Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
BUCHANAN—THE STORY OF THE MORMONS
 THE President whom Douglas defied over the question of Kansas
was not Pierce, for in 1857 his term of office came to an end and
James Buchanan was elected as President. Like Pierce, he was a
"Northern man with Southern principles," and he threw his lot with
Like Pierce, he was a lawyer, and in ordinary times might have
made a good President and have left an honoured name behind him.
But he came into power at a most difficult and dangerous time. He
was not big enough or strong enough for the task. And so his name
is less honoured perhaps than that of any other President.
Besides Kansas, two more states were admitted into the Union during
Buchanan's term of office. These were Minnesota in 1858 and Oregon
in 1859. They both became states while the struggle over Kansas
was going on. For in them there was no trouble over the slavery
question, and they were both admitted as free states. Minnesota
was part of the Louisiana Purchase together with the last little
corner of the North-West Territory. Oregon was part of the Oregon
country. These with Kansas now made thirty-four states. So there
were now thirty-four stars in the flag.
It was at this time that what is known as the Mormon War took place.
Mormonism was a new religion founded by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith
was a shiftless, idle, jovial fellow, one of a large family as
shiftless and idle as himself. He was very
 ignorant, but he had a
wonderful imagination, and he could never tell the simplest happening
of his everyday life without making a great story out of it.
When he grew to be a man he began to dream dreams and see visions,
and at length he declared that a messenger from heaven had shown
him where to find a golden book. No one else saw this golden book,
because Smith had been warned by the angel that great punishment
would fall upon him if he showed it to any one. He was, however,
allowed to make a "translation" of what was written in the book.
This he did, publishing it as "The Book of the Mormons" or "The
Golden Bible." But it seems very likely that part of this so-called
translation was really copied from a story written by a man named
Spaulding which had never been published. A great deal of it was,
however, copied from the Bible.
Smith, who was at this time living in the State of New York, now
declared that the religion which had been revealed to him was the
only true religion. He founded a Church of which he was head or
"prophet" and under him were twelve apostles and other dignitaries.
A few people soon joined him and gradually their numbers increased
until at last they numbered several thousand.
They now became a community by themselves, they moved about from
place to place, and at length settled in Illinois where they built
a city called Nauvoo.
Smith had many revelations. If he wanted a horse or cart he had a
revelation saying that it was to be given to him. If he wanted his
followers to do anything, again he had a revelation saying it was
to be done. So he ruled like an autocrat and did whatever he chose.
And while at Nauvoo he had a revelation which said it was quite
lawful for men to marry as many wives as they wanted.
Soon the people of Illinois began to dislike the Latter-day Saints,
as they called themselves. For they stole horses
 and cattle and
all sorts of things belonging to other settlers. And once anything
was stolen by the Mormons, it was impossible to get it back. For if
a stranger went to their city, and showed by his questions that he
had come to look for something he had lost, he soon found himself
followed by a Mormon who silently whittled a stick with a long sharp
knife. Soon the man would be joined by another, also whittling a
stick with a long knife. Then another and another would silently
join the procession, until the stranger could stand it no longer
and hastily departed homeward.
So as time went on the people grew more and more angry with the
Mormons. And at length their anger burst into fury, and, in 1844,
Smith and one of his brothers were lynched by the mob.
The Mormons were greatly cast down at the death of their Prophet,
but they soon found a new leader in Brigham Young, one of the twelve
But this change of leader brought no peace between the Mormons and
their neighbours. Complaints of theft grew more and more frequent.
Both sides went about armed, murders were committed, and the settlers
burned many of the Mormon farms.
At length the whole of the Mormons were expelled from Illinois,
and one March day a great caravan started westward. Slowly day by
day they moved onward through unknown wildernesses, making a road
for themselves, and building bridges as they went, and only after
long trials and hardships they reached the Great Salt Lake.
The land around was treeless and desolate, and the ground so hard
that when they tried to plough it the ploughshare broke. Yet they
decided to make their dwelling-place amid this desolation, and
the building of Salt Lake City was begun.
At the beginning troubles and trials were many. But
 with hard work
and skilful irrigation the desert disappeared, and fertile fields
and fair gardens took its place.
The Mormons now laid claim to a great tract of land and called
it the State of Deseret. And over this state Brigham Young ruled
In 1850, however, the United States organised it as a territory and
changed the name to Utah. Utah is an Indian word meaning Mountain
Home. Of this territory Brigham Young was Governor, but other
non-Mormon officials were sent from Washington. Very soon there was
trouble between the Mormons and these non-Mormon officials and,
one after another they returned to Washington saying that it
was useless for them to remain in Utah. For with Brigham Young as
governor it was impossible to enforce the laws of the United States,
and that their lives even were in danger.
But when there was talk of removing Young from the post of Governor
he was indignant. "I am and will be Governor," he said, "and no
power can hinder it until the Lord Almighty says, 'Brigham, you
need not be Governor any longer.' "
The Mormons were indignant at the false reports, as they considered
them, of their doings which were spread abroad in the East. So they
asked the President to send one or two visitors "to look about them
and see what they can see, and return and report."
But instead of sending visitors President Buchanan appointed a new
Governor, and sent a body of troops to Utah.
Thus began what is called the Mormon War. But there was never a
battle fought. Although at first the Mormons prepared to resist
they changed their minds. And the Government troops marched into
Salt Lake City without resistance. They found the city deserted,
as nearly all the inhabitants had fled away. They soon returned,
 and "peace" was restored. But the submission was only
one in form, and for many a long day there was trouble between the
Government and the Territory of Utah.
Besides the main body of Mormons who founded Salt Lake City there
is another band, followers of Joseph Smith's eldest son also called
Joseph. They broke away from the first Mormons because they did not
think it right to marry more than one wife, nor could they believe
in all that "the prophet" taught his followers. Their chief city
is Lamoni in Iowa where they live quiet industrious lives and are
greatly respected by their neighbours.
This religion, founded so strangely, has spread very rapidly. In
1830 the church had only six members. To-day there are more than
three hundred thousand Mormons in the world, most of whom are in
the United States.