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The Attack on Mormons: Mr. Stead's Protest to the Editor of The Times

The Times Newspaper (April 28, 1911) p. 6

Sir,

Will you kindly permit me the privilege of recording in your columns an emphatic protest against the mischievous and wicked nonsense that is being written and spoken in furtherance of what is known as the anti-Mormon crusade in this country?

What is described as "a great non-partisan anti-Mormon meeting" is advertised for to-morrow night in Holborn Town Hall. If the object of that meeting were merely to expose, to refute, and to demolish by arguments addressed to reason or appeals to the emotions what its promoters regard as the Mormon heresy, there would be no call for public protest. But the avowed object of the anti-Mormon crusaders is not polemics — it is persecution. The Dean of Manchester, Dr. Welldon, who presides over to-morrow night's meeting, has declared:- "I think the Mormon propaganda ought to be put down in England. If the-law is not strong enough to put it down, it ought to be reinforced." Another crusader, the Rev. Father Bernard Vaughan, not content with appealing for persecution by statute, has invoked Lynch law. From his pulpit he has declared that "the Mormons should be taken by the scruff of the neck, rushed across our island, and dropped into the sea."

I protest against this undisguised appeal to the hateful spirit of religious persecution as an outrage upon the fundamental principle of religious liberty — an outrage which is none the less detestable because it is masked by the hypocritical and mendacious pretence of a desire to protect English girls from being lured into polygamous harems. It is one of the most familiar devices of intolerant religionists to invent malicious falsehoods to serve as a cloak for persecuting those who dissent from the faith of the majority. Without going back to Imperial Rome, where the vilest calumnies were used to inflame the populace against the Christians, we need not go far afield to find how anti-Semitic rancour finds in the revival of the old accusation, the blood sacrifice, the most convenient pretest for atrocities at which humanity shudders. Father Vaughan might profitably recall how often the lurid narrative of "The Confessional Unmasked" and "The Revelations of Maria Monk" have been used to justify Orange bigots in violent assaults upon their Catholic neighbours. Nothing would be easier than to follow up this anti-Mormon crusade by a far more popular and dangerous agitation against the Roman Catholics, whose conventual institutions, so rapidly multiplying in our midst, have often aroused the passions and prejudices of the Protestant mob.

The attack upon the Mormons is almost entirely based upon the lie that their propaganda in this country is a propaganda in favour of polygamy, and that the chief objects of the Mormon missionaries is to allure innocent and unsuspecting English girls into polygamous marriages. I have called this a lie, because it is a demonstrably false statement which is repeated again and again after it has been proved to be false. Not one of the anti-Mormon crusaders have ever been able to produce any evidence that at any time, in any place within the King's Dominions, has any Mormon apostle, elder, or missionary ever appealed, publicly or privately, to anyone of the King's subjects, male or female, to enter into polygamous relations with any one here or in Utah.

It is, on the contrary, admitted by the persecutors themselves that the Mormon emissaries constantly and even passionately repudiate as a baseless slander the accusation that they are propagandists of polygamy. No one has ventured to assert that, even one of the Mormon missionaries in our midst is a polygamist. Their enemies complain that they ought to be polygamists according to the Scripture of the Latter Day Saints, just as the Orangemen always maintain that according to the doctrine of Rome every Catholic ought to desire to relight the fires of Smithfield. But the State has nothing to do with construing the texts from the Book of Mormon or the Bulls of persecuting Popes. If the Mormons are better than their creed, we ought surely rather to rejoice than to invoke Parliament and Lynch law to hound them out of the country. Even if the Mormons, like the Mahometans and many millions of the King's loyal subjects, believed in polygamy there is no reason for depriving American citizens who share that belief of the right to enjoy the liberties of this free country.

But it is asserted that the Mormons lure young English girls to Utah for immoral purposes. For this assertion there is not even the shadow of a semblance of proof. If any one, Mormon or Gentile, were guilty of such a crime, let the offender be punished with the utmost rigour of the law after his crime has been proved to the satisfaction of a Judge and jury. But after all that has been said in Press and pulpit for months past, the anti-Mormon crusaders have utterly failed to bring forward even one solitary case of an English girl who has been lured into polygamous relations here or in Utah by any Mormon emissary. The whole story is as monstrous a fiction as the lies of Titus Oates. The falsehood that thousands of English girls are being shipped to Utah every year is sheer unmitigated rot. Last year about 660 persons left England for Utah, 60 of whom were under eight years of age. Of the remainder many were married couples, and among the single emigrants there were as many men as women.

The whole so-called crusade is an outbreak of sectarian savagery worked up by journalists, who, in their zest for sensation, appear to be quite indifferent to the fact that the only permanent result of their exploit will be to advertise and to spread the Mormon faith among the masses who love fair-play, and who hate religious persecution none the less because it is based upon a lie.

I am, yours truly,

W.T. Stead

Bank-buildings, Kingsway, W.C., April 27.