Criticism of Mormonism/Books/One Nation Under Gods/Use of sources/Above the law

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Brigham Young claims to be above the law?

A FAIR Analysis of: One Nation Under Gods, a work by author: Richard Abanes

Author's Claims

One Nation under Gods, page 325 (hardback and paperback)

  • Why did Brigham Young say "I live above the law, and so do this people?"

Author's Sources

Endnote 54, page 591 (hardback); page 589 (paperback)


  • Here is Brigham's statement in context, with the author's extraction highlighted in italics; emphasis added with bold:

I am at the defiance of the rulers of the greatest nation on the earth, with the United States all put together, to produce a more loyal people than the Latter-day Saints. Have they, as a people, broken any law? No, they have not. Have the United States? Yes! they have trampled the Constitution under their feet with impunity, and ridden recklessly over all law, to persecute and drive this people. Admit, for argument's sake, that the "Mormon" Elders have more wives than one, yet our enemies never have proved it. If I had forty wives in the United States, they did not know it, and could not substantiate it, neither did I ask any lawyer, judge, or magistrate for them. I live above the law, and so do this people. Do the laws of the United States require us to crouch and bow down to the miserable wretches who violate them? No. The broad law of the whole earth is that every person has the right to enjoy every mortal blessing, so far as he does not infringe upon the rights and privileges of others. It is also according to the acts of every legislative body throughout the Union, to enjoy all that you are capable of enjoying; but you are forbidden to infringe upon the rights, property, wife, or anything in the possession of your neighbor. I defy all the world to prove that we have infringed upon that law. You may circumscribe the whole earth, and pass through every Christian nation, so called, and what do you find? If you tell them a "Mormon" has two wives, they are shocked, and call it dreadful blasphemy; if you whisper such a thing into the ears of a Gentile who takes a fresh woman every night, he is thunderstruck with the enormity of the crime. The vile practice of violating female virtue with impunity is customary among the professed Christian nations of the world; this is therefore no marvel to them, but they are struck with amazement when they are told a man may have more lawful wives than one! What do you think of a woman having more husbands than one? This is not known to the law, yet it is done in the night, and considered by the majority of mankind to be all right. There are certain governments in the world, that give women license to open their doors and windows to carry on this abominable practice, under the cover of night. Five years ago the census of New York gave 15,000 prostitutes in that city. Is that law? Is that good order? Look at your Constitution, look at the Federal law, look at every wholesome principle, and they tell you that death is at your doors, corruption in your streets, and hell is all open, and gaping wide to inclose you in its fiery vortex. To talk about law and good order while such things exist, makes me righteously angry, Talk not to me about law. (emphasis added)

The statement about "above the law" comes in the context of Brigham asking what would happen "for argument's sake," if the Saints' plural marriage was practiced but unannounced—they would be then bound or in jeopardy to no law, because they were harming no one else by their actions. They would be "above" (i.e., uncondemned by) law. Only the hypocrisy of others, in Brigham's argument, has put them in legal jeopardy.

Brigham also heaps scorn on "the law" later in his remarks, but this is at a law that condemns polygamy while winking at or endorsing infidelity, adultery, and prostitution—a "law" he believes is not worthy of the term.