Friday, November 20, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Keeping the Saints Informed: John Morgan and the Southern States Mission

While he served as President of the Southern States Mission, John Morgan or his missionaries sent regular letters to the Deseret News keeping the Saints in Utah Territory up to date about the missionaries and converts. Here is a letter I saw today while looking for something else.

The letter is written from Covington, Indiana, December 1879. Morgan describes the immigration of the Southern converts to Manassa, Colorado, both a company that left in November and one scheduled to leave in March. Negotiating with the railroads was an important part of his mission, and he mentions a detail or two about that. He mentions specific missionaries and encourages those missionaries called at Conference to show up: " would lighten the burden on the rest of us materially, and be the means of doing much good; thousands and thousands of people in this mission have never met an Elder and are in absolute ignorance of what we teach."

He tells about a visit to St. Louis, and, "Passing through Illinois, I called to see my parents, whom I had not met with for four years; a church house was opened for me and I was invited to preach, which I did to a crowded house who paid close attention." He met Elder George Nebeker in Covington, and was planning to head immediately to Kentucky.
Asking an interest in the faith and prayers of Israel, that our missionary labors may be crowned with success, I remain your brother in the Gospel of Christ,
John Morgan.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Maria Tanner Lyman, Plural Marriage, and the Godbeites

I am slowly starting to build a case that the Tanner family disliked plural marriage and, with the possible exception of Nathan, only practiced it later and with great reluctance, and then largely as a social safety net for needy women. Here is one more data point.

In 1872 more than 400 Utah women sent a petition to Congress requesting that the Territory not be admitted as a state as long as the Church was still practicing plural marriage. The petition was created and circulated by the spiritualist Godbeites, who were seeking to wrest political and economic power from Brigham Young. 

In the case of a similar petition the Church claimed that its signers did not know the exact contents of the petition, but it is probably impossible to tell if it was the case with the women listed in this petition. There were a number of acute stresses in the Territory in the early 1870s, and many families would have been struggling.

Here are three excerpts from the petition; the first from the cover letter, the second from the actual petition; the third from the list of names.

The language is very strong, but Louisa Maria Tanner Lyman had suffered greatly as the first of many wives of the polygamist and probably mentally ill Amasa M. Lyman. By this point he had been ousted from the Quorum of the Twelve and excommunicated. Is it possible that he put her name on the petition without her consent? It's probably impossible to say.

(In case anyone questions the identification, although she went by the name "Maria," she usually went by the name Louisa M Lyman in government documents, and there were no other women of the same name in the Territory.)

Additional Reading

Edward Leo Lyman, Amasa Mason Lyman: Mormon Apostle and Apostate, A Study in Dedication, 2009.
Ronald Walker, Wayward Saints: The Godbeites and Brigham Young, 1998.