups broke off from those.

    They broke off for the same reasons that Mormon splinter groups have broken off– differences in opinion. Sure, there have been battles and hatred between the groups. But for the most part, and at least in westernized countries, they are past that. Remember, though, pride is a dangerous thing… And remember also, that Christ unites, and there have always been true Christ-followers in every conflict that did not get carried away and acted as true warriors for Him. Its easy to look at the bad, though, huh?

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