Re-Placing Memory : Latter-day Saint Use of Historical Monuments and Narrative in the Early Twentieth Century
Religion and American Culture
In 1905 the Church was faced with a crisis. Reed Smoot's election to the Senate precipitated a public outcry that Mormons were still practicing polygamy. The hearing and Senate trial pressured the Church into disciplining apostles John W. Taylor and Matthias Cowley to convince the nation that it was then serious about discontinuing polygamy. At the same time that Smoot was heading east to satisfy the nation that the Church had "changed enough," a delegation of Church leaders led by President Joseph F. Smith traveled to Vermont to try to convince "the faithful that it had not changed at all." In the 19th-century, plural marriage "had become central to the Latter-day Saints' belief system." The author argues that Joseph F. Smith had to devise a strategy to remove the people's belief in plural marriage without underpinning their belief in revelation or living prophets. She contends that the dedication of the Joseph Smith Memorial in South Royalton, Vermont, gave Church leaders a platform on which to redirect the Church's focus to its founding prophet, the First Vision, and the founding fundamental principles upon which the Church was organized. The itinerary to early Church sites and public comments focused only on non-controversial aspects of belief and history and initiated a "collective forgetting" of the doctrine and practice of plural marriage.