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Henry Billam in Utah

By: Ardis E. Parshall - October 20, 2010

Liverpool Mercury
17 February 1862

Mormonism in Utah.

H. Billam, formerly of Sheffield, and subsequently a Mormon elder, has given an account of life in Utah, from which we extract a few passages.

After embracing the Mormon faith in 1843, I left Sheffield for America in 1848, and in 1854 set out for the Salt Lake city, remaining there for five years and seven months. I soon found out that Mormonism in England and Mormonism in America were two very different systems. In England all its objectionable principles were not only ignored but positively denied – its apostles and elders not only told negative but positive falsehoods, in order to induce belief that they were a much maligned people.

Some have wives allotted off to them by pairs in small houses, and on taking a new wife build a new room, so that they look like rows of stables, as if for the keeping of cows rather than for human habitations, whilst others have but one house or room, and sleep with two wives in one bed. The consequence is that strifes and quarrels and jealousy, and even fights, are very frequent. I speak what I know and testify what I have seen. A man there seems to think no more about his wife than he does of some of his domestic animals, for if his wives don’t like his treatment he soon neglects them and gets others. Marriage in Utah is stripped of every sentiment of purity and innocence and propriety, and sinks men lower than the brutes around them. I have seen more want and distress in Utah than I ever saw in Sheffield; hundreds of poor Mormons live in holes dug in the ground, with a frail roof over them, while others live in poor log cabins fit for nothing but pigs and cows; but Brigham Young and the rest of the big men have houses built of adobe or dried bricks, and live out of their poorer brethren. A man is better off in the Sheffield poorhouse, in my opinion, than the majority of the poor in the Mormon city.

As for the Sabbath, it is not at all regarded with the sacredness which it secures in Europe. We had ever a nigger performance one Sunday night in Springville; and T. Benson, one of their apostles, said that the Bible was like a last year’s almanack – no longer needed. Orson Hyde, too, another apostle so called, said that the Scriptures were only to be regarded as boys’ school books, and ought to be put away, and that we should live above them; and these things were said in the meetings of the brethren, whilst the Book of Mormon was exalted above the Holy Scriptures.

As for murders, alas, they were very common and little cared for, so long as the substance of their victims could be got for those in power.

If any think of going to Utah for the sake of liberty, I can assure them they will be most miserably mistaken; and as to money there is none or very little – everything is done by barter; even common brown sugar is 60 cents per lb., coffee is the same, shoes are 4 dollars a pair, and of the worst kind, too; unbleached cotton sells at 35 cents a yard, whilst tea is three dollars per lb., and the war mania is making everything dearer. The carriage of the goods named is so great for conveying cross the plains that it is proved that ever pound of sugar costs 20 cents.

As for education in Utah, it is almost entirely neglected, and the mental and moral training of the children scarcely cared for. Of free schools there are none, and the majority of the people are too poor to pay for education, so that the Mormon children are lamentably ignorant; and in the high places, where you would expect to most wish more educational refinement and propriety of conduct, there are certain of the elders’ sons that are the most rowdy of the young men in Utah – noted for getting publicly intoxicated, riding horses to death, and driving, Jehu-like, most furiously; and yet two of such specimens of vice, because they belonged to Brigham Young and Apostle Kimball, or because it was necessary to get rid of them for a time, were actually sent to England as apostles of Mormonism.


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