Has any religious community been the subject of more curiosity, controversy or misunderstanding than the Latter-day Saints? From the time pioneers settled the Salt Lake valley, Mormon culture has drawn the public eye and colored the public record — for better or for worse. Below are statements on Mormons from prominent people in history as well as modern times.
“I do not believe there was ever a religion whereof the great mass of the adherents were not honest and sincere.”
Sir Richard F. Burton, translator of Arabian Nights and agent for the East India Company
Of his visit to Salt Lake and his conversation with Brigham Young, he said, “When conversation began to flag, we rose up, shook hands, as is the custom here, all round, and took leave. The first impression left upon my mind by this short seance, and it was subsequently confirmed, was, that the prophet is no common man, and that he has none of the weakness and vanity which characterize the common uncommon man.”
Mark Twain, on his visit to Salt Lake City
“There was fascination in surreptitiously staring at every creature we took to be a Mormon. This was fairyland to us, to all intents and purposes — a land of enchantment, and goblins, and awful mystery. We felt a curiosity to ask every child how many mothers it had, and if it could tell them apart; and we experienced a thrill every time a dwelling-house door opened and shut as we passed, disclosing a glimpse of human heads and backs and shoulders — for we so longed to have a good satisfying look at a Mormon family in all its comprehensive ampleness, disposed in the customary concentric rings of its home circle.”
“You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone I will let him alone.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Good out of evil. One must thank the genius of Brigham Young for the creation of Salt Lake City — an inestimable hospitality to the Overland Emigrants, and an efficient example to all men in the vast desert, teaching how to subdue and turn it to a habitable garden.”
Charles Dickens talking about the Liverpool emigrants going to Utah
“It is surprising to me that these people are all so cheery, and make so little of the immense distance before them.”
P. T. Barnum, in speaking with Brigham Young in Salt Lake City
“Barnum,” said Brigham Young, “what will you give to exhibit me in New York and the eastern cities?”
“Well, Mr. President,” I replied, “I’ll give you half the receipts, which I will guarantee shall be $200,000 per year, for I consider you the best show in America.”
President Warren G. Harding called Utah children “Utah’s best crop.” “I do not know when I have seen so many happy, smiling, sturdy children in so short a period of travel.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a letter to Winston Churchill about the Deseret News article noting that Clementine Churchill was related to a Mormon line and that Churchill was too.
“Hitherto I had not observed any outstanding Mormon characteristics in either of you — but I shall be looking for them from now on. I have a very high opinion of the Mormons — for they are excellent citizens.”
Filmmaker Cecil B. DeMille (in commencement address at BYU)
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