Benjamin G. Ferris

Utah and the Mormons

(NYC, Harper and Brothers 1854, 56)

  • Contents

  • Chap. 1-5

  • Chap. 6-10

  • Chap. 11-22

  • Appendix

  • Transcriber's Comments


                                  UTAH  AND  THE  MORMONS.                               81

    These appeals were all subsequently made without success; but, unfortunately for the prediction, the Lord does not seem to come forth from his "hiding-place;" and, although Missouri was to be overflowing with Saints before the "stakes for the curtains" were appointed, yet they have been compelled to appoint these "stakes" without returning to Independence at all. The truth is, these revelations in regard to the seat of Zion were a little too definite. The prophet, in due time, discovered that he led the Mormon deity into a mistake, and did all he could to explain the failure. It was difficult, however, in the face of such predictions, to change the venue, and the notion is therefore still prevalent among a portion of the Saints that they are to return in triumph to Missouri and drive out the Gentiles.




    Mormons quit Clay and remove into Caldwell County. -- Joseph's Journeys into Missouri. -- Sets up a Bank at Kirtland. -- Leaves Kirtland in the Night. -- Troubles in Missouri. -- "Danites." -- Joseph arrested, and Mormons agree to leave the State. -- Murder at Hawn's Mill. -- Mormons remove to Illinois. -- Evidence on the Trial of Joseph. -- His Imprisonment and Escape.

    THE Mormons went into Clay county as a temporary refuge from the popular storm then raging against them, and until they could return to Zion or obtain some other abiding-place. Under the encouraging predietione of the prophet, they confidently expected soon


    82                               UTAH  AND  THE  MORMONS.                              

    (under construction)


                                  UTAH  AND  THE  MORMONS.                               83

    (pages 83-under construction)

    (continued on part 3)


    Transcriber's Comments

    Benjamin Ferris was called to the governorship of Utah Territory in 1852 by President Millard Fillmore. Prior to his being given this responsibility, Ferris had been a lawyer and local notable in Ithaca, New York. It was there that he married Cornelia Woodcock on May 26 1830. Cornelia accompanied her husband to Utah and later wrote her own book recounting her experiences in the west. For more on Ferris see John H. Selkreg's 1894 Landmarks of Tompkins County, New York, expecially the section: "The Town of Ithaca."

    Ferris first published his account of travels and experiences in the west in 1854. Two years later he revised and expanded this text of Utah and the Mormons. The 1856 edition was the last one published of his book and Ferris soon after slipped into obscurity. He is last mentioned as having been in the Ithaca area in 1855. Perhaps he died soon after that.

    Ferris' account of early Mormonism is a pedestrian presentation typical of the times. Despite his having lived among the Mormons in Utah for several months, he was unable to solicit from them much in the way of original and unique historical material on the rise and progress of the sect. He adopts the Spalding-Rigdon explanation for the origin of the Book of Mormon, adding little to the "Spalding theory," except for his labeling Rigdon a "religious Ishmaelite" -- a term other writers picked up and applied as well descriptive of Rigdon's pre-Mormon years.

    The following is a brief notice of the first edition of the book, as published in the "Critical Notices" section of The Southern Quarterly Review for Oct 1854:

    Utah and the Mormons. By Benjamin G. Ferris.
    New York: Harper & Bro. 1854.

    Mr. Ferris is a good witness on the subject of the diabolical absurdities of Mormonism, having been secretary of the government of the Utah territory. His work, in plain style -- which is not always plain English -- gives us a summary history of this miserable and filthy superstition, the government of Mormonism, and the doctrines, customs and prospects of the Latter-Day-Saints -- a six months' personal residence among them having not effected the conversion of the author to the faith, while it has cuabled him to provide a very pretty scandalous chronicle for the benefit of outsiders, for their amusement or loathing, as they severally incline. We confess to a sufficient knowledge already of what the Mormons are, and really do not care for any increase of intelligence. To those who know nothing of them, this volume would be amply sufficient.

    A similar review appeared in the pages of the New Haven New Englander in Nov. 1854. The North American Review of July 1856 gave some column space to noticing both the books of Mr. Ferris and Mrs. Ferris:


    1. Utah and the Mormons. The History, Government, Doctrines,
    Oitstoms, and Prospects of the Latter-Day Saints. From Personal
    Observation during a Six Months Residence at Great Salt Lake City.
    By BENJAMIN G. FERRIS, late Secretary of Utah Territory. New
    York: Harper & Brothers. 1854. 24mo. pp. 347.
    2. The Mormons at Home; with some incidents of Travel from Missouri
    to CaiIfornia, 1852 53. In a Series of Letters. By MRS. B. G.
    FERRIS. New York: Dix & Edwards. 1856. 24mo. pp. 299.

    Mr. and Mrs. Ferris occupied a position in which they could not but see, if not all aspects, at least the most favorable aspects, of Mormon institutions, life, and character. They do not confine themselves to generalities, but record with entire freedom names and specific facts; and Mr. Ferris' book has been published long enough to have been proved unworthy of credence, if indeed it be so. We wish that these books could be circulated in a cheap form among the classes of persons most liable to be seduced by Mormon emissaries. They would not only preclude the proselytism of all who retained aught of virtue, self-respect, or decency; we doubt whether even the most vicious would consent to incur the consequences of legalized depravity, which, in penury and wretchedness for all except the few officials, are making a nearer approach than has been often witnessed to an adequate earthly retribution. We question whether there is a single male member of the Mormon community who is possessed of both common sense and common honesty. The leaders are bold, bad men, nursing a leash of vices at a time, and leaving it in doubt whether mendacity, avarice, licentiousness, or profaneness should be deemed the prominent characteristic. Their shrewdness is perhaps overrated; for when they act as missionaries, they have too large sea-room in the ocean of ignorance and falsehood to run the risk of collision with known truth, and when they get their victims into their pandemonium, it is an easy matter to prevent their escape, and to pillage, enslave, and debauch them. The rank and file are many of them no doubt actual dupes of the so-called religion, and find in licensed sensuality their only comfort under poverty, extortion, and oppression. There is probably a still larger amount of fanatical delusion among the women; hut they are miserable beyond description, some of them tortured by a surviving moral nature which makes them aware of the vileness in which they are unwilling accomplices, all of them involved in the interminable strife incident to polygamy. Mr. Ferriss book is a calm, methodical expose of the actual condition of society, drawn up with the precision of an official report, and sustained

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