excerpts – Candid Insights of a Mormon Apostle: The Diaries of Abraham H. Cannon, 1889-1895

Candid Insights of a Mormon ApostleThe following excerpts are representative of material that has not been available in print outside of this publication:

Oct. 7, 1889: About 1 p.m. all were excused from the room except the pres[idents] of stakes, their counselors and the leading authorities, when political matters were discussed. Our danger of losing the election in this city was mentioned and it was proposed that those stakes who could spare young men to come to this city and acquire residence so as to be able to vote, do so, and that we here provide employment and pay for such. Our enemies intend to run in miners, railroad graders, and every available man to win the election, and it will require all our efforts to foil their plans. Bro. H[eber] J. Grant proposed to donate $100000 to employ men to help finish our temple. Uncle Angus [M. Cannon] agreed to do the same. We adjourned about 2 p.m. and I went to see about the auditing of the Bullion-Beck mine accounts. Alonzo Hyde, R[ichard] J. Taylor and I agreed to engage an accountant from Logan to check up the books.

Oct. 21, 1889: About 5 p.m. Bro. Jorgason of Sevier Co[unty] desired my counsel as to what course he should take. He was arrested two weeks since on a bench warrant on a charge of polygamy. His first wife died 18 months ago and he has since married his plural wife before a justice of the peace. I advised him to keep his wife out of the way until after his trial, and when his case came up, he should prove the death of his first wife and subsequent marriage to his second. The date of his union with the latter, however, in the house of the Lord, he should not reveal, as it has occurred within three years.

Oct. 28, 1889: In Idaho Bro. Thos. E. Ricks, Pres. of the Rexburg Stake, has been convicted of cohabitation. To effect this, every principle of law had to be abolished. The indictment upon which he was first arraigned was found to be void and outlawed. But the judge (Berry) was determined to convict him, and therefore when the Grand Jury came into court and reported their labors finished, he sent them back to their room with Bro. Ricks’ case. The next morning they brought in another indictment, but in the hurry of preparing it the word “did” in the charging clause “did cohabit” was omitted, thus charging no offense. This, however, did not prevent his conviction. Of course, an appeal will be taken.

Nov. 23, 1889: At 3 p.m. we left for Fillmore, 10 mi. distant, and reached there in one hour and a half. We were taken to the house of Jos. V. Robinson, 2nd Counselor to Pres. [Ira] Hinckley. He is absent in Mexico, as his safety depended on his leaving the country with his plural wife. Sister Robison was also absent on a visit to her daughter 35 mi. south, but she returned in the evening and made us welcome. Bro. [Francis M.] Lyman has an underground wife here, and he spent part of the evening and night with her.

Dec. 8, 1889: Father briefly mentioned two cases with which he was familiar where men were killed in a violent way for the reason, as he believed, that they took the name of God in vain and were very profane.

Apr. 8, 1890: At 7 p.m. I met in the Historian’s office, where Pres. Lorenzo Snow had requested our quorum to meet. There were present L. Snow, F[rankling] D. Richards, M[oses] Thatcher, F[rancis] M. Lyman, J[ohn] H[enry] Smith, H[eber] J. Grant, J[ohn] W. Taylor, M[arriner] W. Merrill, A[nthon] H. Lund, myself and J[ohn] W. Young. Bro. Snow stated that he desired the quorum to meet together occasionally to talk over different matters and to unite our hearts and feelings together. Where ill feelings existed we should express them and have our differences amicably arranged. The brethren all felt that the union which should prevail in our quorum did not exist, and were glad that Pres. Snow had been moved upon to call such meetings as were suggested. It was thought best for us to fast and meet tomorrow, and spend the day in expressing ourselves fully and freely. At this John W. Taylor arose and said he could not meet as he had hard feelings against Father, because the latter had expressed his disapproval of the settlement that was made with John Beck in the Champion mine affairs, and John W. felt that Father had accused him of misappropriating funds and he would not rest easy under the imputation. Bro. Thatcher felt that John W. should visit and talk with the offender privately in this matter, and seek reconciliation between themselves. In this view all agreed and John promised to see if this matter could not be settled in the morning before 10 am. to which time we adjourned.

Apr. 20, 1890: Bro. John W. Young occupied about an hour and 5 min. [in the afternoon]. He referred to late inventions by which our words can be transmitted to great distances, and also the manner in which the phonograph records our statements as well as the tone of the voice, and said these things should cause us to realize that God has power to record our words and every act so that when we appeal before His bar for judgment we shall meet the full record of our lives. His mother often told him it was a teaching of the Prophet Joseph [Smith] that “our thoughts will not be recorded, but every word and act will.”

Apr. 23, 1890: I listened this forenoon to a narration by Bp. Timothy Winters of Rexburg [Idaho] of the course of [Stake] Pres. Thos. E. Ricks of the Bannock Stake. Bro. Winters has received notice to prepare for a mission to New Zealand in August next, and he believes that Pres. R. has been instrumental in having him called through spite because their views have not been alike. I learned through Bp. Winters, whom I am at liberty to quote as authority, that Pres. R. is very arbitrary in his way thus creating a feeling against him among the people. He also drinks and has been seen more than once in a drunken condition. About five weeks ago as he was returning from Salt Lake he joined some of the Home Missionaries who had been laboring in Eagle Rock and Pocatello and rode with them to Market Lake. At the latter place as they were waiting for a team to convey them to Rexburg, he invited these brethren and some strangers who were present to step up to the bar and drink with him and then play cards. The brethren refused to drink, but indulged in card-playing. He, however, drank until he was intoxicated and also played cards. These matters are talked about in the stake and are sure to injure his standing. … The city council, in last evening’s session, granted a franchise on the State Road to the Rapid Transit Street R[ail] R[oad] Company of which I own some stock. They also gave the Liberal band permission to hold sacred concerts on Sunday evenings in the [Salt Lake] Theatre or Opera House. This they did notwithstanding the protest of the various ministers in this city, and the feelings of the great majority who oppose it. The sacred stillness of our Sabbath is thus to be broken by creatures who have no respect for the Lord or His laws.

July 24, 1890: Andrew J. Burt called to report some of his negotiations with three “Liberal” leaders—McCallum, Morris and an unknown—for the prevention of illegal voting, which, if successful, means the election of the People’s Ticket. The price they want is between twenty and thirty thousand dollars. Father called a council of the Apostles, and we all felt that Bro. Burt should continue his negotiations, but on the plan of giving only $1,00000 down and the remainder payable on the election of our ticket throughout this County. We all felt that this means would be well spent if it brought triumph to our side. Thus the proposition is made to pay men to be honest or to prevent fraud.

July 28, 1890: The country through which we today passed is rapidly building up, and a few years, I think, will see it thickly populated. I asked Pres. Parkinson to give me a chance to purchase a building lot in Preston near the academy when the land is plotted. This will be a good place for “undergrounders.”

Sept. 26, 1890: There is considerable comment and fault-finding among some of the Saints because of a manifesto which Pres. Woodruff issued on the 24th inst., in reply to a statement made by the Utah Commission that plural marriages were still authorized and celebrated, and that within the past year some 40 or more had been performed. Pres. W. denied this allegation, and said that such marriages were forbidden by the Church in this Territory, and he called upon the Saints to submit to the law of the land in this particular. In his declaration, however, there is no renunciation of principle nor abandonment of families recommended, as some fault-finders try to make it appear.

Oct. 17, 1890: Uncle David [Cannon] came in about noon and told me that he had just had a conversation with Lindsey Sprague, a deputy marshal, who told him that there were papers out for my arrest, but it was not the intention to serve them until my family were located and where they could be captured. I got Chas. H. Wilcken to investigate the matter for me and he learned that it was indeed a fact that a warrant was issued and in Doyle’s hands for my arrest. I therefore kept in my room all the afternoon.

Oct. 18, 1890: I … spent some time at my room until Bro. Wilcken came and informed me that he had bought Doyle off and had got his promise that I should not be molested, nor should any other person without sufficient notice being given for them to escape, and to get witnesses out of the way. He gave Bro. Wilcken the names of some 51 persons whose arrest he intended to try and effect on a trip he and another deputy intend to undertake today, through Utah and Emery counties. A messenger was therefore despatched to give these people warning. Thus with a little money a channel of communication is kept open between the government offices and the suffering and persecuted Church members.

Nov. 2, 1890: In relation to S[amuel] F. Ball who desires to go to Mexico and get a fourth wife, Father said it could not be done, as such things had ceased to occur even there. One young man who recently had this privilege, came back and allowed the knowledge of it to go out, and thus put the Church in danger. Father feels, as I do, that it is best to entirely cease the performance of such marriages for the present and thus make the brethren more appreciative of present blessings. …

Nov. 18, 1890: A saloon has been opened in Deseret by one of the brethren—Hawley. He has built a nice brick structure, and had a dance there last night and another tonight for opening. Nearly all the Saints attended[,] a notice of the parties having been given in Sunday meeting, and the proprietor of the saloon having been called to dismiss the meeting.

Dec. 7, 1890: I overslept myself and it was 7:30 o’clock before I arose. I hastened to my room, changed my clothes and reached the northbound train in 40 minutes. Father was aboard and we went to the Davis Stake Conference at Kaysville where we met H[eber] J. Grant. I walked around for an hour and was at the meeting house at 10 a.m. where the second day’s services commenced. After the reading of the statistical report I spoke 40 min. on the duties of the Saints to become self-sustaining, and urged them to assist in the establishment of a sugar factory. H.J. Grant spoke 20 min. on home industry and the payment of tithing. He said he once looked through the tithing record and found that only a part of our legislators, Bishops and Presidents of Stakes paid their tithing. Father made a few remarks before meeting closed.

Dec. 14, 1890: At 2 p.m. I attended the Tabernacle services and listened to a very excellent discourse by C[harles] W. Penrose, whom I requested to speak, on the coming of the Savior. He showed in a very able manner that where the prophet Malachi refers to the coming of Jesus, previous to which he was to send a messenger, he was looking at the latter time and not to His first appearance as a Babe in Bethlehem. Joseph Smith was His forerunner in the latter days and the time of the second advent is near at hand.

Jan. 25, 1891: M. W. Merrill occupied the remainder of the time in speaking about evils which exist in the world and warning the Saints against them. He rather discouraged the Weston brass band, who had played some sacred selections between the meetings, by speaking disparagingly of Sabbath band music. They therefore did not play at the close of the services.

Jan. 26, 1891: Quite a large number of plural wives are now living in Franklin [Idaho], as it is considered safe for them to do so[,] there being no law of the state yet enacted against the practice of the Saints. Besides it is doubtful if a man could be punished if he has his wife in different States or Territories.

Jan. 28, 1891: Jos. F. Smith spoke concerning the morals of Isaac Trumbo and others who compose the California company. Their morals are not good[,] it is true, but they are equal in that respect to all Californians. At any rate they have been our friends and we should feel grateful for their labors in our behalf. Even the good and well-beloved [Leland] Stanford, now Senator, is not free from illicit intercourse. But these men have done much for us politically. “When I visited San Francisco Col[onel] Trumbo took me around to the U.S. Marshal’s office and introduced me, as one for whose arrest papers might be forwarded from Utah, I being under indictment for cohabitation, but the marshal said he had a capacious waste basket to which he would consign them if they did come, and he assured me that as long as I remained in San Francisco I was perfectly safe.[“] … Quite a chat on mine matters followed. Notice has been served on the Western Union Telegraph Co. for all dispatches which have passed between California people and us, and as there was much Church business connected therewith, no telling what trouble may ensue. John W. Taylor thought that if the trouble in the west had its origin with any person in this city the matter could be checked. Moses Thatcher felt that all business rivalries should cease among the brethren.

January 30, 1891: After some little discussion it was decided that it will be best for Z.C.M.I. and other corporations to cease paying tithing on their earnings but leave the stockholders to pay from their dividends. The custom, however, of deducting the tithing from the wages of employees was not discontinued. It was thought proper in some instances to induce eastern Gentiles of respectability to take stock with us in some of our large corporations. They would thus feel interested in protecting us in case of attack on our institutions. It was reported that there are many thieves working in Z.C.M.I. whose thefts have been discovered. Whether to make public examples of them or merely discharge them, was referred to the Board of Directors.

Apr. 9, 1891:  Went to the Gardo House at 2 o’clock and spent about 2 hrs. there. We did not hold our prayer circle, as there was so much business demanding immediate attention. The polygamist [Hans] Jespersen, who is now in prison, and was married in the Endowment House just before it was demolished, threatens to tell who performed the ceremony unless something is done for him immediately. The person [Franklin D. Richards] is liable, if discovered, to two years’ imprisonment and a $1,00000 fine, for officiating in a plural marriage. It was decided that F[rancis] M. Lyman and James Jack visit him and others of the 18 brethren now imprisoned, tomorrow, and assure them that no pains shall be spared to effect their release. They will be advised to sign a dispatch to the U.S. Att[orne]y. Gen[era]’l in Washington [D.C.], promising hereafter to obey the law. Jespersen is to be counseled to telegraph to Utah Pros[ecuting] Att[orne]y [Charles S.] Varian, who is now in Washington, making a similar promise. Thus the effort will be made to immediately relieve these brethren, who are now confined in their cells for 22 out of 24 hrs., and are not by themselves, but mixed up with the “toughs.” Warden [Oscar] Vandercook will be asked to authenticate the prisoners’ messages.

June 7, 1891: I took the 7 a.m. train for Morgan City, and met at Ogden Bros. Lorenzo Snow and F[ranklin] D. Richards who went along. We were met at the station by R[onal]d Fry who took us to his house where we rested a few moments before going to meeting at 10 a.m. The forenoon services were occupied by L. Snow in a discourse as to our future rewards and blessings through our faithfulness, and then told the brethren how willing they should be to yield a little of what they might consider were their rights in order to maintain peace. To illustrate he related how he and some young men when in Kirtland [Ohio] were once taking home their sweethearts from a party, when they met a party of young men who boisterously shouted, “Turn out of the road, or we’ll serve you like we did some others back there.” Bro. Snow suggested that as these young fellows were probably drunk they had better turn out, and thus they did. As the noisy young fellows passed the inquiry was made as to how they had treated those who were back on the road, when they replied, “We turned out ourselves.” This is the spirit in which difficulties should be settled. …

June 29, 1891: We had considerable talk over the conditions existing here, and felt that everything is moving along satisfactorily. The change in sentiment towards our people is exhibited in the fact that ex-Marshal F[rank] H. Dyer called Heber J. Grant out of a [Salt Lake] Herald Directors’ meeting a few days ago, and told him that one of his plural wives had been located in this city by the deputies, and said, “For G–d’s sake, get her away, Grant, for we can’t afford to have the Vice-President of this company arrested for violating the law.” Heber did get her away.

July 9, 1891: John W. Taylor suggested that the church finances could be increased, by paying Church agents a percentage on all tithings remitted to the head office, instead of all received. Thus there would be an incentive to diligent effort in order to cash the products received at the different offices. After prayer by John H. Smith we adjourned till Oct. 1st at 2 p.m.

Feb. 9, 1892: In the afternoon spent a short time at the [Church] President’s office where the advisability of dividing the Summit Stake in two, and making a new Stake in Wyoming was considered. The object of doing so was to prevent [Stake] Pres. W[illiam] W. Cluff, who is an ardent Democrat, from using his influence with the people of his Stake in Wyoming to make them Democrats, instead of leaving them as they now are, Republicans. The division would make the Stake in Wyoming number but 646 souls, and would also make the Summit Stake, which is now very small, still smaller. It was decided to call Pres. Cluff to an interview, and if he will promise to use his influence to keep the Saints as far as possible in the Republican party, to not divide the Stake. Geo. F. Gibbs and Robt. Campbell were selected to go quietly to Logan and work to make the Republican ticket successful in the approaching city election, which takes place on the 1st of March. The registration lists now show that the Republicans outnumber the Democrats, but there is quite a number of neutral voters whom it is desired to convert to Republicanism so as to make the party abundantly strong.

Mar. 16, 1892: In the afternoon I was at the President’s office to hear the complaints of the Territorial Central Committee of the Democratic Party concerning the alleged Church influence which was used to make the recent election in Logan a Republican instead of a Democratic victory. There were present Presidents [Wilford] Woodruff and [Joseph F.] Smith, F[ranklin] D. Richards, Moses Thatcher, John H. Smith, myself, Geo. F. Gibbs, Sam. Merritt, Jos. L. Rawlins, W[aldemar] Van Cott, F[rank] H. Dyer, F[ranklin] S. Richards, LeGrand Young, R[ichard] W. Young, J[ames] H[enry] Moyle, Robt. Sloan, G[eorge] W. Thatcher, and Jos. Kimball. Mr. Merritt opened the interview by saying there was evidence on hand in the form of affidavits to show that Geo. F. Gibbs and other members of the Church had stated that the Presidency had sent them privately to Logan to influence voters to cast their ballots for the Republican ticket. He (Merritt) did not believe this had been done by the authorities, but he felt that it was due to the Democrats as well as to themselves [and] that the Presidency of the Church should make public announcement that they did not empower Mr. Gibbs or any other person to use their names to influence voters. A mass of affidavits were then read to prove that ecclesiastical influence had been used for this purpose, and then remarks were made by all of the Democratic committee present, and some of these remarks were not mild. All denounced the using of Church influence in political matters, and the dangers of so doing were portrayed in bright colors. When these men had finished Pres. Woodruff thanked them for coming to him with the matter, and said he had used no influence whatever, and no person had his authority for using his name in this connection. G. F. Gibbs disclaimed any right to use the names of the Presidency, and said he had not done so in the way the affidavits claimed. Pres. Smith also denied having authorized the use of his name. I then spoke a few words in defense of Father, and told them that he was for a division in all sincerity, and he did not play with such matters. It was about 5 o’clock when the interview ended, we having been together about three and a half hours.

Mar. 19, 1892: Started for Cedar City in an old stage coach, called a “Jerky,” which was convenient but not very easy riding. Our driver, Bro. Uriah Leigh, was drunk, but succeeded in taking us through with care and in good time.

May 26, 1892: At two o’clock I was at my Quorum meeting where were present all the Presidency and myself, as also Bro. [Francis M.] Lyman; Geo. Gibbs, clerk. Bro. Jos. F. Smith was mouth in prayer. Thereafter some conversation followed as to whether Adam is our God or not. There are some in the Church who do not accept of the statement of Pres. [Brigham] Young that such is the case, but to me it seems reasonable to think that Adam has at least much to do with our present condition, and will control greatly our future destiny.

Dec. 4, 1892: Went to Aunt Amanda’s for supper, and spent the evening with [wife] Mina, who is here on the underground. She and [wife] Mame had to move last week because of some rumors concerning them which were being circulated, and I was somewhat afraid they would come to the ears of our new marshal, I[rving] A. Benton, who was installed on Dec. 1st. I think the scare is only temporary.

Dec. 17, 1892: At my Quorum meeting on Thursday the brethren were told that our success in the Church suits was in a great measure due to the fact that we have a partner of Justice [Stephen J.] Field of the Supreme Court of the United States in our employ, who is to receive a percentage of the money if the suits go in our favor, and the property is returned to us. It was decided at this meeting that we would dispense with the services of the Church attorneys at the end of the year. Those now employed are F[ranklin] S. Richards and Le Grand Young. The former receives $5,000 per year, and the latter $3,000. The latter has felt some reluctance at accepting his pay for the work now being done, but the former has felt it was his due.

Dec. 21, 1892: At 2 o’clock I went with Father to attend the funeral of Wm. H. Shearman at his residence. He has been sick for some time, and died quite suddenly on Monday last. In fact there are some suspicions that he hastened his own death by taking an overdose of morphine or some other drug. He was a member of the Church when he died, and held the office of a Seventy, but his folks are all out of the Church, and they had [an] Episcopal service held over his remains; nor did they allow him to be buried in his Temple robes though he had prepared them only the week before his death. He fell from the Church at the time of the Godbeite movement, but soon repented his folly and was rebaptized. He was a very liberal man, and the day of his death I received from him a letter containing the amount of over $150 in a note of Godbe-Pitts Drug Co., payable in 60 days, to be applied on a donation to the temple in this city.

June 7, 1893: At 5 o’clock I went to the Temple where I met my folks, we having received permission from Pres. Woodruff to receive our second anointings. Father was there to perform the ceremony. Bro. [Francis M.] Lyman was also there to be with his wife Susan D. Callister Lyman as she received this blessing. Father anointed and spoke the words, John D. T. McAllister held the horn, and Lorenzo Snow and John R. Winder were the witnesses. Sister Lyman was first anointed in the presence of us all, she thus being the first to receive this blessing in this [Salt Lake Temple] building. I then received mine, and my wives followed in the order of their marriages. I felt very much pleased to be thus favored. The ordinance of the washing of feet was explained by Bro. McAllister, after the anointings had been given.

June 17, 1893: I found it very difficult to meet my financial payments today, and on my drawing a personal check of over a thousand dollars to meet a Juvenile [Instructor] office bill Heber M. Wells of the State bank came and said he could not honor it, but on my assurance that the money would be deposited on Monday to meet it, he agreed to let it pass. I hope some day to be in a financial position to get back on some of those who have reproached me for not meeting my obligations as promptly as I have desired[,] the slurs they have cast. With the help of the Lord I will some day be in this position. …

June 20, 1893: At 2 o’clock I went to the races with Joseph F. Smith, John Q. and Chas. H. Wilcken. They were very good. In the 2:20 trot six horses were entered, but the purse of $1,000 was won by Ottinger in three straight heats.

June 21, 1893: In the afternoon I went to the races, and took John Q. [Cannon] with me in my buggy. Presidents [Wilford] Woodruff and [Joseph F.] Smith were there, and I sat in their carriage a good part of the afternoon. …

July 19, 1893: Three more Denver banks went to the wall today because of the runs made on them. By request of the Salt Lake bankers we [Deseret News] suppressed the exciting news from Denver, so that the people here might not become needlessly alarmed at the situation. Our bank statements published today show a very healthy condition.

Jan. 10, 1894: At 10 o’clock I went to the President’s Office where the Presidency, L[orenzo] Snow, F[ranklin] D. Richards, J[ohn] H[enry] Smith, H[eber] J. Grant and myself were present, as also Geo. F. Gibbs, Orson Smith, Nephi Clayton, Chas. W. Hardy, C[harles] H. Wilcken and Jerry Langford. The latter four were present to explain concerning the proposed route of the Salt Lake & Los Angeles railway, a good portion of which has been explored by them. They report the road feasible, though for nearly 200 miles there will be but very little business. They recommend that the line be built by way of Grantsville, and not to Stockton. When they had completed their report, and all necessary questions had been asked, they withdrew, and the Quorum considered the matter. All were desirous of knowing the mind of the Lord upon the subject, and after considerable talk, it was decided to leave the matter to the Presidency, and we will all stand by them in whatever they decide to do.

Mar. 3, 1894: I went to the [stake] Conference at 10 o’clock and heard reports from several of the Bishops and others. Bishop [Edwin S.] Sheets in his report, said the poor themselves should be willing to economize, and not demand for each man and woman a separate house, but three or four single men or women could just as well live together, and thus save the expense of separate fires, lights, etc. … After several reports by the Bishops, Pres. Lorenzo Snow spoke. He urged the brethren and sisters to learn their duties and then do them, and said we cannot all be judged by the same rule, hence each case in the Wards required a special handling and judgment.

Mar. 4, 1894: I was at [the stake conference] meeting at 10 o’clock. … Uncle Angus [M. Cannon] followed for half an hour. He spoke very plainly upon the vices of the young, the evils of round dancing, masquerade balls, surprise parties, and other things. Some people felt he was too pointed in some of his expressions, but if good results from what he said, we may be thankful to the Lord. …

Mar. 11, 1894: I was reading at home most of the forenoon, and spent the afternoon at my room engaged in the same way, as I felt too despondent, because of my failure to obtain the loan of the desired stock from Father last night[,] to engage in any religious exercises, though I subsequently realized that had I done so I would have felt better, and would have shown proper respect to the Lord, and have merited in greater measure His blessings.

Mar. 21, 1894: I bought the machinery for our farming operations at Hinckley, Millard Co. today, as our man, Wm. A. Reeve, has come up for the same. In the afternoon John Q. [Cannon] and I went to Father’s, and gave him a cold bath according to the instructions of Father [Sebastian] Kneipp, the famous German priest, who is making so many wonderful cures by his process of giving cold water applications. Father thought the bath did him good, but probably it is his faith in the application which made him feel better.

Mar. 22, 1894: Pres. Woodruff felt that Southern California had been sufficiently warned in regard to the work of the Lord, and it was decided to have the elders who have been laboring in San Bernardino and vicinity called to San Francisco, or be sent to the northern part of the State.

Apr. 19, 1894: At 2 o’clock I was at my Quorum meeting in the temple. Present: W[ilford] Woodruff, J[oseph] F. Smith, L[orenzo] Snow, F[ranklin] D. Richards,