“The Saints of the Missouri”: An Anti-Mormon Ballad from the Isle of Man, 1841

By March 24, 2008

In 1841, apostle John Taylor traveled to the Isle of Man, a small island situated in the middle of the Irish Sea, in between Ireland and England.  He there introduced the gospel to the Cannon family (his in-laws), as well as other future prominent Mormon families, including the Quayles and the Cowleys.[1]  Taylor encountered fierce opposition from the primarily Methodist clergy he encountered in the Isle of Man, as well as from the Manx press.  The following excerpt comes from a letter to the editor of Mona’s Herald in April 1841.  This satirical piece of poetry purports to represent the Mormon message being spread by Elder Taylor.

___________________________________________

Mormonites Address to the Manxies

A New ‘Saturday Saint’ Song
To be said or sung, but not in pot-houses
Air,-The Hills O’ Gowrie.

Hear, oh, ye undipt wretches, hear,
If ye in glory would appear –
If ye be saved, ye must revere
The saints of the Missouri

We o’er the broad Atlantic came,
The new glad tidings to proclaim;
Hence none but infidels would blame
The saints of the Misouri

Even Satan, centuries ago,
For proselyts went to and fro!
Then why not Miser Smith and co.
The saints of the Missouri

Though last forsooth, we are not least,
Nor did the heroes of the East
So much to crush the Seven-horned Beast
As we of the Missouri

With nerves as tough as cobbler’s wax
We nobly faced and floored the quacks,
Who lately made such sore attacks
On us, of the Missouri

The golen bible is our theme,
Which more than gold we do esteem (?)
‘Twas given by the Great Supreme (?)
To us of the Missouri

Alas! we’re persecuted more
Than were the far-famed saints of yore,
for telling things not known before
Revealed near the Missouri

We tell what we were only told,
Was lately found on plates of gold,-
Interpreted by Smith and sold
By us of the Missouri

‘Tis strange! but then it was decreed
None should the hierogliphes read
But St. Joe Smith, who takes the lead
Of us at the Missouri

We know (though some may think it droll)
What constitutes the human soul,
And how to make it whole,
First known at the Missouri

The human soul consists of three
Grains of pure phosphorous; thus you see
The basis of theology
On the banks of the Missouri

We toll not, neither do we spin!
We live by taking sinners in,
And dipping them right o’er the chin
To fit them for Missouri

None of the wild red Indian race
Shall enter the celestial place,–
Nor blacks, nor esquimaux disgrace
The church of the Missouri

Then leave yor spurious guides behind,
They’re but blind leaders of the blind,–
All are deceivers of Mankind!
Save us, of the Missouri

Mammon and Mormon, then, agree
With grace;– these homogeneous three,
Form a terestrial trinity,
On the banks of the Missouri

Haste to the everlasting hills,
Where safe from sin and human ills,
We’ll smoke cigars, and dance quadrilles,
On the banks of the Missouri

The land where milk and hone flow!
And saints like shrubs “spontaneous grow!”
Hurrah, for Joey Smith and Co.!
The saints of the Missouri

___________________________________________

[1]See James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, and David J. Whitaker, Men With a Mission: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837-1841 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 173-180.


Comments

  1. Interesting expression! I wonder where the sentiments on the “Red Man” and “Blacks” not entering the celestial place came in. I might be tempted to see this as representing (to some degree) some expressed attitude toward Negroes, but I’m less inclined with how “off” the reference to the “Red Man” is.

    Comment by Jared T — March 24, 2008 @ 5:51 pm

  2. Alas! we?re persecuted more
    Than were the far-famed saints of yore,
    for telling things not known before
    Revealed near the Missouri

    That’s not really a satire of what some Mormons were saying at the time. It’s pretty accurate.

    Comment by David G. — March 24, 2008 @ 7:41 pm

  3. Jared, I had similar thoughts. I imagine the author is trying to project an image of Mormons as racist Americans.

    David, I thought you’d like that verse.

    Comment by Christopher — March 24, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

  4. Here’s a link to the tune. The song has quite a unique meter (8-8-8-7) and the last line in each stanza (“The Saints of the Missouri”) has a very distinctive, catchy, sound.

    http://www.contemplator.com/scotland/gowrie.html

    Comment by Researcher — March 24, 2008 @ 8:06 pm

  5. David: It seems some saints still today would like to sing this verse….

    Comment by Ben — March 24, 2008 @ 8:08 pm

  6. I dunno, I think my favourite line so far was…

    Mammon and Mormon, then, agree
    With grace;? these homogeneous three,
    Form a terestrial trinity,

    Comment by JonW — March 25, 2008 @ 7:24 pm


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