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Tenderfoot Days

By George Robert Bird

A Latter Day View of a Latter Day State

I REMEMBER that it was the great fear of the Gentile and liberal element in the Territory, that if the United States Congress gave statehood to the people, a return to the old order of religious and political tyranny would begin. That in due time the newer element would be driven out by the usual political methods, or a terrorism reign, like that in the Southern States over the colored voter.

Statehood came in due course, but none of the fears of the Liberals were realized. The people seemed to have caught the free spirit of a free country and realized that they were a part of a great and growing republic. They immediately divided on all political questions into the two great party organizations, the Republican and the Democratic. Their religious affiliations did not override their party affiliations, as a general rule, and the great bugaboo of the alarmists was gone like a nightmare dream. Utah had come to its own consciousness of popular life, and had decided that everything should go along on normal and popular lines. The worth of commercial and religious interests should be decided, solely, by the merits of the interests involved, and the preferences of a free people.

Thus many found their fears to be no more real than worries. The reformers found reform was still alive, and vital enough to make for better things. The reactionaries found past bitternesses were hardly at home in the bosoms of a newer generation.

Some abnormal conditions, like polygamy, died slowly, since the welfare and rights of wives and children could not be ruthlessly disregarded. Time is always softer hearted, in human history, than the extremist and reformer. So we note how time allowed a revelation to come, through the proper way, and it was announced that it was no longer an "order of Heaven" to live one's religion in the bonds of polygamous marriage. It gradually declined, but of course, being a social condition, its actual cessation took some time. It is about dead, at this writing, save in a few isolated cases, contra leges, and this is found in every well conducted country. There are always law breakers of some sort, but the law always prevails until war or revolution breaks the peace.

No such effort was made to fight for polygamy as was made for slavery for the simple reason that no money value was at stake in the former "twin relic of barbarism," while it was very prominent in the latter. A man's "niggers" brought him in money while a man's wives cost him a great deal of money. So the Mohammedan tinge to the Territory died out when statehood was fully established. Those who had invested in polygamy and were deeply involved as to character and social standing through its practice, fought even to the floor of the United States Senate for its existence and "their right." Nothing harsh was done to the offenders for the reason that this condition was due to previous religious convictions and teaching; but it was very soon evident that Utah, like other states, must be monogamous in its domestic life in harmony with the custom of the country.

Some foolish people who persisted, as they will in anything religious that conflicts with the State, in the practice of polygamy, found themselves under arrest and in prison where they posed as martyrs of religious persecution. Some people pitied them, but the majority laughed at them since this was at the close of the Nineteenth Century, and was not in the Middle Ages.

Thus the years, and the "Age-Patience," which with the "Time-Spirit" does wonderful things for us, shelved this heated question, and it faded away like the light of a day that is dead. The mixed multitude was the agent of the change. The fanatical cannot last long where isolation ends, and contact with the world begins. Here is the reason for the call of the zealot, "Come out of her, my people!" whether that call be voiced by a Hebrew of the Hebrews, like Isaiah, or a Christian like Athanasius, who gloried in standing "contra mun-dum," or an ecclesiast like Torquemada, opponent of all heretics, or a Brigham Young against a modern world. Religion, if it is to live, must live right up against the world in which it lives, and mellow it with good living. It will surely die if it hides itself in monastic cloisters, beneath a nun's garments, or rejects the law of the monogamous life, the while men and women are being born in just equal numbers all over the habitable world.

Now view this state as a place to live in. It is a goodly land since its soil is of the richest. I used fairly to ache, when my horse's feet turned up the finest garden ground, growing only sage brush, on the mesa or bench-land about the base of the mountain ranges. I am an agriculturist in my tastes, and it seemed such a waste for all this soil to produce no more than coarse brush Of course, the rainfall was too meagre for "dry-farming, as they then thought. It can be done, and is being done, in these days of the more scientific culture of the soil. The snow-water of the great ranges is ample for the cultivation of every foot of good ground, if conserved in reservoirs, until the heated season calls for its use. Here is where capital and science can double Utah's acreage.

Then think of the climate of this land. There is just enough winter to put "glame into the atmosphere. Bright days and a generous sunlight paint everything richly vivid. The oxygen of the hills makes the eyes sparkle, the blood to flush the cheeks redly, and gives the hands the grip which full labor requires. The very gram grown feels this climatic impulse, and the flour of Utah wheat has a golden tint, shown in the bread-loaf, and tasted in its good flavor. The fruits too notably the peaches and apples, have a taste out-rivaling such products in California. More than soil and climate and the fruits of their union are visible in Utah's future. Uncle Sam has a pocket-book in its mountain ranges. A clasp holds the contents very tightly: gravity has its strong hand on these treasures. Still Industry, Understanding, Patience, Skill, and Capital, are the five fingers of another hand which can unclasp this hold of gravity on these hills, and allow the wealth to pour out, in such rich recoveries of ore as have made Bingham and Big Cottonwood Canyons famous. There is enough in Utah to keep generations busy with the soil and water and with the pocketed ores of the hills. Such industry will make comfortable, and therefore happy, myriads of homes to be established in this state.

So wide a physical outlook should have a counterpart in a metaphysical one. The mind of the people, in this age of free mentality, should also expand to consider and solve great questions of intellectual, philosophical, social and religious importance. All these realms of mind are necessary to make a population worthy of the land which they inhabit, and out of whose generous bosom they draw their physical life.

Yet what is physical life worth, if it does not give the opportunity to climb higher to those metaphysical realities which lie back of, and are the cause of, these physical appearances. We say that we see, we touch, we taste, and so these things, sensible to us, are real. But we know that these things change and decay. All this phenomenal existence, with its display of beauty, power and production, is for the use of the minds which are superior to these phases of matter.

Utah, rich in material wealth to come should also produce a richer metaphysical wealth m the mental and moral intelligence of the people and that acquisition will entitle them to be called, of a truth, the Saints of the Latter Days.



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