"Why Was the Manifesto Issued?" by Susa Young Gates

That our memories may be enlarged...

And that we may not succumb to a glorified version of history that is not supported by actual events...The following is an editorial penned by Susa Young Gates (daughter of Brigham Young) for the March 1893 Young Women's Journal titled Why Was the Manifesto Issued? Because their history is our history.

"I am about to take a position in answering this important question which I feel sure will incite 99% out of every hundred women who will read this with a feeling of strong denial. But my hundred sisters, one and all, if I am right in my position, no amount of opposition on your part will make me wrong. There has been a good deal said about this question, and yet I think some of the most important things have not yet been uttered by anyone. Granted that this nation bears the heavy burden of responsibility in regard to this matter, which we all readily acknowledge, yet there remains the fact that those who live in Zion and who are usually called Saints will surely have to render an account for the amount of responsibility which is their own. We all know there are two sides to every question, and rarely is it that a wrong is done, especially in the nature of the curtailing of vested rights and privileges, whether in the family or in the nation, where each party is not more or less to blame. We have not injured the United States, but we have, I solemnly believe, so weakened the power of the Spirit in our midst by our own acts, that that mighty spirit was not able to help us as we might have wished. Now, I suppose most of you, my women readers, will say, as I have heard multitudes of women say in the last two years, "Well, I know who is to blame; the men have not dealt righteously with their wives, and have sought their own selfish pleasure instead of the feelings of their wives." I love truth so well that I shall allow you to say, and I agree with you in saying, that in some and perhaps in too many instances, this has been the case. Granted, then that the men have been at fault in the matter of not being sufficiently unselfish. Granted also, without argument, that some men did not properly appreciate this glorious principle, and have neglected and slighted their opportunities. But, my dear and always loved sisters, I have a serious charge to bring against you, and against myself in this matter, and I ask your kind and indulgent attention. To begin with, don't say that I am not in a position to talk on this matter, because of my not having had the privilege of entering into that order. Right is right, and principle is principle, whether it is spoken by an old maid or a woman in polygamy. Therefore, I ask you to listen and then prayerfully ask yourselves if I have spoken by the divine Spirit of Truth or by some false and delusive spirit. I say in all sad frankness that we, the women of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints have a grievous sin to answer for in that we have, too many of us, treated this sacred and holy principle with neglect, sneers, mocking abuse and even cursing and railing. Is that so? Do you know of any women who have said they would never consent to marry a man who had another wife? Do you know of any women who have said they would not marry a man who would not promise them never to go into that order? Do you know of any women who have put every conceivable block in the way of their husband entering into that order? Do you know of any women who have tortured their husbands almost to death of the spirit by their cruel and unjust complaints, uttered in season and out of season, in private and in  public? Do you know of any women who have thought only of themselves, have worked only for themselves, have wept only for themselves, have prayed only for themselves? Do you know of any woman who has brought up her tender children in an atmosphere of loud and bitter complaint against their father, and against his every act? Do you know of any women who have insidiously taught their children to hate the principle that gave them birth? Do you know of any woman who has said openly or privately that not one of her daughters should enter into that order with her consent? Do you know of any women who have said they would rather see their children dead than in that order? Do you know of any women who openly rejoiced when the manifesto was issued, and who held many and joyous jubilees with their daughters over the prospect? Do you know of any women who have demanded the last farthing from their husbands, and denied the right of other women who were his wives to one cent? Do you know of any women who say or feel that their husbands have never suffered one trial in this order? Ask all these questions, and then I can leave you to answer them all, and I will venture to say that the answers will lead you to some startling conclusions. Talk about the sufferings in that order being borne by women only?

I thank God and one woman for the revelation I had on that subject. I have often had her words quoted to me, and I quote them again. Said she: "A woman don't have half the trouble in plurality that a man does. Why, she has only herself to please, and he has two or a dozen as the case may be." Her words came like a flash of light to me, and since then God has given me experiences which have fastened that truth upon my mind with never-ending power. Don't tell me all the suffering of that order and the terrible sufferings caused by the separations made necessary by the manifesto have been endured by the women. I wouldn't be a man and try to bear the burdens and trials he must needs bear, if he has any conscience in his bosom, in living that order for all this world could give.

                         Moses Thatcher

                         Moses Thatcher

One man told me in simple burning words something of his trials, both before and since the manifesto. Of how he struggled with two selfish and determined women, each determined to claim him and all he had, and each with families of growing children. Of how he had crept out some nights into his cornfield, and in the agony of his soul had torn up the ground with his nails to relieve the pain at his heart. Did he love them both? With the devotion of a lover, else he would not have suffered so keenly. "Why," said the Apostle Moses Thatcher to me once, in talking upon this subject, "Do you think Abraham suffered most because of his own pain, or because he saw the pain he was inflicting upon his only son? Do you, as a mother," he continued, "not see the day when you would give your very life to spare pain and the pangs of death to the beloved child who is dying before your eyes? Which is the greatest suffering, to bear the pain yourself, or see the one you love best on earth bearing a pain, and for your sake, too, a pain which you cannot prevent, and which you can only witness and suffer in longing, awful sympathy." That was another revelation to me. And then let me ask how many of our sisters have sat idly by and allowed their husbands to waste the precious opportunity that is now taken away, and they have simply let the matter go on, inwardly rejoiced that their heart strings were not going to be tested. Do you know, have you ever read what Christ said? If you are not willing to leave father and mother, houses and lands, you are not worthy of Him. We are not asked to leave our husbands, but only to test our devotion to God and His kingdom, or whether we love man and our own ease best.  Sisters, I stand appalled at the magnitude of my sin and yours!"

THE END