Utah Prohibition: Battle Between State and Religion

Article and images by KRISSI KARREN

More than one hundred years ago, anti-alcohol movements spread across the United States. On January 16, 1920, the prohibition of alcohol was enforced by the 18th amendment to the United States Constitution, which made the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors officially illegal throughout America. (Fisher, Prohibition)

Salt Lake City, Utah, is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons follow “The Word of Wisdom,” a health law that stipulates that certain substances, including alcoholic drinks, are harmful.

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The still at Sugar House Distillery, where small batches of vodka, rum, malt whisky and bourbon whiskey are produced.

In the 1840s, Mormon pioneers settled in Utah, thus creating a long lineage of conservative culture. Mormon leaders have not only guided their religion, but also Utah politics. This article focuses on Utah’s stance on alcohol production and consumption between the time of Prohibition to 2017. By studying the political conditions in Utah we can gain insight about the effect of church over state and what led to ratification of the 21st amendment, and how Utah currently regulates alcohol consumption.

According to Bruce Dyer in his thesis, “A Study of the Forces Leading to the Adoption of Prohibition in Utah in 1917,” Senator Reed Smoot was an influential man in both the LDS religion and in politics. During the early 1900s, Senator Smoot controlled Intermountain Republican, a newspaper published in Salt Lake City. During the spring of 1908, the Intermountain Republican devoted considerable space on the front page to open political discussion. According to Dyer, each morning in large black letters the newspaper asked, “Shall Utah have Prohibition?” Within the box were the opinions of those who either favored statewide prohibition or were against it. Intermountain Republican and other journals were stressing the prohibition issue.

Also according to Dyer’s thesis, The Salt Lake Tribune carried the majority of the anti-prohibition articles appearing in local press. In 1908, an unidentified Tribune writer reported that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints owned Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institute, which was one of the most extensive liquor dealers in the state. (Dyer, 11) In addition, The Salt Lake Tribune addressed the fact that one of the religion’s greatest leaders, Brigham Young, was empowered to grant licenses to persons to manufacture liquor, which brings up the issue of business over beliefs. (Dyer, 12) According to a speech made by Richard Lyman on October 3, 1930, the most important pressure against Prohibition came from businessmen whose interests included liquor manufacture or sales.  

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Sugar House Distillery uses American oak whisky barrels that have been charred. This and the wood add flavor to the liquor.

Anti-alcohol movements were created to show that alcoholic drink in any form was dangerous and destructive. Alcohol was blamed for social problems such as unemployment, poverty, business failure, slums, insanity, crime and violence. Prohibitionists were utopian moralists because they believed that eliminating the legal manufacture and sale of alcoholic drink would solve the major social and economic problems of the American society. (Fisher, Economic) From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Utah politicians came face to face with moral implications while deciding what was best for Utah and ultimately the American people, but first relied on the Mormon community for support.

According to a story published in the Deseret News on June 11, 1910, “although increasing scientific evidence on the adverse effects of alcohol helped the movement, moral rather than scientific considerations seem to have sustained it.”

Heber J. Grant, seventh president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made an address in 1916 at an officers meeting of the Mutual Improvement Association. He said, “I believe that Utah should have been the first state in the Union to have adopted state prohibition, because the Lord has given to us a prohibition law….”

According to author Del Vance in his book, Beer in the Beehive, A History of Brewing in Utah, in 1929 Albert Becker was elected to the Utah House of Representatives. He was the first and last local brewery owner to hold a high position in Utah’s state government and lobbied hard for repeal of Prohibition. (194) It was becoming apparent to the government that prohibition did little to stop alcohol in Utah. Federal agents seized more than 400 distilleries, 25,000 gallons of spirits, 8,000 gallons of malt liquors, and 13,000 gallons of wine. (216) Chaos rose with underground sales and consumption of alcohol. Rather than decreasing crime rates, there was an increase, which put into perspective the viability of alcohol prohibition.

From 1920 to 1933 there was homebrewing, bootlegging, a declining economy and political propaganda on the restriction of alcohol, until the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed. On December 5, 1933, the state of Utah became the thirty-sixth state to ratify the amendment, which made the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating liquors legal. However, with the events of history in mind, alcohol consumption would not go back to how it was before the prohibition.

The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, known as the DABC, was created in 1935, two years after the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which gave individual states the right to choose their own system of controlling and distributing alcoholic beverages. The Utah legislature believes that the state should control sales to promote responsible drinking and holds the intent to reasonably satisfy the public demand and protect the public interest, including the rights of citizens who do not wish to be involved with alcoholic beverages. The legislature also required that the department be operated as a public business using reasonable management principles and practices.

I experienced the effect of Utah’s government on alcohol regulation firsthand while touring Sugar House Distillery with owner James Fowler. Sugar House Distillery is located on 2212 S. West Temple in the Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City. This distillery received federal approval for spirits distilling in September 2013, and Utah approval in January 2014. It now produces vodka, rum, malt whisky, and bourbon whiskey. James Fowler first showed me the “Zion Curtain” that he has to pull down over the alcohol he has for sale in the front room as well as the curtain that is over the window on the door that separates the front room from the distillery. This is a legislative provision required of restaurants and other establishments to keep children from seeing alcohol. Fowler said he is required to keep detailed records about his distillery that are examined by the DABC’s compliance department. In addition, he said 68 percent of his sales go toward taxes, thus making an income difficult in this industry. Despite challenges posed by legislation in Utah, he chose to launch his business here rather than Texas or Nevada. Ultimately, he said, “Utah has outstanding resources for fresh local ingredients and there is something special about the extra persistence required to locally produce alcohol in Utah.”  

To conclude, we can see that Mormon beliefs impacted the prohibition of alcohol in the 1900s. But because of crime rates, a declining economy and the fight of the opposition, the 18th Amendment eventually became unsuccessful.

The Utah State Legislation continually changes alcohol regulations. For example, in March 2017, Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill giving Utah the strictest drunken driving law in the nation. (Scribner) Herbert also signed into law HB 442, a 144-page document that made “numerous changes to how restaurants, dining clubs and off-premise beer retailers will operate.” (Lake) As the Tribune editorialized on April 26, 2017: “[E]very year the Legislature takes a step forward — like loosening the ridiculous Zion Curtain requirements … — it takes two steps back.”

Krissi Karren is a junior at The University of Utah and is majoring in mass communication. She is pursuing a career in the field of visual communication and is interested in writing about psychology and health of the human body, while residing in San Diego, California. Karren also wants to learn more about power Vinyasa yoga.

SOURCES

Irving Fisher, Economic Benefits of Prohibition (Westerville, Ohio: American Issue Press, 1926).

Irving Fisher, Prohibition at its Worst (New York: Alcohol Information Committee, 1927).

Heber J. Grant, “Prohibition,” address delivered June 9, 1916, to the Mutual Improvement Association. Reprinted in The Young Woman’s Journal xxvii (1916): 402-405. http://bit.ly/2phc8AN

Lyman, Richard R. “Prohibition, Not State Control.” Address in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, October 3, 1930. 

Merrill, Joseph F. “Alcohol, Citizenship and the Church.” KSL Radio Station, September 13, 1931. Speech.

“Prohibition: history of the movement in Salt Lake City,” Deseret News, June 11, 1910.

Scribner, Herb. “2017 changes to liquor laws join other significant state actions,” Deseret News, March 11, 2017.  

Dyer, Bruce T. “A Study of the Forces Leading to the Adoption of Prohibition in Utah in 1917.” Master’s Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1958.

Karren, Krissi. interview with James Fowler, April 3, 2017. 

Lake, Catherine Parrish. “2017 Changes to Utah Liquor Laws.” Stoel Rives LLP Alcohol Beverage Blog. http://bit.ly/2qgJYal

“Utah liquor laws fly past peculiar and into weird.” The Salt Lake Tribune, April 26, 2017. http://bit.ly/2pvZNsY

Vance, Dell. Beer in the Beehive: A History of Brewing in Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah: Dream Garden Press, 2006.

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A Look at the Mormon Church Influence in Building the Union Pacific Railroad

by SAMIRA GUIRGUIS

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Mormon surveyors worked in Utah’s Uintah Mountains during the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

A civil war and the prospect of a quick fortune from the California Gold Rush left big companies like the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads starving for a labor force. While it is common knowledge that Utah played a role in building the Transcontinental Railroad, an important factor often overlooked is that a big section of it was mostly done by Mormon workers. Power, influence, culture, geography and even a little luck all played a role in why the Mormons were perfect candidates for this job. (KUED)

In 1868, Union Pacific, desperate for workers and approaching Utah Territory, needed to recruit a lot of workers, including surveyors who knew the lay of the land against the intimidating Wasatch Mountain Range. Who better for this job than Mormon leader Brigham Young, who not only had access to a large number of workers, but also men with the discipline and sobriety of their faith? In fact, Mormons were so influential in the building of the railroad tracks that songs were even written about them.

In the Canyon of Echo, there’s a railroad begun,

And the Mormons are cutting and grading like fun;

They say they’ll stick to it until it’s complete,

For friends and relations they’re longing to meet.

Hurray! Hurrah! The railroad’s begun!

Three cheers for our contractor, his name’s Brigham Young!

Hurray! Hurrah! We’re light-hearted and gay,

Just the right kind of boys to build a railway. … (“Echo Canyon”)

The clean, sober, and polite Mormons stood out in stark contrast to the hard drinking, “wild west-type” of most other railroad company crews. Instead of whisky-induced boisterousness, gambling and “soiled doves,” the Mormon campsites operated under orderly and religious governance. (Miller, 102). Deseret News assistant editor Edward Lennox Sloan noted, “In but one camp of less than one hundred men, out of between two and three thousand working in the canyons, did I hear profanity.” The only evidence of any problem between other crews and Mormon crews was good natured “horse play” such as those cited in The Golden Spike, like hiding each other’s equipment, turning horses loose in the middle of the night and, in one example, dropping a rattlesnake into a nearby camp’s soup kettle. (Miller, 199)

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Union Pacific Railroad workers construct tunnel no. 2 at the head of Echo Canyon, Utah. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

Mormons proved to be excellent surveyors. They knew the lay of the land better than any outsider possibly could and grew up in a culture that highly valued the creation of records with meticulous detail. One only need look at the LDS genealogy to understand that. Consequently, Mormon surveyors drew detailed maps to help engineers determine the path of least resistance. (KUED) On one account, “Mormon workers became experts in the use of nitroglycerin ‘blasting oils’ and other explosives… Their sobriety would prove to be an advantage, indeed.” (Stewart, 93)

The Mormon Church used notices in the advertising section of the Deseret News to elicit help. For example, “MESSRS. Joseph A. Young, Brigham Young, Junr., and John W. Young, agents for President Brigham Young, left this city on the 8th inst., for the head of Echo Canon, to let contracts for grading on the Union Pacific Railroad…. Parties wishing contracts on that road can now start their men.… About 10,000 men will be wanted. (“Notice”) In fact, there weren’t enough men in the area, so Brigham Young sent letters to his friend and apostle Franklin D. Richards, encouraging him to send newly converted Mormons from Europe to Utah in order to keep a steady flow of workers. (Stevens, 17)

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Mormon laborers grade the Union Pacific line at the mouth of Weber Canyon, Utah. Courtesy of the Utah State Historical Society.

There’s also a mention that “fit men—immigrating from England to Zion could ride from Omaha to the end of the line free of charge if they agreed to work for the railroad.” (Stewart, 183) This fact is important because it kept the work in Utah hands; the wealth didn’t go to other places to be invested. Interestingly enough, Mormon crews worked for both the UP and CP lines east and west of each other. This competition between the two companies allowed the Mormons to increase their wages by starting bidding wars between the two companies. (Stewart, 198)

Despite working hard and being praised for their skill, there was a huge debt scandal and many Mormon workers weren’t paid for months, sometimes not at all. (Stewart, 177) One good thing did come from this experience: working with the Union Pacific gave Utahns the knowledge of how to make their own railroads rather than relying on big companies like the Union Pacific for future building. More importantly, it armed Utah with the economic power to grow. (Miller, 122) Having the manpower and new income, Brigham Young could now choose where the next railroad line would go and thus have a direct route pass through Salt Lake City. The railroad brought change to Utah, which was unsettling, but it also brought a bigger barter system, immigrants, and information. Brigham Young knew he couldn’t stop the railroad from coming. So, he prepared for its inevitability, making sure his people didn’t miss out on the economic opportunity and at the same time showing the world that the Mormons were a hardworking, selfless people (KUED).

Sources


“Notice,” Deseret News, June 17, 1868, 4.

Emrich, Duncan, ed. “Echo Canyon” in Songs of the Mormons and Songs of the West, from the Archive of Folk Song. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1952.

Miller, David E. The Golden Spike. Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, University of Utah Press, 1973.

Stevens, Thomas M. “The Union Pacific Railroad and the Mormon Church, 1868-1871: An In-depth Study of the Financial Aspects of Brigham Young’s Grading Contract and Its Ultimate Settlement.” M.A. Thesis, Brigham Young University, 1972.

Stewart, John J. The Iron Trail to the Golden Spike. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1969.

Utah’s First Female Editor: Louisa Green Richards and The Woman’s Exponent

by BAYLEE STEPHENSON

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Louisa Greene Richards was the first female editor in Utah. She served as the first editor of the Woman’s Exponent. Digital Collections, Utah State Historical Society.

The Woman’s Exponent carved a path for women, equality and woman suffrage in Utah through the assistance of two incredible editors. Emmeline B. Wells is probably the most notable editor to have worked for the publication, but had it not been for her predecessor, Louisa Greene Richards, the newspaper would not have existed. Richards, known fondly as Lula or Lulu, was born in 1849 as the eighth of thirteen children to Evan Greene and Susan Kent in Kanesville, Iowa. (Bennion, 2) Greene and Kent were first cousins by their mothers, who were the sisters of the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young. Richards relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah, with her family in 1852 when Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers left Iowa. It was in Utah that she found her passion for writing. (Bennion, 2)

Richards had always enjoyed writing and had a knack for poetry. It is believed that her first poem was written when she was fourteen, with her first step into journalism happening at the age of twenty when she began editing the Smithfield Sunday School Gazette. That same year she made the decision to attend the University of Deseret, presently known as The University of Utah. (Bennion, 3) By late 1871 she had finished school and was in Salt Lake City inquiring about a teaching position. While there, she received a letter requesting that she return home due to a family illness. She didn’t have the funds for the journey and decided that she would stay up all night and write poetry in the hopes that she might be able to sell it to a publisher in exchange for the fare she needed to get to Smithfield. The next day she went to the Salt Lake Daily Herald to meet with the editor, Edward L. Sloan, to sell her poetry for the $7.50 she required. She was successful in her endeavor. (Romney, 262)

Richards made the journey back home to be with her family, which is where she received a letter from Sloan asking her if she would be interested in editing a paper for Mormon women that he would print on the Herald’s presses. (Bennion, 3) She had her reservations regarding the idea and wrote to Eliza R. Snow, the president of the Relief Society, the women’s organization within the church, to ask her if she could discuss the prospect of the newspaper with the president of the church, Brigham Young. Richards believed that if Young approved of the paper then she should pursue the opportunity of running the new publication. Young gave Richards a calling to serve a mission, which is a personal assignment to be done for the church for a designated time frame, as the editor of the paper. (Bennion, 3)

On April 9, 1872, Sloan sent a copy of the Daily Herald to every member of the Relief Society with an advertisement promoting the Woman’s Exponent and its first issue. It read, “…a proposed woman’s journal … will be found in the Herald this morning. A more extended notice of it is crowded out until to-morrow by a press of other matter.” The ad was in two spots on the third page, one announcing the new paper and another expanding on what the publication would be writing about and who its target audience would be. That ad elaborated on the Exponent’s mission to write to the women of the Relief Society and the goals it had set. The advertisement announced Richards would be the acting editor of the bi-monthly paper, which would release its first issue on May 1, 1872. Subscription costs were based on delivery frequency, ranging from $1.00 to $18.00.

Richards married shortly after she became the editor of the paper and during her time she had two daughters, both of whom died. She helped build and mold the publication into the successful female-centric paper remembered under the leadership of Emmeline Wells. Wells took over in 1877 when Richards stepped down to pursue being a wife and mother full time. (Bennion, 9) While her personal life changed, and grew during her tenure as editor, she never neglected the paper and prioritized its success. The paper focused on what mattered to women as well as what was going on within the news.

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The November 1, 1872, issue of the Woman’s Exponent featured the news that a Connecticut woman might be the first female to cast a ballot for the president of the United States. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Richards was unable to meet the release date of May 1, 1872, so the first issue of the paper published on June 1. It featured articles and information that Richards thought to be the most interesting and important to women at the time. The paper didn’t simply focus on matters of the home, or what could be considered the traditional normative role women typically took within society due to the religious influence. On page 4, an article titled “Our Position” delved into Richards’s intentions for the paper, which stated that the purpose was not to advocate for woman suffrage, “for it is enjoyed by women of this Territory.” Women in Utah had received the right to vote per a decision by the territorial legislature in 1870, years prior to the 19th amendment. This right was revoked by Congress in 1887, but was ultimately restored in 1895 upon it being written into the state constitution. (White)

The Exponent aimed to speak for many of the women within the state, knowing that there would be dissenting opinions. Richards knew that there was still much to be done for women’s rights, but she strived to reach the majority in the hope that the topics discussed and covered were those that were significant to the women of Salt Lake City. On page 5 of the first issue, an article titled “Woman’s Rights and Wrongs” examined the equality that women lacked in relation to their male counterparts. This article explained the hardships women faced in doing the same amount of work as a man and receiving only a portion of the pay, as well as addressing the issue that women have the right to do any job their desire regardless of gender should they be able to adequately perform. Whether Richards intended for the publication to speak on behalf of women, equality, and at times for woman suffrage, it did and it became a key player in advocating for women in Utah.

The first issue of the Exponent set the stage for what would come from Richards, and later her successor, Emmeline Wells. The front page of the publication began with an article titled “News and Views.” This article commanded the entire front page of the paper and disclosed the news and opinions of Utah, as well as what was happening nationwide. Topics discussed in this article included religion, politics, suffrage, and race. Richards didn’t shy away from discussing what she believed in and what she thought the women of Utah wanted to be reading. The bold approach she took in writing and editing the paper helped catalyze the publication into the success that it experienced during its 42-year lifespan. On page two of the first issue, there is an article written by Eliza R. Snow on “The Female Relief Society,” which became a regular column in the Exponent penned by Snow. It gave readers a summary of the happenings of the church at the time. Richards felt that providing women with insight into the church was important as most of her readers were members of the religion. She also felt that having this section written by the president of the relief society was important for the women consuming the material.

The articles seemed to mildly contradict in that the written purpose was not to advocate for equality, but the articles themselves did articulate the support and advancement of equal rights for women. Emmeline B. Wells, who was known for her work within the woman suffrage movement, became Richards’s successor when Richards chose to withdraw as editor. Under the new leadership of Wells, the publication began taking a stronger stance on equality and woman suffrage.

On August 1, 1872, the Exponent published an article titled, “Why Women Should Vote.” This article touched on the fact that while some women cared nothing for politics and would most likely not vote, women should still be able to participate in voting and the voting process. The article stated that it was an important part of our society and should not exclude half of the nation’s population, as women had well-informed opinions and deserved to have a voice within democracy and politics. This article was extremely well received because women in Utah already possessed the right to vote and it led to further articles regarding woman suffrage and equal rights.

For example, on October 1, 1872, there was an article titled “Lady Lawyers” that recognized the remarkable accomplishment of two women who were admitted and sworn into the bar to become attorneys-at-law in the state of Utah. And while it wasn’t their intention or desire to practice law, they understood the large impact this would have for women across the nation. The article acknowledged that just a few years prior to this event, women were often ridiculed for their pursuits. The article also addressed the right of a woman “to earn her living in any honorable career for which she has capacity.” Utah was a remarkably advanced state within the union at the time and encouraged women to pursue their aspirations and career goals.

The first few months of the Exponent under Richards’s leadership laid the foundation for this progressive paper. Just five years after she signed on to the project, she decided to remove herself as acting editor. On July 15, 1877, the final issue of the Woman’s Exponent crediting Richards was published. That issue continued to advocate for equal rights, provide updates on the LDS church, and share poetry. The issue also shows significance in that it sold ad space on the last page, which generated revenue and income for the publication. Throughout all the stories and articles published in this issue, there is no acknowledgement of Richards’s departure. In a following issue of the paper, dated August 1, 1877, Richards penned an article titled “Valedictory,” in which she bid the paper farewell and discussed her reasons for departing the Exponent. She made it clear in her message that she would not be losing contact with her readers, but would be communicating with them as a contributing writer for the Exponent. She noted that she was in good health, but her “head and eyes need recruiting.” She also wrote that she believed her time would be best spent dedicated to domestic duties. Richards was content to relinquish all claim to the Exponent, because she knew she would be leaving it in good hands. She ended her farewell by asking her “sisters old and young” to subscribe and write to the Exponent to make it “more interesting and successful in performing its mission.”

After retiring as the editor of the Woman’s Exponent, Richards turned to being a wife and mother full time, but she never stopped writing. Her poetry is what launched her into her career with the Exponent; her poetry is how she continued to express herself throughout her life. Richards published a few of her poems during her five-year run with the paper and afterward found herself publishing a book, Branches That Run Over the Wall. Richards spent her life dedicating her time to her family and her writing. Never forgetting who she was or what she believed in, and was never afraid to speak her mind in the effort of being an independent woman at a time when that wasn’t always fully embraced. Louisa Lula Greene Richards was the first female editor in Utah and became a respected public figure and advocate for women all over the state.

The Woman’s Exponent provided women with an outlet and a resource that wasn’t a common commodity at the time. The publication had a female editor, the first in the state and breached topics that were both helpful, informative, and at times controversial. Looking back at the many issues of the paper, it is obvious that these women were dealing with issues that are still prevalent today. We are still fighting for gender equality in many regards, we are still fighting to give women an independent voice and we are still fighting to break into male dominated industries. Utah was a unique place, where women held positions without it being perceived as a woman trying to take over a man’s role. These women were praised for their work and made strides in the fight for equality for women everywhere. The paper was so successful that it even spurred the conception of Exponent II, a quarterly publication launched to give feminist Mormon women a voice. (Sheldon) Women across Utah, especially within the Mormon community, have been deeply impacted by the Exponent and the work of Richards and Wells. Their efforts have resonated with women across generations for over 100 years and even led to the development of other publications. This progressive paper was created by women for women.

Baylee Stephenson graduated in May 2017 from The University of Utah with a degree in communication. She moved to New York City after graduating to pursue a career in product development and now resides in the city full-time.

Sources

Louisa L. Richards, Branches That Run Over the Wall: A Book of Mormon Poem and Other Writings. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Magazine Printing Company, 1904.

“Valedictory,” Woman’s Exponent, August 1, 1877, 36.

Woman’s Exponent, June 15, 1877, 25-32.

“Lady Lawyers,” Woman’s Exponent, October 1, 1872, 68.

“Why Women Should Vote,” Woman’s Exponent, August 1, 1872, 36.

“News and Views,” Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1872, 1.

“Our Position,” Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1872, 4.

Eliza R. Snow, “The Female Relief Society,” Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1872, 2.

“Woman’s Rights and Wrongs,” Woman’s Exponent, June 1, 1872, 5.

“Woman’s Exponent,” Salt Lake Daily Herald, April 9, 1872, 3.

Bennion, Sherilyn Cox. “Lula Greene Richards: Utah’s First Woman Editor.” BYU Studies 21, no. 2 (1981): 1-14.

Romney, Thomas C. “Louisa Lula Greene Richards.” The Instructor (September 1950): 262-263.

Sheldon, Carrel Hilton. “Launching Exponent II.” Exponent II. http://bit.ly/2otlTLP

White, Jean Bickmore. “Women’s Suffrage in Utah,” Utah History to Go. http://bit.ly/2kWl4rr

 

 

 

Reactions to Utah’s Public School Sex Education in the Early to Mid-1900s, from Medical Professionals and Students

by MARISSA SITTLER

Sex education has been a contentious topic since it was first introduced by the United States government in the early 1900s. However, Utah has been and continues to be stuck on the receiving end of flak from outsiders, as well as its own residents concerning its (lack of) sex education.

What might be defined as “sex education” now, was not the same during 1946-47, when LaMar Holmes conducted a study, The Status of Sex Education in the State of Utah, in which he sought to discover what Utah’s K-12 public schools were teaching its students. Holmes mailed a questionnaire to 435 public school principals listed in the Utah Public School Directory of 1946-47. One hundred seventy-four out of the 435 questionnaires were returned.

In Holmes’s study, he defined sex education as “activities directed toward bringing about the development of wholesome habits, conduct, attitudes, and ideals within the individual to the end that the family will be preserved and home life improved.” (Holmes, 10) The purpose of sex education, in his eyes, was not to teach of sexually transmitted infections or contraception, but rather to teach adolescents to respect the opposite sex, and to build “wholesome” relationships.

In Holmes’s study, there was not an official sex education curriculum for Utah’s public schools that was mentioned. Instead, offerings at schools varied. One example was a unit of instruction called “sex education” that was administered in tenth and eleventh grade physical education. Another school’s principal simply said that sex education was part of the health education program in his school. Perhaps the most comprehensive curriculum mentioned in the study was that of a home nursing class, which included a one-hour period for lecture and informal discussions about each of the following subjects:

“1. Anatomy and physiology of the female reproductive system. 2. Physiology and hygiene of menstruation. 3. Conception, growth and development of the fetus, and the birth of a baby. 4. Prenatal care of the mother including social and emotional adjustments. 5. Baby care including collection of layette and demonstration of a baby bath. 6. Brief discussion of the social diseases.” (Holmes, 19)

On the other end of the spectrum were schools where sex education was not integrated into the curriculum. Rather, instruction was given if “problems arose.” (Holmes, 18)

Three decades before Holmes’s study, Utah newspapers were discussing the need for a consistent curriculum and regular instruction of sex education. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on March 5, 1916, that Dr. M. J. Exner of New York said, “Sex education at high school is necessary” because the earlier the education, the better guidance in regards to the topic for high school-aged boys. Exner also commented on the sources of sex education in early years, and that “91.5 per cent said they received their early impressions from unwholesome sources, mostly from older boys; 70 percent said those impressions had aroused in them morbid curiosity, distorted the whole sex question, and led to unfortunate practices.”

On August 11, 1927, the Ogden Standard Examiner covered a meeting of the World Federation of Education. In an address to its health section, Dr. T. W. Galloway of New York, associate director of the department of education of the American Social Hygiene association, stressed “the need of greater sex education in home and school, particularly among junior high school students.” In addition, Galloway said the current state of sex education did not include enough information about biology, anatomy, hygiene, or venereal diseases.

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The Utah State Capitol building, circa 1920. Used with permission. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

In a May 5, 1948, Daily Utah Chronicle article, another medical professional added her two cents to the sex education discussion. Dr. Bernice Moss, of the physical education department, believed that even those who had already been taught or trained on the topic of sex education could benefit from further instruction.

An article in the Salt Lake Telegram on May 23, 1938, noted that Dr. William Cary, a gynecologist and obstetrician, said “too many college courses are being taught by people who have had no personal experience” when it comes to sex education classes and that the teaching of such curriculum needs to be better.

A sex education conference in 1948 sponsored by the Adult Education committee, Board of Education of Iron County School District, and Parent-Teachers Association was held in a public school auditorium and was regarded as highly successful with good attendance. Miss Winifred Hazen, the consultant in family life education for the State Department of Public Instruction, was the conference leader. In a February 12, 1948, Iron County Record article, she stressed “the need for accurate knowledge of sex behavior, and fundamentals to proper training of every child, and also the responsibility of teacher and parent in giving proper information.”

It was not, however, only medical professionals who recognized the need for expanded teaching of sex education in Utah’s public schools. Students, also, voiced their opinions in favor of the matter. Several Utah newspapers chronicled stories on students’ reactions. As the Utah Daily Chronicle reported on March 2, 1939, “Sex education should no longer be a matter to be whispered about, a large majority of American college students believe.” Sixty-two percent favored making courses on the principles of sex mandatory, according to a nationwide study done by the Student Opinion Surveys of America.

The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 8, 1948, that more students had been interested in a course on sex education than any other class offered in adult education curriculum of the Salt Lake City schools, according to Ralph V. Backman, head of the division.

On December 10, 1948, the Telegram reported that college students did indeed want more education about sex. According to surveys, about 99 out of 100 of people of all ages said they learned “practically nothing from courses in high school or from parents! Appalling!”

Despite considerable support for improvement upon sex education from medical professionals as well as students themselves in Utah’s public schools, currently the status of Utah’s public sex education is abstinence-only. Senator Frances Farley introduced the idea of teaching abstinence in 1988 into schools’ core curriculums in response to the AIDS crisis then. However, what Farley did not introduce was an abstinence-only stance, but the curriculum has since become that.

A February 16, 2017, Salt Lake Tribune article reported that Utah Democratic representative Brian King tried to introduce two bills to update Utah’s sex education curriculum. Both failed because people view sex education as the parents’ role. King’s bills intended to create a more comprehensive sex education for students, as the current curriculum for Utah’s public schools forbids the teaching of contraception, in addition to many other things.

The Trump administration has threatened to defund Planned Parenthood, an external source of sex education for what is not taught in schools. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan created a bill to eliminate health care for millions of Americans, which included Planned Parenthood centers. Neil Gorsuch recently became the Supreme Court Justice, and his history of interference with reproductive health and rights is concerning to Americans who need basic access to reproductive health care at centers such as Planned Parenthood.

Marissa Sittler is a sophomore at The University of Utah studying communication, with an emphasis on journalism.

Sources

Albert E. Wiggam, “College Students Seek More Sex Education,” Salt Lake Telegram, December 10, 1948, 8.

“Sex Education Conference Draws Good Attention,” Iron County Record, February 12, 1948, 10.

“Sex Education Popular,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 8, 1948, 8.

Jean Bruno, “Sociology forum urges early sex education,” Utah Daily Chronicle, May 5, 1948, 2.

“American Students Favor Sex Education,” Utah Daily Chronicle, March 2, 1939, 1.

Ruth Millett, “Doctor Suggests Improvements In Sex Education,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 23, 1938, 4.

“Sex Education Need Stressed,” Ogden-Standard Examiner, August 11, 1927, 3.

“Sex Education In High Schools Is Urged,” Salt Lake Telegram, March 5, 1916, 5.

The Tribune Editorial Board. “Sex ed is ed,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 16, 2017, 10.

Holmes, LaMar L. The Status of Sex Education in the Schools of Utah. Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah, 1948.

 

 

 

The Edmunds Act of 1882

by JENNA DAVIS

In the 1800s, polygamy practiced by Mormons in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints created complications between the Mormons and non-Mormons in the state of Utah. Polygamy is when a man has more than one wife at the same time. Non-Mormons urged Congress to pass an act making polygamy illegal. In 1882, Congress passed the Edmunds Act, also known as the Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act, which barred members of the LDS Church from practicing polygamy and created punishments by law for those found guilty of it.

Group_portrait_of_three_wives_of_Brigham_Young__Zina_D__Huntington_Young__Emily_Partridge_Young__and_Eliza_R__Snow_Young

A portrait of three of Brigham Young’s wives. From left: Zina D. Huntington Young, Emily Partridge Young, and Eliza R. Snow Young. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

It is important to know the history of plural marriages in Utah in order to understand why the Edmunds Act was passed. According to the LDS Church’s website in an article titled “Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah,” Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, claimed to have had a revelation from God that instituted plural marriage among the members in the early 1840s. It is believed that Smith received this revelation and made sense of it through the readings in the Book of Mormon, specifically in Jacob 2:30, where the scripture reads of God commanding followers to increase the number of children born into the gospel covenant and to “raise up seed unto me.” Mormons believed God ordained their practices, but non-Mormons didn’t agree with this and this created opposing opinions in the Utah Territory.

The question of whether Congress should interfere with the church’s practices and punish polygamy by law was debated in the newspapers. On January 1, 1882, the Deseret News quoted an article that was published in Century magazine that observed that the “Mormon problem was a local disturbance and nuisance and not a national difficulty.” Referencing the Edmunds Act that was about to be passed, the author argued that the punishments of conviction were unfair. He said it was unfair to bar all people who believed in polygamy or practiced it from serving as jurors in polygamy trials. The author claimed this was “a packed jury,” meaning it was an unfair selection and gave no chance to the person being prosecuted.

Brigham_Young_and_his_wives_

Brigham Young pictured with his wives. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Although some viewed the passing of the act as unfair, most non-Mormons in the Utah Territory thought it was just. According to the Ogden Herald on January 4, 1882, the practice of polygamy in the Utah territory divided the Mormons and non-Mormons and created much tension. It was believed that if the practice was stopped, there could be greater peace and harmony in the territory.

The Salt Lake Herald reported another example of an opposing opinion on January 24, 1882, claiming that the act was denying rights and privileges that all citizens deserved and was singling out one religion in punishment. The Salt Lake Herald noted that “denying them privileges of citizenship seems to be a hobby with a good many anti-Mormons” and added, “we believe the suppression of polygamy will prove a sorry failure, should it pass.” But, regardless of the opposition, the Edmunds Act was soon passed.

The Salt Lake Herald reported on January 24, 1882, that the Edmunds Act consisted of three characteristics. The first was that it made it easier to find evidence to convict someone of practicing polygamy. Officials only had to demonstrate that there was more than one woman living with a man in the same house. The act also was explained in the Ogden Herald on January 26. The Deseret News reported on February 2 that the main purpose of the act was to “simply put Utah into political control of the minority.” The exact wording of the act is,

“Every person who has a husband or wife living, who in a Territory or other place over which the United States have exclusive jurisdiction hereafter marries another, whether married or single, and any man who hereafter simultaneously or on the same day marries more than one woman, in a Territory or other place over which the United States have exclusive jurisdiction, is guilty of polygamy, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500 and imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.”

The act was passed to create a punishment for those practicing polygamy with the goal of ending it completely. But, as one scholar points out, the provision that denied polygamists the right to vote had consequences for women. Mormon women who cohabited were disenfranchised after being granted the right to vote in 1870 by Utah’s territorial legislature. (Finkelman, 322)

After the act was passed the members of the church had to figure out how to deal with their existing relationships, possessions, and offspring and learn to live a monogamous lifestyle. It was a hard transition for them and some continued to practice for a while, which exacerbated the animosity in the state. The Salt Lake Herald reported on May 7, 1882, that polygamy was prevailing in spite of the laws of the US Congress and that “open violation of authority of this government has frequently occurred.” The article stated that non-Mormons viewed the Mormons as intolerant, wrangling, and that they ultimately had “weakened the authority of the United States.” Though persecution still raged against Mormons who were trying to deal with the transition, eventually the church strongly forbadd its members from continuing the practice of polygamy.

According to the church’s website in the article titled, “Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah,” in 1890, eight years after the Edmunds Act was passed, Church President Wilford Woodruff issued a “Manifesto” declaring his intention to abide by the law forbidding plural marriage. He said he would use his influence to convince the members of the church to abide by the law as well. Then, in 1904, the LDS Church strictly prohibited any new plural marriages and since then, polygamy has been forbidden among the members of the LDS Church.

According to a transcript of a talk given in General Conference on the LDS Church’s website titled “Do Not Practice Polygamy,” former LDS President Gordon B Hinckley, who served from 1995-2008, said that if any members were caught practicing polygamy, they would be excommunicated from the church. Excommunication means that their records are taken away from the church, they are no longer recognized as a member, and are denied all privileges of membership.

Even though it took many years after the act was passed, the Edmunds Act was the final law against polygamy that had a lasting influence and greatly impacted the acceptance of Mormons throughout the world. The Huffington Post reported on February 18, 2016, that 51.41 percent of Salt Lake County residents identified as Mormon. Neighboring Utah County was 80 percent Mormon. By following the laws of the land, this immense number of Mormon people can live more peacefully and without opposition and resentment from the government and others in their community. To that end, the LDS Church disavows the “fundamentalist Mormons,” a sect not affiliated with the church that still practices polygamy because members believe it “brings exaltation in heaven.”

Jenna Davis graduated from The University of Utah in 2017 with a major in journalism and a minor in French.

Sources

“The Debate,” Salt Lake Herald, May 7, 1882, 2.

“Anti-Mormon Legislation,” Deseret News, February 2, 1882, 8.

“The Edmunds Bill,” Ogden Herald, January 26, 1882, 1.

“Local News,” Salt Lake Herald, January 24, 1882, 4.

“A Polygamy Bill,” Salt Lake Herald, January 24, 1882, 1.

“Another Crusade,” Ogden Herald, January 4, 1882, 2.

“Legal Aspects of the Mormon Problem,” Deseret News, January 1, 1882, 8.

Finkelman, Paul, ed. Religion and American Law: An Encyclopedia. London: Routledge, 2000.

Harrison, Mette Ivie. “Do Mormons Still Practice Polygamy,” Huffington Post, February 18, 2016. http://huff.to/1ULs8U9.

Hinckley, Gordon B. “Do Not Practice Polygamy,” transcript, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://bit.ly/2lSphyz.

“Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, http://bit.ly/2mq7dtw.

“Sister Wives family appeal polygamy ruling to US Supreme Court.” Fox News, September 13, 2016.

Horse Racing at the Utah State Fair and Pari-Mutuel Betting

by HALIE BERRY

The Utah State Fair has been a cornerstone of Utah history even before Utah became a state in 1896. The original development of the fair was to promote “self-sufficiency” within agricultural production. The first fair, known as the “Deseret Fair,” was held in October 1856 under the supervision of the Deseret Agricultural and Manufacturing Society.

After its opening, the fair received little financial help from the Territorial Legislature and moved to various locations. Nevertheless, it was able to persevere as an annual event and in 1902 the Legislature purchased 65 acres for the purpose of assisting the local community. (Utah State Fair History)

In this pursuit, the fair had become a favored part of the horse racing industry in Utah. Horse races were featured on a new track and a covered grandstand welcomed spectators dressed in their best attire to enjoy the event. By 1909, horse racing in Utah developed similar rules and regulations to that of other organizations around the country and continued to gain increased popularity. Despite the success of the horse racing industry, there was rising opposition against it. Track owners were considered biased in the handling of wagering and during that time bookmakers were hired by the track. Utah had no state agency to oversee and/or regulate bookmaking of the horse races. (Westergren, 7)

By 1913, the belief of “dishonesty” within horse racing clouded the industry and the Salt Lake Herald and the Deseret News wrote lengthy editorials in 1909 and 1913 about the problems horse racing caused and why it should be banned. Westergren summarizes the reasons they offered, including: “The ‘fixing’ of races by dishonest horse owners and jockeys who ‘fleeced the public’ rather than providing, good, honest sport; the loss of spectators’ money in wagering at the track, depriving honest local merchants of sales and profits; the rise in crime that generally accompanied racing meets; and the moral impact of horse race gambling on individuals and families.” By February 17, 1913, Governor William Spry signed an anti-racing law initiated by Charles R. Mabey. The legislature passed the bill after a month-long “acrimonious debate.” (Westergren, 8)

In February 19, 1925, the Salt Lake Telegram reported that Representative Charles Redd had proposed a bill to the Legislature to legalize pari-mutuel betting and horse racing under a new state horse racing commission. Redd believed that horse racing was “the sport of kings” and should be re-established in the Utah industry. The bill proposed that the governor appoint a three-member committee to control the pari-mutuel betting system under new regulations by the commission. The bill gained traction among the legislature, but in March 1925, according to the Salt Lake Telegram, Sen. Herbert S. Auerbach considered the races “to be the most vicious forms of gambling and would bring into the state the worst riffraff of its kind.” This quote came after Auerbach admitted to not being “strait-laced” and dipping his hand in betting on a few races at the track.

State_Fair

A large crowd ventures to the Utah State Fairpark to watch horse racing in 1907. Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection, Mss C 275, Utah State Historical Society. Reprinted with permission.

Despite some pushback, the House Legislature passed the proposed bill on March 7, 1925, by a vote of 41 to 4 with ten members absent and by March 11, 1925, the Senate passed the bill by a vote of 12 to 5 with three absent. The law was signed by Governor George Dern and became effective on May 12, 1925. For the first time in twelve years, the horse racing industry was revived and the pari-mutuel betting system was now legal. Many who approved the bill believed horse racing was a “clean” and “respectable” sport and that the new law would encourage breeders to produce competitive offspring, bringing in a renewed source of revenue into the state. (Westergren, 8-9)

By April 1925, the fairgrounds needed improvements. Fred Dahnken and William P. Kyne, well-known men in the horse racing industry who conducted successful races in Phoenix and Reno, proposed a deal with the state fair board and were approved for a $60,000 track deal to develop horse racing over the next ten years at the Utah State Fairgrounds. According to the Salt Lake Telegram, this agreement included improvements to the existing grandstand, paddocks, jockey room, horse stalls, and fences.

Utah_State_Fair_Association___Trotters

Two racers wait outside the fairgrounds in 1908. Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection, Mss C 275, Utah State Historical Society. Reprinted with permission.

As opening day drew nearer, things were in full swing to prepare for the event. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on June 6, 1925, that a new chute would be added to the track, extending the length of the race to run up to a three-quarter-mile. Artisans put final touches on the barns, pari-mutuel booths were set up, and jockeys and exercise boys warmed up horses on the track. On June 8, the Salt Lake Telegram announced the program of the State Fair’s “Inaugural Day” and informed readers that July 2 would kick off the horse racing season with a $1,500 purse.

The Salt Lake Telegram reported on July 1:  “Several carloads of horses, in prime condition, arrived at the track today and yesterday and still more are due this evening which will swell the number of equine nobility to participate in the coming meeting to a full 400 head.” C. B. Irwin, owner of at least 21 thoroughbreds at the races, believed his top horse that he called the “route-goer,” Lizette, would be the one to beat. “He would run her from the car to the track, that’s how good he thinks Lizette is,” observed the newspaper. At last, July 2, one of the most anticipated days of the year, arrived and the Utah State Fair officially opened the races under the new Horse Racing Commission. A large number of people ventured to the track to take in and bet on some of the top thoroughbreds competing.

The new system controlled the odds of the race; no jockey, bookie or horse owner could “fix” the race ahead of time. The minimum wager was $2.00. Bettors could choose from three types of tickets to place on a horse: win, place, or show, similar to other races. According to Westergren, “This ticket system was universally used at all tracks where the pari-mutuel system was functioning. The rules placed no limit on the number of tickets a bettor could buy. He might put down money on every horse in the race if he chose. However, payoff came only if the participant held a ticket for a horse that finished in one of the first three positions.” Tickets purchased from a pari-mutuel betting machine were cashed in to verify receipt of the wager amount. Odds were based on the wagers at the track and the money collected from their bets, rather than fixed, random odds by a bookie. Therefore, bettors wagered against themselves. Once expenses were paid to the state and licensed track owner, the remainder of the pool was divided among those with winning tickets. (Westergren, 12, 10)

The Salt Lake Telegram reported on July 3, 1925, “Women dressed in their fine summer clothes added a touch of color to the scene. The pari-mutuel machines received a good play, a fact which testified by the clicking one constantly heard as wagers were made.” The day was considered an overall success, according to William P. Kyne, the general manager of the State Fair races. On July 3, 1925, the Salt Lake Telegram highlighted, “Running strongly to the front, Lizette never placed the issue to doubt and ran to victory with more than two lengths to spare,” living up to Irwin’s expectations. It was estimated that between 3,500 and 10,000 attended opening day, including Heber J. Grant, the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Governor George H. Dern, Salt Lake City Mayor C. Clarence Nelsen, and several other government officials. (Westergren, 14)

Overall, the races were financially successful as they hoped; from May 12, 1925, through the end of 1926, it was reported that racing brought in an additional $129,646 in total revenue. Business and community support was at an all-time high. But by February 1927, public concern with ethical issues of horse racing and betting affected support for the sport. Just two years after the passage of Representative Redd’s bill, pari-mutuel betting would again be banned by the Utah Legislature after accusations of corruption. (Westergren, 15)

Utah_State_Fair___P_26

Horses and buggies race to an exciting finish in 1904. Shipler Commercial Photographers Collection, Utah State Historical Society. Reprinted with permission.

In March 1992, the Davis County Clipper reported that Utah horse breeders had filed a petition to get pari-mutuel betting on the ballot, which would give counties the right to decide whether or not they would approve pari-mutuel wagering at horse races in their jurisdiction. According to the article, “The funds collected in the pari-mutuel wagering will be used to support the public, promote economic growth and reduce taxes.” Even though the bill made it on the ballot, late opposition from the LDS church prevented the bill from passing.

It’s been 90 years since pari-mutuel horse race betting has been legal. However, the positive impact it had on Utah’s economy shows the progressive role it can play today. It’s reported that the Utah State Fairgrounds is in a state of distress. Brian Grimmett of KUER reported on March 27, 2014, that an audit by the Utah State Auditor found the Utah State Fair Corporation is highly subsidized compared to similar state fairs around the country: “The legislature has given the fair more than $6.8 million since 2004. Meanwhile, attendance has decreased almost every year since hitting a peak in 2008.” Many of these concerns are due to the crumbling infrastructure. Legislative auditors are concerned if a plan to update and improve fair park facilities isn’t in place, the State Fair will be destitute in a few years, reported Judy Fahys of KUER.

The horse racing/breeding industry is an established sport in Utah. Allowing pari-mutuel betting or a similar system would be an incentive for members of the community to get involved, support the races and generate a year-round source of income to update and maintain current buildings at the state fairgrounds. Pamela Wood of the Baltimore Sun reported on March 18, 2016, that a new track deal allowed off-track betting at the Maryland State Fair all year. It was projected to generate upward of $500,000 per year in revenue for the Maryland Jockey Club, horsemen, and building upkeep and maintenance. Passing a similar bill here in Utah would allow the state fair to create new sources of revenue while continuing the tradition of the fairgrounds for future generations.

Halie Berry graduated in May 2017 from The University of Utah with a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communication with an emphasis in sports broadcasting.

Sources

“Huge Throng Thrilled as Lizette Wins Feature of Opening Day,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 3, 1925.

Track and Equipment is Ready for Opening Event,” Salt Lake Telegram, July 1, 1925.

Program Announced for the First Five Days’ Racing,” Salt Lake Telegram, June 8, 1925.

“Fair Grounds Race Track to Have ‘Chute Added,’” Salt Lake Telegram, June 6, 1925.

“Fair Grounds Track Deal is Made,” Salt Lake Telegram, April 15, 1925.

Senate Overrides Dern’s Veto of McCarty Election Measure; Utah Horse Racing Bill Passes,” Salt Lake Telegram, March 12, 1925.

“Solon Revives Horse Races in House Measure,” Salt Lake Telegram, February 19, 1925.

Horse Breeders Want Pari-Mutual Vote,” Davis County Clipper, March 31, 1992.

Our History.” Utah State Fair, http://utahstatefair.com/history

Fahys, Judy. “State Fair Park’s Future Remains Uncertain.” KUER, June 19, 2014, http://kuer.org/post/state-fair-parks-future-remains-uncertain#stream/0

Grimmett, Brian. “Utah State Fair Under-Attended and Over-Subsidized.” KUER, March 27, 2014, http://bit.ly/2pm6r2R.

Luhm, Steve. History of Horse Racing in Utah.” The Salt Lake Tribune, May 2, 2006http://bit.ly/2plUp9n.

Westergren, Brian N. “Utah’s Gamble with Pari-Mutuel Betting in the Early Twentieth Century.” Utah Historical Quarterly 57, no. 1 (Winter 1989): 4-23.

Wood, Pamela. “Community, state fair reach deal on off-track betting at the fairgrounds,” Baltimore Sun, March 18, 2016, http://bsun.md/21ALmMz.

 

 

Utah Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Execution of John D. Lee

by SPENCER WILLIAM URE

john d. lee

The Salt Lake Tribune covered the execution of John D. Lee. This article was published on the front page of the March 24, 1877, issue.

Between September 7 and 11, 1857, there was a series of attacks on the Baker-Fancher emigrant wagon train at Mountain Meadows in southern Utah. Will Bagley wrote in Blood of the Prophets, “Alexander Fancher’s Party was said to consist of eleven families with twenty-nine children and sixty-five total members, traveling with eleven well-stocked wagons and large herds of cattle and horses.” (63) But why the Baker-Fancher party? It has been speculated that the attacks occurred because of the supplies individuals were carrying for their journey from Arkansas to California, and because the wagon train was passing through the Utah Territory during a time of civil unrest. Bagley quotes John D. Lee as saying, “As this lot of people had men amongst them that were supposed to have helped kill the Prophets in the Carthage jail, the killing of all of them would be keeping our oaths and avenging the blood of the prophets.” (381) Today, said Steven Lund, these series of attacks have come to be known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

According to both Bagley and Lund, Major John D. Lee of the Nauvoo Legion, Utah’s territorial militia, “led a ragtag band of 60 or 70 Latter-day Saints, better known as Mormons, and a few Indian freebooters” in the assault on the wagon train. (Bagley, “Wild West”) The only emigrants who were spared were 17 small children. (Lund)

Bagley writes in Blood of the Prophets, “The murder at Mountain Meadows raise larger questions about the human condition, particularly how decent men can, while acting on their and best firmest beliefs commit a great evil.” (xiii)

The significance of the Mountain Meadows Massacre comes from the scattered facts and myths that have been raised by this event. George Barclay stated in The Life and Confession of John D. Lee, the Mormon, that there is much speculation regarding what was truly the reasoning behind these attacks and what was covered up by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (43)

On August 5, 1857, one month before the massacre, Brigham Young wrote that martial law was declared in the Utah territory. (Proclamation) During this time, there were multiple escalations in the state that likely contributed to the massacre at Mountain Meadows. Most notable was the start of the Utah War. Lund explained that the Utah War is known today as the confrontation that Utah Mormon settlers had with the United States government over disputes in the Utah Territory. Lund states, “In mid-1857, Latter-day Saint leaders heard rumors that the federal government might replace Brigham Young with a new governor of the Utah Territory, who would be backed by large numbers of federal troops.” These facts have shown that through the pressure from the federal government on the newly created Utah Territory, LDS leaders feared that members would again be driven from their home.

It has been said that this attack was an inside job and part of a larger conspiracy within the Mormon church. Barclay wrote in 1910 that the “extermination of these emigrants was duly presented to the priesthood, and was discussed at considerable length.” (Barclay, 40)

John D. Lee, who led the attack on the wagon train, was executed for his crimes two decades after the fact. In 1875 and 1876, he was tried twice and found guilty for his participation in the massacre. During his first trial, there were no witnesses to testify about his crimes. In order to create legal and due process, a second trial was held. Members of the LDS church were able to find additional witnesses who then testified against Lee. (Barclay, 40) A few months later, on March 23, 1877, Lee was executed, though “he denied any intent to do wrong.” (Barclay, 42)

The Mountain Meadows Massacre has many implications for Utah history. The most notable is that the LDS church has taken responsibility for the event. On September 11, 2007, the 150th anniversary of the event, The Salt Lake Tribune quoted a Mormon leader as saying, “What was done here long ago by members of our church represents a terrible and inexcusable departure from Christian teaching and conduct.” Henry B. Eyring offered an apology for the church’s role and said, “We cannot change what happened, but we can remember and honor those who were killed here.”

Spencer William Ure graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in communication studies.

Sources

George Barclay, The Mountain Meadows Massacre with the Life, Confession and Execution of John D. Lee, the Mormon (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Barclay & Co, 1877).

T. R. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints: A Full and Complete History of the Mormons, from the First Vision of Joseph Smith to the Last Courtship of Brigham Young (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1873).

“Message of the President of the United States to the 36th Congress, 1st Session,” May 4, 1860, http://bit.ly/2mf1oC1.

Brigham Young, “Proclamation by the Governor,” August 5, 1857, http://bit.ly/2lUTrRu.

Bagley, Will. Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.

Bagley, Will. “Wild West: The Legacy of Mountain Meadows,” Wild West, October 2007, http://www.historynet.com/mountain-meadows-massacre.

Lund, Steven E.The Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre,” presentation to the members of the Highland Utah Stake in Alpine, Utah, March 10, 2017.

Ravitz, Jessica. “LDS Church apologizes for Mountain Meadows Massacre,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, September 11, 2007, http://bit.ly/2pD7f61.

Forgeries, Bombs, and Joseph Smith: The Rise and Fall of Historical Documents Dealer Mark Hofmann

by JESSICA L. ONEIDA

October 15, 1985, began just as any other crisp, fall morning in Salt Lake City, Utah. Steven Christensen, a businessman who was described in the January 23, 1987, edition of the Deseret News as “an avid collector of Mormon documents,” made his way to work in the Judge Building located downtown. At the same time, Kathy Sheets, the wife of Christensen’s former business partner, J. Gary Sheets, began her day in the quiet suburb of Holladay, located 20 minutes south of the city. When two bombs, which killed both Christensen and Kathy Sheets, suddenly exploded within mere hours of each other, the entire valley was shocked. Newspaper headlines in the days following the bombings, such as, “Bombings shatter area’s composure: ‘It’s beginning to seem like Lebanon,’” found in the October 17, 1985, issue of the Deseret News, indicated that fear was a tangible issue within the community. This is a very telling piece of historical evidence that shows the seriousness of the event and its influence. This intensity and mystery maintained itself throughout the two-year-long journey that included the investigations, trial, and eventual conviction of Mark W. Hofmann for the murders of Steven Christensen and Kathy Sheets.

The book, Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders by Allen D. Roberts and Linda Sillitoe, describes the early years of Hofmann and his upbringing in Utah during the 1960s and 1970s. His family was active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and he took an interest in some unique hobbies as a child, including performing magic tricks. Even though Hofmann was raised in the Mormon religion, he concluded that he did not believe the teachings of the church and secretly rejected the religion as a whole by the time he reached his teenage years. Since his family was still very active, Hofmann kept his newfound beliefs and feelings to himself and managed to convince his peers that he was still interested and involved. He kept up the act by serving a religious mission and marrying within the church. An amused Hofmann took pleasure in tricking his family and fellow church members about his involvement, which could stem back to his early years. Roberts and Sillitoe discuss his childhood and how he “loved tricking people and practiced his illusions diligently.”

After he married, he began to discover and collect historical books and documents, mostly regarding the history of the Mormon religion and the early development of the LDS Church. During the course of his collecting, he began to come across ancient Mormon documents among the pages of some of the books. One of the most controversial and most discussed letters that Hofmann brought to light was the Salamander Letter. This letter called into question the seriousness and validity of Joseph Smith’s discoveries and translations during the beginnings of the religion. Smith founded the LDS Church after discovering ancient writings near his home in western New York.

As Hofmann became more involved with his collecting, he connected with Christensen, who also enjoyed finding these rare documents having to do with Mormon history. The set of documents that sparked the bombings and the controversies was called the McLellin Collection, written by William E. McLellin.

"Mark Hofmann watches as Mormon leaders inspect some of Hofmann's documents." Special Collections Dept., J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

“Mark Hofmann watches as Mormon leaders inspect some of Hofmann’s documents.” Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

McLellin was “an early church apostle who later left the church,” according to the Deseret News on October 27, 1985. The article reported that he left the church because he had issues with some of the beliefs and practices taking place and that he “came into frequent conflict with church leaders.” The desire for this collection stemmed from the actual content within the letters. The Deseret News reported the basis of this content as giving “some of the first accounts of President Smith’s involvement in plural marriage.” On October 27, 1985, the Deseret News wrote, “The collection has proven elusive over the years, prompting some to dispute its existence. Yet it’s believed by many scholars and historians to exist.” This brought about the initial controversial nature of the documents and called into question some of the other documents Hofmann collected and sold.

While many of the documents he produced were questioned for authenticity and accuracy, Hofmann was talented enough that he had many experts defending their quality. One such example, as reported by the Deseret News on October 17, 1985, was Leonard Arrington, who was a professor of Western history at Brigham Young University. He said “documents discovered previously by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and he doesn’t believe they are forgeries.” Over the course of Hofmann’s activities, he sold many of his forgeries to collectors and the LDS Church alike. It was only a matter of time before the validity of his career was threatened.

Many motives were suggested as to why Hofmann orchestrated the bombings that led to the deaths of Christensen and Sheets. One of the most recurring ideas, however, was the motive of Hofmann covering up his shady dealings. The January 23, 1987, edition of the Deseret News reported, “Police and prosecutors believe that Christensen … may have discovered the fraud and threatened to expose Hofmann.” Hofmann must have felt the pressure and the article further suggested that, “Rather than risk a lucrative career in documents dealing, Hofmann killed Christensen and then planted another bomb at the home of J. Gary Sheets.”

"Mark Hofmann sits with his lawyers during the trial." Special Collections Dept., J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

“Mark Hofmann sits with his lawyers during the trial.” Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

The whole scheme came to a breaking point when a third bomb was prepared but malfunctioned and exploded in Hofmann’s car with him inside on October 16, 1985, the very day after the initial bombings. Officers found similarities between both bombings as reported by the Deseret News on October 17, 1985: “The bomb that injured Hofmann is almost identical in connection to devices that killed Steven F. Christensen and Kathy Webb Sheets.” The article continued, “Wednesday’s bomb apparently did not contain the shrapnel that sprayed in all directions in the first two blasts.”

The case took one year and three months to be compiled and executed. While it wasn’t until April 1986 that Hofmann’s role as a suspect was confirmed, he didn’t actually go to trial until January 1987. On January 23, 1987, the Deseret News reported the outcome of the trial. The judge overseeing the trial concluded that, “Due to the indiscriminate nature of the killings and the type of devices employed … I want you to serve the rest of your natural life in the Utah State Prison.” Hofmann pleaded guilty on “two counts of second-degree murder” and because of his confession, “prosecutors dismissed more than two dozen other complaints charging the documents dealer with theft by deception, communications fraud and bomb construction.” Hofmann is currently serving his life sentence in the prison located in Draper, Utah.

Jessica Oneida is in her fourth year at the University of Utah. She is majoring in Strategic Communication with minors in Business Administration and Design.

Sources

Jerry Spangler, “Booby-trapped bombs claim 2 in S.L. area,” Deseret News, October 15, 1985.

Brett DelPorto and Jerry Spangler, “Officers sifting evidence for clues to killer and motive in fatal bombings,” Deseret News, October 16, 1985.

Ellen Fagg and Jerry Spangler, “3rd bomb victim faces criminal charges,” Deseret News, October 17, 1985

Jerry Spangler, “Police focus on evidence, not theories,” Deseret News, October 18, 1985.

Brett DelPorto, Kathy Fahy, and Angelyn N. Hutchinson, “Hofmann retreats from statement; 2 bomb victims are eulogized,” Deseret News, October 19, 1985.

Marianne Funk, and Jerry Spangler, “Police sift documents to build Hofmann case,” Deseret News, October 23, 1985.

Jerry Spangler, “Hofmann wouldn’t get fair trail in Utah, attorney says,” Deseret News, October 25, 1985.

Linda Sillitoe and Jerry Spangler, “Still unseen McLellin Collection a mystery within murder mystery,” Deseret News, October 27, 1985.

Jerry Spangler and Jan Thompson, “Hofmann identified as the man who carried box into building,” Deseret News, April 14, 1986.

Jerry Spangler, and Jan Thompson, “Judge wants life in prison for Hofmann,” Deseret News, January 23, 1987.

Roberts, Allen D. and Linda Sillitoe, Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forgery Murders. Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1988.

Turley Jr., Richard E., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case. Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1992.

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Coverage of the Cancellation of ‘Brokeback Mountain’

by MIRANDA A. KNOWLES

Ang Lee’s 2005 film, Brokeback Mountain, portrayed  two cowboys, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar (performed by Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger), who showcased their “forbidden” love. The film created controversy all over the world — including in Utah.

According to ads in the Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune, Brokeback Mountain was scheduled to play at 12:45 p.m., Friday, January 6, 2006, at Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons. But the previous night, the film was pulled from its schedule and replaced by another film after the owner of Megaplex 17, Larry H. Miller, learned that the film was about two gay cowboys. The film’s cancellation brought up public debate all over Utah. From January 6, 2006, to January 31, 2006, The Salt Lake Tribune’s coverage of the cancellation showed both sides of the controversy and the power of communication as it shapes public debate.

Findings

The Brokeback Mountain vs. Larry H. Miller controversy began during a KCPW-FM interview with Miller and Jonathan Brown. The interview on the Salt Lake City public radio station was done on Thursday, January 5, 2006, the day before the film was released in theaters, and aired the next day. An article by Sean P. Means and Sheena McFarland published in The Salt Lake Tribune on January 7 discussed the interview between Miller and Brown. According to the article, Brown said during the interview, “Miller was unaware of the storyline of Brokeback Mountain … until Brown described it to him Thursday.”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s Brandon Griggs also discussed Miller and Brown’s interview in his article, published January 11. The article said Miller’s initial response to booking the film was because the film had received seven Golden Globe nominations. Miller saw this as a sign of its “potentially broad appeal.” Toward the end of the radio interview Miller stated,“It is possible that the content of this [film] … is offensive enough to a large enough segment of the population that this is one that slipped by our screening process. Maybe I’ve been a little naive and not paid proper attention to it and let it slip through the cracks. If I have, then I made a mistake.”

Nothing in the interview made it sound like Miller would take matters to the extreme and completely cancel the film before it began playing. The interview made it sound like Miller would first see how audiences reacted to the film. If there was a negative response, then he would pull the film from showing. However, two hours after the interview, Miller canceled the show from playing.

This cartoon, by the Salt Lake Tribune's Pat Bagley, appeared . Used with permission.

This cartoon, by the Salt Lake Tribune‘s Pat Bagley, appeared in the paper on January 10, 2006. Used with permission.

The Salt Lake Tribune’s website posted an update on the cancellation shortly after the decision to pull the movie from theaters appeared. The update, posted on January 6, stated, “The Megaplex 17 announced it was pulling the film late Thursday afternoon. The change-of-heart came too late to remove the title from the theater’s ads in today’s Salt Lake Tribune”

The update was the beginning of a media frenzy that included numerous editorials, columns, and letters to the editor. Of the articles published, most focused on Miller’s lack of response, how the film was doing in award season, the business aspect of the cancellation, the world’s reaction to the cancellation, and what the film was about — love. The issues at large, such as morals, civil liberties, and press bias were brought up through countless letters to the editors.

Means and McFarland were among the first journalists to report on the cancellation. In their article, published January 7 and titled, “‘Brokeback’ gets boot,” they discussed the details of the cancellation and what Focus Feature (the production company of the film) had to say about it. The article also interviewed Carol Adams about her reactions to the film’s cancellation. The local woman wanted to see the film and was saddened to learn that it had been canceled.

Articles also discussed  negative public relations, Miller’s continuous silence on the issue, and of course the world’s reaction. According to Lesley Mitchell’s article, published in The Salt Lake Tribune on January 12, “Miller’s silence has helped give the story international appeal.” Another article by Griggs, published January 15 and titled, “‘Brokeback Mountain’: Why all the fuss?,” discussed the huge reaction to the film and the cancellation. This article is the most blunt of any article published in The Salt Lake Tribune because Griggs stated the hard truth on why the film was pulled from the schedule: “Men having sex.” Griggs explained that the homosexual relationship was the reason why people were getting so upset. Griggs also addressed hypocritical morals when  he wrote, “How is a gay love story more morally offensive than other movies — such as ‘Hostel,’ a horror film that shows sadists fulfilling their depraved fantasies by paying to torture other people; or the stoner comedy ‘Grandma’s Boy,’ which features drug use in almost every scene — now playing at Miller’s theaters?” His questions and bluntness were met with countless letters on the matter by Utah’s citizens.

Similarly, Griggs’ article, “‘Brokeback’ squelch has spotlight on Utah again,” published January 11, discussed the world’s reaction and Heath Ledger’s. Ledger was quoted as saying, “It’s all just really unnecessary” and “Personally I don’t think the movie is [controversial], but I think maybe the Mormons in Utah do. I think it’s hilarious and very immature of a society.” Griggs also reported, “Articles about the snub have made international headlines. NBC’s Jay Leno and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann joked about it on the air Monday night.” Steven Oberbeck’s article, “Miller’s move: shrewd or rash?,” published January 13, quoted Paul Mero of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think-tank in Salt Lake City. Mero stated, “Considering the conservative nature of our population, I’m sure a lot of people think: We’ll, it’s [Millers’] business and he’s entitled to do with it what he wants.”

The cancellation was something to talk about, and Utah’s citizens made sure their voices were heard. The letters were short, blunt, and very opinionated. One Salt Lake Tribune reader, Karla G. McGuigan, said the decision was an “encroachment into American citizens’ rights to civil liberties.” However, another reader, Bret A. Stapley, responded with, “Larry H. Miller is a private business owner who decides what is best for his own business. This is not a case of ‘government censorship’ or a civil liberty violation.”

Robert Seifert also questioned Larry H. Miller’s morals in a letter titled, “Miller’s moral compass.” Seifert, like Brandon Griggs, brought  up the hypocrisy of playing Hostel and not Brokeback Mountain. Seifert stated, “To sum up, pulling ‘Brokeback Mountain’ tells young people that being gay is unacceptable, so not pulling the movie ‘Hostel’ (being shown in the same theater complex) sends the message that torturing and mutilating other human beings is all right.” Harry A. Rodes disagreed in his letter, titled, “Morally correct decision”: “I would like to call on moral-minded people in Utah to actively support Miller’s businesses, especially his movie theater, to show the state and the country that there are still some people who have not given in to societal pressure to accept that which is immoral. He should be praised, not condemned.”

Readers also began saying that The Salt Lake Tribune was biased toward the gay community. Morgan T. Beach wrote in a letter titled, “Tribune’s gay bias,” published January 17: “I wonder how  many favorable articles and commentaries you would devote toward a movie of the same caliber, romanticizing the polygamous lifestyle.” The same day another Salt Lake Tribune reader, JoAnn Nokes, sent in a letter titled, “Get on with Life.” Nokes wrote, “Decisions are made daily. So accept it and let’s get on with life.”

Though The Salt Lake Tribune did indeed publish positive reviews for the film, it was not the only newspaper in Utah to do so. According to a journal article published in August 2008 by Brenda Cooper and Edward C. Pease, Brokeback Mountain was rated positively by several Utah newspapers. The article stated, “Despite the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ (LDS) position that homosexuality is a sin and that practicing homosexuals may be excommunicated, the church-owned daily newspaper, the Deseret Morning News, gave the film three and a half stars out of four, and The Daily Herald of Provo, Utah — home of the LDS-owned Brigham Young University — also reviewed Brokeback positively.”

Conclusion

Utah’s reaction to Larry H. Miller’s decision to pull Brokeback Mountain from his theatre was one of great debate. The divide between Utah’s views on heterosexuality, ethics, morals, and business standards was showcased through the great response of Utah’s citizens. In 2009, Cooper and Pease published another article on the topic of Brokeback Mountain. The article, published in Western Journal of Communication, discussed how newspapers framed the controversy over the film. Cooper and Pease’s study found that of the 188 Brokeback-Miller items published during January 6, 2006-February 2006, 55 percent opposed the cancellation of the film and 45 percent  defended the cancellation. The study also found that 153 letters were published statewide. Of the 153, 48 percent were pro-Miller, and 52 percent were anti-Miller. Of those 153 letters, 34 were published in The Salt Lake Tribune. My research, along with Cooper and Pease’s research, proves that Utah was greatly divided on the issue. People discussed the film’s cancellation and topics related to Miller’s decision, including morals, business practices, civil liberties, press bias, and the amount of attention devoted to the issue.

Miranda A. Knowles is a senior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in communication and minoring in sociology.

Sources

JoAnn Nokes, “Get on with life,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 2006, A8.

Morgan T. Beach, “Tribune’s gay bias,” The Salt Lake Tribune. January 17, 2006, A8.

Brandon Griggs, “Why all the fuss?,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 15, 2006, D1.

Harry A. Rodas, “Morally correct decision,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 15, 2006, AA2.

Robert Seifert, “Miller’s moral compass,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 2006, A12.

Steven Oberbeck, “Miller’s move: shrewd or rash?,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 13, 2006, A1.

Brandon Griggs, “‘Brokeback’ squelch has spotlight on Utah again,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 2006, A1.

Bret A. Stapley, “Simple as That,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 2006.

Lesley Mitchell, “Media pros say silence on pulling gay movie gives the story legs,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 11, 2006.

Karla G. McGuigan, “Denial of Civil liberties,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 10, 2006.

Sean P. Means and Sheena McFarland, “‘Brokeback’ gets boot,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 7, 2006, A1.

“Update: Miller’s theater pulls Brokeback mountain,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 6, 2006.

Cooper, Brenda and Edward C. Pease. “Framing Brokeback Mountain: How the popular press corralled the “Gay Cowboy Movie.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 25, no. 3 (Aug. 2008): 249-273.

Cooper, Brenda and Edward C. Pease. “The Mormons Versus the ‘Armies of Satan’: Competing Frames of Morality in the Brokeback Mountain Controversy in Utah Newspapers.” Western Journal of Communication 73, no. 2 (April-June 2009): 134-156.

Iraqi Refugees Flee to Utah: The Human Consequences of the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

by BONNIE ADAMSSON-VORWALLER 

Introduction:

On March 19, 2003, U.S. troops invaded Iraq. The initial siege lasted only 41 days, but it marked the beginning of a protracted and acrimonious struggle that would come to be referred to by military analysts as a “quagmire,” (Warnick) and by some journalists around the world as “Viet Nam-like.” (Dalleck) The comparisons were unavoidable. Urged on by U.S. President George W. Bush, who insisted “God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq,” U.S. troops invaded a country that had not made a single military strike against the U.S. (MacAskill) The Iraqi people also had not requested any humanitarian intervention. As armed U.S. troops rushed into Iraq to “bring them Freedom” (Artyukov) in what Bush called a “preventive war,” (Klein) an internal crisis and then collapse resulted, forcing nearly 2 million Iraqis from their homes and, ultimately, from their country. This event in the Middle East was about to have significant consequences for the people of the State of Utah.

Findings:

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees flooded into neighboring Jordan in 2004. (Amos) Forty percent of Iraq’s middle class fled their homes and their businesses at the rate of nearly 3,000 Iraqi refugees per day seeking safety in Jordan and Syria through December 2006. (Lockhead) In Syria alone, some 50,000 Iraqi girls and women, many of them widows, were forced into prostitution just to survive. (Hassan)

Most Utahns remained unaware of the massive upheaval occurring on the other side of the world. The Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City, Utah, first began to track the building pressure in the January 3, 2007, issue. In the editorial “Allow more Iraqis into U.S.,” the newspaper reported that, according to the New York Times, 8,100 Iraqi refugees had asked for asylum in western nations in 2006. According to the editorial, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts was preparing to take over the subcommittee for immigration, border security and refugees. The Deseret Morning News editor suggested that Kennedy focus first not on Mexico, but on the Middle East and particularly Iraq. The editorial pointed out that immigrants historically have brought diversity as well as economic benefits to the U.S.

The Deseret Morning News continued its coverage of the Iraqi refugee problem in the February 15, 2007, edition. Middle Eastern countries bordering Iraq, especially Syria and Jordan, were being overwhelmed by the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi war refugees flooding across their borders.

U.S. government and State Department officials announced on February 14 that up to 7,000 Iraqi war refugees would be allowed into the U.S. effective immediately. The U.S. decision was in response to the proposal of the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007. In an effort to stabilize the region, the United States Senate would later pass the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007 into law on June 19, 2007. The brief Deseret Morning News story, headlined “Iraqis in the U.S. cheer war-refugee clearance,” was picked up from the AP newswire and featured interviews with Iraqis in Nashville and Chicago. One paragraph, consisting of a single sentence, offered an almost prophetic glimpse: “In several cities with Iraqi communities, officials promised to welcome the newcomers.”

On April 17-18, 2007, an international conference on Iraqi displacement took place in Geneva, Switzerland. The conference approved a Strategic Framework for Humanitarian Action in Iraq. The Salt Lake Tribune had still not picked up the story when the Deseret Morning News ran its first feature-length article on the Iraqi refugee issue on May 15, 2007. The article, bylined by Elaine Jarvik, was headlined “Dozens of refugees Utah-bound in fall.” Jarvik wrote, “Several dozen of the estimated 2 million Iraqis who have fled to neighboring countries since the U.S. invasion will probably begin arriving in Utah some time next fall, according to local refugee resettlement workers.” Jarvik interviewed local refugee coordinators including Aden Batar, director of immigration and resettlement at Catholic Community Services, and Patrick Poulin, resettlement director of the International Rescue Committee. She also quoted Cassandra Champion of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services headquartered in Maryland, underscoring the local, national and international aspects of the developing story.

The Salt Lake Tribune ran its first article about the Iraqi refugee issue May 16, 2007.  In her article, “Iraq war refugees heading to Utah,” reporter Jennifer W. Sanchez wrote, “The UNHCR [United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees] also estimated that 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqis are fleeing their homes each month.” Of those, only a few dozen were expected to make their way to Utah. Sanchez interviewed Poulin and Batar. Poulin described the refugee relocation process as “very slow” and said the Iraqi refugee problem was “getting worse and worse.” He said many Middle Eastern countries that were dealing with the refugees couldn’t afford or handle the population influx. And Batar told Sanchez that his agency was going to work on informing the whole Salt Lake City community about respecting the new refugees. “We need to educate the community because we don’t need any backlash,” Batar said. “They need to start a new life here because of the Iraq war. It’s not safe for them to go back home.”

At that point, the “tipping point,” the debate began. A series of feature articles, opinion editorials and letters to the editor followed in both the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret Morning News. Many Utahns were in favor of this new group of “immigrants.” Some were cautious. A few were vehemently opposed.

As the specter of Iraqi refugees fleeing to Utah loomed, support for the war in Iraq began to wane. On November 2, 2007, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a news feature headlined: “Even in Republican Utah, support for Iraq War and Bush fading.” On November 9, the Tribune ran an article announcing: “Utah to open office to aid refugees.” Tribune writer Sheena McFarland reported, “A new Refugee Service Office will open in the Department of Workforce Services by the time the Legislature begins.” The Refugee Working Group, convened by Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr., and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, announced that the new Refugee Service Office would open by January 2008. Huntsman said refugees would continue to come to the United States and to Utah “because we are a land of opportunity and hope, and that will always attract those fleeing oppression.”

Newly appointed Utah Refugee Service Office Director Gerald Brown wrote in Refugees 101, “The Utah Refugee Service Office was created as a result of the community’s demand for better support and services for refugees resettled in Utah.” Brown pointed out that refugees are survivors who deserve our help and support. “Giving refugees assistance in the beginning of their new lives in the U.S. ensures productive, contributing citizens for the future,” Brown wrote. “The best thing that a person can do for refugees is to befriend them.” Huntsman described the office as “a clearinghouse of information for the 20,000 refugees currently living in Utah and specifically for newly arrived refugees.”

Conclusions:

United States foreign policy resulted in nearly 2 million Iraqis being forced to flee from their homes. While at first the conflict in the Middle East did not directly affect most of the residents of Utah, over time more and more Iraqi refugees sought asylum in the United States and, in some cases, in Utah. The forward-thinking of former Huntsman and Corroon resulted in the establishment of a new Utah State government agency, the Utah Refugee Service Office, which aimed to help Iraqi war and other refugees arriving in Utah to adjust and thrive. As turmoil around the world increases, Utahns can expect that more and more refugees will find their way to Utah and seek assistance from the Utah Refugee Service Office.

Bonnie Adamsson-Vorwaller is a nontraditional student at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in documentary studies. Ms. Adamsson-Vorwaller has worked professionally with refugees since 1989. She worked with Christian refugees from Russia and Buddhist refugees from Cambodia and Viet Nam while living in Portland, Oregon. She worked with refugee survivors of domestic violence while living in Chicago, Illinois. And she worked with Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Iraq while living in Austin, Texas. As a young woman, she studied International Relations at BYU for five years. Adamsson-Vorwaller has been a resident of Utah off and on since 1966. She is a widow and a single mother of an “absolutely beautiful” teenage daughter. Adamsson-Vorwaller and her daughter actively and publicly protested the Iraq War while living in Austin.

 

Sources

Sheena McFarland, “Utah to open office to aid refugees,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 9, 2007.

Matthew D. LaPlante, “Even in Republican Utah, support for Iraq War and Bush fading,” Salt Lake Tribune, November 2, 2007.

“530 Iraqis admitted, but pledge may fall short,” Deseret Morning News, September 5, 2007.

Richard Warnick,“Strategic Reset,” OneUtah.org, June 25, 2007.

Nihal Hassan, “‘50,000 Iraqi refugees’ forced into prostitution: Women and girls, many alarmingly young, who fled the chaos at home are being further betrayed after reaching ‘safety’ in Syria,” The Independent, June 24, 2007.

Laura Hancock, “UVSC prof has mission in Mideast,” Deseret Morning News, June 2, 2007.

Robert Dallek, “Robert Dallek: Iraq and Vietnam: Inevitable comparisons,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 21, 2007.

“Welcoming Iraqis: Refugees deserve our compassion, help,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 17, 2007.

Jennifer W. Sanchez, “Iraq war refugees heading to Utah,” Salt Lake Tribune, May 16, 2007.

Elaine Jarvik, “Dozens of refugees Utah-bound in fall,” Deseret Morning News, May 15, 2007.

“Iraqis in the U.S. cheer war-refugee clearance,” Deseret Morning News, February 15, 2007.

Carolyn Lochhead, “Conflict in Iraq: Iraq refugee crisis exploding, 40% of middle class believed to have fled crumbling nation,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 2007.

“Allow more Iraqis into U.S.,” Deseret Morning News, January 3, 2007.

Rick Klein, “Kennedy book blasts Bush, ‘preventive war,’” Boston Globe, April 5, 2006.

Ewen MacAskill, “George Bush: ‘God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq,’” The Guardian, October 7, 2005.

Deborah Amos, “Flood of Iraqi Refugees Strains Jordan,” National Public Radio broadcast, July 16, 2004.

Oleg Artyukov, “George W. Bush: We Bring Freedom to the Iraqi People,” Pravda, January 4, 2003.

Gerald Brown, “Refugees 101,” Utah Refugee Services Offices, Utah Department of Workforce Services, April 10, 2012.

Rhoda Margesson, Andorra Bruno, Jeremy M. Sharp, “Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons: A Deepening Humanitarian Crisis?” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, Report No. 7-5700, February 13, 2009.

Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007: House Bill S.1651-IS,” June 17, 2007.

“Refugee Resettlement in Utah: 2000-2009,” Utah Refugee Services Offices, January 2010.

Status of U.S. Refugee Resettlement Processing for Iraqi Nationals,” Middle East Regional Office, United States Department of State and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Office of Inspector General, Unclassified Report, Report Number MERO-IQO-08-02, July 2008.

2008 Global Trends: Refugees, Asylum Seekers, Returnees, Internally Displaced and Stateless Persons,” United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), Field Information and Coordination Support Section (FICSS), Division of Operational Services, Geneva, Switzerland, June 16, 2009.