John Taylor Vindicated

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“When this infamous law was passed, I saw that there were features in that which were contrary to law, violative of the Constitution, contrary to justice and the rights and the freedom of men.”
( Source: Journal of Discourses 26:153 )

“Concerning the course taken by the United States, they have a right to reject this law [law of Celestial Marriage] themselves, as they have a right to reject the Gospel; but it is contrary to the provisions of the constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, for them to prohibit you from obeying it.

Therefore, abide in my law which I have revealed unto you, saith the Lord God, and contend for your rights by every legal and constitutional method and in accordance with the institutions, laws, and Constitution of the United States.”
( Source: John Taylor Papers 2:243 )

“Completely enveloping it [the question of polygamy], has been the design to destroy our rights as citizens, to take away from us our liberties under the Constitution and the laws, and to obtain the political control of our country.”
Just as John Taylor pointed out over a hundred years ago, the laws targeting the LDS people were always unconstitutional. Finally a federal court has vindicated him by declaring these laws a violation of the free exercise clause of the Constitution.  It has been a long time coming but all LDS people should be grateful to see the Lord’s prophets vindicated. It should not matter if you are for or against polygamy today, the prophet has been proven correct, and that is what matters.
          The Life of President John Taylor, third President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was most particularly marked by his refusal to compromise with wickedness and the world. In his own words, he refused – absolutely – “to barter away an eternal principle in order to gain the friendship of the government.” He realized, as only one who is directed by the Holy Ghost can realize, that . . . “friendship with the world is enmity with God.”  He was not going to sever his connection and communion with his maker for the unstable and unhallowed love of the world.
Background and History

            In 1886 John Taylor was in hiding, travelling from place to place among the homes of a few trusted Saints in order to escape capture. There was a price on his head, and the church was in chaos. It was difficult for him to administer to the church under these circumstances, but he was better able to do so in hiding than he would be able to if he was imprisoned by the enemies of the Church. President Taylor knew that the attack being made on the church in the 1880s was directed against our marriage relations only because that was the enemy’s best means of attack against God and his kingdom on the earth. If the Celestial Marriage Covenant had not been revealed to the saints, then Satan would have found some other ordinance, or covenant, or system of practice, which he would have made appear heinous to the world and obnoxious to their sense of values. However God had revealed this sacred law and Lucifer and his cohorts had seized upon it as the point of greatest weakness in the armor of the Latter-Day Saints, and it was their intention to use every feint and wile to so vilify and degrade this holy principle in the eyes of the world that the saints would feel justified in yielding its practice in order to obtain peace.

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George Q. Cannon stated:

“There is nothing short of complete apostasy, a complete denial of every principle we have received, a throwing away of the holy priesthood, that can save us from persecution. When this takes place, when all the chief features of the gospel are obliterated, when we can float along with the stream and do as the world does, then and not till then will persecution cease, or until the adversary is bound.”[1]

Satan was not particularly interested in obliterating the practice of plural marriage as such, nor was it the chief design of his henchmen. Their purpose was to get the saints to apostatize – to deny one of the eternal principles of the gospel that had been revealed to them in this last dispensation of time, in which God has said, through his prophets, that the gospel should never be taken from the earth again, nor given to another people.[2] If the saints could be made to agree to forfeit this holy law, then they would forfeit their integrity and become like the rest of the world, having made an “agreement with Hell and a covenant with Death.”[3] The prince of darkness knew that his fight was to overthrow God’s priesthood, but the saints became unaware and unmindful of this apparent truth as the pressure increased. During the administration of President Taylor there were ever increasing numbers among the harassed members of the Church who were growing ever more willing to make a deal with the devil.

In relation to the principle of celestial (plural) marriage God has said:

“In the Celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood, meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. He may enter into the other but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.”[4]

God revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith, in relation to God’s servants having many wives, that he must:

“Prepare your heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.

For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory. For all who will have a blessing at my hands shall abide the law which was appointed for that blessing, and the conditions thereof, as were instituted from before the foundation of the world.

And as pertaining to the new and everlasting covenant, it was instituted for the fulness of my glory; and he that receiveth a fulness thereof must and shall abide the law, or he shall be damned, saith the Lord God.”[5]

God’s word was given to the prophet Joseph Smith in great plainness. All the early leaders of the church again and again emphasized the necessity of this sacred covenant. If we are to enter into God’s glory, and if the Church and Kingdom of God are to advance as God wishes for it to advance, it is necessary for us to honor the New and Everlasting Covenant.

When God told his servants that if they desired to enter into his presence and enjoy the fullness of his glory they must abide this law in all its fullness, He knew what he was revealing and the afflictions and persecutions that would come if his people were obedient. Nevertheless He is justified in expecting his people to be faithful. He has promised us that if we will be faithful to his commandments that He will fight our battles. God revealed to the church that:

“All they who suffer persecution for my name, and endure in faith, though they are called to lay down their lives for my sake yet shall they partake of all this glory. Wherefore, fear not even unto death; for in this world your joy is not full, but in me your joy is full. Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul. And seek the face of the Lord always, that in patience ye may possess your souls, and ye shall have eternal life.

When men are called unto mine everlasting gospel, and covenant with an everlasting covenant, they are accounted as the salt of the earth and the savor of men; They are called to be the savor of men; therefore, if that salt of the earth lose its savor, behold, it is thenceforth good for nothing only to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.[6]

The scriptures are replete with evidence that in the last days the gospel was to be restored in its fullness never to be taken from the earth again! Now, if the Devil could succeed in getting the saints to lay aside even one single principle that God had restored it would make God a liar and the Devil would be triumphant. This was the purpose of the Devil and his servants in the flesh: to get the church to forfeit an eternal principle, any principle, and thus apostatize. For if any principle is abandoned or rejected the gospel is by definition no longer “full” as something would then be missing. God is NOT a liar, and the fullness of the Gospel remains on the earth in spite of the rejection of certain principles by the church as a matter of modern church policy.

Now if God had a revelation or commandment that could be surrendered under the political pressures and persecutions of the world, it appears that the time to have done so would have been in Joseph Smith’s day, at the inception of the church. If any of God’s commandments could ever be disregarded, or if the Saints were in serious error about what the commandments required, then the time to have corrected this would have come as soon as the prophet Joseph Smith enquired of the Lord on the subject, and have been reaffirmed by the prophets who came after him. This way we might have avoided all the persecution that belief in those principles entailed. If the surrender of this principle, to gain peace with the world, could be made without reaping damning eternal consequences, then why didn’t the Lord make known his will to that end when the commandment was given? That the Lord had no such intention of ever disannulling his commandments is evidenced throughout the scriptures. Whenever the surrender of His holy commandments is contemplated by His people, God commands them to repent or be cut off and suffer his wrath. Further, that the Lord had no such intention to abandon the principle of Celestial Marriage was made clear by the Lord himself and all his servants.

President Heber C. Kimball stated:

“Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine [referring to Celestial Plural Marriage], AND THE WHOLE OF THEM WILL BE DAMNED!”[7]

In President John Taylor’s day the time had come when the warfare against God’s priesthood had reached its climax. The law of celestial marriage was being opposed from within the church as well as from without. All of the forces of the government, popular opinion and all the churches, mobs, traitors, apostates and hell itself, were combined into one supreme coordinated effort to overthrow God’s kingdom, to get God’s servants to apostatize and deny the fullness of the Gospel. They knew that if they were successful in getting them to turn from even one principle, then they could get them to turn from others until the priesthood itself would be forfeited and God’s purposes in the dispensation of the Fullness of Times would be overthrown. Under such circumstances the Devil’s Kingdom would be able to hold the world in chains. Of such times as ours it was prophesied of old:

” Satan… had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced.”[8]

In such times men may have a form of Godliness but they deny the power thereof.[9] Many of the members and even the leaders of the Church became fearful that they would lose everything, and be exiles again, such as had happened to the church before. Already the properties of the church had been taken by the Edmunds-Tucker Act, and the church un-incorporated. John Taylor, his counselors, and the quorum of the twelve were all in prison or hiding, along with hundreds more of the members of the church. Many of them had forfeited their homes, their farms, their livelihoods. Many of their families were alone, even starving, harassed by “marshals” of the unconstitutional laws that had been passed to eradicate us a people. In such circumstances many members lost faith that God would fulfill his promises and fight our battles if we remained faithful to his commandments. [10] Many began therefore to see merit in the suggestions of our enemies that they should give up this one principle, and thereby obtain peace, freedom from persecution, and statehood. It was hoped that statehood would give them the autonomy to regain the rights the Saints had lost through the unconstitutional persecutions of the Edmunds-Tucker Act.

What would happen then if we were to turn aside from this one commandment? During this time of persecution Wilford Woodruff stated:

The nation cares no more about our practicing the order of plural marriage than any other principle of the Gospel. It would make no difference with us today were we to compromise this principle by saying, we will renounce it, we would then have to renounce our belief in revelation from God, and our belief in the necessity of Prophets and Apostles, and the principle of the gathering, and then to do away with the idea and practice of building Temples in which to administer ordinances for the exaltation of the living and the redemption of the dead; and at last we would have to renounce our Church organization, and mix up and mingle with the world, and become part of them. Can we afford to do this? I tell you: no, we cannot; but we can afford to keep the commandments of God. And I will here say, that we have been sustained by the hand of Jehovah in a marvelous and miraculous manner ever since we came to these valleys and proclaimed to the world our belief in the revelation of celestial or plural marriage; and I will say further, and in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Elder Brother, we shall be sustained from this time until he comes in the clouds of heaven, inasmuch as we shrink not from the performance of our duties. We have somebody to deal with besides man. The God of heaven holds our destiny; he holds the destiny of our nation and of all the nations, and he controls them. Therefore, I say to the Latter-day Saints, let us be faithful; let us keep the commandments; let us not renounce a single principle or command which God has given to us. … Let us obey the celestial law of God, that we may have our wives and children with us in the morning of the first resurrection; that we may come forth clothed with glory, immortality and eternal lives, with our wives and children bound to us in the family organization in the celestial world, to dwell with us throughout the endless ages of eternity, together with all the sons and daughters of Adam who shall have kept the commandments of God.”[11]

A few years later President Taylor published the following in an editorial:

“The chief object of the crusade [against us] is to get the church to apostatize. That arrived at, nothing more would be necessary for the satisfaction of the enemies of the work of God. That accomplished they would be jubilant and Hell would rejoice.

“What would be necessary to bring about the result nearest the hearts of the opponents of Mormonism, more properly termed the Gospel of the Son of God? Simply to renounce, abrogate or apostatize from the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage in its fullness. [aka. plural marriage.] Were the church to do that as an entirety, God would reject the saints as a body. The authority of the priesthood would be withdrawn, with its gifts and powers, and there would be no more heavenly recognition of its administrations among the people. The heavens would permanently withdraw themselves, and the Lord would raise up another people of greater valor and stability, for his work must, according to his unalterable decrees, go forward. For the time of the second coming is near, even at the doors. Therefore the saints have no alternative but to stand by the truth and sustain what the heavens have established, and purpose to perpetuate. This they will do, come life or death, freedom or imprisonment, and there is, so far as we can observe, no use to attempt to disguise this fact.

“As already stated, were the step so much desired on the outside, to be taken, there would probably be but little need of any further opposition, because the Church would be shorn of its strength, Having surrendered its integrity because of earthly opposition. Its adherents would no longer be distinctive but would be like the rest of the world, [The world’s] hate would turn to affection, because the love it has for its own. The Saints might have the meager satisfaction of having all men speak well of them, [12] but it would be overshadowed by the miserable reflection that they were subject to the woe and misery consequent upon their getting into that lamentable situation.”[13]

In spite of the valiant efforts of the leaders of the church there were in those days, as there are in our own, men who were willing to lay aside their principles rather than suffer persecution. They were willing to sacrifice an eternal law to their eternal detriment, rather than risk the loss of their personal property. Of such the Lord has said: “Therefore, forsake the world, and save your souls; for what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”[14]  Truly a poor bargain, but it is the tendency of many men to love their money, their homes, their businesses, more than they Love God. Such faithless men dare not put their trust in God.

The enemies of God had on several occasions submitted to the authorities of the church suggestions about how to avoid the persecutions that they were heaping upon the faithful saints. The leaders of the church were promised that there would be no more imprisonments and the church could avoid the destruction that the government had declared in the Edmunds-Tucker Act was to be carried out on the church, if only they would promise to cease advocating the doctrine of Celestial Marriage. Many times the leaders of the Church were promised that if they would forfeit this one principle there would be a cessation of hostilities, and the world would honor and praise them for their ‘wise’ choice.

During the 1880s there were certain prominent men in the church who became convinced that there was merit in these suggestions. In consequence they met with these representatives of the devil in the guise of federal agents and drew up several draft agreements which they hoped would not appear too obnoxious to the Prophet of God. Some of these men: Hyrum B. Clawson, James Jack, Franklin S. Richards and John T. Caine advocated for making such an agreement. It was thought that the leaders could make an official statement that would pacify the federal government, while the faithful saints would continue to live the fullness of the gospel anyway. Utah could finally obtain statehood and then the saints could write their own laws in such a way as to protect the saints from further abuses and secure the legality of plural marriage. In this way many leaders of the church such as Charles W. Penrose thought we could “beat the devil at his own game.”

There were also scores of prominent business men such as: Ira Hinckley, Abram Hatch, W.W. Ritters and others who insisted something be done so that they not lose all they had to the “Utah Commission” which was charged with seizing all Mormon assets. They were afraid to sacrifice all they had for the gospel, as the faithful saints had been required to do in Kirtland, Missouri, and Nauvoo.

The Lord has repeatedly promised us that he will fight our battles if we will keep his commandments. But their faith was weak, and they feared the world and what it was about to do.

In these perilous times the Lord was not silent to his prophets and apostles. In the year 1880 the Lord had spoken in a revelation received and accepted by the church, though not in current editions of the D&C:

“6  The devil is ruling over his kingdom and my spirit has no place in the hearts of the rulers of this nation, and the devil stirs them up to defy my power and to make war upon my Saints. Therefore let mine Apostles and mine Elders who are faithful obey my commandments which are already written for their profit and guidance. . . .

“14 Let no man be afraid to lay down his life for my sake, for he that layeth down his life for my sake shall find it again and have eternal life.

15  The nation is ripened in iniquity and the cup of the wrath of mine indignation is full and I will not stay my hand in judgments upon this nation or the nations of the earth.

16  I have decreed wars and judgments upon the wicked and my wrath and indignation are about to be poured out upon them and the wicked and rebellious shall know that I am God.

17  As I the Lord have spoken so will I fulfill. I will spare none who remain in Babylon, but I will burn them up, saith the Lord of Hosts. As I the Lord have suffered, so will I put all enemies under my feet. For I the Lord utter my word and it shall be obeyed.

18  And the day of wrath and indignation shall come upon the wicked.

19  And I say again, woe unto that nation or house or people who seek to hinder my people from obeying the Patriarchal law of Abraham, which leadeth to Celestial Glory, which has been revealed unto my Saints through the mouth of my servant Joseph, for whosoever doeth these things shall be damned, saith the Lord of Hosts, and shall be broken up and wasted away from under heaven by the judgments which I have sent forth, and which shall not return unto me void. . . .

” 24 As I have decreed, so shall my judgments begin at the House of God.

25  There are those in my Church who have a name among you who are adulterers and adulteresses, and those who blaspheme my name and those who love and make a lie, and those who revel and drink with the drunken.

26  If they do not speedily repent of this wickedness and abomination, they shall be severed from the ordinances of my house, saith the Lord.”[15]

Such was the peril of the Saints at this time: persecutions from without, and apostasy from within. The leaders of the church in hiding and the members of the church in need of repentance. Can the Gospel in its fullness find room in the hearts of “adulterers and adulteresses, and those who blaspheme my name and those who love and make a lie, and those who revel and drink with the drunken?” Are such people entitled to the spirit of God? Are these not the very type of people who were clamoring for a manifesto in order to make friends with the wicked of the world?

Joseph F. Smith stated:

The legislation against polygamy by Congress, and the endeavors of the church to resist those enactments on the ground of their conflict with the first Amendment to the Constitution, are pretty well known to the American public. It is not so generally known that the final decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that the anti-polygamy laws were not in contravention of the Constitution was the chief reason for the change of attitude on the part of the church leaders.
( Source: “The ‘Mormonism’ of To-Day” 451 )

Thus the Church leaders caved in to the pressure and allowed the people to reject the commandments of God. In such a situation what has changed? Is the doctrine still true? Do we ultimately still have to accept it, and are we still responsible if we reject it?
John Taylor explained it this way:
“God has given us a revelation in regard to celestial marriage. I did not make it. He has told us certain things pertaining to this matter, and they would like us to tone that principle down and change it and make it applicable to the views of the day. This we cannot do; nor can we interfere with any of the commands of God to meet the persuasions or behests of men. I cannot do it, and will not do it.

            I find some men try to twist round the principle in any way and every way they can. They want to sneak out of it in some way. Now God doesn’t want any kind of sycophancy like that. He expects that we will be true to Him, and to the principles He has developed, and to feel as Job did—“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”[1] Though other folks would slay us, yet we will trust in the living God and be true to our covenants and to our God. These are my feelings in relation to that matter. We have also been told that “it is not mete that men who will not abide my law shall preside over my Priesthood,”[2] and yet some people would like very much to do it. Well, they cannot do it; because if we are here, as I said before, to do the will of our Father who sent us, and He has told us what to do, we will do it, in the name of Israel’s God . . . . If God has introduced something for our glory and exaltation, we are not going to have that kicked over by any improper influence, either inside or outside of the Church of the living God. We will stand by the principles of eternal truth; living we will proclaim them, dying we will be true to them, and after death will live again in their enjoyment in the eternal worlds. . . . What shall we do? Live our religion, be true to our covenants, and keep the commandments of God.[3]

Now even the Law of the Land does not prohibit the living of this commandment. If the LDS people still reject it what now is their excuse?

_____________________


[1] Job 13:15

[2] This quote is from a revelation to John Taylor that was once included in European editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. This Revelation was given to John Taylor in his office in Salt Lake City, Utah, on the 13th of October 1882. It can be found in “The Addendum to the Doctrine and Covenants,” sec. 6; and the “Unpublished Revelations” Vol. 1, p.138.

[3] Journal of Discourses 25:309-311


[1] Journal of Discourses 22:373-374

[2] Daniel 2:44, D&C 138:44

[3] Isaiah 28:14-15

[4] D&C 131:1-4

[5] D&C 132:3-4

[6] D&C 101:35-40

[7] Journal of Discourses 5:203 (Emphasis mine)

[8] Moses 7:26

[9] 2 Tim 3:5, JS-H 1:19

[10] D&C 105:14

[11] Journal of Discourses 22:148

[12] Presidents of the church since Heber J Grant have happily declared this to be the case.

[13] John Taylor Deseret News, April 23, 1885

[14] JST Matt. 16:29

[15] This revelation has been published several times: “The Star of Truth” Vol.1 pp. 235-6, “Improvement Era” Vol. 1:874, “Unpublished Revelations” p. 123-9, and in booklet form for inserting into your scriptures as “Addendum to the Doctrine and Covenants” Section 5, available from the missionaries listed on the back cover of this booklet.

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