Mormons

UNITED STATES

In Salt Lake City I found to my surprise that Mormons were people. I had innocently assumed that they were a strange race you couldn’t talk with — cold, blue-nosed, mystic,  and belligerent. They’re nothing of the sort; they’re just like anybody else. And contrary to popular belief, the Mormons do not control Salt Lake City. The city itself is only thirty per cent Mormon. The Mormons are important in the business of the city, but they do not dominate it.

By 1844 the Mormons had moved from New York State, to Illinois and after clashes with Illinois civil authorities they left the city and finally reached the shores of the Great Salt Lake, where they settled under the leadership of Brigham Young in 1847.

There are more than 750,000 Mormons, and their numbers are increasing slowly. They live in a north-and-south strip, from Arizona right up the mountains into Idaho and Canada, but the bulk of the Mormons are in the desert. They are mainly farming people — always have been, ever since the Church was founded more than a hundred years ago. The Mormons are conscientiously law-abiding. They are proud of the fact that they have never questioned the law. When the Supreme Court ruled against polygamy, half a century ago, the Mormons immediately abandoned it. Polygamy is, of course, the first thing anybody thinks of when you mention Mormons, but it has been half a century since their last plural marriage, as they call it. Records show that polygamy had never been practiced by more than three per cent of the Mormons.

At the head of the Mormon Church is a president. Under him is the Council of Twelve Apostles,” called “The Twelve’’. Under them are various “Quorums of Seventies’, each ruling over a certain district. Mormon territory is divided into stakes andthe stakesinto wards. InSalt Lake City for instance, a ward is four blocks square.

The Mormons don’t believe in too much preaching; they don’t have hundreds of paid preachers, like other churches. Even the ward bishops are laymen who run their business and do their bishoping on the side.