I Must Lose Myself Again
For nearly half a century, the Mormons had struggled to create their own unique society in Utah. Their church owned the territory’s biggest businesses, controlled the ruling political party, often enforced its own laws in defiance of the federal courts, and resisted federal control at every turn.
But in 1882, the same year Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, a basic tenet of Mormonism -- polygamy, or plural marriage -- was declared a federal crime. Polygamists were barred from voting, holding office and serving on juries, and those found guilty of the practice could be jailed for up to five years.
thing to keep in mind is that polygamy was a sacred calling... a commandment
of God.... they were fulfilling a very important church principle in doing
this, and that was more important than the law."
Two months after polygamy was outlawed, David King Udall, the 30-year-old leader of a newly founded Mormon colony in Arizona, married Ida Hunt, his second wife.
Today I have made the most solemn vows and obligations of my life. Marriage, under ordinary circumstances, is a grave and important step, but entering into plural marriage in these perilous times is doubly so.
Local newspapers attacked the couple, calling Ida a prostitute, and in 1884, when she learned that federal marshals were in Arizona to crackdown on polygamy, Ida Hunt Udall fled into what the Mormons called the “Underground.” Already two months pregnant, she traveled under assumed names from one hiding place to the next, and after more than half a year in exile, gave birth to a daughter alone.
David:... today I have had a letter... saying that the Apostles will not
consent for me to return and say that I must lose myself again if possible....
Oh Dade, I never missed you as I do tonight!... How long will the Lord
require His poor weak children to be thus tried?
My Dear Girl:... Better... that I had suffered imprisonment than to have you going by another name and running here and there for fear of being known. It touches the manly feelings of any man to such a degree that it is almost unbearable.... God bless you in your wandering.
David Udall did go to jail for a time, as did many Mormon leaders. By 1887, the federal government had denied voting rights to all Mormons, polygamists or not, and federal marshals were preparing to confiscate church property. Then, in 1890, Wilford Woodruff, the church president, issued a Manifesto in which he advised all Mormons to obey the law and refrain from plural marriage.
church was being driven toward bankruptcy. It was clear they had to make
a change and I think this was a very pragmatic decision to say, Polygamy
is dragging the church down, and we're going to have to give it up."
Over the next few years, Woodruff and other church leaders disbanded the Mormon's political party, divested many church businesses and drew up a constitution that not only separated church and state but even banned polygamy. In return, on January 6, 1896, Utah was admitted to the Union as the 45th state.
But in Arizona, David and Ida Udall remained committed to their marriage and to each other. When she finally returned from hiding in 1887, they went on to have five more children together -- three of them after their church had renounced polygamy.
The Church could not undo what had been done in practicing plural marriage... Those who lived that order of marriage righteously will have glory added to their posterity.
Program | People | Places
| Events | Resources | Lesson
Plans | Quiz|
© 2001 THE WEST FILM PROJECT and WETA