The Sex-Determinant in Mormon Theology
A Study in the Erotogenesis of Religion.
By Theodore Schroeder,
New York City. 1908
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YEARS ago, while a resident of Utah, I was engaged in an elaborate study of mormonism for purely controversial purposes. At that time I had never heard that anyone asserted a psychic co-relation between religion and sensualism. My reading of Mormon literature convinced me of a concurrence of great religious and sexual enthusiasm, and a predominance of sexual reasons for most of the peculiarities of Mormon theology. This first suggested to me a causal relation between religion and lust. Since, many religions have been examined and I find that conditions which at first were thought peculiar to Mormonism are in fact quite general. Thus I was led to the very broad generalization which I announced in the Alienist and Neurologist for August, 1907, under the title of The "Erotogenesis of Religion," and further discussed in the Am. Jour, of Religious Psychology, 1908.
In the present essay I will recount some of those facts of Mormonism which first led me to the wider fields of investigation into the psychology of religion, from the view-point of sexual psychology. I will begin by first stating some fragmentary information as to the character of the revival excitement during which Mormon theology was evolved, and then follow this with a study of that theology, and my explanation of the psychic processes by which sensualism is transformed into the testimony of the "holy spirit" and the frenzy of fanaticism. At some other time I will expose the accompanying abnormal sexual enthusiasm, as these worked themselves out in the polygamous social system.
The Kirtland Revival.
Most esoteric Mormonism is the outgrowth of, or intertwined with, the ceremonials and practice of polygamy. Mormon polygamy found its beginning in 1831 at or near Kirtland, Ohio, where raged within the church a most extraordinary religious excitement. This revival was mainly the work of Sidney Rigdon, a skilled revivalist and intense enthusiast who theretofore had been one of the founders of the "Christian" or "Campbellite" church and at the time of his conversion to Mormonism was one of its most popular preachers. The method of working up the enthusiasm was that ordinarily employed by the orthodox revivalists.
When the Mormons of that time were about to partake of the sacrament, the doors and windows would be closed and scenes enacted which resembled, and in fact were the conduct of the insane. "Many false spirits were introduced, many strange visions were seen," among them being Martin Harris' vision of the devil who "looked like a jackass and he had hair like a mouse." At the dead hour of night young men might be seen running over the fields and hills in pursuit as they said, of balls of fire, lights, etc., which they saw moving through the air. "Black Pete," a negro convert, caught sight of a revelation carried by black angels with kinky hair and made chase to secure the treasure. Utterly blind to his surroundings he in his mad infatuation ran over the edge of a precipice, dropping through the branches of a tree into Chagrin River.
These fits of contagious enthusiasm usually came on after prayer meetings, which were held almost every evening. The gift of miracles and the power of the Holy Ghost were imparted by the laying on of hands and followed by strange manifestations. Many would fall upon the floor, remaining there for some time in seeming lifelessness, sometimes claiming that the "Spirit of God" had thrown them down, thus passing them through a new and miraculous form of death which had imparted to them immortality. The young men and young women who probably were by abstinence living unnatural sex lives, besides undergoing the nervous disturbances incident to adolescence and pubescence, were more particularly subject to these deliriums. They would exhibit all the apish actions imaginable, making the most ridiculous grimaces, creeping upon all fours, rolling upon the frozen ground, go throug hall the Indian modes of warfare, such as knocking down, scalping, ripping open and tearing out the bowels. At other times they would run through the fields, get upon stumps, preach to imaginary congregations, enter the water, perform baptismal and other ceremonies. Many would have fits of gibbering called "talking in tongues." Meetings were broken up by the shouting of some brother possessed of the "Holy Ghost." Some labored under the hallucinations that they saw angels, others received letters from heaven, still others saw the face of the Saviour. One of the insane while seeming to be endeavoring to jump through the ceiling proclaimed the arrival of "the hosts of heaven and the horsemen." Almost a score of prophets arose each securing revelations, performing miracles, and often disputing the genuineness of Smith's title to the prophetic office.
There seemed danger that the whole Mormon community would become infected by the contagion of this emotional insanity, and this resulted in the prophets' taking alarm and announcing a revelation in which God discountenanced all these excesses.
The Evolution Of Mormon Sensualism.
Those who have studied most carefully the history of fanaticism, and the evidences bearing upon the co-relation of religious frenzy and sexual enthusiasm, will be least surprised to learn that during this Mormon revival-excitement at Kirtland, "many yielded to the spirit of adultery7," including apostles and other prominent Mormons, and that contemporaneously with this widespread yielding to the spirit of adultery, the mormon prophet first had revealed to him the beauties and "the eternity of the marriage covenant, including a plurality of wives," together with further esoteric doctrines upon the same subject, which have not yet been made public, Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, 428. Anti-polygamy Standard and Mormon Portraits, 250-251, contain information not elsewhere published as to these beginnings,) unless by inadvertence.
The new convert, at this time, was saluted by the high priests of mormonism with a "kiss of charity," Under the fostering care of an intense revival excitement, the evolution from the "kiss of charity," through theories of spiritual wifery, to polygamy in the flesh, was a sensual growth by natural and easy stages, which probably reached its highest degree of abnormity in another revival excitement. Between 1855-60, there raged in various parts of Utah another intense religious frenzy, generally known as "The Reformation." The emotional phases were quite as pronounced as at Kirtland. In the meantime polygamy had become a publicly avowed church doctrine and practice. All was "marrying and giving in marriage." The divinity of the polygamic institution and the duty to procreate as man's highest obligation to the Deity, were the burden of almost every exhortation. In the average mormon mind, but little "corrupted" by learning, intellectual and sensual pleasures seldom, even momentarily, contest with each other for supremacy. Intellectual incapacity precludes that introspection which alone would enable the mormon to resolve his religiopsychic states into their constituent elements of unreasoned emotion and untamed lust. Mormons once having accepted sex-functioning as the highest duty, and polygamy as the marriage institution offering most opportunity for prolific offspring, and, being constantly under the influence of an environment which, through preaching and practice, was directting the attention to sex matters, it was unavoidable that abnormal sex appetites should be developed.
Poverty often compelled polygamists to occupy the same bed with two or three wives, and their children to sleep in the same room. Public discussions of polygamy, in which both the beneficence and sinfulness of their unconventional sexuality were highly over-valued, the vehement exhortation to uphold its practice, and the exigencies of family life in the polygamy of the poor, and nearly all were poor, necessarily centered the attention of all unduly upon matters of sex, and thus in one generation, sex abnormity was being cultivated which perhaps might be transmitted to the next, as a congenital hypertrophy of sex organs, which combined with continual suggestions pregnant with sex-over-valuation created an abnormal predisposition to erotism. Having developed from normal man through revival excitement, to hyperaesthesia sexualis, and having provided the opportunities for excesses, which among such people is best offered by polygamy, there is soon developed a class of men, exhausted by supersatiation in normal sexual indulgence, who, by their psychopathic condition, are irresistibly impelled to search after unusual stimulants for their lagging passions, and whose sexual activity therefore finds expression in the abuse of children, incestuously and otherwise, in sadism, and in pederasty. I have the testimony of a witness somewhat discredited by morbidity of mind, which testimony, if true, would establish beyond a doubt that Bishop John D. Lee and some of his associates in the southern Utah murders of about 1887, were sadists. William Hooper Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, is now for the second time a convict. His present (1903) confinement in a New York penitentiary is for the murder of one Mrs. Pulitzer. The circumstances of the murder indicated very clearly that the murder was executed persuant to sadistic mania. Both prosecution and defense were unwilling to take chances on the outcome of a trial on the plea of insanity. For one, it might mean electrocution; for the other, acquittal. Therefore, during the trial, an agreement was reached for a plea of guilty to a lesser degree of murder and a jail sentence. The author has also quite unimpeachable evidence that by several of the older polygamists, living in the year 1880, pederasty was practiced.
This is but the natural and necessary consequence of conditions, such as environed the mormon mass. The development is not in the least unlike the progress of all forms of psychopathia sexualis. With this much by way of suggestion, to aid the lay mind in interpreting the facts, and creating a conviction of antecedent probability in favor of the developments to follow, and some which space limits require me to leave to some future essay, let us examine the growth of this disease in greater detail, with special reference to its influence on Mormon Theology.
Mormon Theology And Sensualism.
The average mormon being deplorably wanting in every element of higher mental development, and for that reason, as well as by nerve constitution, being of mystic tendencies, was, through intensity of religious emotions and teachings, easily obsessed by sexualism. Thus conditioned sexualism determined it theology, and mysticism read both into the divine mind. The stamp of its degeneracy is upon every feature of the mormon cult, and a sexual reason is at the foundation of most of its peculiar theological "truisms."
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The capacity for procreation of specie, instead of being one of many equal and caordinate bodily functions, is made the "greatest" power of God bestowed upon man, and the greatest promise that God gave man, is that given to Abraham to multiply his seed as the sands upon the sea-shore. If sex organs are the beneficent evidence of God's greatest power bestowed upon men, we logically deduce the correlative obligation of men towards God, to beget the greatest possible number of pious offspring "We are created for the express purpose of increase." If begetting pious children in the greatest number, is our conception of man's highest duty toward God, then naturally since the gods are always but man's objectified ideals, God is represented as a polygamist, as also is Jesus Christ, and the marriage at Cana of Gallilee is proclaimed the marriage of Jesus to Mary, Martha and others. Of course it would be senseless to have a polygamous God unless he could procreate godlets. Procreative powers, therefore, are not only God-given but God-like. Progeny is the direct offspring of God. The Gods are now made to possess all the parts and passions of a perfect man. Gods, angels and men are all one species, one race and one great family, and Joseph Smith is as much the son of God, as is Jesus. The Gods have power to beget sons and daughters in the spirit world, who, through their occupation of temporal bodies of flesh and bone, are themselves prepared for God-hood and like the great Gods, their fathers, they in turn become possessed of his Godly power of propagating their species through all eternity.
The necessity of "Tabernacles" of flesh, which sons and daughters of God must inhabit for a time as a condition of their development to Godhood, is the reason why the "head God" commanded Eve to multiply and replenish the earth, and thus imposed a like sexual duty upon all Eve's daughters. We are all the literal sons and daughters of God, and Adam, our first earthly parent, becomes the God of this world and the only God with whom we have to do. He brought Eve, one of his wives, with him, and through him we came into being. Adam, the God of this world, came here from another planet, and having potential immortality. Thus man is literally the offspring of a divine father and mother. Had it not been for the "fall," Adam would have reigned through all eternity as King with Eve as queen. Through the fall, Adam and his offspring became mortal and their descendants became the earthly and mortal habitation of the spiritual offspring of other Gods. Only through the "fall" of Adam, and our consequent mortality, coupled with the eternity of the mormon marriage covenant, has it been made possible for us to become Gods, and to have an immortal progeny.
It has already been discovered by the reader that the mormon God has not always been a God, but was once as we are now, and is but an exalted man who sits enthroned in yonder Heaven. Even as Adam is the God of this world, so are Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and all their successors in the prophetic office of the mormon church, each a "God to this people." When all the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy, Jesus, and probably Joe, were there, not as the fleshy descendants of our Adam God, for he had not been placed in Missouri, which according to mormons, contains the Garden of Eden. They were the spiritual sons and daughters of Gods, who, to the number of millions were awaiting their turn and their opportunity to take "Tabernacles of flesh and bones, until the closing up scene of this creation; all these were present, when God commenced this creation. Jesus was also there and superintended the work, for by Him God made the worlds. * * * * They knew that the creation then being formed was for their abiding place, where their spirits would go and take upon themselves tabernacles ot flesh and bones and they rejoiced at the prospect. * * * * They saw that their spirits without tabernacles never^could be made perfect, never could be placed in a position to attain great power, dominion and glory like their father." The unstated but evidentfreason is that without their body of flesh they could not procreate subjects over whom they could reign, but must themselves|remain subjects.
Thus we all have within us a tangible portion of the Deity and, "it is the Deity within us that causes increase," and therefore it is our capacity for increase that measures our exaltation or progress toward becoming Gods, and each added wife is but an added means of exaltation in the celestial kingdom. It is capacity for reproduction that is the only distinction given in mormon literature between the lower and higher degrees of celestial exaltation. When the "saints" talk about becoming Gods through accepting the testimony of Jesus and complying with mormon ordinances, they really meant that through the eternity of the marriage covenant, as they alone have the divine power of administering it, they can guarantee to their devotees, the continuance of sex joys
in the hereafter. It is an error, quite prevalent outside of mormonism, to believe that mormons consider polygamy a proper or permissible condition for all. The fact is not so, even for all mormons. The right to have more than one wife comes as a reward for piety and attaches only to those mormons who have secured special divine sanction. All sexual commerce by a married man and not thus authorized is denounced as adultery and the guilty invite the death penalty therefor under the Mormon doctrine of blood-atonement.
To restore fallen mortal man to the state of Adamic purity and immortality is the mission of mormonism, and eternal marriage, for the solemnization of which it has a divinely authorized monopoly, is a means to that end, "Marriage is regarded by the latter-day saints as a sacrament. Under its high ecclesiastical law it involves an everlasting covenant. That does not end with death. The marriage does not take place in the resurrection, but in time and in this world. It is of the nature of that marriage in the Garden of Eden between a man and a woman in whom then there was no death. It was a wedding of immortals. That which was lost through sin in the 'fall' was restored through obedience and the atonement of Christ in the regeneration, and the resurrection brings the parted pair together again as one, 'no more twain but one flesh'—spiritual [spirit according to Mormonism is but refined matter,] but tangible and eternal. That which is sealed on earth to-day by divinely revealed [mormon] authority is sealed in heaven and remains, in spite of death, immutable and abides forever."
"The family thus formed is the basis of an ever-increasing kingdom and dominion continuing in worlds without end. Marriages are permitted for time only, as not all persons are fitted for the higher conditions and the pure and sacred obligations they impose."
Those, whom the mormon priesthood have not permitted to comply with these ordinances for an eternal marriage, or those who have wilfully foregone the responsibilities of maternity will in heaven be only "ministering angels," that is, a sort of celestial scrub-woman to the more exalted mormon, and must remain in servitude without prospect of queenhood or hope of sexualism and the resulting immortal progeny. Even a man cannot be saved in the hereafter without having a woman at his side, because without her that procreation, which is the distinguishing feature of Godhood and its pleasures, is absent. Those who are more perfected in Godhood, by having been "sealed in marriage for eternity" will be capacitated to enjoy the relationship of husband and wife, of parent and child in a hundredfold degree greater than in mortality." Thus heavenly joys are but intensified sensualisms. "Instead of the Godgiven power of procreation being one of the chief things to pass away it is one of the chief means of exaltation and glory in that great eternity."
Latter-day saints believe in a literal physical resurrection of the flesh and bone of man. The eternity of the marriage relation is therefore not a mere mystical union of immaterial and unembodied spirits, as others understand the spiritual, but it means the sex-functioning in heaven of resurrected flesh and bone, men and women begetting spiritual and eternal offspring. The polygamous "home is held sacred by the saints as the beginning of their heaven." Those who remain in the flesh after Christ comes, will continue to beget children during the millennium. According to mormonism the "spiritual" is but refined matter. So likewise the Holy Ghost necessarily ceases to be one with God the Father, or God the Son, but they are three distinct personages. But a sexual reason must be assigned and Brigham Young accommodates us "If the Son was begotten by the Holy Ghost, it would be very dangerous to baptize and confirm the females and give the Holy Ghost to them, lest he should beget children, to be palmed upon the Elders by the people, bringing the Elders into great difficulties." For these reasons, mormon authorities assert that Jesus was begotten by the ordinary human processes, and in his turn he begot children by his polygamous wives.
Thus Mormon theologians have unconsciously exhibited to us, the innermost working of their own minds, by having accurately portrayed to us, Gods of their own creation, made in their own image. These Gods are sensualists, whose exaltation Mormon priests hope to attain through sexualism, and enjoy in a heaven, whose greatest and only advertised bliss will be intensified animalism, prolonged through eternity. Thus mormon theology is seen to be the result of intellectual exigencies imposed by an abnormal sensualism.
And now we come to trace the psychic processes by which lewdness is transformed into that which is believed to be the "Grace of God." In an article entitled "Religion and Sensualism as Connected' by Clergymen," (published in the American Journal of Religious Psychology, 1908) I showed by the published observations of many clergymen that the concurrence of great sexual enthusiasm with religious frenzy is not a peculiarity of mormonism, but quite general in all religions. Our interpretation of the foregoing facts of Mormonism, if it is the correct explanation, may serve as a working hypothesis for the interpretation of all the more or less intense experiences of all religionists, who interpret the peculiarities of their "religious" emotions as the inward testimony of the indwelling Holy Ghost.
The revival excitement is always most potent, in the production of religious frenzy, with those whose nervous organism is subject to the disturbances incident to sexual maturing or sexual decline, and upon persons who from unnatural sex lives or general neurosis, are especially susceptible to a profound agitation, from the reasonless sensationalism of revival pulpiteers. The above stated prevailing conditions of converts, the character of the exciting sermons, with the abundance of sexual allegory and insinuations, to induce a conviction of sin, and the extravagant emphasis which the sermonizer puts upon "spiritual" and "divine love" to secure the reaction to a "spiritual exaltation" ascribed to the possession of the Holy Ghost, all these circumstances, with the abundant historical facts, as to their sexual results, unmistakably indicate that the physiological source of all these disturbances is in the sex-nerve-centers. So it comes, unavoidably, that the verbalisms of "spiritual love," true to their source, will find their physiological interpretation and manifestation in sex-passion.
Since an abnormally sensitive and disturbed condition of the reproductive mechanism is the most fruitful soil in which to develop the religious enthusiast, it is reasonable to expect that the sensualism resultant from revival excitement will be abnormally intense. Out of this very abnormity comes the declining power of the restraint imposed by moral conventions, and the overstepping of their bounds, when it comes, is primarily due to subjective causes and not to a repudiation of usual standards due to any reasoned view derived from an objective study of human sex-relations.
In the highly wrought condition of religious excitement some one more ingenious, or more intense than the rest evolves theories for the spiritualization of the physical appetite, and the ecstatic joy of the convert readily certifies to the inerrancy of any doctrine which has been suggested into'his mind and has become to him seemingly an inseparable associate of his ecstatic condition. Thus the sensual origin determines the character of the doctrine evolved, from the necessities which that origin imposed, and thus it furnishes the "superhuman" evidences of its own verity. The convert now "knows because he feels and is firmly convinced because strongly agitated," and that is the "knowledge by faith," and not from reason—the testimony of the Holy Ghost—and at the same time the joy that passeth all understanding. All this is but the misinterpretation of an unidentified sex ecstacy, which in its acute stages evolves all the horrors which can come, and have come, from a combination of the delirium of sensuality and the frenzy of fanaticism.
In its milder stages of abnormity it becomes the determinant of some unconventional code of sex-morals. Here it begins by evolving into theories for the spiritualization of the sexual impulse, accompanied by a mad over-valuation of sex importance. When it is the sinfulness of sensual love that is overestimated, the tendency will be toward an enforced asceticism, propagated through intense moral sentimentalizing. Celibacy as a duty is most likely to be the result, if women are the dominant factor of the group. On the other hand, if men exercise an effective control, the more intense or more ingenious among them will evolve theories for the sanctification of their abnormal lusts. So comes the mad overvaluation of the sacredness of the duty to multiply and replenish the earth, accompanied by the religious enforcement of sexual irregularity such as polygamy, polyandry, or a compulsory promiscuity. Now the religiously determined conscience sanctions in these fanatics what is condemned by the conscience of others, similarly determined.
From such facts as are disclosed by a study of mormonism and any number of other sects, we may fairly expect to find an explanation for all the varied phenomena of religious life as distinguished from the secular activities, (see The Arena, January, 1906, for my discussion of this distinction) . From an exhaustive study of all religious enthusiasms, such as I have herein partially displayed as to mormonism, it may yet be that the materialist-monist may find a more satisfactory explanation for the riddle of religion, than has yet been offered and it may be this: The ultimate source of all the religion of personal experience is sex, and the essence of its subjective testimony for the truth of its teachings is the mere misinterpretation of an unidentified sex-ecstacy.
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