The First 100 Years, A History of the Salt Lake Tribune, 1871–1971 By O. N. Malmquist Utah State Historical Society, 454 pp., $8.00
Reviewed by, professor of economics, Utah State University, and editor of the Western Historical Quarterly
For many people the principal theme of Utah and Mormon history is the rise and fall of what is referred to as “the irrepressible conflict”—that is, the conflict between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its enemies and detractors.
That theme is also the principal subject matter of this history of the Salt Lake Tribune, a newspaper that played a key role in various stages of the Mormon-Gentile conflict in Utah. O. N. Malmquist, long-time political editor of the Tribune, has written a remarkably detached and impartial history of the conflict and of the Tribune’s early role in fomenting it and its more recent role of dissolving it. Latter-day Saint readers are finding the book to be both fair and interesting. Carefully researched and written in a sprightly manner, it represents an important contribution to Utah and Mormon history.
The year 1869 was a crucial one in the history of the Church. For more than twenty years, the Latter-day Saints had labored under a divine mandate to build a kingdom of God in the West. They had established the institutional basis for a cooperative and unified society. The completion of the transcontinental railroad in May 1869, however, stimulated a large influx of miners, freighters, stockmen, and government officials, most of whom had little sympathy for the Latter-day Saints and their beliefs and practices.
The inspiration to President Brigham Young, as B. H. Roberts points out in his Comprehensive History of the Church, was to protect the integrity of the Rocky Mountain Zion by establishing a network of cooperative general stores and industrial enterprises, which Latter-day Saints were requested to patronize.
A handful of Latter-day Saints did not agree with these protective measures, and they openly advocated accommodation to the prevailing ways of “Babylon.” Under the leadership of William S. Godbe, these dissidents were excommunicated from the Church for apostasy. They did not leave Utah Territory, however, and proceeded to found an anti-Church weekly, the Mormon Tribune. In April 1871 it became the Salt Lake Daily Tribune.
The irrepressible conflict, Malmquist believes, was basically economic and political—a contest between Latter-day Saints and non-Mormons for the right to establish beneficial political institutions and to exploit the resources of the region.
When the Godbeite group sold the Tribune to a midwestern syndicate in 1873, the new owners reasoned that their only hope of breaking the economic and political power of the Church was through federal intervention. And the most effective means of getting federal intervention was to create a national revulsion against the Mormon practice of plural marriage. Articles and editorials in the Tribune and answering articles and editorials in the Church’s Deseret News and the Mormon-controlled Salt Lake Herald became more blatant; an anti-polygamy crusade developed.
Urged on by C. C. Goodwin and others of the Tribune, Congress was induced to pass the Edmunds and Edmunds-Tucker acts, which disfranchised many loyal Latter-day Saints, placed the government of the territory in the hands of a presidential commission, and forced the Church to surrender its properties to a government receiver. After losing all appeals to the United States Supreme Court, President Wilford Woodruff, for the temporal salvation of the Church, issued a manifesto in 1890 advising the Saints to comply with the wishes of Congress and the Administration in Washington, D.C.
Although its response to the Manifesto was not insightful, the Tribune did begin to take a more friendly position. And the Church satisfied the national clamor by disbanding its People’s Party, as the Saints divided themselves up among the existing Republican and Democratic parties. The Church also encouraged support of qualified non-Mormons as well as Mormons in selection for important offices. For example, President Lorenzo Snow supported Thomas Kearns, a Roman Catholic mine owner, in his campaign for the United States Senate. Kearns and his partner David Keith later purchased a controlling interest in the Tribune, and the friendly policy continued.
A few years later, however, Church leaders did not support Kearns for reelection. Instead, the favored candidate of most Latter-day Saints was Reed Smoot, an apostle, who was elected in 1903. After a lengthy congressional investigation, Elder Smoot was finally permitted to retain his seat.
In the meantime, irritated by Mormon support of a high Church official for political office, Kearns turned against the Church. He employed Frank J. Cannon, a former United States Senator from Utah and an apostate Mormon, to write anti-Mormon editorials. Kearns also backed the formation of an anti-Mormon political party, the American Party. From 1904 to 1911, articles and editorials in the Tribune were bitterly and aggressively anti-Mormon.
By the latter date, Salt Lake’s non-Mormon community began to lose interest in fighting the Mormons. A new group moved into the management of the Tribune and sought a rapprochement with the Church and its members. Malmquist gives credit for the elimination of the fire and brimstone to John F. Fitzpatrick and A. N. McKay of the Tribune, and Presidents Heber J. Grant and Anthony W. Ivins of the Church. These four worked to dissolve the irrepressible conflict. The era of good feeling has continued to the present, and the Tribune and Deseret News now share the same printing, circulation, and advertising facilities of the Newspaper Agency Corporation, which is jointly owned by the two newspapers.
Malmquist’s biography of the Salt Lake Tribune, focusing as it does on the role of the Tribune in Utah history, is also an important contribution to the history of the Church and its problems in Utah and surrounding states during the past one hundred years.
No More Strangers By Hartman and Connie Rector Bookcraft, 176 pp., $3.50
Conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ enters the lives of many people in many different ways. For some it comes quickly in that radiant moment when the Spirit touches the heart. For others the struggle for understanding is long and difficult, as the sometimes faltering light of faith seeks the power to illuminate the truth and beauty of the gospel. The authors have brought together an excellent collection of varied conversion experiences, including their own. These are the stories of men and women who, from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, have sought the answers to life’s important questions. This is testimony-building reading at its best for those who are still searching for answers, and it is equally valuable for those who have already found the answers in the Church.
Look to God and Live By Marion G. Romney Deseret Book, 320 pp., $4.95
The dominant message in this volume of discourses is introduced by the author’s conviction that “in the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be found a solution to all the perplexing questions of men and nations.” In this collection of Elder Romney’s addresses at general conference, Brigham Young University, Ricks College, and institutes of religion, Latter-day Saints are encouraged to demonstrate their faith in the gospel by looking beyond the present, with its worldly imperfections, to the perfect plan of our Father in heaven and to resist Satan’s compromises and short-term options, all of which conflict with the eternal laws and promises found in the plan of salvation.
Pulpit Points Compiled by Albert L. Zobell, Jr. Bookcraft, 128 pp., $1.25
The ability of a speaker to engage the minds of his audience may be greatly enhanced by his use of appropriate anecdotes, applicable analogies, and selection of quotations that convey a great message in a few words. Sometimes a nugget of thought will start a chain of thought-provoking reflections. Here is a collection of such material, some by the author, many by past and contemporary Church leaders, and some by other great thinkers, all of them interested in improving the quality of life through uplifting principles.
Joseph Smith By Karen Dixon Merrell Brigham Young University Press, 23 pp., $1.75 (Paperback)
Prepared for preschool and elementary school children in large, easy-to-read type, and illustrated in color on every page, this book tells the story of Joseph Smith from his birth to his martyrdom, illuminating his first vision and the subsequent events that influenced the growth of the Church from its restoration.
Bookcraft, Inc., 1848 West 23rd South, Salt Lake City, Utah 84119
Brigham Young University Press, Provo, Utah 84601
Deseret Book Company, 44 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111
Utah Historical Society, 603 East South Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah 84103