Female Life Among The Mormons
The Following is an excerpt from Female Life Among the Mormons; A Narrative of Many Years' Personal Experience by the Wife of a Mormon Elder, recently from Utah. Published by J.C. Derby, 1855.
There was a man in the company named Peter Short, who, to excessive boorishness of manner united a most repulsive countenance and forbidding disposition. He was extremely ignorant, having not even mastered the first rudiments of education. But, as might be expected, he was a great devotee, a firm believer in all the visions and miracles of the Prophet, and the firm adherent of all his doctrines.
Peter, though already possessing a wife and ten children, seemed to have been struck with the pensive grace and beauty of Ellen. He seemed never to weary of gazing at her, or talking to her, though it was equally perceptible that she loathed and hated him. She rarely looked towards him, answered his questions only by monosyllables, and otherwise manifested every symptom of dislike to him and his society. I had frequent opportunities for observing this, and it seemed to me, from the first, that some difficulty would grow out of it.
I was walking a little apart from the others, when Ellen came to me, pale as death, and trembling with agitation. "Oh, Mrs Ward!" she said, "I have come to you as the only person on earth in whom I can confide. What shall I do? Can't you save me from this dreadful fate?"
"What is it, Ellen?" I said, soothingly; "what new trouble has happened to you?"
"Oh that horrible Peter Short! They certainly wish to kill me, or they would save me from him."
"My dear," said I, "compose yourself, and let me know the whole affair."
"And the whole affair can be summed up in a few words. Peter Short has asked me of Smith for his spiritual wife. Smith has consented, and now commands me to accept him as my husband in the faith - him I loathe, and hate, and despise, as I never hated man before."
"But your mother - cannot she save you from this fate?"
"My mother is blinded and bigoted. She says that I must obey the commands of the Prophet, and that nothing he orders can be wrong. But it cannot be so. Has he not connived at murder, and deception, and all kinds of vice? Has he not ruined me already, soul and body? Has he not made me a thing to be pitied and abhorred by the pure? But this has overflowed the cup. I might have borne the rest; I might have hidden my shame and sorrow, and obtained peace and content at last. But to be transferred from one villain to another is awful - horrible."
"What do they mean by spiritual wife?"
"You know Smith teaches that women can only be saved through their husbands; and that unmarried females must be ever debarred from the pleasures of the blest. Consequently every woman must be provided with a spiritual husband. In that capacity, myself, Mrs. Cook, Mrs. Clarke, and Irene, have been the wives of Smith. Now he has tired of me. He will soon tire of them. Oh, misery!"
Greatly as I pitied the poor girl, it was impossible, under the circumstances, to give her advice; and so assuring her of my sympathy and friendship, and recommending her to put off the evil day as long as possible; and that probably something might happen to prevent it altogether, I left her.
The next morning, Ellen was missing; and when search was made, her body was found in the cool depths of a pool that lay a short distance from the encampment. They laid her out on the smooth, green sward, and one after another came to look on the pale, sweet face, and to touch the pallid hand. Smith came among the rest, and so did Peter Short. Yet the wan lips uttered no cry of vengeance against them; the dim eyes no longer turned from their presence. She slept to wake no more.