Sunday, June 11, 2006

The LDS Church and Constitutional Amendments

Yes, we may be talked out on the subject, but this article from the Salt Lake Tribune, written by Michael Paulos, author of a forthcoming documentary history on the Reed Smoot hearings, seemed too relevant to be missed. It may not be widely known that, in addition to anti-polygamy legislation such as the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 and the Edmunds-Tucker Act of 1887, there was actually a movement to pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting the Mormon practice of polygamy.
A few days following Smoot's election in 1903, the Deseret News reported the following: "Congressman Jenkins of Wisconsin today introduce[d] the following amendment to the Constitution of the United States. 'No person shall willfully and knowingly contract a second marriage while the first marriage is still subsisting and undissolved. Any person who shall willfully and knowingly contract a second marriage shall never hereafter hold, occupy or enjoy any office of honor or profit under the United States.'" (Deseret News, Jan. 31, 1903). . . Attempts to drum up support for this amendment occurred periodically between the years 1903 and 1906.

Smoot countered by recommending a national marriage law:
I have assured the Senators that I will support any measure, no matter how strict or what penalties it imposes, [with] provisions for the punishment of fornication, adultery, incest, unlawful cohabitation, and kindred offences. I hardly think that we need worry much about this constitutional amendment proposition. (Reed Smoot to Joseph F. Smith, April 9, 1904.)

President Joseph F. Smith responded,
"I say let the national solons amend the Constitution, to punish and insult and degrade this little handful of men who are rapidly passing away, and when they shall see the magnitude of their acts compared with the insignificance of the cause, they and their historians will laugh at their folly, and write them down asses in the broadest sense." (Joseph F. Smith to Reed Smoot, April 9, 1904.)

It goes without saying that the outcome of this past week's debate in the Senate adds an ironic twist to the history of marriage amendments in the United States. Especially considering President Smith's words.


Anonymous Last Lemming said...

Terrific quote, but it's probably a good thing you didn't dig it up until after the debate was over.

Jun 12, 2006, 6:24:00 AM  
Blogger Jolard said...

This has always been my biggest problem with the Church's support of the Marriage Amendment; It just smacks of hypocrisy. We would have been the first ones to argue that the majorities moral positions shouldn't dictate who we would want to marry.

Jun 12, 2006, 1:29:00 PM  

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