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Tenderfoot Days

By George Robert Bird

Church, State and Camp

THE ecclesiastical is first in evidence in this modern city of the saints. This you would expect in view of its earlier history and because of its existence as a religious center.

"Where is the Beehive?" I ask in the innocence of my tenderfoot knowledge. You see I had been told by some joker that the principal church building was so called because it was always crowded like a hive, when the bees are busy honey making.

Certainly at the times of meeting, the Tabernacle, for so the Mormons called the central place of worship in their accustomed Old Testament phraseology, was like a hive of bees, for it fairly swarmed with people. In those days, and in that place their was no dearth of attendants and few empty seats. There was nothing original or spec-tacular to draw the crowd beyond the names of the celebrated Mormon leaders. Their services were, in themselves, rather plain and commonplace.

I found my way, guided by the stream of common looking people, to the entrance of the Tabernacle. It was no tent or temporary structure like those reared by special collections to house evangelists on revival occasions. This was a solidly built structure and, because of its peculiar shape, was called by the outsider "the Soup Tureen."

It did look like one on a very large scale, inverted so the bottom was the top with the cover removed. On stubby pillars, with low walls, a huge oblong dome covered a generous space, making an immense interior under one roof. It was perfect in its acoustics. You could almost hear a pin drop if silence prevailed.

An immense organ, erected at the end and lifted high up to near the roof, made the giant space resonant with musical sounds. A genius played it the day I was there. It throbbed and sobbed as though voicing the woes and throes through which these people had found their way to this mountain land of theirs.

A choir as large as an ordinary church audience sang well during the occasions for song. The audience itself was worthy of the place and filled all its twelve thousand seats with a mixed multitude of men, women, and children. The last were decidedly visible and sometimes audible. There was no church finery in dress but, in place of the usual "go-to-meeting" garments, was the evident interest on the faces of almost every one present. There was just one phrase of scripture that came into my mind unsolicited as I looked at the long lines of faces directed one way.

"All these have come out of great tribulation." Whatever their faith and its faults they had suffered for it, and having paid in tears a goodly price for what they had obtained, they seemed by their earnest gaze at the leaders who spoke to them to prize it seriously.

The speaking was by many and from unique Pulpits. Below the organ and choir, a large space was given over to tiers of seats in a wide semicircular form. These were occupied by the Seventy and the Apostles of the church.

This was no one-man pulpit. Furthermore each of these tiers of seats had its pulpit in the exact center of the tier; so from above down there were these pulpit-tribunes in line with each other and facing the center aisle of the Tabernacle.

The lower tier and pulpit was for the Apostles and the President or Revelator of the church. In this case it was Brigham Young. I heard several speak from these tribunes of different tiers. This speaking was interspersed with choir and congregational singing. That of the choir was excellent in voice and execution. That of the people was vociferous but commonplace. The speaking was of the same order as the sinking, and was full of platitudes and rehearsals of the sufferings of these people at the hands of the outsider. There was, of course, some ground for what they said and the speakers made the most of it to a very sympathetic audience.

But I came to see and hear Brigham Young, whose name to me was synonymous with Mor-monism. My wish was gratified, for this leader was present. He was a big man in head, face and frame. Full-bearded like most Mormon elders, he poised well as a leader, and looked at ease as he sat in the lower tier with the Apostles. He rose to speak at last and stepped into the pulpit-tribune of the apostolic tier, and his voice and diction were that of a master of assemblies.

A fine presence and forceful speech riveted the attention of all, but the subject matter was a disappointment. Nothing out of the ordinary was uttered. He upbraided "his saints" like a Jeremiah or an Isaiah of the Jews, and yet he did not fail occasionally to insert a modicum of praise.

"You are not too good! Not as good as you ought to be! But you are better than the best that these Gentiles can produce!" Again and again he would say, "Copy not their ways, neither speak their words; their oaths and foulness. Follow my advice and live your religion."

It struck me on hearing all this parade of speech, in these long services, that the whole of Mormon church worship was a matter of "too much speaking." It was speech gone to seed. The flower, perfume and color, was fled as a summertime past, and the husks of the harvest were only left. I had seen the very opposite of this in religious conventions, where speech was forgotten in intonations, invocations and reverberations of ceremonial pomp. So goes the pendulum or religious custom, from one extreme to another. They observed a very democratic communion service. Bread and water; for here the wine was turned to water. All were given these emblems of communion. Even the little children and babes drank out of the glasses, which were filled constantly from white stone pitchers, passed along by a band of ushers. We, too, who were "outsiders" and Gentiles were generously included in this religious repast. Of course the bread was but a morsel and the water but a swallow, but there was no "fencing of tables," after the manner of those old Covenanters, who fought for their faith in troubled Scotland.

With the final anthem and last words, the great audience swarmed out of this hive of humanity, like the bees after flowers. We went out after fresh air and relief. For I heard many a sound, like a sigh of satisfaction, when the service was over and outdoors was a possibility. The streets adjacent were like city sidewalks during showtime, as this great crowd went homeward.

I saw another side of this city's life the next day. I was introduced by Dr. Welch to Governor Emery, who represented the Powers that Be at Washington, D. C., and not the powers that were in Mormondom. He and Judge Beatty were together and I heard some words, in course of a brief interview, which showed that the Federal authorities were non-sympathetic, if not antagonistic, to the majority of the people of this country. Of course they were appointees of the president and depended not on this locality for their positions. They evidently were like the Missourians of a previous generation, as they were in need of "being shown" whether any good thing could come out of such a thing as a modern Zion. They discounted the over-zeal of the Latter Day Saints, and doubted their loyalty to the Union; more especially as most Mormons voted the democratic ticket, a ticket which to all good republicans of those reconstruction days, was almost the same as sympathy with secession.

The bitterness of the Civil War was yet voiced in the talk of most of these civil servants, who could not forget the late strife.

Utah had its Mormon legion which made Brigham Young and the Hierarchy of the church independent of, if not opposed to, the Union. I found, and did not wonder much at it, that the representatives of the Federal Government all felt as though they were living in hostile territory.

I heard Governor Emery speak at a meeting to promote higher education in the Territory. This was at the opening of a collegiate institution in Salt Lake City. What he said was well said, and so it ought to have been since he was a very long time in saying a very little. He spoke with a deliberation that was almost painful to one's patience, and with a caution that outdid any Scot I ever heard speak on a crisis: but he spoke with decision and most earnestly to the effect that a new order of intellectual teaching must be pushed in the Territory if it was to advance and be worthy of the future times. He said the war of swords was over but the war of words had yet to be fought and settled, before true republican freedom could dominate the offices of the Territory. He did not wave a bloody-shirt, as some of the political men of that day were wont to do, but he did point several times to the evidence of Uncle Sam's presence in the camp at Fort Douglas.

That speech led me to make a visit to the Fort on the next day, where the regiment of blue soldiers were stationed.

Down in the city I found a guardhouse and a sentry stationed there, who paced back and forth with rifle and fixed bayonet. He was a mere boy in the sky-blue uniform and forage cap of the days of the sixties. This guardhouse held a half dozen men in telegraphic communication with the Fort on the bench land, overlooking the city to the north. This guardhouse was well down in the city on First South Street, and in full view of the Amelia palace-Brigham Young's principal home -the Tithing House of Zion Co-operative Mercantile Institution, and the Tabernacle.

There is no need to describe Camp Douglas; it was just like any ordinary military headquarters to be found in the West during this period. Parked artillery with frowning guns were pointed Zionward. There were such guns as they then had, but mere pop-guns in comparison with the modern scientific weapons of the twentieth century. Yet these guns over-awed Zion and were meant to do so.

Seditious speech had been common on the streets of this mountain city a few years previous, when the people were restless under the newfelt pressure of the Federal and victorious Republic. Utah had come in line with Texas, California, Arizona and such outlying regions, which were so hard to reach because remote from the seat of government. Moreover many hostile Indians roamed between the middle settled West and the plains and mountains neighboring to Salt Lake City. In the days when the Mormons had their own militia it was not an uncommon remark, in everyday talk, to hear such words as these:

"We can whip these U-nited States if they git too interferin'."

So I was not surprised, when I chatted with the boys in blue, to hear one of them say, as he patted the black muzzle of a big gun:

"Say, Doc, these little fellers are trained onto that old soup-tureen, you visited the other day." Said another:

"Gosh! wot a hole for the daylight we could let into its roof."

It never so happened that such extremities were necessary, but there were times when feeling and faction ran very high. When a spark might have led to a blaze, which would have started a small internal war, much worse and more bloody than any Indian raid.



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