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Tracting in Newark, New Jersey, 1905

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 21, 2008

Frederick Daniel Worlton (1882-1931), of Lehi, Utah, served in the Eastern States Mission 1904-1906. He earned a medical degree from the University of Utah in 1910, married in 1913, and practiced medicine in Lehi, where he founded the Lehi Hospital.

I met a big straight lady at 304 Broad who was sitting on the south veranda of her house. To one just from Utah she might have appeared as a woman of not the highest type. But one soon gets accustomed to the different dress here in the east and is tempted to himself put on light, cool clothes. So after being here two weeks this lady’s big fleshy arms did not frighten me away.

I introduced myself to her and as she was a fair minded woman I readily got a conversation with her. I had fairly commenced the conversation when a rather small, bald-headed man with a nose that penetrated into his large mustache came walking from the street and asked his wife what I was. I handed him a tract and his wife told him I was an elder representing the ‘Mormon’ church. He grew stiff as a board, handed me back my tract, & said, “I want nothing to do with you ‘Mormons.’ You are a lot of thieves and murderers. You can’t come around me with your sleek tongues, telling that they are a good people, because I know.”

“Well, Jonathan, you don’t know what this young man believes yet, he hasn’t had a chance to tell us,” said the lady.

“Well, I know about them D— ‘Mormons.’ I was in the Mountain Meadow Massacree and I know that the ‘Mormon’ church murdered the men, women, and children just because they were not ‘Mormons.’ And there’s that Hooper Young who murdered that woman here in New York not long ago. It’s too bad that when they drove them from Missouri the people didn’t drive them into the Pacific Ocean and drown every son of a — of them.”

I had been trying to get to talk and finally his wife said, “Well Jonathan, let the young man say something — you are talking all the time.” He had, indeed, talked a great deal but the things narrated is all he said. I told him he knew part of the history of the “Mountain Meadow Masacree” very well but there was a part he didn’t mention and if he would listen I would finish the history concerning it. …

“Well,” he drawled, “but you ‘Mormons’ are such vile people. There’s polygamy. Why d— it, you ought to be shot, every one of you.”

“Just a moment! my friend,” said I, “give me part of the time and we’ll see whether I ought to be shot or not.” I explained to him that polygamy was not preached today, that it had not been preached since 1890, and offic[i]ally there had not been one plural marriage sanctioned since that time by the church officers, that there never had been more than 5% of the “Mormons” who practiced polygamy and that today there is on[ly] 3% practicing it, that if the eastern fanatics – women clubs and ministers would leave the “Mormon” people alone for a while that polygamy would die out root & branch. But as to the principle we referred to the Bible and saw how it was practiced anciently.

The lady kept a rooming house and by this time the poarch was well filled with boarders. “Come up on the poarch young man, and I’ll get you a chair and my Bible and we will see just what you do believe and if it is in accord with the bible,” said the lady. An old gentleman, who sat second to me, thought if it wasn’t intruding he would like to have a say. We all agreed and he went on. “I was acquainted with Joseph Smith, the founder of your church. I’ve been in his house, and seen Novoo temple, and know a thing or two from experience,” said he. (All ears straining to hear him.) “The people thought he was their God and worshiped him. When he went along the street they kneel down in the dust and take off their hats to him,’ said he. I asked him if he had ever seen a man or woman on their knees before Joseph Smith. If he had ever seen one.

“Well,” he said “that’s what the people said of them. I never saw it myself.”

I then told the crowd of other unreasonable stories told about my people. The good old gentleman seemed to be satisfied for he said no more until I was about to go. There was no more of them that had anything to say or ask so I gave them the church doctrines for nearly an hour. Occasionally the long nosed man would get “funny” and try to create laughter by trying to misunderstand my statements. But it only made him seem ridiculous and he left us rather disgusted before we were through.

I gave them more of “Mormonism” than I thought I ever knew. I gave them all I could, often referring to the Bible – by help of my Reference – and before going shook hands round and bid them farewell. They invited me back and seemed anxious to read the little books “Mr Durant of Salt Lake” that I sold them.

The old man who had seen the prophet said. “Well, young man, when you get back to Utah, just think of us people and what we used to think about the “Mormons.”

[Frederick Daniel Worlton. Journal, 1905-1912. LDS Archives]



5 Comments »

  1. Sorry about the truncated post — it’s been corrected now.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 21, 2008 @ 9:21 am

  2. His sense of accomplishment at becoming worldly-wise and open-minded brings back memories: “To one just from Utah she might have appeared as a woman of not the highest type. But one soon gets accustomed to the different dress here in the east….” I remember a similar process of acclimation to Brazilian mores followed by a sense of something like “sophistication” when more recently arrived missionaries where not so in-the-know.

    I am perplexed by the line, “I was in the Mountain Meadow Massacree….” Surely he meant, “I know about”?

    Comment by Edje — May 21, 2008 @ 9:31 am

  3. I have the same question, Edje. Worlton may have reported this conversation inaccurately in his diary, or the man may really have claimed to be there as a way of lending authority to his statements, just like the other man later claimed to have been in Nauvoo and seen people kneeling before Joseph Smith, before he admitted that he hadn’t really seen that at all. But I’m with you — the man cannot really have been at MM.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 21, 2008 @ 10:02 am

  4. This would have been, what, 48 years after MMM? So one of the child survivors would have been in their fifties…theoretically possible, but that would have been a heck of a coincidence! Much more likely either a inaccuracy or a false claim, as you say.

    Still, imagine the shock of missionary meeting a MMM survivor…

    Comment by Doug Hudson — May 21, 2008 @ 11:07 am

  5. I liked the awesomely politically-incorrect physical descriptions of everyone:

    “a big straight lady” . . . “this lady’s big fleshy arms” . . . a rather small, bald-headed man with a nose that penetrated into his large mustache” . . . “the long nosed man”

    Almost like it was intended as comedy. I can practically see these characters in my mind.

    Comment by Kaimi — May 21, 2008 @ 12:18 pm

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