- PART SECOND.
- CHAPTER XXIV. CONFERENCE.
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WHAT a pleasant ring the word has! How suggestive of democracy, of liberty, of equality, of brotherhood! So this crowd, gathered from all parts of the territory, these Scandinavians, English, Welsh, and Indians, | | 246 have a voice in the government. They assemble to discuss, to confer together upon Church matters? Delusion of delusions! They come to listen submissively to the bulls the fiats, the anathemas of the Mormon pope; their only privilege is to give assent to the will of the Lord.
Well did the Mormon leaders know the significance of words, and their power over the mass, who hear with their ears, but not with their understanding.
Conference comes twice a year--in April and October: then Zion looks its gayest, or rather, it used so to look, for Conference is no longer the general, picturesque gathering it was ten years ago, when Zionites kept open house, and dwellings were crowded and the streets thronged; when to Zion came the young and the old, the patriarchs, the mothers in Israel, the halt, the blind, the rejected of nations, the poor of the earth--a motley crowd, stamped with the seal of toil and poverty, yet rejoicing in the name of Saint.
Wagons of every size and description, but all resembling each other in their innocence of paint and attachment to dust, some drawn by oxen, some by mules, a few by heavy-boned horses, lined the Tabernacle Block, the tithing-yard, and adjacent streets.
Countrymen, half-hidden under gigantic hats,--umbrella, parasol and snow-shed, all in one,--bargained and stared. Smiling, wife-hunting patriarchs, in very new clothes and their Kossuth hats poised on one side in a rollicking, youthful style, scanned, with a knowing air, the bright eyes and strong arms of the maidens, who, arrayed in unique toilettes of | | 247 pink, blue, green and violet, passed up and down the streets in the hope of finding a husband, or a fraction of one.
Conference was the time of marrying and giving in marriage.
Saintesses of the Sister Dinly order gossiped and buzzed about the gaily-decked stores. Forlorn-looking women, in ugly, ill-fitting dresses, and huge sun-bonnets, wandered listlessly about, or compared babies.
One great feature of Conference was the baby--the ubiquitous, cross, dirt-loving baby.
Here and there among the crowd an Indian, wrapped in a bright-red blanket, strutted about with a lordly air. The Red Man feels at home with these Pale Faces, who call him "Brother," and talk to him of revenge on the Gentile usurper. He can understand their creed, based upon polygamy and blood-atonement.
Conference is also the time to pay up the tithing: that chief duty of a Saint, without which none other is meritorious. The tithing-office overflows. The theater offers its choicest attractions; thus prayer, business and pleasure, make Conference the two great events of the year.
The crowd moved towards the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is unlike anything on the earth, under the earth, or above it, unless it be the tortoise that, according to Hindoo legend, sustains the world. The Tabernacle is said to be the direct work of revelation. If so, it is not successful in architecture--doubtless owing to insufficient practice.
One peculiar feature, distinguishing it from uninspired temples, is the repetition of the speaker's words | | 248 by an invisible angel, floating in the galleries, whose intention is, doubtless, to impress the Gospel deeper on the people's minds. Unfortunately, the effect is more comical than serious. Some would imagine it was an acoustical defect; but angels, as well as men, make mistakes sometimes through misdirected zeal.
The monster tortoise-shell is supported in mid-air by a wall and pillars, innocent of any beauty. Several doors give entrance to the unwieldy building, which, galleries included, seats fifteen thousand. More than that number thronged the Tabernacle on this occasion, which was one of unusual interest.
It was a crisis in their history of crises.
Three reading-desks, graded high, higher, highest, face the multitude. They are for the seer and his two counselors, who, upon this occasion, took their places within them earlier than usual. The twelve apostles ranged themselves on each side of the desks.
The seer sat with his head bowed, for he pondered over mighty problems. Civilization and progress had found him out before he was ready. The East and West were about to clasp hands. The desert was no longer to be isolated.
The astute chief saw money in the invasion; but he must change his plans. The inspired was equal to the emergency. The railroad should make for him friends and money, and money is the lever of the world. But the people must not handle it. He must draw the reins tighter, so tight that they shall only be able to move as he willeth.
These are his meditations while the hymn is sung by one hundred and fifty voices, accompanied by the great organ of which the Saints are so justly proud.| | 249
The chief arose--we would like to add, and a hush fell on the vast multitude; but it would be too untrue even for fiction. Great as was the power of the seer and revelator, one class of his subjects defied him--the baby class, and there were some fifteen hundred inside the tortoise-shell--fifteen hundred strong-lunged mountaineers who had no idea of keeping silent.
The mothers sang hush-sh-sh, but it was of no avail. Then thirsty children move to and from the drinking fountains, and some irrepressibles keep up perpetual perambulation.
The great man grows angry, and gives them all a good scolding, which settles the children and the irrepressibles, and silences the mothers; but the fifteen hundred babies continue their concert unperturbed.
So the discourse begins, the echo piously repeating the last syllable of the words, and the innocents performing a staccato accompaniment.
Ten years have passed since we heard the chief address the multitude; but time has left no trace upon him; and when we look at the commanding face and vigorous form, it seems as though the decade was of months, instead of years.
As he glances over the thousands awaiting his fiat, a shadow of contempt for the cringing crowd darkens his countenance. Ten years of absolute power have confirmed him in two beliefs:--first, in his divine mission of second Moses: second, that mankind are dogs to be whipped into virtuous obedience.
But the discourse, on account of its influence upon future events, demands a place in this history.
The modern Moses preferred force to elegance,-- he despised rhetorical flourishes and Ciceronian | | 250 periods. He talked to the people, told them plainly what to do; and cursed them freely if they did not do it. Texts he ignored; for he was a text of himself, or of what use was revelation?
His voice filled the vast building, and could be heard above the noise. It was an earnest, pleasant, sonorous voice, and to its power, he owed much of the influence he possessed over this people, and those of the Gentiles who became acquainted with him.
"I want to talk to you about serious things. What did I bring you here for? To be God's people, to receive Christ when he comes. Should He come now, how many of ye would know Him? Why, you would jostle Him in the streets, push Him down into the gutter, while you shook hands with the devil and asked him how to get rich. Yes, you would, and you know it. You didn't come here to become rich individuals, but a rich brotherhood. No Latter Day Saint can possess riches. It is the Church who possesses them. Some of ye say that I have houses and lands (yes, I know what you say), but I haven't. They belong to the Church. God wants me to look after the Church; and if you know of anyone that can do better than I, let him come and try it; but you know there isn't a man who would do for ye as I have done, and I'm going to hold on till I die. But as a people we must be rich. Rich, to fight our enemies. We must get all the money we can, and keep what we get. Don't send your money outside to buy French gewgaws for the women: let them make all they wear, yes, and things to send outside as well. We must have the Gentiles' money. It is our right. It is all we want of them. Now I have a plan of a Co-opera- | | 251 tive Union, a Trades Union that will put things right. It is a big thing to start. We want money. Now every one of you brothers and sisters must come forward and take shares in this business the Lord is going to open for your benefit. Bring money; but if you can't possibly get money, bring flour, butter and yarn; but come forward and take shares. Those who don't will be cursed. Yes, they will. God always curses those who won't do His will. Now I say, come on, every man and woman, let us start this thing. It is the business of no one individual; it belongs to every one of you: you will get the profits. As it will be your business, you must support it. Those from the country will bring their produce there, for exchange. All will buy from this, the Lord's house, every thing they want. Those who don't, had better look out. The Lord knows how to deal with reprobates.
"Brother X. resigns his business to take charge of it. He will be greatly blessed. You know now what to do. Do it: be quick about doing it; we will be a great people yet; we will issue our own money, we will be independent of the cursed Gentile. But a day is fast approaching when the Gentile, who murdered our prophets, who drove you from your homes, who burned your hard-earned property, who slaughtered your old men, your wives and children,--these cursed Gentiles will come to you begging for bread. They will sell themselves to you for food and raiment. Yes, this day of triumph is near at hand, if ye obey the Covenant of the Lord. But there are some among you (I won't mention names to-day), who boast of the great things they have done for the Lord--who think that the Lord can't get along without them. Well, sup- | | 252 pose they have done great things, hasn't the Lord repaid them, and well repaid them, in riches, in houses, in flocks, in wives, in children? The Lord does not owe them one cent; and I want them to understand that the Church of the Lord can do without these vain boasters. Yes, it can; but the Lord wants to do you good. He wants you to help Him, so that He may reward you. He wants you all to join in this co-operative institution. Woe be unto him who goes against the will of God! Will any one dare to keep his store open to rob the Institution of the Lord? If there be such a one he will be accursed. And all those who dare to buy of these robber usurpers, they also will be accursed. Now, lay these words up in your heart. I have done my duty, now do yours."
The chief sat down, and a loud chorus of "amens" testified to the good will of the listening thousands.
Then was read the list of those chosen for missions. Among those called was the name of Stanly Delville. Elsie started involuntarily, and Mr. Delville looked annoyed; for Stanly was very useful to him. The young man was away, and little dreamed of being among the conscripts.
As the people came out of the Tabernacle, Sister Silea and Laima found themselves close by Mrs. Oreana and Mr. Delville. The latter seemed troubled; his coarse face was purple, but he still carried himself pompously.
Oreana bowed rather haughtily to the two ladies; she could not forget that one was her rival.
"How high some people hold their heads." whispered Silea to Laima; "but we shall see."
Laima answered with a smile of malicious delight. | | 253 She had resolved to depose Oreana, and she was beautiful and daring enough to do it.
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