Mormon History

Mormon Church Second Renouncement of Section 132 - 1907

(Thank You Teddy Roosevelt and your Big Stick Policy!)

Theodore Roosevelt
State of the Union Address - 1906

I am well aware of how difficult it is to pass a constitutional amendment. Nevertheless in my judgment the whole question of marriage and divorce should be relegated to the authority of the National Congress. At present the wide differences in the laws of the different States on this subject result in scandals and abuses; and surely there is nothing so vitally essential to the welfare of the nation, nothing around which the nation should so bend itself to throw every safeguard, as the home life of the average citizen. The change would be good from every standpoint. In particular it would be good because it would confer on the Congress the power at once to deal radically and efficiently with polygamy; and this should be done whether or not marriage and divorce are dealt with. It is neither safe nor proper to leave the question of polygamy to be dealt with by the several States. Power to deal with it should be conferred on the National Government. 

 

JOSEPH F. SMITH, JOHN R. WINDER, ANTHON H. LUND, In behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, March 26, 1907.  

Adopted by vote of the Church, in General Conference, April 5, 1907.  

AN ADDRESS. THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS TO THE WORLD  

Greeting:  

In the hope of correcting misrepresentation, and of establishing a more perfect understanding respecting ourselves and our religion, we, the officers and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in general conference assembled, issue this Declaration.  

Such an action seems imperative. Never were our principles or our purposes more widely misrepresented, more seriously misunderstood. Our doctrines are distorted, the sacred ordinances of our religion ridiculed, and Christianity questioned, our history falsified, our character traduced, and our course of conduct as a people reprobated and condemned.  

In answer to the charges made against us, for ourselves and for those who, under divine direction, founded our religion and our Church; for our posterity, to whom we shall transmit the faith, and into whose keeping we shall give the Church of Christ; and before mankind, whose opinions we respect, we solemnly declare the truth to be:  

Our religion is founded on the revelations of God. The gospel we proclaim is the Gospel of Christ, restored to earth in this the dispensation of the fulness of times. The high claim of the Church is declared in its title-The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Established by divine direction, its name was prescribed by him whose Church it is-Jesus the Christ.  

The religion of this people is pure Christianity. Its creed is expressive of the duties of practical life. Its theology is based on the doctrines of the Redeemer.  

If it be true Christianity to accept Jesus Christ in person and his mission as divine; to revere him as the Son of God, the crucified and risen Lord, through whom alone mankind can attain salvation; to accept his teachings as a guide, to adopt as a standard and observe as a law the ethical code he promulgated; to comply with the requirements prescribed by him as essential to membership in his Church, namely, faith, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, if this be Christianity, then are we Christians, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church.  

The theology of our Church is the theology taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles, the theology of scripture and reason. It not only acknowledges the sacredness of ancient scripture and the binding force of divinely-inspired acts and utterances in ages past; but also declares that God now speaks to man in this final gospel dispensation.  

We believe in the Godhead, comprising the three individual personages, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  

We hold that man is verily the child of God, formed in his image, endowed with divine attributes, and possessing power to rise from the gross desires of earth to the ennobling aspirations of heaven.  

We believe in the pre-existence of man as a spirit, and in a future state of individual existence, in which every soul shall find its place, as determined by justice and mercy, with opportunities of endless progression, in the varied conditions of eternity.  

We believe in the free agency of man, and therefore in his individual responsibility.  

We believe that salvation is for no select few, but that all men may be saved through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel.  

We affirm that to administer in the ordinances of the gospel, authority must be given of God; and that this authority is the power of the Holy Priesthood.  

We affirm that through the ministration of immortal personages, the Holy Priesthood has been conferred upon men in the present age, and that under this divine authority the Church of Christ has been organized.  

We proclaim the objects of this organization to be, the preaching of the gospel in all the world, the gathering of scattered Israel, and the preparation of a people for the coming of the Lord.  

"Mormonism" seeks its converts among all classes and conditions of society, and those who accept it are among the best men and women of the nations from which they came-honest, industrious, virtuous, and reverent. In their community life they are peaceable, law-abiding and exemplary. Their instincts, traditions and training are opposed to vice and crime. The religion they have embraced, the Church of which they are members, condemns every form of evil, and their lives, with few exceptions, are exponents of righteousness. Many of the early proselytes to our faith were descendants of the Pilgrims and Puritans, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other leaders among the Latter-day Saints, traced their lineage to the founders and first defenders of the nation. Joseph Smith was a native of Vermont, and by vocation a farmer. All trades and professions were drawn upon for the membership of the Church. In England, its first foreign mission field, it was mainly the middle and working classes that responded to the gospel message. All over the world it has been the same-our converts have been men and women of character, intelligence, and integrity. There is nothing in "Mormonism" to attract the selfish or the vile.  

The effort to differentiate the "Mormon" priesthood and the "Mormon" people, by allowing that the latter are a good, honest, though misguided folk, while alleging that their leaders are the personification of all that is bad, is a most futile one. The great majority of the male members of the Church hold the Priesthood, and though constituting the official body of the Church, they are a portion of the people. Priesthood and people are inseparable, and vindicated or condemned, stand together.  

The charge that the Church relies upon duplicity in the propagation of her doctrines, and shuns enlightened investigation, is contrary to reason and fact. Deceit and fraud in the perpetuation of any religion must end in failure. A system of religion, ethics, or philosophy, to attract and hold the attention of men, must be sincere in doctrine and honest in propaganda. That the Church employs deceptive methods; that she has one doctrine for the Priesthood and another for the people; that she teaches one set of principles to her members in Zion, and another to the world, is not true. Enlightened investigation is the very means through which the Church hopes to promote belief in her principles, and extend the beneficent influence of her institutions. From the beginning, enlightened investigation has been the one thing she has sought. To secure this she has sent her missionaries in all parts of the world, especially to the centers of civilization and enlightenment, where her literature has been freely distributed; yet too frequently her claims have been pronounced without a hearing. At the Columbian Exposition, which celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America, the religions of the world were represented in a great parliament, for the purpose of showing "in the most impressive way, what and how many important truths the various religions hold and teach in common; * * * to set forth by those most competent to speak, what are deemed the important distinctive truths held and taught by each religion; * * * to inquire what light each religion has afforded or may afford to the other religions of the world." To this gathering the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though the most distinctively American church, was not invited; nevertheless, she sought opportunity to place side by side with the creeds of all the great historic faiths, a presentation of her principles, and to voice to mankind the truths she deemed most important and most helpful. This opportunity was denied the Church, except upon such terms as were humiliating and subversive of the end sought-a wider publication and a more just consideration of her faith. After such an experience, and others of like kind, though of varying degrees, we submit that it ill becomes our accusers to charge us with shunning enlightened investigation.  

It has been charged that "Mormonism" is opposed to education. The history of the Church and the precepts of its leaders are a sufficient answer to that accusation. Joseph Smith, the first President of the Church, founded schools, and attended them as a student, as did many of his followers under his advice and influence. Brigham Young, who succeeded Joseph Smith, emulated him as a founder and patron of schools; and every subsequent President of the Church, his associates, and the people generally, have been equally zealous in that cause. In the course of their exodus from Illinois, our people built log school houses while halting on the Missouri river, then the frontier of the nation; and after they had traversed a thousand miles of wilderness, and planted their infant colony in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, school houses were among the first buildings they erected. Such has been the course pursued in every "Mormon" colony. The State of Utah, now dotted with free schools, academies, colleges, and universities, institutions which have given her marked educational prominence, furnishes indisputable evidence that her people-mostly "Mormons"-are friends and promoters of education. To the Latter-day Saints, salvation itself, under the atonement of Christ, is a process of education. That knowledge is a means of eternal progress, was taught by Joseph Smith:-It is impossible for a man to be saved in ignorance.-A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge. The glory of God is intelligence.  

Whatever principles of intelligence we attain to in this life, will rise with us in the resurrection.-He who gains in this life more knowledge than another, will have so much the advantage in the world to come. These were aphorisms with the Prophet Joseph Smith.  

Neither is it true, as alleged, that "Mormonism" is destructive of the sanctity of the marriage relation; on the contrary, it regards the lawful union of man and woman as the means through which they may realize their highest and holiest aspirations. To the Latter-day Saints, marriage is not designed by our heavenly Father to be merely an earthly union, but one that shall survive the vicissitudes of time, and endure for eternity, bestowing honor and joy in this world, glory and eternal lives in the worlds to come.  

The typical "Mormon" home is the temple of the family, in which the members of the household gather morning and evening, for prayer and praise to God, offered in the name of Jesus Christ, and often accomplished by the reading of scripture and the singing of spiritual songs. Here are taught and gently enforced, the moral precepts and religious truths which, taken together, make up that righteousness which exalteth a nation, and ward off that sin which is a reproach to any people. If such conditions are not a sufficient answer to the charge that our homes are un-Christian, subversive of moral influence, and destructive of the state's stability, then we turn to the present generations, "Mormon" American citizens, products of our religion and our homes, for our vindication:-Here are our sons and daughters, submit them to any test of comparison you will; regard for truth, veneration for age, reverence for God, love of man, loyalty to country, respect for law, refinement of manners, and lastly, in this issue between us and our accusers, the crowning test of all, purity of mind and chastity of conduct. It is not inordinate self praise to say of the generations of our people, born and reared in "Mormon" homes, that they will compare favorably, in the Christian virtues, and in all that makes for good citizenship, with any community in this or any other country.  

The charge that the Church is a commercial rather than a religious institution; that its aims are temporal rather than spiritual; that it dictates its members in their industrial activities and relations, and aims at absolute domination in temporal affairs,-all this we emphatically deny. That the Church claims the right  

to counsel and advise her members in temporal as well as in spiritual affairs is admitted. Leading Church officials, men of practical experience in pioneer life, have aided the people in establishing settlements throughout the inter-mountain west, and have given them, gratuitously, the benefit of their broader knowledge of things, through counsel and direction, which the people have followed to their advantage; and both the wisdom of the leaders and the good sense of the people are vindicated in the results achieved. All this has been done without the exercise of arbitrary power. It has resulted from wise counsels, persuasively given and willingly followed.  

It has also been the policy of the Church to foster home industries. Where there has been a lack of confidence in some of these enterprises, and private capital has been afraid to invest, the Church has furnished funds that the practicability of the undertaking might be demonstrated; and repeatedly the wisdom of this policy has been made manifest. Thereby the resources of various localities have been developed, community industries diversified, and the people, especially the poor, given increased opportunity of employment and a better chance to become self-sustaining. We deny the existence of arbitrary power in the Church; and this because its government is moral government purely, and its forces are applied through kindness, reason, and persuasion. Government by consent of the governed is the rule of the Church. Following is a summary of the word of the lord, setting forth the principles on which the Church government is to be administered:  

The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness. That they may be conferred upon men, is true; but when they undertake to cover their sins, or gratify their pride, their vain ambition, or exercise control, or dominion, or compulsion, upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, the Spirit of the lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, amen to the priesthood, or the authority of that man. No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long suffering, by gentleness, and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy and without guile.  

Nominations to Church office may be made by revelation; and the right of nomination is usually exercised by those holding high authority, but it is a law that no person is to be ordained to any office in the Church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of its members. This law is operative as to all the officers of the Church, from the president down to the deacon. The ecclesiastical government itself exists by the will of the people; elections are frequent, and the members are at liberty to vote as they choose. True, the elective principle here operates by popular acceptance, rather than through popular selection, but it is none the less real. Where the foregoing facts exist as to any system, it is not and cannot be arbitrary.  

The Church officers, in the exercise of their functions, are answerable to the Church. No officer, however exalted his position, is exempt from this law. All decisions, rulings and conduct of officials are subject to investigation, correction, revision and final rejection by the general assembly of the priesthood of the Church, its final court of appeal. Even the President, its highest officer, is subject to these laws, and special provision is made for his trial, and, if necessary, his deposition. Where these facts exist in any administration of government, it cannot be justly classed as a tyranny, nor considered a menace to free institutions.  

The tithing system of the Church, so often denounced as oppressive, and as imposing an arbitrary ecclesiastical tax, is in reality a system of free-will offerings. True, the members, by the law of the Church, are under moral obligation to pay one-tenth of their interest annually. But from the very nature of the principles on which churches exist, they being voluntary associations for the fostering of spiritual life, and the achievement of moral and charitable ends-in which associations membership cannot be compelled-there is no compulsory means of collecting this or any other church revenue. Tithing is a voluntary offering for religious and charitable purposes, and not a scheme of extortion for the enrichment of the higher officials. Service in the interest of the Church is given, for the most part, without monetary compensation; where compensation is allowed, it is moderate; the high Church officials are not rich, but in the majority of cases are men of limited means, and where it is otherwise, their wealth did not come from the tithes of the people;-these facts are a complete refutation of the slander that our tithing is a system of extortion practiced upon the people for the enrichment of the priesthood. Like the Church government throughout, the tithing system operates upon the principle of free will and the consent of those who hold the faith to be divine.  

Neither in mental attitude nor in conduct, have we been disloyal to the government under whose guarantee of religious freedom our Church was founded. The Book of Mormon proclaims America to be the land of Zion; a land dedicated to righteousness and liberty; a land of promise to certain branches of the house of Israel, and also to the Gentiles. It declares that God will fortify this land against all other nations; and "he that fighteth against Zion shall perish." By revelation to Joseph Smith, the Prophet, the Lord declared that he had established the Constitution of the United States through "wise men raised up unto this very purpose." It is also our belief that God has blessed and prospered this nation, and given unto it power to enforce the divine decrees concerning the land of Zion, that free institutions might not perish from the earth. Cherishing such convictions, we have no place in our hearts for disloyal sentiments, nor is there likelihood of treason in our conduct. Were we evil-disposed toward American institutions, or disloyal to the United States, we would be recreant to these principles to which by interest and education we are attached, and would repudiate the revelations of God concerning this land.  

In reaffirming our belief in the high destiny of America, our attachment to American institutions, and our loyalty to the United States, we declare that these sentiments, this loyalty, have outlived the memory of all the wrongs inflicted upon our fathers and ourselves.  

If patriotism and loyalty are qualities manifested in times of peace, by just, temperate, benevolent, industrious and virtuous living; in times of trial, by patience, resistance only by lawful means to real or fancied wrongs, and by final submission to the laws of the land, though involving distress and sorrow; and in time of war, by willingness to fight the battle of the nation,-then, unquestionably, are the "Mormon" people patriotic and loyal.  

The only conduct seemingly inconsistent with our professions as loyal citizens, is that involved in our attitude during the controversies that have arisen respecting plural marriage. This practice was introduced by the Prophet Joseph Smith, at Nauvoo, Illinois. The practice was continued in Utah, and published to the world as a doctrine of the Church in 1852. In the face of these facts, Brigham Young, whose position in the matter was well known, was twice appointed with the consent of the Senate, first by President Fillmore, and afterwards by President Pierce, to be the governor of this territory. It was not until 1862 that Congress enacted a law forbidding plural marriage. This law the Latter-day Saints conscientiously disregarded, in their observance of a principle sanctioned by their religion. Moreover, they believed the enactment to be violative of the Constitution, which provided that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Notwithstanding this attitude and conduct on the part of our people, no decision of the Supreme Court upon this question was secured until 1878, more than thirty years after the settlement of Utah; nor were determined efforts made to enforce the law until a further period of five or six years had elapsed. Surely this toleration, under which the practice of plural marriage became established, binds the United States and its People, if indeed they are not bound by considerations of mercy and wisdom, to the exercise of patience and charity in dealing with this question.  

If it be charged by those who find extenuation for offenses committed prior to the decision of 1878, that our subsequent duty as good citizens was clear and unmistakable, we reply that the situation, as viewed by some of our members, developed a conflict between duty to God and duty to the government. Moreover, it was thought possible that the decision of the Supreme Court might be reversed, if what was regarded as a constitutional right were not too easily surrendered. What our people did in disregard of the law and of the decisions of the Supreme Court affecting plural marriages, was in the spirit of maintaining religious rights under constitution guaranties, and not in any spirit of defiance or disloyalty to the government.  

The "Mormon" people have bowed in respectful submission to the laws enacted against plural marriage. While it is true that for many years they contested the constitutionality of the law of Congress, and during that time acted in harmony with their religious convictions in upholding by practice, as well as by spoken and written word, a principle committed to them from God, still, when every means of constitutional defense had been exhausted, the Church abandoned the controversy and announced its intention to be obedient to the laws of the land. Subsequently, when statehood for Utah became a possibility, on condition that her constitution provide by ordinance, irrevocable without the consent of the United States, that plural marriages should be forever prohibited, the "Mormon" people accepted the condition by voting for the adoption of the constitution. From that time until now the Church has been true to its pledge respecting the abandonment of the practice of plural marriage. If it be urged that there have been instances of the violation of the anti-polygamy laws, and that some persons within the Church have sought to evade the rule adopted by her, prohibiting plural marriages, the plain answer is that in every state and nation there are individuals who violate law in spite of all the vigilance that can be exercised; but it does not follow that the integrity of the community or a state is destroyed, because of such individual transgressions. All we ask is that the same common-sense judgment be exercised in relation to our community that is accorded to other communities. When all the circumstances are weighed, the wonder is, not that there have been sporadic cases of plural marriage, but that such cases have been so few. It should be remembered that a religious conviction existed among the people, holding this order of marriage to be divinely sanctioned. Little wonder, then, that there should appear, in a community as large as ours, and as sincere, a few over-zealous individuals who refused to submit even to the action of the Church in such a matter, or that these few should find others who sympathized with their views; the number, however, is small.  

Those who refer to "'Mormon' polygamy" as a menace to the American home, or as a serious factor in American problems, make themselves ridiculous. So far as plural marriage is concerned, the question is settled. The problem of polygamous living among our people is rapidly solving itself. It is a matter of record that in 1890, when the manifesto was issued, there were 2,451 plural families; in nine years this number had been reduced to 1,543. Four years later the number was 897; and many of these have since passed away.  

In answer to the charge of disloyalty, founded upon alleged secret obligations against our government, we declare to all men that there is nothing treasonable or disloyal in any ordinance, ceremony, or ritual of the Church.  

The overthrow of earthly governments; the union of Church and state; domination of the state by the Church; ecclesiastical interference with the political freedom and rights of the citizen-all such things are contrary to the principles and policy of the Church, and directly at variance with the oft-repeated declarations of its chief presiding authorities and of the Church itself, speaking through its general conferences. The doctrine of the Church on the subject of government stands as follows:  

"We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring and sustaining the law."  

Such is our acknowledgment of duty to civil governments. Again:  

"We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same, and that such as will administer law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people (if a republic), or the will of the sovereign.  

"We do not believe it just to mingle religious influence with civil government, whereby one religious society is fostered and another prescribed in its spiritual privileges, and the individual rights of its members, as citizens, denied."  

With reference to the laws of the Church, it is expressly said:  

"Be subject to the powers that be, until He reigns whose right it is to reign, and subdues all enemies under His feet."  

"Behold, the laws which ye have received from my hand are the laws of the Church, and in this light ye shall hold them forth."  

That is to say, no law or rule enacted, or revelation received by the Church, has been promulgated for the State. Such laws and revelations as have been given are solely for the government of the Church.  

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to the doctrine of the separation of church and state; the non-interference of church authority in political matters; and the absolute freedom and independence of the individual in the performance of his political duties. If at any time there has been conduct at variance with this doctrine, it has been in violation of the well-settled principles and policy of the Church.  

We declare that from principle and policy, we favor:  

The absolute separation of church and state;  

No domination of the state by the church;  

No church interference with the functions of the state;  

No state interference with the functions of the church, or with the free exercise of religion;  

The absolute freedom of the individual from the domination of ecclesiastical authority in political affairs;  

The equality of all churches before the law.  

The re-affirmation of this doctrine and policy, however, is predicated upon the express understanding that politics in the states where our people reside shall be conducted as in other parts of the Union: that there shall be no interference by the state with the Church, nor with the free exercise of religion. Should political parties make war upon the Church, or menace the civil, political, or religious rights of its members as such, against a policy of that kind, by any political party or set of men whatsoever, we assert the inherent right of self-preservation for the Church, and her right and duty to call upon all her children, and upon all who love justice and desire the perpetuation of religious liberty, to come to her and to stand with her until the danger shall have passed. And this openly, submitting the justice of our cause to the enlightened judgment of our fellow-men, should such an issue unhappily arise. We desire to live in peace and confidence with our fellow-citizens of all political parties and of all religions.  

It is sometimes urged that the permanent realization of such a desire is impossible, since the Latter-day Saints hold as a principle of their faith, that God now reveals himself to man, as in ancient times; that the priesthood of the Church constitutes a body of men who have, each for himself, in the sphere in which he moves, special right to such revelation; that the President of the Church is recognized as the only person through whom divine communication will come as law and doctrine to the religious body; that such revelation may come at any time, upon any subject, spiritual or temporal, as God wills; and, finally, that, in the mind of every faithful Latter-day Saint, such revelation, in whatsoever it counsels, advises or demands, is paramount. Furthermore, it is sometimes pointed out, that the members of the Church are looking for the actual coming of a Kingdom of God on earth, that shall gather all the kingdoms of the world into one visible, divine empire, over which the risen Messiah shall reign.  

All this, it is held, renders it impossible for a "Mormon" to give true allegiance to his country, or to any earthly government.  

We refuse to be bound by the interpretations which others place upon our beliefs, or by what they allege must be the practical consequences of our doctrines. Men have no right to impute to us what they think may be the logical deduction from our beliefs, but which we ourselves do not accept. We are to be judged by our own interpretations and by our own actions, not by the logic of others, as to what is, or may be, the result of our faith. We deny that our belief in divine revelation, or our anticipation of the coming kingdom of God weakens in any degree the genuineness of our allegiance to our country. When the divine empire will be established, we may not know any more than other Christians who pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven;" but we do know that our allegiance and loyalty to our country are strengthened by the fact that while awaiting the advent of the Messiah's kingdom, we are under a commandment from God to be subject to the powers that be, until He comes "whose right it is to reign."  

"Mormonism" is in the world for the world's good. Teaching truth, inculcating morality, guarding the purity of the home, honoring authority and government, fostering education, and exalting man and woman, our religion denounces crime, and is a foe to tyranny in every form. "Mormonism" seeks to uplift, not to destroy society. She joins hands with the civilization of this age. Proclaiming herself a special harbinger of the Savior's second coming, she recognizes in all the great epochs and movements of the past, steps in the march of progress leading up to the looked for millennial reign. "Mormonism" lifts an ensign of peace to all people. The predestined fruits of her proposed system are the sanctification of the earth and the salvation of the human family.  

And now, to all the world. Having been commanded of God, as much as lieth in us, to live peaceably with all men,-we, in order to be obedient to the heavenly commandment, send forth this Declaration, that our position upon the various questions agitating the public mind concerning us may be made known. We desire peace, and will do all in our power on fair and honorable principles to promote it. Our religion is interwoven with our lives, it has formed our character, and the truth of its principles is impressed upon our souls. We submit to you, our fellow-men, that there is nothing in those principles that calls for execration, no matter how widely in some respects they may differ from your conceptions of religious truth. Certainly there is nothing in them that may not stand within the wide circle of modern toleration of religious thought and practice. To us these principles are crystallizations of truth. They are as dear to us as your religious conceptions are to you. In their application to human conduct, we see the world's hope of redemption from sin and strife, from ignorance and unbelief. Our motives are not selfish; our purposes not petty and earth-bound; we contemplate the human race-past, present, and yet to come-as immortal beings, for whose salvation it is our mission to labor; and to this work, broad as eternity and deep as the love of God, we devote ourselves, now, and forever. Amen.

 (Webmaster Note: Mormon Senator Harry Reid would have made a great 19th century Anti-Mormon)

Reid: Polygamous groups are criminal gangs

July 24, 2008

WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- Polygamous groups are criminal gangs that commit welfare fraud and tax evasion as well as sexual abuse, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

Reid, D-Nev., a Mormon, spoke at the opening of a Judiciary Committee hearing on the communities, the Deseret Morning News reported. He said he was glad the hearing was being held on Pioneer Day, a Utah holiday commemorating the arrival of the Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City.

"I am here to tell you that polygamist communities in the United States are a form of organized crime," he said. "The most obvious crime being committed in these communities is bigamy, child abuse -- teen and preteen girls are forced to marry older men and bear their children."

Reid proposed a federal-state task force to police polygamous sects, CNN said. "The lawless conduct of polygamous communities in the United States deserves national and federal action," Reid told the Washington hearing.

Polygamists, including women in long dresses, packed the hearing room. The focus was on law enforcement, and the polygamists did not testify although former sect members did.

Bill Number: S. 3313 (IS)
Bill Title: Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008 (Introduced in Senate)
Sponsor: Sen Reid, Harry   View all legislation sponsored by this member.
Introduced: 2008/07/23
Latest Major Action: 2008/07/23 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Notes: There are no notes for this Bill

S 3313 IS

110th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 3313

To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

July 23, 2008

Mr. REID introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008'.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Despite the fact that polygamy has been illegal in the United States for over 100 years, the practice of polygamy involving underage marriages is growing. Sizable polygamist communities exist in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, and are expanding into other States.

(2) Polygamist communities are typically controlled by organizations that engage in widespread and systematic violations of State laws and the laws of the United States in order to enrich their leaders and maintain control over their members.

(3) The crimes perpetrated by these organizations include child abuse, domestic violence, welfare fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, witness tampering, and transporting victims across State lines.

(4) Due to the systematic and sophisticated nature of these crimes, State and local law enforcement agencies would benefit from the assistance of the Federal Government as they investigate and prosecute these organizations and their leaders for violations of State law. In addition, violations of Federal law associated with polygamy should be investigated and prosecuted directly by Federal authorities.

(5) The work of State and Federal law enforcement agencies to combat crimes by polygamist organizations would benefit from enhanced collaboration and information-sharing among such agencies.

(6) The establishment of a task force within the Department of Justice to coordinate Federal efforts and collaborate with State agencies would aid in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities of polygamist organizations in both Federal and State courts.

(7) Polygamist organizations isolate, control, manipulate, and threaten victims with retribution should they ever abandon the organization. Individuals who choose to testify against polygamist organizations in Federal or State court have unique needs, including social services and witness protection support, that warrant Federal assistance.

SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT OF A FEDERAL POLYGAMY TASK FORCE.

(a) Establishment- There is established within the Department of Justice a Federal Polygamy Task Force, which shall consist of the Deputy Attorney General, the United States attorneys from affected Federal judicial districts, representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services, and any officer of the Federal Government whom the Deputy Attorney General considers necessary to strengthen Federal law enforcement activities and provide State and local law enforcement officials the assistance they need to address the illegal activity of one or more polygamist organizations.

(b) Purposes- The Federal Polygamy Task Force established under subsection (a) shall--

(1) formulate effective responses to the unique set of crimes committed by polygamist organizations;

(2) establish partnerships with State and local law enforcement agencies to share relevant information and strengthen State and Federal efforts to combat crimes perpetrated by polygamist organizations;

(3) assist States by providing strategies and support for the protection of witnesses;

(4) track the criminal behavior of polygamist organizations that cross State and international borders; and

(5) ensure that local officials charged with protecting the public are not corrupted because of financial, family, or membership ties to a polygamist organization.

SEC. 4. POLYGAMY VICTIM ASSISTANCE DISCRETIONARY GRANTS.

The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (42 U.S.C. 10601 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 1404E the following:

`SEC. 1404F. ASSISTANCE FOR VICTIMS OF POLYGAMY.

`(a) In General- The Director may make grants as provided in section 1404(c)(1)(A) to State, tribal, and local prosecutors' offices, law enforcement agencies, courts, jails, and correctional institutions, and to qualified public and private entities, to develop, establish, and maintain programs for the enforcement of rights and provision of social services (including witness protection, housing, education, vocational training, mental health services, child care, and medical treatment) for an individual who is exploited or otherwise victimized by practitioners of polygamy.

`(b) Authorization of Appropriations- In addition to funds made available under section 1402(d), there are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section--

`(1) $2,000,000 for fiscal year 2009; and

`(2) $2,500,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

`(c) False Claims Act- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, amounts collected pursuant to sections 3729 through 3731 of title 31, United States Code (commonly known as the `False Claims Act'), may be used for grants under this section, subject to appropriation.'.

SEC. 5. POLYGAMY INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION ASSISTANCE DISCRETIONARY GRANTS.

Section 506(a) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3756(a)) is amended--

(1) in paragraph (1), by striking `and' at the end;

(2) in paragraph (2), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and'; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

`(3) $2,000,000, to be granted by the Attorney General to States and units of local government to investigate and prosecute polygamist organizations that violate Federal, State, or local laws.'.

 

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