Categories of Periodization: Accommodation

Review: Haws, “When Mormonism Mattered Less in Presidential Politics: George Romney’s 1968 Window of Possibilities”

By August 19, 2013

Mitt Romney?s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns came to seem, in the media frenzy of the last few years, like bookends to America?s much-touted Mormon moment. But Americans? fascination with the Latter-day Saints did not begin or end with Mitt Romney. This is not the first period in American history when non-Mormon Americans have, to some extent, embraced their LDS neighbors. In fact, Mitt Romney isn?t even the first Republican Romney whose religious affiliation has colored his national political image. His father George, the successful head of the American Motor Company in the 1950s and popular governor of Michigan in the 1960s, was a prominent candidate for the 1968 Republican nomination for President. Also like Mitt, George owed at least some measure of his political success to a period of increased interest in and positive feeling towards the Mormons. As J.B. Haws, Assistant Professor of Church History at BYU, shows in his article in the most recent issue of the Journal of Mormon History, George Romney?s candidacy was not seen as tainted by a ?Mormon problem,? as were his son?s campaigns a half-century later. [1] In the United States in the 1960s, the Romneys? Mormonism simply ?mattered less? than it does in the 21st century. And if it mattered at all, Haws argues, it did so by lending George Romney the air of ?benign wholesomeness? that characterized public perceptions of the Latter-day Saints in this period (99).

Haws? current article is based on the research for his forthcoming book The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (OUP, November 2013), and essentially lays the groundwork for that longer study, in which he traces public perceptions of Mormonism in the American media across the last half-century. In the 1960s, he argues, George Romney ran for the Republican nomination for the presidency and faced remarkably few challenges to his religion?or at least what look like remarkably few challenges to those of us who lived through the most recent Mormon moment. By comparing political polling data from both Romneys? campaigns and examining news coverage of the elder Romney?s presidential aspirations and editorial commentary on his campaign and on the larger question of the role a candidate?s religion should play in voters? assessment of his fitness for office, Haws convincingly demonstrates that Americans were less concerned in the 1960s?or at least said they were less concerned?by the possibility of having a Mormon in the White House than were their early 21st-century counterparts. While George Romney?s religion was occasionally challenged?primarily, Haws claims, regarding the Church?s policies on race (remember, George Romney was running for the presidency in the midst of the Civil Rights movements, and a decade before the Church lifted its ban on blacks in the priesthood)?according to Haws it was not Romney?s religion but his moderate politics and his ill-advised declaration in 1967 that he had been ?brainwashed? into supporting the Vietnam war that sunk him with American voters. In short, Haws argues that political views, not religious beliefs, were the elder Romney?s greatest obstacles.

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Responses: Patrick Mason on David Pulsipher on Mormon Civil Disobedience

By August 14, 2013

This post continues the JI’s occasional “Responses” series and contributes to the August theme of 20th Century Mormonism. Semi-regular guest and friend of the JI Patrick Mason, Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont, contributes this installment.

Review of David Pulsipher, “Prepared to Abide the Penalty’: Latter-day Saints and Civil Disobedience,” JMH 39:3 (Summer 2013): 131-162.

Pop quiz: Which group maintained the longest civil disobedience movement in American history, and the first such movement not to descend into violence? Since you’re reading a Mormon history blog, the question is a bit like asking who’s buried in Grant’s tomb. Yet even with the prodigious output of scholars working on Mormon related topics in recent years, there are relatively few offerings that not only give us new details but also really help us see Mormonism through a new perspective. David Pulsipher’s recent JMH article is one of those.

I should reveal my biases up front: David is a good friend, and the two of us are (slowly) working together on a book-length treatment of a Mormon theological ethic of peace. So I’m naturally inclined to say nice things about him and his work. This post will be no exception. The basic historical trajectory of Pulsipher’s article, covering the twenty-eight years from the first federal anti-polygamy legislation until the Manifesto, doesn’t cover any particularly new ground for students of Mormon history. It’s what Pulsipher does in covering that ground that is innovative. In a subfield that is always striving for relevance to broader themes and narratives, Pulsipher shows persuasively that Mormon polygamists (mostly the male priesthood leadership) anticipated many of the strategies that would be employed in the twentieth century by nonviolent civil disobedience movements led by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. The Mormon case demonstrates how nonviolent social movements can “emerge from unexpected quarters” (134). More significantly, I think, the article shows how Mormon history profits from engagement with political theory–plenty of John Rawls here, in easily digestible form–and that Mormonism can contribute to and substantially nuance established political theory.

Pulsipher begins with definitions. The Latter-day Saints’ nineteenth-century civil disobedience, like that of later theorists and practitioners, had three key characteristics: “(1) a fundamental distinction between just and unjust laws, (2) a conscientious, public, and nonviolent breach of an unjust law, seeking to change that law either through moral suasion or by frustrating its enforcement, and (3) fidelity to the rule of law generally, demonstrated by a willingness to obey just laws and to submit to the legal penalties for disobeying unjust laws” (138).

A typically telling illustration of the Mormons’ approach is offered by John Taylor, who relates being brought into court to give evidence in a polygamy trial: “I was asked if I believed in keeping the laws of the United States. I answered Yes, I believe in keeping them all but one. What one is that? It is that one in relation to plurality of wives. Why don’t you believe in keeping that? Because I believe it is at variance with the genius and spirit of our institutions–it is a violation of the Constitution of the United States, and it is contrary to the law of God.” Taylor then said that he was “prepared to abide the penalty” of taking such a stance. (144)

Pulsipher also traces the Latter-day Saints’ twentieth-century retreat from the civil disobedience and in some ways their own history. He offers several compelling reasons for why the heritage of civil disobedience didn’t take hold in twentieth-century LDS culture: its failure to achieve its explicit purpose (to preserve plural marriage); the wide unpopularity of that proximate purpose, increasingly among the Saints themselves; Mormons’ shift to emphasize loyalty to the nation and their excellence in Victorian moral virtues; the continued use of the rhetoric and strategies of civil disobedience by Fundamentalist LDS groups; and the church leadership’s conservative reaction to the “disrespect for law and order” characteristic of the late 1960s.

But not all is lost: Pulsipher intriguingly provides an extended quote from a 2009 speech at BYU-Idaho in which Elder Dallin H. Oaks glowingly approved of a “national anti-government movement” led by a Mongolian woman (161). The lesson here is that Mormons are just like other Americans–we like civil disobedience, especially in retrospect, when it achieves goals we deem worthy, and castigate it as unpatriotic and dangerous when applied toward goals we don’t share.

I take minor exception to one small point made in the article. Pulsipher demonstrates persuasively how the Latter-day Saints relied upon biblical, not American, precedents in justifying their civil disobedience–Daniel, not Thoreau, was their archetype. Their remarkable persistence in the face of increasingly overwhelming pressure was rooted in large part in their millennial faith that Christ would rescue them from their oppressors. It is true, no doubt, that nineteenth-century Mormons had a more robust premillennialist outlook than did Martin Luther King, as Pulsipher points out. But black civil rights workers at the grassroots level–those without doctorates from liberal northeastern seminaries–carried their movement out in prophetic, ecstatic biblical tones.”[1] Twentieth century southern black millennialism no doubt looked different than nineteenth-century Mormon millennialism. But both the Mormons’ resistance to federal anti-polygamy law and grassroots southern blacks’ resistance to Jim Crow arguably drew more deeply from the Hebrew prophets than from the American liberal tradition.

For those of us who know David, this article displays the quality of his mind and his character. It is expertly researched, with strong documentation. It is perceptive and measured in tone. It is fair-minded, fully acknowledging the twentieth-century critique of civil disobedience but gently suggesting that those critiques were shaped by a particular historical moment. And the article reminds us, in the grand tradition of the vaunted southern historian C. Vann Woodward, that the past is strewn with “forgotten alternatives” for our (re-)discovery and (re-)consideration.[2]


[1] David Chappell, A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 102.

[2] See C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002 [1955]), chap. 2.

Black History Month at the JI: “Tainted Blood” (O’Donovan)

By February 13, 2013

“Tainted blood” – The Curious Cases of Mary J. Bowdidge and Her Daughter Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry

Connell O’Donovan January 2013

In September 1885, Joseph Edward Taylor, First Councilor in the Salt Lake Stake Presidency, contacted LDS President John Taylor (no relation) regarding the curious case of “a young girl” (she was 20) residing in the Salt Lake 18th Ward named Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry. Berry and Hyrum B. Barton, son of a pioneering Salt Lake family originally from England, had fallen in love and began to make plans for a temple marriage or sealing “probably in the still functioning Salt Lake Endowment house. However, as Taylor explained to the church president, “the question of jeopardizing his [Barton’s] future by such an alliance has caused a halt.” The “jeopardy” that the already-married Hyrum Barton faced was that this bigamous marriage would be to a young woman “whose mother was a white woman but whose father was a very light mullatto [sic]” as Councilor Taylor reported. Taylor had written to Pres. John Taylor to request an exemption from the LDS policy at that time of not allowing women or men of black African descent to enter LDS temples to participate in what they consider to be sacred ordinances necessary to salvation and exaltation in the Celestial Kingdom, specifically the endowment ritual and the eternal marital sealing ceremony. As Taylor further explained to his church superior, “The girl is very pretty and quite white and would not be suspected as having tainted blood in her veins unless her parentage was known.” In addition, Lorah J. B. Berry herself was adamantly requesting permission to be endowed for herself and then sealed for eternity to Barton on the basis of two known precedents, which she invoked to the Salt Lake Stake Presidency.

Although I can find no reply from President John Taylor to Lorah Bowdidge Berry’s petition for an exception to church policy, we learn later that, despite the precedents cited by her, it was denied. Who was Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry and how did she come to need an exemption from the LDS temple ban due to her “tainted” racial background? A thorough answer must start with Lorah’s mother. Mary J. Bowdidge[1] was born March 3, 1836 in the town of St. Sampson on the Isle of Guernsey, a British Crown dependence just off the coast of Normandy, France. She was the third of seven children born to John Bowdidge Jr. and Alice Smith. John (1803-1878), a stonecutter and butcher by trade, was a native of Wooton Despain, Dorset, England  and was a mean alcoholic and career criminal as well. Alice Smith (1808-1860) was a native of Lime Regis, also in Dorset, and worked as a dress maker to help provide finances for their large family.

A year after Mary was born the family moved to the Isle of Jersey, residing first in St. Saviour then St. Helier. When Mary was eight, according to Utah Mormon descendants of the family, her father died in February 1844. In fact, John Bowdidge Jr. was arrested then in St. Helier for burglary of “corn, oats, &c” and was sentenced to prison for seven-year term on April 23, 1844.[2] Now exclusively using the surname of Burridge (instead of Bowdidge), John was transported to a penal colony on Norfolk Island, between Australia and New Zealand. After one year of hard labor there, he was transferred to Tasmania. He was continually rearrested and punished for public drunkenness, altercations, and using obscene language. In one case he and a group of drunken women assaulted another woman during a row. The other women were discharged but witnesses insisted that John Burridge kicked and struck the woman “about the head and face.” In the midst of this, the 40 year-old Burridge married (bigamously?) 19 year-old Elizabeth Geard and had twelve children by her, in between various further prison sentences. He died in Richmond, Tasmania on November 17, 1878.[3] It is very unlikely that the Bowdidges of Jersey knew of their Burridge half-siblings on another island some ten thousand miles away.

Meanwhile, back on Jersey, Alice Bowdidge and her children encountered Mormonism in 1847 and she and the five youngest children, including Mary, converted, with Alice and daughter Mary being baptized first in the family on November 19, 1847. The Bowdidges then began migrating to Utah piecemeal over the next decade and a half. However Mary G. Bowdidge, now a dressmaker like her mother, left Jersey and first moved to Paris, France where she married Theofil Manuel Soujet (allegedly a judge) about 1858. They had one daughter named Alice E. Soujet in 1859, either in Paris or in London.[4] (Alice Soujet would later marry a man named James Crow in 1879 and then James Tyler Little in Salt Lake in 1882 as his first plural wife. Little was the son of Feramorz Little, Brigham Young’s nephew and business partner.)

Theofil M. Soujet allegedly died in 1909, according to family tradition, but the 1861 Census of Grouville, Jersey (p. 27) lists Mary “Sauge” as already a widow, living with her brother John “Bowridge,” and her two year-old daughter, Alice Sauge. A year or so later, Mary and her baby girl (using her maiden surname Bowdidge rather than Soujet), plus her sister Sarah and niece Emily Bowdidge left Jersey, sailing first to America and then crossing the plains to Utah no later than the spring of 1863. Although they are not listed in any known pioneer company, they do appear in Perpetual Emigrating Fund records for the year 1863, and remained indebted to that fund until their deaths.[5] However, both of Mary’s obituaries report that she came to Utah in 1865, which is certainly incorrect.[6]

Sometime before March 1864 Mary met and married her second non-Mormon husband in Salt Lake City, a man named James Preston Berry, with William H. Hickenlooper, Bishop of both the Salt Lake Fifth and Sixth Wards officiating.[7]

Scandalously for the time, Mary’s new husband was of mixed race. With this marriage and subsequent conjugal relations, Mary Bowdidge Berry committed a crime in Utah territory, and two great sins within the LDS Church. Her first sin was in marrying a man of African descent, something Brigham Young had forbade since 1847, when he instigated the priesthood and temple ban policies. Then she committed a crime when she had sexual relations with her mixed-race husband. Utah’s 1852 law that legalized African and Native American slavery in Utah also expressly dictated that “if any white person shall be guilty of sexual intercourse with any of the African race, they shall be subject–to a fine of not exceeding one thousand dollars–and imprisonment, not exceeding three years.”[8] Lastly, Mary Bowdidge’s second sin was to bear children by a person of African descent, likewise declared as a sin by Brigham Young on December 3, 1847; “when they mingle seed it is death to all,” Young proclaimed, for “the law is their seed shall not be amalgamated.” Young then also affirmed that this was such a profound sin that forgiveness and salvation could only occur by blood atonement–white spouse, black spouse, and all their mixed-race children would have to be killed with their own consent and by priesthood authority, for this sin to be covered by the soteriological atonement of Jesus.[9]

But just how black was James Preston Berry–or was he even of any (recent)[10] African ancestry at all? Joseph E. Taylor, of the Salt Lake Stake Presidency, described James Preston Berry as “a very light mullatto,” and “about 1/6 Nigger from his appearance.” However others were unaware of Berry’s African ancestry, and Mary Bowdidge herself denied knowing of it at the time of her marriage.

Berry himself was employed as a hairdresser and barber in the company of Russell, Harris & Berry, located on the south side of 100 South, between Main and Commercial Streets in Salt Lake, about where the Bennion Jewelers Building now stands.[11] An 1869 photograph of the California House, located at the same address, shows a barber pole nearby, so Russell, Harris & Berry may have been associated with that hotel.[12] Note that free men of African descent had extremely few skilled employment options at that time, and many middle-class African American men were employed as barbers and hairdressers.[13] I can find no further information on co-owner, J. T. Harris, but the third co-owner was Robert Anderson Russell (1812-1879), and he was a white Mormon who remained in Utah until his death.[14]

Unfortunately little more is known about James Preston Berry’s history. A “mulatto” named James Berry was enumerated as the servant of the Los Angeles County Clerk in the 1860 Census. He was 32 years old and had been born in Maryland. The County Clerk, John W. Shore, was also 32 and was born in Virginia.[15] Otherwise we are left only with questions about his identity.

The Berrys resided in the Salt Lake 14th Ward, on 300 S. between 100 and 200 West (near what is now the Peery Hotel and Capitol Theatre). Their bishop was Abraham Lucas Hoagland (father-in-law of George Q. Cannon and grandfather of apostle Abraham Hoagland Cannon). Some nine or ten months after their marriage, Mary Bowdidge Berry gave birth to their first daughter, Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry, on January 15, 1865. Bishop Hoagland blessed baby Lorah on March 21.[16]

Lorah’s Birth and Blessing Record, Salt Lake 14th Ward

A year after this, James Preston and Mary Bowdidge Berry conceived another child, and Mary “Polly” Elizabeth Bowdidge Berry was born in the Salt Lake 14th Ward on October 21, 1866. Polly’s birth is the last time we hear of James Preston Berry until the race controversy some twenty years later. Certainly by 1870, he was no longer residing with his wife and two daughters. The 1870 Census of Salt Lake enumerates Mary “Bersy” (instead of Berry) and her daughters Alice (Soujet, but listed as “Bersy” also), Lora, and Mary. And now they were residing in the Salt Lake 13th Ward, on the east side of State Street, where Edwin D. Woolley was the bishop.

Whether second husband James Preston Berry had died or abandoned her, about a year later, in 1871, Mary Bowdidge Soujet Berry married her third non-Mormon husband, James (Frank?) Smith. He is as mysterious a man as her second husband (mostly because of his common name), and their marriage also became a race controversy in the church. James and Mary Bowdidge Smith had a son born on July 10, 1872 in Salt Lake City, and he was named James Frank Smith. (He is once listed as “James F. Smith Jr.” which leads me to believe his father may have also had the middle name of Frank.)

By 1880, the enigmatic James Smith had apparently passed away, for “Mary S[oujet]. Smith” was enumerated as a widow with her four children, all listed with the surname of “Saugé”, including her eight year-old son, “James F. Saugé” [sic- Smith]. (Note that the 1880 Census also reported that Lorah and Polly’s father, James Preston Berry, was a native of Georgia.)

Lorah Jane Bowdidge Berry was baptized LDS on August 5, 1884, at the age of 19.[17] She had probably begun courting Hyrum B. Barton by this time, and may have finally converted in preparation for marriage. Her sister Polly seems never to have gotten baptized LDS. However, her half-brother, 12 year-old James Frank Smith, was also baptized on the same day as Lorah. The family was now living at 120 North Main Street (just across the street westward from where the LDS Church History Library now stands), and young James had begun working as a messenger delivery boy for the trunk manufacturing company of Meredith, Gallagher & Jones at 65 South Main.[18]

Hyrum B. Barton

The young and already married Hyrum B. Barton (1852-1901, native of England) lived with his Scottish wife Georgina Crabb Barton just a couple of blocks north of the Berrys, on Oak Street (which is now the extension of North Main Street where it enters the Marmalade District). The Bartons had originally settled in Kaysville, a town halfway between Salt Lake and Ogden to the north. Then John Barton had died in 1874, and the family moved into Salt Lake City so the boys could get jobs to support the family, some following their father in the carpenter’s trade, some going into the mercantile business, and Hyrum, although apprenticed as a carpenter, became a clothing merchant and then a real estate agent in the mid-1880s. Having met, probably as neighbors, Hyrum Barton and Lorah Berry fell in love and began preparing for a plural marriage, although the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act of 1882 now prohibited bigamous “unlawful cohabitation.”

Joseph E. Taylor, first counselor of the Salt Lake Stake Presidency, later reported that about February 1885 (before they married), Hyrum Barton was told that Lorah Berry “had negro blood in her veins.” Taylor in fact knew James Preston Berry well as “he had done my barbering for years.” Barton left and Taylor immediately informed Barton’s bishop, Orson F. Whitney (of the Salt Lake 18th Ward)[19] about Barton and Berry’s intention of marrying. Taylor and Whitney then sent for William H. Hennefer (1823-1898), a Mormon pioneer of 1851, and a barber whose business was at 141 South Main.[20] When Hennefer arrived at Joseph E. Taylor’s home, the stake president, Angus M. Cannon (nephew of Pres. John Taylor and younger brother of George Q. Cannon of the First Presidency), happened to be visiting Taylor, although Cannon was hiding “on the underground” at the moment from federal authorities. After enquiries from Whitney, Taylor, and Cannon, William Hennefer “corroborated” Taylor’s belief that James Preston Berry indeed had African ancestry.

Joseph E. Taylor, 1st Counselor, Salt Lake Stake Presidency

In the meantime, Hyrum Barton also began his own investigation, starting with William Hennefer. Barton claimed however, that Hennefer told him that “he could not tell by looks that Mr. Berry had any colored blood in him,” which differs from what Hennefer told Taylor, Whitney, and Cannon. Barton then “went to others who were well acquainted with Mr. Berry but they all told me that there was nothing in his appearance to cause them to think of such a thing.” This included Bishop Hickenlooper, who had married Lorah’s parents back in 1864, and who “stated positively that he had no evidence that there was any negro blood in Mr. Berry’s veins.” When even Mary Bowdidge Berry “denied it” Hyrum felt satisfied that the rumors of Lorah Berry’s mixed-race background were false, and went forward with his marriage to Lorah in September 1885.[21]

Lorah Berry still wanted church sanction however and met with the Joseph E. Taylor, first counselor of the Salt Lake Stake Presidency, around August 1885 to petition him for a polygamous sealing, regardless of her racial makeup. Stake President Angus M. Cannon could not participate as he was now in prison at that time for unlawful cohabitation with his polygamous wives.[22] Thus Taylor reported that Lorah “came to me and talked upon the question of marriage.” To her dismay, Taylor flatly told her, “no Elder in Israel was justified before God in marrying her” because of her African ancestry and Mormonism’s policy of race-based discrimination.

Still, Lorah Berry must have strongly pressed Joseph E. Taylor on the issue, as he then forwarded Berry’s request to the church president. On September 5, 1885, Joseph E. Taylor informed president John Taylor by letter “of a young girl residing in the Eighteenth Ward of the City by the name of Laura [sic] Berry whose mother was white but whose father was a very light mullatto [sic].” “It appears,” he continued, “that she has fallen in love with brother Bar[t]ons Son and it is reciprocated.”

But the question of jeopardizing his future by such an alliance has caused a halt. She now desires to press her claim to privileges that others who are tainted with that blood have received.

Lorah Berry then recited two precedents she knew about, in which white Mormons had been endowed after marrying someone of mixed race. One precedent referred to was that of “Mrs. Jones Elder Sister.” Unfortunately no more information is given, other than that Mrs. Jones then resided in Logan. Given the context, it seems like her older sister had married a man of color but had still been allowed to be endowed, and possibly even sealed to him. Without further details, the commonality of the surname prevents further investigation into their identities. The second precedent of which Lorah Berry was aware was that of “Brother Meads” of the Salt Lake 11th Ward, who had married a “quadroon” and all their children were “very dark.” Further investigation has revealed that this was Nathan Meads (1823-1894) of England who married a southern woman of color named Rebecca H. Foscue. Rebecca Foscue had moved to Utah in 1860 and gotten baptized at 28 in 1861. Foscue, despite her mixed race, was then endowed and sealed to Meads in 1863, and they had six children, all but one of whom died young. Upon hearing these two cases, Joseph E. Taylor admitted, “I am cognizant of all these having received their endowments here.” But the question he now lay before his superiors was:

Can you give this girl any privileges of a like character? The girl is very pretty and quite white and would not be suspected as having tainted blood in her veins unless her parentage was known.[23]

Although no response from Pres. John Taylor is known to be extent, we do know that Hyrum B. Barton and Lorah Bowdidge Berry did get married later in September 1885, but without church consent, unleashing the church’s wrath upon the newlyweds. Lorah became immediately pregnant with their first of three children, Birdie Ethel Barton, who was born May 29, 1886. Now officially a bigamist, a year after Birdie’s birth, Hyrum Barton was also arrested by federal authorities for unlawful cohabitation and was sentenced on February 15, 1889 to three months’ imprisonment and a $100 fine.[24]

Less than six months after his release from the territorial penitentiary, with his legal crime now punished, the LDS Church turned to Hyrum Barton’s sins. Like his mother-in-law before him, Barton had not only married someone of African descent, but had also “mingled his seed” with his wife and they now had children as proof of his sins. Mary Bowdidge, who was merely a woman, had been allowed to remain a member of the LDS Church, although denied any further temple blessings. But here was a holder of the higher or Melchizedek priesthood who had committed these sins. And with higher authority came higher responsibility and accountability. Bishop Orson F. Whitney of the Salt Lake Eighteenth Ward held a Bishop’s Court to try Barton for his membership in the church. The charges were actually for adultery, but the “Bishops report stated that Sister Berry had negro blood in her veins” and “Bro. Barton had married her against counsel, and lived with her as wife,” in unapproved polygamy–thus adultery. After convening the court, the bishopric “disfellowshipped him from the Church for the offense.”

The case was then forwarded to Salt Lake Stake Presidency and High Council, and they convened to hear it on October 9, 1889. Angus Cannon, now out of prison, presided. The charge before the stake presidency was for “Disobeying counsel and breaking his oath of Chastity in going outside the law of God to take a plural wife.” Joseph E. Taylor reported all that had gone before regarding Lorah’s parents, and her African ancestry, along with the investigations he had done that confirmed it. Barton then recited his own investigations that differed in conclusion, and explained that having “satisfied myself upon that point” he went ahead and married Lorah Bowdidge Berry. Angus M. Cannon charged, “Bro. Barton deserts his first wife to marry this girl and takes her to wife.” This was actually false, because Barton continued to reside with his first wife as well and had two more children by her after his marriage to Lorah Berry. The stake presidency grilled Barton as to whom officiated at his illicit marriage in 1885, “but would not say any more than that it was performed in the 14th Ward, and that an Elder of the Church officiated.” After the hearing, the High Council voted to excommunicate Barton. He was also commanded to cease living with Lorah Bowdidge Berry Barton immediately, although he was to continue to support her and her daughter and “treat them kindly” but “not indulge in any sexual gratification if he desires mercy.”[25] However Barton did not comply and continued his marital relationship with Lorah, and she bore him three more children: Lorah “Lola” Denver, Lottie, and Tyler Hyrum Barton. Their first daughter, Birdie Ethel Barton, did not join the LDS Church, and serially married two non-Mormon men. Lottie must have died before 1910 and nothing more is known about her. But children Lorah Denver and Tyler Hyrum were both sealed to their spouses in the Salt Lake Temple, and Tyler certainly must have been ordained an Elder (a prerequisite for Mormon men to enter the temple), despite their also having “tainted blood”.

By 1893, Mary Bowdidge Smith had moved to 457 West 300 North. Two years later, it became Mary’s turn to challenge the church’s nearly 45 year-old racialist policies. With her son James F. Smith now baptized, Mary wished to have his father’s LDS ordinances performed by proxy, so that she could then be sealed to her third husband, and have their son sealed to them. However, when she approached Angus M. Cannon for a temple recommend, he refused to sign it “for the reason that she had married a man with negro blood in him and borne him children.” So she petitioned the First Presidency to overrule Cannon’s refusal, while also “denying at the same time that her first [sic- second] husband was part negro.”[26]

On August 22, 1895, apostle Franklin D. Richards reported in his diary that he met with the First Presidency (Wilford Woodruff, George Q. Cannon, and Joseph F. Smith), as well as Lorenzo Snow, Heber J. Grant, and John Henry Smith to discuss their the “ineligibility of any person having negro blood to receive the Priesthood or Temple ordinances.” Mary Bowdidge Smith’s request had come simultaneously with a petition from black pioneer Jane Elizabeth Manning James “to admit her to Temple ordinances.”[27] They reviewed Jane James’s request first. Joseph F. Smith brought up the case of Elijah Abel being ordained a Seventy and High Priest under Joseph Smith’s direction. George Q. Cannon denied that Joseph Smith ever did this and instead claimed that Smith taught, “the seed of Cain could not receive the Priesthood nor act in any of the offices of the priesthood” and “that any white man who mingled his seed with that of Cain should be killed,” thus preventing Cain’s descendants from ever holding LDS priesthood. (Cannon was wrong on both accounts, it was Brigham Young who taught these things instead.)

The Council’s secretary, George F. Gibbs, then introduced Mary Bowdidge Berry Smith’s “desire to be sealed” to her third husband, with her son James F. Smith standing in as proxy for the deceased husband and father, and based on her belief that her second husband was not “part negro.” However the Council agreed that “Mr. Berry was part negro” and George Q. Cannon felt that since Mary’s daughters “could not be admitted to the temple,” by the same token “it would be unfair to admit their mother and deny them this privilege.” Cannon also felt that any compromise on the policy “would only tend to complications” and though it best “to let all such cases alone” believing that in the end of it all, God would “deal fairly with them all.”[28]

Franklin D. Richards merely summarized the meeting: “also a <white> Sister who m[arried]. a negro man entreats for permission to receive her ordinances but is refused.” A month later however, Richards expanded and clarified:

Sister Mary Bowdige Berry Smith asks me what about & why Angus M. Cannon will not sign her recommend to the Temple to do work in connexion with her son James F. Smith by her 2nd [sic-third] husband that she may be sealed to his father & he to them because she married & had two dau’s by a former husband James Preston Berry who had negro blood in him [emphasis in original but added later in red ink][29]

So just like her son-in-law Hyrum Barton before her, not only were people of African descent prohibited from holding priesthood and participating in soteriological ordinances, but white Mormons who married people of African descent “tainted” themselves, and thereby permanently (or at least mortally) revoked their privileged status of potential priesthood and temple worthiness. Even if they later “repented” and married a white person. And in this case, even James Frank Smith, who was white and completely innocent in all of this, was denied being sealed to his white parents, a victim of collateral damage.

Five years after this fateful decision, Lorah and her mother Mary both died;  Lorah in March and Mary in December of 1900, both faithful members of the LDS Church.

James Frank Smith went on to become a lawyer, married a high society woman in the Salt Lake Temple and had several children by her. But, just like his grandfather, John Bowdidge/Burridge, he became an alcoholic and career criminal, specializing in embezzlement and passing bad checks, which led to time in jail.[30] In 1906 his wife sued him for divorce on the grounds of “non-support” and won the divorce, custody of their children, and monthly alimony.[31] The Mormon lawyer died in 1915 at the age of 42 while at Holy Cross Hospital from a perforated ulcer, likely due to his alcohol consumption. I am left to ponder if the callous decisions of church leaders coupled with institutional racism were at least partially responsible for James F. Smith’s rapid moral decline.


[1]  Later city directory sources give her middle initial as Mary G., possibly for Gardener, her maternal grandmother’s maiden name. Note that Mary’s youngest sister was named Alice Gardener Bowdidge (1843-1933).

[2]Prisoner Transport Record #18500, John Burridge or Bowdidge, (accessed July 18, 2010); scanned image in my possession.

[3] “Convict Department,” Launceston Examiner (Tasmania), June 2, 1849, 8; “Personal,” The Mercury (Hobart, Tasmania), February 26, 1919, 6; “Police Office “This Day,” The Courier (Hobart, Tasmania), March 18, 1857, 3; “Local Intelligence,” Colonial Times (Hobart), March 21, 1857, 3; “Hobart Town General Quarter Sessions,” The Courier, April 8, 1857, 3; and “Quarter Sessions,” The Mercury, April 10, 1857, 3; and “Family Notices-DEATHS,” The Mercury, November 21, 1878, 1.

[4] See Death Certificate for Alice Soje Little, January 4, 1928, Utah Department of Health, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Series 81448, Entry 11467.

[5] Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company financial accounts, LDS Church History Library, CR 376 2, Reel 2, Folder 1, Ledger C, 579.

[6] “Death of Mary J. Smith,” Deseret News, December 7, 1900, 8; and “Dearth of Mrs. Smith,” Salt Lake Herald, December 8, 1900, 5.

[7] Salt Lake Stake High Council Minutes, October 9, 1889, quoted in Anonymous, Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1894-1899, (Salt Lake City: privately published, 2010) 35.

[8] Section 4, “An Act in Relation to Service,” Acts, Resolutions, and Memorials Passed by the First Annual-Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah, (Great Salt Lake City, Utah: Brigham H. Young, 1852), 80.

[9] December 3, 1847, Historian’s Office-General Church Minutes, 1839-1877, CHL CR 100 318, 6-7 (in the hand of Thomas Bullock).

[10] We now know that all of humanity is genetically of African descent. Therefore by “recent” Imean within the past 300 hundred years.

[11] 1867 Salt Lake City Directory, (G. Owens, 1867) 38.

[12] “S.L.C.-1st South St.” P-9, Classified Photograph Collection, Utah State Historical Society.

[13] See my discussion of this in my biography of Elder Walker Lewis.

[14] See his entry in the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database, online, (accessed January 22, 2013).

[15] 1860 Federal Census of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, 56.

[16] Birth and Blessing Records, Salt Lake 14th Ward Record of Members, 1856-1909, Family History Library film #26695, 16/19.

[17] Hyrum B. Barton Family Group Sheet, Family Group Records Collection “ Patrons Section, 1924-1962, LDS Family History Library, film 412122.

[18] Robert W. Sloan, Utah Gazetteer and Directory (Salt Lake City: Herald Printing & Publishing Co., 1884) 210; R. E. Doublas, et al., Salt Lake City Directory for the Year Commencing Aug. 1, 1885, (San Francisco: U.S. Directory Publishing Co. of Cal., 1885) 219 and 272.

[19] The 18th Ward had been Brigham Young’s ward until his 1877 death, with his younger brother Lorenzo Dow Young as its bishop. After Lorenzo’s death, young Orson F. Whitney presided over the ward. It’s famous Gothic chapel, built in 1881, was located at 2nd Avenue and A Street. It then was dismantled in the early 1970s and reassembled on Capitol Hill as the White Memorial Chapel.

[20] Doublas, Salt Lake City Directory:1885, 162.

[21] Salt Lake Stake High Council Minutes, October 9, 1889, 34-35.

[22] “The Anti-Polygamy Law, Ex-Delegate Cannon’s Sentence Affirmed,” New York Times, December 15, 1885.

[23] Joseph E. Taylor to John Taylor, September 5, 1885, John Taylor papers, CHL, CR 1 180, Box 20, File 3; typed transcript in my possession.

[24] Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology: A Record of Important Events Pertaining to the History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1899) 150 (July 7, 1887), 171 (February 15, 1889), and 174 (April 30, 1889).

[25] Salt Lake Stake High Council Minutes, October 9, 1889, 34-35.

[26] Minutes of the Apostles, September 25, 1895, 34.

[27] Franklin D. Richards journal, August 22, 1895, CHL, MS 1215, vol. 45.

[28] Minutes of the Apostles, September 25, 1895, 34.

[29] Franklin D. Richards journal, September 25, 1895, CHL, MS 1215, vol. 45.

[30] “Lawyer is Accused,” Salt Lake Herald, July 27, 1905, 5; “Lawyer Accused of Crime,” Salt Lake Herald, July 21, 1906, 12; “Issues Another Bad Check,” Salt Lake Herald, July 22, 1906, 28; “Passes Worthless Check,” Salt Lake Tribune, September 6, 1906, 5 and September 9, 1906, 5; and “Police Court Glimpses,” Salt Lake Herald, September 22, 1908, 6.

[31] “News of the Courts,” Salt Lake Herald, September 1, 1906, 12.

From the Archives: Peach Cobbler, For Men by Men: Or, When Reed Smoot Makes Dessert

By January 23, 2013

A friend of mine excitedly posted a link the other day on facebook with the accompanying note that “Warren G. Harding’s recipe for waffles is freely available on Google books.” The link took me to a 1922 cookbook entitled The Stag Cook Book, Written for Men By Men (or, alternately, as the cover to the right shows, with the slightly different subtitle A Man’s Cook Book for Men). Dedicated to “That Great Host of Bachelors and Benedicts Alike, who at one time or another tried to ‘cook something’; and who, in the attempt, have weakened under a fire of feminine raillery and sarcasm, only to spoil what, under more favorable circumstances, would have  proved a chef-d?vre,” it reminded me of Tona’s fascinating and fun post from last week on “etiquette and advice manual[s] updating 19th and early 20th century counsel for the 21st century man.” Here, I realized, was a very real example (if one in which the author/editor’s tongue was planted firmly in his cheek) of the sort of literature tries to update for the 21st century.* And it didn’t disappoint. In addition to Warren G. Harding’s waffle recipe (in which we learn that “President Harding is a staunch upholder of the gravy school and likes his in the form of creamed chipped beef”—none of that sissy honey or maple syrup for the ringleader of the Ohio Gang), we’re also given access to Charlie Chaplin’s steak and kidney pie speciality and Houdini’s scalloped mushrooms and deviled eggs.  So what does any of this have to do with Mormon history, you ask? Well, among the other contributors to the volume was Mormon senator Reed Smoot, who provided his peach cobbler recipe. Without further ado, here it is in all of its sugary goodness:

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Research Query: Mormon Bachelorhood

By November 28, 2012

From William and Mary graduate student and friend of JI Spencer Wells:

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Romney Lost. Is the Mormon Moment Over? And What Would That Mean, Anyway?

By November 7, 2012

Mitt Romney hoped to be the Mormon JFK. Instead, he will now go down in the history books as the Mormons? Al Smith ? the Roman Catholic who was nominated for the presidency by the Democratic Party in 1928, but lost to Calvin Coolidge in part because of anti-Catholic prejudice.

But I?m not interested in how long it will be before we elect our first Mormon president. I?m more interested in the so-called ?Mormon Moment,? and what the end of Mitt Romney?s political career means for the place of Mormons in American culture. With Romney (and his ubiquitous political ads) out of the spotlight, will the Latter-day Saints now fade from the national stage? Will Americans forget about their odd Mormon neighbors and move on to lambasting and lampooning someone else?

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Scholarly Inquiry: Spencer Fluhman answers your questions

By October 15, 2012

J. Spencer Fluhman is assistant professor of History at Brigham Young University. He graduated summa cum laude from BYU with a degree in Near Eastern Studies (1998) and attended graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he was awarded a MA (2000) and PhD (2006) in History. He is the author of the recently-released A Peculiar People: Anti-Mormonism and the Making of Religion in Nineteenth-Century America (University of North Carolina Press, 2012), and the editor (with Andrew H. Hedges and Alonzo L. Gaskill) of  The Doctrine & Covenants: Revelations in Context (Religious Studies Center, BYU, and Deseret Book, 2008). He also guest edited (with Steven Harper and Jed Woodworth) the , ?Mormonism in Cultural Context.? Dr. Fluhman is also a dynamic lecturer and popular teacher at BYU. He personally mentored several of the bloggers at Juvenile Instructor, and remains a close friend and trusted mentor to the current generation of Mormon graduate students. Below he answers your questions about his recent book, broader researcher, and Mormon history more generally.

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Hair Wreaths: A Nineteenth-Century Mormon Treasure, Part One

By September 19, 2012

DUP: Cornelia Harriet Hales Horne Clayton

Your initial reaction may be one of disgust (one naturally thinks of hairballs!) or disdain (how often did they wash their hair anyway?). Intricate designs of human hair, fastidiously fashioned into flowers, trees, and abstract designs, came to represent a Victorian ideal of nostalgia, elaborate texture, and ostentatious ornamentation in the memory of ancient human relics of the Saints.

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Republicans, Romneys, and Mormon Moments: American Images of the LDS in the 1950s

By September 17, 2012

Mitt Romney is a politician born not in the wrong place, but the wrong time. While his opponents in the Republican primary accused him of untrustworthy geographic origins and thus of not being a real Republican, in fact Romney is simply running sixty years too late. If this were 1952 instead of 2012, the ?Massachusetts moderate? would have enjoyed a political climate that twice elected Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower?the father of such massive government spending projects as the interstate highway system, who spoke openly of the value of organized labor for protecting working Americans [1]. As many have asserted during this election cycle, past Republican luminaries would not survive in their own party after its hard turn to the right in recent decades.

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Nate?s Notes: The 2012 Church History Symposium

By September 15, 2012

So these have been a long time coming, and I?m sure I have forgotten a number of highlights I didn?t get a chance to jot down during the presentations I attended.  The 2012 Church History Symposium was held March 2 and 3, jointly hosted by the Church History Department and BYU?s Religious Studies Center and themed on the life and times of Joseph F. Smith.  The RSC is planning on publishing selected speeches from the symposium sometime in early 2013, and has pledged to post video proceedings on their website (they have only M. Russell Ballard’s keynote address available currently)?but in the meantime I thought it would be good to have some discussion on the conference here at the good ol’ JI blog.

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