Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » History’s Newsroom: The Truth About “Immersing ‘Half-Nude Young Men and Women,’” 1924
 


History’s Newsroom: The Truth About “Immersing ‘Half-Nude Young Men and Women,’” 1924

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 15, 2014

The title got you here, right? That is and always was the purpose of newspaper headlines. The following story describes an LDS baptismal service in Yorkshire, England, where – of course – there were no half-nude youths. I actually pulled it from a newspaper in Singapore, illustrating how far and wide news about Mormons tended to travel. Reports from French newspapers reached the most distant French islands in the Pacific; Mormon news from England shows up in Indian sources; Chinese newspapers picked up Mormon news from Japanese sources, which in turn had copied them from South African newspapers. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, at least, the world lurved talking about Mormons.

And sometimes, they got the story right!

SINGAPORE FREE PRESS AND MERCANTILE ADVERTISER
15 January 1925, 4/

MORMON ACTIVITY IN WEST RIDING.

Baptisms at Public Baths.

Bradford, Nov. 23. [1924]

A revival Mormon activity in the West Riding has evoked much agitation here against Mormonism and its methods, one of the practices alleged against them being that of immersing “half-nude young men and women” in their “secret rites” of baptism. Yesterday afternoon, in the Feversham Street School baths, there was a Mormon baptism, and the service was decorous almost to the point of dreariness.

The function was in the hands of Mr. J.E. Wahlquist, a young American of Scandinavian origin, who is president of the Leeds Conference area of the sect an area which embraces Leeds, Bradford, Keightley, Bathley, and Pudsey. Mr. Wahlquist informed me that in this district the Mormons have a membership of about 600. The ministry is carried on by local elders and travelling elders.

The congregation, composed of about 100 people, the majority of them women, occupied the galleries of the baths and looked down upon the swimming pool, over the surface of which – the water being heated – a filmy play of steam was just discernible. Quite a number of elders were present; a very young set of elders, by the way, ranging in age apparently from about 25 to 35 years.

No allusion was made to the agitation against Mormonism, except the President Wahlquist, in welcoming the congregation, said they only wished the public to see and judge for themselves. It was clear, however, from the way in which the gathering took up the opening hymn – a militant hymn with a dolorous tune – that the majority of those present were members of the church. In two short addresses all the illustrations and citations in support of the rite of baptism by immersion were drawn from the New Testament. There was no reference to the Book of Mormon. One of the speakers would have passed for English but for his reference to water as “wadder” and to Peter as “Peder.”

Mr. Wahlquist explained that it was one of the tenets of the Church that a child should be baptised at the age of eight. “But no one in this Church,” he said, “under 21 years of age is baptised without the consent of his or her parents. It is sometimes alleged against us that we baptise married women without the consent of the husband. That is false. No married woman can be baptised without her husband’s consent.”

The candidates for baptism were two small boys, three women (one of them about 50 and two about 18 years of age), and a little girl. All of them stepped down into the water for baptism in clothes in which they might have walked in the street with perfect propriety. The baptising elder (who was dressed in white overalls) stood at the foot of the steps leading into the water and received the candidates, and immersed them “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”



6 Comments »

  1. decorous almost to the point of dreariness

    Now, there’s a slogan we can live with!

    Comment by Mark B. — August 15, 2014 @ 8:21 am

  2. “Secret rites” I think some people were confusing secret with sacred.

    Mormon Elder talking to someone on the street: “Hey! Come see a baptism! Come learn about the Mormons!”

    Person on street: “No, I’m busy…I have to go floss my cat.”

    [Later] Person on street to friend: “I hear the Mormons are practicing some of their secret rites in this town.”

    Friend: “Really?”

    Person: “Yeah no one really knows what they do and they never talk about it. They are a very secretive bunch those Mormons. It’s difficult to find out anything about them.”

    Comment by quantumleap42 — August 15, 2014 @ 8:36 am

  3. …clothes in which they might have walked in the street with perfect propriety.

    Obviously those white polyester oversized jumpsuits we have at our stake center were not yet in vogue in 1924.

    Comment by kevinf — August 15, 2014 @ 10:47 am

  4. kevinf, and yet the Elder had white overalls!

    Comment by J. Stapley — August 15, 2014 @ 11:00 am

  5. We will open our meeting with a “militant hymn of dolorous tune” and then Bro. Smith will offer the opening prayer.

    Comment by Grant — August 16, 2014 @ 11:06 am

  6. Grant,

    LOL! It just so happens that militant sorrow is my daily cup of tea.

    Ardis,

    This is a wonderful find. It sounds like it was an excellent baptismal service.

    Comment by Tod Robbins — August 18, 2014 @ 12:10 pm

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