The Reed Smoot hearings, also called Smoot hearings or the Smoot Case, were a series of Congressional hearings on whether the United States Senate should seat U.S. Senator Reed Smoot, who was elected by the Utah legislature in 1903.Smoot was an apostle in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), one of the top 15 leaders of the church. The hearings began in 1904 and continued until 1907, when the Senate voted. The vote fell short of a two-thirds majority needed to expel a member so he retained his seat.
Popular opposition against Smoot's seating in the Senate centered on the church's practice of polygamy, which the church officially abandoned in 1890; as the hearings revealed, however, the practice continued unofficially well into the 20th century. For example, the President of the LDS Church Joseph F. Smith cohabited with his many wives (all of whom he married before 1890) and fathered eleven children after 1890. New plural marriages did end by 1909, but the practice continued until the polygamists died off. Smoot himself only had one wife.
The attorney who represented those protesting Smoot's admittance to the Senate, Robert W. Tayler, explained in his summation that polygamy was irrelevant and the real danger was Mormon belief in revelation. Much of the American Protestant establishment viewed the LDS Church with distrust and was also skeptical of Utah politics, which before gaining statehood in 1896 had at times been a theocracy (theodemocracy) and in the early 20th century was still heavily dominated and influenced by the LDS Church; President of the LDS Church Brigham Young was twice appointed territorial governor by the U.S. President and ratified by the Senate, despite being a polygamist.
Prior to being called as an apostle of the LDS Church, Smoot had run for a Senate position, but withdrew before the election. After becoming an apostle in 1900, he received the approval of church president Joseph F. Smith to run again in 1902 as a Republican. The need for this permission was a result of the LDS Church's "Political Manifesto" issued in October 1895, which instituted a policy which required general authorities of the church to be granted approval from the First Presidency to run for political office.In January 1903, the Utah legislature elected Smoot with 46 votes, compared to his Democratic competitor, who won 16.
Within days of his election, controversy brewed as Smoot was charged with being "one of a self-perpetuating body of fifteen men who, constituting the ruling authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or 'Mormon' Church, claim, and by their followers are accorded the right to claim, supreme authority, divinely sanctioned, to shape the belief and control the conduct of those under them in all matters whatsoever, civil and religious, temporal and spiritual."
When Senator Smoot arrived in Washington, DC, in late February 1903, he was met with protests and charges that he was a polygamist, but he could easily disprove them. Unlike B. H. Roberts, who upon election to the House of Representatives was not allowed to sit while hearings took place, Smoot was allowed to be seated. Among the public, old charges of Danites, the Mountain Meadows massacre, and Brigham Young's plural wives were discussed.
In January 1904, Smoot prepared a rebuttal to the criticisms, with the help of several non-Mormon lawyers. The actual hearings began in March. LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith took the witness stand and was interrogated for three days. Apostles Matthias F. Cowley and John W. Taylor did not show up after being subpoenaed. Apostle Marriner W. Merrill ignored one subpoena and died soon after being subpoenaed a second time.Taylor fled to Canada. Other witnesses included James E. Talmage; Francis M. Lyman, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Andrew Jenson, church historian; B. H. Roberts; and Moses Thatcher, who had been dropped from the Quorum of the Twelve in 1896.
According to historian Kathleen Flake:
The four-year Senate proceeding created a 3,500-page record of testimony by 100 witnesses on every peculiarity of Mormonism, especially its polygamous family structure, ritual worship practices, "secret oaths," open canon, economic communalism, and theocratic politics. The public participated actively in the proceedings. In the Capitol, spectators lined the halls, waiting for limited seats in the committee room, and filled the galleries to hear floor debates. For those who could not see for themselves, journalists and cartoonists depicted each day's admission and outrage. At the height of the hearing, some senators were receiving a thousand letters a day from angry constituents. What remains of these public petitions fills 11 feet of shelf space, the largest such collection in the National Archives.
After years of hearings, the remaining charges of the opposition included the following:
The defense included:
Of note, Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho fought viciously against Smoot. His intensity caused some to believe that Smoot was as powerful as Dubois claimed. Dubois's ally, Senator Julius C. Burrows of Michigan, made the following statement, speaking of the history of Mormon polygamy:
In order to induce his followers more readily to accept this infamous doctrine, Brigham Young himself invoked the name of Joseph Smith, the Martyr, whom many sincerely believed to be a true prophet, and ascribed to him the reception of a revelation from the Almighty in 1843, commanding the Saints to take unto themselves a multiplicity of wives, limited in number only by the measures of their desires.... Such the mythical story palmed off on a deluded people.
One supporter was Senator Boies Penrose of Pennsylvania. Addressing the subject of polygamy, Penrose reportedly glared at one or more of his Senate colleagues who had a reputation for philandering and said, "As for me, I would rather have seated beside me in this chamber a polygamist who doesn't polyg than a monogamist who doesn't monag."
On February 20, 1907, the issue came to a conclusion as a vote was held in the Senate. Smoot won and remained a senator for 26 more years.
|Mormonism and polygamy|
Portrait of Ira Eldredge with his three wives: Nancy Black Eldredge, Hannah Mariah Savage Eldredge, and Helvig Marie Andersen Eldredge.
President Joseph F. Smith on April 6, 1904, issued a "Second Manifesto," which reaffirmed the first regarding polygamy. He also declared that any church officer who performed a plural marriage, as well as the offending couple, would be excommunicated. He clarified that the policy applied worldwide, not just in North America. Two members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley, resigned in October 1905 after the manifesto. The change to the Twelve was made public in April 1906, when George F. Richards, Orson F. Whitney, and David O. McKay were added to the quorum.
The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is typically divided into three broad time periods:
Polygamy was practiced by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for more than half of the 19th century, and practiced publicly from 1852 to 1890 by between 20 and 30 percent of Latter-day Saint families. Note that there are various denominations that are considered Mormons and they have different beliefs and practices.
Reed Smoot was a businessman and apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was elected by the Utah state legislature to the United States Senate in 1902; he served as a Republican senator from 1903 to 1933. From his time in the Senate, Smoot is primarily remembered as the co-sponsor of the 1930 Smoot–Hawley Tariff Act, which increased almost 900 American import duties. Thomas Lamont, a partner at J.P. Morgan at the time said, "That Act intensified nationalism all over the world". The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act is widely regarded as one of the catalysts for the Great Depression.
Mormon fundamentalism is a belief in the validity of selected fundamental aspects of Mormonism as taught and practiced in the nineteenth century, particularly during the administrations of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the first two presidents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon fundamentalists seek to uphold tenets and practices no longer held by mainstream Mormons. The principle most often associated with Mormon fundamentalism is plural marriage, a form of polygyny first taught in the Latter Day Saint movement by the movement's founder, Smith. A second and closely associated principle is that of the United Order, a form of egalitarian communalism. Mormon fundamentalists believe that these and other principles were wrongly abandoned or changed by the LDS Church in its efforts to become reconciled with mainstream American society. Today, the LDS Church excommunicates any of its members who practice plural marriage or who otherwise closely associate themselves with Mormon fundamentalist practices.
John Whitaker Taylor was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was the son of John Taylor, the third president of the church. While he was an apostle, Taylor was excommunicated from the LDS Church for opposing the church's abandonment of plural marriage. He was subsequently posthumously re-baptized in 1965.
The 1890 Manifesto is a statement which officially advised against any future plural marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Issued by church president Wilford Woodruff in September 1890, the Manifesto was a response to mounting anti-polygamy pressure from the United States Congress, which by 1890 had disincorporated the church, escheated its assets to the U.S. federal government, and imprisoned many prominent polygamist Mormons. Upon its issuance, the LDS Church in conference accepted Woodruff's Manifesto as "authoritative and binding."
Marriner Wood Merrill was a pioneering settler of Cache Valley and a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
John Rex Winder was a leader and general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric from 1887 to 1901, and First Counselor in the First Presidency to church president Joseph F. Smith from 1901 until his death. He was well known for his business abilities, and influenced Heber J. Grant. He was also active in politics and the militia, participating in the Utah War and the Black Hawk War (Utah). When the church came under heavy government pressure for its practice of plural marriage, Winder held the church's assets to keep them from being seized by the federal government. He was a polygamist and had four wives and 20 children.
The Mormon colonies in Mexico are settlements located near the Sierra Madre mountains in northern Mexico which were established by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints beginning in 1885. The colonists came to Mexico due to federal attempts to curb and prosecute polygamy in the United States. Plural marriage, as polygamous relationships were called by church members, was an important tenet of the church—although it was never practiced by a majority of the membership.
The Poland Act of 1874 was an act of the United States Congress which sought to facilitate prosecutions under the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act by eliminating the control members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exerted over the justice system of Utah Territory. Sponsored by Senator Luke P. Poland of Vermont, the Act redefined the jurisdiction of Utah courts by giving the United States district courts exclusive jurisdiction in Utah Territory over all civil and criminal cases. The Act also eliminated the territorial marshal and attorney, giving their duties to a U.S. Marshal and a U.S. Attorney. The Act also altered petit and grand jury empaneling rules to keep polygamists off juries. By removing Latter-day Saints from positions of authority in the Utah justice system, the Act was intended to allow for successful prosecutions of Mormon polygamists.
The Edmunds Act, also known as the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882, is a United States federal statute, signed into law on March 23, 1882 by president Chester A. Arthur, declaring polygamy a felony in federal territories. The act is named for U.S. Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont. The Edmunds Act also prohibited "bigamous" or "unlawful cohabitation", thus removing the need to prove that actual marriages had occurred. The act not only reinforced the 1862 Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act but it also made the offense of unlawful cohabitation much easier to prove than polygamy misdemeanor and made it illegal for polygamists or cohabitants to vote, hold public office, or serve on juries in federal territories.
In Mormonism, the oath of vengeance was part of the endowment ritual of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Participants swore an oath to pray for God to avenge the blood of prophets Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith, who were assassinated in 1844. The oath was part of the ceremony from about 1845 until the early 1930s.
The "Second Manifesto" was a 1904 declaration made by Joseph F. Smith, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in which Smith stated the church was no longer sanctioning marriages that violated the laws of the land and set down the principle that those entering into or solemnizing polygamous marriages would be excommunicated from the church.
Polygamy is the practice of having more than one spouse. Polygyny is the specific practice of one man taking more than one wife: it is a common marriage pattern in some parts of the world. In North America polygamy has not been a culturally normative or legally recognized institution since the continent's colonization by Europeans.
Possibly as early as the 1830s, followers of the Latter Day Saint movement, were practicing the doctrine of polygamy or "plural marriage". After the death of church founder Joseph Smith, the doctrine was officially announced in Utah by Mormon leader Brigham Young in 1852, attributed posthumously to Smith, and the practice of polygamy began among Mormons at large, principally in Utah where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had relocated after the Illinois Mormon War.
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, privately taught and practiced polygamy. After Smith's death in 1844, the church he established splintered into several competing groups. Disagreement over Smith's doctrine of "plural marriage" has been among the primary reasons for multiple church schisms.
The American Party was a political party in Utah from 1904 to 1911. It was designed to counter the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah politics.
Ezra Thompson was the 12th and 14th mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, who was elected three times and served two non-consecutive terms. He was mayor in 1900–03 and 1906–07.
Early in its history, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had a series of negative encounters with the United States federal government. This led to decades of mistrust, armed conflict, and the eventual disincorporation of the church by an act of the United States Congress. The relationship between the church and the government eventually improved and in recent times LDS Church members have served in leadership positions in Congress and held other important political offices. The LDS Church becomes involved in political matters if it perceives that there is a moral issue at stake and wields considerable influence on a national level with over a dozen members of Congress having membership in the church in the early 2000s, and about 80% of Utah state lawmakers identifying as Latter-day Saints.