High Lights of the Mexican Revolution - J. L. McLeish

The Mormons in Mexico

Among settlers of foreign birth in Mexico who have suffered severely from the depredations of the banditti, variously styled "Villistas," "Colorados" and other free lances of the northern states, none have fared worse than the Mormons.

Infinitely pathetic is the story of this people without a country, living in isolation for the sake of a principle which they have ever believed to be a correct one.

Familiar to all is the story of tribulation and persecution clustering around the early days of Mormonism in America. The finding of the "Golden Plates" containing the Book of Mormon, by a fifteen-year-old farmer boy, Joseph Smith, "chosen of the Lord," on the night of September 21, 1823, a slow but gradual spread of his cult, the foundation of the first Mormon settlement at Kirkland, Ohio, the open profligacy and dishonesty of the "Prophet" culminating in his flight westward accompanied by a small army of "the Faithful" and the erection of Nauvoo as an independent nation. The murder of Joseph Smith and his brother Hiram by an indignant populace, the First Crusade of the Latter Day Saints over the arid desert to Salt Lake, and their final settlement in Utah, are all part of American history.

The Second Crusade of the Latter Day Saints is however an unwritten chapter.

From the earliest propagation of the doctrines of polygamy by the "Prophet," the seeds of opposition on the part of civilized people were sown. No effectual step was taken to blot out the nefarious custom until the passage of the Edmunds Law in 1882.

The enforcement of this led to the imprisonment of 12,000 of the polygamists. At that time in 1880 the Mormons numbered about 150,000 and were quite helpless to resist the spread of righteous reaction against their unconventional marriage customs. It was no longer possible, as in the old days of the Nauvoo National Guard, and the Danites, to offer any substantial resistance to the lawful authority of the United States.

Therefore, the Mormons yielded to the Edmunds Law perforce.

In 1884 the head of the Mormon sect in Utah was President John Taylor. He was a man of somewhat broader views than his predecessors. He was also a past master in diplomacy. Seeing the near doom of polygamy in the United States, Taylor, after due consultation with the Patriarch and Apostles of Utah, formulated the Second Crusade of the Latter Day Saints, which was to lead those of the Faithful, polygamously inclined to a haven of rest.

Knowing the venality of Mexican officials, the projectors of the movement turned to that country as a place where, without fear of any molestation, they might establish harems to their hearts content.

The exodus into Mexico began in 1885 with an advance guard of four families, all of them being "plural families." Over the alkaline desert they toiled, finding an oasis at last near Ascension in the state of Chihuahua. Two thousand Mormons followed in their wake.

Until the outbreak of the present revolution, the Mormon settlements at Juarez, Diaz, Pacheco, Du Blan, and Oaxaca, were as ideal and prosperous communities as one might find anywhere in the tropics.

Although an ostracized people, the polygamous Mormons inherited the innate cuteness of their American progenitors. In their location of their new colonies, they chose the most fertile and best irrigated lands of northern Mexico. In consequence, they soon attained a monopoly on agriculture in their several districts. The poor peon Mexican of the neighborhood was compelled to purchase Mormon watermelons at Mormon prices else solace himself with desert cactus.

It has been known from the outset that polygamy was openly countenanced in Mexico. Should a man be blessed with several wives, he had no hesitancy in maintaining individual establishments for each. It had become down there "costumbre del pais." A quite convenient arrangement. Should Brother Smith happen to have a martial unpleasantness with Sister Mary Smith, (wife number one), he could find consolation at the adjoining residence of Sister Jennie Smith, (wife number two), and so on, until he had eventually made the rounds of the ladies comprising his menage.

There is no place for the suffragette under the ruling spirit and control of this religion begotten of sexuality. Their belief in the hereafter is deification of the dead in proportion to the number of times the deceased may have been joined in wedlock. A woman can be "sealed" or married to a dead personality, should the powers that be wish to sanctify some deceased brother by giving him an additional wife.

There is an element of Terrorism in the system.

In order to attain to the enjoyment of the hereafter, a woman's life must be such, as to warrant her being "called" by her husband to join the assembly of "the glorified."

It is a Polytheism, the leading spirit in the after world being Adam, the next in rank Jesus Christ, Mahomet, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and so on ad infinitem through numberless Saints more difficult of enumeration than the Josses of a Chinese temple.

Few people realize the present strength of the Mormon Church.

They have ceased to be a mere sect or community. They are a power.

Mormon missionaries are scattered over Europe and the vast extension of an immense territory, gathering recruits from the lower walks of life, from the peasantry and canaille of the world, for on such soil their teachings thrive.

Today the Mormons number nearly half a million. Among the male members of the sect, are many of scholarly attainments and bright intellect,

In Mexico, as a class the men are plain sturdy farmers and ranchers, honest, practical and long-suffering, firmly believing in the principles and precepts of their church, quite willing to undergo any sacrifice or privation for a cause to which they are devoted body and soul.

Mormon women have ever been a simple and trusting class with an inherent resignation to their lot. Many of them in Mexico fade early, and have the haggard, nervous, careworn look that marks a secret sorrow.

And why not? The status of the women doomed to live in polygamy, is at best a humiliating one. It is contrary to the very best traditions of Anglo-Saxon peoples to degrade their women to the level of concubines. Even the later generation of Mexican Mormon women, born and reared to regard plural union as their only path to salvation, have within their inmost hearts a something which must cry out against the shameful practice, and which in time must serve to bring their benighted souls back to an appreciation of the unwritten laws of civilization and twentieth century progress.

The question of polygamy has been solved in the United States.

Its future in Mexico is still hidden behind the veil of the great unknown.

Porfirio Diaz tolerated Mormonism because of the considerable revenues added to the Mexican Treasury by these intelligent and hard-working agriculturists. It is probable that his successor, Madero, had he been spared would have exhibited a like tolerance for the Mormons, insisting only that they abolish polygamy, as inconsistent with the utilitarian ideals of Constitutional Government. Under Huerta, cupidity would have been his inspiration to leave this people without a country unmolested.

As to the policy of Don Venustiano Carranza, the future alone will reveal. The new Constitution now under drafting at Queretaro, not only embodies the best features of the Constitution of 1857 but contains many new clauses calculated to meet more modern conditions. The same incentive that has led to abolishment of Monastic Orders from Mexico, the curbing of sectarian religious activities, will undoubtedly apply to the practice of the Mormons resident in Mexico.

Greater problems than this must first be met and solved by the little old gentleman of Cuatro Cienegas, Coahuila. With his back to the wall, Carranza is making a final stand for Mexican Liberalism as opposed to Mexican Clericalism.

The success or failure of the Constitutionalist Party in Mexico depends entirely upon the support—moral and financial—accorded by the United States. Had Herr Zimmermann of Berlin studied a little more closely the Foreign Relations between Mexico and the United States, he would hardly have attempted so diplomatic a faux pas as his fatuous plot to align Mexico with Germany and Japan against an American administration which has materially aided Carranza's cause against insurmountable obstacles, when all the world was clamoring for intervention.