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Statement of the Case.
On behalf of the court MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY stated the case as follows: 1
The church of the Mormons, or, as they call themselves, the Church of Latter-Day Saints, was first organized as a corporation under an act of assembly of the provisional government which they set up in Utah under the name of the State of Deseret. The act was dated February 8, 1851, and was in the usual form of acts of incorporation. The title and first three sections were as follows:
“An ordinance incorporating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“Sec. 1. Be it ordained by the General Assembly of the State of Deseret, That all that portion of the inhabitants of said State which now are or hereafter may become residents therein, and which are known and distinguished as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,' are hereby incorporated, constituted, made and declared a body corporate, with perpetual succession, under the original name and style of 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,' as now organized, with full power and authority to sue and be sued, defend and be defended, in all courts of law or equity in this State; to establish, order and regulate worship, and hold and occupy real and personal estate, and have and use a seal, which they may alter at pleasure.
“SEC. 2. And be it further ordained, That said body or church, as a religious society, may, at a general or special conference, elect one 'trustee in trust,' and not to exceed twelve assistant trustees, to receive, hold, buy, sell, manage, use and control the real and personal property of said church, which said property shall be free from taxation ; .. said trustee or assistant trustees may receive property, real or personal, by gift, donation, bequest, or in any manner not incompatible
1 The order of arrangement of the statutes and ordinances varies in this statement from that adopted in the opinion on file; the matter in the two statements being identical. The new arrangement was made, on behalf of the Court, by MR. JUSTICE BRADLEY, and is adopted by the reporter under his directions.
Statement of the Case.
with the principles of righteousness or the rules of justice, inasmuch as the same shall be used, managed or disposed of for the benefit, improvement, erection of houses for public worship and instruction, and the well being of said church.
“Sec. 3. And be it further ordained, That, as said church holds the constitutional and original right, in common with all civil and religious communities, “to worship God according to the dictates of conscience,' to reverence communion agreeably to the principles of truth, and to solemnize marriage compatible with the revelations of Jesus Christ for the security and full enjoyment of all blessings and privileges embodied in the religion of Jesus Christ free to all, it is also declared that such church does and shall possess and enjoy continually the power and authority, in and of itself, to originate, make, pass and establish rules, regulations, ordinances, laws, customs and criterions for the good order, safety, government, conveniences, comfort and control of said church and for the punishment or forgiveness of all offences relative to fellowship according to church covenants; that the pursuit of bliss and the enjoyment of life in every capacity of public association, domestic happiness, temporal expansion, or spiritual increase upon the earth may not legally be questioned : Provided, however, That each and every act or practice so established or adopted for law or custom shall relate to solemnities, sacraments, ceremonies, consecrations, endowments, tithings, marriages, fellowship or the religious duties of man to his Maker, inasmuch as the doctrines, principles, practices or performances support virtue and increase morality, and are not inconsistent with or repugnant to the Constitution of the United States or of this State and are founded in the revelations of the Lord.” Comp. Laws of Utah, 1876, p. 232.
Congress had passed an organic act for establishing a government in the Territory of Utah on the 9th of September, 1850 (9 Stat. 453); but the territorial government was not organized until after the passage of the church charter as above stated. After its organization the territorial legislature, on two different occasions, passed confirmatory acts which had the effect of validating said charter. One was a
Statement of the Case.
joint resolution, passed October 4, 1851, declaring “ That the laws heretofore passed by the provisional government of the State of Deseret, and which do not conflict with the organic act of said Territory, be, and the same are hereby declared to be, legal and in full force and virtue, and shall so remain until suspended by the action of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah.” The other was an act approved January 19, 1855, entitled “An act in relation to the compilation and revision of the laws and resolutions in force in Utah Territory, their publication and distribution,” which reënacted the said charter.
On the 1st of July, 1862, the following act of Congress was approved, to wit:
“ An act to punish and prevent the Practice of Polygamy in the Territories of the United States, and other Places, and disapproving and annulling Certain Acts of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Utah.
“ Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That every person having a husband or wife living, who shall marry any other person, whether married or single, in a Territory of the United States, or other place over which the United States have exclusive jurisdiction, shall, except in the cases specified in the proviso to this section, be adjudged guilty of bigamy, and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five hundred dollars, and by imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years : Provided, nevertheless, That this section shall not extend to any person by reason of any former marriage whose husband or wife by such marriage shall have been absent for five successive years without being known to such person within that time to be living ; nor to any person by reason of any former marriage which shall have been dissolved by the decree of a competent court; nor to any person by reason of any former marriage which shall have been annulled or pronounced void by the sentence or decree of a competent court on the ground of the nullity of the marriage contract.
“Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the following ordi
Statement of the Case.
nance of the provisional government of the State of Deseret, so called, namely, “ An ordinance incorporating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,' passed February eight, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-one, and adopted, reënacted and made valid by the governor and legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah by an act passed January nineteen, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-five, entitled · An act in relation to the compilation and revision of the laws and resolutions in force in Utah Territory, their publication and distribution, and all other acts and parts of acts heretofore passed by the said legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah, which establish, support, maintain, shield or countenance polygamy be, and the same hereby are, disapproved and annulled: Provided, That this act shall be so limited and construed as not to affect or interfere with the right of property legally acquired under the ordinance heretofore mentioned, nor with the right ‘to worship God according to the dictates of conscience, but only to annul all acts and laws which establish, maintain, protect or countenance the practice of polygamy, evasively called spiritual marriage, however disguised by legal or ecclesiastical solemnities, sacraments, ceremonies, consecrations or other contrivances.
“Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That it shall not be lawful for any corporation or association for religious or charitable purposes to acquire or hold real estate in any Territory of the United States during the existence of the territorial government of a greater value than fifty thousand dollars; and all real estate acquired or held by any such corporation or association contrary to the provisions of this act shall be forfeited and escheat to the United States: Provided, That existing vested rights in real estate shall not be impaired by the provisions of this section.” 12 Stat. 501.
Another act, known as the Edmunds act, was approved March 22, 1882, entitled " An act to amend section 5352 of the Revised Statutes of the United States in reference to bigamy and for other purposes." 22 Stat. 30, c. 47. This act contained stringent provisions against the crime of polygamy, and has frequently come under the consideration of this court, and need not be recited in detail.
Statement of the Case.
On the 19th of February, 1887, another act of Congress was passed, and became a law by not being returned by the President, 24 Stat. 635, c. 397, which made additional provisions as to the prosecution of polygamy, and in the 13th, 17th, and 26th sections, enacted as follows:
“Sec. 13. That it shall be the duty of the Attorney General of the United States to institute and prosecute proceedings to forfeit and escheat to the United States the property of corporations obtained or held in violation of section three of the act of Congress approved the first day of July, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, entitled · An act to punish and prevent the practice of polygamy in the Territories of the United States and other places, and disapproving and annulling certain acts of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah, or in violation of section eighteen hundred and ninety of the Revised Statutes of the United States’; and all such property so forfeited and escheated to the United States shall be disposed of by the Secretary of the Interior, and the proceeds thereof applied to the use and benefit of the common schools in the Territory in which such property may be: Provided, That no building, or the grounds appurtenant thereto, which is held and occupied exclusively for purposes of the worship of God, or parsonage connected therewith, or burial ground, shall be forfeited.”
“Sec. 17. That the acts of the legislative assembly of the Territory of Utah incorporating, continuing or providing for the corporation known as the Church of Jesus Christ of LatterDay Saints, and the ordinance of the so-called general assembly of the State of Deseret incorporating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, so far as the same may now have legal force and validity, are hereby disapproved and annulled, and the said corporation, in so far as it may now have, or pretend to have, any legal existence, is hereby dissolved. That it shall be the duty of the Attorney General of the United States to cause such proceedings to be taken in the Supreme Court of the Territory of Utah as shall be proper to execute the foregoing provisions of this section and to wind up the affairs of said corporation conformably to law; and in such proceedings the court shall have power, and it shall be