July 9, 2008

Newspaper Publishing Without Purse or Scrip

Brigham Young
August 31, 1856

On August 31, 1856 Brigham Young took the stand following the testimonies of a few missionaries who had returned from the field, assuring them he was "thus far perfectly satisfied with [their] labors... I am highly gratified with the doings and labors of those Elders" (JD 4:33-34).

In the mid-1850s these missionary efforts included establishing four newspapers throughout the United States in order to offset antagonistic press accounts regarding the Church. One such paper, The Mormon, had been started a year earlier (1855) by John Taylor; then-apostle and president of the LDS Eastern States mission. He sought to disabuse the public mind on the peculiar aspects of Mormonism, the newspaper mast boldly  proclaiming: "IT IS BETTER TO REPRESENT OURSELVES THAN TO BE REPRESENTED BY OTHERS."[1]Here Brigham Young mentioned the success of Elder Taylor's efforts in establishing The Mormon:

With regard to brother John Taylor, I will say that he has one of the strongest intellects of any man that can be found; he is a powerful man, he is a mighty man, and we may say that he is a powerful editor, but I will use a term to suit myself, and say that he is one of the strongest editors that ever wrote. Concerning his financial abilities, I have nothing to say; those who are acquainted with the matter, know how The Mormon has been sustained. We sent brother Taylor, and other brethren with him, to start that paper without purse or scrip, and if they had not accomplished that object, we should have known that they did not trust in their God, and did not do their duty.
Much early LDS missionary folklore revolved around the concept of preaching the gospel "without purse or scrip," as Elder Taylor set up his newspaper enterprise.[2] Regarding Taylor's establishment of The Mormon, Brigham said:

It is one of the smallest labors that I could think of to establish a paper and sustain it in St. Louis, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, or any of the eastern cities. I wish to say this much, for the information of those who think it a great task to establish and sustain a paper; though I am not aware that any of the brethren think so.
The founding of The Mormon called to Brigham's mind his own experience in setting up a paper during his mission to England in the 1840s amidst sickness, poverty, with only a blanket for a coat; he said he was sent to “a strange land to sojourn among strangers.” Upon arrival in England the apostles wanted to start a paper, but had no money. Brigham reports he bought passage to Preston and a hat to replace the one his wife had made him from an old pair of pantaloons. He described the financial situation of the England mission as follows:
I wrote to [Parley P. Pratt, first editor of the Star] to publish two thousand papers, and I would foot the bill. I borrowed 250 pounds of sister Jane Benbow, 100 of brother Thomas Kington, and returned to Manchester, where we printed three thousand Hymn Books, and five thousand Books of Mormon, and issued two thousand Millennial Stars monthly, and in the course of the summer printed and gave away rising of sixty thousand tracts. I also paid from $5 to $10 per week for my board, and hired a house for brother Willard Richards and his wife...and gave 60 pounds to brother P. P. Pratt to bring his wife from New York. I also commenced the emigration [of LDS converts from England] in that year.

I was there one year and sixteen days, with my brethren the Twelve and during that time I bought all my clothing, except one pair of pantaloons, which the sisters gave me in Liverpool...I told the brethren, in one of my discourses, that there was no need of their begging, for if they needed anything the sisters could understand that. The sisters took the hint, and the pantaloons were forthcoming.

I paid $380 to get the work started in London, and when I arrived home in Nauvoo I owed no person one farthing. [Those who had lent Brigham money were repaid from proceeds of the printed books].

We left $2,500 worth of books in the Office, paid our passages home, and paid about six hundred dollars to emigrate the poor who were starving to death, besides giving away the sixty thousand tracts; and that too though I had not a sixpence when we first landed in Preston, and I do not know that one of the Twelve had.

I could not help thinking that if I could accomplish that much in England, in that poor, hard country, it could not be much of a job for a man to establish a paper in New York. I thought that to be one of the smallest things that could be; I could make money at it (JD 4:33-42).[3]
Historian Eugene E. Campbell noted that on 30 October 1856, about two months after this discourse was given, the First Presidency sent a letter to John Taylor in New York criticizing him for his financial activities. Campbell does not give specific details but notes that Taylor was instructed to "start a reformation" among his missionaries and members of the Church in his mission:
Arouse yourself first, get the Holy Ghost, and be filled with it and pour it out on the people. Preach evenings, make appointments in various branches and fill them, make the elders feel the fire in you and make them labor. Ordain elders and send them out to every ward of the city, to every nook and corner thereof. Humble yourself before the Lord and cause all the saints to do likewise. Preach life and salvation unto the elders and unto the people and then make them do the same. Be lively in things of God and make all the elders do the same.[4]

By this time the "Mormon Reformation" was underway, which will be discussed in an upcoming post.


The Mormon ceased publication in 1857 when Taylor returned to Utah to help during the Utah War. B.H. Roberts noted the tenacity of Elder Taylor, even in his selection of a location for the paper:

The Mormon office was situated on the corner of Nassau and Ann Streets, with the offices of the New York Herald on one side, and those of the Tribune on the other. Elder Taylor was thus in the very heart of Gotham's newspaper world. Selecting such a stand is evidence enough that he did not intend to assume a shrinking or apologetic attitude (Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 4 pp. 62-63).
A sample issue of The Mormon of Saturday, July 12, 1856, can be found at Uncle Dale's Readings in Early Mormon History, Newspapers of New York, accessed 7-2-2008. 

"Folklore" is used here not as referring to fables or falsehoods, but in the academic sense of "traditional beliefs, practices, customs, stories, jokes, songs (etc.) of a people, handed down orally or behaviorally from individual to individual" (from About.com). These can be based on truth or imagination. For more on preaching without purse or scrip see "Without Purse of Pig: Brigham's Misionary Wage" and "Without Purse or Scrip: Brigham's Bottomless Trunk."

For more on the England mission, see James B. Allen, Ronald K. Esplin, David J. Whittaker, Men With a Mission: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837-1841..

In an future expansion of this article I would like to explore the operating costs of a newspaper in the 1850s, as well as gathering more information on the history of the publications. For example, Brigham mentioned another precedent setter in publishing without purse or scrip; a nephew of John Taylor named George Q. Cannon who was called as the California mission president in 1856. There he helped translate and publish "a large and handsome edition" of the Book of Mormon in the Hawaiian language, and started a weekly publication based in San Francisco called the Western Standard. Cannon, according to Brigham, "paid for the press and the type, and paid his board and clothing bills, though he had not a farthing to start with, that is, he went without purse and scrip, so far as I know" (JD 4:42). For a list of LDS periodicals see wikipedia.


Eugene E. Campbell, Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West, 1847-1869 (Signature Books; Salt Lake City, Utah,1988) p.195. Unfortunately, Campbell does not give the source/location of the letter he cites. Taylor continued faithful, apparently, as he maintained a prominent role in the Quorum of the Twelve, and upon being called back to Utah for the "Utah War" he continued to write vigorously in defense of the Church and Brigham Young particularly. (See Leonard Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, p. 374.)


Sione said...

Hey Blair,

I always enjoy reading this stuff, but I generally leave feeling inadequate and exhausted.

Seriously, I am always deeply moved by the efforts of men and women who operated without purse or scrip. When I apply that standard to myself without any fear of what may be revealed, I am found wanting a great deal of the time. Nevertheless, it is in the self evaluation and the change in course and altitude that matters most at times. Always forward, always upward, and ever more light and knowledge. This is the pattern of the Temple.

Big UP to our great and sacrificing forebears.


LifeOnaPlate said...

No doubt, I feel a little inadequate. We have it pretty well. I was thinking about your comment last night as a fell asleep watching CNN.

Sione said...

did CNN happen to mention the fact that Jesse wants to castrate your man? LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The spin on his comment by other black leaders is even more hilarious!!!!]

The whole thing is pee your pants funny!

LifeOnaPlate said...

Yes indeed, they did. What an unfortunate idiotic remark by a guy. Way to go, Reverend.

Sione said...

is there a way to get an e-mail when comments are posted to your blog?

I just watched Hannity take it to Al Sharpton.

I feel bad for Obama. If I were in his shoes I would have someone in my campaign send out a mass e-mail asking people to please shut their mouths. It's bad press. I know they say there is no "Bad" press, but this is. IMO

LifeOnaPlate said...

Hannity is garbage. Period. But talk of politics, etc. ought to be done on my non-denominational blog:

Yes there is a way to receive an email when comments are received. On your blogger dashboard click "settings," then click the "comments" tab and scroll to the bottom where it says "Comment Notification Email." Enter your info there, save settings, and voila!

Hans said...

When reading Brigham's story, it reminds me of the painting in the MTC outside of the cafeteria. I had a picture taken with my comp where we look like we're in the picture at the time.

I can only imagine how hard it was to leave your family for so long, let alone in such bad circumstances. I feel bad enough when I leave my wife at home to do home teaching for an evening. I've got a long ways to go to be more like BY and HK.

Hans said...

BTW, I love your blog idea. I have had a copy of the JD for a couple of years but have never been able to get around to it except for the occasional quote. I think it is a great idea and will most likely take a better look at it.

Sione said...

Hey, wondering if you have any ref's for the Nauvoo or Kirtland periods relating to Gossip or backbiting. IIRC there was a lot of gossip during the practice of United Order and a lot concerning Joseph and him being a fallen Prophet.

Any help?

LifeOnaPlate said...

Thanks for visiting the blog; it's a treat to get feedback. You're a lucky man to own a set of the JD. I am consigned to reading it on a computer screen, as I don't personally own a copy.


An article in BYU Studies, vol. 11 (1970-1971)by Chad Flake looks into the "Newell K. Whitney collection" which contains some references to the apostasy, etc. It was a rough time. Most of the leading bretheren apostatized. According to Joseph Smith, the only two apostles who didn't "lift the heel" against him were Brigham and Heber. Orson F. Whitney's bio of Heber C. Kimball also touches on it slightly:

Arrington also describes it pretty well in Brigham Young: American Moses pp. 57-61. Unfortunately, that section is not included in the free Google books preview, though.

Anonymous said...

I was glad to find this article because I have a book in my grandfather Rudolph Stockseth's handwriting in which he recorded quotes and articles after his conversion to the LDS Church in Norway. He continued writing in it in both English and Norwegian after his arrival in Salt Lake about 1906. One piece is titled "The Origin and Destiny of Woman" with the note that it is from The "Mormon" published in New York in the 1850s. I am pleased to find out more about this publication. My email is babettesfeast@hotmail.com. I hope I can find an archive on line to read the original piece.

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