The Second Manifesto

Wilford Woodruff mormonThe Second Manifesto, issued 6 April, 1904, at the Spring General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), is not as well known as the 1890 Manifesto. However, it is equally important, as it finally ended a period of confusion and struggle within Mormonism.  Polygamous marriages had continued to be contracted in isolated cases, even by some bishops and stake presidents.  Two Apostles, John W. Taylor and Matthias F. Cowley, were ultimately excommunicated for continuing to enter into polygamous marriages.  Moreover, conflicts with the U.S. Government as various prominent Mormons began being elected to high offices, most notably B.H. Roberts to the House of Representatives and Reed Smoot to the U.S. Senate, stirred up the polygamy debate once again.  President Joseph F. Smith was summoned to testify in Congress during the Smoot hearings.  Roberts, who was a polygamist (having married multiple wives before the 1890 Manifesto), was ultimately denied his seat in the U.S. House, but Smoot, who had never practiced polygamy, was permitted to take his seat after two years of hearings.  Cowley and Taylor were excommunicated in 1906 because they refused to accept the Manifestos.  Others, particularly Mormons living in Canada and Mexico, had continued to enter into new polygamous marriages between 1890 and 1904, and it appears that some Church leaders turned a blind eye.  After 1904, but especially after 1906, when Cowley and Taylor resigned from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Mormonism firmly abandoned polygamy.

The Manifesto of 1904

Now I am going to present a matter to you that is unusual and I do it because of a conviction which I feel that it is a proper thing for me to do. I have taken the liberty of having written down what I wish to present, in order that I may say to you the exact words which I would like to have conveyed to your ears, that I may not be misunderstood or misquoted. I present this to the conference for your action:

“Inasmuch as there are numerous reports in circulation that plural marriages have been entered into contrary to the official declaration of President Woodruff, of September 26, 1890, commonly called the Manifesto, which was issued by President Woodruff and adopted by the Church at its general conference, October 6, 1890, which forbade any marriages violative of the law of the land; I, Joseph F Smith, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereby affirm and declare that no such marriages have been solemnized with the sanction, consent or knowledge of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and “I hereby announce that all such marriages are prohibited, and if any officer or member of the Church shall assume to solemnize or enter into any such marriage he will be deemed in transgression against the Church and will be liable to be dealt with, according to the rules and regulations thereof, and excommunicated therefrom.
President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

They charge us with being dishonest and untrue to our word. They charge the Church with having violated a “compact,” and all this sort of nonsense. I want to see today whether the Latter-day Saints representing the Church in this solemn assembly will not seal these charges as false by their vote.

President Francis M. Lyman presented the following resolution and moved its adoption: RESOLUTION OF ENDORSEMENT

“Resolved that we, the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in General Conference assembled, hereby approve and endorse the statement and declaration of President Joseph F Smith just made to this Conference concerning plural marriages, and will support the courts of the Church in the enforcement thereof.”

The resolution was seconded by a number of Presidents of Stakes and prominent Elders. Elder B. H. Roberts, in seconding the resolution, spoke as follows:

“In seconding the resolution that has just been read-which I most heartily do-I desire to state at least one reason for doing it. As remarked by the president, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been accused of being covenant-breakers with this nation. Of course, there never was, and could not be, any compact between the Church and the general government of the United States. But there could be a compact between the State of Utah and the United States, and there was such a compact made in the Constitution of our state, by and through the Constitutional Convention. And now I am pleased with the opportunity of the Church saying in its official capacity that the Latter-day Saints not only now are, but have been, true to the compact between the State of Utah and the United States, and that they are true to the Constitution of the state, which, by express provision, forever prohibited plural or polygamous marriages, and made that irrevocable, without the consent of the United States. The adoption by the Church of this resolution should put to silence those who have accused us of being covenant-breakers.”

The resolution was then adopted, by unanimous vote of the Conference.

(Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, General Conference Report, April 6, 1904 pp. 97.)




All pictures come from
BYU archivesl
All rights reserved.

Ask a Mormon