You’re no doubt familiar with Brigham Young’s disgust with the novels read by young people. He said that novels were lies made to look as much like truth as possible, and that “our young women and boys read these lies until they get perfectly restless in their feelings.”
[M]any of our young women just hope and pray, if they ever thought of prayer, “I do wish some villain would come along and break open my room and steal me and carry me off; I want to be stolen, I want to be carried away, I want to be lost with the Indians, I want to be shipwrecked and to go through some terrible scene, so that I can experience what this beloved lady has experienced whom I have been reading about. Oh, how affecting! And they read with the tears running down their cheeks, until their books become perfectly wet, and they do so wish that somebody or other would come and steal and carry them off.
“If I had the dictation of a society,” he said, “all this would stop … I would have every person learning something useful.” [“Discourse,” 23 July 1873]
“Learning something useful” … hmm … like the usefulness of this article from 18 January 1873 Juvenile Instructor?
We are going to tell you something in this number about the rack – one of the most terrible instruments of torture ever invented, or used by man to make his fellow man mourn. You see that the outline of this instrument, represented in the picture, is something like a door frame. A short distance from each end of the frame is a movable roller which is turned by means of a lever in the hands of the torturers or executioners. On each of the rollers two ropes are fastened, the other ends of which are tied round the wrists and ankles of the condemned. This forces him to lie down, and he is then ready for the torture, which is caused by turning the rollers, each turn straining the joints and limbs of the sufferer, and causing an increase of agony.
The rack has been invented for a long period of time, but by whom we can not tell you; we do not think the inventor’s name is known, and if it were it would not be likely to be honored much, for only the benefactors of men are deserving of men’s honor and respect. We do not believe that this abominable instrument is used anywhere in the world now; it used to be a good deal in some of the nations of southern Europe to put criminals to death. One was made in England in the reign of Henry the Sixth, in the 15th century. It is now to be seen in the tower of London. The most terrible instance of the execution of a criminal on the rack is that of Ravillac, the man who killed Henry the Fourth of France while the latter was riding in his carriage in the streets of Paris. This murder was committed in the year 1610, the murderer sticking a knife into the king’s heart. For this crime he was condemned to death by the rack, accompanied by the most brutal and savage tortures that, perhaps, any man ever endured. In his right hand was fastened the knife with which he did the murder, both hand and knife being then burned in a slow fire. After this, pieces of flesh were torn from the tenderest parts of his body with red hot pincers, and into the wounds thus made, melted lead, oil, pitch and rosin were poured. The victim, being a very strong man, was enabled to bear all this and still live. His body was then bound to the rack, which was so made that it could be worked by horses, and four of these animals being attached to it, they were whipped in opposite directions, until the body of Ravillac was torn asunder. Could anything be more horrible? The crime which he had committed was of a diabolical character, but the punishment awarded was what might have been expected only from the very worst kind of savages, and not from a great civilized nation. But the France of the 17th century and the France of the 19th are happily very different in these respects, and if a modern Ravillac should assassinate ten kings, public sentiment to-day, among any civilized people in the world would prevent him being subjected to torture beyond that of a speedy death by hanging or decapitation.
The article contrasts the use of the rack in religious wars through the centuries with the teachings of the Prince of Peace and concludes,
True, the rack has disappeared, but the hate felt for Truth, pure and undefiled, by the adherents of the bogus Christianity which has so long cursed the world, still lives and is as vigorous as ever; and its influence will cause the righteous to suffer more or less, until the time when the Prince of Peace shall be Lord of all men’s hearts, and the principles He taught shall be universally honored and practiced.
Then there was this story from the same publication – a magazine for children – in its 25 April 1874 issue:
A Baby Tomb in China
What a sad scene! How sorrowful these poor women appear! And well they may; for though the heathen religion in which they are brought up does not teach them the wickedness of what they are doing, yet they have hearts and feelings like mothers of other nations, and it is a terrible thing to part with their children in such a way. You, who are brought up under the teachings of the gospel, will perhaps scarcely believe it, when we tell you that these are Chinese mothers, who, after a custom carried out to an immense extent in that country, are murdering their little infant daughters by putting them alive through the holes in the wall of the tomb, that they may drop down into the pit which it covers, never more to come out.
In the neighborhood of the large cities of China, towers or tombs of this kind are provided to receive the bodies of the poor little girls, whom their parents do not think it worth while to rear. Thousands and tens of thousands, there is every reason to fear, are thus destroyed every year. The parents often think that a female infant will cost them more than she will ever be worth to them; and thus, to save the expense of bringing her up, they quietly take her to one of these tombs, and leave her there to die. and a most terrible death it surely must be!
How loudly do facts such as these show the necessity of the gospel being restored to the earth in these days! How it speaks of the goodness of God in doing so. By and by this gospel will be preached in China; then these poor, ignorant, sinful mothers will have the privilege of obeying its laws. They will learn to value their little ones, and, instead of killing them, they will nurse and cherish them and instruct them in the laws of God, and teach them all things that are good. What a happy day it will be when the people of China and of all other nations worship the true and living God and seek to serve Him.
And don’t overlook this gem from the 13 November 1875 issue:
Sharks are sometimes twenty or thirty feet long – fierce, hungry creatures, with terrible jaws, lips like leather, and six rows of sharp, white teeth, ready to tear up any poor sailor who may happen to fall overboard; so we may fancy what rejoicing there is on board when Mr. Shark is made prisoner, and hauled up on deck by his cruel mouth. But the men have to look out, or he will bite off legs and arms if he gets a chance of a snap, even after he has been made prisoner.
There are many dreadful stories told about these fierce creatures. In some parts of the world they are worshiped. In olden times on the Sandwich Islands the natives idolized the shark, fed it regularly and would not have it injured if they could prevent it. Ignorant people in other parts of the world have entertained the same ideas respecting sharks. Sailors have a great dread of them, and are very superstitious respecting them. If there be a sick man on board the ship, and a shark is seen to follow the ship, as they sometimes do, day after day, they conclude that the man is doomed to die, and that the shark is only swimming behind them to obtain his body as prey. When they haul one aboard, as we see them doing in the engraving, they sometimes treat the shark very cruelly, cutting him to pieces with hatchets. They have been known to cut out the eyes of a shark and turn him adrift, thus leaving him to a darkened and miserable existence. They hate them terribly. At one time at Port Royal, in the West Indies, the sailors would sometimes slip overboard from English ships of war and swim ashore to desert. To prevent this, a shark of extraordinary dimensions was fed by order of the admiral on purpose to prevent the men from deserting. If a man attempted to go over the side and swim to the shore, the shark was sure to catch him. It is not long since that we read of a sloop-of-war having capsized near the east coast of Cuba, where the sharks are very numerous. The men hung about the wreck till the sharks collected and began to fight for their prey. The first man bitten was the lieutenant, whose leg was taken off above the knee. He still encouraged his crew, but was soon afterwards torn to pieces. No less than thirty-three of these people were dragged off, one by one, and devoured by the sharks. The remaining few were rescued by an American vessel.
Sweet dreams, little children. Maybe one day The Friend will print useful stories like this!